I'm glad you're here. Please sit a spell, kick back and relax, and read the first chapter of Awen Tide, Book Three of the Awen Trilogy.
Lugh MacBrayer’s gaze flicked over the animals in the compartment behind first class. The PetJet had been designed for travelers with larger pets, and from what Morgan had said, the last-minute fares cost the Order a pretty penny.
“I’ve got a bad feeling.”
Hope, his Druid Elder, shifted in her cage. “Me, too. Between it and this infernal airplane, I haven’t slept a wink.”
“I did, but fitfully. Then a bad dream woke me. I fear Emily is in trouble again.”
After being sucked into an earthquake and disappearing for several weeks, Emily Hester, the love of Lugh’s life and the head of his Order, had finally resurfaced on an obscure island in the Bahamas. Now Lugh was optimistic his nephew Brian would turn up, too.
With a heavy sigh, Lugh scratched the underside of Hope’s chin. Cu, the Irish wolfhound, snored upside down in the next cage.
“You may be right.” The Scottish wildcat licked her lips nervously, an oddity for Hope. “But we’re seven miles high, and there’s nothing we can do. Did I tell you flying is my least favorite thing?”
“You did. But this was your idea, Hope. Go to Wales, you said. Find the dragons, you said.” Lugh ran his hand across his sandpaper chin. Last night’s shadow had turned into the beginnings of a thick beard.
Hope tossed her head. “We do what we must for the Order, Lugh. And for the Awen.”
How well the druid priest knew. He wouldn’t be here if not bound by duty. But Emily needed him. And in the process of searching for her here in Europe, he hoped to stumble across a clue about Jake.
“At least you didn’t have to ride in the cargo ho—”
The plane dropped, throwing Lugh into Hope’s cage and nearly to the floor. The wildcat yowled her displeasure, and a bell began dinging.
The cabin lights flicked on.
The captain came across the intercom, warning passengers to return to their seats. Lugh clung to Hope’s cage as the jet bucked and pitched. Jarred awake, Cu howled, and the other animals joined in.
Wild-eyed flight attendants emerged from their pods. One staggered to the intercom and instructed passengers to lock their seatbelts and stow electronics and tray tables, hardly necessary, considering most had been asleep.
A first-class attendant appeared at Lugh’s elbow. “Sir, you have to return to your seat.” He pressed a button that unfurled padded ticking along the insides of the cages, and Hope and Cu disappeared from Lugh’s view.
Lugh gripped the bars tightly and slowly, precariously, moved toward his seat.
The loudspeaker crackled. The pilot was taking them higher to get above the storm system.
The plane shuddered. The bucking grew worse.
Bracing his thighs against the armrests, Lugh clung to seatbacks and pulled himself forward row by row until he reached his pod. He buckled in, then jumped and gasped when an overhead bin sprang open.
The attendant who had been walking behind Lugh reached up to close it. But the plane lurched, throwing him sideways into the aisle. Carry-ons, briefcases, and a diaper bag rained down on the attendant and an adjacent passenger who cried out in shocked pain. The baby that belonged to the diaper bag squalled.
The juddering plane bucked turbulence as it climbed. When it finally leveled off, Lugh breathed a sigh of relief.
The seat-back monitor showed them cruising at an altitude of forty thousand feet. The attendant hoisted himself up, checked on the abused passenger, then wrangled the cases back into the bin.
Despite the welcome calm, the seatbelt sign remained lit. Lugh debated whether to stay in his seat, then unbuckled and hurried to the head. He’d been on his way earlier and had stopped to talk to Hope. He took care of business, then splashed cold water on his face.
Lugh’s drawn features peered back from the mirror. Purple pooled in the hollows beneath his eyes. He had not completely recovered from the head injury he’d sustained the day Brian and Emily disappeared in the quake at Zoo Atlanta. In fact, he had a whopping headache.
He dabbed at his fuzz-darkened face with the thin paper towel. His ebony hair, in perpetual need of a trim, curled around his face and collar. Then a pocket of nothingness opened beneath the plane. Lugh’s stomach lurched as the aircraft fell toward Earth.
Grateful to be wedged between the sink and wall, Lugh held his breath for several scary seconds until they reached the bottom of the trough. He jumped when the captain’s voice crackled from the speaker above his head.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats. We have just received word that this storm extends across the entire Atlantic seaboard creating heavy turbulence. We are currently over the Azore Islands and have been instructed to land in Caen, France, the nearest airport with favorable ground conditions. Please hang on and keep your seatbelts fastened. The ride promises to be—”
The pilot went silent for a long moment while the plane tossed from side to side. “—bumpy,” he finished.
Which was an understatement, to say the least.
Lugh opened the door cautiously and clung to it as the plane lurched and shuddered. Then he pulled himself along the seatbacks avoiding the contents of another spilled overhead bin. Distressed passengers peered up at him with terror in their eyes—terror that matched Lugh’s own. He hated flying, hated it with a passion. Now his loathing had compounded exponentially.
Reaching his seat, Lugh collapsed into his pod. But the plane seesawed, and Lugh overshot. He landed on the woman beside him. She screamed bloody murder and shoved back.
Apologizing profusely, Lugh dragged himself into his seat and buckled the belt, then craned his neck. Hope and Cu were hidden by the padding. He prayed it and their restraints would keep them safe.
Then the plane tilted downward and began descending at a steep angle.
Sweat sprang from all of Lugh’s pores. What the heck was happening now? Why wasn’t the pilot pulling up? Twisting in his seat, Lugh noted the flight attendants were no longer standing.
His ears popped. The plane continued diving.
Lugh’s knuckles whitened on the armrests. A screech, like metal ripping from the hull, was followed by a loud bang. His heart thudded. He’d heard a similar screech not long ago when the tornado wrenched the roof from his restaurant. Was the plane shearing apart?
It shuddered and tilted slightly to one side before righting again. They were still descending. Lugh gestured to his pod mate to open the shade.
It was daylight now, though barely. Rain streamed against the pane, and visibility was next to nothing. Stalks of lightning streaked across the sky, backlighting the clouds as the plane sliced through them. The woman yanked the shade down.
Rigid in his seat, Lugh prayed.
His heart beat wild. Never in his life had he been this afraid of dying, not even that day at Jocko’s. He thought of Emily and how she had helped him herd the patrons into the basement. Emily had given Lugh courage that day. He prayed he lived to see her again.
He began running spells through his mind. The Hester family was gifted with weather witching. Lugh’s was not. He had never created nor dissipated a storm. Still, he had watched Emily calm that earthquake. It was worth a try.
But the whistling roar of the laboring engines made it difficult to concentrate in the pitching, bucking, nose-diving plane. Plugging his ears with his fingers, Lugh tried again.
He sent an etheric cord down to Earth to anchor into her stable nature. Another he sent heavenward, calling on Father God. Then connecting with the remaining elements, he spoke the calming spell and projected it outward into the storm.
The plane continued shimmying for a moment, then the whining ceased. Jubilation poured through Lugh. Had his spell worked?
Then the plane hit another pocket and jerked up short at the bottom of a trough. Metal screeched. An ominous rumble emanated from the engine, and the aircraft tilted to Lugh’s side. Carry-on luggage and other articles tumbled from the bins. Bombarded passengers screamed for dear life as the bin doors banged against the overhead compartments.
Calming his breath, Lugh focused on the storm and repeated his spell.
The plane shuddered mightily. The dive continued.
Lugh checked the monitor. They were approaching the ground much too fast. At this speed, they would all die.
Changing tactics, he quickly wove a spell of protection for the plane and its occupants. He poured all his power into the incantation, then cast it wide, and sealed it with another, more potent one.
Removing his fingers from his ears, he unclenched his jaw and eyed the monitor. Only a half-mile to go. A third. One-quarter.
The shudder ceased abruptly. The plane righted.
Lugh’s pod-mate cheered and slid the shade open. Below them, lights blinked. The ground appeared. They had cleared the ocean and were over land.
At least if they crashed, they wouldn’t end up in Davy Jones’ locker.
Then the damaged engine sputtered and died.
The plane tilted toward Lugh’s side, and something flew in his direction. His arm flew up to stop it, but a hard-sided case struck him in the head, and everything went dark.