Storm's HeartBy: Thea Harrison
I owe a big debt of gratitude to all the usual suspects, but a few bear special mention.
To my agent, Amy, and my editor, Cindy, thank you for everything you do. I will never take either of you for granted.
To Lorene and Carol, your support continues to be miraculous.
To Matt, my generous and patient rock-star web designer. You are totally made of angel material, and you created a classy, beautiful site.
And to Kristin, who came along at a very late date to join the beta reading. Your enthusiasm, prompt replies and fine eye for detail were a total pleasure. You, Shawn, Anne and Fran have made my work much classier than it would otherwise have been.
1. the wife or widow of a king
2. a female monarch
3. a woman eminent in rank, power or attractions, such as a beauty contest winner <a movie queen>
4. a royal pain in my ass
—NINIANE LORELLE, DARK FAE QUEEN
You didn’t ignore a summons roared from the Lord of the Wyr in New York, since it usually heralded a disaster of some proportion. You especially didn’t ignore it if you were one of his sentinels.
Tiago strode out of the Starbucks located on the ground floor in Cuelebre Tower. He jogged up the north stairwell to the seventy-ninth floor. He could have taken the elevator, but he was feeling trapped and restless. He could have pushed out the coffee shop’s street exit, shifted into his Wyr form and flown to the roof of the Tower then gone down two flights, but frustration gnawed at his insides and he wanted to feel the burn of the climb in his muscles and lungs.
He didn’t like modern urban spaces. He was counting the minutes until he could get out of New York. A rainy, wet springtime had evaporated to sultry ninety-degree weather, bypassing mild early summer temps like they never existed. Now June felt like August. Exhaust fumes, construction detritus, trash, restaurant odors, dry cleaner chemicals and all the various other scents of modern humanity sizzled in the heat. The smells burned the back of his throat, leaving him feeling irritable and out of place.
He was one of the ancient Wyr who were so long-lived they were known as immortal. The old ones had either been formed in the creative fire from the birth of the solar system or had been born so long ago their origins were a mystery even to them. They had existed in their animal forms for millennia, but when the new species of humans burgeoned, the old Wyr learned how to shapeshift so they could walk in secret among humankind.
Civilization was a dance, and the ancient Wyr were late to the ball. They donned masks and slipped with silent predatory grace into the ballroom. They watched with sharp eyes that glittered deep in the shadows behind their assumed facades, recording and learning the twist and rhythm of the dance, the social mores, when to bow and press their lips to the back of the hand, how to smile and say good evening, please and thank you and yes, I shall take more sugar with my tea.
All the while they noted the pulse that fluttered at the base of the dancers’ necks, the scents of sweat and the quickened breath. They noted these things because they remembered they were animals playing a role. Primal was the first word they understood when they learned language, for that was what they were. Despite their smiling human masks, they were feral creatures who knew how to survive by the slash of tooth and claw. They remembered the gush of blood from the jugular as they crushed the life from their prey.
The ancients settled into their guises and grew comfortable with them, some with more charm, skill and enjoyment than others. But all of them carried that feral wildness at their core, the certain knowledge that they needed to roam the secret uncultivated magic places of the world.
Time and space had buckled when the Earth was formed. The buckling created dimensional pockets of Other land where magic pooled, time moved differently, modern technologies didn’t work and the sun shone with a different light. What came to be known as the Elder Races, the Wyrkind and the Elves, the Light and Dark Fae, the Demonkind, the Nightkind, human witches and all manner of monstrous creatures, tended to cluster in or around the Other lands.
Those of the ancient Wyr that chose to adapt to human civilization were driven from time to time to slip away from modern cities and towns. They would shake loose from their human facades and drench themselves in archaic argent sunlight as they lost themselves in flight, or in plunging deep into the magic-saturated green of the oldest of untamed forests. There was a fundamental difference between the old ones and the younger Wyr. The younger Wyr were born into civilization. They arrived at the ball already tamed.
Tiago was not tame. He was more feral than the majority of even the most ancient Wyr. He needed to be worked hard, to face tough challenges and to be let loose to roam free. It was not wise to hold him too long in a city.