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|Priestess Dreaming(Sisters of the Moon #16) by Yasmine Galenorn|
“Yes, of course, you’re right. This goes against all my teaching—but the Wing Liege will understand.” Smoky looked up at us. “There is a way to get them to tell you their true name. The Dragonkin bred that out of our strain, but it will work on the ancient wyrms. But . . . Myrddin, only you or the Fae Queens can do this. Only you have the innate powers needed to charm them.”
Myrddin let out a long breath. “The Spell of Naming.”
Tanne jerked his head up. “I know of that spell. Our greatest bards—our heroes—used that to gain power over the forces of the world. We have remnants of the incantation but no one alive has the complete reference to it.”
“Correction: Smoky speaks the truth. I know the spell. I do not know if either Titania or Aeval remembers the incantation. But I do.” Myrddin’s voice was soft. “It takes a great toll on the caster, and will not subdue the creature for long. You will have a short window in which to attack Yvarr after I cast it. And I won’t get a second chance. By the time I recoup my energy, he will have toasted me alive.”
“Then that’s our way to defeat him. You cast the spell, the rest of us pile on and rip him to pieces. What works against his hide? Smoky, you said his scales are far stronger than yours or that of other dragons?”
Shade interjected at that point. “Magical weaponry should work. Regular swords and daggers will probably just bounce off, his hide is going to be so strong. Fire won’t affect him, and neither will most magic, except for lightning. Death magic might have an effect, so you and Morio could prepare your most powerful spell and try it out, but have your weapons ready. Smoky and I can attack in our natural forms. Vanzir, don’t try to suck out his life energy—that won’t work on him and will just get you one hell of a headache.”
“Shade’s right.” Smoky glanced around the car. “Delilah, your dagger won’t be of much use unless you come in from behind. Tanne, what do you have in your repertoire?”
“I have no magical weapons, but I am Woodland Fae. I might be able to use my spell-singing to coax the forest to help us.”
“I doubt it,” I broke in. “Considering the entire area is under the dominion of the Fae Queens, I’m pretty sure it’s warded against outside influence. Just keep an eye out for what you can do to help the rest of us. I do have one weapon still. The horn is still two-thirds charged. And this is the time to use it. You said fire won’t work, but I can call the Master of Winds to call down the lightning. That’s going to pack one hell of a wallop.”
There was a brief silence, then Shade laughed. “Yeah, that will. Let Myrddin cast his spell and then use it while Yvarr is under his control. That way he won’t be able to deflect it. In fact, Myrddin, if you can get him to roll over and expose his belly, the underside is more vulnerable than his back.”
“Then we have a plan.” I glanced out the window. The rain pelted down in earnest, the afternoon shadows growing. I began to see a few flakes of snow mixed in. “We’re going to face a cold, gloomy battle. Our exit’s coming up.”
The exit ramp diverged onto a two-lane highway. We were northeast of Seattle, and here the forest crowded thick on either side of the road. Morio slowed down as the road grew narrower and bumpier. With the trees so flush on either side, it was darker than the freeway had been. Now, the rain fully turned to snow but it wasn’t sticking yet.
Another ten minutes and we approached the gates leading into Talamh Lonrach Oll. The Court of the Three Queens had been granted permission to create a sovereign nation within the state. They had originally bought one thousand acres, but recently had increased it by two thousand more. The government had set a limit—for now—on the size of the reservation at five thousand acres.
The land was covered with fir and cedar, vining maple and birch and cottonwood. In the past couple of years since they had purchased the land, they had worked ceaselessly to create a home for Fae who wanted to live among their own kind. No electricity was allowed here, but magic ran fast and thick, and the population had been steadily growing. The Talamh Lonrach Oll Warriors were headed up by Bran, and as much as I still didn’t trust him, I had to admit he did a good job of training them.
As we slowed, turning onto the road that led to a pair of ten-foot-tall, silver-plated gates, the energy crackled around us.
Myrddin shifted. “They have not forgotten their origins, that much I will say.” He glanced out the window. He’d adapted quickly to the car, after a couple of minutes, and I had a feeling that little could jar this man. He had to be able to hold his post in the most frenzied of battles. Something as simple as an automobile? No challenge. Though I wouldn’t want to see him try to drive one without practice.
The guards were waiting. There were at least twenty of them at the gate, and they were in full leather with weapons at the ready. As Delilah pulled in behind us, easing to a stop, Bran hopped out of the car and hurried forward to talk to his men. He said something. Apparently, one of the guards tried to contradict him, because the next minute we heard a storm of cussing. The guard immediately saluted and stood back, and the gates opened wide. Bran came back to our car and motioned for me to roll down the window.
“Normally you’d have to leave the cars here and go by buggy but we don’t have time for that. I’ve sent one of the men ahead to the barrow palace to let them know we’re on the way. Drive on through. The paths are wide enough to maneuver. Try not to take out the statues though, if you would. I don’t want Aeval hounding my hide for broken bric-a-brac.”
Before I could say a word, he hurried back to Delilah’s Jeep and hopped back in. Morio eased through the gates and jumped the curb at the parking area, following the cobblestone path. One of the guards had commandeered a horse from the stall where horses and carts waited, and he galloped ahead to clear the way and lead us in. By buggy it would take us twenty minutes to traverse the road to the palaces. By car, we could make it in five.
The houses along the path were single story, cottage-like and covered with moss roofs. Eye catchers shimmered, lighting the paths that intersected and crisscrossed. Along the route, we saw the Fae hurrying every which way, and loud alarms were sounding. At least they hadn’t been caught unaware.
The palace came into view as we entered the cobblestoned courtyard. The giant barrow mounds held three courts—Aeval’s, Titania’s, and Morgaine’s. The grass covering the mounds was rich and green, but a scattering of snow was beginning to accumulate, giving the barrows a shimmery look.
Morio put the SUV in park and turned off the ignition. We all piled out, except Morgaine, who sat there until I took her hand and drew her out with us. Delilah’s Jeep was right behind us, and they did the same, parking in back of my Lexus.
At that moment, Aeval and Titania appeared, both in battle gear. I’d never seen either of them wearing anything but gorgeous dresses, so to see them in full trousers and leather armor was disconcerting. But the leather—Titania’s was green, Aeval’s was black as night—was finely crafted and embellished with intricate designs. I would have thought the runes ornamental if I wasn’t tuned into magic, but even from a distance, I could tell the enhancements gave them extra protection and other abilities.
Behind them, Raven Mother stood ready. Her presence on the land was proof enough as to how serious the threat was. Aeval didn’t like Raven Mother, and the feeling was mutual.
I gave them all a quick curtsey, but there was no time for chatter. “Obviously you know Yvarr escaped and is on the way here?”
They nodded, then Titania looked over at Morgaine and Myrddin. “Myrddin!” Her shout rebounded through the courtyard. “You found him!” The Queen of Light and Morning practically bounced over to Myrddin, hugging him with a brilliant smile on her face. Titania was as effusive in her emotions as Aeval was reserved.
Aeval moved forward, nodding to the High Druid. “Welcome back to the land of the living. I wish we could have time to sit and talk before heading into war, but alas, we have no such luxury.” Then, her gaze fell on Morgaine. “What happened?”
I joined them. “Short version? Myrddin woke Arthur up. Arthur told Mordred the truth. Mordred killed Arthur, then ran off when he realized what he did. We had to leave them both—Arturo’s body, and Mordred—in the realm of the Elder Fae. Morgaine hasn’t spoken since she watched her son kill his father. We’ve tried everything we could to bring her out of it, but . . .” I looked into Aeval’s eyes, and for the first time, saw pity in them.
“And so it plays out,” she said softly, motioning for a guard to take Morgaine away. “Take her to my chambers. Tell them to tuck her into bed. Guard her well.” After he left, taking the Queen of Dusk and Twilight with him, Aeval turned back to me. “Yvarr will be here any moment.”
“We’ve asked Myrddin to use the Spell of Naming on him.”
Aeval turned to Myrddin. “I remember part of the spell. But I’m not sure I remember all that goes with it.”
“No worries. After this battle is over, I’ll refresh your and Titania’s memory on it.” He gave Titania a quick hug, like he might hug a sister, but his gaze landed on Aeval with respect and a touch of fear.
Aeval glanced overhead. “Áine lives, then?” There was a catch in her voice and I could swear a saw a tear in the corner of her eye.
Myrddin smiled at her then, ducking his head. “Aye. Your foster daughter lives. But she is under a curse. After you were imprisoned, they cursed her and took away her ability to shift form.”
I whirled to Aeval. “Foster daughter?”
“Áine was commended into my care after she met the Merlin and fell in love with him. The Wing Liege assigned to me to watch over her. I tried to send her home when the great wars began, but she would not go. Before I could contact her kin in the Dragon Realms, the Fae Lords caught me and locked me within the crystal cave.”
She shuddered. “But we have no time to reminisce. He is within ten minutes of here. You have a plan, then? We have all our warriors ready, but a wyrm such as Yvarr will decimate the land before we can make a dent in him. As I said, I’ve been struggling to remember the Spell of Naming the past few days, and so has Titania, but neither of us was able to recall the complete incantation.”
“Myrddin will cast the spell on Yvarr, and I’m going to use the horn to make the initial wound. Then the others will attack and between everything, we hope to be able to kill him. I’d better prep the horn.” I moved to the side while the others continued discussing strategy.
As I pulled the horn out of my pocket, the energy quickened rapidly. The energy of Talamh Lonrach Oll must be causing a chain reaction because I slid into trance without any difficulties. Once again, I faced Eriskel in the center of the horn. He was looking particularly solemn.
“You know what’s going on, don’t you? I need the Master of Winds. I need him to call down the lightning for me.” I turned toward the mirror that looked into the Eastern realm.
Eriskel walked over to stand beside me. “You know that killing a wyrm will set off repercussions you can’t even begin to dream of?”
“I know that if we don’t kill Yvarr, many innocents will die as he ravages the country. The government will call out their own weapons to try to destroy him and things will escalate to an end none of us want to see.” I turned to face the jindasel. “I was given the horn for a reason. I’ve never used it lightly. Trust me?”
“I have no choice. You are the mistress of the horn and I’m your servant. Just remember, there will be repercussions down the line, and not from using the horn. Kill one, and it will waken others.” He stood back, and the Master of Winds appeared in the mirror, looking down from his rocky crag high in the mountains. The wind blew through his hair and he saluted me, arm held high.
“Master of Winds, I need your lightning. Sky Lord, I need all the lightning you can bring to bear.”
He grinned. “You have my full force, Lady Camille. As much power as is left in the horn will be charged with the force of the sky.”
And, just like that, I found myself back in my body, holding the horn, which now felt amped up by the force of over a billion volts of energy just waiting to be discharged. It set my teeth to chattering and I was suddenly terribly afraid of accidentally triggering it in the wrong direction. Not only did I have the force of one f**king strong-assed lightning bolt in my hands, but it was also magically enhanced, so it would not only strike, but it would strike and keep hold.
“Look—there he is!” The cry came from behind me and I hurried over to Myrddin’s side. I had to know what he was doing, and when he was doing it, so I could play my part. Smoky and Shade had both moved back into large clear areas and now they transformed, taking their natural shapes—Smoky, a great white and silver dragon, and Shade—a skeletal dragon with bones that were the color of the earth.
Morio shifted shape, too, into his youkai form. Delilah, Tanne, and the Fae Queens waited back of Myrddin and me. Bran was marching into position, leading the warriors, but he waited to bring them into the arena. If Yvarr let loose with a blast of flame, no point in having all targets on hand. Vanzir had vanished but I knew he was somewhere around, probably waiting in the Ionyc Seas so he could come in for a sneak attack.
Raven Mother moved forward then, and at first I wanted to shout for her to get out of the way, but I realized she was luring him in. He wanted her, he wanted revenge, and he was blustery enough to talk it up before trying to kill her.
She read him right. Yvarr appeared over the trees, huge and serpentine, reminding me of Áine but far, far older and more dangerous. He glimmered against the light of the storm, his terrible claws polished to a high sheen. At least half-again as big as Smoky, Yvarr was a horrible beast, beautiful and deadly and circling to strike. He spiraled down, aiming toward Raven Mother, and she let out a laugh that echoed through the air, amplified by magic.