A/N: So here's the first part to Feral, book 1 of the Darley Heights series! The chapters from here will be longer, but this prologue takes place roughly a year before the main events of the story.
The blonde girl sat on the tiled floor, her knees curled to her knees. Shivering wracked her small frame as across the room, two women spoke in whispers. The dark-haired woman, the younger of the two, shot a look towards the blonde girl. Concern mixed with an emotion that was usually alien to her: fear. As the Morrigan of the Perth coven, Odette Reilly wasn't afraid of much. Yet this girl, her future successor, made that fear strong, taking root like a weed and growing.
"She can control it, but she hates it," the Morrigan's companion said softly. She was as blonde as the girl on the ground and resembled her closely – for she was her mother, Lorna Prentice. "I'm worried that when she Claims, she'll be…"
"It's natural to hate the wild magic." Odette cut Lorna off before she could say the word that would send shivers down her spine. Celina was unusually powerful among magickind, but the thought that she might become a dearg was something Odette would rather not think about. Blood magic was dangerous, not to mention outlawed. Laws were the only thing that held the magical community together, if only by a thread. Some of the magickind, like Celina's father Wesley, were banished for the atrocities they had committed with their power. Odette was too young to remember the exact reason, but there were always whispers in the community.
Most magickind hated their power because they could not control it. It was like a river rushing through their veins, threatening to spill over the dam at any point. Celina had complete control of hers, at the age of only sixteen. She was stronger than many grown witches and warlocks, and it was the strength that caused her misery. Odette hated the idea that this girl would replace her as the Morrigan, but it was inevitable. She had been named by the Grand Banshee himself.
"Perhaps we should speak to the Trinity, see if…"
"No." Odette cut the older woman off again, fixing her with a sharp look. They had enough going on without needing to involve the higher powers. Celina needed to stabilise, to learn that she had gifts others only dreamed of. She cast another glance at the blonde girl on the tiles to see that she was hunched over as if in pain. Frowning, Odette crossed the room and crouched in front of her.
"What if this is what I'm to become?" Celina raised her head, skin ghostly pale as she showed Odette her shaking hands. They were stained with blood, and Odette could see the tiny crescent-shaped indents where she had dug her nails into her palms. The calling of the blood was strong with this girl. "What if I am dearg?"
"That can't happen." Odette's voice was sharp. She had never been a woman of comforting words and tender gestures, for she knew that they wouldn't help the young girl before her. "The magical urges are strong at your age. I remember. You have more control than most, but it still sings to you. But there are reasons we can't use certain magic. The more you avoid the blood magic, the easier it will get."
Odette eased herself to her feet. Celina couldn't stay here with the coven. Some of her behaviour was making the others uneasy. She could control her magic, but not her emotions. It was probably a teenage thing, but it was something that Odette would not stand for. Celina needed a place that would be quiet enough for her to find some peace of mind.
There were other reasons to have her gone for a time – reasons less to do with her magic and more to do with a menace that haunted the Perth coven. Wesley Rodriguez may have been banished, but he was always lingering, like a malevolent ghost that refused to die. Lorna was one of the few who knew the reason for his exile, but she remained tight-lipped despite the Morrigan's insistence on knowing.
"Are you sure about this?" Uncertainty crept into Lorna's voice as she crossed over and helped her daughter to her feet. She draped her coat around the child's shoulders. "Drake is…"
"I know everything there is to know about Drake Dormien." Odette regarded the two, tilting her head to the side. It was unlike Lorna to question a command. "Celina doesn't need a patient mentor. We've tried that. Drake is a wreck, but maybe they'll both do each other some good."
Odette watched the scarlet droplets fall from Celina's fingertips onto the tiles. She had her doubts too, but she was the Morrigan. She had to show purpose and authority, because if she even faltered for a moment, those who didn't like her would swoop in and tear her to pieces. Celina Prentice had to be sent away – not only for her own good, but for the wellbeing of the entire Perth coven.