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|Priestess Dreaming(Sisters of the Moon #16) by Yasmine Galenorn|
“Possibly. I’m not sure, but they were cast by a powerful witch. They aren’t demonic.”
“No, they aren’t demonic. I can tell that much.” I could suss out Demonkin to a degree. “If they were cast by a powerful witch, wouldn’t she . . . or he . . . need to be here?” I was one of the few witches we’d allowed in the house. Morio could work magic, but he wasn’t a witch, per se. This was something beyond my capabilities.
At that moment, Trillian shoved Vanzir and Rozurial through the door. I glanced over my shoulder as they stumbled into the room, both talking at once. But as they took in the scene, they fell silent, the look on their faces a combination of fear and guilt.
“What are you two up to? Do you know anything about this?” I narrowed my eyes, standing. As I started in their direction, Vanzir took one look at Smoky and darted out of arm’s reach.
“Tell them.” Trillian reached out and twisted Roz’s ear, which might normally be dangerous to do to an incubus, but Roz had a healthy respect for all of my men—especially Smoky, who had given him the beating of his life at one point.
“Ow, ow, ow! Okay, I’ll tell them.” He pulled away from Trillian’s grasp and rubbed his head. “That hurt, dude.” Turning to the rest of us, he cleared his throat. “We weren’t trying to make a mess—honest. We were just trying to surprise you.” The words tumbled out of Roz’s mouth and he ducked his head, his expression guilty as sin. Vanzir gave him a scathing look, but then followed suit.
Smoky took one step toward them and they both cowered back.
Vanzir shoved his hands in his pockets. “We really are sorry.” For one of the few times since we’d known him, the dream-chaser demon actually did sound apologetic. “We didn’t know this was going to happen. We thought . . .”
“You thought what? What do you mean? What are you talking about?” I was starting to get nervous.
We called Roz and Vanzir the demon twins, not because they were both actually demons of a sort—although they were—but because the pair so easily got themselves in trouble, especially when they came up with some bright idea together.
Rozurial was practically a walking armory, his long duster always filled with weaponry of every sort you could hope to find, from wooden stakes to miniature Uzis. And he knew how to use all of them. Vanzir was a weapon in his own right. He also had a chaotic and unpredictable nature. But right now, the pair looked more sheepish than sinister.
Menolly stepped forward. “What did you do?” She bared her fangs, giving the boys a scare, although they knew she wouldn’t go all bloodsucker on them.
Vanzir glanced at Roz. “We’d better tell them. This didn’t go at all according to plan.”
Iris had apparently had enough of their sidestepping, because she pushed me aside and stomped her way over to Roz. And when a house sprite is able to stomp through a foot of snow, it meant she was pissed as hell, especially since she was barely around four feet high.
“Rozurial, I swear if you don’t tell me I’m going to put you on diaper duty for a year. You, too, Vanzir.” As she shook her finger at them, they cringed. Hell, I would have cringed. Diaper duty didn’t sound at all appealing to me.
“Okay, okay! Here’s the thing . . .” Roz blushed. He had a crush on Iris, even though he could never commit to just one woman.
“We wanted to decorate the house for you, so we bought a spell. We bought a scroll, actually, from a magic shop. And . . . this is what happened.” The words spilled out of Vanzir’s mouth as he looked away.
We all stared at him. I wasn’t even sure what to say, it was so out of left field. But apparently Iris had some ideas on an appropriate response.
“Are you idiots? Don’t answer that, you’ve made it abundantly clear that yes, you do fall in that category. Okay, for one thing, there really isn’t a spell to decorate a house and if you would have done your research, you might have figured that out. I can use my magic to clean but it’s more directed focus than a spell to make the broom zip around on its own.” She sighed, running out of steam, and looked at me.
“Hey, I got nothing. I have no clue what to say.” Turning to the boys, I asked a question that I knew I’d regret. “Do you even know this witch? Have you dealt with her before?”
Again, the shifty-eyed looks between the two. Then, Roz shook his head, looking even more sheepish.
“Actually, we bought the scroll from a store. We talked to a witch we met at the Supe Community Action Council the other evening. She mentioned you, and we thought you were her friend. She recommended the store. I guess we should have checked it out a little more but it wasn’t like we were looking for some sort of weapon or offensive spell—”
“You bought a scroll. Just like that. And did you ask the particulars about this scroll?”
Vanzir pursed his lips, as if about to whistle, then shrugged. “Um . . . no.”
“Gee, ya think it might have been wise to check out the history of the scroll a little better? Because I have a news flash for you, boys. An offensive spell is what you ended up with. Offensive to us.” I stopped, a thought striking me. “Just who was this witch? What did she say about me? You didn’t bring her here, did you, to use the scroll?” If they had brought that woman here without permission and let her cast a spell in our house, so help me, I’d flail them raw myself. Smoky wouldn’t even stand a chance of getting his licks in.
“No, of course not. We’re not stupid.” Vanzir glared at me, then appeared to think better of it. “I guess . . . we f**ked up pretty bad.”
Menolly, who had been watching the exchange silently, shook off the snow that was clinging to her body. Snowflakes didn’t really melt on her skin easily—vampires were cold enough that what body heat they had seldom managed to do anything other than keep rain from freezing against them.
“Okay, let’s get a handle on this. First, before anything, Iris, you said you might be able to move this portal? Do you think you can do so before we get snowed out of the living room?”
Iris held out her hand. “Since it was created by use of a scroll, it should be easier for me to do so. Rozurial, you get me the remains of that scroll right now. And don’t dawdle.”
He scampered off into the foyer.
Vanzir shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. “We really were just trying to help. We wanted to surprise you all after your shopping trip.”
He looked so subdued, I was almost tempted to show pity. Almost. “Yeah, well, you accomplished that much, all right. Of all the fool tricks. Dude, why couldn’t you just start putting up the decorations the normal way? You know we all enjoy helping. Having a head start would have been great.”
Vanzir glanced over at Smoky, who looked ready to smack him. It didn’t take much to set Smoky off, especially when it came to Vanzir. But I reached out and stroked my dragon’s arm, and he pulled me through the snow, into his embrace, and kissed the top of my head.
“I won’t kill him. I promise, my love.”
“Good, because if anybody lays a hand on him and Roz, it’s going to be Menolly, Delilah, and me.” I kissed his hand, rubbing my face along his sleeve. My men all made me feel protected and safe, at least as much as that was possible with all that was going down in Otherworld.
Iris, however, had sputtered her temper out. She let out a loud sigh. “Honestly, the pair of you are more trouble than my babies. But I appreciate the sentiment.”
He flashed her a grateful smile as Roz returned, scroll tube in hand. He opened it, and handed Iris the parchment. There was a faint acrid odor surrounding the paper—the magic within had been triggered and it was now useless as an actual spell. Iris gingerly took the sheet and unrolled it. I peeked over her shoulder. The writing didn’t look familiar—though with runic script it was always harder to tell because runework needed to be precise.
Iris sniffed it. “Ice magic, as I thought. And . . . elf? Not quite . . . but not Fae either. Hmm, what was the witch’s background, Roz?”
Roz cleared his throat. “She’s actually Svartan.”
Trillian whirled around. “Svartan? Not many Svartans come over here to Earthside.”
He was right about that. In fact, Trillian was one of the few who had made more than a cursory appearance. Perhaps they visited more in the northern European countries—the legends of Svartalfheim had trickled down through Norse mythology over the years, and while they weren’t all that accurate, at least the northerners had remembered the dark elves. Most people assumed the Svartans were Fae in nature, but they were the more seductive, shadowy cousins of the elves. It didn’t help that their nickname was the Dark and Charming Fae.
For many years, Svartalfheim had made its home in the Subterranean Realms, but when Shadow Wing had taken over, they had packed up and moved, lock, stock, and barrel, back to Otherworld. Queen Asteria, the late Elfin Queen, had accepted their reemergence calmly, but the truth was that she and King Vodox had never gotten along. Now though, Vodox was doing his best to help Elqaneve—the Elfin capital—even though his own city had come under siege from the sentient storm that had destroyed the Elfin lands.
“So, a Svartan witch sold you this scroll. That’s highly unusual.” Trillian looked worried. Something had struck a chord, and I wanted to know what it was.
Vanzir shifted, glancing at Roz, then back at Trillian. “I thought as much. We seldom see your kind over here.”
“True.” Trillian frowned.
“Can you describe her?” I asked. “If she says she has met me and you tell me what she looks like, maybe I can remember something.” But truth was, I’d met few female Svartans. I had never been to Svartalfheim, and Trillian was one of a limited number who traveled widely away from their city.
Warily, Roz shrugged. “She had long hair the color of Trillian’s. I think . . . she was tall and thin. She had a scar above her left eye—for some reason that stood out. She said she met you at last month’s Supe Community Action Council meeting.”
Vanzir snapped his fingers. “Right! So, anyway, we always introduce ourselves to new members, and we got to talking. When we found out she was a witch and knew you, we asked her if she knew of any good magic shops in town. We told her what we were looking for and she recommended we go to Broom Stix. Do you have any clue who she is?” He glanced over at the portal.
The whole thing sounded bizarre. “She couldn’t have met me there last month because I haven’t been to a meeting since before September. Maybe she’s mistaken. And I’ve never heard of the store.” I turned to Trillian. “Any part of this ringing a bell?”
He shook his head. “I was afraid it might be my Aunt Seriana, but she doesn’t have any such sort of scar, and she’s short and plump. She’s one of the family matriarchs.” The look on his face was cold enough to freeze water. “She’s always hated the fact that, even though he disowned me for a number of reasons, my father never did anything to punish me for what she considered grievous insults to the family name.”
I caught a deep breath. Nobody else knew about Trillian’s background, as far as I was aware. I only had a spotty sense of his history. I did know that his family had hated me from the beginning. And they had never approved of Trillian’s gentler ways. He and his blood-oath brother Darynal were very much alike in that manner, both considered misfits in the Svartan society.
Trillian seldom discussed his family. My knowledge had come in dribs and drabs over the years. The Zanzera clan was composed of highly intelligent but harsh members. Cold and stern, with a disdain for anyone they perceived as weak, they didn’t welcome new members easily. And I wasn’t the daughter-in-law they had been hoping for.
Svartan society ran on a strong caste system, and Trillian’s family was upper crust. That he had chosen someone from outside his race and stature to become involved with was his first sin. His second, that he had chosen to marry for love rather than prestige and connections. Svartans usually married to cement social standing, and they took multiple lovers for fun and play. Love didn’t figure into their society all that much.
“So you bought the scroll from her?” I was trying to get things straight. The thought of a witch powerful enough to open a portal like this was f**king scary.
“No, we bought it at the store. She was there, reading cards for people, but the scroll was in their holiday section. The name of it was . . . let me think. Oh, NORTHERN HOLIDAY SURPRISE.” Roz glanced at the portal then slapped his head. “Uh oh. If I remember right, the scroll was sitting near a pile of scrolls labeled GAG GIFTS. Maybe . . .”
“Maybe it just rolled into the wrong pile? Or maybe somebody moved it when they saw you come in. Think . . . where was she when you entered the shop?”
Roz bit his lip, then let out a slow breath. “She was near the counter—right in front of the table. And she’s the one who pointed the scrolls out to us. She remembered us from the meeting.”
“I’d say that’s a strong coincidence.”
“Before we go any further with this, can you move the portal, Iris?” Menolly broke in, sounding irate. “We have to stop this snow or pretty soon another yeti is going to march through into our living room.”
Iris examined the scroll again. “I think I can move it, yes. It will shift it outside. Somewhere. I won’t be able to pick the spot, but—and this is important—remember, what I do won’t close down the portal. So you’ll have to track where it went, so that we can shut it down once we figure out how.”