WATER BORNE

Water Borne

Halcyon Romance Series #3

Prologue

Nazrin risked much by passing through the gates of Hades, as he was neither deceased, nor had he been summoned. Yet since the former was his goal, the peril outweighed the consequences. Too long had he walked this world alone; too long had he stood by while he watched others succumb to their mortal fate.

When he’d begged for release from immortality, his father had told him that he’d come to appreciate the gift, in time.

Time—that had been his true fear. In time, would he become like the others of his race? Would the beast inside him destroy all he held virtuous? Nay. Inclining his head at the guards who gave him passage, he strode up the stairs into Hades’s palace. I will not let it come to that. He would take action now, before it was too late, before he lost himself completely.

Nazrin entered the throne room and kneeled, folding his wings.

“Rise, son of Zephyrus,” the god’s voice boomed, rattling through his bones.

He lifted his head, taking in the grandeur of the marble palace. Aside from the lack of sunlight, he never would have guessed how deep in the earth he truly was. The expansive chamber was brightly lit and elegantly decorated. Spring flower bouquets were scattered throughout—obviously Lady Persephone’s touch. It was neither gloomy nor dismal, not at all how one might picture the Lord of the Dead’s abode. He straightened as his gaze drifted upward, resting on the god.

The Lord of the Underworld was simply dressed in a long black robe that complemented his dusky coloring. He was one of few gods secure enough in the power of his presence to require no further adornment—a trait Nazrin admired. There was no pretence with Hades.

The god was not to be feared as most concluded. Nay, he was just, and if made a reasonable offer, he might be willing to make an exchange. Hopefully, he’d accept Nazrin’s.

A graceful figure glided into the chamber from the far corner. She halted at Hades’s side. Persephone. The tips of her plaited, ebony hair curled around the waist of her flowing lilac chiton, and her vibrant violet eyes shone with affection for the imposing Lord of the Underworld.

“What do you wish for, Winged One?” Hades, seated on the massive throne at the far end of the room, beckoned him to come closer with a crooking of his fingers.

It was more than he’d hoped for. None of the other gods he’d visited had even agreed to consider him. He rose and strode forward, halting several feet from the gods. “You know what it is I wish. Will you grant it?” No sense in pretending either of them didn’t fathom why he’d jeopardized so much to journey here.

“Nay.”

Nazrin opened his mouth to argue his case, but Hades leaned back, smirking. “And I have a feeling, after you see what I have to show you, you’ll agree with me.” He snapped his fingers and their surroundings vanished, replaced by a rocky shore facing an ocean where a Water Borne youngling splashed in the waves.

“Who is she?” Nazrin tore his gaze off the mermayde to peer at Hades and Persephone.

“A conundrum.” Hades scratched his jaw. “The Fates have declared that this Daughter of Nereus will ‘cleave Halcyon’—my sanctuary. So, do I conclude the meaning of ‘binding’, or that of ‘tearing asunder?’ Do I assume the risk, or stamp it out?”

“There’s more.” Persephone gripped Hades’s arm. “You must tell him.”

The twirling mermayde had captured Nazrin’s attention. A quiver spread through his feathers as though his raptor drew him toward her.

“Indeed,” Hades continued. “She is not only a precipitous uncertainty, she is—”

“My mate.” Dark malachite eyes pierced his chest, straight to his heart, with the strength of a hundred arrows. And he knew.

She’s mine.

The Fates rarely granted Wind Borne mates. Nazrin had long ago relinquished the hope of a mate, of redemption. Of purifying the darkness tainting his soul.

Just as sharply, Persephone withdrew the vision, landing them back in the Underworld.

“Pray, please.” His raptor keened at being torn from her. “Let me have one more glimpse.”

“In time.” She inclined her head.

A mate. My mate. What twist of the Fates had brought this about? As he collected himself, he recalled Hades’s revelation, and a jolt of panic spiked into his chest. “What do you intend with her?”

The god regarded him, unblinking. “I have little choice in the matter. She may very well cause the destruction of everything I have striven for. Therefore, she must be eliminated.”

“Nay.” His talons slammed into his palms, his feathers swirling black while the beast sprang forth. “My Lord, I beg you. You cannot harm her.”

Hades,” Persephone purred against his ear. “The female is his mate. His true love.”

His raptor screeched in outrage. This was madness. “You can’t take her life simply because she might one day oppose you. You cannot—”

“Do not presume to tell me what I cannot do, fledging spawn of Zephyrus,” Hades sneered.

“Dear husband, the male is only protecting his mate.” Persephone smoothed a hand across Hades’s arm. “The divination declared she would aid in our defeat, or our victory. We must give this Wind Borne a chance to prove he can steer the prophecy for us. The mermayde might destroy our plans, true, but she also might be the key to everything.”

Nazrin kept his breaths shallow while he watched Persephone coax her husband. Though everything in him howled to take action, logic would prove a better weapon against the calculating god.

“Aye, it is most unfortunate.” Hades glanced at Persephone, seeming close to concession, then shifted forward on his throne, a flash of cunning sparking in his ebony eyes. “Make me an offer, son of Zephyrus.”

“My life.” No hesitation halted his speech. He bowed his head, praying against the god’s refusal. “My original offer will stand. You will have my life, my fealty, and in exchange, I will ensure my mate’s loyalty to your cause. If I fail, claim my soul. But I beg you not to harm hers.”

A grin spread across Hades’s dark features. “Agreed.”

Nazrin sank onto one knee. “I swear my allegiance to you, my Lord Hades and my Lady Persephone.”

She glided forward and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Rise, great warrior, and await our command.”

He inclined his head, rose, and strode from the palace, his heart flipping inside his chest. This was the first taste of hope he’d had in many long years, and yet, it was bittersweet. What if he should fail? What if it all came to ruin? Would he damn the maiden along with himself?

Most worrisome was this persistent, tingling suspicion.

Had he successfully negotiated with Lord of the Underworld…

Or had he played straight into Hades’s scheming hand?

*****

Read more of Essa and Nazrin's story in Water Borne (Halcyon Romance Series, #3) by Rachael Slate

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