Cadan Trinovante jerked awake, the sheets tangled in his fists. He ignored the vibrating phone that had awakened him from the nightmare and stared at the wide wooden rafters supporting the ceiling above him, struggling to catch his breath. Of all the memories that had faded in his two thousand years of life, the memory of Boudica’s death was the one that never had.
Guilt tugged at him and he reached for the phone.
“Cadan,” he said as he glanced at the clock on the bedside table. The gleam of Edinburgh’s streetlights shone on hands pointing toward one a.m. The yells of revelers stumbling from pub to pub filtered in through the open window.
“Cadan, it’s Warren.”
Cadan merely grunted in response and walked to the window. He listened with half an ear as he stared out at the gothic spires of Edinburgh’s churches and the soot-blackened stone of the surrounding buildings. They rose tall and narrow, pressed cheek by jowl on either side of the sloping cobblestones of the city’s oldest street. Cadan shut out the cool night air and the sound of fading revelry.
“You’ve a new assignment,” Warren said. “Can you be here in an hour?”
Finally. He needed something to keep his mind off the past. The damn dreams had been hounding him more often lately and he was ready to forget, to slip back into work.
“Aye, I’ll see you by two,” he said.
Damn it. He could still hear the revelers below. Living for so long was wearying, but listening to others take such joy in life was just salt in the wound.
In less than an hour, he strode through the great iron-sheathed wooden doors of a building on the campus of the Immortal University. The eyes of the eerie stone gargoyles who guarded the entrance followed him as he entered the cool halls of the Praesidium, named over a thousand years ago when Latin was still the language of education.
Fucking Latin. Fucking Romans.
He dragged a hand through his hair. Theshort drive to the outskirts of Edinburgh where the university was located hadn’t fully banished his dreams.
His footsteps were soundless on the marble floor of the wide, familiar hallway. It was a habit he’d never broken, though there was no need for stealth here. Terrible, unforgivable things happened when you let your guard down. But this was the safest place for a Mythean in Edinburgh since it was hidden from the prying eyes of mortals, who shouldn’t know of the existence of the supernatural beings who walked among them.
He pushed open the old oak door at the end of the hall and entered his friend’s office, a book-filled room lit by a small fire that smelled of autumn. Warren looked up from his cluttered desk and leaned back in his chair.
“Cadan, thanks for coming in so early.”
“No’ a problem,” Cadan said. He sank into an old leather chair across from Warren’s desk. “Who’s it this time?”
As one of the few Mythean Guardians in the world, it had been Cadan’s responsibility for nearly two millennia to protect those mortal or supernatural beings deemed important to the fate of humanity.
Warren glanced down at a rumpled piece of paper. “Looks like a Celtic warrior.”
Interesting—a man who’d been alive for as long as he. “Why’s the bloke need protecting if he’s made it this long? Destiny just revealed to him?”
And why haven’t I met him before? Though he didn’t get out much, Cadan knew, or knew of, nearly all the Mytheans in Great Britain. The ones who hadn’t gone rogue, at least.
“Well, that’s where it gets a little strange. The warrior hasn’t been alive. The soul has just been reborn.”
“A reincarnate? They’re damn rare. Doona think I’ve ever actually met one.”
“It doesn’t happen very often,” Warren said, picking up the Slinky on his desk and fiddling with it.
Why wouldn’t Warren meet his eyes? The claws of nerves crawled up Cadan’s back, little pinpricks sinking into his skin that wouldn’t shake loose. It took him off guard; he hadn’t felt that in centuries.
“I’ve spoken briefly to Aerten about it.” Warren finally glanced at him, but looked away almost immediately.
“What does the goddess of fate have to say about it?” He hadn’t seen her in ages. Hell, he’d only seen her a few times since she’d offered him a spot in the Praesidium. Whether he should thank her or curse her was something he hadn’t figured out yet.
“That only select souls are reborn. Those who were so strong in life that their souls never left this plane.” Warren set the Slinky down. “Their souls wait in stasis until humanity needs them. At that point, they’re brought back to perform a task that only they can accomplish.”
“So, I’m going to be protecting a child who will save the world?” A cold sweat broke out on his skin. Killing and guarding adults—no’ a problem. But dealing with children was something he was entirely unqualified for after being alone for two thousand years. Fuck, what a mess.
“No’ exactly,” Warren hedged. “Apparently with Druidic reincarnation, the soul is reborn in another person, but the person doesn’t become conscious of their previous life until they reach the approximate age at which they died originally.”
“Shite, they develop split personalities?”
“Ah, no’ exactly.” He paused, seemingly unaware that he’d grabbed the Slinky again and was juggling it faster and faster. “They doona survive that long. Once they remember who they are and complete their fated task, they die.”
“Die? That’s some shite luck.”
“Aye. The tragedy that took the soul too early the first time follows it. History is destined to repeat itself, after all. You need to protect the reincarnate until the fated task is complete, longer if you can.”
That would be a challenge, but then, he liked a challenge. “Do we know what this guy’s task will be, once he regains his memory? And where is he, anyway?”
“Doona know the task, but Aerten has prophesied that a catalyzing event will spur the memory of the reincarnate and lead them to Arthur’s Seat, likely today or tomorrow. That’s where you’ll meet.” Warren hesitated before continuing, finally meeting Cadan’s eyes. “And the warrior isn’t a man.”
Cadan’s breath stuck in his throat and a chill broke out on his skin. Nay, it couldn’t be. “Who is it, Warren?”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish