CHAPTER ONE: The Falcon's Return


This city comes alive as darkness falls. It is a city of secrets and closed doors, true magic and slight of hand child's play. The simpering nobles with their Chinese silks and overstuffed pets, the spluttering priests within their disfigured buildings with the ugly sculptures; they would steal more than gold from you. They rule the daylight hours.

But the moonlight and the mists belong to the people, the heart of the city. The factory workers, the poor merchants, and the servants give to us more than they receive. The thieves and the Shadow people are the real ruling class here.

Paris. This is my home and my life. That will never change. I am, like so many others, an integral part of the state, the island, the city.

Of course, I tell you this with a purpose. My journey has been a strange one and should you ever discover this, I will be able to rest in peace somewhere, knowing at least one person knows my story.


The streets of Paris were never empty and at five in the afternoon, they seemed to be overflowing with life and movement. A cart attached to a large horse plodded by and I jumped out of the way, cursing cheerfully at its driver. I quickly crossed the large cobbled boulevard, weaving in and out of the hundreds of people, horses, cows, trollies and carriages that were making their way in one direction or another. Curses, hollers, and laughter filled the streets and colors flashed through the air.

I pulled my coat tightly around my skinny frame and quickly made my way down the other side of the boulevard, looking for the apartment number of my friend. I found the correct building and hurried up the stairs to the doorstep, which were set away from the street. I took hold of the chilling brass knocker, and cracked it upon the sturdy door. I waiting several moments, keeping my face down. At last it opened and a woman, probably in her mid-thirties with straggly blonde hair, peered around the edge of the door at me.

"Who are you, urchin?" she asked not unkindly, though casting a distasteful eye at my dark caramel skin.

I inwardly rolled my eyes and pushed my scarf away from my face. "I'm actually a friend of Sir Adrian. I heard he was in town and I wanted to say hello," I replied nonchalantly, knowing she wouldn't believe me.

As expected, the maid raised her brows, delicately expressing disbelief. "I'm very sorry," she said, looking down her nose at me, "but master Adrian is in the middle of a very important... conference."

Ah, so that's it. I sighed. Sizing the woman up, I said carefully, "The Falcon sings."

She blinked at me several times, but managed to conceal her surprise. Without another word, she pulled the door back, allowing me to enter. I looked at the staircase questioningly and she nodded. "This way."

We reached the first landing (Adrian's house has three floors) and turned right and stopped at the second door on the left, which I guessed was Adrian's private study. I had never been to this apartment before, seeing as he had moved within the last few years of my absence.

The woman turned to me. "Your name please, child."

I fought down the urge to sneer at the tone with which she addressed me. "Lucy. Adrian already knows me," I muttered again.

She ignored me and knocked softly, entering and closing the door in my face. I could hear soft voices on the other side of the door and then footsteps.

The door opened. The maid looked rather incredulous as she said, "Adrian says to please come in."

I murmured thanks and walked by her, stepping inside the cozy and well furnished study. I heard the door close quietly behind me but didn't turn around. The room was lit with expensive gas lamps and a small fire crackled to my right. Adrian de Fier, formerly Adrian Delaney, sat behind a glossy wooden desk in a plush leather armchair, looking quite at ease. No one would believe that this young man, who owned one of the largest medicinal suppliers in Paris, had ben an impoverished university student just a few short years ago.

I gazed at him, noting the mop of dirty-blond hair that had been cropped short and the new beard that accentuated his strong jaw. But then his mouth quirked into his lopsided smile and he could've been the boy whose hazel eyes always sparkled with laughter when he looked at me. I smiled back.

But our silent exchange was interrupted with a polite cough and my eyes snapped to look at the figure sitting in the chair opposite Adrian's. I stepped forward.

"Greetings, Sir Adrian," I stated with mock solemnity. "I'm sorry if I have interrupted an important meeting." I refocused on the smallish man in the chair as Adrian replied.

"Not at all. And please, let me introduce my acquaintance, Stephen Goodfellow."

Stephen Goodfellow was blatantly staring at me while an expression close to consternation masked his face. He was a thin and rather short man, though probably a head and a half taller than me. H must've only been a few years older than Adrian and had intelligent, dark coffee brown eyes with shoulder-length hair of the same color.

"Pleased to meet you, sir," I said, lifting an eyebrow and refusing to look away.

"You are infused with dark magic. And lots of it"

I blinked and quickly glanced at Adrian, who looked just as shocked as I felt. He cleared his throat but was unable to break the tension that had suddenly filled the room. "Um," he finally said, "why don't you sit down Lucy and I'll explain."

I paused before dragging an extra cushioned chair from the corner of the room over to the desk. I sat down and stared between Stephen and Adrian, demanding an explanation.

Adrian spoke first. "Lucy, Stephen here is a Shadower and a sorcerer. He actually works as a Sensor which is how he knew you have magic." Stephen threw Adrian a sharp looking which my friend ignored.

I considered Stephen. "A Panther, huh? And a white one at that," I asked Adrian, smiling slightly.

The sorcerer, looking slightly confused, spoke up. "So... who in the gods' names are you, kid?"

I sighed. "Well, like you said, I have magic and–"

But the man cut me off. "But that magic is not your own. It was... forced into you. It has a slippery feel to it; one I do not like. What happened to you?"

I could feel Adrian watching me and I shifted uncomfortably. I did not want to reveal that much about myself to a complete stranger. So I went for half of the truth. "Well, I was cursed. And I am actually looking for a way to remove it."

Goodfellow sat back in his chair, mulling over my words. He looked at Adrian, who nodded. As though looking for confirmation, I thought wryly. The sorcerer gazed at me again before speaking.

"Your name is Lucy?" I nodded. "And what is the nature of this curse, girl?" he asked.

I sealed my lips, glaring at his seeming lack of sensitivity.

Stephen almost smiled. "Okay that was a little blunt. But I might be able to help you if I knew more about it."

I was warming to him, however. He was frank... and he was a Shadower, not to mention a sorcerer. He could get me where I wanted to go. "Truthfully," I said slowly, "I don't know much about it. And I don't really know who put it on me." One part truth, one part lie.

"How long has this curse been in effect?"

I didn't miss a beat. "About a year." Try eleven.

"I see," he said, a thoughtful expression on his face. "How old are you, by the way, Lucy?"

"Twelve last September."

"I see."

"Do you know a way to help her?" Adrian interjected. We both turned our heads toward him.

Stephen Goodfellow paused. "It's possible. I personally do not have the capabilities but I know others who might." He gazed between Adrian and me. "How do you two know each other?"

This time, Adrian answered. "She's a long time friend of the family. They only visit occasionally."

"Hm. It could be quite helpful if I could speak with your parents, Lucy."

"They aren't here in Paris," I assured Stephen quickly. "I'm staying with my great-aunt."

"Ah, I see."

I sighed inwardly. I was half convinced that Stephen Goodfellow could read minds or know magically if someone was lying.

"Well," said Stephen, breaking the awkward silence, "I should go, Adrian. The wife will have my head if I'm late for supper again."

I raised my eyebrows in surprise. I wouldn't have figured the slender sorcerer in front of me to have a family for some reason. Adrian nodded his agreement and the three of us rose from our seats. The two men shook hands.

Then Stephen turned to me. "I'll send word through Adrian, Lucy." He took a beat then said softly, "You must be a brave young girl to carry this magic so well."

I certainly had not expected this from the business-like sorcerer and I looked down, not saying anything. I heard retreating footsteps and the door snapped shut. I looked up at Adrian. The quirked smile was back in place and I grinned at him. I stepped towards him and he caught me up in a familiar rib-cracking hug.

We were still for several moments. We had not seen each other for several years and I had missed him dearly. I inhaled, smelling the light scent of parchment and vanilla that clung to him. Since the incident eleven years ago, he had become my family, always caring for me and giving me what little extra money he had during his days as a student. Counting back the years, I realized with a start that Adrian was almost thirty.

"Your hair has grown out," he said quietly, stroking my long black locks.

After I had been inducted into Adrian's underground operation, for which the medicinal company was just a front, I had practically chopped off my hair and he had teasingly told me that I looked like a gangly boy.

I laughed softly. "Well, it is warmer this way." I chuckled at my vanity.

He pulled back after a few moments and looked into my eyes. I could see my own amber eyes reflected in his own. Now looking serious, he asked, "Are you well? Has anything serious happened?"

I had originally planned to return two months from now so I could understand his worry. "I heard rumors," I explained. "People were saying the situation with the royals and the Shadowers was getting more precarious. So I thought I should return to home base. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to seek out these sorcerers to see if they can deal with my curse and if I gain their trust, that could certainly help alliances with you."

Adrian smiled. "Always thinking ahead, aren't you, Andy?"

I frowned slightly. "Andy isn't my name anymore."

Adrian shook his head. "It will always be a part of you. Besides, would you rather I call you Andalusia?"

I stuck my tongue out at him. "No. Lucy is my name right now so call me Lucy."

Sensing my discomfort, despite my efforts to laugh it off, he changed the subject. "Care to stay for dinner? I hear it's a fish dish of some sort," he said jokingly.

I snorted. "I think being rich has lost you your cooking skills."

"My cooking skills, gone? Never!" Adrian placed a hand over his heart in distress. We silently reminisced about the simpler days when I would sneak into his university apartment and he would cook supper for the two of us. I really had seemed like my brother then and I always felt safe and comfortable when I was with him.

He broke the silence, however, looking around the study. "Where are you things?"

"Oh," I said somewhat absently, "I already dropped them off at the Nest. I guess I should go and get them."

Adrian rolled his eyes at me. "Don't be ridiculous. You must be exhausted. You're staying here for the night." I raised my eyebrows in a silent reminder. Strangely, Adrian looked down, seemingly embarrassed. "I, um, still have some of the clothing you kept at my university room. I didn't just want to throw them away when I moved."

I smiled gently and hugged him again. I am most definitely not the kind of person who physically displays their emotions but I had never felt the need for that restraint when in came to Adrian. He patted my head and stepped back.

"So, you can tell me more over dinner but what is the situation like in the east?" my friend asked, gesturing for me to take a seat.

I shook my head. "Everyone is restless. No one is really sure what the monarchs are thinking and they are all on the defensive. A few riots have broken out but no major damage... yet. Even the nobles seem malcontent. It is worse with the peasants, however. I ran into a few Shadowers from the north and they said the same thing."

Adrian nodded in agreement. "That is basically what my other sources have said as well. Here, there is so much information to sift through. Rumors and secrets are spreading like wildfire, especially when it comes to the king. Many are convinced of his weakness and claim he is losing power over the nobles."

"Well, he is," I muttered.

Adrian shrugged. "We shall see," he stated pensively, toying with a dry quill that was lying on his desk. Then with a blinding smile, he exclaimed, "Now, I believe it is time for your bath. I shall go check on supper."

I smiled, catching another glimpse of my carefree brother then stood and followed him out of the room.


Over the next several days, I occupied my time by reacquainting myself with both the city guards and the street beggars. Alliances within both circles were always useful. I also spent several hours a day contemplating my rather rash decision to put my faith in someone as unknown as Stephen Goodfellow. It should have been comforting that Adrian knew and trusted the man but I had good reason to mistrust sorcerers. However, I reasoned with myself, any chance to rid myself of this curse was worth the risk. Besides, it could at least grant me more access to the Shadow Kingdom, as many called it.

I also spent a good amount of time with Adrian in his study or library, catching him up on the secret dealings outside of Paris. I had been gone from the city for almost three years and there was a lot to discuss. The picture Adrian painted for me was grim and France seemed on the verge of something. Of course, I thought savagely, if things proceed as we plan, and if we can gain the support of the Shadowers, everything might just work out.

Finally, however, 5 days after my arrival, a note was delivered to the house, c.o. Adrian de Fier. Adrian and I were sitting eating a late lunch after his return from an inspection of one of his supply warehouses. We were sitting at the breakfast table, however, when the blonde maid, whose name, I had since learned was Cecile, walking into the room and handed a letter to her master. Apparently recognizing the handwriting, he immediately handed it over to me.

Dear Miss Lucy,

I have secured a meeting with a person who might be able to help you. This person is a long-time friend of mine and is interested in your situation. I hope he will be able to gain your trusts. Please note, however, that he is by no means trusting and open-minded and is to be respected at all times. I warn you of this because I may or may not be at the meeting. He has requested to meet you tomorrow evening at the Old Temple and also requests that Sir Adrian attends as well. I hinted at his interests and my friend also seems interested in this alliance.

With respect,

Stephen G.

I read the note allowed to Adrian, who looked both puzzled and encouraged by this stranger's request. I lifted a quizzical eyebrow.

"This man must be something important," he said, voicing his thoughts. "Stephen calls him friend but this man obviously commands some respect within Stephen's more secretive circles. He is a shadower and must also have magic which makes him pretty powerful."

I nodded thoughtfully. "I wonder what he'll be like."

Adrian shrugged carelessly. "Probably not a day under sixty, mad as a bat, with sparks coming out of his mouth."

I snickered. "Now if only I knew what to wear," I sighed dreamily, fluttering my eyelashes in a sickeningly girly fashion.

My friend shook his head in disgust. "So, tomorrow night is it?"

I nodded again, scanning the letter, looking for clues. The tightening of my core informed me that tomorrow would certainly be an eventful day.