Her Raven Mates by Aria Adams

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 This is an excerpt from my story in the Fated Mates anthology. Need more, like, NOW? Preorder here for only $0.99: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/fated-mates/id1445944101?mt=11

Bran:

I had been doing some reconnaissance, seeking out our enemy by myself, while my brothers did the same thing in different parts of the city. Alone, it had been easy for somebody to ambush me with dark magic. When I felt the poison spell hit me, I knew I must have come close to uncovering our enemy at long last.

The really annoying thing was, they had hit me in the back, like a true coward, and so I was still none the wiser about who was behind the curse that had forced my brothers and I to take raven forms during daylight hours.

I fell into dirt beside the river, struggling to breathe, unable to fight off the toxin that had been unleashed into my small raven body. Whoever had attacked me had meant business. Luckily, my constitution would have this poison out of my system within a few days. Of course, there were any number of apex predators in the area who would eat me readily in my raven form; foxes, birds of prey, and so on. There was no way I could defend myself.

As if on cue, a swan appeared. It had regal white feathers and a delicate neck. It eyed me up for a long minute, asked me a question and waddled around the vicinity before attempting to pick me up in its beak. I tried to fight back, but my body was too weak from the poison.

To my surprise, instead of eating me, it moved me. Even more surprisingly, it brought me some bugs. Apparently, somebody up there was on my side, because it seemed that this swan was trying to help me. Perhaps I'd live long enough for my body to fight off this poison, after all.

I wasn't very cognizant, and I drifted in and out of consciousness, but after finding me shelter and feeding me, the regal bird disappeared. It had been the very definition of a deus ex machina.

***

The next day, the swan returned. I was still too sick to move. It nudged me with its beak, and when I didn't respond, I thought I saw sadness in the creature's eyes. It disappeared again, but this time it was only gone for a few minutes. When it returned, the swan held food in its beak, which it dropped beside me. Weakly, I ate slowly, not wanting to be ungrateful, but really, bird food was not my favorite. Especially grubs.

"it's all right, this food is safe to eat," the swan told me. It was the second time I'd heard the voice, and somehow it fitted the bird perfectly, while at the same time sounding like it belonged to someone else; a young human woman. It was feminine and sweet.

"I don't like grubs," I rasped. The effort of speaking was too great to hold a long conversation.

"Oh no, are ravens vegetarian?" The apologetic disappointment in her voice made me feel bad for not liking what she'd brought me. I also had to try not to laugh at the idea that ravens were vegetarian.

"Ravens usually scavenge," I managed, "but I'm an exception."

"I don't like swan food either," she replied.

I strongly suspected that she was human, too. If I was correct, perhaps I wasn't the only person cursed by dark magic in this area.

Unfortunately, this short conversation had taken its toll, and I didn't have enough energy to tell her I was cursed. Instead, my body forced me to go to sleep. The way I felt, I did not fight it. Perhaps when I awakened, I would feel better.

***

I was very surprised when I opened my eyes again and found the swan had crammed herself into this hollow tree, her body beside mine, keeping me warm and watching over me. I didn't remember the last time I had slept beside someone else, even in my human form. Transforming back into a raven every daybreak made it difficult to want to pick up girls. My brothers and I were trying to keep our condition quiet, so it had been quite lonely since we were cursed.

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