What Treachery is This?
Mature Magic Book 6
Live ho the wicked old witch…the wicked old witch…the wicked old witch. Live hale the wicked old witch…Ye’ll surely mourn her death.
The last person anybody ever expected to get into trouble was the crone. I’d believed she was pretty much bomb proof. I mean, who in their right mind would go after a two-thousand-year-old witch who was also a magical historian? The problem was, I didn’t know what took her down. But something did. Whatever it was, it left her hovering on the razor edge of death. If I don’t kick it into gear and go after her attacker, the old witch’s present condition could become permanent. And then I’d have a grieving teen to deal with. As well as an extremely irritated magical horse.
"this book pulled me under its spell ... At the end of the day, I have no idea what Aggy and her council will be facing next, but I can’t wait to read it."
Kristen L, Booksprout reviewer
More From This Series
Praise for What Treachery is This?
Denise - Goodreads Reviewer
This is such a creative series! The world building is well done and the writing is so descriptive that you can visualize the creatures, magical beings, the magic itself and the battles.
Margery - Goodreads Reviewer
Sam Cheever yet again spins an exciting action packed story. I could not put the book down at all! With a literally earth shaking evil to be caught and killed, Aggie's journey to save all seems impossible. But is it? Is everything as it seems, or an illusion? Are there solutions to the many problems place before Aggie? All I can say is you HAVE to read this 'do not miss' book. Thank you Ms. Cheever for a wonderful book.
Read an Excerpt
PLEASE ENJOY THIS UNEDITED EXCERPT...
Hooves thundered across hard, veiny earth, the sound echoing inside a broad white chest in overtaxed heartbeats, and the rhythm of enormous, straining lungs. Wild brown eyes rolled and flashed, foam flecking a silky nose, the nostrils flaring with effort. Overhead, an endless umbrella of ancient trees bent protectively over the messenger, their intent driven by an ancient magic whose dark portent flailed insistent urgings upon their rough skins as the messenger passed. The glossy leaves of the guardian trees were still and silent, despite a roiling pulse of rage and an even angrier wind.
My skin was clammy. My pillow damp and rumpled. Inside my chest the thunder of the creature’s approaching hooves framed my own heartbeats. I twisted beneath the blankets, sweaty hands shoving at covers that felt more like a prison cell than protection against the cold fall night.
The sky I could barely see between the over-arching skeleton of the protective trees was dark…dangerous…and fully embroiled in a rage-filled magic that tore through the midnight landscape.
Dark, reverberating screams ripped from a hoarse throat. Tear-filled eyes glossy with horror. A world ripped asunder by chaotic magic that recognized the loss of one of its own.
Tumultuous and frenzied with hate.
But it was the high-pitched scream of a single clear voice that reached me through the unruly, broken magic and wrenched me, drenched and frantic, from a fitful sleep.
I sat bolt upright in my bed, knowing I’d experienced a supernova of a Response vision. Monty jerked to his feet as I cried out, frantically bathing my arm with kisses. “I’m okay, buddy.” I glanced over at Gren’s side of the bed and found him missing. With a small sound of alarm, I wrenched the covers back and started to run.
I was vaguely aware of Monty flying through the house with me. He squeezed past me into the night before I did, running toward the tall form standing in the yard,
Gren’s gaze was locked on the magical woods at the back of the property. He didn’t turn as I let the mudroom door slam behind me. Even the cat-sized, yellow-eyed bat fluttering above his head didn’t cause him to look up. My angel’s stark, worried gaze was focused on the horizon. A horizon which roiled with black clouds, speared occasionally by the silver spurs of a waxing gibbous moon.
I lay a hand on his bare shoulder as I came up to him. To my surprise, his warm skin trembled slightly beneath my touch. “Gren?”
He finally looked at me. “What did you see?”
“The White Mare. She’s coming with a message.” I shivered as I remembered the dream vision. “I don’t think the message is a good one.” I chewed the inside of my bottom lip. “It’s not Wanda. It can’t be Wanda.”
Gren looped a heavy arm around my shoulders and pulled me close, his lips touching my
forehead. “Let’s not jump to conclusions.”
A slight form burst from the woods and ran toward us. The man’s leanly muscular frame moved effortlessly, bare feet forming moist footprints in the glistening grass.
I watched him come, my lips trying to curl with disgust.
When Bathos slowed to a walk twenty feet away, he wasn’t even panting. “Is it the girl?”
The demon was only five feet eight inches tall, but he carried himself as if he were much larger. He had black eyes and glossy black hair and the face of an angel. A fallen angel. He was also Wanda’s father, a man who didn’t deserve to know what was going on with the teen, since it was his threat to take her away from me that had caused her to run.
Gren’s arm tightened around my shoulders. He said, “We don’t know yet. The Mare is coming.”
The White Mare was a powerful magical creature. It was a loyal companion to the crone, but the old witch didn’t own the beautiful creature any more than I did. Though I’d felt a connection with the horse since the first time I’d laid eyes on her. The Mare was also a vessel. She could freely pass through the veil and transport her riders from one world to another. That trait made her both handy and dangerous…depending on your perspective.
It was the reason the crone had made it a habit to send the beautiful creature to me when there was news I needed quickly.
A low, eerie howl split the night, followed by another, different kind of howl. A moment later, two long, muscular shapes, enormous in the fractured moonlight, loped across my lawn.
The giant moon hound shifted in a burst of silver light without losing a stride. Sir Ferral of the Guardian Assembly, otherwise known as my Advocate, strode up to Gren and me with the usual glower firmly affixed to his handsome face. “What’s happened?”
“We don’t know yet,” Gren said, saving me from having to deal with Mister Happy when he was still feeling—shall we say—a bit growly. “We’re waiting for the Mare.” Ferral opened his mouth and Gren cut him off with a raised hand. “Wanda is fine.”
Ferral’s mouth snapped shut with a click of teeth and he nodded.
Behind him, the enormous wolf with the bright golden eyes lay down on the grass, Luke choosing not to shift back, so he could glare and snarl at Bathos.
The demon simply rolled his eyes at the spectacle of enormous white teeth. It was no wonder, as the keeper of a prison for monsters, Bathos had likely seen and dealt with much worse than my intimidating but rational council member who was currently shaped like a wolf.
Behind me the door creaked open and closed with a quiet thump as the family of my heart, who were also two of my council members walked arm and arm toward our little group.
My sister’s dainty features were tense, her thick mane of blonde hair, recently cut into a cute pageboy style, flew around her face with wild abandon, the glossy strands catching the moonlight and sparking with silver flame. “What’s wrong? What happened? Are you okay? Monty?” She looked frantically around for my little man, finding him sitting at the base of the largest tombstone in our little graveyard, staring hopefully up at an annoyed black cat.
She relaxed as Wraith narrowed her round yellow eyes on him and swatted half-heartedly in his direction, hissing.
Mavis gave me a hug, looking up at me with worry etched in the corners of her pale gray eyes. I wrapped an arm around the mother of my heart, who’d recently turned sixty-three, but looked and acted twenty years younger with her peaches and cream complexion and strong constitution. “We’re waiting for the Mare,” I said responding to both of them.
Mavis patted my back and stepped away. “Good. As long as it’s not Wanda.”
Monty barked a greeting to someone, and we all turned to find Reverend Dodson rising from the ground beneath the tombstone. The sight of him made my shoulders soften, pleasure at knowing we had him back home again making me temporarily forget my worry.
He strode toward us instead of floating, his slender, six-foot-tall form looking as solid as I’d ever seen it. Something about his visit to the spectral plane had amped up his ghost mojo, until he was almost as corporeal a presence as any of my other council members.
He smiled when he saw my face, his hands coming out to clasp mine.
I noticed Wraith and Monty had followed him from the graveyard, something they never used to do.
“Aggy, my dear. How are you?”
I pulled him into a hug, noting the cold but no longer painfully icy aura surrounding him. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant. “I’m better every time I see you here with us again.”
His smile widened. He looked around and shared the smile with my council. “Is everyone here?”
I shook my head. “Trish is on king-training duty this week. She’ll be late.” The Unseelie Fairy court had recently lost its queen and Trish had found them a new one…well, actually a king…whom she’d been helping get up to speed for the last couple of months. It hadn’t been easy. There had been many challenges, not the least of which was the fact that future King Nova had been a prince of the Seelie court, a distinction that didn’t endear him to members of the Unseelie court. “And Niele is reading the roots.”
When everyone looked at me as if I had two heads, I shrugged. “Don’t ask me what that means. He explained it but it made no sense.” As a gnome, Niele spent much of his time beneath the soil, tending to things I only understood on the most basic, surface level. I knew that he and his many cousins and family members kept the very core of the earth’s foundation solid and secure, but all I really understood was that he made my yard look spectacular in the spring and summer.
“Shall I tell you what I know now?” Reverend Dodson asked.
“Yes. I’ll fill them in when they get here.”
“Well, it’s good news,” he said. “Of a sort. There are no new deaths reported in the crone’s home world.” He grimaced. “No humanoid deaths. It is my understanding that one of those nasty monsters of hers was killed. Grisly story.”
I nodded, not inclined to feel bad about one of the crone’s Leviathan being killed. The nasty creatures had nearly eaten all of us when we’d traveled to speak to the ancient witch the previous year.
The Rev’s kind brown eyes found Bathos and the ghost twitched, the instinctive movement almost imperceptible. He’d had to fight a lot of demons when he’d been on the spectral plane. I figured he probably had a good case of demonic PTSD from the experience. But he forced himself to speak kindly. “Your daughter is well. The summons has nothing to do with her.”
Bathos’s cold black gaze narrowed slightly, and he inclined his head. “Thank you for telling me.”
The Rev nodded.
“So, the crone is okay too?” I asked, feeling like a shoe was in the midst of dropping even as I retrieved the one that had already hit the floor.
His smile wavered and died. The Rev’s lean, heavily creased face folded into an unhappy mask. “Unfortunately, I cannot confirm that. I can only tell you that no one has entered the spectral plane from that world. And my spies can attest to the young historian’s well-being.”
His words pulled a weight from my shoulders and I took a deep breath, releasing it slowly. Some of the tension fell away from my neck and shoulders and I managed a small smile when I looked up at Gren. “She’s okay.”
He lowered his head and touched his lips to mine. “Yes, beautiful Aggy. That’s great news.”
Without warning, the ground between where we stood and the woods erupted in a geyser of dirt, rock, and vegetation and Niele flew out of the midst. The gnome’s small black eyes shone with an alarmed light and his thick features were formed in a frown. He shook himself slightly, clumps of dirt and rock sifting from his wild silver hair, and strode in my direction.
I’d like to think that I was past the shock of dealing with a naked gnome in my yard, but honesty compelled me to admit to myself that I wasn’t. I kept my gaze determinedly on his face as he rushed toward us, stick and berries bouncing.
Okay, I tried to keep my gaze on his face, but peripheral vision is a witch.
“Madam Lares,” Niele said, stopping in front of me and bowing—an annoying habit he’d picked up since I’d come fully into my guardianship. “The vessel is nearly here. She should burst from the Mystical Wood in five…” An equine scream rent the air and the sleek form of the White Mare burst from the trees, thundering toward us.
“Um…now,” Niele finished with a grimace. Timing had never been one of his best things.
“Thanks, gnome,” I said, grinning in an attempt to tease him out of the “ruler and subject” mentality that I hated more than cooked spinach.
He fell in behind the group, thankfully putting his dusty nakedness behind me, and I stepped forward. I held out a hand, palm up, to the now-trotting horse. Heat and pale green light bathed my palm and, when it was gone, a fat, shiny apple rested there.”
I glanced up as Trish buzzed toward me and popped into full size in another spray of magic. “Sorry I’m late.”
I reached out and squeezed her arm. “Thanks for the apple. Is everything okay at court?”
She made a face. “Nova’s great. Everything else sucks earthworms.”
I grimaced at the thought. As it had a dozen times since we’d returned from the spectral plane, my curiosity flared about the two fairies. Was Trish falling for the handsome Nova, future king of Unseelie? Or were they just friends? I made a mental note to chat with the warrior fairy as soon as I had the chance.
The mare halted two feet away from me and stretched her glossy neck to snuffle my palm. She blew a couple of gusts of hot breath over my face to help her breathing return to normal. After a moment, the sleek animal began taking dainty bites from the apple as her sides rose and fell from her run. I smoothed my free hand over the mare’s velvety nose. “Hello, beauty. It’s good to see you again. Do you have news for me?”
“Caw!” The raven’s call was louder than usual in the quiet of the night and sounded strident even to me. I looked up at the big raven winging his way toward me and had a brief moment of déjà vu, remembering a time we’d been attacked in that very spot by hundreds of the birds, making it hard to choose friend from foe.
But the raven in front of me was definitely a friend. Ray came to a clumsy landing on my shoulder, one wing smacking me in the face as he fought for purchase and a claw slashing painfully across my skin.
“Pee!” the big black bird informed me as soon as he was settled.
Bev chuckled. “That never gets old, does it?”
Throwing my sister a glare, I wiped my slobbery hand on my nightgown and stepped closer to the mare. Leaning close, I pressed my forehead to her lowered head. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next as the magic blasted into me, nearly sending me to my butt on the dewy grass.