|Home > Yasmine Galenorn > Sisters of the Moon > Priestess Dreaming (Page 5)|
|Priestess Dreaming(Sisters of the Moon #16) by Yasmine Galenorn|
I groaned. A rogue portal, open somewhere in the Seattle area, spewing out snow and winter creatures. “Recipe for disaster, but it’s not going to be any better if we let the snow destroy our house.”
“Somehow, I don’t think we’re going to have a problem with finding it. We’ll just have to follow the snowstorm and mess of ice demons—or whatever those things are—that will be spreading out around the city.” Delilah shrugged. “I vote to relocate it. Right now!”
There was a movement within the portal and we heard a low growl. I scrambled. “No more discussion. Iris—what do you need in order to move this sucker out of here? Maybe in the transfer, whatever it is will get stuck between dimensions.”
Iris snorted. “We can hope. What do I need? My Aqualine crystal wand, a cup of sea salt, three holly leaves, and a few drops of Winter Solstice water—I have some in my house. I’ll go get the water and my wand. Camille, would you gather the holly leaves and the sea salt?”
I nodded, heading toward the door. Hell, at this rate, it would be warmer outside than inside. Morio came with me. He was trying not to laugh, but the minute we cleared the porch, he cracked up.
“I can’t believe those two. Yes, they were stupid, but they meant well.” His eyes crinkled as he winked at me. “You can’t blame them too much.”
“Oh can’t we? They’ve opened a rogue portal, unleashing dangerous creatures and swamping our house with snow. But it’s not that I’m worried about. Not at the moment.”
“The witch?” He sobered.
“Yes. She lied about meeting me, and seems to be trying to steer me to her shop—if it is her shop. And if she targeted Roz and Vanzir at the Supe Community Action Council, you know she had to have already done her research. She had to know that they’re good friends of mine.”
I didn’t particularly believe in coincidence, and, while someone lying about knowing me wasn’t necessarily indicative of any nefarious activity, the whole thing just felt off. Some events seemed too planned, too precise to be a quirky coincidence. This was one of those times.
“Is there a way to find out?” Morio pointed to the big holly nestled in our backyard. “Did you bring shears?”
“I have my dagger, that will do the trick. As far as discovering the hows of this . . . I suppose I could just go visit the shop and take the direct route. But first things first. Move the portal. Figure out the damage. And then, we cope with whoever fueled this mess.”
I must have sounded ready to crack some skulls, because Morio turned to me. “They really didn’t mean for this to happen, love.”
Sighing, I shrugged. “Oh, I know Vanzir and Roz meant well. They wouldn’t hurt us. It’s just . . . so damned much has gone wrong and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of always feeling ten steps behind. I’m tired of everything leading to the hard road. For once, I want something to be easy, to go smooth without feeling like we’re digging through a mountain of obstacles.”
“I know.” He kissed my forehead. “I understand.”
“I don’t like to whine, but after everything that’s happened the past few months, I feel like I have the right. I just want to breathe for a moment, to rest and have some fun and not worry about who’s going to die next, and who’s out to kill us.”
We came to the holly tree and I unsheathed my dagger. Since we were gathering leaves for magical purposes, I knelt on the frost-laden ground beside the outmost branches and dropped into a trance. I had the ability to commune with trees and plants to some degree—though it was harder over Earthside than back in Otherworld. As I drifted in that dreamy state that bordered full consciousness, I reached out to the tree and connected with its spirit.
“We need some of your leaves for a spell. Do you mind?”
The tree shifted—or rather, its essence did. And then, quietly, a murmured whisper brushed past my mind, kissing me gently with winter’s embrace. “Take what you need, Priestess.”
As I began to cleanly sever the leaves from the bough, a keening broke the stillness. I forced myself to focus on my task—magical work required focus, whether it was gathering the components for a spell or actually casting it. But Morio jumped up, turning to see what might be coming our way.
As I finished my harvest and tucked the leaves in the small basket I’d brought with me, Morio gasped. Quickly, I turned to see what the matter was.
The air was shimmering a few yards away. Another portal? But it couldn’t be. No, this had to be something else. We slowly began to edge forward. I thought maybe we’d be wise to go summon backup, but the truth was, by the time we reached the door, whatever it was would already be here. We might as well wait to find out what was coming our way.
Morio pulled out his own dagger, and I kept mine at the ready. The air shifted and moved, rippling like pleated plastic. And then, a hole in the fabric of space opened—a black abyss, with sparkling gold and silver lights darting through it. And out of that hole stepped a tall man.
He towered at least eight feet tall, with burly muscles to match, and he wore a long dusky green velvet cloak trimmed with dark fur. Around his head, a wreath of holly encircled the wild tangle of brown hair streaked with gray that cascaded down his back. His beard, an anarchistic tangle of curls, was so long it reached his chest. The cloak he wore reached the ground, but beneath the edge, he was wearing brown leather boots—tied with a leather thong. And in one hand, he held a tall spear. In the other, he carried a lamp filled with sparkling lights.
The Holly King. Oh shit. Santa in the flesh. Only Santa wasn’t the gentle kindly soul he was in Earthside legends. No, the Holly King could be ruthless, and he ruled over the darker half of the year, bringing frost and cold and death to the land. One of the Immortals, he was one of the primary Elemental Lords, like the Autumn Lord.
As he stood there, staring down at us, I flashed back to when I was a little girl. I’d met this man once, long, long ago when I was very young. I’d gone hunting for him through the city, and when I found him, he was actually quite gentle with me, compared to his usual nature.
Mother had still been alive and when she found out what I’d done—one of the neighbors had spotted me in the tavern at the Holly King’s table where he was resting and taken me home—she’d blistered my butt. I couldn’t sit down for hours.
Now, he stared down at us, and then let out a rich belly laugh. “Well, well. Camille Sepharial te Maria. I haven’t seen you in a long time. You were knee high to a jackrabbit when last we met.”
I managed to stammer out a squeaky “You remember me?”
He snorted. “Remember you? Oh, I remember all the girls I meet. And you, my dear, were a brave and foolish little witch. So, why have you summoned me? What do you want?”
And with that, I realized we were rapidly writing ourselves onto Santa’s naughty list. Because summoning an Elemental Lord for no reason? So not a good idea. I glanced at Morio, who looked as frightened as I was, and scrambled for something to say.
“We didn’t realize we had summoned you.” Morio spoke up, saving me the trouble.
The Holly King’s eyes narrowed as he glanced around the yard. “Where is your snow? This puny covering? Nothing to speak of. You’re not having much of a winter.”
“This is what winter is here, thank you.” I didn’t want him getting any bright ideas and gifting us with a blizzard. “But we have more than enough inside our house. I don’t know how we summoned you, my lord, but it was unintentional and I beg your forgiveness.”
Always best to apologize when you disturbed someone more powerful than a god. And the Elemental Lords? So much more powerful. Only they, along with the Harvestmen and Hags of Fate, were the true Immortals. Even gods could die. But the Elemental Lords were beyond the scope of life and death. They simply were.
Morio coughed. “We were just cutting some holly for a spell . . .”
“That wasn’t what brought me here. I saw the beacon shining and followed the path.” He stroked his whiskers, staring at us. “You opened a door into my realm. I’d like to know why.”
“Your realm?” Oh hell—the portal! The Holly King must live in the Northlands! It made sense, and if the portal was, indeed, acting as a beacon, we were in deep trouble until we figured out a way to shut the door.
But before I could say another world, Smoky came racing across the yard. “You need to get the leaves and salt to Iris, pronto. We have a situation on our hands.” He skidded to a halt, staring at the Holly King.
“We kind of have a situation going on out here, too.” I turned back to the Holly King. “I’m sorry, but I have to run. We’re kind of in an emergency-sort-of-thing, because of the portal that accidentally opened. The door into your realm. I have to get back inside. Please, with no disrespect intended, as we said, summoning you was an accident. Don’t feel you have to stay on our account.”
But the Holly King wasn’t ready to be dismissed. He chuckled. “You have aroused my curiosity, Camille. I think . . . I think that I shall stay for a while to catch up on what’s going on in your world. Yes, now that I think of it, I could use a vacation and some time to play.” And with that, he vanished, but I had the feeling he hadn’t gone far.
“Fuck.” I stared at the spot where he’d been standing. “Okay, well, no time to speculate. Let’s get these leaves back to Iris. What’s going on?” Morio and I began jogging alongside Smoky back to the house.
“Snow imps. A whole band of them rushed through and out the front door. They’re loose now, and more are attempting to push their way into the world. Even when we move the portal, the city is going to be hopping with them.” He let out a grumble.
“I know next to nothing about the creatures. What are they?”
“The damnedest little freaks—snow imps are . . . think malicious gremlins who aren’t deadly like goblins or snow demons, but who love to stir up trouble.” He spat on the ground as we neared the house. “They’re vermin—a pestilence in the Northlands and Dragon Reaches.”
“Oh great. So we have yeti and barbegazi and amaroks running around, as well as snow imps and snow demons and pixies and other creatures we don’t even recognize, and there’s nothing we can do at the moment to keep them out of the city. This is just getting better and better.”
“That about sums it up.” Morio reached the porch first, with Smoky following and me behind him.
As we burst into the kitchen, I pushed past them and, grabbing the box of sea salt on my way, skidded into the living room with the holly leaves. “Here, leaves and salt,” I said, thrusting them at Iris, who was standing there, in her blue gown and white fur cloak, with her Aqualine crystal wand.
She said nothing, just took them and laid the holly leaves on the snow in front of the portal. Dez and Shade were standing on either side of her, keeping an eye out for any wandering monsters who might take it into their heads to crash our little party.
She motioned for us to move back and then, kneeling in the snow, circled the holly leaves with a ring of salt. After that, she sprinkled the solstice water over them. Then, holding her Aqualine crystal wand over the runes, she began to whisper softly. A flurry of snow rose from inside the ring of salt and it carried the holly leaves aloft, buoying them up and sending them spiraling into the air. The next moment, the mouth of the portal rippled as the leaves were swept through it, into the shimmer of energy, and a loud explosion rocked the house, sending me tumbling sideways.
Frantic memories of the sentient storm in Elqaneve crowded in and my first thought was to scramble for shelter—duck and cover. But a moment later, it was as if some giant vacuum sucked the portal out of the room, leaving us and the snow and the remnants of the singing energy.
“Where did it go?” Delilah asked in a hushed voice.
“I have no idea.” Iris slowly stood, shaking the snow off her dress and cloak. “That’s our next task, after we get rid of this mess in here.” She stared at the drifts lining the room, and the gaudy decorations, and mutely shook her head.
Vanzir and Roz pushed their way forward. They’d been whispering.
“We’ll take care of this,” Roz said. “We’ll clean up everything. Just go get some rest and we’ll clear out the living room and do whatever it takes to dry it out.” The look on his face softened my heart. He was so upset that he looked like a whipped puppy. He knelt by Iris. “I’m so sorry, Iris—we never meant for this to happen.”
I wanted to remind him that this was our house we were talking about, our house that he and Vanzir had made a mess of, but the fact that he had a raging crush on Iris made me relent.
“You do know the Holly King is now wandering around Seattle? This whole mess summoned him, too, and boy did we have a fun time trying to explain why we’d called him here. So we have a rogue portal to find, an Elemental Lord who’s decided to take a holiday here, and a bunch of critters racing around looking to cause havoc.” Exhausted, I wanted nothing more than to drop into the rocking chair, but the rocker was buried under a mound of snow.
So instead, I slogged back through the white stuff, into the kitchen, which was clear of the winter storm if still icy cold. There was a rocking chair there, too. Somebody needed to go downstairs and tell Hanna that it was safe, but it wasn’t going to be me.
Vanzir wandered into the kitchen behind me, Menolly behind him. She opened the steel door leading down to her lair and vanished. Vanzir swung a chair around and straddled the seat, leaning on the back of it as he stared at me.