Dark Passage

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Dark Passage

The Lackland Abbey Chronicles (YA) #2

Risking danger, she finds hope and love

Merlin's Irregulars return safely home to 1803 England, their magic strengthened by their heroic efforts at Dunkirk.  But Tory is shocked when she realizes that the ever deepening relationship with Allarde will cost him everything.  If Tory really loves him, she must walk away so he can find a non-magical mate and avoid being disinherited.  But does she have the strength to leave the love of her life?

Cynthia’s heroic efforts at Dunkirk have won her the respect of the other Irregulars, but her sharp tongue keeps everyone at a distance.  Does she have the courage to risk love?

Then the Irregulars are drawn into a dangerous attempt to rescue a vitally important scientist from Nazi-occupied France.  Countless lives are at stake, but when the mission goes awry, will they all survive to return home?

Books in The Lackland Abbey Chronicles (YA)

Dark MirrorDark PassageDark Destiny

Prologue

France, Autumn 1940

Tory had almost reached her destination when a machine gun blasted crazily from the farmhouse ahead.  As Lady Victoria Mansfield in her own time, she’d been taught to dance and manage a household and embroider, rather badly.  As a mageling and a member of Merlin’s Irregulars, she’d learned to dive for cover when she heard gunfire.

She hit the ground hard and took refuge under the hedge on her left, grateful for the darkness.  Clamping down on her fear, she peered out from under the hedge.

The machine gun was being fired in bursts.  Sparks spat from the muzzle that stuck from a window on the upper floor.  The weapon wasn’t aimed in her direction, which was good.  But damnably, it was aimed at the small barn that sheltered the people she’d promised to protect.

Another thing she’d learned in 1940 was swearing.  She muttered some words that would have shocked her parents, the Earl and Countess of Fairmount, speechless.

She had to stop that rain of death, and quickly.  But how?  She was no warrior.  She was an undersized sixteen-year-old girl dressed to look even younger.  She wouldn’t know what to do with a gun if it was handed to her fully loaded.

But she was a mageling, and she could draw on the magical power and talent of her friends.  She studied the small stone house.  It was old and simply constructed, two stories high.  Probably just two rooms downstairs and two on the upper floor.

The building was dark except for the room where the machine gun was placed.  Likely the inhabitants of the place had fled when their home had been commandeered.

If she was able to get into the house and come up behind the men with the machine gun, she should be able to do—something.  Exactly what would depend on what she had to work with.

Cautiously she worked her way around the house, glad she was carrying her stealth stone.  It didn’t make her invisible, but it would make the men less likely to notice her.  Bullets were brainless and harder to mislead.

Like most old houses, the windows were few and small.  She tested the back door.  Locked.  On the floor above was a casement window that looked large enough for her to climb through.  Since it might also be locked, she selected a rock the size of a large man’s fist from the stone border around a flower bed.  Then she turned her mind inward to focus her special magic.

Click!  She began to rise, skimming her left hand along the stone wall until she hovered next to the window.  She tried unsuccessfully to open it.

Could magic muffle the sound of breaking glass?  She hadn’t tried that before, but it might work.  Doing magic was mostly a matter of focusing magical power on the desired result—and Tory had a great deal of power.

She concentrated on silencing the sound, and for good measure she waited for the next burst of machine gun fire.  Smashing the rock into the right hand casement sent shards of glass flying, nicking her wrist.

The breaking glass made very little sound, but even so, she waited to hear if she’d been noticed.  Coarse laughter came from the front of the house.  A man spoke.  French, not German.  Collaborators of some sort, perhaps police working with the Nazis.  Their raucousness suggested that they were drunk and amusing themselves by shooting up the flimsy barn that sheltered helpless people.

One of them made a sneering remark about killing filthy Jews.  For a red-rage moment, Tory wished she had a gun and knew how to use it.

But magic was her weapon.  She felt inside for the window latch.  It was badly stuck, so she gave it a little blast of magic.  The lock opened but her hovering bobbled as she diverted energy.  She was using up power at an alarming rate.

She wrenched the casements open and glided into the dark room.  After catching her breath, she cautiously created the dimmest possible mage light.  The room was a simply furnished bedroom.  The bed looked rumpled, as if the sleepers had left in a hurry.  That would also explain why the door had been left ajar, enabling Tory to hear the voices.

As she’d guessed from outside, the primitive cottage would have been old in her own time.  Gnarled beams ran across the ceiling.  Good.

The door opened to a short corridor that led to the stairs and the other bedroom at the front of the house.  The door to the other room was open, revealing three men in French police uniforms, the machine gun, and bottles of wine or spirits.

With only the barest of plans, she walked softly toward the front room.  She had just reached the doorway when one of the men turned and looked right at her.  He blinked uncertainly, but the stealth stone wasn’t enough to conceal a direct stare.

He lurched to his feet.  “It’s a little girl!  Must have hidden here when the rest of the family ran.”

A second man turn, then smiled nastily.  “Old enough that we can use her.”

He lurched toward Tory.  Even six feet away she smell the alcohol on his breath.  Her rage flared again.  These men shot at the innocent and were ready to ravish a female they thought to be a child.  Drawing her focus to blazing intensity, she drew masses of power from her friends, most of all Allarde’s special talent.

When she’d gathered her strength, she made a furious sweeping gesture with one arm at the beams.  “Enough!” she cried as she pulled down the front half of the roof.

The massive beams smashed into the men and their horrible gun.  Tory threw herself out the door in a rolling tumble as the male shouts abruptly cut off.  The remaining roof beams began to groan ominously.

Devil take it!  The whole cottage was collapsing!

She scrambled to her feet and raced to the back bedroom, diving out the open window before the roof could crush her.  Something hard crunched into her left arm and she barely managed to catch herself before crashing into the ground.

With the last of her power, she managed to roll and turn her fall into a safe landing.  She folded into an exhausted ball, panting.  Her left arm hurt like Hades and blood was saturating her sleeve, but at least she’d escaped.  The three shooters hadn’t.

She rested her head on her bent arms as she fought the pain and the horror of knowing that she’d just killed or seriously maimed three men.  They were beasts, but she hadn’t wanted their lives on her head.

She drew a shuddering breath.  She had sworn that she would never return to the future again.  Why the devil was she here?

Because she had no choice.