Merlin's Children (The Children and the Blood)

By: Megan Joel Peterson & Skye Malone

Prologue




Broken lights flickered, sending off occasional sparks as they dangled over the rubble-strewn floor. Pounding her fist on the metal storage room door, Tanya Bartlow swallowed down the urge to sob and cast another glance to her daughter huddled in the corner.

“We’re getting out of here,” she promised for the hundredth time, hating the fact stupid reality was probably going to make her a liar.

Clutching her stuffed bear, Missy nodded, believing her mother with all the faith her five years of life could hold.

Fighting renewed tears, Tanya turned back to the door. Early on, she’d tried blowing the damn thing up, to the near destruction of the whole room. The supports above the door could be holding the weight of the entire factory for all she knew, because when her magic hit the door, things had gone horribly wrong.

Half the room was on the ground. Concrete, steel and rebar from the levels above had been their unwelcome companions for the better part of half an hour, ever since the sounds of explosions had faded from the building above. They’d been lucky – insanely lucky – to survive the ensuing cave-in, though doing so put them no closer to escape than they’d been before.

And meanwhile, the damned, dented, useless door remained.

The hallway had collapsed, she was fairly certain. And the doorframe itself was far too shallow to hold a portal, had she been any good at forming them anyway. But she couldn’t tell that to Missy. She was all the girl had left, no thanks to the royals, the war, and her husband’s blind faith in the former that led to his death by the latter.

Or whatever the story was these days.

Cursing under her breath, she slammed her fist into the warped metal again, begging no one in particular to finally start playing fair.

Magic roared down the hall.

She stumbled away from the door. Hurriedly, she motioned for Missy to scoot behind the chunks of concrete. With her round face nearly the same color as her curly blonde hair, the little girl quickly did as she was told.

The door jerked as someone pulled at it from the other side.

A voice grumbled in annoyance. Another voice, colder and infinitely more authoritative, murmured in response.

Magic hit the door and spread, chasing the length and breadth of the steel. Heat began to radiate into the room while, with alarming speed, the gray metal shifted to orange.

Tanya retreated, the sweat slipping from her brow only partly the fault of the oppressive warmth baking the room. Like syrup, the metal door slid down and pooled on the ground, where it rapidly began to cool.

She barely noticed it. Her gaze was locked on the men in the hallway.

Taliesin. At least a dozen. Without hesitation, she struck out, throwing everything she had at them. The Taliesin staggered back, their hasty shields barely holding against her furious assault. Gasping, she whipped her hand toward the next few, succeeding in sending them toppling against the wall.

A wave of magic slammed into her, and then she was on the floor. White lights and darkness danced across her vision as footsteps pounded into the room.

Missy’s screams sent her surging blindly to her feet. Blinking frantically, she scanned the blurred chaos for her daughter, only to stumble as the girl barreled into her.

The shadows faded, revealing the Taliesin. Red-faced with fury, one of them grabbed her and wrenched her around.

“Try that again and you’re both dead,” he growled.

She glared, seething with the desire to spit in his face, though she knew it’d only give the bastards an excuse to finally make Missy an orphan. Satisfying herself with a sneer, she pulled her frightened daughter toward the door.

“That was all?”

The dry voice drew her attention from the Taliesin. By a blockade of concrete and steel at the end of the corridor, a man leaned calmly against the wall. Slender and tall like some kind of elf from a fantasy book, with prematurely gray hair pulled back into a long ponytail at the nape of his neck, he raised an eyebrow and then shrugged away from his support, ignoring the guards as they retreated from his path.

Despite herself, she shivered. The man looked human. There wasn’t a trace of magic on him, nor any sense of what side he was on. He was just ordinary.

And the Taliesin deferred to him without question.

Her heart pounded harder at memories of the guards’ whispers and the snide comments from the council bastard, Sebastian. The mad teenage queen of Merlin swore there were wizards out there no one but cripples could detect. Wizards more powerful than anyone on either side of the war.

Also By Megan Joel Peterson & Skye Malone

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