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Bright Side by Zenina Masters (1)

Chapter One

 

 

Ystella focused on her image in the mirror while she plied the grinder to her forehead. The glitter and bone flew around the room while she worked.

She paused between grinds to listen for anyone with curious ears, but she seemed to have timed it just right.

She filed it again and then checked with her fingers to see how raised the bone plate was. She exhaled with relief. The plate was flush with her forehead, and the skin was healing quickly.

Ystella quickly swept the remains of her horn up, stripped off the sandpaper and took the whole mess to the burn barrel. With a deep sigh, she tossed the mess into the flames and watched as the glittery dust was destroyed by the heat.

She was safe for another few weeks until the damned thing grew back again. Now, it was time for her baseball hat and her chores.

 

* * * *

 

Magnus walked through the shifter guild hall and headed for the shamans’ domain on the upper floor.

He knocked politely on the doorframe and waited until the invitation was called out.

“Come in, Magnus. Elder Killian is out, but I have been briefed on the situation.” Shaman Alberta Kenziac stepped out from behind one of the trees that were providing shadow and support to the room.

He met her at the bank of cushions and the steaming tea set on one side of the room. Magnus waited until the shaman waved at him to sit, and then, he took the cushion across from her.

Folding himself into a comfortable position took some doing, but the shaman was working herself around her swollen belly, so it took her just as long to get relaxed.

Kenzi looked at him, and she huffed. “You know, if he wasn’t sharing my aches and pains, I would probably kill my mate.”

Magnus inclined his head. “I have heard that it is one of the side effects of the balanced mating.”

She grunted, and her belly shifted under her shirt, something moved under her skin. “Balanced my ass.”

He didn’t grin. He forced an expression of concern on his features. “Is there anything I can do?”

“No, but, thank you. Well played.”

He smiled slightly. “I did mean it.”

“I know, but I am also a shaman. I can see things that most shifters wouldn’t dare to dream. Now, as for the reason you are here...” She muttered softly and lifted her hands.

Between them, a map began to form.

“We have seen signs of a new mythical in the world.”

Magnus leaned forward. “You are joking.”

“I am not. The magic grows, flares, and then disappears for weeks before the cycle begins again. It dropped off the map again yesterday, and we need you to find the shifter before the signal peaks and disappears again.”

He watched the golden mark pulse, flare, and then fade to nothing, over and over again.

“How long has it been on the radar, so to speak?”

“We have been watching it for six months. The power grows with each cycle, and whatever is going on could be critical in a matter of months. We don’t want that power exploding all over the human realm.”

“Right. Do you have the area narrowed down?”

She snorted, and the map pulled out. “It is in a few hundred miles, each and every time.”

“Do you have any idea if it is male or female?”

Kenzi waved off the map. “My guess is female.”

“Why?”

“Males don’t try to hide power as a general rule. There are always exceptions, but they are exceptions. Women have far more to lose from exhibiting power or anything outside the norm, and this is definitely a qualifier.”

He nodded. “How long do I have?”

“As the occurrences are getting slightly closer together, I would say you have less than two weeks. You are the only hunter on this case, and I need you to do this fast, Magnus. Find her, bring her in.”

He rose to his feet. “I will do it as quickly as I can. How will I know that I have found what I am looking for?”

“Look for an angry or frightened woman with a magical abnormality. Extra arms, claws, horns, you name it.”

Magnus cocked his head. “What if she doesn’t want to come with me?”

“Make her. She needs to be assessed. We haven’t seen power of this type in centuries.”

“So, she could be dangerous, and you want her here for an exam?”

“She or he is exceptionally powerful, and we would like to speak with him or her about joining the guild.” Kenzi wrinkled her nose. “If she is a new mythical, we need to record it so that future generations will know what to look for.”

He snorted. “Why can’t you just leave her be?”

Kenzi sobered. “Because if she is left out there on her own, she could become prey at the drop of a hat. Artifacts from a mythical shifter are expensive, exotic, and rare. If the black market were given free rein to capture them, they would have an exclusive offering to sell them off whole or piece by piece.”

Magnus shuddered. “Right. Got it. I am going in search of your mythical mythical.”

“Good. The sooner you get started, the sooner you will find her. Oh, this will help.” She moved slowly across the room and found a small stone. “Keep this with you, and it will warm up when the mythical energy is near.”

“Wait, have you sent anyone else out after her?”

Kenzi wrinkled her nose. “No. I waited until you were off your last assignment and put in a request for you.”

Magnus took the small pebble and rolled it between his fingers. “Why me?”

“Because you can do a fast job as slowly as necessary. I trust you with this, Magnus. Go and do your job.” Kenzi waved at him, and then, she slowly made her way back into the greenspace that the shamans called their office.

Magnus blinked as she disappeared between two trees. He was dismissed. He had better get to work.

 

* * * *

 

Kenzi grunted as her baby kicked again. It wasn’t a fan of her going to work this far along, but with the elder down with the flu, she had to step in.

She huffed as she took a portal home. Another species of shifter had gone extinct that month. The hamsters were not a common shifter, but they had been cute and added a fun aspect to life in another shape. Kenzi hoped that they would be reborn as randoms at some point and time, but she knew it would take time. The shifter magic in the universe was mourning the loss of the little fluffballs.

Once a species was lost to the shifter world, the only thing that was left was to hope that chance would intervene to bring them back. It hadn’t worked for the dinosaurs as far as she knew, but there were woolly mammoths in a few places on earth. She was crossing her fingers that the new creature was one of those who had gone missing in myth and legend. The paperwork for something genuinely new was a headache.