Autumn Whispers (Page 38)

The scene looked so peaceful and quiet that it was hard to believe that we were back in the fray. But neck deep, we were. Vanzir had filled Morio and Shade in on the day’s events.

“How could anything get this convoluted, this fast?” I grimaced. “Three and a half days ago everything was on an even keel. Now? We have demons on the left, daemons on the right, and sorcerers in the middle. We’re sinking fast, Captain, and I don’t think we have a bucket large enough to bail us out of this situation.”

Shade shook his head. “I don’t know, Matey, but the universe is like that. So what do we do next?”

Camille and I consulted our lists.

“Well,” I said, looking over our notes. “All we have to do is discover how far Lowestar Radcliffe’s reach extends, and see if we can to find Violet. At least we know she’s alive, but we have to move on this and move quickly before he sells her out from under us yet. Tanne Baum will get back to us—he’s going to try some ritual to see if he can locate her or find out more information about where she’s being kept.”

“We need to research Suvika; figure out what his powers—and vulnerabilities—are, and hopefully how to stop Lowestar from waking him up.” Camille slid onto the sofa next to Morio.

“Oh,” I added. “Also—we still don’t know if there are any vamps missing from the Wayfarer fire, and we have to start talking rebuilding.”

Camille sighed. “I need to take Violet’s journal to Aeval to see if she can translate it. And we haven’t contacted Aunt Rythwar yet to tell her about Father. The Keraastar Knights are still missing. Sorcerers are marching on Svartalfheim and overrunning Elqaneve.”

“And let us not forget, Shade’s sister is visiting in a few days. I think that about sums it up, don’t you, Camille?” I gave her a helpless look and she nodded.

“In other words, life as usual.” Chase attempted a joke but it fell flat, and he sighed. “I miss Sharah. I know I should be thinking about how she’s doing her duty, how she’s being selfless and leading her people in a gods-

forsaken battle, but damn it, I miss her. She should be here with her baby. Or they should have let her take Astrid with her, even if they wouldn’t allow me to go along.” He nuzzled his daughter and kissed her lightly on the forehead.

I pulled a chair up next to his. “I know it’s not going to be easy, Chase, but life never makes that a package guarantee, you know. But you have your daughter, and you know Sharah loves both of you. And . . . you can keep Astrid safer than Sharah can right now.”

He shrugged, but a shy smile crept over his face. “Iris is wonderful. I can’t believe she took us in, and her with two babies of her own. They are cute munchkins, aren’t they? And she seems so sure of their place in the world. I wish I could see a safe future for Astrid. But when I try to look ahead, it’s all . . . just a blur of what might be.”

“That’s because your abilities don’t seem to include prognostication. But Chase, you have other gifts. And they will come out the more time goes on. You can help make the future safe for Astrid.” Camille stretched out her legs and stared at her shoes. “I am thinking, even though it’s barely near dinner, of crawling into a nightgown and hanging it up for the day.” After a moment, she whispered. “I miss Smoky and Trillian.”

Morio set down the papers and wrapped his arm around her. “So do I, love, but they will return safe to us.”

I glanced at the clock. “Menolly should be up at any moment—”

“Beat you to it, Kitten.” Menolly entered the room. “Why so solemn? Who . . .” She stopped. “Bad joke, not even going there.” At that moment, the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it.” In a minute she returned, an envelope in her hand. At my look, she shrugged. “For me. I have no idea who it’s from—messenger delivered it.”

As she opened it, the Whispering Mirror chimed and I motioned for Camille to stay put. “I’ll answer it.” I took my place in front of the mirror. “Delilah here.”

“Fuck! This is a notice that I’m being sued by one of the victim’s families! One of the FBH’s families.” Menolly let out a growl even as the fog lifted in the mirror.

I was facing Trenyth, who looked exhausted. I’d never seen him look so rough. “What’s wrong?”

Camille and Menolly crowded in behind me.

“Girls, I’m glad you’re here—Menolly, are you there too?”

“I am.”

“I don’t have much time. We are under siege and the fighting is rough. I wanted to let you know two things. One, you need to head to Grandmother Coyote’s portal as soon as we finish talking. Trillian is on his way over with Luke and Amber, and Amber’s baby. You need to keep them safe—along with the spirit seals. We don’t dare let them stay in Otherworld at this point. You have to hide the seals there, and they cannot be removed from Luke or Amber at this point.”

Camille paled. “How do we keep them safe here?”

“I don’t know, figure out a way.” He choked a little. “We lost Tam Lin to Trenyth’s forces. Shadow Wing now has another spirit seal. Benjamin and Venus are still missing. Smoky and Rozurial are hunting for them like madmen.”

I thought, quickly counting. “What about the seal we sent you from fighting Gulakah?”

“I’m sending it with Trillian. You must hide that, as well.”

“Then . . . we have three seals. Two are missing, and Shadow Wing has three now. They’ve evened up the playing field, at our expense.” The thought that Telazhar had managed to catch Tam Lin made me breathless. I could not imagine what torture they would put the man through. If he was lucky, they’d kill him outright and take the seal.

“And we still have one remaining undiscovered.” Camille hung her head. “This is beyond nightmare status.”

“What of the war?” Menolly rested her hands on my shoulders.

Trenyth pinched the bridge of his nose. “Camille, your vision was correct. The storm-creature has been spotted near Svartalfheim. I managed to get word to King Vodox and he is doing everything he can to protect the city. At least he wasn’t caught unaware. His sorcerers are massing to fight against it. There will be fire raining from the skies before midnight.”

A soldier appeared over his shoulder and whispered something in his ear. Trenyth nodded. “I must go—I . . . I have to go. Sharah is all right, please tell Chase she’s safe for now. And that her people rally to her feet.” And with that, the fog returned and the mirror fell silent.

We sat there for a moment, silent, digesting all the information, then Menolly grabbed her keys. “I’m heading to the portal. Delilah, bring your jeep. Camille, work with the others to figure out where the hell we’re going to stash three spirit seals and two Keraastar Knights. Let’s go.”

• • •

Grandmother Coyote was waiting for us, and she led us back into her forest without a word. There, in the shadow of the trees, Trillian stood, along with Amber and Luke. Amber was holding her daughter, who was almost a year old. She hadn’t been born when I last saw Amber, and I had no idea what she’d named the child. I hadn’t been sure we’d ever see them again, and moved forward to give them a hug, but paused at the look in their eyes.

They’d changed. Whatever Asteria had been doing with them had changed them. They smiled, both of them, but the smile was distant and there was a sense of aloofness there, almost a feel of regality. They also looked somewhat shell-shocked, and they were covered with dirt and leaves and soot.

Trillian led them forward and I gave him a brief hug. He patted my back as he embraced me. “I’m sorry about Sephreh,” he whispered. “I never wanted for that to happen, as much trouble as I had with the man.”

“I know.” I smiled sadly and nodded toward Amber and Luke. “How are they?”

“Rough. I’ll tell you what we know once we’re back at the house. How’s my wife?”

“Missing you and Smoky. About as shaken as we all are. Let’s get them home and figure out what to do in order to keep them safe.” Menolly and I guided them back to our cars. Menolly drove Amber, Luke, and the baby, while Trillian rode with me. We didn’t talk much. Trillian looked exhausted and the smell of smoke clinging to him reminded me too much of Camille’s and my escape.

As we drove the short distance back to the house, I thought about what Chase had said—about not being able to see ahead. Right now, I was glad I didn’t have the sight. Camille had helped Svartalfheim prepare for war, but I didn’t envy her the horror of that knowledge burned into my thoughts. And what must it be like to be Grandmother Coyote, to see all the threads and balances? To have to balance out good with evil, light with shadow? To deliberately weave discord into the web? Somehow, being an assassin for the gods—reaping the souls of the dead—seemed easier.

Camille and the others were waiting, along with Nerissa who had gotten home from work, and Shamas.

Amber and Luke didn’t say much, they seemed uncomfortable and so very changed. Menolly shook her head at me when I tried to talk to them, and I left my questions unasked.

“We thought for tonight at least, we can keep them in your lair? Nerissa can sleep upstairs tonight. Hell, the safe room still has to be standing at the Wayfarer—it was built to survive just about any disaster. But now, I think it would be too easy to access. I’m worried about the portal down there in the rubble of the basement, too.” Camille glanced over at Menolly. “I know it’s a sore subject, but we can’t tiptoe around it. Not with everything that’s happening.”

“It’s all right, Camille.” Menolly shrugged. “My bar was torched, eight people died, and I’m being sued. But compared to what’s going on back home right now? Kind of puts things into perspective. As for the portal, Tavah is keeping an eye on it for us. She’s stationed herself down there. I doubt if anybody’s going to mess with a vampire hiding out in the dark ruins of a basement.”

“I had a thought.” Camille glanced at us. “But I need to talk to Smoky. What if we take the Keraastar Knights to the Dragon Reaches? They owe me one, and they promised to help in our war against the demons. Smoky’s mother—Vishana—would do what she could to help us, too. Perhaps they can stay at Smoky’s family home.”

“That’s a brilliant idea.” I smiled. It felt like we’d caught a break for the first time since our trip to Elqaneve. “How can we get in touch with him?”

“I’ll call through the Whispering Mirror tomorrow and talk to Smoky. But for tonight, Luke and Amber should be safe here. Menolly, you and Nerissa want to take them below and make them comfortable? The baby . . . we’d better not separate her from her mother.” Camille turned to Hanna, who was home and bustling around. “Can you make dinner now? Something easy—spaghetti or a casserole.”

Hanna nodded and hustled toward the kitchen.

Trillian yawned. “I’m exhausted. I’m going to take a shower and get some clean clothes on, then I’ll tell you over dinner what we found when we went out hunting for the Knights.” He headed upstairs. Camille looked like she wanted to go with him, but instead, she stayed with us.

“If Shadow Wing has three of the spirit seals, we know he’s going to use them together. They may not be able to break through all the portals here, not with just three, but the power compounds with each one. We’re in for a world of hurt, I think. And you know he’s going to send somebody new through sooner than later.” I kicked the ottoman.

“At least the daemons and demons don’t like each other. Which means, though we’re fighting on two fronts, Lowestar won’t be likely to join up with Shadow Wing. He’s got too much invested here Earthside to want to destroy it.”

Vanzir shrugged. “Trytian doesn’t like Lowestar either, for what it’s worth. He’s offered an olive branch—well, as much as he can. He’ll give us whatever information he finds on Radcliffe and his cronies. Because you know if there’s one daemon over here praying to Suvika, there have to be more.”

I picked up the letter Menolly had dropped on the table. Sure enough, it was a notification for a lawsuit. “We have to find a lawyer. Anybody know any good Supe lawyers?”

Chase nodded. “I do, actually. I’ve talked to several of them over the years. Tomorrow, when I go into work, I’ll get some names for Menolly.” Astrid started to fuss. “She’s hungry. I’m going to run her out to Iris’s and I’ll be back afterward. I think I’d better sit in on what’s going on.” With a little kiss on her forehead, he headed toward the kitchen, holding her like she was a fragile piece of crystal.

My phone rang and I moved to the side, out of the line of conversation, to answer it. It was Albert.

“We were just wondering if you’ve had any word on Violet yet?”

I could hear the concern in his voice, but there was no way I could tell him what we suspected. “We have some leads, but it’s going to take a while. Meanwhile, Albert, you’d better take good care of her cat for her, please. I don’t think . . . we don’t think . . . Violet went off on her own voluntarily.”

A thought struck me. “Listen, can you discreetly—and I do mean discreetly—ask around. See if any other Fae women went missing? Or Supes or . . . just put your ear to the grapevine to see if you catch news of any other missing persons, especially among women.”