Eversong

Read the Excerpt

West Morland, England

September 1349

 

 

It was a good day for hunting witches. Then again, Leoma believed every day was a good day to hunt.

She kept the hood of her cloak pulled forward to conceal her face as she meandered through the crowd. The few days of fair weather they’d enjoyed, allowed the soggy ground a chance to dry so that mud no longer squished beneath her shoes. The market was filled with people, and while she detested the crush of bodies, it gave her cover.

Chickens squawked, men yelled, women haggled, and even a dog or two barked. The smell of freshly baked bread and raw fish, along with rank body odor, clung to everything. Leoma ignored all of it, including the children that ran through the market without a care or worry—picking pockets when they could.

With her pace unhurried, it was easy to blend in with the crowd while her gaze was focused on her quarry—Brigitta. The witch was easy to pick out with her flagrant beauty that she happily showed off.

Leoma battled the rising hatred within her. Edra, her mentor, warned her about letting anger rule. But it was becoming more and more difficult to keep it at bay.

While Leoma had begun learning to battle witches the day Edra and Radnar found her starving on the streets, it hadn’t been until Brigitta cruelly and viciously killed Leoma’s closest friend that she truly understood vengeance.

“Ease your mind.

Leoma inhaled deeply as Edra’s words came back to her. While releasing her breath, Leoma centered herself. It had been six weeks since she left the safe haven of the abbey ruins Edra and Radnar had made into a home.

All those years of training with various weapons and learning how to fight against witches were being put to the test. This wasn’t the first time Leoma had gone hunting, but it was her first time alone.

For weeks, she had been steadily closing in on Brigitta. Two days ago, Leoma finally found her. It was obvious by the way the witch traveled with determination that she had a specific destination in mind.

It was really too bad she would never make it.

Leoma smiled, her hand on the hilt of her sword hidden beneath her black cloak. She couldn’t wait to sink the blade into the witch’s heart. Or better yet, slice off her head.

Meg’s face popped into her mind. Leoma had to close her eyes against the assaulting image of her best friend’s decapitated body.

If only Leoma hadn’t insisted they split up in order to corner the witch. If only she’d realized that Meg was terrified. If only….

There were so many regrets that haunted her, and Leoma was sure they would remain until her dying day.

She touched the inside of her left forearm. Before she left her family, another tattoo had been added to her body. The Vegvisir.

The Icelandic word meant signpost, but the magical stave was much more than that. It helped the bearer find their way and never become lost. The Vegvisir would not only help Leoma track Brigitta, but it would also bring Leoma back to her family.

She dropped her arm and moved away from a cart to continue following the witch. It was only Brigitta’s habit of remaining right in the mix of people that kept Leoma from attacking. Because Leoma wouldn’t have the weight of any more innocent deaths on her conscience.

If she had to track the witch for a year in order to get her alone, then that’s what Leoma would do.

Brigitta suddenly halted and looked over her shoulder. Leoma ducked behind a building. She peered around the corner, her gaze taking in Brigitta’s stunning face with her long, black hair up in braids, and bright blue eyes that seemed to hold everyone entranced—everyone except Leoma.

A few moments later, the witch continued on. Crowds parted without Brigitta ever saying a word. It was as if others recognized the power within her without understanding what they felt.

While men stared after Brigitta in a lust-filled haze, none were brave enough to approach. It sickened Leoma that so many were so easily manipulated by a beautiful face. Couldn’t they tell the witch could end them with a thought? Did they even care?

To Leoma’s surprise, Brigitta stopped again and simply looked around as if searching for something.

Or someone.

Leoma remained hidden, wondering just what the witch was up to. Had it not been for Edra, Leoma would never know that there was magic in the world, or that there was a Coven who recruited the most powerful witches in order to grow.

For what exactly, no one knew. Yet.

But that knowledge was something Leoma hoped to bring back to the abbey.

The Coven once sought Edra. They had hunted her for seven years until Edra took a stand. With the love of her life, Radnar, by her side, Edra defeated the witches sent to either bring her into the fold or kill her. That’s when Edra decided to create her own coven—a Hunter’s Coven.

Leoma was the first of the homeless, abandoned, and starving children that Radnar and Edra found. Some trained like Leoma, and others, like Meg, found different duties at the abbey.

No one was forced to do anything they didn’t want to do, but everyone pulled their weight. It allowed Radnar and Edra to supply a safe place for anyone who wanted or needed it.

Leoma couldn’t imagine growing up any other way. While Radnar had been her first teacher, he hadn’t been her only or her last. Other knights and warriors found their way to Radnar and helped train those wanting to be a part of the Hunter’s Coven.

The sword Leoma carried had been designed by Radnar and created by Berlag, their master blacksmith. And then Edra had filled it with magic so Leoma could kill witches.

Because a witch could survive a normal blade. It took something special to make sure a sorceress remained dead. And Leoma would make damn sure Brigitta never hurt anyone again. It might very well cost Leoma her life, and she accepted that.

As soon as she saw the witch move, Leoma scanned the crowd, looking for anyone who could be meeting up with Brigitta. Leoma might get lucky and find a second witch. It wouldn’t be the first time she fought multiples.

She had the scars—and the tattoos—to prove it.

Leoma counted to twenty before she slid from her hiding spot to follow Brigitta. To her surprise, the witch walked into the Three Moons. Leoma flattened her lips as she eyed the tavern.

It wasn’t that she minded going into such establishments, it was just that she spent most of her time fending off advances from drunken idiots who thought that anyone with breasts was fair game for a tumble into bed.

But she wasn’t going to let that stop her from discovering all she could about Brigitta, just in case Leoma did survive the battle and made it back to the abbey. Any information—no matter how inconsequential—was needed.

She made her way around the building made up of small stones and wooden pillars to make sure the witch didn’t sneak out the back. Then Leoma waited until she found a group of men walking into the pub. She snuck behind them and went unseen by most.

The tavern was packed. Loud, boisterous groups singing and laughing occupied several long tables. Those enjoying food and drink took other, smaller tables.

Leoma noted the hearth and roaring fire, as well as the shadowed parts of the interior. She quickly found a smaller table with an elderly couple who didn’t bat an eye when she sat with them. Leoma gave the woman a nod and set a few coins on the table before sliding them toward her.

The woman took the money and didn’t look at Leoma again. That allowed Leoma to let her gaze wander the tavern as she inhaled the delicious aroma of food, which was probably why the place was so popular.

With little effort, Leoma picked out the men she knew could be trouble. Danger filled the air around them like a dark cloud despite their laughter and noise—or perhaps because of it. They drank too much and made sure everyone could hear their boasting. But so far, the men were content to focus on imbibing instead of fighting.

Just before her gaze moved away, she spied someone she had somehow previously overlooked—twice. He sat motionless in a shadowed corner with a mug of ale before him and his gaze directed toward the stairs.

She eyed him, wondering how she could have missed him in her perusal of the occupants. She put his face to memory. Dark hair, thick with just a hint of wave, that fell loose to his shoulders. A lean, rugged face that had sharp cheekbones and a square jaw with a slight indent in his chin ensnared all her senses.

His lips were wide and sinfully full. Thick brows slashed over piercing eyes a deep color she couldn’t quite discern from the distance.

Leoma couldn’t remember ever encountering a man with such a striking face before, and the fact that she didn’t want to look away disturbed her greatly.

But it wasn’t just his features that captured her attention. There was an air about him that declared he and battle were well acquainted. If he were a knight, his plain brown cloak and leather jerkin beneath hid the chainmail. He reclined in the chair as if he didn’t have a care in the world, and yet his expression told a different story. He was intent on something.

Perhaps he was hunting, as well.

She regretted that she wouldn’t find out for sure because she was intrigued. And she almost felt sorry for whoever the man was after. He seemed the type who would not give up until he ran his target to ground.

Leoma pulled her gaze away and looked at the table. This would be the time when Meg told her to flirt. Meg had always pushed Leoma to do the things she watched others do. Her friend made her a part of the world instead of just someone observing it.

But Leoma was better at watching. The few times she tried to do as others did, it hadn’t turned out well. It’s why Leoma was so suited to witch hunting. It was a solitary business. And she was damn good at it.

She began to wonder how long she would have to wait for some sign of Brigitta when the witch walked down the stairs with a young woman. Their heads were close together as they whispered.

Leoma saw Brigitta pass a small bag to the woman before they reached the bottom step. The woman hugged Brigitta and hurried to the back of the tavern with a bright smile in place as silence fell over the occupants.

Brigitta’s grin was coy and sly when she caught men staring. She gave them a little wave before walking out. Leoma glanced at the back of the tavern. A part of her knew she needed to see what the witch had given the woman, but Leoma didn’t want to lose Brigitta.

Yet, if Leoma found her once, she could again. Leoma waited until the conversation in the taproom resumed, and then she discreetly rose and made her way to the back.

“I got it,” came a feminine voice.

Leoma leaned around the corner to find the woman showing the bag to a man.

“We can have a child now,” the woman said excitedly.

The man eyed the bag. “I’m not sure about such methods.”

Leoma knew the risks involved with using magic for such things. The couple would be indebted to Brigitta forever. And the witch wouldn’t hesitate to take what she wanted from them—most likely their firstborn child. There was no way Leoma could allow that to happen.

She put a smile on her face and walked toward the couple. “My apologies. I don’t mean to interrupt, but I think I’m lost.”

The woman set the bag on a table near the hearth as she turned to Leoma. “It sometimes happens. Would you like something to eat?”

The tavern owner hurried out to the customers when someone shouted for more ale, leaving Leoma with his wife. The first thing Leoma had learned in her training was to be swift of hand.

She walked closer while the woman spoke. “This is a wonderful place. I’m glad I stopped in.”

“That pleases me greatly to hear,” the woman beamed.

When the wife glanced out the doorway, Leoma swiped the bag. “Can you show me the way out, so I do not get lost again?”

The woman’s smile grew tight, most likely irritated at being interrupted, but she replied, “Of course.”

Just before Leoma followed the woman out, she tossed the bag into the fire.

Leoma began searching for Brigitta as soon as she was out of the tavern. She caught a glimpse of the witch heading west and made to follow when the same gorgeous man from the tavern snared her attention. She allowed herself a moment to stare while he saddled a horse. But it was the way his gaze kept returning to Brigitta that made her frown.

Leoma hoped the man wouldn’t interfere. She’d hate to have to put him on his arse, but she’d do it in a heartbeat. The witch was her prize.