*Cynder is my own character and does not belong to KMM*
Somewhere in the Silvers . . .
MacKayla Lane had just done something she'd never done before in her life.
She'd killed a man, someone she'd been close to.
Jericho Barrons lay face down in a large pool of his own blood, her mystical spear sticking straight up out of his back.
She'd had no idea he had been the monstrous creature keeping her safe in here. But after Ryodan had showed up, she'd only listened to him and not herself.
And now Barrons was dead.
She shouldn't have listened to anything Ryodan had said. If she'd followed her own guidebook, Barrons would still be alive.
Mac crouched several feet away, unwilling – and perhaps unable – to venture closer.
Startled, Mac looked up. The feminine words had come from nowhere and everywhere. She frowned through her tears. Who'd said them?
"Hello?" Mac managed to croak.
She sensed something behind her and with a gasp, she turned, expecting to find an enemy.
Instead, she found a stranger; a beautiful woman with thick, red-brown hair was crouched not ten feet from her, dual coloured eyes staring at the dead man.
"Did you say . . .?" Mac began.
The woman smiled gently. "Yes. I can bring him back, but I'm going to need your help."
She rose to her feet and Mac noticed she was wearing a long dress of emerald green with gold accents.
Her guard rose. "Are you Fae?" She asked wearily.
The woman didn't look at her. "Half. My father was once Fae. He fell in love with a woman and was willing to give up all that it is to be Fae to be with her."
Mac wasn't interested in the personal details. She got to her feet. "What are you going to do?"
The woman crouched on Barrons's left side. "Do you want him back?" Mac nodded. "First we need to turn him over."
They managed to do so with a little bit of effort. "I can act as a bridge to bring him back, but you must call him to you. Do you love him?"
An instinctive 'it's none of your business' came to Mac's lips, but she didn't have the fight to get into another tussle. She'd already been through enough. Instead, she said, "Yes."
"Good, he's going to be counting on that to compel him to you. Now close your eyes and focus. Don't picture him as he is now, picture him as he was the last time you saw him."
Mac did so, trying to imagine his reaction at this particular situation. He'd be furious.
The woman took her hand, set her other one on Barrons's shoulder and did the same with her own hand. Mac shuddered violently as she began to speak, at least that's what it sounded like.
Like crashing waves over rocks, the woman's voice swelled and broke, rising and falling in what Mac would later recognise as the old tongue of the Fae.
Mac jerked as the sound peaked and when it finally stopped, she was breathing deeply through her mouth, fighting the urge to flee.
"You can open your eyes now," said a familiar, very welcome voice.
At the sight of Barrons sitting up and staring at her, Mac had to remind herself not to throw herself at him. He'd just been brought back from the dead, and she didn't want to hurt him.
And just as she'd figured, he did not look at all pleased. Her spear had been removed and now lay next to him. He was filthy and looked exhausted but nonetheless, gave her a ghost of a smile.
"Thank you," he whispered, reaching out to touch her cheek. Mac closed her eyes as her body hummed contentedly.
She opened them to find the woman standing a few feet from them. "What happens now?"
"I'm going to return to my people, and report what has happened. I don't know about Ryodan, but the two of you need to leave."
Mac hesitated for a moment. "Thank you," she said after a heartbeat.
"My name is Cynder. Call for me the next time Barrons is down. I'll come right away."
Nodding, Mac watched as she gently shimmered away into nothing.
Mac glanced sideways at Barrons. "How are we going to get out?"
"You're going ditsy blond on me again Ms Lane," he said, in a voice that made the Sahara seem like a waterpark. He shook his head. "I know where to go but I'll have to escort you in animal form, it's the only I can protect you in here."
She arched a brow. "You call that an animal?"
In a move that had made her capitulate before, he showed his teeth. "Take me or leave me, Ms Lane."
She'd told him that once, and hated having her own words thrown back at her.
She took him.
Five minutes later, Barrons waddled out from behind a bush, a snarling rhino-grey monster with yellow eyes and horrible teeth.
He herded her again, snarling and snapping to keep her moving. After what seemed like days, they reached another patch of forest, this one thinner than the last.
Although it was barely visible, Mac thought she saw something that looked like a door at the other end. She pointed.
The Barrons monster nodded and began moving her toward it.
On closer inspection, the door appeared to be a mirror. Mac guessed which one.
Again, Barrons nodded.
Unsure what to expect, Mac stepped gingerly forward and was surprised when her foot hit wood instead of trail.
She quickly stepped through and looked back quickly. Barrons was shedding his animal skin, returning to the form she knew so well.
An icy blast blew inward as he came through the mirror, and Mac stepped back quickly to give him space.
As the wind stopped, Mac leaned over the railing, peering down into the store below. "Wondering what's going on here? I don't sense any shades."
Barrons wrapped his arms around her and Mac forgot about shades. "Let's not worry about that for now. I've got something else in mind."
"I just bet you do," Mac replied, stifling a giggle. It was good to be home.