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Of Mist and Shadow by Jenna Wolfhart

Of Mist and Shadow by Jenna Wolfhart PDF

Author: Jenna Wolfhart

Publisher: Jenna Wolfhart


Publish Date: August 1, 2022

ISBN-10: 1915537096

Pages: 408

File Type: Epub, PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

I’d been born to fulfill a promise to the fae king. It was an ancient promise, bound in powerful magic. I was sworn to serve his every need, smile and laugh at his jokes, be silent when commanded, and offer myself up as his next mortal bride.

Instead of all that, I leapt into a chasm where monsters lived.

The rope slipped through my gloved hands as I skidded down the side of the rock face. A welcome wind whipped my hair, cooling the back of my neck. The chasm was one of the only places in the Kingdom of Light where I could escape the oppressive heat of the eversun.

Something glittered in the corner of my eye. I braced myself, squeezing my fists tight around the rope and slowing my fall.

“Oof.” My best friend, Val, lurched to a stop beside me.

“Careful,” I told her. “You need a more controlled descent or you’ll end up pulling your arm out of its socket.”

I knew from experience.

“I keep forgetting the protection doesn’t work in here,” she muttered.

Val had only been helping me mine gemstones for a month, and there were some things you could only learn through trial and error, like remembering we didn’t have the fae king’s protective magic down here, a power we’d depended on since birth. Because of him, wounds healed fast, and we couldn’t be killed. The only thing that plagued mortals who lived on this side of the chasm was old age. And even then, we went quietly in the middle of the night.

Every single mortal got one hundred years of supposed bliss.

That protection didn’t extend to the Great Rift, though. Because of that, no one ever ventured inside of it, despite the powerful gemstones that could be mined here. That and the king’s strict rule prohibiting any living soul from touching them.

“That’s a big one,” Val whispered as she eyeballed the gemstone protruding from the black rock. I nodded and traced my fingers along the smooth edge of it. An ancient power thrummed against my skin, echoes of the old world. A time when the Kingdom of Light had been a force to be reckoned with, before the Mist King had vanquished the light and plunged most of the world into an endless night, trapping those left alive behind the Great Rift.

“The biggest one I’ve found yet,” I said in a soft voice that echoed through the whistling chasm. “The rebel leader will be thrilled.”

Val nodded and passed me the metal pick from her belt, though I could tell by the furrow of her brows that she had something to say.

The steel shrieked as I slammed it against the rock. “Go on then. Out with it.”

She cleared her throat and waited to speak until after I’d knocked some of the rock free. “It’s just…have you found out who he is yet? The fae asking you to do this?”

After brushing my thumb along the indentation I’d made around the flaming gemstone, I continued to use the pick to pry it free. Slam after slam after slam, sweat trickled down my neck, but I was used to this work. I’d once spent five hours on a single stone.

“No,” I finally answered, handing the pick back to Val. “But it doesn’t matter. He’s trying to help us.”

“How can you be sure of that?” She handed me a smaller instrument now, a little steel bar in the shape of an L.

I slipped the short end in behind the jewel and gave it a little jiggle. “He’s the one who told us about these gemstones in the first place. They hold great power, Val. He said that if he gets enough of them, he can banish the mists. And then we’ll be free from this place.”

Val knew I was right, as cautious as she was. King Oberon had once been the most powerful fae alive, but the Mist King’s curse had trapped him here. Mortals could cross the Great Rift, but no fae could—there was an invisible wall of power blocking them. Of course, none of us mortals even dared try. Out there, in the darkness and the mists, we no longer had the protection of our fae king. There were things on the other side, too. Monstrous beings, lurking in the shadows. Shadowfiends, joint eaters, and wraiths that drank blood. I’d even heard stories of the mists themselves turning men to ash when they spent too long out there.

And the Mist King was always in the shadows, watching and waiting.

“I’m just saying, maybe we should keep some of these gemstones for ourselves,” Val said.

The gemstone popped free and landed in my open palm. It glowed red and orange, flickering like the depths of a blazing fire. The magic inside of it called to me. Temptation crept along the back of my neck. Maybe Val was right. I could keep it. Just this one.

Something sharp curled around my heart, like a thorny vine. I loosed a breath and slipped the jewel into the leather satchel slung around my neck.

“We can’t, Val. What would we do with it? We’re humans.”

She pursed her lips, but then nodded. “Fine. But I’m coming with you to the drop-off this time. Me and Nellie. If something goes wrong, we don’t want you to be by yourself.”

“All right.” I smiled and tipped back my head to gaze up at the lip of the cliff where my younger sister, Nellie, was waiting for us. She leaned forward with her hands gripping the edge, her chestnut hair tumbling around her face.

She and Val had insisted on getting involved when they’d discovered my weekly trips to the Great Rift. Even Nellie, who was afraid of heights. She wouldn’t scale the cliff with us, but she wouldn’t let me out of her sight, either. Until we were back on solid ground, she hunkered there at the top, ready to drag me up if she had to.

A shrill call echoed through the winding chasm, tickling the hairs on the back of my neck. A lump clogged my throat. Whipping my head toward Val, a dozen unspoken words passed between us all at once. She felt it, too—a shadowfiend was coming, and it was on the hunt.

Heart rattling in my chest, I shoved the tool between my teeth and hauled myself up the cliff, hand over hand, twisting the rope between my feet to help the climb. My back muscles groaned from the effort. When I’d first started mining these gemstones, I hadn’t had the strength to go far down the cliff before my arms and back gave out. Over the months, I’d gotten stronger, even practicing at home when I thought no one was looking. I’d pulled myself up and onto the roof, over and over again, until I could do it without any trouble.

I just hoped it would be enough now.

Dust sprayed off the cliffside as Val kicked her boots against it. Her hands began to slip. Heart in my throat, I paused my climb and held out one hand toward her, grasping my rope with the other.

“You’ve got this,” I whispered, not daring to speak any louder for fear my voice would carry to the monster hunting us. “Take my hand.”

She stared up at me with defiant eyes and clung onto her own rope. “You’re as strong as light now, Tessa, but you can’t carry both of us back up that rope. You’re not fae.”

“You’re right. I’m not. And thank the light for that,” I replied. “But if you fall, I fall.”

Her throat bobbed as she swallowed hard and cast a nervous glance at the yawning chasm beneath us. We couldn’t see the end of it. It was one of the only things inside the Kingdom of Light to hold darkness inside it. Most of the time, the monsters never climbed up from the shadows.

I’d seen them only a handful of times. Every time they hunted me, I heard them long before I saw them. I could be fast up the rope. But Val had never done this until now.

Val’s hands faltered, and she slid an inch down the rope. Her legs flailing beneath her, she bounced against the rock and spun around.

Gritting my teeth, I strained to grab her, but she’d fallen too far out of my reach. Sudden tears burned my eyes, just as the entire chasm seemed to rumble.

“Val, come on,” I hissed, my heart pattering. “Hold on.”

She peered up at me with clear terror in the depths of her bottomless blue eyes. “I can’t.”

“Yes. You can.”

Val was a year older than me. Twenty-six to my twenty-five. But it had never felt that way. Our souls were inexplicably entwined, as if we’d come into this world together. Seeing her struggle to hold on felt like my soul was starting to unravel.

She couldn’t fall.

“You need to climb, Tessa. Save yourself. I’m not going to let you fall because of me.”

We didn’t say die. We never did. The word felt too alien in our mouths. The mortals of the Kingdom of Light did not know death, not until our hundredth year when old age finally took us away in our beds. To die here like this, barely over a quarter-century, was unthinkable.

Slowly, I inched down the rope and wound my hand around her wrist. My shoulder screamed from the extra weight, but I would never let her go.

“If you fall, I fall.”

“Tessa! Val!” Nellie screamed from above. The rope jolted. “Find a cave! Let go of the rope! I’ll get someone to—”

Her voice suddenly cut off.

I risked a glance up at the lip of the chasm. Nellie was nowhere to be seen. Dread sliced down my spine. That wasn’t like her, especially at a time like this. She would never just leave us here dangling like bait above a monster.

A wail echoed through the chasm. Animalistic and full of vicious anger. A tremor went through me. It was the first time I’d felt blinding terror in a very long time.

“We need to climb,” I whispered to Val, clutching her hand tighter. “I know it’s hard, but we’re just going to have to do it, okay? Ignore the pain. Ignore your body telling you it’s impossible. All we have to do is get up the cliff, and we’ll be safe. They can’t follow us there.” Because for whatever reason, the shadowfiends weren’t able to cross into the Kingdom of Light, either.

Her hand slipped on the rope. It was only a little, but it was enough to jolt me. I winced against the sudden flash of pain. My hand trembled to keep its grip. If she couldn’t hold on, I’d have her entire weight in my hands, as well as mine.

Another dose of fear spiked my heart.

The rope suddenly shifted. We hurtled upward just an inch. A fistful of hope punched me square in the gut. Together, with our bodies trembling from effort, Val and I gazed up.

Had Nellie somehow managed to find someone that quickly?

The rope continued to inch higher as the growls beneath us grew louder. Up and up we went until we finally tumbled over the edge, onto solid ground. I was still gripping Val’s arm. I couldn’t seem to let go, even when we were lying on our backs in the lush grass.

“Nellie.” The light of the eversun blinded me for a moment, filling my eyes with dancing stars. “How in the name of light did you manage to haul us back up?”

But it was not Nellie’s sweet voice that answered. It was one deep and dark and full of raw power.

“Nellie isn’t here,” he said.

A tall horned fae with flowing crimson hair and eyes as orange as flames stood over me. With a golden crown on his head and a glittering onyx necklace at his neck, he exuded gaudy wealth. His lips widened into a cruel smile, revealing a mouth full of sharp, elongated teeth. My heart flipped over, and my relief of being alive fled like a field mouse from a bird of prey.

It was the one person I’d hoped never to meet again, especially here with a pocket full of his precious stones. King Oberon had found us.

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