Tracking the tempest, p.1
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       Tracking the Tempest, p.1
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         Part #2 of Jane True series by Nicole Peeler
Tracking the Tempest
Page 1

  CHAPTER ONE

  This time was for real. Nothing could stop me. I would crack this lesson. I would create this damned mage light. I would not burn off another eyebrow…

  Keeping up my flow of positive thinking, I watched as a tiny sphere of blue light flickered to life in my palm. It began to grow as I fed it with my power, trying to keep myself calm. But my stomach strummed happily as a wave of triumph washed through me. I fed the bright orb just a tiny bit more…

  And with a terrific bang it exploded, knocking me back on my ass and my breath out of my lungs.

  When my vision cleared, I made out a pair of muddy brown eyes staring into mine. The eyes were attached to Trill, the kelpie, who lived most of the time in the sea surrounding my village of Rockabill, Maine. As a kelpie, she had two forms: the weird little sea-pony form she was in now and a humanoid form that would never pass as normal, even with tequila goggles.

  “She still has both eyebrows,” the pony reported, her voice oil-slick slippery.

  “Good,” came Nell's deceptively grandmotherly tones. “She looked hideous with just the one. ”

  The kelpie nodded sagely, and I gave her my most baleful glare. “Thanks for caring, Trill,” I told her as I grabbed a hank of her seaweed forelock to help haul myself up.

  “No problem, Jane. ” She winced, shaking free of my hold on her mane. Without which I thumped back onto the grass, my head spinning. Magic hurts when it goes kablooey.

  I groaned pathetically as Nell's little face loomed over mine. “Come on, Jane. Get up. Now is not the time for resting. ”

  I took a deep breath, blinking my eyes to clear my vision. Finally, I struggled upright, still a little woozy. Nell the gnome smiled at me, but I wasn't fooled. Behind those rustic clothes and that pleasant expression lurked the disposition of the gunnery sergeant from Full Metal Jacket.

  “Come now, Jane. Stand up and do it again. ”

  Do or do not. There is no try, my weary brain chittered at the tiny but implacable old lady currently staring at me with her wee fists balled at her hips. If I didn't know she could drop me in a heartbeat, I would have picked her up by her giant silver bun to discus throw her into the trees. Instead, I laboriously clambered to my feet and then took a second to reclip my bangs off my face. I was growing them out, and they were officially at the stage where they were driving me crazy.

  When finished, I slowly, painstakingly, cleared my mind, trying to picture my head as an empty room, painted all in white, that held no sound. I then pictured myself sitting cross-legged in the middle of that colorless, silent room—eyes shut and perfectly in control of both my body and my mind. I felt my breathing grow shallow as I tried to withdraw even further inward, to where the power lay within me.

  “Concentrate, Jane, and pull from within,” came Nell's soothing voice. “Now, this time, create the light without focusing on the light. The light is the natural result of your manipulating your powers. Don't let the light itself distract you from control. ”

  I held my palm out in front of me. Technically, I didn't need to use my hand to create the light. But it helped to solidify my visualization of what I wanted, and I'd seen that a lot of supernatural folk, including my lover, Ryu, used their hands in creative ways when making mage lights.

  And Ryu has very creative hands, chimed in my ever- irrepressible libido, as if on cue.

  “Jane!” Nell barked as my attention veered to Ryu, and the little shell of power I'd begun building around myself began to fizzle. I pulled my hormones up sharply and went back to my clean bright room, keeping it conspicuously absent of a certain handsome man and his big beautiful fangs—

  “Jane!” This time Nell's voice was decidedly miffed.

  I sighed and focused, firmly banishing all stray thoughts. When I was finally centered, I pictured the mage light as a spark flaring up in my palm. I fed the spark, keeping my emotions at bay, and watched as it grew into a little golf ball–sized globe of light. I held it steady, maintaining it in my palm.

  “Good,” said Nell. “Now, try making it bigger. ”

  “Bigger” was where things usually went wrong. I focused, again, doing my best to keep calm as I started feeding energy into the small sphere. As I did so, I visualized it expanding. The shape in my palm trembled, and I forced myself to continue my slow, deep breaths. And then it grew, its pulsing skin stretching until it was about the size of a baseball.

  “Excellent, Jane. Now disperse it, but remember to recycle your energy. ”

  This part I was good at. I focused my will and gently siphoned the energy out of my mage light, being careful to bring as much of it back into me as I could. Technically, I could let the power just flow back into the environment, but Nell was a firm believer in “waste not, want not. ”

  The light wavered, stilled for a split second, and then winked out of existence. I couldn't help but close my hand with a little flourish. Now that I couldn't blow anything up, I was allowed to be pleased with myself. That was the first time I'd managed to create and disperse a mage light start to finish.

  “Who's your daddy?” I demanded rhetorically, doing a little happy dance.

  “He died centuries ago; you wouldn't know him,” Nell replied, coming toward me. “Stop hopping about and shields up. ”

  Aye aye, Captain, I thought, even as I dutifully raised my defenses.

  Almost immediately, the gnome let loose a fierce barrage of tiny mage balls straight at me.

  “Shit!” I swore, reflexively throwing up an arm to shield my face. Despite my momentary lapse of control, however, my defenses held. I watched, still flinching every time, as each little blast of Nell's power struck the invisible barriers I'd erected about arm's length in front of me. Nell's little mage balls weren't enough to do any real damage, but I knew all too well that the little fuckers stung like hell. This time, however, they all fizzled out on my shields in bright little bursts of light. After a moment, I realized it was quite pretty, like being trapped in an inverse snow globe.

  Finally, the gnome grunted happily and ceased her attack.

  “Excellent, Jane. Your defenses are strong. ”

  I squirmed with pride at Nell's words, for having strong defenses brought me even more pleasure than creating the mage light. After all, while mage lights did make finding my underwear easier in the dark, having strong shields would save my life.

  “You've never had any trouble seeing through glamours, so I think you're ready to start creating them,” Nell continued, gathering tighter the shawl she wore about her shoulders. “But we'll leave that for next time. For now, go eat. And don't forget to swim tonight. You'll need more power than you expect for glamours. ” She came toward me to pat my thigh with one of her tiny hands in the gnome version of a pat on the back. “You're beginning to make real progress. ”

  “Thanks, Nell,” I said, meaning it from the bottom of my heart. Although I knew I had tons to learn, at least I wasn't as entirely helpless as I had been.

  My introduction to the supernatural world I now inhabited had been brutally swift. Four months ago I'd been boring old Jane—bookstore clerk and secret night swimmer. Till one night I'd found a dead body and suddenly I was Jane True, half selkie and heir to a very nonboring magical heritage. The dead body had turned out to be one of a series of murders being investigated by Ryu, the guy I was currently seeing, and I'd gotten embroiled—big-time—in the investigation. During which I'd nearly been killed twice: once in a physical attack by Jarl, the closet Hitler, and once by Jarl's lackey, the now-deceased Jimmu, who'd frozen me with his magical snaky stare. I'd been a sitting duck to Jimmu's naga glamour, which is why, four months back when I started training with Nell, Anyan Bargh
est's sole command to my new teacher had been that Nell teach me to make my shields secure before anything else. I think Anyan was just tired of playing hero, considering he'd been obliged to rescue me both times I had nearly lost my head.

  That said, and despite how chaotic the last months had been, I had no complaints. My life was a constant cycle of work, train, take care of my dad, and swim, but I loved every minute. And, while things had been too crazy for me to make it to Boston yet, about once a fortnight I would meet Ryu in a bed-and-breakfast in Eastport for our patented weekend marathons of sex and eating. In other words, I was happier now than I'd been since Jason had died so many years ago. I felt… whole again. I did stay up late, sometimes, worrying about what had happened with Jimmu, unable to understand the true motivations behind the murders he'd committed. Ryu had assured me that the investigation they'd done into the nagas' murders, after the fact, had been extensive and thorough and hadn't uncovered anything for me to be worried about. But I did worry… and I knew there was more to those murders than just the nagas' racist hatred of halflings urging them to homicide.

  That said, I couldn't spend my life worrying about Jimmu. Especially not when everything had fallen into place for me. It's like I'd finally discovered the Jane True I'd always been meant to be. I still had a lot to learn, but I was really, really excited to grow into the woman I glimpsed lurking on the horizon.

 
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