Authors: Katherine Sparrow
The King’s Leash
The Fay Morgan Chronicles: Book Seven
Copyright 2015, Katherine Sparrow
All rights reserved.
This novel is a work of fiction. All characters, places, and incidents described in this publication are used fictitiously or are entirely fictional.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, except by an authorized retailer, or with written permission of the publisher. Inquiries may be addressed to [email protected].
Editing by Erica Satifka.
If you with to be notified when Katherine Sparrow's next novel is released, please sign up for her newsletter at
. Your email address will never be shared, you won’t be spammed, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
I shuffled my tarot cards once, twice, and then a third time. The cards lay soft in my hands. Many of the edges were tattered. I ran my fingers across the deck, searching for the card that called to me. That would tell me about the day to come. For days I’d been pulling the five of cups: a depressed-looking card that foretold the likely excitement of a headache or backache.
I’d had both, perhaps from sleeping funny or from all the tedious work of airing out and organizing Morgan’s Ephemera. I’d been gone from my store for six months, and come back to find two homeless girls and a handful of ghosts squatting here. I found proper housing for the girls and their haunts, and then set to the work of cleaning up the mess. The ghosts had left behind a miasmic funk that I was finding hard to get rid of.
I massaged my neck and the deep ache within. Now and again, I felt the creep of mortality that started in small ways and would one day turn to a raging river. I tried not to remember how I had once lived with the Grail’s fire burning through every vein and atom.
I yawned, stretched my neck from side to side, and turned over the day's card.
The Hierophant stared up at me, looking annoyed as he sat on his throne. The card meant entrenched power: the symbol of law and liberty, usually male. The card was major arcana, and it wasn’t every day that I drew one of these cards.
“Whatcha got?” Lila asked, bounding out from between two bookshelves and looking at my card before I could tuck it away.
I smiled at her. Even though she'd been back from Hell for two weeks, every time I saw her, I couldn’t help but smile.
“The big mean Hierophant,” she said. “I see a man of power in your future, Morgan le Fay. Let me guess: Merlin, the newly crowned keeper of Hell. He will come in and sweep you off your feet, ooh la la! Or maybe it means you will bury the hatchet with Adam, the hot Sheriff of Seattle?” Lila grinned at the mention of her boyfriend, and ran her hand through her short blue hair.
I had grown used to her new form. She was variations of blue, from her dark blue eyes to her purple-blue lips. Today she wore all black: tall boots, a short skirt, and a tight t-shirt that rode up her willowy torso. She’d yet to find a shirt long enough to cover her seven-foot-tall frame.
“I would love for today to be a day for illumination with either.” I still had many questions about the sheriff. Where his authority came from, and what it wanted. Both Merlin and Adam had both been maddeningly silent on the topic.
“Or some other dude who rules something,” Lila said. “Speaking of powerful peeps, would you like more coffee, master?”
“That's not funny,” I said.
“As you wish, boss-woman.”
I glared at her. She grinned back and measured out scoops of ground coffee into my French press.
“I miss coffee,” Lila said.
“I’m fairly certain it still exists.”
“Sure. Yeah, I mean I miss the buzz-buzz-buzz of it. I could drink forty gallons of the stuff and it wouldn’t do anything for me.”
“You seem more than energetic enough, Marid.”
“I know. I totally know. I shouldn't complain. This djinn-girl doesn't even have to sleep anymore. Did I tell you that? I can, but I can also not. So if you have any all-night jobs for me, let me know. I also don’t have to eat. At least… not food.” She poured hot water over the coffee grounds. “It’s like I’m a nuclear power plant up in here.”
All interesting things to know. “Do we have any donuts left from yesterday?”
She shook her head and then snapped her fingers. A pink box of Top-Pot donuts appeared in her hands. Lila opened it and held out a chocolate old-fashioned for me.
“I didn’t mean….”
She flinched and dropped the donut back into the box. “I’m sorry. I thought you wanted—”
“I did. Of course and thank you,” I said hurriedly and took the box from her hands. I grabbed the donut and took a bite. This bond between us of master and servant, it proved ever tricky. I hated it.
“I’m sorry,” she stammered. “You're frowning. Is there anything….”
“Coffee,” I said tersely.
She poured me a cup.
If I didn’t let her do small things for me throughout the day she got restless like a caged tiger. “Thank you,” I said. “Truly. Thank you. It’s only—”
“It’s hard. For me too,” she said. “I’ve been thinking we need a safe word. For when you really want me to do something, you can say it, so I know when you are giving me a for real command.”
“A… safe word? What is that?”
“Uh, if you don’t know, Grandma, I am so not telling you. I mean a word that you don’t usually use, like a secret code. Like you could say: ‘bitchy-witchy, turn that book into a parakeet’.”
“The words you are saying do not make sense to me,” I said.
“Okay, terrible example. What I mean is, every time you use the word 'bitchy-witchy', then I would know you were commanding me for real to do something for you. Then I wouldn’t be on edge and guessing all the time if you needed me or not.”
“Our safe word will not be ‘bitchy-witchy’.”
“Okay, master and commander, what then?”
I thought. A word that I didn’t use in common parlance, that would symbolize my ordering her to do something. It needed to be a word with weight to it, to remind me that commanding my dear friends to do things should never be considered lightly. “Mordred,” I said. The word rose like dust from my throat.
“Mordred,” Lila said slowly, and then nodded. “That’s… someone from the way-back, right? He killed Arthur?”
I nodded. Lila had read every last poem and text on the Arthurian Legend. I had also told her, many a time, that that mythology was only tangentially related to the truth of things. “He did kill Arthur,” I said and tried not to remember my brother’s blood on my hands, my chest, my skirt as he lay dying in my arms.
“And people say Mordred was your….” She bit her lip.
“My son,” I said. “He wasn’t. I have no natural-born children. But he was my student, a young friend and acolyte. I helped him use his magic before things went….” Wrong. Terribly wrong.
“Oh, so I’m like your Mordred 2.0? That’s a good safe word.”
I stared at her. It was a good choice. Let such a thing never happen again.
I sipped coffee as the bells on the door jangled open. I didn’t look up to see who walked through my door. I assumed it was the same someone who usually stopped in early in the morning while he made his rounds. I wasn’t wrong.
“Adam!” Lila said and ran to him.
They embraced, kissed, and acted as though they were entirely alone. I cleared my throat.
“Sheriff,” I said, nodding toward him.
He drew back from Lila and reddened. He had the sort of face that was classically handsome, yet so young you could still see the child he had once been. Adam wore jeans that fit him well, steel-toed boots, and a black t-shirt that made it look as though he and Lila had planned to match today. A silver star hung from his belt. A hipster affectation, one might assume, if they didn’t know the truth.
“You know you don’t have to call me Sheriff, Morgan.”
“A title shouldn’t go unnamed,” I corrected him.
“It doesn’t change who I am. It doesn’t—”
“Of course it does. It must,” I said. “And until you are willing to explain how you became Sheriff and who vested you with that role, I will continue to call you sheriff, Sheriff.”
“Fine, master,” he said.
“It’s not his fault that he’s sworn to secrecy,” Lila said quickly. She stood a foot taller than him, and slouched down to compensate for it. “He can't even tell me.”
I gave her a long look.
“Okay, so maybe it is his fault that he swore to keeping it all secret and then kept that secret, but I bet whenever the beans get spilled we’ll be all, oh, that makes so much sense.”
Adam grabbed Lila's hand and looked up at her. “I would tell you all about the Department, Li. I want to. It’s just, for everyone’s safety and stuff—”
“You are my honorable wolf. My super-sexy Sheriff,” Lila said and her voice went breathy.
They went in for round two of kissing and petting and pawing each other in my store. I thought about the Department he served. He would say nothing more about it, and so I knew nothing. Except that there was some organization that wished to keep unders in line.
I checked my invoices and mentally made sure the columns of sums were correctly added and subtracted correctly, until I finally heard them stop kissing.
Without looking up, I said, “Don’t you have a city to watch over, law-man? To protect and ensure no one steps out of line? I’m not sure this town can exist without a man walking around, telling under folk what to do.”
“Morgan,” Lila warned. She bit her blue lip.
“I have a job that I must do,” Adam said quietly. “I have to, that’s all.” He fingered the star that hung from his belt.
I glanced at the silver star. It gleamed and caught the eye with a dark magic that bore an odd glimmering. I couldn’t figure out what kind of spells it was made of, as though the badge had some sort of repulsive force to it that kept its secret hidden from me. And though I'd asked, Adam had been unwilling to hand it over so that I could examine it closer. Nor his weapons. He kept them in a black bike messenger bag, slung across his back. When he’d opened it once, I’d glimpsed an antique bespelled gun and some grenades laced through with magic.
“You know, Sheriff. We could help you. Whatever sort of promises you have made, whatever sort of bind you are in, your girlfriend and myself are not without our powers.”
“You mean you could order her to help me, and she would have to,” Adam said, each word measured. Each syllable careful.
I had no answer to that.
Lila’s gaze flicked between us. “But you have to admit, Morgan, that Adam has only done good things in Seattle. He helped chill the turf wars between the South End wolves and the strange lycans, and even got them all to write down in a list which one is who. Which is so helpful to know with those crews. And when those two hidebehinds crept into the zoo and started hanging out at the tiger exhibit, he found them, which is totally hard to do, and drove them back into the Olympic National Forest so they could hang out with the other hidden unders he has put there.
Adam scowled. As did I.
Lila rolled her eyes. “Um, since you are two of my favorite people in the universe, could you pretend to be nice to each other for five seconds when I’m around?”
“Nice weather we’re having,” I said. The morning had already brought rain, sunshine, and more rain: typical spring.
“Supposed to warm up, later,” Adam added.
“Perhaps you should be off to warn the unders to wear sunscreen.”
“Morgan,” Lila warned.
“Sorry, though I do believe I lasted your requested five seconds.”
“Oh. My. Goddess,” she said and rolled her eyes.
The door jangled open and a real customer came in. A mundane one with long brown hair and a full, ungroomed beard. His skin was as pale as any I'd ever seen. And wet-looking, as though he was in the throes of some aug or fever. He stepped into the store and slammed the door shut beside him.
He glanced around and swallowed a couple of times.
Perhaps because this was a Wiccan store? And he came looking for some sort of misguided spell? That happened sometimes, though I never helped anyone seeking revenge nor violence, at least not in the way that they wished.