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|Priestess Dreaming(Sisters of the Moon #16) by Yasmine Galenorn|
“I’ve got it!” I picked up the phone. It was Chase. He had to work today.
“Camille—we have a problem.”
Lovely. Just what I wanted to hear. “Okay, spill it dude. What is it this time? Zombies in the cemetery? Ghosts in the Greenbelt Park District?”
“Not exactly. There’s . . . well . . . there’s a pack of crazed pixies yukking it up in downtown Seattle. They’re harassing a group of people trying to watch the parade. Turn on the TV.”
Uh oh. If it was on television, it was bad. “I can’t right now—we need to let it dry out or it will short circuit, if it even still works. The snowstorm in our living room last night, remember?”
“Right—how could I forget. Okay, well, here’s the deal. The Black Friday parade? Sponsored by Engrams Department Store? It started at noon and no sooner did the first floats hit the streets when a group of pixies decided to have a field day. They’re out there dive-bombing the people along the street with pixie dust, and most of the people are getting stoned. I have a free-for-all going on. Streakers, brawlers, it’s worse than the St. Paddy’s parade. I need you to corral the pixies while our men corral the afflicted.”
Great. Just great. A bunch of pixies were going all frat-boy Animal House on the parade. Just what we needed. With a long sigh, I told Chase we’d be right there, and hung up.
“All hands on deck, we have to hit the road.” I rushed back into the kitchen, only to be met by a series of hostile stares. Nobody wanted to hear this. Hell, I didn’t even want to hear this. “Well, not all hands. We’re going into this personnel-light.”
“Right. Menolly’s down for the day. Trillian and Roz should rest before they leave, Vanzir and Nerissa are out somewhere.” Delilah pushed herself to her feet. “That leaves you, me, Morio, Smoky, and Shade.”
“We’ll have to make do, then. Somebody has to watch over the house. Smoky can stay with Iris and Hanna. You get Shade, I’ll get Morio. There’s a group of pixies waging war on pedestrians out watching the Engrams Black Friday parade. We’re talking pixie dust, which, apparently, means nekkid FBHs and punch-drunk brawlers.”
Even as I said it, the situation sounded ludicrous. Pixies tended to be nasty. Most of them were little thieves and they liked to cause havoc, but they seldom deliberately caused death. Mayhem, however? They thrived on it. We’d tangled with groups of them before.
Delilah stared at me. “Pixie dust, huh? Um, remember, you’ve been doused with it a couple of times before, so you’re extra susceptible. Last night, then back when we first met Mistletoe.”
“I miss him, and Feddrah-Dahns. I wonder what they’re up to.” Feddrah-Dahns was heir to the throne in Dahnsburg, the Crypto city run by the Dahns Unicorns. His best buddy was Mistletoe, one of the least objectionable pixies we’d met. Actually, I liked Mistletoe, though it kind of irked me to say so, given my general distaste for the creatures.
“Probably coordinating the armies. They sent help to Elqaneve, remember?” She fell silent, then shook her head and headed out of the room, toward the staircase.
The thought of Feddrah-Dahns and Mistletoe being swept into the war made me unaccountably sad. Unicorns were dangerous creatures, and they could be deadly foes. Logically, Feddrah-Dahns was probably more apt to stick it to the enemy rather than be harmed, but that didn’t change the fact that he was a friend who was in the line of fire.
Hanna was watching me as Iris opened the oven and pulled out another batch of cookies. The Northlands woman gave me a soft smile.
“Your friends are strong. They will weather through. Now find Morio, and go help the people who need you.”
Grateful for her innate understanding, I gave the stoic woman a smile. Hanna was pragmatic, and she was a good foil against fear. She’d helped me escape one of the worst situations I’d ever been in, and she’d done so at a great cost. We had developed an odd bond because of that.
“Right.” I scooted over to the window facing the front of the house and opened it. Smoky and Morio were still outside; now they were clearing the gutters. They’d probably gotten clogged with the last of the leaves blowing off the trees during the storm of the other night. Western Washington was prone to nasty windstorms.
“Morio, get your ass in here. Chase needs us. Smoky, please stay here and watch over the house. We don’t want to wake Roz or Trillian just yet, not until it’s time for them to leave for Otherworld.”
As both men traipsed in the back door, I quickly ran down what was going on. By then, Delilah and Shade were back in the kitchen and, after I changed out my stilettos for a pair of ankle boots with kitten heels, we headed out.
“Let’s take my car.” I held up my keys as we clattered down the porch steps. “There are only four of us.” Glancing up at the sky, I shivered. The clouds were banked up, and had an odd sheen to them. The smell of ozone was in the air and I groaned. “Ten to one, snow’s on the way. It’s cold enough for it.”
“Don’t say that.” Delilah sighed. “I’m riding shotgun.”
We headed over to my Lexus. The men jumped in the back. As she climbed into the passenger seat, Delilah tossed me my dagger over the roof of the car. I caught it and, pulling back the slit of my dress, strapped the sheath to my thigh. Easy access. I usually changed clothes before going out on a mission, but we were chasing down a group of pixies in a parade. This wasn’t likely to turn into a knock-down drag-out fight. I grinned at her as I started the ignition.
“You ready to rumble?”
She let out a burp. “Well, apparently my stomach is.”
“Too many cookies.” I laughed. “Okay then, let’s go kick us some pixie ass.”
Sure enough, as I pulled out of the driveway and maneuvered onto the street, a fine layer of snow began to fall. Wondering if it were due to the rogue portal Iris had managed to banish, I guided the car down the road as we headed out to save the parade.
* * *
The streets of Belles-Faire were a mess—throngs of people out shopping for the holidays as well as the noontide crowd of business people, scurrying off to lunch. If it were this bad in Belles-Faire, then Seattle proper would be even worse.
The mixture of traffic, falling snow, and people jaywalking always made for treacherous conditions in the Pacific Northwest. Yes, the sudden snow was always an upset. No, we usually didn’t get much most years, though the past few, it seemed like we’d gotten slammed by storms. But in general, enough snow fell that one would think Seattleites would realize that, no, it wasn’t a good idea to barrel through the steep streets in their giant SUVs like it was any other overcast day. Drivers either were overconfident, or they panicked and traffic slowed to a crawl. Either way, both extremes caused snarls and accidents.
As we neared the Belles-Faire strip mall, I cautiously skirted a small mini that had swerved off the road. The tiny car had slid into a ditch. I slowed down and Delilah opened her window to make certain the driver was okay, but the guy inside held up his cell phone and waved us on.
“Those clown cars are dangerous.” Morio leaned forward. “They don’t have enough weight or traction to keep them on the road.”
“I dunno about that, but if driving in this weather? Best to slow down. The skid marks behind that car pretty much say he was zooming along. At least he doesn’t seem hurt.” Delilah rolled up her window again. “Look on the bright side. Maybe the snow will drown the enthusiasm of the pixies.”
“Well, it may stop traffic but I doubt it will stop the parade.” I flashed her a grin. “Around here, not much stops for anything but a full-scale West Coaster.” There really wasn’t a comparable term to Nor’easter, but we got our fair share of violent windstorms and floodwater rainstorms. When they had to close the 520 Evergreen Point Floating Bridge to sustained winds of over fifty miles an hour, that’s when people tended to slow down and stay home.
As we entered the northern edge of Seattle proper, I asked Delilah to consult the Seattle Traffic app on her phone. Not only did it show major blockages, but it showed alerts as to streets that were closed and detours—a good thing considering the parade would undoubtedly have caused major route changes.
“We’re on Aurora, right? Follow it down and turn onto Seventh Avenue, then continue till we get to Lenora Street. Turn right, and then follow the route down to Alaskan Way and Pike Place Market. The parade is being held in that area, so we’ll have to park in the Pike Place Market parking garage and go from there. Where did Chase say to meet him?”
“The pixies are congregating around Western Avenue, in back of the market.”
Oh joy, that was going to make for a lovely trip. “It figures. Okay, let’s keep alert. You know traffic’s going to be a bitch.” As I pulled into the chaos of the Seattle city streets, I sucked in a deep breath. Driving in the city—so not fun. But then again, neither was hunting pixies.
By the time we had navigated to Pike Place Market through the maze of two-way streets that suddenly turned into one-way streets, down the slippery hills that gave Seattle its nickname of “Little San Francisco,” and through the pedestrians that believed in their right of way regardless of the oncoming cars, I was about ready to pull my hair out. There were some seriously self-entitled people in this city, and I wanted to throttle a good dozen of them who had cut me off in their rush to evade the snowflakes now steadily drifting down.
This was no blinding whiteout, or even a heavy snowfall, but a steady skiff was building up on the grassy areas and around the base of the trees. I eased into the parking garage and wound my way up to level four before we managed to find one single parking spot. As we hustled out of the car, the rush of holiday shoppers wove a steady tapestry of motion around us. I let out a little sigh. I thought I was done with my shopping, but here we were, on Black Friday proper, ready to dive into the crowds.
Hurry up—they’re going nuts out here! The text from Chase might be words only, but I could imagine the panic rising.
I texted back, We’re on the way—we’re heading over from the parking garage.
We sped up to a jog, threading our way through the milling throng of bad holiday sweaters. People were chattering about the snow, and all around us I heard the ever-present complaints about how many people were out on Black Friday.
I had the desire to shout out, “If you didn’t want to deal with the crowds, why the f**k are you here?” but decided that sometimes, keeping my mouth shut was the better choice.
We made our way to the elevator and hit the button labeled WESTERN AVENUE. Unlike most elevators, the ones here didn’t use numbers, but instead place names to identify the destination. The elevator was crowded, but our fellow riders seemed leery, and they left a little ring of open space around us, crowding to the back. I glanced around, and one woman gave me a bright smile, after the startled look that said she didn’t think we’d deign to notice her.
“Are you . . . are you from Otherworld?” Her question was hesitant, but friendly.
I chuckled. “Yes, we are. Well, my sister and I are.” I didn’t want to hit her up with the fact that Shade was half-dragon, or that Morio was anything but a mesmerizingly cute Japanese guy. I didn’t think she’d be able to handle it.
“You look so . . . so human and yet, you don’t.” She seemed to be thinking out loud, but unless she started insulting us, I didn’t care. In the past few years since our arrival, we’d gone from being novelty superstars, to being not routine but part of the landscape.
“Well, Delilah and I are half-human, so you’re half right.” I flashed her a smile in return. “So, how goes your holiday shopping?”
At that, the whole elevator crew seemed to exhale a pent-up breath and people started talking about the craziness of the holidays and the struggles to find just the right gift, and by that time, we were at our destination. As we filed off the elevator, Delilah and I gave them a little wave.
“Happy holidays!” I called out as the doors closed. A little good PR never hurt anybody.
As we headed out into the street, crossing a brick courtyard leading to Western Avenue, the sounds of the parade assaulted us with all the fury of a deranged high school marching band. Sure enough, the West Sound High School was out there, but instead of playing whatever it was they had been scheduled to play, the marching band was making a raucous cacophony loud enough to wake the dead, and nobody was playing the same song. As the street came fully into sight, I stopped cold.
The band was out there all right, running around with their instruments, in their skivvies. That’s right—the entire fifty-piece marching band had stripped down to their underwear and were having a high old time. Pixie dust sparkled in the air. But a bunch of half-naked high school students were the least of our worries. Over on the other side of the street, a major tussle was underway and I could see Chase’s men trying to calm the multiplayer action.
At the center of the group, Santa—not the Holly King but a department store special—was holding his own. I had the disconcerted feeling that he’d been the one to start the whole mess. Kids were crying as they watched Santa throw punches right and left, and he, himself, had one hell of a shiner. He was joined by one of his elves—again, the holiday type, not an elf from Elqaneve, and inexplicably, Batman plunged into the fray. Oh wait! Not just Batman, but Chewbacca along with him.
Well, weren’t we just the happy united-league-of-freaks here?
It wasn’t clear just who anybody was fighting. For all I knew, they were beating up on whoever came within reach. Mothers were crying, screaming about their kids, and at least one leather-clad woman had shoved her two-year-old into his father’s arms and was joining the pileup.