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|Priestess Dreaming(Sisters of the Moon #16) by Yasmine Galenorn|
“She’ll be in soon. And . . . I’m sure that whoever bought the scroll just picked up one from the wrong pile. We never . . . they never . . . We don’t let them get mixed up.” Jenny stumbled over her words and I could tell she was lying.
“Don’t fib and you won’t get in trouble. Trust me, we have no beef with you, but I suggest finding a better-quality shop to work in. And if you have any leanings toward magic or witchcraft, steer clear of whoever threw this shop together. This is a dive, and reputation is everything.” I wasn’t in any mood to dick around. “Now tell me about the woman, and don’t lie.”
Her eyes grew even wider and I swear, if she was animated, she could have stepped right out of a show like Full Metal Alchemist or InuYasha. A moment later, she cleared her throat. “My stepmom owns this shop. I only work here for extra money. I’d rather work at the mall.”
Now we were getting somewhere. I detected a note of dislike in her voice. “That’s rough. Maybe you should look into changing jobs. How old are you?”
“Seventeen. But the minute I hit eighteen, I’m out of here. Anyway, yah, there is a card reader that comes here. She’s from Otherworld. I don’t know what a Svartan is, though.”
“Does she have jet black skin, silvery hair?”
Jenny nodded. “Yah. She scares me. I don’t know where she lives, but she’s been around for a while. She doesn’t like anybody, but Maddy—my stepmom—makes good money off the percentage the woman pays her.”
“What does she do besides read the cards? What’s her name?”
Frowning, the girl shook her head. “I don’t know. Her name is Iyonah. I don’t know if that’s her real name or not.”
It was my turn to frown. The name rang no alarms. I had no clue. I had met few Svartan women and I was sure that I hadn’t met any over Earthside—not that I remembered talking to for any significant time. But, if she was targeting us, would she have openly asked about me? Then again, what better way to get to know someone than ingratiate yourself with their friends?
“You said she’s due in soon?”
“Yeah.” Jenny glanced at the clock. “Any minute now.”
At that moment, the door opened and my Spidey-Sense tingled. Without even looking around, I knew that Iyonah had entered the room. And I knew that she was trouble, without even saying hello.
Iyonah was Svartan, all right. She glanced at Vanzir and her eyes widened. Well, she recognized him, all right. She slowly set down her bag—a black leather affair that looked more expensive than one of my corsets—and crossed her arms, a coy smile on her face.
“Hello. Vanzir said we’d met, but I didn’t remember you so thought I’d stop in and say hello to refresh my memory.”
She cocked her head. “I must have been mistaken. My pardon.” She was lying through her teeth. “But now that you’re here, won’t you have a seat?”
Curious, and suspicious, I sat opposite her. She was eying me up and down as if she were searching for something, and a puzzled look flashed through her eyes. “Would you like your cards read?” She handed the deck to me and I stared at it. Then, it hit me. She wanted me to touch it. For some reason, she wanted my energy signature on it.
“Thanks, I’ll pass.” I couldn’t pin down what the hell she was up to, but I didn’t like this cat and mouse game. “I read my own cards.”
I stood and nodded to the guys. “We should get moving.” Turning back to Iyonah, I cocked my head. “You know, Earthside can be a dangerous place. You might want to keep an eye on your back while you’re here. Just a little friendly advice.”
She glared at me, but set the cards back down in front of her. Turning on my heels, I headed back over to Jenny.
Lowering my voice, I asked, “Is your stepmother around today? I’d like to know why she hired her.”
“I know why—and my stepmom won’t be in till late this afternoon. We needed someone to bring in new customers. Iyonah promised our sales would go up if we let her set up shop in the corner. And they did—the past two weeks have been fantastic for business.” Jenny bit her lip.
“Do me a favor. Don’t say anything about me being here? Please? And have as little to do with that woman as possible. She’s trouble.” I glanced over at the spell kits. “By any chance, did Iyonah make those?”
“Destroy them. They’ll only bring angry customers in. Trust me on this one. You sell many of those and your shop will be ruined for good. Think of some excuse. Here, I’ll give you some money and you tell your stepmother you sold them. Don’t let Iyonah see you get rid of them, though.” I tucked a couple hundred dollars in Jenny’s hand and she nodded, looking nervous but willing.
I turned back to Iyonah. I’d have a talk with Aeval, have her look into things. She might be able to ensure that Iyonah didn’t cause any more trouble than she already had.
With Vanzir on one side, Tanne the other, and Morio behind me, we headed out to the car. Shoppers on the street stared at us, but at my GTF out of the way look, they gave us a wide berth. That was just fine with me. Better to intimidate than get picked on. And right now, I was irritated. Something with Iyonah sat wrong—just really wrong. And I didn’t have time to look into it.
I glanced at the guys. “We only have a couple hours till Aeval comes out to the house. Let’s go home.”
Vanzir cleared his throat. “Do we get a pardon for the chaos we caused?”
I grumbled but then flashed him a smile through the rearview mirror. “Oh why the f**k not? It’s not like you set out to raise havoc, and the fact is that a spell was involved and you guys aren’t stupid. Let’s call it good and let it go at that.”
As we trundled into the kitchen, Delilah came bouncing into the room. “Trenyth is on the Whispering Mirror. He was just asking if you were around.”
I hurried into the living room, remembering my promise to Chase. Trenyth—the elf who had been Queen Asteria’s advisor from the time she first took the throne until the day she died—was there, waiting patiently. He looked tired, but then again, war made everybody tired.
“Hey, how goes it?” I slid onto the bench in front of the mirror. We used to keep it in my study until war broke out in Otherworld. Now it was easier to keep it down in the living room, where we could easily hear it.
He actually smiled. “It goes . . . as it goes, Camille. I have a few updates for you. First, Trillian and Rozurial are in Otherworld, the grapevine tells me?”
I blinked. They’d gone through to Y’Elestrial. The fact that Trenyth, in war-stricken Elqaneve, knew they were there, well . . . that meant that anybody might know. We had enemies far and wide, and I could only hope that they were harder to track than the information that they’d arrived there.
“Yes, they are. They’re going in search of Darynal. And before you say a word—they know how dangerous the mission is. Darynal is Trillian’s blood-oath brother, his lavoyda. I couldn’t deny him the chance.” Darynal had gotten lost while on a mission for the elves. With their resources stretched so far beyond their limits, none of us expected the elves to send out a search party when the scouts had disappeared.
“I see.” Trenyth pressed his lips together, then gazed at me with eyes that had seen the eons come and go. “I wish them safety, Camille. I wish we could help.” He was a handsome man, regardless of his age, but stern and regal. And he had been in love with the queen for many years. That kind of unrequited love would never die, especially now that she was gone and he’d never had a chance to tell her how he felt.
“What did you want to tell us? And then, before I forget, I have a question for you.”
Trenyth sighed. “I know Menolly can’t be there, but is Delilah? Gather as many of your company as possible.”
I whistled, loud enough to make him grimace. “Yo, Trenyth wants to talk to us. Get your butts in here pronto.”
“I swear, Camille, if we ever need someone to lead a war cry, I’m calling on you.” The elf smiled and I let out a little laugh. He regarded me for a moment before asking, “How are you doing, girl? I know your father’s death was a blow for all of you.”
“That it was, but we move on. What else can we do? We have his ashes in an urn. We’ll return it to Otherworld as soon as we know that our house is safe. Have you heard from Aunt Rythwar lately? Is she all right? Is Y’Elestrial under siege?” Our aunt had returned to Y’Elestrial to look after our home when our father was killed.
He shook his head. “She is doing well and so is your father’s house—your house now. Y’Elestrial fights off goblin hordes, but they are still strong enough to withstand the siege. As far as the storm, the Goldunsan took heavy damage from it. Their city was not spared. Then it began to move southeast toward Y’Elestrial, but before it could reach there, the seers of Aladril came to the rescue. They sent several of their powerful mages, who were able to disrupt it before it ever reached your city-state. Aladril is officially on our side. As is Ceredream, but they’ve been overrun with the grunts of the enemy and are not faring well.”
By that time, everyone had gathered around. I counted heads. Delilah, Morio, Smoky, Vanzir, Shade, Nerissa, Chase, and even Iris was here. Hanna held Maggie, standing in the back.
I turned back to the mirror. “We’re all here, Trenyth, except Menolly, who is still asleep.”
Trenyth shuffled several papers on his desk. “All right. Here’s the latest news. As I told Camille, Aladril has joined the fight—the seers disrupted the sentient storm and kept it from reaching Y’Elestrial. Ceredream has joined our side but they are under siege. The enemy’s hordes are thick, and numerous. They’re attacking Y’Elestrial, but your city-state is holding them off. They’re also attacking Ceredream. Alas, the City of the East is not faring well. There are a number of bands roving around Kelvashan but there’s not much left to fight over here. We took the brunt of the damage because it was so unexpected.”
Smoky stepped forward. “Have you ascertained your full damages, Lord Trenyth?” He always accorded the advisor his full title, even though my sisters and I had fallen into a more intimate nature of addressing him. It would feel odd for me to call him “Lord” now, though it was his proper title.
Trenyth leaned back in his chair, his expression pained. “We’ll never know the full extent of what was destroyed. We do know that we have over fifteen thousand dead accounted for. There are six thousand missing, at least that have been reported. Three villages escaped destruction, the rest of our infrastructure has been all but obliterated. The food stores are gone. We’re relying on outside help for just about everything at this point.”
The numbers were staggering. Even Earthside, where cities numbered in the millions, that kind of destruction would have been horrific. Over in Otherworld, where the cities were smaller and the population lighter? It was unthinkable.
Chase cleared his throat and moved forward, standing behind me. “Lord Trenyth, do you have any news about Sharah?” His voice quivered and I could tell he was scared.
But Trenyth gave him a wide, if tired, smile. “Hello, Chase. Your love is healthy, and safe. She’s doing well. She misses you and Astrid. While it would be too dangerous for you to come here, and we cannot allow her to leave at this time, we can let you talk to her through the Whispering Mirror for a couple of hours. We can do that tonight, if you like.”
Chase brightened. “Really? I miss her so much.” He faltered, and for a moment looked like he was going to cry, but then he steeled his back, and I was proud of him. He already knew how to conduct himself as an officer, now he was learning what it meant to be a soldier.
“Yes, really. We will set it to eight P.M. your time? Sharah has been run ragged, though she’s holding up well. The demands on her have been great, but I think it would do both of you a world of good to talk. Until then.” And with that, Trenyth signed off.
Chase turned to me, beaming. “I’ll bring Astrid here, so Sharah can see her and talk to her.”
I rested one hand on his arm. “I’m so glad, Chase. I wish things were different for the two of you. Sharah never expected to end up on the throne. That much we all know. If the storm hadn’t hit exactly when it did, she would still be here. Things don’t always work out the way we want them to, though.”
He wrapped his arm around my shoulders. “Yeah, I know. Thanks, Camille. You’ve been great during this. All of you have. I never expected to fall in love with Sharah. When we first went out, I was interested but wary. But . . . I guess when it’s right, you just figure it out.”
Delilah was listening in and she grinned at him. “True, that, dude. I’m glad you guys got together. I’m lucky I found Shade. I just hope that we can get out of this war and settle down and all be one big, happy family.”
“Amen to that.” Chase glanced at his watch. “Okay, I promised Iris I’d watch the babies while she and Bruce go out for the afternoon. The Duchess is off shopping. She’s headed home after the holidays, and while I know Iris will be happy, she’s going to be working her fingers to the bone with Astrid and her own two.”
I glanced over at Delilah. “We should hire someone to help her. Or at least, tell Bruce to get on it. He’s smart and funny, but he’s not always that observant. Typical absent-minded professor.”
“I’ll make a note of it.” Delilah waved at Chase as he left the living room.