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|Priestess Dreaming(Sisters of the Moon #16) by Yasmine Galenorn|
I wasn’t sure how keen I was on that idea. Not with knowing that they’d been unhappy about his choice. But then again, Trillian’s family was still upset over him marrying me. At least Vishana—Smoky’s mother—graciously accepted me.
I glanced at the clock. While I wanted to ask more while the window was open, we needed to eat before we left. I slipped Morio’s skull inside his bag.
“Should we take Rodney?” I hated the thought, but then again, the living nightmare had his uses.
Morio snorted. “You really want a twelve-inch bone golem mouthing off to an Elder Fae? You know it would happen.”
Grimacing, I shook my head. “Forget it. Leave him here. That kind of trouble, we don’t need.” The doorbell rang as we gathered our bags and headed for the stairs.
Tanne was at the door, backpack in hand. He’d been so quick on the uptake that I had the feeling he’d anticipated my call. While we waited for him and for Aeval and her crew, I slipped outside, down to the studio where Rozurial and Vanzir stayed. I knew where Roz kept his stash of weapons, and it occurred to me that it might not be a bad idea to raid his arsenal. Since he had gone off with Trillian, I figured what he didn’t know about, he wouldn’t miss. At least not till they returned home. And by then I’d either thank him for saving our asses, or I would have tucked the items back in the cabinet and nobody would be the wiser.
I slipped into his room and opened the armoire where I knew he kept his weaponry. Just as I’d hoped—a nice stash of the little red and white bombs that produced magical fire, and magical ice. I plundered five of each and tucked them in my pack. Buckling my pack shut, I returned to the house.
As I entered the kitchen, Hanna was finishing up a bag of sandwiches for us to take with us, along with fried chicken and yet more muffins and cookies. It all looked delicious, but my stomach was a tangle of knots.
The Elder Fae scared the f**k out of me, which was a good thing, because they were batshit crazy. They didn’t play by anybody’s rules. We had as little to do with them as possible. Ivana Krask—the Maiden of Karask—cozied up to us more than we were comfortable with, but there wasn’t much we could do about it since she’d decided we were worth talking to. Having an Elder Fae angry at us? Far too dangerous. We’d already ticked off several of them. The scary thing was, Ivana was probably the least worrisome one we’d met so far, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be alone in a locked room with her.
Ivana had a taste for “bright flesh.” Meaning: babies. Plump, tender, succulent babies. We’d bargained with her several times and managed to push her into accepting prime beef and pork instead, but her routine was no act. If we ever raided an orphanage, she’d be quite happy with kinder-burgers. And now, a little voice inside whispered, we’re going to walk right into a realm full of the freakshows, all within the hour.
“I guess it’s about time.” I glanced over at Vanzir. “You and Smoky and Shade keep an eye on things, okay?”
He cleared his throat, his kaleidoscopic eyes staring at me. “No worries there, chick. But you . . . don’t forget us, okay? We need you here.” And that was as close as he could come to saying he was worried about us.
I forced a smile to my lips. “Yeah, you’d never know what to do without Delilah and me bugging you.” And then, because I was nervous and fretting, I slid my arms around his waist and gave him a quick hug. “Behave while we’re gone,” I whispered. “And watch out for everybody.”
He didn’t seem to know what to do at first, but then, he returned the hug and, with a glance to make sure Smoky wasn’t around, planted a quick kiss on the top of my head before breaking away. “You’ll be back, Camille. Don’t ever think you won’t.”
As if on cue, Smoky peeked into the kitchen. “Camille?” He motioned to me to follow him. I gave Vanzir a little wave and followed Smoky through the living room, into the parlor, where he closed the door behind us and turned, taking my hands in his.
“My wife, listen to me. Don’t forget our Soul Symbiont Ritual. If you or the fox get into trouble, both of you do your best to seek me through the connection and I will come. I hate letting you traipse off like this. Morio is strong, but even he cannot stand up against some enemies.”
He wrapped his arms around me then, and I leaned into his embrace with a soft sigh. He smelled so good, musky and dark and strong.
“I wish we had more time. I wish we had some alone time for just us, like I had with Trillian. I love you, you know?” Pressing my hand against his chest, I looked up into those glacial eyes of his. He’d scared me so much when we first met, but now he was part of my world and I couldn’t imagine not having him by my side.
“Oh, love.” Smoky swept me up so I was facing him at eye level, holding me tight. I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him, his lips soft against mine. I wanted to hang on and not let go.
We’d been through so much loss lately, so much stress, and now Trillian was off into danger, too. And then, it hit me full force. While Otherworld was my home, it would never be the same. Even should we win this war, so many people had died already, including our father and friends, that returning would forever be bittersweet. The knowledge slammed into me that my sisters and I were effectively orphans. I shuddered, tears forming at the corners of my eyes, and buried my head against Smoky’s neck.
“Don’t ever leave me. Don’t ever let go. I couldn’t bear to lose someone else I love. I’m going to be worrying about Trillian until the day he sets foot back through the front door.” I sniffled as he stroked my back, while tendrils of his hair rose to help brace me against him.
“Camille, my love. You are one of the bravest women I know. You daily face danger with steel nerves. I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of you, and how much I admire you.” He pushed me back a step, his voice dropping to a soft whisper. “You realize that I fell in love with a woman devoted to carrying out her duty? You know we’ll weather this. We’ll manage to walk through all of this. Trillian will return safe, and the four of us will live a long and happy life.” He lifted my chin with another tendril of hair. “Now, breathe.”
I inhaled a deep breath and then let it out slowly, the tension flowing from between my teeth. “You’re right. Even though Father is dead, I will forever be a soldier’s daughter. I’ll buck up.”
He hadn’t been chiding me, but sometimes Smoky knew when I needed a reminder of why we were doing what we were doing. Of the fact that strength and courage weren’t qualities we could afford to lose. He might want to sweep me away to hole me up in an ivory tower, but he knew all too well that I was needed on the front lines, so he’d stay with me, fighting beside us.
“I’m all right.” I took another deep breath and shook my head, wiping my eyes and hoping my eye makeup hadn’t smeared. “We’ll get the job done, as we always do. And if anybody can rescue Darynal, it will be Trillian. They’re oath brothers.” I paused, then whispered, “I had to let him go.” With a little hiccup, I added, “Right?”
Smoky set me down, kissing my nose. “Right. You had to let him go. I just wish you weren’t heading off with Morgaine.” He grimaced. Smoky didn’t think much of the Fae Queens, and he didn’t trust Morgaine at all.
When we first met, he and Titania had been at odds over his barrow out near Mount Rainier for years, until she finally gave up and focused on Talamh Lonrach Oll. Smoky had always maintained that the barrow was his until recently, when he’d admitted to Menolly that he had, indeed, taken it from Titania. Dragons were greedy by nature, so that didn’t surprise me. But at least everybody was tolerating everybody else, so we were good for now.
The doorbell sounded. Aeval—it had to be her.
“It’s time,” I whispered.
He nodded. “Very well. Let’s go out there and see what the Triple Threat has to say.”
We returned to the living room, where Aeval was waiting. Behind her stood Morgaine, Bran, and as I had suspected—Mordred and Arturo. But next to them stood someone I hadn’t expected to see—and who I really didn’t want to see.
Voluptuous and wanton, Raven Mother waited beside her son. As Bran stared at her through cunning eyes, I could see the resemblance and it made me far more nervous than I’d been a few minutes before. I gave the five of them a nod and turned to the Queen of Shadow and Night. Technically, Morgaine was one of the Fae Queens, too, now. She was the Queen of Dusk and Twilight, but it was hard for me to acknowledge her as such.
I was about to say hello to the others when the floor suddenly rocked, lurching like the rug had just been literally yanked out from beneath our feet. I caught hold of Smoky as he planted himself firmly against the chair nearest us. Aeval barely blinked, and neither did Bran, but Morgaine stumbled and landed on her hands and knees. Arturo and Mordred staggered but managed to keep upright. Raven Mother stood as if nothing could shake her.
Delilah and Morio, who had been standing nearby, managed to keep on their feet, too. From the kitchen, Hanna let out a string of swear words I didn’t even realize she knew as a clattering of pans hit the floor. A moment later, the swaying stopped.
Dizzy, I stepped away from Smoky. “Earthquake?”
The Seattle region was riddled with fault zones, highly prone to quakes. In fact, the area was long overdue for a major shake. And by major, we were talking eight points or better on the Richter scale. I hoped our house would stand whenever it came because it was going to happen, no question about it. The question was just when.
Raven Mother shook her head. “That was no earthquake. I know the heart of the earth, and the beat did not emanate from deep within her body.”
As she spoke, once again I found myself falling down a deep well, and when I opened my eyes, I was staring into the glistening black eyes of Yvarr. He swished past me, the flames of his body coiling like snakes. Jumping back as one of the tendrils of fire nearly brushed against me, I looked for a way out but couldn’t find one.
“You have the Raven near you. I smell her. Give her to me now and perhaps I will pass you by when I find the door out of my prison.” Yvarr turned his terrible gaze on me, and swung his head around to hover in front of me.
I shook my head. “Raven Mother is not mine to give. I do not own her. Why would you think I do?”
Yvarr squinted. “You bear the mark of the Raven—you bear the smell of her. There is something . . .” And then his voice dropped even lower and took on an even more menacing tone. “But what is this? You are connected to the Black Beast. I knew you were—I can feel him on you. You are one of his chosen. You are a tricky one, and so is he. The Black Beast uses you as an arm into the other worlds.”
Oh f**k. He must be able to sense the Black Unicorn horn. I had to throw him off track until I could figure out how to break this trance. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. Maybe you smell dragon sweat on me. I’m married to a dragon, and he would kill any creature who bothered me.” Might as well try a bluff, because I didn’t seem to be leaving here in any great hurry.
Yvarr paused and then, leaning in closer so that his glowing black eyes filled my vision, sniffed at me. My skirt whipped up, as if I were standing in front of a giant vent, as he inhaled. When he exhaled, the material billowed around my legs and I felt like I was posing for a mockup of Marilyn’s famous photo, only in some freakshow horror movie.
“You do smell of dragon. Perhaps that is what I sense. A very powerful dragon.” Then, he laughed and reared back, like a snake coiling to strike. “But not so powerful as me. Not so ancient as me. I am old beyond counting, girl. Old beyond the oldest dragons! I am their ancestor. I am one of the mighty wyrms of history. Many of us still slumber under the mountains and in the clouds, waiting for the touch that will waken them.”
I was about to say, “Sleeping Beauty, you aren’t” but decided against it. For one thing, he probably wouldn’t get the reference. For another, if he did, what good would it do to make him angry? Somehow, I didn’t think my charms would work on him like they did Smoky.
But then, something he said intruded on my thoughts. I carefully returned his gaze. “Sleeping? You were sleeping? What woke you up?”
He paused, his calculating stare burning into me. “What wakes the ancients? What wakes the fathers and mothers of the dragons? There are creatures and gods who lurk in the depths, who slumber in a darksome sleep even deeper than mine. What wakes us all? A call. A summons. The waking of old gods and ancient enemies. The rise of those we fought in the before-times. Old Lords of your kind—your nonhuman self—imprisoned me. They went to sleep, too, but now they awake and so do I.”
At that moment, before I could move, he blew a flame at me. There was no way to dodge it, so I steeled for the blast. But the moment before it engulfed me, I found myself on the floor, next to Smoky. Aeval was kneeling on one side of me, Raven Mother on the other.
“Holy f**k.” I sat up, shaken. The two women helped me to my feet.
“Camille, what happened? Are you hurt?” Smoky jostled for a better position near me, with Morio hot on his heels. “Love, speak to me.”
My pulse racing, I shook my head. “I was facing Yvarr again. I don’t know how, but I barely escaped just as he breathed fire on me. Would his attack have killed me, seeing that I was out on the astral and not there physically?”
Aeval glanced over at Raven Mother, who pressed her lips together. Finally, the Queen of Shadow and Night stroked my cheek lightly. “Yes, he could have burnt your soul to a crisp. Yvarr is an ancient enemy and his flames sear more than flesh. Tell us what the wyrm said.”