Tracker

Legend of the Silver Hunter

Book Cover: Tracker
Editions:ePub - Second Edition: $ 2.99
ISBN: 978-1507736777
Pages: 160

Once upon a time, there was Beauty and there was the Beast. The spinners of tales would have you believe these two fell in love and lived happily ever after.

The spinners lied!

The Beast was a shifter and Beauty became a huntress and founded a long line of huntresses aided by the power of silver magic.

Kieran Belle is a descendant of the House of Beauty and a tracker who longs to live a life free of killing shifters. Aided by his father he escapes to college in Little Rock, Arkansas where he meets the boy of his dreams, Corwin Cooper.

Corwin Cooper is a descendant of a clan of shifters, who has never shifted himself. Having finally decided to go to college, Corwin arrives and meets the mate his inner wolf cries out to claim for his own in Kieran Belle.

Ancient prophecy says Kieran is destined to become the legendary Silver Hunter. Dark forces seek to derail prophecy and end the House of Beauty. Can a child of the shifter-hunting House of Beauty and a descendant of shifters find love and happiness or will dark forces and opposing heritage tear them apart?

Excerpt:

Prologue

 

There was once a very rich merchant, who had six children, three sons, and three daughters; being a man of sense, he spared no cost for their education, but gave them all kinds of masters. His daughters were extremely handsome, especially the youngest. When she was, little, everybody admired her, and called her "The little Beauty” so that, as she grew up, she still went by the name of Beauty, which made her sisters very jealous.

Beauty and the Beast by Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont, 1757 English translation.

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Not exactly, how you remember the tale of Beauty and the Beast is it? It’s because Beauty’s descendants have altered it through the ages. Even Madame de Beaumont’s version doesn’t come near to the truth of what happened at the end of the tale. Under the influence of the descendants of Beauty, storytellers crafted a tale teaching you that Beauty transformed the Beast back into the handsome prince with true love because it's the way magic in fairy tales works. In truth, Beauty’s story is much darker. It’s a tale of conflict with a creature from the darkest of myths, a shape shifter given to serving a corruption so foul it had pulled spirits from the heavens. The forces of Creation brought forth magic of many varieties to combat the corruption, but even the most powerful of mages is mortal and open to corruption. Ebony magic originally meant to be one of Creation’s protectors was warped into the darkest of the arts. Powerful practitioners twisted the souls of men and beasts together into the first shifters. Ebony magic’s opposite and equal, Silver magic became creations sole salvation. During the last major magical war, the most powerful Silver practitioners banded together to weave a spell to lock shifter’s powers to the phases of the moon. All magic has its price, and the binding spell tied itself to the bloodlines of the mages who cast it. As long as there are Silver mages, the spell will keep the shifters bound to one animal shape strongest when the moon is full.

The never mentioned mother of Beauty and her siblings was a descendant of one of these Silver magic families. She passed the potential for Silver magic on to all of her children, but only in her youngest son was the ability to use the power active. Her line was a hunted family because they were the key bloodline in the ancient binding spell. She chose her youngest son to carry on the line because those who sought to break the binding were looking for a female witch. When Beauty went to take her father's place at the castle of the beast, her little bother gave her a gift of the Silver magic. He triggered a change in her, which would allow her to cast one powerful Silver spell in her hour of need. Searching the castle for the beast, she found the prince locked away in his own dungeon and together they slew the beast with the gift from her brother. Hidden away is what happened after happily ever after?

Down through the ages, the female descendants of Beauty and her prince became huntresses going up against the darkness. The gift of a one shot use of Silver magic was passed down the line from mother to daughter until the origin of the magic was lost to time. Hidden even from Beauty's descendants is the family of her brother, whose male children carried the ability to use Silver magic at will and as often as needed. Every few generations, one of the brother's descendants marries one of Beauty's descendants. These marriages have always been arranged when the Silver magic began to fade from the line of huntresses. They also allow the descendants of Beauty's brother remain in hiding from those that hunt for Silver mages. Once before has this pairing produced a male hunter with the full gift of Silver magic. Since then, ten generations of Beauty's line have lived and died. Now a new generation has been born: five daughters and one son, all born of the huntress of her generation and a son of the hidden family line. This is their son's tale...

 

Chapter One

 

The ancient forest seemed gloomier than ever. The full moon flickered through the waving branches of the trees. Dark shadows stretched from tree to tree when there was any hint of light at all. A young man stepped onto the path leading to the heart of the woodland. He wouldn’t be going so far. The target of his test would meet him somewhere along the path and lead him off into the forbidding undergrowth. The young man was almost as dark as the forest. Dressed in dark leathers, his long black hair pulled back and braided with a fine silver chain, tanned skin showing only at his face, the lightest thing about him were his silvery-grey eyes. From his hips hung a matching pair of silver Hungarian sabers, and a long silver dagger was tucked into the top of each boot. Here he was on his twenty-first birthday, undergoing the test to become a full Tracker of the House of Beauty, instead of being out celebrating with the few friends he had. The young man who claimed to be his boyfriend had wanted to take him out for a special birthday date; had even hinted sex was part of the package. He’d had to tell him family obligations prevented him from going out. He didn’t think he’d be hearing from that guy again anytime soon. Channeling his frustration into his tracking skills, he waited. The shifters would signal the formal test.

A ragged shifter in human form stepped out of the forest in front of the young man barking out a question, “Who are you and why are you here?”

“I am Kieran Samuel Belle, Tracker-candidate of the House of Beauty who slew the Beast. I’ve come for the test.”

“Very well, child of Beauty. By the ancient pact between your house and my pack, you will have until sunrise to track me down and slay me. After I shift, I am allowed a ten minute head start.”

“How are you called shifter? I would know the name of my target.”

“I am called Grimfang.”

“Shift when you’re ready, Grimfang. I am ready.

“Have you ever witnessed the shift, young tracker?”

“No, you’re the first live shifter I’ve met, Grimfang.”

“Remember my name well, young tracker, for I will either be your first kill, or I will be your death.”

Grimfang blurred and in his place, a dark-furred wolf stood for a moment before taking off into the woods. The young tracker drew a quick breath and swallowed hard as he witnessed the change. Kieran waited the ten minutes dictated by the ancient rules before setting off in pursuit. He moved silently through the woods stopping only to check for tracks and other signs of the shifter’s passage. Deep into the forest, well off the regular paths, Kieran stopped short sensing he was being watched. While bending down to check for signs of spore and tracks, he slipped one of his long daggers into his hand and let loose a small trace of Silver magic. A faint Silver mist formed over the track he was following and the print blurred for a moment before a faint second outline was revealed just slightly offset from the first print. Kieran whispered to the mist and a vision of two wolves flickered before him. He quickly snuffed out the Silver magic while putting away his long dagger so any who watched him would think the knife was enchanted. Standing, Kieran drew one of his sabers and continued to follow the tracks.

He ran his hand over the blade letting another whisper of magic flow along the edge. This time the magic was set to seek his quarry. Images flickered along the saber until finally it showed him an overhang along the trail. Two wolves hid themselves there waiting for him to pass below them in clear violation of the ancient rules of the test. Kieran widened the view shown by the spell and found a track, which came up behind the two wolves and would allow him to spring their ambush on them. Slipping from the main trail, Kieran moved silently around, behind the two wolves and drew his second saber. He moved up quietly behind the two shifters but lost his footing on a patch of wet leaves. The shifters swiftly leapt at Kieran who barely managed to get one of his sabers between the shifters and his throat. The shifters tore and clawed at Kieran trying to get past his defenses. Silver sabers flashed as he held the shifters off. He dodged trying to gain an opening. Kieran needed to put one of them out of the fight.

Ebony fire raked across Kieran’s chest as the shifter's claws tore through his leather shirt. The skin beneath split. Kieran thrust the beast off. He rammed a saber into its side. Falling, the shifter ripped the saber from Kieran’s blood soaked grip. The second shifter leapt on Kieran’s back driving him to the ground. Claws raked his back inflicting searing pain as they tore leather and flesh apart. When the shifter tried to get its jaws around his neck, its teeth connected with the silver chain in Kieran’s hair. Howling in pain, it reared back. Kieran rolled out from under it, as he slashed with his remaining saber.

The silver blade opened a gash along the shifter’s side as it tried to get away. Kieran regained his footing. He thrust his saber into the beast’s heart. Silver fire flared where it met Ebony tainted blood, and the shifter fell dead. Kieran found the other shifter dead, his saber jutting from between its ribs. Pain burned across his chest and back. The wounds bled. Kieran pulled his sabers free. He removed the shifters' heads, grim trophies marking his passage into manhood. When he had his trophies, Kieran cleaned his blades before sheathing them and heading home.

****

Kieran had been resting and recovering from the injuries, he'd received during his testing when he received a summons to appear before the Matriarchs. The Matriarchs, lead by his grandmother ruled the House of Beauty and would decide whether he would become a full tracker of the house or not. He walked stiffly to the antechamber not wanting to pull open the stiches, which held his wounds shut to wait for permission to enter the council chamber. No magical healing for a mere son of the house, bandages wrapped him from shoulders to waist beneath his very loose fitting shirt. Kieran had dressed as nicely as he could manage with all of the bandages covering the claw marks across his chest and back, and he hoped he could pass muster, but didn't hold any high hopes considering his grandmother found fault with everything about him from his sex to his bad fortune to have been born first of his mother's six children.

A young boy of about ten stood outside the massive wooden doors, which separated the Matriarchs from the rest of the family. Kieran nodded to his young cousin, who was trying to look serious instead of looking bored. Kieran remembered doing that same job when he was that age, goddess but it had been mind numbing. Cousin Joey rang the little bell, which let another cousin on the other sided of the door know that Kieran had arrived. The door swung open silently despite its massive size and weight. Kieran stepped through and waited while the door was closed behind him before moving forward to the edge of the carpet the silently marked the boundary between Matriarchs and all other members of the house. An elderly woman limped from somewhere in the back of the room to a throne like chair at the center of the huge conference table. Other older women entered and took seats at the table all facing Kieran as he stood before them. When all the women were seated, Kieran noted that only two of them still had any trace of Silver magic about them, the woman at the center, his grandmother, and an aunt who'd never married and hid a missing arm beneath a shawl. Kieran's grandmother looked at him sternly and with her usual disapproval.

"Kieran Samuel Belle, son of Miranda Belle, Huntress of the House of Beauty, you have undergone the testing to become a tracker of the house."

"Yes, Huntress-emeritus. I have been tested and returned with the heads of two shifters. One belongs to the shifter Grimfang, who was sent to conduct the test under the pact. The other belongs to unknown shifter who joined Grimfang in an attempt to violate the pact and kill this tracker-candidate."

"Your trophies have been registered with the mistress-of-arms. We confer on you the rank of full tracker of the house. You will serve at the side of the next huntress of the house. Until that time it will be your duty to begin training your younger male cousins to become trackers."

"I beg permission to speak freely before the Matriarchs."

"You may speak freely with in limits, Tracker Kieran."

"I wish the Matriarchs' leave to attend college until my cousins are of the proper age to begin the training. The eldest of my cousins is but a lad of eleven years. Tradition requires the training begin at fourteen."

"You began your training earlier than tradition requires, Tracker Kieran."

"Begging your pardon, Matriarch Desdemona, my circumstances were different from those that pertain with my cousins. I am the son of the last huntress and brother to the next huntress. My mother's brothers died before I reached the age of nine and the living trackers were to old to take their place at mother's side. My services as a tracker were needed sooner than normally required. The eldest of my sisters is still a full year or more from being eligible to take the test of the huntress."

"So you wish this year to attend college rather than attend to your duties to this house?"

"Huntress-emeritus, I have a desire to create rather than destroy. I wish to study graphic design and photography. I beg a year's leave before I take up my duties to the house.”

“If you are granted this year, will you take up all of your duties to this house, including marrying and producing children?” His aunt Fiona asked. Was she prodding him, knowing how his grandmother would react when he answered?

“Matriarch Fiona, I will take up all the duties I am physically and spiritually capable of fulfilling. It is not in me to wed a woman and leave the marriage unconsummated. I’m gay and short of my donating my seed for use in artificial insemination, my branch of the House of Beauty ends with me.” Kieran looked at the displeasure his honest answer had brought out on his grandmother’s face.

“One year’s leave is all I ask for, Honored Matriarchs, after which time I will dedicate my life to training my cousins and assisting the next huntress. Please, grandmother, I've never asked for anything for myself."

The moment he let the word grandmother pass his lips, Kieran knew he'd lost every hope of winning her permission. He watched her expression harden more than ever.

"You will begin training all of your male cousins beginning tomorrow. If you leave this estate without escort by a member of this council, you will be banished from these lands until a new huntress decides otherwise. You are dismissed Tracker Kieran."

Kieran retreated backwards through the door to the council chamber, already plotting his escape.

 

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