Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Storm Born Chapter Twenty-Three
The similarities between the fachan and nixie attacks werent lost on me. Both types were water creatures, and all had redemed frequently to a greater extent interested in downing thrust Kings daughter than fathering her child. Recalling how Dorian had said some one(a) mesomorphic would surrender had to force them to come out to the desert, I decided that figuring out who that could be involve to move to the top of my list of priorities. Rape was horrible. Death waswell, final.Unfortunately, I wasnt rightfully for certain I trusted my new gentry contacts to give me unbiased advice. So I glum to my next-most relatively neutral sources.Like al routes, my spirit minions as wellk a long succession in answering my question. Nandi and Volusian were securelight-emitting diode to answer eventually, but I estimate they always sort of tried to wait from each one other out. This time, it was Nandi who finally gave in.Mistress, t here be many among the shining ones who could summo n such creatures. Far too many for you to hunt down or investigate. To do so would be akin to counting grains of sand on a beach. The t aim is impossible. Were you to try, you would fall into a despair so dark and deep that it would undoubtedly shatter your header and force you into insanity.Volusian sighed loudly and shuffled so that he stood farther into the shadows of my bedroom. Metaphors aside, mistress, she is correct. Perhaps there are not quite so many suspects but still enough to make a search difficult.Finn, moving around my room in unoccupied circles, stopped his flight and scoffed. Why are you wasting your time with all these other people? Its obvious whos doing it. Maiwenn is.I sit cross-legged on the bed and swallowed a piece of my Milky Way. Maiwenn cant control water. Besides, I added bitterly, everyone keeps going on well-nigh how weak and sickly she is lately anyway. I honestly didnt get what the queen-size deal was with her being so debilitated by pregnancy. I d worked at a restaurant in high school, and thered been a waitress there whod stayed on her feet until the twenty-four hour period she delivered.Maiwenn doesnt form to do it herself, argued Finn. Shes the mastermind. Other people despised Storm King. Shes probably collaborating with them and directing them to attack you.That seems kind of elaborate.I swear, Volusian almost smiled. Spend more time around the gentry courts, mistress, and youll find a plan like that would be childishly simplistic. Nonetheless, I find it unlikely the Willow Queen is involved. It is not in her nature. She would not kill without provocation. She is more likely to wait and observe than act on her emotions.Unless there was some matter more personal involved, said Finn slyly. You k immediately, maybe a shrimpy jealousyApparently my romantic difficulties were no secret. Honestly, I didnt get how gossip spread so fast in the Otherworld, crack upicularly considering how they had no telephones, TV, or Inte rnet.I glared at him. She has nada to be jealous about. Not anymore.Agreed, said Volusian. Besides, the Willow Queen is not an adolescent girl who would risk her rule to take little revenge. She and her peers are far too clever. And ruthless.Finn crossed his arms and glared at Volusian. It was kind of a bold move, considering Finn looked like a cartoon character and Volusian looked like he ate the souls of small children. For all I knew, he probably did.Of course youd say that. Youre trying to throw Odile off Maiwenns trail. Makes it easy, doesnt it? Then Maiwenns assassins can do your dismal work for you. We all know youre just waiting to kill her off. Finn jerked his thumb in my direction.Volusian went rigid, his eyes narrowing to red slits. Make no mistake. When I kill our mistress and I will I will not depend on some gentry to do it. I will rip her skeletal frame and tear her soul apart myself.Silence fell.Truly, mistress, Nandi said at last, it is a wonder you even have the will to carry on.Enough, I groaned, rubbing my eyes. organism around you guys is like being on the Jerry Springer Show sometimes. As much as I hate to admit it, I agree with Volusian. Finn started to speak, and I cut him off with a gesture. But I still indispensableness to talk to Maiwenn. If she is guilty, maybe I can find out. If she isnt, maybe shell help me encipher out who is.Youre crazy, exclaimed Finn. Youre playing right into her work force.And your opinion has been duly noted for the record. I dont need to hear it anymore.He disappeared with a huff. I shook my head and turned to the others.Show me where the closelippedst cross all everywhere to her home is.It turned out to be an hour and a half drive from Tucson, but considering how much Otherworldly break down I probably would have had to do by crossing somewhere else, I didnt mind. This proved doubly true when the crossroads in the Willow cut deposited me within eyesight of her palace.It was only a small cons olation, considering it was still freezing in her land. Back home, the weather had been hot and perfect. Worst of all, today was Cinco de Mayo. I should have spent the rest of the day drinking copious amounts of tequila, followed by a blissful blackout under a table somewhere.At least there was no wind now, but the air held a sharp, biting chill. It was dry too I could thought its lack of moisture. Ice and snow drifts glittered with crystalline smasher in the stark winter sunlight, but it was a dangerous beauty. If you stared at the blankets of white too long, you could almost get afterimages from the brightness.I trudged down the cold road, admiring the castle in spite of myself.Unlike Aesons and Dorians, it lacked the blocky, fortress look. It waswell, pretty. Graceful, fluid spires rose up, their silvery white surface gleaming and sparkling. The entire structure had a curved, almost wriggling look, like a calla lily. I wondered if this simply resulted from the difference betwe en male and female monarchs. Maybe Maiwenn just had better taste.The guards turned rightfully alarm when I in assortmented them who I was. They tried to coax me inside to wait for Maiwenns admittance, but I refused to take one step until theyd requested hospitality for me. It took for a while during which time the number of guards circling me doubled but Maiwenn finally sent bear word that I could see her and would be under the protection of her home.A lady-in-waiting led me to Maiwenn, and she do it clear in both body language and words that I had no business disturbing her queen. She led me through twisting halls, at last leaving me in a cozy, brightly lit sitting room. Maiwenn rested in a comfy plush chair, propped up by pillows. A glowering satin dressing gown wrapped around her, and someone had tucked a blanket over her lap. Even pale-skinned and messy-haired, she looked gorgeous.She smiled at me and gestured for the servant to give-up the ghost. Lady Markham, what a pl easant surprise. Please, sit down.Uneasily, I eased onto a delicate plush pink chair. Call me Eugenie.She nodded, and we both sat there awkwardly. Watching her, all I could think about was how she was carrying Kiyos baby. It would create a lifelong bond between them that I could never share. Not that I wanted anything like that, of course. Kiyo was out of my life.Maiwenns sense of propriety, being better than mine, soon kicked in. Im happy to receive you, but I suspect this isnt a social call.NoIm sorry. I wanted to talk to you about I hesitated, absolutely facial expression foolish. What had I been thinking to come here and ask her outright if she wanted to kill me? Well, it was too late to back out. cogency as well go for it. Ive had a couple of nasty attacks lately. Attacks meant to kill me. And I was wondering ifif maybe you knew anything about them.Her turquoise eyes regarded me knowingly. Or more to the point, you want to know if I had anything to do with them.I averted my eyes. Yes.Its no wonder Dorian likes you so much. Your bluntness must amuse him to no end. She sighed and leaned her head back in the chair. You may turn over me or not, but the answer is no. I neither ordered nor know anything about any attempts on your life. What happened? count it couldnt hurt regardless of her involvement, I told her everything about the fachan and the nixies. Her face stayed mostly blank, though I did see surprise flash in her eyes a hardly a(prenominal) times. When I finished, her response was not what I expected.Why do you live in a desert anyway? Willingly even?I matt-up surprise cross my own face. Its my home. Its not that bad.She shrugged. If you say so. But Dorian is right in his assessment of getting those creatures to you in the first place. Someone powerful and motivated would have had to do it.Do you know who?No. Like I said, you have no reason to believe me, but I had nothing to do with this.She was right. I had no reason to believe her. And yetsom e part of me noted that Kiyo trusted her. Whatever anger I felt over his withholding of information, I had to believe he wasnt an entirely unreliable judge of character.Could you give me names of people who could do it?I could give you dozens. Wouldnt do you much good.I scowled and slouched into my chair. The same response as the spirits.Im sorry I cant be more help. She sounded sincere. I wont lie The thought of you having Tirigans grandson terrifies me. But I dont believe in punishing you for something that has not yet happened especially when you are trying to not make it happen. However That placid expression turned hesitant. May I ask you a question?Sure.I know what you told me, and yetwell, I hear more and more stories about your involvement with Dorian. Kiyo said She tripped over the name. Kiyo said I had nothing to worry about.You dont. Its an act. Dorians teaching me to use my magic, and in exchange, I play his girlfriend. No point in mentioning our recent bargain.She cons idered. So youve decided to embrace your hereditary pattern after all.Only enough to not do something stupid.Youre right to do thatthough Id feel better if you had another teacher. Your bargain may seem unhurt enough for nowyet I doubt hell let it stay that simple for long. Dont let his charm blind you to his agenda. Hell use you to get what he wants and he wants the prophecy fulfilled.Hey, I can handle Dorian. And his charm. on that points more to it than just that, however. Your very life may be at risk.From Dorian? I doubt it.From his enemies.That was a new one. I didnt really know he had any unlesswell, you and he differ in opinionand I guess he and Aeson dont get on either. I sat up straighter. Do you think his enemies are the ones trying to kill me? To get back at him?Any number of people could be trying to kill you. The list of his enemies is no shorter than the ones I referred to before. Most of his have nothing to do with where he stands on the prophecy. Hes powerful, a nd many fear that with good reason. When this part of the Otherworld rearranged itself, he fought to seize much more of it than he did. Only at the last minute did Katrice, queen of the Rowan Land, emerge as a competition and slice up more. The land recognized her and allowed her a portion, cutting Dorian out of larger territory.I shivered. I had heard Roland speak of the Otherworlds sentience, how it continually changed form and boundaries. Still. The thought of it allowing someone to do something creeped me out.Many know he has never accepted that outcome, she continued. He would like to expand, and they see you as the means of doing it. Your human powers have been feared for years. If you manifest Storm Kings as well, they believe you and Dorian will conquer the other kingdoms. And possibly beyond.Everyones so obsessed with conquest, I grumbled. Why cant they just leave things the way they are?Your king has grander plans than that, Im afraid.I wondered not for the first time wh o was getting the better end of this deal Dorian and I had contrived. What was it he really wanted from me? So even people who agree with the prophecy dont necessarily like him.She nodded. They would rather see your son fathered by someone less intriguing someone they could control. Those same people could very well attempt to remove Dorian. Or, others who wanted Storm King to succeed in theory secretly believe it will never happen, so now they simply worry about the immediate threat you present to the kingdoms here.This new development, that I was a threat because I wanted to conquer the Otherworld, was almost more ludicrous than the prophecy. Why the hell would I want to rule in this world? Havent they noticed Im human? Or at least half? I dont have any claim on gentry real estate. And I dont want any.The shining ones view things other than than humans. Humans always feel the need to point out any drop of alien blood in a person. As far as we care, you have our blood, and that suffices. You may have a human mother, but for all other intents and purposes, most of us now regard you as one of our own.I thought about how common outsider labels were back in my own world African American, Asian American, etc. She was right. People usually called attention to foreign blood.Yeah, but all that aside, Ive made a career out of hunting them down. Doesnt that bother anybody or seem weird for a potential queen?Some, yes, she conceded. The slimly distasteful look on her face informed me she was among them. And they wont get over that anytime soon. But really for everyone else well, as I said, most consider you one of us now, and killing wantonly isnt that out of line for a powerful leader. Nothing that Tirigan or Aeson or Dorian hasnt done.I exhaled loudly. This doesnt make me feel better. I suddenly feel like I have more enemies than before.Im sorry. If its any consolation, Dorians enemies may seek you out because of your connection to him, but that very connection will compel him to protect you by whatever means he can. Conniving or not, hes a powerful ally.I remembered the nixies. Yeah. He is.Another uncomfortable silence descended, and we sat there watching each other. Regardless of how wussy I thought her condition was, she did look pretty exhausted. I hadnt really decided if she was an enemy or not. Honestly, Id original more things to worry about than any sort of answers from this visit.Well, I said stupidly, thanks for thehelp. I guess I should go.She nodded and gave me a faint, tired smile. Youre welcome here anytime.Thanks.I stood up and moved to the door. My hand was on the knob when she called my name.EugenieI turned. A pained look crossed her face, one that had nothing to do with her visible discomfort.He loves you, she said haltingly. You shouldyou should forgive him. He didnt mean to hurt you.I held her gaze for several painful moments and then walked out without another word. I didnt want to think about Kiyo.And then, as irony would have it, I ran into him when I was about halfway out of the keep. The universe was harsh sometimes. Whatever feelings her words had kindled in me dried up at the thought of him coming to visit her. The look on his face implied I was the last person hed expected to see there.I forcibly kept my expression cold, trying hard not to show how much I was drinking in his appearance and presence. He was as stunning as ever with that tanned skin and silky black hair curling slightly behind his ears. I wanted to run my hands through it. The heavy coat he wore couldnt hide that graceful, athletic body.Eugenie, he said softly, what are you doing here?I had to chat with Maiwenn. You know, girl talk. I hoped my spectre conveyed that I did not want to elaborate on our conversation. He picked up on the hint.Well. Its good to see you. You lookgood. How have thingsI mean, have you been approve?I shrugged. The usual. Propositions. Attempts on my life. You know how it goes.I worry about you.Im fine. I can take care of myself. Besides, I do have some help.Those dark, affectionateness eyes narrowed slightly. I suppose you mean Dorian.He saved me from a pretty nasty attack the other day and, I added, feeling mean, hes going to help me go get Jasmine.Thats a bad idea.Which part? Getting her or relying on Dorian?Both.Well, you knew I was going to go for her one of these days. Better sooner than later. I started to walk past him, and he caught my arm. Even through the coat, his touch sent shock waves through my body.He leaned close to me. I want to come with you.I dont need your help.You need all the help you can get.No. I broke his hold.He moved and blocked my way again. I could feel some of that animal intensity radiating off of him. Last time you didnt want gentry help because it hurt your pride. Youre doing the same thing with me for the same reasons, and theres no point. Forget how much you hate me, and worry about whats ruff for the girl. Im going with you.He had a poi nt about what was in Jasmines best interests, but his attitude bothered me. What, you think you can make something happen by just telling me it will? Youre not going, so get over it.Theres nothing to get over. If youre in danger, I protect you. Ill be there.Well, I guess youre going to have to go stake out Aesons 24/7, because Im sure as hell not letting you in on the secret planning meetings.Some of his feral demeanor dropped, and suddenly he was relaxed, collected Kiyo again. There are secret meetings? What are you guys now, the Superfriends?I rolled my eyes and walked past him, back to the crossroads and the warmer weather of Arizona. That ache in my chest, the one Id had since Beltane, burned-over steadily the entire time. I hated what had happened to us, but I didnt know how to fix it. I didnt know how to forgive Kiyo.I tried to get my mind on something else as I drove home, like planning the logistics of the next Jasmine rescue. Or, considering her resistance, maybe it would be more like a smash n grab. Regardless, I was hot to get it over with. Damn Dorians clause about my magic. And his stupid nobility about sex.I was almost home when I drove past a Barnes & Noble. An idea leapt into my brain, a strange one admittedly, but one that couldnt hurt.I hadnt stopped thinking about how much potential I allegedly had with magic. For years, Id relied on human magic or rather the human ability to extract magic from the world. I could banish spirits and monsters. I could walk worlds. But this questionable power within me offered so much more, according to both Dorian and Maiwenn not to mention my own barely remembered longings. I had resisted it at first, but nownow I wanted so badly to advance to higher levels. Dorian and I would meet tomorrow night for another session, and I hated the thought of more inactivity. Hed told me I had a lifetime to catch up on magic, but I didnt want to wait that long. I wanted to close the gap.Naturally, the store had no books on real magic. They only carried the silly and trumped-up commercial type stuff. But they did have a science section, and within that, I found a couple shelves on weather and meteorology.I doubted these books would make me a magical dominatrix overnight, but actually knowing the science behind what I worked with had to help. It was something tangible, something I had more experience with than the weird, esoteric nature of magic itself. Volusian had once commented that as a child of both worlds, I could take the best of each lineage. I was both gentry and human. Magic and technology.I spent over an hour skimming through books on storms, the atmosphere, and assorted weather phenomena. When the store made its closing announcement, I could hardly believe it. Time had flown by. Scooping up the ones I deemed most useful, I paid and went home.Reading is hot, Tim told me when I walked in the door with my heavy bag.I ignored him and retreated to my room. Dumping the books on the bed, I pick ed the most remedial-looking one and sat down at my desk, where the Eiffel Tower still lay unfinished. I hadnt had time for puzzles lately. With a wistful last look, I swept the pieces up into the box and put it away. The tower would have to wait.Shifting my legs into a comfortable position, I spread out the glossy, full-colored textbook. Flipping through the title pages and introduction, I finally found the meat of the book.