Home > Bad Lands (Savage Lands #4)(2)

Bad Lands (Savage Lands #4)(2)
Author: Stacey Marie Brown

The woman stared at me, her tongue sliding over her dry, cracked lips, opening her mouth.

“It was you, Brexley.”

My entire world flipped in that single moment. All I knew or understood disintegrated under my feet.

Sickly and gaunt compared to the woman I had seen in the vision on the battlefield, it was the same face I had been staring at all day in the picture. The one still in my back pocket.

Eabha.

“Mo-mom?” My vocal cords wrapped around themselves, barely making my voice audible.

Her head cocked as if I spoke a foreign word. A moniker she had never been called because I had never gotten the chance to call her that.

Making a hum in her throat, she stepped closer to me, her bare toes knocking into my boots. I couldn’t move or breathe. I barely felt Warwick’s grip on me. My body jerked at her nearness, caught between thinking this might be a dream or the fact it was real. Both scenarios were terrifying. My mother, who I thought had been dead for twenty years, was alive.

Sort of…

She had been a necromancer. All of them were, so how was she standing before me, blood pumping through her veins?

“Ho-how is this possible?” My gaze ran over her, drinking up every inch. She was slightly shorter than me, but similar dark hair fell to her waist, and the same black irises as mine stared back at me.

Even withered, my mother was beautiful. I had imagined her so many times in my head growing up, how she looked, spoke, and moved. Nothing came close to the real thing.

“Because of you.” Her voice was deeper than I expected—lyrical. A drop of an Irish accent wound softly through her pitch.

“Me? What does that mean?”

She peered back at the box, drawing my attention to it, noticing the nectar was now dull and grayish. The pulse and life I had seen earlier was extinguished. “You feel it as it feels you. It’s part of you. Weaved through magic. It is the essence of life.”

“Essence of life?” I echoed.

“Your life.”

“I don’t know what you mean.” I blinked, staring at the lump of matter. “Did I break it?”

“I don’t know.” She seemed unsure of how to move her mouth; her speech was slow and broken. “You used a lot of power to bring us back.” She motioned to the group behind her, their eyes on me with cautious admiration.

“Bring you back?” I repeated, my gaze snapping around to all the figures standing around her, still gazing and touching themselves in awe.

I did that? My power brought them back?

“H-how?” Though I already knew. It was the same power I had used when I brought Andris back to life. The power I had when touching the nectar was so vast, and I had no understanding of how to use it. I yanked someone from death’s hands when I wasn’t actually there while bringing back seven necromancers.

What. The. Fuck?

My eyes drifted to my mother, a stranger to me, not sure how to react to her. She hadn’t touched me or moved to hug me, so I didn’t either.

“You look so much like him.” I expected her tone to be tender, overcome like I was, but it was reserved. Detached. “You are more beautiful than I could ever imagine,” she said evenly. “Strong. Fierce. Your father did well in raising you.”

I sucked in sharply at the mention of my father. Did he know about her? What had happened to her? Is this why he left the coordinates to this place?

“I have found leads. But eyes are watching me. Always watching.”

“I understand now…”

Is this what he meant?

“Did—did dad know? Did he find you?” I whispered, tears burning the back of my lids, trying to ignore the pain and queasiness rolling inside me.

“Yes.” Her head dipped. A wobbly smile stretched her lips, like a memory had come to her, but the gesture seemed unfamiliar to her mouth. It quickly faded. “He discovered our coven before he died.”

“He didn’t know what you were before, did he?”

A slice of shame flicked at her brow. “No.”

I rolled my lips together, trying not to cry. What heartbreak and devastation my dad must have felt finding out the love of his life lied to him about who she was and had been only miles away from him all that time.

“You talked to him?” Ash’s pitch mounted with confusion. “Necromancers don’t speak. It is said the clans communicate with each other through a link.”

His words sent an electrical shock into my system.

Through a link…

Holy shit…

My head whipped around to Warwick, his eyes filling with the same wonder.

As if hands wrapped around my throat, air tried to squeeze into my lungs, the understanding striking me over the head like a club. Is that why I could do it with Warwick and Scorpion? They’re my clan?

I struggled to breathe, terror racing up and down my spine. “Am… am I a necromancer?” I croaked, nausea climbing up the back of my throat.

Eabha pushed her shoulders back, her movements stiff.

“Necromancer is not a race of beings. It is a curse.” The group shifted behind my mother. “An ancient one when there was yet to be a difference between Druidism and Wicca. Once we were all witches, but the Fae gods favored some of these witches, gifted them with real magic. After centuries, some clans did not want to be slaves anymore, beholden to the Fae kings and queens. They refused and were punished for it. In death, they would walk the earth forever—tortured in purgatory—not alive, but not dead. Feeling nothing but emptiness, always hungry, and never satisfied.” She placed her palms on her chest. “But I feel…”

“What?” I whispered.

“Life.” She dropped her hands away. “Now I can smell the air, feel the cool breeze on my face, crave real food.” Her eyes watered. “All because of you.”

Shock at what I had done—what I was capable of—was keeping everything in a strange haze.

“Can necromancers bring people back to life?” I peered around at my friends before directing my question at my mother. “I thought they could only reanimate skeletons.” At the end of my statement, my eyes shot to the shadows behind them. All the skeletons lay on the ground in a heap, no longer in the thrall of necromancers.

“We can’t.” Eabha watched me for a long moment. “What you did…” A look of pride and relief hinted on her face. “You are not one of us.”

A hiccup balled in my throat. “Then what am I?”

“I don’t know. You might have traits that came from me, as you would from your father, and the circumstances you were born under, but you are completely unique. There is no name, no race, no one else who came before you. It is you who decides what you are.”

“I don’t understand.” A memory of something grazed my mind, a moment when I had been touching the nectar. I felt an absolution and power within me, a name, but I couldn’t remember, couldn’t reach what stayed just beyond the shadows.

“In time, you will.” She reached out, her hand grazing mine, forcing the sob up to my tongue. Her fingers felt boney, but a warmth absorbed into my skin.

My mother was really here. Alive.

“Come.” She took my hand, pulling me toward the other six necromancers.

My group lurched with me, Ash and Warwick instantly stepping forward to protect me.

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