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|Priestess Dreaming(Sisters of the Moon #16) by Yasmine Galenorn|
“You’ll have to set him up at the Whispering Mirror tonight. I’m not going to be here.” I frowned, then told her about Iyonah. “I don’t know what her game is, but she’s trouble.”
“You should have just conked her over the head and brought her back here so we could interrogate her.” She blinked, her eyes wide and all too happy with her suggestion.
I snorted. “Kitten, how the f**k could I justify that? She hasn’t actively done anything to us.”
“Maybe not but . . . well, it was just an idea. We wouldn’t have any place to keep her, anyway. I wish the Wayfarer was fully rebuilt. We have the safe room there. No magic will work in it.” Delilah snapped her fingers.
“What now?” I was almost afraid to ask.
“I have a brilliant thought. We should build a safe room here, just like at the bar. That way, we could cage anybody we needed to. Catch a demon on the property? Cage him until we figure out what to do. A crazy witch? Same thing.”
As she spoke, I stared at her. Delilah really was gorgeous, and her short spiky golden hair only set off the color of her eyes, their brilliant green the color of leaves in the forest. She was also a loon at times, but now? What she said made sense. It had been a safe room back in Otherworld that had kept Menolly from killing me when she was turned.
“Good thinking. Let’s get Smoky and Shade on that before we leave. Meanwhile . . .” I paused.
“What? I know that look, it means you’ve thought of an idea that’s probably going to be more trouble than it’s worth.” She wrinkled her nose and I resisted the impulse to ruffle her hair. She hated it when I did that. Even though Kitten had matured a lot over the past couple of years, she had the ability to Bambi us into submission, with her wide, curious eyes and impish smile.
The thought had first come to me out in the park, and while I still wasn’t sure, it was worth running past Delilah.
“I want to take Tanne with us, if he’ll go. We can’t leave home short-handed and, even though Aeval has stationed guards aplenty here, I don’t trust them as much as I trust leaving ready hands here. Vanzir can’t come, she summoned him out to Talamh Lonrach Oll tonight so she doesn’t intend for him to go along with me. We need Menolly, Smoky, and Shade here. Trillian and Roz are traipsing off in Otherworld. I don’t like the odds of just me, Morio, and you against Morgaine, Mordred, Arturo, and Bran, because honestly? I don’t trust any of them. And Derisa told me I could bring three others with me. That leaves one opening.”
Delilah made a face and motioned for me to follow her into the parlor where we could talk privately. She closed the door, as I took my seat on the sofa and pulled a throw over my lap. The parlor was always chilly compared to the rest of the house. Actually, the old Victorian was pretty drafty as a whole.
“First, what the hell does Aeval want with Vanzir?” She sat down next to me, crossing her right leg over her left knee. Her boots were new, and as I stared at the tread that looked like it could surface a tire, I thought once again that Delilah had become a formidable foe. She could kick the crap out of just about anybody.
“I don’t know what’s going on. But . . . here’s something I never told you or Menolly. While I can’t tell you much, because I’m sworn to oath, the night that Aeval initiated me into the Priestesshood? Vanzir was there, Kitten. I saw him on the shore. And . . . well, as I said, I can’t reveal the rest, but he was part of my initiation, though I never could figure out just why Aeval had called him in. He played a small, but significant part in it.” Even saying that much felt almost like a betrayal, but I wasn’t breaking oath, so much as skirting the borders of doing so.
Delilah’s expression was priceless. After a moment, she shook her head, as if trying to ascertain whether she’d heard me correctly. “Say what? You’re kidding. He was part of your initiation? After what happened?”
I nodded. “I think perhaps because of what happened with him and me. Somehow, during that encounter, when we were trying to get away from the ghosts, we formed an odd bond—don’t even go there. I don’t mean sexually, even though we ended up f**king. It was when he was in my head.”
“Not like Menolly and Morio were bound when she gave him her blood to heal?” Now, my sister did look freaked. “Smoky really will kill Vanzir if that’s true.”
“No, no. Not like that. Vanzir’s been . . . well, as much of a gentleman as Vanzir can be, since then. But some sort of connection formed.”
I tried not to dwell on that night. It had been horrible, with Morio wounded so bad he almost died, and the ghosts attacking us from every direction. What had happened between Vanzir and me had set off numerous repercussions, but there was no changing the past and I didn’t regret what I did.
A dream-chaser demon feeds on life-energy, and can burrow inside of thoughts. Vanzir had been unable to help himself. Having him in my head had been far worse than offering myself to him to distract him. The sex had been my choice. And, though it had brought Smoky close to killing him and sent me unwittingly into Hyto’s clutches, I still didn’t regret my decision. And I didn’t blame Vanzir. That night had been desperate and terrifying and so hyped with energy we’d all been teetering on the edge.
“So you have no idea what the Triple Threat wants from him?”
I grinned. The Triple Threat was my nickname for the three Earthside Fae Queens. They knew what I called them, and so far there hadn’t been any fallout from it except for a disgruntled look here and there.
Shrugging, I held up my hands. “I don’t know, but I suspect that Aeval is behind him getting his powers back, along with the new abilities. He’s changing, and she’s at the end of his path. I just feel it, in my gut. Instinct, I guess.”
Slowly nodding, Delilah leaned forward and rested her elbows on her knees. “Well, your instinct is usually right, so let’s trust it for now. As to taking Tanne with us, if he’s willing to go, I’m for it. I like him.”
“He is rather fun to pal around with, isn’t he? And I’m fascinated by his magic.” I grinned at her. “I wish I could do some of the things he does.”
“Just don’t get too fascinated. But back to our traveling ensemble, I trust Morgaine even less than you do. And I’ve seen the way Bran looks at you. Like a raven eying a shiny object, but I don’t think . . . I don’t know. He’s dangerous, Camille. And for some reason he’s fascinated by you, in a not-so-good way. I don’t think it’s just because you killed his father. After all, the Black Unicorn wanted you to sacrifice him. It wasn’t like an assassination.”
I nodded. I’d felt the same thing myself. “Raven Mother has always been jealous of the Moon Mother, and I don’t know why, but I trust her more than her son. Several times she’s approached me about joining her in Darkynwyrd. I know she approached several other members of the Coterie, too. It’s almost like she wants to be the Moon Mother.”
“How very Single White Female of her.” Delilah laughed, but then her smile fell away again. “Seriously, there’s no way you can get out of taking them along with you?”
“No, Derisa was very specific. And you know that where Morgaine goes, she’s going to drag that obnoxious nephew of hers. Mordred gives me the creeps. And of course, her silent helper Arturo will tag along, too. I don’t consider him much of a threat, except that he does exactly what Morgaine tells him to.”
“Who is he?”
I frowned. I’d thought over that question many times before. When we first met Morgaine, and found out that she was an ancestor of ours—essentially a cousin so many times removed we couldn’t even begin to sort it out—she had introduced Mordred as her nephew.
And then, there was Arturo. I thought they were lovers but that had never been confirmed. Arturo was taciturn, quiet and soft-spoken, but she never seemed terribly solicitous of him. He was obviously devoted to her, and did whatever she said, but he always stayed in the background.
“You know, to be honest, he reminds me of Tom Lane—Tam Lin.” Tam Lin, and yes—the Tam Lin of legend—had been Titania’s lover when we first met. The Queen of Light and Morning had been in a pretty sad state then, but now she was restored to her former power, if not more so. She had fed her mortal lover the Nectar of Life so many times that he had begun to fade in and out, losing himself in other personalities as the eons rolled by. Tom Lane was the name we met him by, a confused, odd man.
“You’re right. I wonder if Arturo is human? Morgaine has never really told us.”
As the rain began to pour so hard outside we could hear it clatter against the windowpanes, I thought about Delilah’s question. The truth was, I’d given little consideration to Arturo and Mordred, other than the fact that the latter was a pain in the ass, while the former seemed to fade into the woodwork. But now, I wondered. I’d always assumed Arturo was human. But was he truly? Mordred, on the other hand, was part Fae—no doubt about that. Like his aunt, he had delusions of grandeur and a thirst for power that led to unsavory behavior. He’d wound up with a permanent place on my shit list, that was for sure.
“We’re stuck with them. And if Mordred and Bran band together . . .”
“There’s bound to be trouble.” Delilah stood up, then reached out a hand to pull me to my feet. “Ask Tanne. I think he’d be handy to have on our side. Because you know this is going to devolve into an ‘us’ and ‘them’ situation. And frankly, I don’t want to see what would happen if ‘they’ end up on top. Not a good thing.”
“Tanne, it is, then. I don’t know if he’ll want to come, but you know what? Can’t hurt to ask.” And so, pulling out my cell phone, I scrolled through my contacts till I found his name, and put in a call to him.
* * *
Tanne jumped at the chance to go along with us, and I had the feeling he was getting bored. His clan still hadn’t set up complete operations here, and he seemed like a man used to action. He said he’d be right over as soon as he threw together his stuff. The man wasn’t scared of a risk, that much was certain.
While we were waiting on him, and on Aeval and our dubious companions, Delilah, Morio, and I packed. Smoky sat beside me on the bed. I stared at the small backpack. We couldn’t take much, and we didn’t know how long this trip would take. What did one carry into the realm of the Elder Fae? Besides weaponry, that is.
I dressed in my spidersilk skirt and a leather bustier—it would be tougher armor than a shirt. I slipped a shirt, a second skirt, and spare panties and socks into the pack. I didn’t want to take the unicorn cloak because the Elder Fae would be able to smell it a mile away and they’d be drawn to it. But the horn? The horn I would take. The power locked within just might save our lives. I zipped it inside my pocket, safe in its cushioned carrying case.
I also added toothpaste and a toothbrush, a compact pack of tissue, a roll of toilet paper, and facial wipes. Reluctantly, I left my makeup at home. Somehow, as much as I’d miss it, I didn’t think I’d have much time to sit there putting on my face. The rest of the space would go to food and a blanket, in case we were caught in cooler climes. We might be facing snow or ice, or humid heat, for all I knew.
Morio was carrying a bigger pack than mine, and he would carry more food for the two of us. He made sure he had his skull in his bag—the youkai-kitsune had to carry a skull with them in order to change back into human form from both their demon and fox forms. They didn’t have to touch it, but the skull must be within a certain radius. As he was pulling together his pack, I lifted the skull and looked at it. It was small and light, but so hard that it would take a tremendous force to crack it.
“When did you get this? Is this the only skull you’ve had?” I traced my fingers over the smooth bone of the very top. The rest of the skull was etched with runes—intricate, painstaking work. The magic resonated through my fingertips.
Morio glanced at it. “I was bonded to it when I was young. All my people are given skulls when we reach a certain age. The youkai have a high mortality rate. The skulls come from the children who die before they reach puberty.”
That was a new one. Morio had never talked much about his kind. I knew bits and pieces of his childhood, and of his days before he met me, but he’d been reticent to discuss the subject and I’d left it alone, respecting his privacy. But since he was opening up . . .
“Do parents object to the use of their children’s bodies?”
He shook his head. “No. It’s part of our tradition. The children who die before puberty never achieve their demonic form. The first changing comes when the hormones hit, and you’re then considered an adult, though still in need of supervision and training.”
With a long look at me, he pushed aside his pack and sat down beside me. “I have been very silent on my past, haven’t I?”
I held the skull, wondering to whom it had belonged. What child had died and left this part of themselves behind?
“I know some of the story—about your father and what happened—but I don’t know how much to ask without bringing up bad memories.”
“We are a solitary people. Like the fox, we camouflage well and it’s our nature to remain in the shadows. What do you want to know?”
“Do your parents know about us?”
“Of course they do. I’ve told them, and they want to meet you. They weren’t happy, at first, that I married outside my people. But it has nothing to do with the fact that you are Fae, or half-human. It was solely that you weren’t a youkai-kitsune. However, they’ve come to accept our marriage. One day, you’ll meet them. I promise.”