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|Priestess Dreaming(Sisters of the Moon #16) by Yasmine Galenorn|
“What the f**k . . . It looks like Crack Santa and his methed-out elves descended on our living room.”
“I don’t know, Lady Camille.” Sheepishly, he said, “I thought perhaps you decorated before you left for your shopping trip.”
“Oh, hell no. This mess? I have better taste than that. And you know Iris . . . yeah . . .”
The thought of Iris allowing such a tawdry show in our living room almost made me laugh. Thoroughly confused, I turned to the portal, which was shimmering in the opposite corner near the window. It was swirling with icy blue sparkles. I had no clue to where it led, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to dive through to find out.
“Okay, upstairs, to my rooms.”
As we headed up to the second story, the chill followed. It was still snowing when we reached my suite of rooms and by the time we entered my bedroom, I could see my breath and my toes were numb.
Dez made a quick survey around the room and ascertained that nothing was amok—or at least, nothing was running amok.
I stripped down as he kept watch. The Fae—including half-Fae like myself—generally weren’t modest or embarrassed by nudity, and he stood by the door, guarding me, without so much as blinking an eye.
Slipping into my ready-to-rumble catsuit that I wore when I knew we had a fight on our hands, I zipped it up and slid on a pair of kitten-heel granny boots. Then, slinging a belt around my hips, I fastened on the sheath containing my silver dagger.
After dressing, I made certain my unicorn horn was still safely hidden away in the secret compartment in my closet. For what we seemed to be facing, I didn’t think we’d need to use it. I wasn’t about to deplete its power this far from the new moon unless it was absolutely necessary.
Once I was finished, I slipped a capelet over my shoulders for extra warmth and quickly scrubbed the streaked makeup off my face. My eyeliner and mascara had survived—they were waterproof—but everything else was a lost cause. Less than ten minutes after we hit my bedroom, I was finished and ready to rock.
“Okay, back down to the first floor.”
But as we reached the landing, I paused. Someone was coming up the steps. I pulled out my dagger as Dez held his sword at the ready.
As the sound of footsteps rounded the turn, I held my breath, but then let it out in one big exhale as I saw it was Smoky, looking grim. My heart skidded to a halt.
“Maggie’s safe and sound,” he said before I could burst into tears. “Hanna took her down to Menolly’s lair when the shit hit the fan. I told her to stay there for now. But that portal in the living room? I know where it goes. I hopped through to find out what the hell was going on.”
“Where does it lead? And can you close it?” We followed him as he turned, heading back down the stairs.
Smoky shook his head, glancing over his shoulder. “No, I can’t close it. The gate was opened by powerful magic, and I can’t do anything about it. But as I said, I crossed over to see where it led. I’m not sure who the hell did this, but the portal? It leads into the Northlands, as far as I can tell.”
My heart began to beat faster. The Northlands could be reached via Otherworld, and through perilous routes up in the higher reaches over here, Earthside. I had a lot of bad associations with the lands at the top of the world. A lot of harsh, volatile creatures made their homes there, including dragons like Smoky’s father, who had imprisoned and tortured me.
“So the question is, who opened this portal, and why?”
“Right now, I think the more important question is: Just what all has come through so far? And what else can we expect before we manage to close it down?” Smoky’s grim smile deepened. “Let’s get back outside, woman. We need to do something to stop that yeti from trampling the yard.”
I turned to the guard. “Dez, stay here, please, and guard the portal. Don’t put your life in danger, but if something else comes through, do your best to stop it if you can. And if you can’t, get the hell outside so we know what we’re facing next.”
With that, Smoky and I headed back outside, into the fray.
So, yes, I’m Camille D’Artigo, and I’m a Witch and a Priestess in the service of the Moon Mother. Together, with my sisters and I, we run the Earthside division of the Otherworld Intelligence Agency—the OIA. We were originally sent over here because our track record with the agency leaves something to be desired. We weren’t exactly the best agents in the world, though gods know, we tried. But our lineage kind of mucks up the works.
On our mother’s side, we’re half-human. And our father is full-blooded Fae, from Otherworld. Well, was. We’re orphans now. Our mother died when we were young. Father died less than a month ago in the siege on Elqaneve, over in Otherworld. We miss them, dearly, but thank the gods we still have each other, though like all sisters, we have our tiffs and disagreements.
Anyway, I’m Camille, and I’m the oldest. Besides being a priestess and witch, I happen to be married to three gorgeous hunks of manflesh, which suits me just fine. I love sex, I love men, and I love good fashion and lots of caffeine. I also love magic, and above all, I love my lady, the Moon Mother. Trillian, my alpha husband, is a Svartan—the dark cousins of the elves. He’s from Svartalfheim. Smoky is a dragon—half white, half silver. And Morio? He’s a youkai-kitsune, and Japanese. Together, we’re all soul-bound, which means that we’re connected on a soul-level. This can be both good and bad, and sometimes a little dicey, but it’s never boring.
My sister Delilah’s the middle child, though for a long time, she acted like the youngest. A twin at birth, her womb-mate Arial died before she could catch more than a breath or two. We never even knew about Arial’s existence until the past couple of years. Delilah’s a werecat, and turns into a long-haired golden tabby. She’s actually what’s known as a two-faced Were, which means she has a second shape—that of a black panther. And she’s a Death Maiden, bound to the Autumn Lord, one of the Harvestmen, which means that she reaps the souls of the dead, a little like the Valkyries. She’s engaged to Shade, a half-dragon, half-Stradolan.
Our youngest sister, Menolly, is a vampire. She was a jian-tu—an extreme acrobat/spy for the OIA, till she fell into a nest of vamps. Literally fell into their midst. Dredge, one of the worst scourges to walk the face of Otherworld, caught her. On the longest night of Menolly’s life, Dredge tortured her and turned her, then sent her home to destroy her family. I managed to trap her in the safe room, and the OIA took over. After a long, hard year, she learned how to control her urges. Now, some fourteen Earthside years later, Menolly is happy. Married to a beautiful Amazon goddess of a werepuma, Nerissa, our sister is also the official consort of Roman, the son of Blood Wyne—the Vampire Queen. Oh, just for the record? Dredge? We killed him. Dust to dust. A satisfying end to that chapter in Menolly’s life.
When we were sent Earthside by the OIA, we thought we’d been exiled. They wanted us out of the way, out of their hair. Instead of a lazy sabbatical, we ended up walking right into the front lines of a demonic war that nobody knew about until we showed up.
Shadow Wing, Demon Lord of the Subterranean Realms, is out to break through the portals and into Earthside and Otherworld. His goal? Raze both worlds to the ground and establish his own private playground. And he can do that through the spirit seals—which I’ll get to later. One of his generals—a necromancer named Telazhar, is leading the war in Otherworld. They’ve already destroyed several cities with a massive sentient storm—so vast it makes any Category 5 hurricane look like a light breeze. Thank gods a group of sorcerers on our side have managed to dissipate the storm. But it’s only a matter of time before they make the next push.
And we’ll be right there to face them down. Because that’s what we do.
* * *
By the time Smoky and I stepped back out on the porch, the lawn looked like Jack Frost had taken a paintbrush to it. Lacy white and beautiful, everywhere. One dead yeti was sprawled out on the lawn. Whatever else had been gallivanting around was long gone, except for the weird hedgehog-like creature that was belly up, unmoving, near one of the cedars.
Delilah and Nerissa were back in their regular forms, and Menolly looked like she needed a bath and new clothes. Her jacket was torn and dirty, and there was a hole in the crotch of her jeans. She looked more pissed than hurt.
“You have a hole in your crotch.” I grinned at her, shrugging as she gave me a pointed look. “Just thought you’d want to know.”
“Thanks a lot, genius. I figured that one out when I fell off the roof and landed on my butt in a puddle of water. Or should I say, ice-covered water. The ice was bad enough, but the water quickly found its way through the unapproved access panel.” She let out a low growl. “I have no idea what that thing was, but it was fast and it was nasty. Had some damned sharp teeth and got me several times.” Holding up her hand, she showed us the bite marks. They had almost healed over—vampires mended quickly—but they were still apparent. “It reminded me of a deranged porcupine.”
“What’s happened?” Delilah came running up. “Is Maggie okay?”
“Yeah, she and Hanna are safe. Did somebody go check on Iris and the others? I know she and Chase beat a quick path down there when they saw what was going down.” I scanned the area.
“Yeah, actually. Shade went to check on Iris. Roz and Vanzir were chasing the pixies into the woods, last I saw. Morio and Trillian . . . I don’t know where they went.” Delilah brushed off her jeans, then let out a groan and pointed to the scattered shopping bags. “What a mess.”
The bags and their contents were strewn everywhere, trampled and mangled. Some might have survived the rumble, but I wasn’t betting on it. I grimaced, wondering just how much we were out in broken gifts.
Smoky cleared his throat. “We can’t leave Dez alone with the portal for long. We have to figure out how to close that damned thing. I can’t do it, and I doubt if you can, Camille.”
I shook my head. “Oh, hell no. What about Iris? She might know what to do.”
“Portal? What portal?” Delilah strode over to the figure stretched out by the cedar and wrinkled her nose. “And what the heck is this? Nerissa and I managed to get it out of the tree but it was taking some nasty potshots at us with some sort of magical zap.”
“I have no clue what that thing is, and there’s a portal in our living room. Which, by the way, is a mess. Not only does it look like Santa got stoned and freed a bunch of trailer-trash elves to decorate it, but it’s snowing. Inside our house. We figure all these . . . things . . . came through the portal, and probably more are going to try unless we can get the damned thing closed down.”
“I’ll go get Iris.” Smoky took off in a blur. Dragons were fast. Very fast.
“The rest of you—inside.” I led the way. The temperature was holding around a chilly thirty degrees, and it was still snowing. The snow in the foyer was ankle deep, and there was at least two feet of the white stuff in the living room. Winter had come early and we were in a magical convergence zone. So much for any of our electronics—the moisture would have destroyed them by now.
Dez glanced over at us. “While you were outside, I managed to repel several creatures that look suspiciously like goblins. There’s also something big and nasty and moth-like on the other side but so far, it’s responded to my threats and stayed over there.”
“Lovely. Just what we need. Mothman would so liven up this little party.” The situation was going from bad to worse and we still had no idea what was going down.
Menolly shook her head. “How the hell did this happen?”
“That, we haven’t figured out. Whatever the cause, we need to deal with the effects. We can worry about how it happened later.” I turned as Iris entered the room, her eyes wide. Smoky was behind her.
“Everybody at my house is—what the hell happened here?” She stopped, staring at the portal. “Oh no, now I haven’t seen one of these in years. A gate to the Northlands? Who on earth opened it?”
“We don’t know, but we do know all those creatures came through it. Dez has been on guard since we found it. Wait—” The fact that she knew what it was offered a glimmer of hope. “Do you by any chance know how to close this? For one thing, we’re getting snowed out of the house.”
Iris frowned, tapping her foot as she stared at the magical gate. After a moment, she snapped her fingers. “I don’t know if I can close it for you, but I think I can move it.”
“Move it? A portal can be moved?” I’d never thought of portals as being moveable. Either they were there, or they weren’t, in my experience.
“Some. The ones created by the spirit seals are fixed, but there are a lot of mutable vortexes in the world.” Slowly, she approached it, motioning for Dez to guard her back. As she knelt, digging the snow away from the bottom of the opening, Delilah moved forward and began to help her. A moment later, and the floor was exposed. The rugs were doomed, that much I could already tell.
“Here’s the thing. See these symbols?” She pointed to something that looked like a jumble of sparkles from where I was standing. I moved in to kneel beside her, and sure enough, on closer examination, I could just catch a glimpse of the faint outlines of runes glowing beneath the frosty exterior. But they were like no magical runes I’d ever seen.
“Definitely magical, but I don’t recognize them. Sorcery?” I glanced over at Iris, who rubbed her chin, then shook her head.