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|Priestess Dreaming(Sisters of the Moon #16) by Yasmine Galenorn|
“Yvarr—enemy of my love! Come down here, you coward, and face me!” The wind was streaming through her hair and she stretched her arms wide, inviting him to attack.
I had to remind myself that she was an Elemental. She could be hurt, but she was one of the true Immortals and there was no way Yvarr could kill her. Whether he knew that was another matter.
Yvarr spiraled down, landing on the ground in front of her so hard that he shook the land. “The Raven! I have waited long to repay you for my imprisonment.”
He really was under the misassumption that Raven Mother had played an integral part in locking him up. I wondered what part the Fae Lords had played in encouraging the idea. By now, I wasn’t putting anything past them.
“Wily one, how did you escape?” Raven Mother circled, moving his attention away from Myrddin and myself. She was giving us the opportunity to do what we needed to do.
“You forgot to destroy the key. Something seems to have opened my cage door, cunning one.” Yvarr’s skin glistened, the sheen of the scales illuminated by the glow of the clouds. “I see you have brought two wretched descendants of my kind to help you. They are puny in the face of my power.” And then, without warning, he turned on Smoky, breathing out a long breath of fire.
Smoky immediately launched himself into the air, bellowing as the flames scorched his wings. I braced myself to keep from screaming, but instead, followed Myrddin as he raced into the clearing, holding his staff up high. He was wearing his headdress and robes, and as a brilliant flash emanated from the staff, Yvarr jerked around, his sinuous neck writhing like a serpent.
“What is this? The Merlin! You cannot be alive!” There was a look in the wyrm’s eye—a flicker of fear.
I stood back, letting Myrddin do his thing.
Myrddin began to incant the Spell of Naming, and as he did, the energy in his words was so strong and so ancient, that it sent a shock wave through my body. If he controlled this much power, just what else could he do?
Ancient one of bone and flesh, of scale and hide and fire,
I seek your name, the truest word, force you to my desire,
This spell I weave, to seek the name, to hunt the key,
Through rock and bone and history,
Through air and wind and gale and breeze,
Through wave and ocean, lake and sea,
Through flame and ember and spark I seek,
Your name I call, Your name I sing,
This spell to me, your name will bring!
Everything fell silent, including Yvarr, and then a single bird—a raven—flew in and landed on the Merlin’s shoulder, cawing once. Myrddin laughed and shouted, “Yvancian Lucern Tregastius! Hear me and obey!”
Yvarr froze, and in that moment, I could see the spell winding around him like a silver net of sparkling wire. Smoky landed next to Shade and I could feel both sorrow and relief through our bond. He was mourning for Yvarr, even though he understood the need to do this.
“Show your most vulnerable area.” Myrddin was harsh and commanding, his demand held no mercy. He reminded me of Aeval in that moment, and I realized that as soft-spoken as he might be, I hoped we never had to tangle with the Merlin, because chances were, he’d come out on top.
Yvarr rolled over, showing his belly. Myrddin turned to me. “You have only moments. Hurry!”
I brought the horn to bear and yelled, “Hit the deck!”
Everyone scrambled, including Raven Mother.
I wanted to close my eyes. I didn’t want to see the damage I was about to inflict, but then I stopped. If I was going to attack a creature as powerful and magnificent as Yvarr, I owed him the respect of watching the results.
“Master of the Winds, I call down the lightning!” A bolt shot out from the horn, over a billion volts of energy, brilliant and neon hot. A single, flame-blue fork seared its way into Yvarr’s stomach, and the ancient wyrm let out a scream so loud it deafened me. He writhed, his serpentine body flailing, as the lightning exploded against him. It crisped the skin as he convulsed, the chain of lightning hopping and skipping around him, holding him in its fiery blue embrace.
A moment later, and Yvarr lay on the ground, still writhing, but hoarse from his screams. At that moment, Smoky and Shade moved in and as we watched, they finished the job, talons and great jaws flashing bloody as they ripped Yvarr in half.
The carnage turned my stomach. And yet, if we hadn’t gone in for the kill, if we’d hesitated, Yvarr would be ripping up the compound even now, and then moving on to Seattle.
I didn’t realize tears were running down my cheek until Myrddin turned back to me and gently reached out to wipe them away from my face.
“Little witch, this is the nature of life. These creatures . . . they may be beautiful, but beauty does not preclude deadly force.”
I nodded. I knew this all too well but still, the power we had over life and death never ceased to affect me. And Yvarr, as greedy and grasping as he might be, had been used and abused by my father’s ancestors.
I turned to Delilah, who sheathed her dagger. “I’m stick-a-fork-in-me done.”
She smiled grimly. “I have to say, I’m grateful I didn’t have to run into the mix. If we hadn’t been able to control him? We’d all be running for our lives now.” She wrapped her arm around me. “You okay?”
I let out a long, slow breath. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just . . . sometimes the energy can overwhelm me. How many of these creatures still exist in the world? Eriskel told me that Yvarr’s death would wake others. Whether he meant wyrms or other creatures from before the Great Divide, I don’t know.”
“What happened to your hand?” Delilah grabbed my hand up. I was still clutching the unicorn horn and as I looked down, I saw a row of blisters covering my palm. The pain was barely beginning to register.
“Fuck. Must have been residue from the heat of the discharge.” At that point, Raven Mother walked up and I stuffed the horn in my pocket. “Thank you. You distracted him enough for us to attack.”
She shrugged. “It would seem we’re in this all together, now wouldn’t it? Besides, my son told me about your journey, he did. You are too bright, my Camille, too beautiful for so much darkness. And yet, you would walk under the dark of the moon. It bodes well to incur your favor, young Priestess, yes it does, considering that which has been set in motion. But the deed is done, and I am off again. Do not forget—Raven Mother was helpful, was she not?” And in that singsong way of hers, she tilted her head and then, in a flash of light, transformed into a large raven and flew off.
In silence, we watched her leave.
Then, Myrddin stated the obvious. “You owe her a favor now, and so do I. We would do well to not forget that fact.”
I nodded. “Yeah, I’m aware of that.”
As the cheers rang out from the warriors and I ran over to make certain Smoky was all right, I caught sight of Aeval. She was looking at Myrddin, then she turned to stare at me. Her gaze was not unfriendly, but contemplative, and I flashed back to what she had said when she had looked at Morgaine. “And so it plays out . . .” and then, Raven Mother saying, “It bodes well to incur your favor, young Priestess, yes it does, considering that which has been set in motion.” Something had happened, and I didn’t have a clue what.
But I pushed the thoughts to the back of my mind as Smoky and Shade resumed their forms. Smoky was okay—he looked mildly singed, which was the most I’d ever seen him damaged, but he swung me into his arms, laughing. Beside me, Shade opened his arms to Delilah.
“We need to let Nerissa know everything’s okay,” I said.
“We will—no worries.” Smoky turned to look at Yvarr, and again, I saw the sorrow in his face. “He is one of the ancestors. One of our Titans. It seems such a pity to kill so magnificent a beast. But no worries, my love.” He kissed the top of my head. “I know why it had to happen.”
Aeval and Titania joined us. “The Merlin will stay with us, here in Talamh Lonrach Oll, until he decides what he wishes to do. I would not be surprised if he journeys to his old country and reestablishes the ancient groves. I have a feeling Stonehenge may be reclaimed from their government before long.”
I laughed, but then sobered. How much would the human governments put up with our coming out of the closet? How far could we push the issue? But then, the cheering began anew as one of Bran’s warriors shouted, “Armor!” as he held up one of the wyrm’s scales.
Yes, we were building a whole new world, and the more that happened, the more Earthside felt like home. I wrapped my arm around Smoky’s waist and he kissed me on the forehead.
“You saved the day, my love. You went up against the wyrm and you saved the day.” He sounded so proud that I laughed.
“No, I didn’t. Don’t you see? We all saved the day. We each had our part to play, and we each did what we were called to do. We’re all in this together, Smoky. We’re all equally in danger. We all fight . . . and we all either lose . . . or triumph.” But inside, I realized that sometimes, someone got lost along the way while the rest of us kept moving. Arturo left us this round, and most likely, Mordred. And Morgaine . . . who was still lost within her mind somewhere. Whether she would return to us remained to be seen. I decided to keep quiet, though. No use dwelling on the collateral damage we’d already faced.
He laughed then. “Very well . . . we saved the day. Again.”
I nodded, my thoughts drifting to Trillian. Maybe, if we were lucky, there would be news of him when we got home. And with that melancholy thought, I decided to shake off all of the scattered thoughts and worries, and try to enjoy the victory. Just a little bit, at least.
YULE—THE WINTER SOLSTICE
Back home, everything was decked out, waiting for us to return from the ritual. The presents were under the trees, the food was waiting in the kitchen. But for now, in this moment, we were all here to celebrate the turn of the Wheel. It was Winter Solstice and, once again, we were gathered down at Birchwater Pond. Eye catchers dappled the snow-covered woodland, and we were dressed in warm, festive clothes. Music echoed from the speakers—Damh the Bard, Spiral Dance, Woodland, Faun, Gypsy—all FBH musicians who had tapped into their pagan roots and put their feelings and beliefs into song.
The moon shone overhead—the Moon Mother watching over us through her waxing eyes, sparkling in the chill night air. The sky was clear and the temperature settled around freezing, but in the center of the Circle, the bonfire burned brightly, a beacon of hope in the darkened night. Vanzir and Rozurial were minding the fire, keeping it stoked. Roz had forgiven me for stealing his firebombs, especially when he found out how they’d helped keep us alive.
Menolly stood by the water, her arm around Nerissa as they watched the moon glisten on the surface of the waves. Delilah and Shade snuggled in the shade of a cedar tree, cuddling on a bench together as they held Maggie, playing with her. Maggie was wearing a scarf Hanna had crocheted for her, and a Santa hat, looking cute as a button.
Chase was helping Hanna decorate one last tree near the pond with giant silver and gold ornaments and cranberry garland. We’d bedecked the entire grove and now everything sparkled. The babies were tucked warmly in their carriages, as Bruce guarded over them. We’d invited Tanne to join us, but he was celebrating with his own clan, as was fitting.
Around the Circle, Smoky, Shade, and Trillian finished setting up the candles and final touches for the ritual. Trillian had made it home safely, but without Darynal, and he was heartbroken about it.
We didn’t know whether Darynal lived or not, and Trillian had no idea where to find his soul statue. After an ambush, Trillian and Rozurial had managed to escape and had made their way back to Ceredream, and from there, home. I knew Trillian felt he had failed, but there wasn’t much else we could do. So we would hope and pray, and keep asking Trenyth for updates, and Trillian intended to try again when there was anything new to go on.
As I took in the scene, I smiled softly. Family and friends—that’s what mattered most. Money made a difference, yes, but it couldn’t buy back a life. All the treasure in the world wouldn’t bring back our father, or Shamas, or Queen Asteria, or Chrysandra. All the fortunes combined couldn’t bribe the Lady of Ice to loosen her grasp on the dead.
And so many were missing or dead. Or they were among the walking wounded. Morgaine was still wandering in the shadows of her mind. Aeval had fully taken over my training. She said very little of the Queen of Dusk and Twilight, save that the shock had been more than our cousin could handle, but she would not tell me if Morgaine would recover. And there had been no sign of Mordred. Whatever fate awaited him was clouded from our view.
Morio motioned to me. “It’s time. Let’s begin.”
Since we’d returned, he’d been spending time with the Merlin, and what they discussed, he wouldn’t tell me. But Aeval had warned me to let it alone. All I knew is that Morio had become integral to my magic—not only the death magic we practiced but my Moon Magic. I was paired with a priest who was my match now, and while Morio always acceded the primary role to me, he took part in most of my rituals.
Iris joined us at the altar. As the others took their place in Circle, Morio, Iris, and I joined hands. We called on the spirit of Winter. We petitioned Beira to go easy on the land. We invoked the Holly King, and Undutar. We embraced the depths of the snow and ice.
I glanced up at the shining Moon, wondering what she had waiting for me next. And what was in store for all of us? The war against Shadow Wing had settled into a long fight, yes. But I had the feeling that our individual destinies were also beginning to play out in our lives. Something was brewing—a witch’s brew of intrigue and shifting power and rising tides that the world had not seen in many ages. The Merlin was back, and the world would never be the same.