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Dark Curse

By

Christine Feehan

For my sister Anita Toste, who shares my love of strange thing,

will stay up with me until all hours of the night writing spells and making me laugh at childhood memories, and who I have always loved and counted on my entire life: This one is for you.

For My Readers

Be sure to go tohttp://www.christinefeehan.com/members/ to sign up for my PRIVATE book announcement list and download the FREE ebook ofDark Desserts . Please feel free to email me at Christine@christinefeehan.com I would love to hear from you.

Acknowledgments

In a book as complicated asDark Curse , there are so many people to thank.

First and foremost, special thanks to Dr. Christopher Tong, an incredible friend, who is a continual source of information. It was his brainchild to use the Carpathian language as the proto-language of the Hungarian and Finnish languages. Dr. Chris Tong (www.christong.com) is fluent in several languages, did undergraduate studies in linguistics at Columbia University and graduate studies in computational linguistics at Standford University. He is currently writing a new book,Beyond Everything , and developing the World Meeting Place, a Web 3.0 (AI-based) site aimed at enabling the world's people to collaborate on solving the world's problems.

Brian Feehan, who drops everything and brainstorms with me at the drop of a hat. You make my fantasy and action scenes come alive for me when I discuss them with you.

I have to thank Rachel Powell for introducing me to a wonderful woman, Diana SkyEyes, who was generous enough to share her knowledge with me at short notice and put me on the right path to aid my Carpathian women. Diana SkyEyes is an earth priestess with twenty years of practicing Moon Lodge and Wiccan traditions of alternative healing. She is a certified herbalist, musician and writer of healing songs. Any mistakes are my own as well as fictitious license used to enhance my storyline. Thank you, Diana, for all your time and energy.

My sister Ruth Powell, who has always stood for children, who is the only one I know that could create an ancient lullaby and make the words universal.

My sister Jeanette and Slavcia, who were willing to discuss birth problems and how best to solve them using alternative medicines.

And, of course, Anita, who made all the work fun and reminded me of our early carefree days of laughter while we worked our own magic! Your talent for so many things always stuns and amazes me.

Dark Curse

Prologue

The cold should have made her shiver, but it was fear, terrible bone-chilling fear that seized Lara, causing such tremors they were impossible to control. She huddled on the floor of the ice cave, studying the walls of her prison. The ice was beautiful, walls thick and blue with amazing formations hanging from the ceiling and rising from the floor like a forest of multicolored crystal. She hunched down, watching the lights flicker across the ice-creating glittering, dazzling displays on the walls. All the while, her heart beat too fast and she choked on rising terror.

A soft whisper in her mind helped to steady her, to keep her centered and calm when she wanted to curl

up in a ball and cry. She was eight years old now-today. She looked down at her arms and wrists, covered in bite marks, scars from teeth gnawing through her skin to get at her veins. Her stomach lurched. Today was the last day anyone would tear at her flesh and drink her blood. Today she would escape.

I am so scared. Even in her mind, using telepathic communication, her voice trembled.

At once she felt warmth in her mind. The sensation spread through her body, driving away the chill and giving her courage.You will not be alone. We will aid you to escape. You must be brave, little one .

Will you come with me, Aunt Bronnie? Will you both come? She knew she sounded plaintive and afraid, but she couldn't help it. She'd never been above ground. The idea of going alone into an unfamiliar world was paralyzing. Without her aunts, she would have no way of protecting herself. They both had taught her, thrusting as many skills and spells into her brain and memories as possible, but she was still a child in a child's body. Thin. Weak. Pale. A mop of copper-colored hair she could never control and little else.

That may not be possible, Lara, and if we cannot, you must go by yourself. You must get far away from this place and hide your talents and abilities so no one will ever imprison you again. Do you understand? You cannot in any way appear different in the outside world.

They had told her of the world. Long, lonely nights they had whispered to her of places above ground, of the sun and sea, of forests of trees, of living animals and birds that flew free. They had filled her mind-and her heart-with images so beautiful they had stolen her breath.

Why must I hide my gifts in the world outside? Lara shivered again, running her hands up and down her body in an effort to warm herself. It wasn't the temperature of the ice cave-she could control her body temperature when she remembered to think about it-but the idea of leaving was nearly as terrifying as the idea of staying. Here she at least had the aunts. Outside-she didn't even know what to expect.

It is always better to blend in, Lara. Xavier is a cruel man-there are others like him. You have great power within you and others will want it. Learn in secret and only use it when you must and for good or to save your life. You cannot let others know.

Come with me.

If we can, but no matter what, you must leave this place. You see what they do to us-what they will do to you. Your power will call to them and they will take everything from you.

Lara closed her eyes, the trembling turning into almost violent shuddering. Oh yes, she had seen. Torture. Horrible torture. Horrible black spells drawing forth demons with red glowing eyes and the sickening stench of evil clinging to them. She would hear screams until the day she died, the screams of others begging for mercy, begging to be killed.

She couldn't let her father or great-grandfather know of the power growing within her. She could never let on that the aunts spoke to her and taught her, filling her mind with everything they knew so that as the power in her grew, she would have the knowledge to accompany it. The two men would try to wrest everything she was from her, control her if they couldn't and in the end, she would be like the others, torn apart while they still lived, experimented on, eaten alive piece by piece until madness and pain was all that was left.

Today was her birthday and she had to escape. She had to leave the only home she'd ever known and go out into a world she knew only through the memories of her two aunts, who had been imprisoned for so many years they had long ago lost count. Before that could happen, she would be forced to endure her father and great-grandfather's sharp, wicked teeth one more time.

She covered her eyes and bit back a sob.

Lara. You are Dragonseeker. You can do this. We are strong. We endure. We do not ever succumb to evil. Do you understand? You must escape.

Auntie Bronnie always lectured her, but there was love in her voice. Worry. Determination. Auntie Tatijana sounded sad and weak, but the love was there as well, although these days, she rarely wasted energy on talking. Lara knew something was wrong, terribly wrong and she was frightened of losing the two of them.

«I don't want to be alone,» she whispered aloud into the freezing cold of the bluish chamber. She didn't say it in her mind to her aunts, because she didn't want them to know she was nearly paralyzed with fear of leaving. This terrible place of pain and death and cold was her home and here at least she had the aunts, and she knew what to expect. Outside-outside she would be alone in a foreign world.

     

 

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