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|Priestess Dreaming(Sisters of the Moon #16) by Yasmine Galenorn|
I told them, leaving out nothing. “He said ancient Fae Lords are waking and so he wakes, too. What was he talking about?” The appearance of Yvarr had to mean there was more to what was going on than we’d been told.
Raven Mother paced. After a moment, she stopped, folding her arms across her chest. “For the sake of the gods, Aeval. Tell her the whole story. If you do not, then I will.”
“Tell me what? I’m not going anywhere until I know just what’s going on. I’m done being a pawn.” While it was a bluff and they probably knew it, right now I wasn’t in any mood to be somebody’s toy unless it involved sex.
Aeval scowled at Raven Mother. “I thought we agreed—”
“Oh, listen to the Raven. You wouldn’t be afraid of telling my cousin the truth, would you?” Morgaine broke in. “You wouldn’t fear she might change her loyalties? She might decide I was right? But then, you’re the Queen of Shadow and Night. Of course, you aren’t afraid.”
Her voice oozed with honey, sweet and glomming. It set me on edge worse than anything Aeval had ever said, but I decided to let them duke it out. I wasn’t about to get between two Fae Queens and an Elemental Lady, even if they were all supposedly on my side.
I held my breath as the three women stared at one another. Together, they were powerful enough to level not only our house, but quite probably the city if they had a mind to. I dreaded thinking of what the outcome of a war between them would be like.
Aeval stared at Morgaine, a hostile smile on her face. But she merely said, “The Dusk and Twilight presumes much, but since the bat is out of the belfry, so to speak, yes, I will tell her.”
A smug look slid across Morgaine’s face, but she quickly resumed her aloof, detached air. “Good, then I will not have to explain on our journey.”
Raven Mother let out a cackle. Her bloodred lips were vibrant, sexual to the point of being overwhelming. Her hair was bluish black, dark as ink, dark as night, and she was wearing an Elvira dress, her br**sts voluptuous and round, threatening to burst from the bodice at any moment. Raven Mother was chaos incarnate, she was a trickster, an Elemental who lived by her rules, and her rules only. She was alluring and yet lurid.
“Oh do let me, Aeval.” Before the Fae Queen could answer, Raven Mother turned to me. “During the days leading to the Great Divide, the Great Fae Lords managed to ally themselves with the wyrms of the Earth. Together, they ripped apart the worlds. And then, before the Fae Lords moved to Otherworld, they imprisoned both their enemies and their allies.”
“How do you imprison the forerunner of a dragon?” I held her gaze. She wasn’t embellishing—that much I could tell. This wasn’t hyperbole.
“You lock them away behind magical gates and throw away the key. They were imprisoned rather than killed, not because of charity, but because arrogant men—these mighty Fae Lords—thought they might, again, one day need to harness the wyrms’ powers.”
“They put them in stasis, to use as weapons,” Delilah whispered.
“Yes, very aptly put. So these noble and stalwart warriors harnessed the elements of Earth and Fire and Ice and Water and they locked away the giants of the world, keeping them like canned goods on a shelf, in case they might one day need them again. Slavery of the worst kind.” She shook her head.
I blinked. Had the Great Fae Lords really done this? Had they not only engineered the Great Divide but locked away these creatures in stasis? Granted, the wyrms could be terribly destructive, but if you’re going to destroy your allies after using them, death would have at least been a noble end for creatures of their power and might.
Smoky let out a rumble, low but audible. I glanced at him. “Is this true?”
He nodded, one short, quick inclination of his head. “Unfortunately, it is. The Fae Lords were—and are—arrogant in their assumptions. You think my kind egotistical, but the Great Fae Lords considered their magic infallible. They were mistaken. The fact that Yvarr is rising and able to shake the house from his prison on the astral plane means that he will break free. There is no question of this in my mind. It’s simply a matter of when.”
The blood drained from my face and I could feel myself go cold. An earthquake of a very different sort, and possibly more deadly than the one I was thinking of earlier.
“And only the Merlin can fight him. But why don’t the geniuses who engineered all of this clean up their own mess?” Delilah leaned against a chair, looking for all the world like she wanted to smack something—or someone. And she wasn’t alone. I wasn’t feeling particularly charitable myself.
“There are several of the Great Lords left, but they slumber, as well. Locked in stasis, locked in time.” Raven Mother’s smile never wavered, but now I could read the irony and disdain beneath the upturned lips. “They grew weary of their lives and went into hibernation.”
“Like a vampire who walks into the sun when he’s too tired to go on.” My voice was soft but she still caught the words.
“Not quite—vampires choose to release their souls and move on. The Great Fae Lords fear death. They lived for so long that they dread finding out what the Land of Silver Falls is like. They’re cowards, too tired to continue on, yet too fearful to die.” Raven Mother turned to Aeval. “I know where two of them sleep even now. And the wyrm is correct—there have been portents that they might be waking.” She frowned. “They are hiding deep within my woodland. For many eons, I did not know about them, but then, one day, one of my spies stumbled on their lair. We’ve been watching them ever since. I thought of killing them, but decided to wait and see what happened.”
This was news to all of us, that much was apparent. Aeval let out a little humph and frowned. “You would be within your rights to destroy them, of course. There is little the Fae can do against your kind—but it might not be the wisest move.”
“Yet, if they wake, what will they do?” Morgaine interjected, looking as nonplussed as the rest of us felt.
Confused, I cleared my throat. “I thought some of the Fae who divided the worlds still walked the back paths of Otherworld? Or was that all a children’s story designed to make us behave?” I couldn’t count the times our father had warned us to behave or he’d send us to the “great ones” for punishment.
“Yeah, were those just boogeyman stories? So to speak?” Delilah’s eyes narrowed, almost to cat slits. She didn’t look happy, and I realized that she was growing uncomfortable. I had the feeling that this trip wouldn’t endear her to the Triple Threat any better. She already disliked them.
“Oh, the older ones do exist, but they were not the ones who created the Great Divide. And many of the ones who were born Earthside have become recluses, retired from the world. They seldom ever see the public. The majority of Otherworld Fae were born and bred there and have known no other life.” Raven Mother let out a long sigh.
“They can stay there,” Aeval said, her tone grumpy.
Raven Mother simply laughed. “Yes, well, I doubt that most of the Otherworld Fae long to cross over here. But we waste time discussing this. The fact is, if the Great Fae Lords wake, I doubt if they’d know what to do with the world the way it is—either Otherworld or Earthside. The problem lies simply with their waking. For when they wake, the enemies they imprisoned will feel it. And, like Yvarr, they will begin to shift and turn in their prisons. When you enslave someone magically, like they did the old wyrms, you risk forming a bond between yourself and that being. If you sleep, they tend to slumber. But if you wake . . .”
“They do, too. So, Yvarr’s waking up is most likely connected to the Fae Lords beginning to rouse. Maybe we should just kill them and be done with it.” I hated saying that—it sounded callous but it seemed like it might be the best route. If they never woke up, then maybe their enemies would stay asleep as well.
“Unfortunately, if we do that, we have no idea what will happen to their enemies. We have no clue how many of the ancient horrors they imprisoned and we don’t know if they would wake and escape should the Great Fae Lords die. Do you know how much damage the wyrms and other monsters could do before they were noticed? Especially in lands cut off from the main passages of the world.”
“Could the FBHs bring them down?”
“Perhaps. But with what weapons? Nuclear missiles? A hand grenade isn’t going to do more than tickle a wyrm like Yvarr. No, the cost of waiting till that became necessary would be tens of thousands of lives.” Aeval shook her head. “We cannot chance it. If we rouse the Merlin, he will be able to tame Yvarr and make it easier to destroy him. He is the High Priest of the Druids, the High Priest of the Hunter. He is our best hope.”
“What happens if Yvarr dies?” Delilah rubbed her temples, looking as tired as I felt from the discussion.
“Then . . . he dies. As far as we know, there will be no ramifications unless the other wyrms manage to free themselves as well.” Aeval turned to me. “Do you understand why you must successfully manage this quest?”
I stared bleakly out the window, watching the rain slashing down into the evening hours. While I wasn’t sure whether she was completely on track, Aeval was not one prone to hysterics, nor was she power hungry like Morgaine and Raven Mother. If she said there was danger in killing the Fae Lords, I tended to believe her. If she said there wouldn’t be any fallout from killing Yvarr, I also believed her.
“I suppose we should get a move on, then.” Reluctantly, I stretched and turned to Smoky. “Love, watch over the house for us. Tell Menolly we’ll return as soon as we can.”
“I will. Tonight we go to the Wayfarer and see what needs to be done still. The rebuilding is coming along quickly. She should be able to reopen in a few weeks.” He stroked my cheek, then kissed me. “Meanwhile, Camille, I don’t want you to worry about us. Focus on your journey. Finish the quest and come home as soon as possible.”
“Easier said than done.” I turned to Aeval. “We’re ready.”
“Who are you taking with you? And who . . . is he?” She nodded at Tanne.
I motioned for him to step forward. “He’s going with me, along with Delilah and Morio. Tanne is a demon hunter from the Black Forest.”
Tanne clicked his heels together and bowed to Aeval, his back perfectly straight. “Your highness.”
“You may call me Aeval.” She frowned, pursing her lips. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”
“We have not, Queen of Shadow and Night. But I have heard of you, of course. I come from the Black Forest, from the Hunter’s Glen Clan.” At her look of surprise, the edge of his lip tipped up.
“Hunter’s Glen? Your clan is still in existence, then? We thought your line had died out thousands of years ago.” She blinked and I suddenly had the feeling we’d underestimated Tanne.
He tilted his head and a cunning smile spread across his face. “Oh, we are still strong. My mother and grandmother now seek to establish a subsidiary clan here, on this shore. I came to lay the foundation. My sister is here, too. We are setting up our base, and then will bring other members of the clan here. The monsters still outnumber the hunters by far too many on this continent.”
Aeval regarded him silently for a moment, then with a quick breath, said, “When you return from this journey, I require you to appear at Talamh Lonrach Oll and register. We ask that any clan of such strength as yours be on our rolls.” She turned to me. “I did not realize you were allied with the Hunter’s Glen Clan.”
Feeling slightly adrift in the conversation, I shrugged. “We . . . did not realize you’d want to know.”
“Any time one of the ancient family clans sets up operations in our area, of course we want to know. Remember that for the future.” At my silent nod, she continued. “Then, it is time. The realm will be teeming with Elder Fae and their creatures. Morgaine knows the history of many of them, and so does Bran. Share your knowledge and resources, the two of you. I do not want to hear any reports that any of you were uncooperative.”
And with that, we shrugged into our outerwear and headed out through the kitchen, stopping to pick up the bag of food from Hanna, before piling into the backyard. I also took a moment to fetch the yew staff Aeval had given me.
The rain had paused for a moment, though the clouds were still thick, and by the look of the sky in the east, we were due for another soaking any moment.
We stopped by the portal. Derisa had shifted the destination, and the guards had been watching it closely in case any of the Elder Fae tried to break through. The one thing in our favor was that the Elder Fae weren’t numerous, not in the sense of, say, goblins, or humans, or even the Fae themselves.
They bred slowly, and every one—regardless of their parentage—was unique. While not all of them were malicious, they were all deadly and powerful. And it was impossible to tell the malign ones from the benign at first glance. Looks meant nothing in their world—in the world of the Fae, in general. The ugliest creature could be helpful, and the most beautiful deathly dangerous.
I turned to Smoky and Iris, who had joined us. Vanzir had stayed inside to help Hanna. Shade was standing by Delilah. Chase was back at Iris’s house, watching the kids with Bruce.
“Well, here we are.” I realized I was stalling, not wanting to face the moment when we walked into the portal. But procrastinating wouldn’t get the job done. “Okay, if we’re going to do this, let’s get moving.” Leaning up on tiptoe, I planted a kiss on Smoky’s cheek.
He sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Take care of yourself, for me and for everybody who loves you.”