Autumn Whispers (Page 35)

“You’ll have a babysitter for Astrid, and Iris can nurse her. You will get more sleep and you can feel safer about leaving her during the day. What do you say?” I was a little hesitant. After all, Iris hadn’t consulted Bruce yet, but then again, Iris was Iris and we all did what she said.

Chase let out a long breath. “Bless that little sprite. Tell her I accept, and I’ll do whatever I can to lighten the load. And that way, Astrid won’t be alone either . . . she’ll have babies her own age.”

“I don’t think right now that matters so much, but you know? Hard to tell. When can you come over?” I nodded at Iris, who let out a broad smile.

“Does she mind if I pick up Astrid and bring her over now? I can stop on the way home tonight to get a suitcase with some clothes for me. But wait—I’ll have a gun in the house. How does she feel about that?” Chase hesitated. He had to have his gun, but I also knew he respected others’ feelings about the subject.

I sat down my phone and turned to Iris. “Here’s the deal. He has to keep his gun with him. Will that bother you? If not, he’d like to bring Astrid—his daughter—over right now.”

Iris didn’t even blink an eye. “Chase knows what he’s doing and it will be a long sight before those children are out of their cribs. I have no issues with it. Tell him to get his hindquarters in gear and bring that lovely baby over.”

I told Chase what she said and he promised to be over in an hour. After I punched the End Talk button, I turned my attention back to my sandwich.

“Are you sure this won’t be too much work for you, Iris?” Camille forked a bite of her spaghetti but Iris reached out and touched her hand.

“Is that cold?”

“Yes.” Camille blushed. “I don’t mind it cold.”

“We’ll see about that. You get right over to that stove and heat it up, Miss.” Iris started to stand up, wincing. “If you don’t, I will.”

“You sit down!” Camille jumped up and carried her plate over to the microwave. “I’ll heat it, but don’t you even dare get up.” She popped it in the microwave and punched the Express time button for two minutes.

“I swear, I move out and everything goes to hell.” Iris frowned. “We’ll have to figure out a way to streamline the workload in both of our households. Hanna is doing her best but things are getting out of hand. I think she and I can put our heads together and come up with a plan.”

The way she said it, made me nervous. “What do you have in mind?”

“You just leave all that up to us, Delilah. We’ll figure something out. Meanwhile, I’d better get back to the house and make sure the Duchess hasn’t decided to buy me new furniture. When Chase gets here, you bring him and the wee one down. We’ll get a bassinet set up—we have an extra.”

At my look, she blushed, right through her tattoos on the sides of her face. “Well, you never know when you’ll need a spare.”

And with that, she gently eased out of her chair and headed out the kitchen door, back to her house.

Camille watched out the window, making sure Iris arrived home safely. “Somehow, if it’s possible, I think Iris has gotten bossier since she gave birth.”

“You’re telling me. Man, she’s going to be a pistol when she gets back on her feet. I guess we’d better prepare Hanna when she gets back.”

The two women had come to a truce about who controlled what, especially since Iris had moved into her own house, but Iris still claimed our home as her territory too, and it led to some awkward interactions at times. They never really argued, but as Hanna got more comfortable, she also wanted to take more responsibility. I was wondering how the hell they’d come to some suitable arrangement, but knowing the two of them, they’d find a way.

Camille sighed. “I need to contact Trillian and have him go talk to Aunt Rythwar. Want to come with me?”

I didn’t, but since she was offering to do the dirty work, the least I could do was offer moral support. It was hard enough thinking about Father, let alone talking about him. We headed into the living room. The Whispering Mirror was still set up downstairs and we’d probably leave it down here for easy access as the war progressed. I dreaded finding out what was going on back in Elqaneve. By now the goblins had probably reached the city and we could only hope that Tanaquar’s forces had made it in time to repel them.

Camille settled herself in front of the mirror and it flared to life and she stated her name. Voice activated, only our voices—and those of our husbands—would allow access. The frame was woven in a silver knotwork of delicate roses and leaves, and the glass was normally covered in mist, but when Camille said her name, the mist cleared and we could see a dark room. There were no windows in sight and the only illumination seemed to come from the eye catchers that hovered along the walls at regular intervals. A soft chime sounded, and a moment later, Trenyth appeared. He looked tired, harried even, but at least he was alive.

He slid into the seat in front of his own mirror and let out a soft sigh. “The war is on in earnest. The goblins have breached the gates of Elqaneve and are scattered throughout the whole of Kelvashan. Tanaquar’s armies reached our side shortly before the goblins, so they spread out and the fighting is echoing through our lands.”

Depressing news. But at least Tanaquar had sent her armies in advance and we’d been responsible for getting the news to her. That made me feel a little bit better. “What of the Knights?”

Trenyth’s solemn look didn’t change. “So far, your men have not been able to track them down. We have no idea if the other side has got hold of any of them.” He winced and rubbed his head. “If they do, we are . . . as you put it . . . fucked.”

Hearing that come out of Trenyth’s mouth was shocking, but then again, nothing had been normal since we’d first come over Earthside.

“How’s Sharah doing?” I asked.

“She’s coping. Postpartum depression has hit her pretty hard, especially since she can’t be with her baby. It’s not going to be easy, this transition. She never expected to reach the throne, and nobody expected her to so she wasn’t trained in the nuances of the Court. Or rather, she didn’t bother to learn. We’re having to fast-track her training.”

“Well, tell her that Chase and Astrid—her daughter—are moving here. They’ll be staying with Iris and will be a lot safer than if they stayed at Chase’s apartment for now. It’s not permanent but we’ll sort that out later.”

Trenyth gave me a faint smile. “She’ll be happy to hear that. I know it’s been weighing on her heart and her mind.”

“Is Trillian there?” Camille asked. “We need him to . . . we need him to go find our Aunt Rythwar and tell her about our father. And . . . have you found his body yet?”

Her question hit me in the gut and I gulped back a sob, but Camille was maintaining and I’d be damned if I’d be the one to need comforting this time. She’d already carried us through Mother’s death. We weren’t going to put her through doing the same now that Father was dead.

“No girls. I’m sorry, we haven’t found a trace of him yet. But his soul statue . . . well . . . I wouldn’t hold out hope if I were you. As for Trillian, he’s in the back room. They’re preparing for another scouting mission today. A few of our seers escaped and they are trying to locate the Knights.”

Another thought hit me. “Amber—she had a baby! Did . . . do you know . . .” How could I ask? How could I ask if they knew if Amber’s baby was dead. One of the Keraastar Knights, Amber had ended up with her brother Luke—Menolly’s ex-barkeep—in Otherworld, chained to the yoke of the spirit seals. And there, she’d had her baby. Nobody knew if her possession of the spirit seal had altered the baby while it was in her womb, but it was just something we assumed we would find out as the child grew.

Trenyth gave me a bleak look. “I don’t know. Delilah, there are so many missing here that we will never have a true picture as to how many of our people have died. The toll is massive. Whole villages were wiped out by the storm. And now the armies are descending, and the sorcerers will surely come behind them. The Moon Mother is sending her Dark Moon Sorceresses to fight by our side.”

Camille shifted in her seat. “Is Derisa going to be leading them?”

Derisa, the High Priestess of the Moon Mother, had held the position for who knows how long. But Camille was being trained to be the High Priestess of the Moon Mother’s sorceresses—the priestesses who followed the Dark Moon. Derisa would lead the witches who followed the Bright Moon. Derisa would stay in Otherworld, while Camille was to stay Earthside and lead the new acolytes here. Or at least, that was the current plan.

“No, she cannot. She is too valuable. But there are Dark Moon sorceresses of great power and one of them, Seith, will lead the helm. They will drive forward to Kelvashan in two days’ time. And the King of Nebulveori is sending warriors. Dahnsburg has an army on the march to our lands, and Svartalfheim is also dispatching a legion. If we can hold out for another week, we will have a formidable force.”

Camille stared at Trenyth for a moment. “Will this leave their lands open to attack?”

He paled. “No, we have thought of that and insisted they send only those they can spare. Why? Do you sense something?”

She closed her eyes, and then, with a sharp cry, leaned over, clutching her head. “I see the same vision I did when I reached Elqaneve. The storm—it did not dissipate. It still lives, and it waits. They have chained it—this is no storm, Trenyth. It’s a creature they’ve constructed. It takes the shape of a storm, but it’s like a golem of sorts. And they have it ready to use again.”

“How are you tuning into to this? And do you know where it will strike next?” Trenyth stood. “I will send word immediately if you can pinpoint it.”

She sucked in a deep breath and lowered herself deeper into trance. I could feel the magic settle around her shoulders as her head dropped forward. “There is a city to the northwest . . . they will go after Svartalfheim next. They seek to enslave the sorcerers of Vodox’s realm.”

Her eyes flew open and she leaned forward, clutching the sides of the table. “Hurry, Trenyth. They are on the march. I don’t know how I am tuning into this, but trust me. They will attack soon. Warn King Vodox. I don’t know how they can protect the city but he has to try.”

Trenyth paled, but he nodded. “What did you contact me for? Hurry, and then I will rush to send word to Svartalfheim.”

Camille shook her head. “No, go now. Do it now. What we wanted can wait. Just protect my husbands and our friend Roz. But go, warn Vodox. If he does not erect a force field, his city will go down in flames, as sure as Elqaneve was destroyed.”

And with that, she signed off, and the mirror fogged over again. I looked at her, horror filling my heart. “Telazhar . . . he can’t be stopped, can he? He’s laying waste to Y’Eírialiastar all by himself.”

She shook her head. “Not by himself. He carries power from Shadow Wing, and the armies of disgruntled sorcerers. But he can be stopped—I have to believe this. If not . . . then Otherworld is lost to a war far more deadly than the Scorching Wars, and Earthside will be next. Once he breaks through, he’ll be able to use his sorcerers to gate in the demons. They’ll rip apart the portals one way or another. And the worlds will be a feeding ground for the damned.”

Chapter 18

We were a solemn pair by the time Chase arrived. Nerissa was with him, carrying Astrid, while he held the diaper bag, a stroller, and a bag full of toys. The kid could barely see the world and he already was showering her with stuffed bears and dolls. I repressed a grin, not wanting to say anything to squash his enthusiasm. He looked like he’d lost a lot of sleep though, and I had the feeling that he wouldn’t stay in very good shape for long if he kept trying to do this all on his own, wet nurse and nanny or not.

The baby was fussy, and Nerissa immediately headed over to Iris’s with her. Chase dropped into a chair in the kitchen, his dark eyes flashing.

“I never expected it to be like this. I thought Sharah and I would move in together and . . .”

“And you’d be a happy little family.” I rubbed his shoulders. “That would be ideal, Chase, but the sooner you accept that it’s not going to happen that way, the easier it will be to adjust. Life sucks, sometimes.”

Camille handed him a cup of coffee and a Danish. “Everything is in a mess right now. We just have to weather through. Iris will be a huge help and she’ll look after Astrid like she will her own. You know that.”

He nodded, the dazed look lifting just a little. “I honestly don’t know what I’d do if she hadn’t made the offer. I feel like she just threw me a lifeline and I’m holding on for dear life. And Sharah’s only been gone since yesterday. Last night was horrible. Astrid wouldn’t stop crying and the nanny—who is one bitch of an elf—couldn’t quiet her down. By three this morning, I was ready to kick that elf’s ass to the curb.”

“Astrid wants her mother. But she has her daddy and that will make a huge difference. Sharah’s not having a field day either.” Camille told him about our conversation with Trenyth. “The world has gone to hell and we’re all just going to have to hold on as best as we can. I’m mostly worried about the Keraastar Knights. Smoky and the guys have to find them. If Telazhar finds the seals first, we’re all doomed.”