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Welcome to Callaire, a town of shifters, magic, and secrets.
Yasmin is the daughter of a goddess and a mythical creature. As a Legendary, she has telepathic power and the ability to change forms every full moon.
When a voice cries out to Yasmin in her head, and she’s drawn into dreams that aren’t her own, she's led to Fray - a girl who once saved Yasmin from hunters. In Fray’s dreams she has power no human should ever have. Legendary power. And worse, somehow that power is linked to a shadowy god.
When Fray’s magic catches the attention of a violent and invincible creature, both Yasmin’s mythical world and Fray’s human one will be changed forever. A Gods' war is brewing, and Yasmin and Fray are at the heart of it.
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The floor of Almery Wood is unforgiving beneath my feet. I trudge through the thick covering of snow, crushing dense ground with my boots. The snowfall has turned every smell to pure, scentless nothing. I have to rely on my sight and hearing to identify other people and creatures.
No one comes to this edge of the wood, since it borders a few houses. But I like it because it’s lonely. I don’t want to run into anyone—friend or threat. I prefer the comfort of being on my own, unlike the others who stick together at the Crea moon.
My fingers are already itching when I drop the backpack of usual supplies—spare clothes, energy bars, a bottle of isotonic orange, and heat packs for when the cold has settled into my bones—into the hollow of a tree.
I wrestle my boots off and stuff them into the tree for safe keeping, standing on a tiny square blanket to keep my toes from freezing off. It doesn’t help much. In summer I can stand on the ground barefoot and let the Majick of the Earth into my skin. If I stand barefoot on the floor now, the only thing I’ll soak in is hypothermia.
I wait for the last tendrils of the setting sun to dip below the horizon.
I zone out, allowing my mind to go where it wants—to The Red and to Minnie. She’s doing a reading as she always does on the evening of the Crea Moon, before we violently change form. Those of The Red who don’t Change are gathered in the dining room, sat at the scuffed oval table from my childhood.
I never go to the readings, though Minnie always reads for me. I haven’t been to The Academy of The Red in two years, maybe more. I still keep an eye on them, though, using the Telepathic Majick I have because of my mother.
Minnie’s voice rings out in my head, as clearly as it would if she stood beside me. If I didn’t know what to listen for I wouldn’t be able to tell, with my eyes closed, if she was here or thirty miles away. It’s the slight ringing on the end of each word that gives it away, though. Telepathic voices ring.
“Do we have to do this every month?” I hear Fearne complain via my link with Minnie. I’m careful not to communicate back, so she won’t realise I’m listening. Numina knows what would happen if she knew.
Min’s temper has seven potential visions of Fearne’s death flashing before her eyes. “Yes,” she says coldly. She’s in one of her moods.
She splits the deck of cards and does a reading for Harriet, a twelve year old Faun Crea, and then for Vic, a Selkie I was close friends with when I lived at The Academy. They won’t know what she sees for them, since Harriet is somewhere in these woods and Vic is on a beach further north. They’re not telepathic like me, so they have no way of hearing Minnie. But despite it making no sense, despite them never knowing what she predicts, Minnie insists on reading the pathways of the Changing creatures. She says it’s right and accepts no arguments.
She reads for me. I lean my head against the cold bark of the tree and focus on the link tethering me to her mind.
Min shuffles a pack of cards that are hand-painted and passed down the descendants of Apollo, the Roman God of truth and prophecy. Minnie’s a Divine—someone who can see people’s pathways and actual glimpses of futures. She also has an overwhelming enthusiasm for tarot cards, runes, and choking everyone on incense fumes.
There are less stifling ways to look into someone’s pathways—I have a friend who sees flashes of visions by looking into a still bowl of water. It’s less theatrical than Minnie’s technique.
With a flourish of her wrist, Min halves the deck and whips the top card face-down onto the table.
“Get on with it,” Fearne whines. I gnash my teeth. “I want to know mine.”
“You don’t even Change.” An edge of repulsion creeps into Minnie’s mind, and I imagine it tinged black and green.
“I want to know my future as much as anyone else.”
“For vanity’s, not necessity’s, sake.” Minnie aggressively flips the card over.
Minnie murmurs to herself, so obscure even I can’t hear, and puts another card on the table.
The Ace of Swords, reversed.
She inhales sharply, drawn into a vision, as everyone else erupts into laughter. I’m dragged along with her, glimpsing a series of images I don’t have the Majick to interpret—someone’s dark hair on a pale green pillow—the snarl of a hungry mouth—two hazy figures locked in an embrace—blood pooled carelessly on a laminate floor.
Ignorant to the violent pictures, Rowan—a despicable, hateful friend of Fearne’s—says between staccato bursts of laughter, “Man, that’s ridiculous. The Lovers? Maybe if she wasn’t a fucking hermit.”
“And a weirdo,” Fearne adds thoughtfully, chewing a fingernail.
I bristle. The beast in my system, so very close to the surface, goads me intobloodlust, persuading me with the seductive colour of gore as my claws tear into Rowan’s neck. It would be so easy. Effortless.
I wrench myself forcefully out of the clutch of the beast and blink at Almery Wood. I’ve lost my connection to Minnie but it’s better than losing my last precious moments of control because of the beast’s hallucinations. Within an hour—maybe even minutes—I’ll be forced to relinquish control of my limbs, my thoughts, my everything. The beast in me will take over my body with glee.
But for now, I’m myself.
Breathing deeply and sure of my tenuous control, I reach out to Minnie’s mind again. I find The Lovers card still a hot topic of debate.
“She does seem worryingly anti-social for a card like this.” Amity’s voice, soft as always, breaks Minnie’s deep concentration. “Do you think we should invite her to The Academy this weekend? It would be nice to have her around again. And she shouldn’t be out there alone, not with what’s happening. She’s only seventeen.”
Guy is impassive. “Don’t be too hasty, Am. She wouldn’t come anyway.”
He’s right. I wouldn’t. That he knows me well enough to recognise that is disquieting.
Amity’s brow puckers. “I suppose you’re right. I wonder if she gets lonely, though. Don’t you?”
Rowan snorts. Guy glares him into silence.
“Enough.” Minnie’s voice sends a burst of pain behind my temple. “There’s someone in her future. A romantic partner, I think. But I can’t see through the darkness.”
“Darkness?” Am sounds worried.
“She’s going to die, I think,” Minnie says ever-so-quietly. She draws her cardigan around herself, pushing the vision from her mind and blocking me from it as a consequence. I won’t go looking through her thoughts. Using someone as a conduit to listen is one thing but total invasion of privacy … I won’t do that.
Silence greets Minnie’s whispered omen.
Every single one of Minnie’s readings has come true. Every single one.
“Yasmin’s going to die?” Amity whispers. Even Rowan and Fearne are uncharacteristically without laughter or derision.
Minnie looks up from the table, staring at the pattern of the wallpaper above Guy’s chair. “Yasmin or her partner. They’re so closely intertwined, so strongly connected, that I can’t separate one from the other. I can’t see who’s going to pass.”
Amity pats her hand. “Are you alright?”
“Their love … it’s so …” She fumbles for words, her tone a dreamy contrast to the darkness of her thoughts. “It’s so powerful. It’s going to hurt so much.”
I jolt out of it, out of the telepathy, out of the fear that’s enveloping me. My heart is running too fast and my breathing is doing its best to outrace it. What did that mean? A romantic partner? One of us is going to die?
I’m not sure whether I’m more scared to die or fall in love.
A spasm rips me from head to toe, and I’m gone in an eruption of pain and breaking bones.
I no longer have to question why I’m scared to lose someone I’ve never met, never will meet.
I’m no longer a girl.