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|Priestess Dreaming(Sisters of the Moon #16) by Yasmine Galenorn|
A moment later, Morio dragged his ass to a sitting position, and Smoky followed suit. They were both cross-legged under the covers with me.
“Woman, why are you waking us up at this infernal hour?” Smoky was grumbly—he seldom got that way with me, but he liked his sleep.
“Because Tanne found the portal that Iris zapped out of the living room. Or at least, he thinks he did. And we’d better get over there and check it out. It’s in Yagur Park—on the Eastside.”
“Yeah, I guess we’d better.” Morio yawned, his goatee twitching as he stretched. “Okay, out of bed.”
I slipped out of bed and wandered over to the window. In the darkness of the winter morning, both Smoky and Morio cut fine figures, honed, chiseled muscles . . . and yet, they had their scars from battles past. They weren’t perfect, which suited me fine. Perfection was an illusion—a myth.
“I think a shower is in order.” Smoky pushed me toward the door. “Go. I’ll take one downstairs. Morio, you share with Camille this morning. But no play. Camille is right, we don’t have time. There are far deadlier foes in the Northlands than you can imagine—ones that make those we’ve already fought off look like playful kittens.”
I shuddered. “I don’t doubt it.”
Smoky pressed his lips together for a moment, then, with a slow sigh, shrugged on a bathrobe. “Camille, be cautious. This wyrm . . . he is dangerous.”
Shaking his head, he caught me by the shoulders, a worried look in his eye. “No, you don’t know. You don’t realize just how dreadful these creatures are. The ancient wyrms are chaotic and rapacious. They will not be denied. They have no sense of right or wrong, they act solely on whim. They are far more grasping than Hyto was.”
The seriousness of his tone nixed any good mood I had going for me. “I’ll remember,” I promised.
Hyto had left me scarred with nightmares, as well as a few physical marks that hadn’t faded away. There were lashes on my back that would never vanish, but thankfully I didn’t have to see them. If the wyrms were more dangerous than he was, we were in for one hell of a fight.
“Are they psycho like he was?”
Smoky shook his head. “Not in the way you think of it, but the ancient wyrms tend to be greedy beyond all human scope, and they have no consciences.”
Morio headed toward the door. “So get a move on. Lather up and rinse off. I’ll ask Hanna to wake Delilah when I go downstairs.”
“Ask her to contact Iris, too. I think we should take her with us, if she’s willing to go.” Since Iris had been the one to move the portal in the first place, she might be able to pick up on anything we should know.
As Morio and I hit the shower, the hot water massaging my back, I tried not to think about what might have already come through the portal. The possibilities were not the stuff warm, fuzzy feelings were made from. As I rinsed off and gave Morio a light kiss, I could only hope that the portal had remained unused since the pixies bolted through. But somehow, in the pit of my stomach, I had the feeling that wasn’t the case.
We were out the door half an hour later, Delilah, Shade, and Iris with us. Nobody was in a good mood being up so early. Well, Iris was used to it, but that didn’t mean she liked it any more than the rest of us. Hanna had quickly pulled together breakfast sandwiches for us to eat on the go—English muffins, sausage patties, and cheese. Along with peanut butter cookies, they were waiting for us when we trooped downstairs, dressed and ready to go.
“Thanks, Hanna. You’re wonderful.” I scooped up the brown paper bag full of food and we headed toward the door.
“Miss Menolly went to bed just a few minutes ago. Sunrise won’t be for another hour but she wanted to spend some time with Miss Nerissa—her workday starts early.” Hanna was already frying up bacon. A moment later, Chase appeared through the kitchen door. He and Nerissa had taken to carpooling into work together, except when one or the other had errands to do after work.
“I smell bacon,” he said. “You guys want me to go with you? Iris told me what you found out.”
“No, you go on to work with Nerissa. We’ll take care of this and let you know what we find out.” I walked over to Chase, placing my hand on his shoulder. “I have to leave before you get back. I’m taking Delilah and Morio with me. Help Smoky watch over all of them for us, would you?”
I had a feeling this journey was going to take me a long way into the mists, and even though I’d have my sister and Morio with me, a cloud had settled over my mood. The Merlin was unpredictable. Even when—if—we found him, there was no guarantee he’d agree to help us.
“I’ll watch over them. Everything will be all right, Camille. Trillian will be fine, too.” As if he were looking into my heart, rather than hearing my words, Chase pulled me close and gave me a hug. We’d started out at odds when we first met, but now we were good friends, and I was fond of the detective.
“Thanks, dude. Just take care of yourself and your daughter, too.”
“I hate to break this up, but we better get our butts to Yagur Park and see what we can find out.” Delilah leaned over my shoulder, grinning at Chase. “Have a good day, and tell Nerissa we said hi.”
Chase winked at her. “Aye, aye, Pussycat.” He and Delilah had been lovers for a while, but it hadn’t worked out. Now, they were just good friends.
We took two cars—Delilah’s Jeep and my Lexus. Smoky rode with Morio and me. Iris and Vanzir, who had opted to come instead of Shade, were with Delilah. Shade would stay with Hanna. Before we left, I texted Tanne to meet us at the park.
The morning commute was starting, but we were still early enough to miss the worst of it. Half an hour later and we’d be stuck in gridlock.
The Eastside—part of the Greater Seattle Metropolitan area—consisted of a number of cities ranging from thirty thousand to well over one hundred thousand people. All were on the east side of Lake Washington, and included Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Issaquah, Mercer Island, Woodinville, and several other cities. Altogether, the GSMA—including Seattle—contained a population of over three and a half million people.
The land was rich and lush, thick with trees and moss and fern, with deep ravines leading into a tangle of detritus at their bottom. Streams, from full-blown whitewater rapids to trickling brooks ran through narrow channels everywhere. Seattle and its sister-cities were bordered to the east by the Cascade Mountain Range. High glacial peaks, the chain of mountains was still highly volcanic, and very much alive and awake. Old, deep magic inhabited the mountains, trickling down into the cities and infiltrating the woodlands and parks.
On the west, Seattle buttressed up against Puget Sound, a long, wide inlet of water coming in from the Pacific Ocean via the Strait of Juan de Fuca. A complex series of channels, the Sound was considered an estuary and had long ago been carved by the glaciers that covered the land. The same glaciers, during their retreat, had left large swaths of boulders in the mountains known as alluvial deposits. We’d encountered several in our adventures.
There were several ways to get over to Woodinville, and we opted to go around the northern tip of Lake Washington rather than drive all the way down to the 520 Floating Bridge. We eventually ended up on Woodinville Drive and then, on State Route 522, which took us right into Woodinville.
The town itself wasn’t very big, and we navigated through the downtown area, then out into the suburbs, which were much more rural. With the GPS directing me, we wound our way through the trees and neighborhoods, which were now sparser and interspersed with patches of undeveloped land.
172nd turned into 165th and we continued along the two-lane road, past thick swatches of woodland and what now appeared to be farmhouses. To the right, power lines ran along the road, and very little shoulder meant that if we had to pull off, we’d have to find a driveway or turnoff.
We finally reached the intersection of 165th and Avondale Road NE. I idled at the red light, grimacing as the traffic on the opposite—going south—began to build up. Rush hour, definitely. Thank gods we were going against it. Turning onto Avondale, we continued along, turning on several more streets, until we came to the sign for Yagur Park. We eased our way along the drive, which was hidden between large, sprawling homes that surrounded Cottage Lake. As we pulled into the parking lot, I noticed it was snowing lightly.
There were other parks around the lake, but this was the most secluded. Sixty-three acres in size, the lake was four miles east of Woodinville. Yagur Park was heavily wooded, with a play area for children, and a roped-off swimming site. As we stepped out of the car, I noticed another car nearby. It was a small Volkswagen. A moment later, Tanne opened the driver’s door and stepped out.
He gave me a quick salute. “I think it’s over there, beyond that stand of trees.” I shaded my eyes against the powdery snow and squinted at the stand of cedar and fir that were lining the lake. In truth, the snow looked heavier over in that direction. Considering that the portal had caused a snowstorm in our living room, it made sense that it was lowering the temperature and turning the morning drizzle into snowflakes.
“Let’s go.” Smoky swung into the lead, and Morio and I followed behind him. Iris came next, and Delilah and Vanzir brought up the rear. As we crossed the picnic area, a sense of desolation fell over me. Yagur Park wasn’t well known, and while it was maintained by the city, winter kept most parks in the Seattle area vacant and silent. Even when we didn’t have snow, the rain drove people indoors. As we neared the stand of trees, the snow grew more intense and the temperature began to drop.
“This is magical cold.” Smoky turned around. “I can feel the energy of the Northlands from here.”
Iris concurred. “He’s right. The portal must be through here. I’m just not sure what we’re going to do once we find it. I can move it again but that isn’t going to do us any good. However, maybe we’ll be able to figure something out that we couldn’t before. We were just in a hurry to get it out of the living room. Maybe we overlooked something.”
“I wonder if the Triple Threat can help. Aeval used to be the Winter Queen before the Courts split away from Summer and Winter. I can always ask her before we leave tonight.” I didn’t want to think about the fact that she’d be bringing Bran and Morgaine with her, or that I’d be stuck with them on my journey. Which brought me to another point. “Delilah, are you sure you want to go with me? Morio’s going, but there’s nothing that says you have to come.”
“Of course I am. I was there when Yannie Fin Diver attacked us. So, I’m sure as hell not about to let you traipse off with Morgaine and Bran without me along. I don’t trust either one of them farther than I can throw them. Especially not around you. Morgaine is jealous of your connection with Aeval, and Bran . . . well, he’s just a freak. And I don’t care who knows that I think so.” She shivered. “Geez, it feels like somebody turned down the heat.”
She was right. The temperature had dropped at least thirty degrees in the past three minutes that we’d been approaching the portal. It felt as though we’d stepped into a refrigerator. As we rounded the nearest cedar, Smoky stopped short and held out his hand. I peeked around him, and sure enough, there was the portal, between two trees, spewing out snow and cold. I didn’t see anything else in the general vicinity, but there was plenty of foliage behind which creatures could hide, so that didn’t necessarily mean squat. There could be anything hiding out, waiting to pounce.
Iris stepped forward, eyeing the polar vortex. This close up, we were icy cold, and the temperature was rapidly dropping. Iris had thought ahead and brought her long coat. I wish I’d been that smart. My own coat was warm enough, but for typical Seattle weather, not the lower extremes.
We stood guard while she examined the edges. Now that we weren’t frantic to get it out of the living room, we were able to take a closer look. After a moment she stood back. “I really wish we could figure out who created the scroll.”
“That’s it!” I swung around to face Vanzir. “Do you remember where the shop is?”
“Yeah, real hole in the wall.” Vanzir blinked, then shook his head. “No . . . you aren’t thinking seriously . . .”
“I am thinking seriously. But I doubt if the store is open yet. Iris, are you sure there’s nothing you can do?”
Tanne stepped forward. “Let me have a look. I’ve dealt with a number of portals and vortexes before.”
Iris stepped back as he moved in. Tanne was a spell singer. He was also from a long line of demon hunters—the Hunter’s Glen Clan—and he had a number of odd powers that I wanted to know more about. He knew old spells, from far back in ES Fae history. Spells that were rooted in the world around us.
He knelt by the edge of the portal and placed his hand on the energy flowing between the brilliant blue gates. The portal looked like a rip in the air, the borders of which were crackling blue—thin bands of the energy radiating outward. The threads formed a braided ellipse that was at least eight feet high and four feet wide. The center was misted over—a swirl of cold air pouring out from the foggy center. Somehow the snowfall was related to the portal, but I wasn’t sure how. If I were to pop my head through, I’d see another world. But I’d been in the Northlands and had no intention of peeking through there.
Tanne knelt down and put both his hands on the ground, directly in front of the portal. He began singing in a low voice, and I strained to catch the words, but it sounded like an ancient Germanic tongue. Energy built around him.