Prologue: The Chosen, and Those Who Choose Themselves

I shouldn’t still be in this house. It shouldn’t even be standing after the long cons, betrayals, incursions, and battles—most especially the latest.
The battle that shattered the world.

Newscasters are calling it the Wild Hunt—not sure who coined it, or if they care it isn’t entirely accurate. The Fair Folk and the Old Gods were on our side on this one. No one loves a demon incursion—especially the ancient beings who feel they have the greatest claim to Earth and the humans who live there.

I perch cross-legged on my bed with my laptop open in my lap. As usual, my desk is strewn with a half-dozen old books and other reference materials that either helped to save the day or at least helped me understand how to explain it. That’s my job. I’m the Chosen Chronicler of my generation. The generation that failed to hold the line and keep magic out of sight. The generation that still, somehow, saved the world.

My body aches. Every breath reminds me of bruised ribs and stitches and bandages over fresh wounds. Every one of us had to fight in this one—even the ones like me with no special healing factor. Now the dust is settled. I’m supposed to be recording what happened so it can get filed away in the Library of the Chroniclers, maintained by the Hands of the Seers, who guide and control the Chosen Ones.

An unexpected knock comes at my door. My heart flutters with high hopes, which are immediately dashed when Clover speaks.

“Dinner’s ready, Kitty,” she says.

She loves to call me that. She knows my name is Kerry—Kerry May Rhys-Hansen, but she loves to joke that I’m curious as a cat, so Kitty is the only name that fits me. It used to bother me because it’s true. Tonight, it’s proof that Clover survived the battle with her heart intact, and that is something worth celebrating. And, while she’s not the one I was hoping for, I value her experience and insight.

“Come in here for a minute? Door’s open.”

Clover glides into the room, all in one piece, not a sign of even a scar marring her porcelain skin. She settles down on the foot of my bed and flashes me a toothy smile.

“Well?” she asks

“The Hands of the Seers expect my record of events, printed and bound in the Library of Chroniclers. Something this pivotal, they want it in the archives so that Chosen Ones present and future can study everything that happened and learn from our experiences.” I point at my laptop with both hands palms up. “I don’t know where to start.”
Clover doesn’t bother to hide her true emotions—the roll of her eyes, the cold unapproving frown. The Hands of the Seers and Clover didn’t see eye to eye. Fortunately, Rowen Hayward doesn’t care so much what they think, and Clover’s been part of Rowen’s Alliance and my training as a Chosen One pretty much since I found out I was Chosen.

“What’s your heart telling you?”

Something sparks in my chest. “The entire planet was just blanketed with roiling darkness and dry lightning. Everyone’s worst nightmares sprang forth into reality and started hunting us all for the better part of two days. All of us. Now we’ve defeated the Demon Lord of Nightmares, the sun’s rising like normal, and nobody knows what to do about it. There’s no denying magic is real now. News is clear on it. Governments can’t hide it away in covert agencies. Everyone’s talking about it. They know some people have magic, and there are beings that don’t obey the laws of science, and they’re scared.”

Clover clucks her tongue, soft, her brows furrowed with concern, blue eyes studying me, but she lets me continue, uninterrupted.

“If the Hands of the Seers get their way, there will be a worldwide truce between all the magical factions to keep heads down and wait for everything to blow over. Let the mundane humans spin yet another explanation that allows them to go back to turning a blind eye to everything magic. They think humans are that dense, and they like it that way, but, Clover, we’re way beyond a return to blind innocence here. And we could do something different for a change.”

“Change can be terrifying.” Clover reaches out and placed a cool hand over mine. “This really isn’t a story that belongs only in the hands of an elitist bunch of self-righteous glorified demon hunters who think that because they have the best libraries of prophecy ever collected by any human organization, they have the right to determine which prophecies should come to pass and when.”

“It’s not,” I agree. “Everyone needs to know there are some amazing people in the world who fight back against the dark. They need examples as we take steps into the unknown. Stories of Chosen Ones born of prophecy and given innate magical gifts. Stories of the people who saw the darkness at work in their own lives and chose themselves to fight back. Stories of hope, to give us all the power to keep fear from taking control of us. These records need to reach everyone. They don’t need to sit on an enchanted bookshelf, untapped.”

“So, what are you going to do?” Clover asked.

“Always the master grifter,” I kid. She is, but this time, as much as I’m sure she’d love for me to thumb my nose at the Hands of the Seers, I know she’s opening a door so that I can make the choice to walk through, not manipulating me toward a decision. She’s right. I have to do something. Either I put together this story and send it to the Hands of the Seers for archiving, or…

“I share it. I share it all using the internet, social media, any contacts I can to get the story out there. Starting from the story of how Rowen bought this house.”

“Isn’t that when you were still trying to work up the courage to tell Char you had a crush on her?” Clover asked. Her smile was back, playful. “Perfect. Everyone loves a good romance subplot.”

It’s my turn to roll my eyes. “Yes, but that’s not historically relevant.”

“It humanizes you, though, and that’s going to be important. Even more important when you get to the part where you have to include more questionable individuals like me and Marcus and Ves. Make yourself human. Build their trust up. Give them your heart and your sight so they can see us all the way we are.”

I take a deep breath, then nod. She’s right.

This is right.

I’ll start from The Haunting of Paxwood House, this house I’m in now, this house that has become my home, from my own firsthand account, add in secondary sources where I need to, maybe weave in some resources to help people understand. It’s a good place to start because it’s when I accepted that magic is real. I’ll have to take some liberties to keep things tight and get the story out there, but every storyteller does that, and I’m sure my friends will forgive me even if my representation of them to the public isn’t exactly how they see themselves.

Well, some of them might murder me, so I’ll have to be careful.

Clover squeezes my hand. “Getting lost in thought already, are we, Kitty?”

“Dinner first.” I close my laptop and set it to the side. “Then I’ll get to work. Better to save the world on a full stomach when you can.”

Prologue: The Chosen, and Those Who Choose Themselves

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