|Home > Yasmine Galenorn > Sisters of the Moon > Priestess Dreaming (Page 26)|
|Priestess Dreaming(Sisters of the Moon #16) by Yasmine Galenorn|
“Yeah, but look who else is along for the ride. Morgaine is the sanest of that bunch of nut jobs.” She handed me the water.
I took a long swig to wash down the crumbs of my sandwich. “I’m having a hard time reconciling what we were taught about the Great Divide with what we’re finding out now. We’ve got demons over Earthside and a demon’s pet over in Otherworld. Add to that, Yvarr and his kind emerging from the shadows.” Pausing, I mused over a question that had been needling me. “Who do you think is worse, Telazhar or Shadow Wing?”
“Shadow Wing, because he’s orchestrating it all.” Delilah leaned forward, wiping the crumbs off her hands onto her jeans. “Two years ago . . . even a year ago, I would have had trouble facing all this. I’ve changed, you know? And Queen Asteria’s death changed me even more. It was the first time I had to escort someone I loved through the veils. I think it hardened me.”
I shook my head. “No, it didn’t harden you. You toughened up, and lost what was left of that naïve little girl, but it didn’t make you hard. You’re still our Kitten. You still love your catnip mice and fleece toys and playing with string, and for that, I’m grateful.” I leaned against her shoulder. “Thank you for coming with me. I don’t think I could have dealt with Morgaine and her crew without at least one of my sisters here.”
Delilah smiled and wrapped her arm around my shoulders. “We’ve all changed, Camille. You’re tougher than you were, and stronger. We’re all growing into whatever the future is holding for us, but we’ll always be sisters, and we’ll always be there for one another.”
I nodded, wiping a thin veil of mist from my eyes. “Damn it, I don’t need to be getting all sentimental here. We have a Druid to find.” I let out a long sigh. “I guess we’d better get moving. I just wish I felt less like a walking target.”
“Safety doesn’t exist in our world anymore. And you know what? I don’t know if it ever did.” She took my hand, swinging it as we walked back to camp.
“Safety is an illusion.” I picked up my blanket and rolled it up, noticing that Bran and Mordred had returned. “You can die in your bed if the ceiling caves in. Or the shower, or the garden . . .” The premonition still hovered in the back of my mind, but I was able to push it back for now. Because whatever it was, I knew it would find us sooner rather than later.
“Are you ready?” Morgaine approached. “We should head out. We’ve got a hard day’s walking ahead of us.”
I nodded. “We’re just about packed up. Five minutes and we’ll be set.” I hadn’t wanted to bring it up, but it occurred to me that the fact that someone might be following me would also put our mission in danger. I decided that I had to tell her. “I need to talk to you alone, but I want your word—on your honor—you won’t mention this to Bran or Mordred or Arturo unless it becomes absolutely necessary.”
She gave me a puzzled look. “All right. Come, they won’t hear us over here.”
We sequestered ourselves below a large cedar tree, and there, I told her the bare bones. I didn’t tell her how I knew, but only that I’d heard rumors were filtering around that I was in the realm of the Elder Fae with the unicorn horn.
Her eyes glistened. Of course she knew I had the horn, but as far as I remembered, she’d never seen it, and I didn’t fancy showing her now. Morgaine craved power. The horn promised far too much of that for someone with her greed.
But she surprised me—she didn’t even ask to see it. “Then we must be even more cautious. If the Elder Fae catch wind of it, then we’re in far more danger than anybody tracking you.”
“True, that. Yannie Fin Diver sensed it and came after me. We barely escaped from him. But . . . there are those closer who wouldn’t mind having this artifact.” I was talking about Bran, but Morgaine’s nostrils flared and she looked like I’d insulted her.
“Don’t worry yourself. I’m not going to steal your toy from you, girl. I may envy you, and I find your lack of foresight distressing, but I will never steal what is rightfully yours. I have, at least, that much honor.” The words rang true, even with the speculative look she gave me.
Deciding that, given the confrontation between Morgaine and Bran, she might prove more ally than hindrance, I decided to set her straight. “I wasn’t talking about you. Bran envies me. He is angry that his father has never seen fit to gift him with the horn and the hide.”
Morgaine let out a loud snort. “The Black Beast knows what he’s doing. Bran, given one of the horns? We would all regret that mistake. Do not trust him. Do not believe him. He twists words, uses truth as a weapon, and is not above using secrets as fodder for blackmail.”
I started to ask her what he had on her, but then decided it was neither the time nor the place. I didn’t want to push her buttons, especially when we were forging an uneasy truce.
“I don’t think there’s much danger of me trusting him any farther than I can throw him. We’d better get back. I just wanted to warn you.” And with that, we returned for the others, and headed out on the path.
* * *
We’d walked for a good three hours along the never-ending woodland, keenly aware of every sound and movement that rustled from within the forest. Every time we flushed a bird out of the bushes, one of us jumped. By the time we came to another open field, I was happy to leave the forest behind. Too many chances for ambush, too many places for the enemy to hide.
Bran had kept mostly to himself, which was a blessing. Better he ignore us than shower us with his dubious attention. Mostly, I kept close to Morgaine and Morio. At one point, I realized that I was traveling with three people whose names started with M-o-r. Laughing aloud, I startled the others.
“Something funny?” Morio grinned at me.
I cleared my throat, realizing that if I told him what I was thinking, it would sound totally lame. “Just my mind wandering off on its own.”
The sky was rippling with the faint glow of sunlight behind the clouds. We had started off at the first hint of dawn. Now, the breaking light showed us the vast swath of grassland that we were in. But the grass was darker here, and the land felt more menacing. Maybe it was that we were farther into the realm of Fae, or just that I was noticing the energy more.
I paused, motioning for the others to stop and closed my eyes. There was something on the wind. Something was coming our way. I reached out to see if I could discover what it was.
Cloaked in a swarm of bees and the stinging of wasps, it was big and vicious. Hive mentality ruled, and the over-mind was looking for an outlet for its anger. Whatever it was, it had been riled up and was out to vent its irritation on somebody.
“We’ve got company coming. I think it’s a swarm . . . and yet . . . more. There’s a cunning intelligence behind whatever it is. One creature with many bodies. Something that can swarm and sting.”
Morgaine raised her hands and closed her eyes. A moment later, she nodded. “You’re right, and it’s coming in fast.”
Tanne pushed forward. “I’ve dealt with creatures like this in the Black Forest. They’re deadly, and you’re right that they have a hive mind.”
Lovely. Just what we needed. But we still weren’t sure exactly what we were dealing with. Hornets? Bees? Some other insect? While it was well-known that animals swarming together exhibited much more complex behavior than individuals, this was something else.
“How do we fight this? Is there a way to disrupt the magic that brought them together as a creature?” If we could scatter them, maybe we’d have a better chance of avoiding a mass attack.
Tanne frowned. “Well, if they’ve been magically bound together, my Spell of Unraveling might work. I can’t guarantee it, of course. But the trouble is, I need to be close to the creature to cast it. And if the spell doesn’t work, I’ll be prime target for its attack. I’m not sure I want that dubious honor.”
“We need a giant can of Raid.” Delilah shaded her eyes as she walked to the edge of the path. “I can’t see anything, but that means squat.”
“Fire.” Bran stepped up beside her. “Fire will always drop a hive. The smoke. But we’ll have to build a damn big one, and lure that thing into it. Either that or we resort to carrying torches till we’re well away from it.”
“Fire isn’t such a bad idea, actually.” I would have been happier if anybody but Bran had thought of it, but now was not the time to begrudge the message, regardless of how much I disliked the messenger.
“We need to move fast,” Morgaine said. “I can feel the buzzing in my bones and there are tens of thousands of . . . wasps . . . yes—wasps—in the hive-monster.”
“Grab whatever you can that will burn. Does anybody have any magic that produces flame?” I had the firebombs I’d stolen from Roz, but it seemed smarter to keep them for later, if somebody else could ignite the fire. Magical flame burned hotter than regular fire and worked against enchanted creatures better.
Tanne shook his head. “Not me. I don’t work with the element much.”
Morgaine and Bran both dissented, too. Mordred didn’t even open his mouth and I realized that, although he was part Fae, he didn’t work with magic like his aunt. He was more pretty-boy brawn.
Delilah pulled out a lighter. “I guess we go with a BIC.”
Firebombs it was, then.
“No, I’ve got something. I was planning on keeping it in reserve, but I think we need it now. Gather all the kindling you can.” I stopped, shading my eyes. “There’s the creature!”
What had seemed to be a shadow on the horizon was now rapidly approaching. From where we stood, it looked like it was a swirling mass of color, but was actually tens of thousands of wasps creating the bipedal form.
That spurred everybody on. Mordred, Morio, and Bran quickly began gathering all the sticks and branches they could find. “We need dry wood or it won’t burn!” Mordred said.
“Not to worry. What I have will burn even damp foliage. Just gather as much wood as you possibly can. We need to lure it near. When it’s close enough to get caught in the smoke, I’ll light the fire. Which means we need bait.”
“I’ll volunteer.” Tanne moved out in front. “I’m fast enough to dodge it, as long as you can slow it down.”
I shrugged off my pack and opened it, digging through. Delilah knelt beside me, her voice low. “Are you going to use the Unicorn Horn?”
“No,” I murmured. “I’m keeping that under strict wraps unless we absolutely have to use it. Before we left, I borrowed a few things from Roz.” I grinned at her as I held out two of the firebombs. “I think two should do it, don’t you? Or maybe I should get out a third just in case.”
She stared at the reddish orbs in my hand, then peeked in my pack to see the other bombs I had tucked in there. “Good gods, you really did rifle through his stash, didn’t you? He’s going to be pissed.”
“Too bad. He was gone, so I couldn’t ask him. He never wants to let me play with his toys anyway.” Grinning at her, I closed my pack again. “Now, how does he ignite them?”
“I think he just tosses them and they explode on impact. Which means you shouldn’t get too close to the pile of brush. Can you aim right?” She shrugged at my stare. “Hey, I know you aren’t that athletic. Even though you’ve been hitting the gym, your aim with a ball was never accurate. I remember—you gave me a black eye once.”
I groaned. She would remember that. I hadn’t meant to hurt her, but when we had been playing stickball, I’d ended up landing her a good one on her right eye. Father had lit into me for that, but it wasn’t my fault. Truth was, I wasn’t particularly good with throwing things, let alone a bomb that needed to land in a precise location. And I needed to just accept that fact.
Reluctantly, I handed them over. “Fine, but I never get to play with the cool stuff.” Grumbling, I watched as she cautiously pocketed them.
The men had built quite the pile of combustibles. The creature was speeding up, oozing fury and the desire to attack. Whatever had pissed this thing off had done a damned good job of it.
By now, we could see it clearly and the swarming mass of wasps was a terrible sight. My skin crawled. Swarms always bothered me, and it seemed there were a number of Elder Fae who worked with them. The spider-Fae who had captured Chase had a swarm of horrible critters that covered her house.
Tanne calmly walked toward the creature. He paused till it noticed him, then, as it made a beeline for him, he began to back up quickly toward the impromptu bonfire-in-waiting. The men had been able to gather quite a few branches from the forest, and had piled the mound of brush and sticks a good five feet high.
Delilah motioned for Morgaine and Arturo to back up. Mordred and Bran took a clue and also moved to the side.
As Tanne neared the brush pile, he suddenly dove to the side as the hive-monster sped up, charging for him. The sound of the buzzing made my skin crawl and I shuddered, forcing myself to hold my ground.
Up close, the creature was a nightmare of whirling, buzzing wasps. They formed the vague shape of a giant, seven feet tall at least. A few of the insects broke off from the hive, probably reconnaissance, scouting ahead for new prey. Wasps were carnivorous, which told me that the hive-monster most likely ate its kills.
As Tanne dove to the side, Delilah tossed the first firebomb into the bonfire. It exploded on impact, and the branches burst into flame. The hive-monster began to rampage—a number of wasps shooting out from the thick of it. Delilah threw another bomb on the flames and the fire flared, smoke pouring out over the creature. She tossed the third one for good measure and the resulting explosion released a massive plume of smoke.