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|Priestess Dreaming(Sisters of the Moon #16) by Yasmine Galenorn|
I turned to Derisa, all too aware that the storm wasn’t over yet. “You think the Merlin can help contain Yvarr?”
“The post of the Merlin is that of High Priest to the Hunter. Chaotic? Yes, but the forces of the earth are chaotic. He can help you contain Yvarr; he and others like him who wake to these turbulent times. And after taking on the wyrm, the Merlin might just be able to help you counter Telazhar. His powers are grounded deep in the earth.”
I closed my eyes. Legends had come to life before and left me disappointed. Morgaine—one of the supposed greatest sorceresses—was also a distant ancestral cousin, but she was corrupted with greed and I found it hard to trust her. Would the Merlin be different? I could only cling to a faint hope that he would. Whatever the case, we had no choice. With a creature like Yvarr on the loose, the world would be a far more dangerous place. If there was any way to contain him, we had to attempt it. Plus, the lingering thought that the Merlin might be able to take on Telazhar tantalized like the proverbial carrot and horse.
I cleared my throat. “There’s no question about it. I’ll go. Even though I have to take Bran and Morgaine with me. We need his help.”
The room fell silent as I stared at the table. The thought of traipsing off into the realm of the Elder Fae again was terrifying and gave me the cold sweats, but it was probably safer than Otherworld right now.
Don’t bet on it, a tiny voice inside whispered. Telazhar has nothing on the Elder Fae. Remember Yannie Fin Diver?
Another shudder raced through me. The freakazoid Elder Fae had chased Delilah and me down, determined to prove that we were his lunch.
“I have a question, and maybe it’s stupid but I don’t understand something.” Delilah broke the silence. “Why do you keep saying the Merlin? Isn’t his name just Merlin?”
Derisa cracked a grin. “No, my child. The Merlin is actually the title of a post—the post of the High Priest to the Hunter. The Father of the Druids is the son of the Earth Mother’s consort. Whoever holds the post, holds the title. But the men who wear that mantle are neither human nor Fae. For when they take the post, they are reborn into what they become. The men who are born to this post are groomed for it, a lot like the Dalai Lama—the boy is chosen when young and trained, when the reigning Merlin knows he’s nearing the end of his time.”
Delilah finished her cookie and reached for another one. I shook my head. My sister was a sugar freak and a junk food junkie. If she’d been fully human, the amount of crap she ate would probably have done her in. “So, was he human when he took the post?”
“When he was chosen to be the new Merlin, yes. But they undergo a dark and treacherous rite and this changes them. The Merlins live for thousands of years, although they can be killed. They are not kindly old men, they are not Gandalf of the Lord of the Rings, nor the wizard portrayed by The Sword in the Stone. Never, ever underestimate him.”
I turned to Delilah. “Think of the human pope—he takes a new name when he’s chosen to office. The world has been without the Merlin for so long, it will be interesting to see what changes when I find him and bring him back. If we manage the task. His presence gives the planet a strength . . . it’s hard to describe, but think of it this way. If Derisa here vanished from Otherworld for a couple of thousands of years, the Coterie of the Moon Mother would fall into shambles.”
“So the return of the Merlin could mean major shifts in the human pagan movement.” Delilah cocked her head. “That’s going to be interesting to see.”
“Yeah, providing he hasn’t jumped the shark. All we need is a crazed Druid sorcerer running around loose.” Even as I said it, I felt sick to my stomach. Unleashing old energies could be dangerous. But again—we didn’t seem to have much choice. Somehow, Yvarr had woken, and the Merlin was one of the few who could fight him.
“What do we call him when you find him?”
“His last known name was Myrddin and at one point, he was pretty much categorized as a crazed legend—a madman prophet. But we know how history goes.” I grinned. “It’s always written by the victors.”
“So, not only do we have a rogue portal open to the Northlands, but you’re going traipsing off into the realm of the Elder Fae to look for the Merlin.” Trillian drummed his fingers on the table. “And I’m still worried about Darynal.”
His blood-oath brother, along with another compatriot, was lost somewhere in the Shadow Lands, a region in Otherworld that separated the Southern Wastes from the eastern side of the major continent. There were ghosts there, volatile and angry, of thousands of people who had fled from the Scorching Wars. They had been hunted down and murdered, their bodies rotting into the land and fens. Restless spirits had taken hold in the Shadow Lands—giving rise to the name. They lingered there even now. And once again, Telazhar was leading an army across the land. This time, their rampage threatened to be far worse than the Scorching Wars.
“I know you want to go looking for him, but we . . .” I stopped. The danger was everywhere. We needed Trillian here, but Darynal was his blood brother. We had been arguing about this for almost three weeks, and it had gotten pretty loud and there had been several times when one of us had stormed out, slamming doors and the whole shebang. But now, how could I encourage him to stay here with me running off in search of the Merlin? And should I even try? He had a blood-oath debt to Darynal that preceded our connection.
A knot formed in the pit of my stomach, and, from somewhere far away, I heard myself say, “Go then. Go find him. But damn it, if you die I’m going to kick your balls till they’re blue.” I stared at him.
Trillian pressed his lips together, but the look in his eyes said everything.
“Are you sure?” Smoky turned to me. He seemed determined to put me on the spot today. “You are willing to allow this?”
With a sense of defeat, yet knowing that I was doing what was right, I shrugged. “What else can I do? This war in Otherworld isn’t going to end tomorrow. I have to go find a living legend. We have a portal leading to the Northlands cranking out monsters by the minute and we have no clue where it is right now. Chase still has bad guys he has to catch right here. Life is happening all around us. It won’t wait for the perfect time to spring things like this—nature is unfettered, and Fate weaves her own path without regard to our comfort. I hate that Trillian will be risking his life, but the fact is—Darynal? He would do the same for Trillian or for me. We owe him that much.”
Trillian swept around the table and gathered me in his arms. “My love, this means so much to me.”
“I know,” I whispered. “That’s why I’m telling you to go. Go find him. But damn you, come home to me. You understand? No dying. No getting hurt.”
“Understood.” He gave me another kiss, then straightened up. “I promise you, if I haven’t found him in two weeks, I’ll return. If I can’t find Darynal in that time, then chances are he’s dead. The Shadow Lands claim their victims without regard to the good in their heart.” Frowning, he crossed his arms over his chest. “I won’t go alone, either. I’ll find someone to take with me.”
“I’ll go.” Rozurial stepped forward. “I know Otherworld inside out. I have been in the Shadow Lands before, when I was hunting Dredge. And I have several . . . acquaintances in OW that owe me favors. I’ll call one or two of them in—they are trackers and bounty hunters. We’ll do best traveling with others used to the open road.”
Grateful to Roz, I beamed at him and he gave me a quiet wink. He knew how terrified I was at the thought of Trillian trekking off down to the Shadow Lands, and he knew just how dangerous that area was.
Trillian leaned over and clapped him on the shoulder. “I’m glad to have you with me. Honestly, if it were anybody but Darynal—well, anybody outside of this room—you wouldn’t catch me anywhere near that place.”
“When will you leave?” I reached out, took his hand and rubbed it gently against my cheek.
“Tonight, love. We’ll take the portal in the basement of the Wayfarer—that one’s pointed to Y’Elestrial.”
The Wayfarer, Menolly’s bar, had been torched and burned to the ground shortly before Samhain, killing a number of people in the process. We’d found out who did it and put an end to them, but now the bar was undergoing a total rebuild. Not renovation, there hadn’t been enough of it left to renovate. The basement had managed to stand intact, and part of the floor, but the bar had been destroyed. The workmen had gutted out all the burnt timbers and had started the new construction. Menolly was spending a lot of evenings talking to the architect about the new plans.
The portal in the basement had fared much better than the main floor, as had the safe room. Neither had been damaged and we’d managed to keep the fire marshal and his men from tripping through into Otherworld. Portals were common knowledge, though their exact locations were not.
The construction company promised that by the beginning of the year, Menolly would have a brand-new bar. She’d decided to nix the bed-and-breakfast angle and just go for a bigger, brighter kitchen and a new dance floor. Tavah—the guardian Menolly hired to keep watch over the portal at night—was still stationed there, only now there were two other guards on duty with her. And three during the day when Tavah slept. We’d begun to realize solo gigs were likely to end badly.
I let out a long breath. “So you leave tonight. Derisa, when do you want me to go?”
“Tomorrow afternoon, if you can. The sooner you find the Merlin, the better. We still have to convince him to work with us, though. Iampaatar is correct that Myrddin is . . . or was . . . capricious at best. The legends are filled with his tumultuous status.” She smoothed her cloak. “I will return tomorrow afternoon, late. Be ready. I will visit Talamh Lonrach Oll and bring Aeval and the others with me. Neither Bran nor Morgaine and her crew know about the journey yet.”
“They’re going to be ever so overjoyed, no doubt.” I had no illusions about the pair’s reaction to the news. Neither one of them liked me—Morgaine because I would not throw my allegiance in with her, and Bran because . . . well, I’d killed his father. Even though it had been at the Black Unicorn’s decree—and even though he had been reborn and was now running free and growing strong again—my sacrifice of the father of the Dahns Unicorns hadn’t gone down well. Bran was an ally only so far as it met his agenda.
“Then I will take my leave. On the way out, I’ll recalibrate the portal out in your backyard. And I will warn your guards.”
Suddenly so tired I could barely think, I stood and curtseyed deep. She brushed my forehead with a kiss and then vanished out the back door.
Turning to the others, I shook my head. “Can’t we even go on a shopping trip without drama of some sort?”
“Speaking of shopping, I’ve sorted the bags in the parlor room. Some things were ruined, others look like they made it through without wear and tear.” Nerissa entered the kitchen. “I’m afraid I missed everything that was going on. Bring me up to speed, somebody?” Menolly’s wife was a gorgeous Amazon of a woman. As Iris began to run down what had happened with Derisa, I pushed myself to my feet.
Making my way upstairs, I passed by Vanzir and Hanna, who were finishing the cleanup of the living room. The heat was turned up, and the place was a mess, but overall, I thought most everything but the electronics would make it through okay.
Trillian, Smoky, and Morio followed me to our suite. I wanted to shout at Trillian for taking me up on my offer that he go find Darynal, but I knew all too well: If you tell someone it’s okay if they do something, don’t whine when they accept the challenge.
As we silently filed into our bedroom, I turned to them. “I don’t want to talk about Trillian’s trip. I don’t want to talk about going to find the Merlin.” Then, after a pause, I added, “This might be . . . Trillian’s going to be gone for a while. I want to spend some time with him alone.” As I gazed at Smoky and Morio, they quietly nodded and withdrew. The sofas in my study were comfortable and they could rest there for a while. Grateful they understood, I waited till they left, closing the door behind them.
Trillian moved silently toward me. “Thank you—for wanting time alone. For wanting to be with me before I go.” He nodded toward the bed and I crawled on it with him. I usually was with all of my husbands, I preferred it that way—but this time . . . just in case, I needed to be with Trillian before he left for the Shadow Lands. The thought that he might not return weighed too heavy in my mind.
I slipped out of my clothes and into a loose, sheer nightgown. Trillian undressed. He was fine. As he stripped off his turtleneck, his strong, dark pecs rippled, and my gaze followed his chest down to the six-pack abs that were lean and tight, then to that smooth V that disappeared beneath the front of his jeans.
He reached back, loosened his hair out of the braid and it fell to his elbows, the silvery-cerulean strands smooth and glossy. His ice blue eyes glistened, such a contrast to his gleaming obsidian skin. Trillian seemed aloof if you didn’t know him, but beneath that cool exterior, his nature seethed with passion and a fierce intensity that could easily overpower anyone who had a weak nature.
The passion between Svartan and Fae could reach critical mass very quickly. Both races possessed intensely sexual natures; the chemistry was like electroshock at times—high-voltage sex. And even though I was only half-Fae, I took after my father’s people. Sex was as necessary as breathing was for me.