A strange quacking noise woke Alice out of a very deep sleep that night. She startled awake, heart beating in her throat, and cast a look over at Altair. He was just a lump under the covers in the darkness. Still asleep. The noise came again from out in the living room. It sounded like an aggravated duck. Immediately the plastic duck phone that sat on the side table beside the couch came to mind, and Alice threw off the sheets and slid out of bed, feeling confused. As far as she knew the duck phone wasn’t even plugged into the wall. So how on earth is it ringing…er…quacking, Alice thought.
She tip toed out of the bedroom, careful not to wake Altair, and pushed the door open. The living room was lit only by faint moonlight that filtered in through the window, and the shapes of the furniture looked like black shadows in the dark. For a moment the room was silent and still, and she jumped when the phone quacked again. Alice was just reaching for the light switch on the wall when a shape she had presumed was part of the furniture shifted slightly. Alice froze, adrenaline rushing through her body, making all her muscles tense at once. The shape moved again, flowing forward this time, straight toward her, moving faster than humanly possible. Alice screamed just as something crashed into her hard, knocking her to the floor. She felt the back of her head strike the hardwood. Pain shot through her and started up a throbbing rhythm immediately, and even in the darkness little bursts of light exploded in front of her eyes. Alice thrashed violently against whatever was pinning her to the floor. Whoever it was was far heavier than her, and kept her down with little effort. A firm hand was suddenly over her mouth, cutting off her air, keeping her from screaming. A voice hissed in the darkness behind them,
“Keep her quiet.”
Panic and despair shot through her. There were two of them. What did they want? The one on top of her hissed back, “Shut up. I’ve got her down.”
A woman’s voice, deep and demanding. It rang alarms in Alice’s head. She recognized it. She decided to try to bite the hand over her mouth and scream for Altair. Before she could even attempt to do so, the woman on top shifted, something flashed in the moonlight - metal - and then Alice felt a sharp pain in her left shoulder, so intense that she shrieked, muffled behind her captor’s hand. Tears burned in her eyes. Biting pain as the woman yanked something away from her.
Did she just stab me?
Light suddenly flooded the room, blinding Alice. She blinked furiously, hearing someone shouting, a man’s voice. And then there was an awful shriek and the weight on top of her was gone. Altair appeared to be grappling with a woman nearly as tall as him. She had long dark hair and feathery wings that stretched nearly the length of the room. As they struggled her wings flapped frantically, creating a miniature gale. A lamp flew off the nearby table and shattered with an ear splitting crash. The second woman launched herself at Altair as well, howling in wordless rage.
Now she recognized them.
Alice took a deep breath, wincing at the pain in her shoulder, and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Alecto! Megaria!”
The two fury sisters froze for a split second, which gave Alice time enough to reach up and grab a handful of magic. She cast it at the two of them, quickly weaving a binding spell to hold them in place. They struggled against the threads with twin cries of outrage and protest.
Altair, looking angry and disheveled, untangled himself from the first woman, “What the hell is all this?”
One of the sisters, Megaria, Alice suspected, glared at him, still trying to wiggle out of the spell she was caught in.
YOU ARE READING
Alice Cunningham is back! First stop is Prague, a city drenched in ancient magic. It's beautiful, haunted and full of history. Maybe too much history. When Alice is confronted by a deranged and powerful witch with a grudge, she decides it's time to...