Chapter 1 / Prologue
So this was it, the end.
How and when had life taken such a dramatic turn to lead him here, to now?
He'd made mistakes throughout his life, far too many, but right or wrong he'd always had his family's best interests at heart. Protecting them from his fate had always been his goal.
But, he had failed.
It was true, Richard thought sadly. Your life really does flash before your eyes in your final moments. The conglomeration of memories, regrets and accomplishments blended into one. A mélange of emotions sent his heart racing, adrenaline pumping through his veins.
He was the most powerful Druid on the planet, but for all his power and determination, his fate remained the same.
His mind wandered back. Back to his daughter, Debra. He had been harsh with her, some might say even cruel with his strictness and relentless Druid education. How he'd wished he could've been like other fathers, could have allowed her to make her own choices in life but by the mere chance of being born his daughter, choice was a non existent prospect.
She would have been next in line to receive his family's curse, had she lived long enough.
Richard's thoughts swung to his granddaughters with another pang of guilt. The four girls whom his daughter had left behind. He had raised them all as strictly as he had Debra, particularly Teagan who had inherited the curse's impending yoke after her mother's death.
He couldn't take any of that harshness back now.
It was far too late.
He could only hope that the letter he had posted that afternoon would reach Teagan safely. If she was lucky, the information contained in it might help her break their family's curse. That had been his singular goal in life for the past three years, ever since he'd discovered Morgan had once again returned to Earth.
Leaving the older three girls to fend for themselves, he'd abandoned the youngest, Elise, to the care of a Lycan family. It had been a huge risk leaving her with supernaturals but Oliver Harlow had proven himself a good and trustworthy man in the past and he knew she would be well cared for and protected.
He hadn't expected to be gone for so long.
It had been nearly two years since he'd last seen any of his granddaughters. Yet another regret to add to his long and protracted list, but he hadn't dared make contact with them fearing it might draw Morgan's attention to them and thereby put them in danger.
However, that wasn't the main reason he'd stayed away.
Richard had put an end to the budding relationship between Teagan and Saladin, her vampire suitor. An accomplishment he was quite proud of, saving her from becoming mated to a supernatural. In his family any such pairing was not likely to end well. However, he had not been there to save his second granddaughter. Kaitlyn was now mated to Raif, the leader of the Wyvern in Fey.
Because of this mating, it was more critical than ever to find a way to release his family from the curse of carrying Morgan's immortality spell.
That responsibility was now to fall to Teagan, Richard thought sadly as he turned slowly to face his enemy.
Guild mercenaries surrounded him but kept a wary distance. Their presence was merely a distraction, their automatic weapons ineffectual against him. Even if they could kill him, their leader would not permit it.
It was their leader who made his mouth dry with fear.
The bright light from the florescent globes flickered as Morgan's power began to grow and dust rained down from the overhead steel beams of the multi level car park as Richard too brought his power to life.
Morgan chuckled. A cold and callous laugh that sent a shiver through Richard's bones.
Victory was hers at long last.
She had waited fifteen hundred years for this day.
Dark energy grew between her hands, an impenetrable ball of malicious intent, straining between her fingers. She had fought this Druid once before and made the mistake of attacking him with a very powerful soul binding spell. She'd missed when a Wyvern had taken the blow instead. It had left her drained, unable to produce another spell powerful enough to kill the old man.
She wouldn't make the same mistake twice.
"Prepare to meet your death, Druid," Morgan snarled, her cold eyes gleaming with hatred.
She would have her prize and nothing was going to stop her.
The concrete pillars around him began to crack and groan as he silently chanted his spell.
Richard's hands began to shake as he continued to build his power, a cry bursting from his lips under the strain of his effort as he raised his outstretched hands above him, an aura of pulsing blue light enveloping him as his chant became audible.
"You're mine Druid. That spell is mine." Morgan screeched out a curse as the parking building began to shake and crack beneath them from the combined force of their intensifying power.
"Only if you kill me," he smiled back, inciting her fury even more. "You're not getting your spell back today, Morganna." A bead of sweat trickled down his jaw and his whole body began to shake uncontrollably from the effort of building his spell.
"I beg to differ," she taunted. "I don't see anyone here who would save you this time."
"I didn't say I expected to leave here alive. I said you wouldn't be getting your spell back," he countered.
Morgan's top lip lifted into a contemptuous snarl, her soulless eyes narrowing into slits as she let loose the ball of murderous power from her fingers.
Simultaneously, Richard released his own power, exploding the pillars about him as the world went into slow motion.
He watched the black ball of energy hurtling toward him, he watched too as the ceiling began to crumble down around him, claiming the Guild soldiers beneath it. He wondered what would reach him first, Morgan's spell or the collapsing building. He prayed for the latter.
The consequences of the first option were too great to contemplate.