It takes powerful magic to kill a demon. Hundreds of years ago, the five swords of Elyx were forged, with all the magic their maker could put into them. Demons have never forgotten the battle when men brought these swords against them. Four of the swords have long been lost to the sight of men and demons. Now a demon mage, after many years of searching, is on the verge of finding the secret of their hiding place.
King's agent Laura is the bearer of the fifth magic sword. Will she and her husband, the mage Ciaran, keep the swords safe, or will the demons take them and bring war to England? Will Taliesin's prophecy be fulfilled and will the faery Melusine keep the bargain she has made?
Abelard watched his young friend until with one last backward glance he passed into the forest that surrounded the deep lake. Then he turned back to face the water. With a visible effort he straightened his back and, gripping his staff with both hands, raised it above his head. His voice rang out across the lake.
"Melusine, mistress of the waters!" he called. "It is time for you to rise and seek once more the company of living men."
In answer a monstrous head broke the surface. Great golden eyes slit by black pupils glared out from above a narrow snout covered with silver scales. A long neck followed, raising the head until it was level with the face of the old mage. The serpent's tail thrashed the water some yards behind.
"Why should I care for the doings of men? They have not been friends to me." The great serpent spoke with a woman's voice.
The mage lowered his staff. "Was there not a man who you loved long ago?" He tried to stop his voice from shaking.
"Long, long ago, and he has been dead many a long year," came the reply.
Abelard took a deep breath and plunged into his prepared speech. As he finished a loud hiss came from the serpent's mouth. It reared up high above his head, revealing a sinuous body and spreading wide its dragon-like wings. Abelard took a step back from the water's edge. He knew he could not run far or fast enough to reach the shelter of the trees. With a beat of those huge wings and a rippling of its whole form, the serpent rose from the lake and flew upwards. Its tail lashed at Abelard's face and he took another step back. The long slender shape spiralled up and up until the sun blinded Abelard's gaze.
He blinked and as his eyes cleared he saw a slim young woman, clothed in a dress of pale green silk, standing on a rock not three feet away. Her black hair hung loose down to her waist. She smiled at him and he saw the ring on her finger. She stepped forward.
"Countess," he said as he dropped to his knees.