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Prologue

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Prologue.

Don't let them find you.

Calla heard the High-mother's warning ringing in her ears as she walked, arms linked with her partner as they strolled down the road. The street-lamps were flickering, and the wind cutting and cold, so she shucked up the collar of her coat. Beside her, Adam's voice was too high, too merry for the encroaching darkness of night. She wanted to snap at him to be quiet, but she understood his merriment – magic was a drug and no witch or wizard was immune.

"I wish we had been allowed to see the entire round this time before she sent us away." Adam sighed wistfully. "The High-mother never works on him when there is a crowd."

Calla grinned as she looked at him, her smile bright and cruel. She could still remember how the magic had sang to them, boosted by the ancient strength of that beast's blood. It had been amazing and afterwards, she had dragged Adam into a darkened room to work through the euphoria in her blood.

"He's a beautiful beast and she has to be careful. He's the only one and if he dies, we'll have to wait who knows how long for another one to hatch."

Adam regarded her from the corner of his eye. "Can you imagine the pain he's suffering? That any of them are suffering?"

Her lips twisted, but she felt not an ounce of pity. She hated sleeping at the Centre because their cries could shake the very walls, but the magic... "He is a vessel for a greater purpose, nothing more. If the great Riders could see their feared Vidalin caged like the animal he is, they wouldn't fear him so much."

Adam matched her grin, feeding off her cruelty. His fingers curled around her hip. "I can let you hold the electric prongs tomorrow if you want. He gets rowdy when he's fed."

Calla leaned into him. "Let me hold the prongs for the little golden one. She's always so snappy."

In the clear, cloudless sky, lightening bloomed.

The wind dropped into nothing and Calla paused, frowning at the fading flash of sudden light. Strange.

Adam noticed nothing and smiled at her like they were simply going to deliver their packet and spend the night in twisted sheets, locked together. Laughter bubbled in her throat at her stupidity and she picked her pace up again.

The wind stirred once more, died and then stirred again.

Calla straightened, searching the gathering darkness. The night was coming in too fast, and the light was lost to inky blackness; shadows clung to the walls around them like a shroud. Panic thundered in Calla's veins.

Something was wrong.

Sensing the shift in her emotions, Adam turned to look at their surroundings. Somehow, they had veered off their path to where the lights didn't shine. "Has it gotten darker, or is it just me?"

"It's quiet." Calla touched the dragon-bone hanging from her neck. It grounded her and helped her keep her hatred burning for those fucking beasts. They had been on top for too long and she would do anything to dismantle them. Flames licked Adam's fingers, and the unnatural witch fire tickled her nose.

"That isn't going to help you."

A young woman stepped into their path, approaching on silent feet. Tall and strong, clad in leathers of gold and black, the Rider watched them with eyes of topaz gold. Wild hair curled outwards, and she watched them with crossed arms.

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