Teaser Tuesday: Annwyn Park

Happy Tuesday and welcome back to the first Annwyn Park (Borderlands Saga #4) teaser! We’re hanging out in Silver Hollow for this one again, y’all, along with Duke Gareth Alderson 😉 Each book in the Borderlands series draws from classic fairy tales, folklore, and in the case of Annwyn Park, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. In part because of my enduring love of David Bowie, and because of how much the movie inspired me as a child. It’s been a while since I was truly excited to tell a new story. On that note, let’s dive in to today’s teaser scene! If you plan to read any of the Borderlands novels, I’d highly recommend skipping this post. Either way, I hope you enjoy your sneak peek into Annwyn Park!

Today’s episode was brought to you by the Goblin King


*spoilers for the borderlands saga below*

Annwyn Park

Borderlands #4 Teaser

Dameri woke from the dream in a cold sweat, heart pounding out of her chest as the memory of the hall of mirrors and Jessie’s accusing green eyes haunting her into the waking world.

She pushed back black curls that had come loose from her braid in the night, curls her daughter had inherited. The daughter who hated her.

Drawing in a deep breath, she closed her eyes and took stock of her surroundings.

You’re in Wenderdowne, in your bedroom.

Your daughter is fully grown and a queen.

You have to protect her.

Her heart calmed and Dameri released her breath until all air fled her lungs.

Tossing aside her covers, she pulled her dagger from its place beneath her pillow and rose on sore legs.

She wasn’t young by any stretch of the word, though the reflection in her bathing chamber seemed to have settled somewhere between thirty-five and forty-five. Neither young nor old, Dameri Hawkeye Pendraig had not inherited her mother’s golden beauty, nor her father’s charisma.

Splashing fresh water from the faucet on her face, Dameri breathed in the now-familiar scents of Wenderdowne, of spices and flowers and magic, and reached for the clothes she’d torn off the previous evening.

Where did I put Rado’s message?

She liked to think she had inherited the best of both her parents. She may not be beautiful, but Henry had once called her alluring. A stab of pain pierced her heart, the way thoughts of Henry always did. She had only loved two men in her long life. Drustan betrayed her in the worst possible way, and she hadn’t found the courage to contact him after hearing of his resurrection in Blackbriar Cove. But Henry… a part of her had truly believed they may have a second chance. Before Amie’s coronation and botched ball, afterward. The night all her dreams came crashing down around her yet again.

“Ah hah,” she crowed as she pulled the tiny scroll free of her inner vest pocket and unraveled the wax paper. They often traded messages in this way. Etching important matters in code, scratching out the last before adding their reply. Dameri translated the code in her head and frowned as she read:

The song still plays.

“He lied,” she growled.

Another search of her pockets and Dameri crouched to the ground as she pulled a thin silver stick free. Rubbing furiously at the message until the wax was ready, she wrote back:

Play the notes.

Anger fueled her movements as she dressed in the previous night’s clothing. There was no time today, not if she wanted to send this message through her network. Not if she wanted to keep Jessie safe.

Dameri tied the last strap of her belt and harness before donning her outer coat and boots. Jessamiene called it her uniform, in the slightly mocking tone her daughter favored when they spoke.

You take the role of spymistress a little too seriously, if you ask me,” the queen had once said.

Dameri checked the seven knives she kept on her person, as well as the tiny tinctures and pouch of shadow dust Rado sold to her. She glanced up and grimaced at her reflection. Her blue eyes were dull and surrounded by deep shadows.

There would be time to sleep later.

Avoiding the main entrance to her rooms, Dameri climbed into her tall wardrobe and pushed the hidden latch. The back slid open to reveal her preferred passage through Wenderdowne. Without hesitation, she picked up a nearby candlestick waiting inside the passage and lit it with practiced ease. There was a reason she’d requested this room specifically upon moving from Caerleon.

Her mouth twisted as she thought of the denizens inhabiting what remained of her beloved home. How her father could stand it, Dameri could not fathom. How Jessamiene could throw it away to the same people—person—who betrayed them all, who murdered Henry…

This is why we need his help, she thought as climbed a narrow stair and ignored the echo of voices carried from the rebuilt West Wing.

Henry had a dream for Wenderdowne, a place where anyone of any race or creed could come to study magic and higher learning.

And the Unseelie burned it down.

Drustan hadn’t been willing to risk Jessamiene, not when the enemy was capable of attacking their home.

And we all suffered for it.

Dameri hadn’t told Amie what happened to Silver Hollow after her “father” stole her away. She doubted Henry had been forthcoming, either, too happy to have their Jessamiene home after all this time. Even if their daughter only remembered living as a human.

Pushing the dark memories aside, Dameri pushed open the door waiting at the end of the passage. A draft pushed the candle flame towards Dameri as she entered the ornate golden room on the other side.

Once belonging to Oberon, the room had been largely forgotten, thanks to her daughter’s wards. The last person to use this room had been the Storyteller. Now her daughter kept her most dangerous treasure propped against the opposite wall.

Casting a careful eye to the door, the balcony, and the footprints in the dust, Dameri released a breath and set her candle aside. Jessamiene had not been by for at least a few days, then.

Dameri still didn’t know all the details, just that Grimwich Rumplekin used this same mirror to teach Amie control over her astounding abilities. And that he had not returned with them. When asked why, Amie only confessed, “Rumplekin isn’t welcome in Silver Hollow anymore.

But we still need the Storyteller.

She pressed a hand to the mirror’s pristine surface and ignored her haggard reflection as she whispered, “Hogswillow Hall.”

For a moment, the mirror was still, before a faint ripple spread from beneath her hand. The ripples multiplied until the image in the mirror changed. Dameri narrowed her eyes as the beautiful room on the other side revealed itself.

The first time Amie had summoned her to this mirror, Dameri hadn’t understood the compulsion. She’d only known her daughter was calling to her, and that her need was great. She’d frightened Underhill out of her wits, the way Dameri tore through the castle and charged into the heart of the West Wing. The mirror had been an unwelcome surprise. She did not like loopholes in her security. But the mirror proved regrettably useful now.

Her frown deepened as she blinked, and the handsome figure of Grimwich Rumplekin appeared before her. He was tall and broad of shoulder, and always impeccably dressed no matter the occasion. There had been a time when golden armor gleamed in place of lace cuffs, velvet coats, and breeches, revealing powerful thighs and calves. Like a slitherkin, Grimwich presented himself the same as any predator. Every part of his calculated appearance was meant to disarm and entice.

“Storyteller,” Dameri managed through gritted teeth as she drew her hand from the mirror into a clenched fist at her side.

Grim’s white smile broadened. “Dameri Hawkeye. To what do I owe the pleasure of your prickly company today?”

Though his attention remained fixed to her, Dameri didn’t miss the ever-so-slight shift of his gaze to the room behind her. She stiffened and wondered when the Storyteller would stop checking for Jessamiene each time Dameri summoned him. She wondered if Jessie fully remembered how much Nimue trusted and feared Grim once upon a time.

Clearing her throat, Dameri pushed aside the faint growl of her stomach. “I received a disturbing message this morning. I need to know the state of the Cove before I can turn my attention to it. Tell me, does the Weaver appear content? Is she… contained?”

Grimwich arched a full black brow and cocked his head to the side. “Oh, this is most interesting.”

“Just tell me what you know,” she interrupted with a huff. The accord they made three months before meant he owed her this, and that he would not delve too deeply into matters beyond his business. Dameri preferred her contacts not to be aware of the others’ movements. Yet she hated the almost knowing smirk on the Storyteller’s face as he considered her a moment more.

“My dear sister has kept a watchful eye on the Cove, and last I spoke with Drustan, Fayelin is still consumed with recovering lost souls and mending ‘the weaving’ as she calls it.” Grimwich shifted and fiddled with a strange ring upon his finger, the symbol oddly familiar as it was strange to Dameri. “In truth, since your Myrddin took most of the Unseelie and dark souls from the Cove, it has been rather dull around here.”

Dameri’s nails pricked the palm of her hand as he paused to look up at her through his eyelashes.

“Unless there is something else I ought to know? You do recall the terms of our bargain, don’t you, dearie? It is past time I managed my unfinished business, and Amie will have need of me before the end.”

Dameri didn’t bother holding back her sneer as she replied, “It’s not time yet. I need your eyes there in case the new Weaver decides to collect her due. You know the peace won’t hold if she does. We’re lucky she’s been so lost in her new power so far.”

Grim straightened and raised both eyebrows. “I have delivered on my promises, little hawk. Can you say the same? Must I remind you of the threat within your borders, bellibone? Or are you, like your father, blind to what Myrddin has become?”

“Myrddin Emrys is no friend of mine…” Inwardly cursing his point, she forced her arms to remain at her sides as she conceded, “So long as your sister maintains her position, I will allow you to return to Silver Hollow. Rado will meet you at the border near the train tracks in three mortal days’ time. Do not be late, or you will miss your chance.”

She hesitated as his golden gaze brightened like twin flames. His brown skin brightened in turn until his light seemed to reach through the mirror into the gloom surrounding her. “You will find I am always right, dearie. You shan’t regret this.”

“See that you don’t, Storyteller.” Dameri took a measured step closer to the mirror. “I only made our bargain because Myrddin is too dangerous left unchecked. Amie has given him too much power.”

Something Nimue never would have allowed, came the unbidden thought.

“And how should you and darling Rado allot me passage into your realm, when your daughter is quite aware of all in her queendom?” Grim’s question was one that had plagued her for the past month, ever since he began hinting at his wish to return sooner than later.

Yet, as Jessie learned in Blackbriar Cove, there were many loopholes in the Borderlands. And unlike her daughter, Dameri’s unbroken memory stretched back over a thousand years. Her smile didn’t reach her eyes as she replied, “The Seelie may rule Silver Hollow, but I am the daughter of Arthur Pendraig. And I have not forgotten the secret ways.”

to be continued…

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