Wraith (The Scarred Mage of Roseward #3) - Sylvia Mercedes

A chilling sensation stirred across the deeper reaches of her unconscious. At first it was hardly noticeable—the barest whisper, a shiver—and she was so deeply asleep that she could easily dismiss it. But the sensation intensified by the moment, drawing her unwillingly toward wakefulness.

Boggarts blast it! She wasn’t ready to wake up yet.

Turning inward, she pulled drowsiness over her mind like a thick down quilt. Maybe it was just a dream. A dream was all right if it didn’t turn too vivid. If it didn’t transform into nightmares . . .

A sudden gust howled across her spirit, rattling her to the core. She couldn’t ignore it. She couldn’t pretend. Not anymore.

Nelle opened her eyes.

The cold world around her was as dark as a tomb. She blinked hard, trying to draw her mind back into full wakefulness, to remember where she was exactly. Noxaur? she thought. A sliver of dread wedged in her heart. Was she still held captive in the Kingdom of Night?

But wait. Dull reddish light gleamed on familiar stones just overhead. With a groan, Nelle rolled onto her side, peering from her alcove bed into the chamber dimly lighted by coals on the hearth. A whole host of pains flared through her body, some minor, others more significant. Her side throbbed where she’d been stabbed by a tree branch, and her skin smarted from multiple shallow cuts, healing but not yet fully healed. She winced and sat up slowly, drawing the thin blanket up over her trembling shoulders. That sensation, that chill in her soul, was still there. She closed her eyes and shook her head, trying to drive it away. But it wouldn’t be driven.

“Something’s not right,” she whispered.

When she took another look around the room, everything was where it ought to be. There were the table and chairs where she’d spent many long hours, quill in hand, poring over parchments and strange texts. And the fireplace with its banked coals was surrounded by an assortment of battered kettles and cooking pans and a rusty set of fire irons. One door of the armoire sagged open to reveal the many books and scrolls stuffed chaotically into its various niches. Nothing looked amiss.

But the air felt . . . wrong.

A soft whine tickled Nelle’s ear. Frowning, she looked down at the warm spot on her little bed where she expected to see a gangly, gimpy-winged wyvern curled up and snoring softly. The spot was empty, though she could see the indentation where her scaly companion had rested not long ago.

“Worm?” she whispered. Her voice sounded strange in that petrified air.

The whine sounded again, soft but unmistakable. She leaned out of the alcove, using the blanket like a cloak, clutching the fabric against one shoulder. Her gaze quested up into the rafters. The hearth light couldn’t reach that high, but she thought she made out a little bundled form clinging to one of the support beams near the ceiling. “Worm?” she said again. “Is that you?”

Two glowing eyes blinked down at her. She saw a flash of sharp white teeth, heard a little burbling bray.

Then she gasped and almost doubled over as a gust howled across her soul. Several moments passed before she realized it wasn’t a physical sensation. She’d felt it without actually feeling . . . yet with a profoundness that made it real.

“What the blazes is that?” she choked. The gust abated, then blew even harder. Only a firm conviction that it shouldn’t affect her physical body kept her upright.

Dropping the blanket, Nelle scrabbled out of the bed and stepped barefoot onto the cold stone floor, startled to see her body clothed in overlarge trousers and a billowing, blood-stained man’s shirt. Oh, right. Kyriakos’s wives had taken her gown, and she’d been obliged to borrow garments from Mage Silveri. She was pulling the gaping shirt’s laces tighter when a third gust threatened to knock her from her feet.

The wyvern in the rafters turned Nelle’s squeal of fright into a duet.

Nelle spun in place, searching the room. Had some invisible monster penetrated the lighthouse’s protections? But this tension in the air didn’t feel like a monster. It was more like . . . more like . . .

Staggering under the spirit gale’s assault, Nelle crossed the room to the lighthouse door, gripped the latch . . . and hesitated. It wasn’t safe to open the door at night—the Thorn Maiden prowled Roseward Island from dusk to dawn. But whatever caused this terrifying sensation didn’t feel like a Noswraith.