Chasing Dove (Branches of Emrys Book 4)

By: Brandy L Rivers
Dedication





To Sofia, my little diva,

I love you more than life itself.

Never stop being you.





Prologue





Early age of man and magic…



Shunned, hated, feared. Thanatos roamed from community to community, seeking his place in the world. But he was a freak, something despised.

Casters tended to stay young the more magic they used. But the more he used his, the more he deteriorated. Thanatos continued to grow older, feebler, like the humans.

Until he stumbled upon the secret.

One day, he lurked in a market of a larger community, watching a mage work her magic. She was beautiful, and as much as he wished he could approach her, a man hovered nearby, watching him with pure hatred.

Like so many other days, he wandered away, attempting to avoid conflict. He made it outside of town when someone shoved him. He landed on his hands and knees and called on the spirit who offered him power. The kind of power that gave him strength, even if it left him crashing low later.

As the spirit’s energy filled him, Thanatos floated off the ground and drew the dagger he stashed in his boot, then dove at the mage who had stood guard over the female.

The mage flung a fireball at him, and he dodged to the side and plunged the blade into his chest.

The spirit whispered into his head, “Take his essence into you. Follow my lead.”

Thanatos did as told and the mage’s essence flowed out of the wound into Thanatos’ mouth. He opened his jaw farther, sucking in the power as he bent and closed his lips over the wound.

Magic filled in the sagging skin, fueling his own magic. The weakness ebbed away as new strength settled in. He wasn’t fully revived, but closer than he had been in years.

The voice in his head whispered, “Collect more essence. Their souls will bring you closer to your goal.”

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Thanatos demanded.

“I didn’t have the power. You’ve finally given me enough to take from others, instead of you.”

He wanted to scream in frustration. His source of power had sucked his essence from him. Now it made sense why he grew weaker with magic use. No more.

“Find more, continue to feed me, and you will gain your power back a hundred-fold,” he promised.

The beautiful woman from earlier stumbled onto the path and her hand covered her mouth, a scream tearing free.

“Kill her in my name,” the voice hissed.

“What is your name?”

“Scathane. Tear her essence loose and feed upon it. You will grow stronger with every death.”

He lunged at the mage, plunging the blade between her ribs and tore it free. She hit the tree behind her and he pinned her there, his mouth on the wound, sucking her soul from her body.

Strength flowed into Thanatos, infusing him with power he didn’t recognize. Most of the power seeped into his soul, latching on, the rest funneled into a hole he couldn’t access. Scathane had taken residence in his body.

His predicament became clear. He’d been gifted all along, but he began to age soon after Scathane had started helping him.



* * * *



Years passed and the more he fed, the more he wanted to be free of the dark voice that never left. That meant fully bringing Scathane into the world. To do that, he needed more magic than he’d found in his travels.

And much like he stumbled upon the solution to his aging, he found his freedom. Power unlike anything he’d ever sensed. She wasn’t one thing or another. No, she had a combination of power Thanatos had never encountered.

Even Scathane purred as Thanatos followed the pull.

“You can be free of me,” Scathane murmured. “Wouldn’t you prefer to roam the world on your own? You’ve gained much power and will continue to do so if you pull on magic the same way you do now.”

“Yes, freedom sounds good,” Thanatos answered.

“And this source of magic will heal the wound when I’m torn free and made solid. She will make you whole and powerful.”

He crept closer to the source, through the woods. There was a lake of crystal blue water. Red hair flowed down a slender frame, into the water, giving the woman a glow in the early morning sun.

Thanatos moved silently, lifting the dagger as he moved in. He would plunge the blade into her throat and drink her essence with her blood.

She turned, and crystalline green eyes locked on his. He fell deep into a trance of beauty and power. He craved her touch, her kiss, her body. Then she dove into the water with a flash of light and swam away faster than he could blink.

“She’s enthralled you, fool. Break the hold and chase. You have the magic to twine her in bonds and bring her to you.”

He shook off the siren’s magic that was enhanced by an enchantress. She was something like him. Of mixed blood. Perhaps her magic could break the hold of Scathane without harming her.

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