Authors: Kalayna Price
Tags: #Urban Life, #Contemporary, #Epic, #Fiction, #Fantasy, #General
managed to hail a cab as soon as I reached street level, which I took as a good sign that I was supposed to get the hel away from the scene. I wished I could have left a message for Falin, to let him know I was al right, but I had no idea who else might find it first. He would know by the disk and the hole into the Aetheric—which I was leaving around like cal ing cards these days—that a construct had attacked and that I’d dispel ed it. Hopeful y I’d be able to let him know I was okay once I got, wel , wherever I was going.
Unfortunately, you can’t just tel a cabbie to drive you somewhere safe. An actual address is a must.
I gave him an address for two streets away from my house and then spent the entire drive fretting over that decision. The FIB had been at the house earlier, so what was the chance they weren’t watching it and waiting for me to return home? Of course, only an idiot would go home, and if I worked on the assumption that they assumed I
an idiot and thus wouldn’t go home, it would actual y be one of the safest places possible.
Yeah, okay, it was crappy logic, but the letter Caleb had mentioned was there. I knew the fae had taken Caleb, but I had no idea what had happened to Hol y. Caleb’s cryptic message made it sound like the letter would give me a clue.
It took the rest of the money in my purse to pay the cabdriver, and that was with so little of a tip that he almost ran over my toes as he drove away. Night had fal en while I’d been in the car, and I was actual y thankful that my vision I’d been in the car, and I was actual y thankful that my vision was on the fritz—light didn’t matter so much when you weren’t looking at the world through physical eyes.
I walked through backyards, stepping around forgotten toys and over sprinklers. As I neared Caleb’s yard, I tried to stay out of view of the street. I didn’t know where hidden watchers might be lying in wait, but whenever I’d had to stake out a place—not often, but for one case involving a falsified wil and some misappropriated items—I’d stayed in my car, watching for movement in the house.
“Hey, Alex,” a male voice said, and I was so tense I actual y dropped flat to the ground before I realized the voice belong to Roy. “Man, I’ve been looking al over for you.”
I pushed myself out of the dirt. “That’s good, because your timing is perfect.”
“Oh, you have no idea. I saw Bel run off last night, so I went after him. Man, that glowy stuff messed with his head.”
I guessed that by “glowy stuff” Roy meant raw Aetheric energy. I nodded. “Okay, but, Roy—”
He didn’t even pause, but paced as he spoke faster, his hands doing half the talking with him. “Wel , he and a few of his fol owers got away, and they were, like, high on magic.
Casting al kinds of random shit. Until they crashed. Now they want more. Bel sent his men to find you. Said he was going to make you open a path for him.”
“He’l have to get in line.”
I waited to see if Roy would continue, but he’d apparently exhausted the story.
“So, uh, why are you hanging out here in the dark?” he asked as if he’d only just noticed the location.
“Because the FIB are after me. I need you to do me a favor. Can you see if anyone is in the house?”
“No. I just came from there. It’s empty.”
I stayed low as I crossed the backyard. Once I reached the back porch, the
in the house hit me and I the back porch, the
in the house hit me and I stopped. The wards had been busted open from the outside, and they had clearly put up a good fight before they went. I let my senses stretch beyond the now defunct wards, searching for any traps or alarm spel s. There weren’t any.
At least, not any of witch creation, and that was as good as I could ensure. I eased the back door open and slipped into the kitchen.
When I looked around, my sight showed everything in ruins, but the ruins were al where their unruined counterparts usual y sat. Cracked plates were in the dish drainer, pots and pans with rusted-out bottoms hung above a stove that should have been condemned, and even the broken chairs were tucked neatly under the bowed table—
al of which I took to mean that in reality, the house looked exactly like it always did. I think I’d expected the place to be trashed, left with obvious signs of a struggle from Caleb’s capture. But if the wards hadn’t been cracked open, I would never have been able to tel that anything at al was amiss in the house.
I didn’t turn on lights as I passed from room to room—the darkness made no difference in my vision at the moment, so turning on the lights would only alert anyone watching the house to my presence. As I didn’t know where the letter was, I didn’t know how long it would take me to find it, so it would be best to keep evidence of my search as quiet as possible.
Caleb had mentioned Hol y’s bed when we’d been on the phone, and I wasn’t sure if that was where he found the letter or where he put it, but it was as good a place as any to start looking. I crept to her room, pushing the rotted door open soundlessly. A large, weathered envelope sat in the center of a tattered comforter. I snatched it and dropped it in my purse. I needed to read it, but here definitely wasn’t the best place, as I had no idea when the FIB would be back.
“Now to figure out where to go next,” I mumbled, more to
“Now to figure out where to go next,” I mumbled, more to myself than Roy. I turned, and a low scream crashed through the room. I ducked, my eyes flying wide. Then I realized the sound wasn’t a scream; it was singing—and coming from my purse.
I hadn’t even thought about turning the damn thing off before sneaking about. I sent the cal to voice mail. The phone went silent and then, before I could even turn the ringer off, began singing again.
I could just make out LUSA on the cracked screen. The last time I’d seen her I’d given her a diagram of the runes used in the construct disks. It was possible she’d learned something, which might help me find Hol y. Or she could have heard there was a warrant out for my arrest.
I didn’t have time to be indecisive; I had to make the thing stop ringing. I slid my finger across the display to answer.
“What is it?”
“Alex Craft? Why are you whispering?” Lusa’s amiable voice asked on the other side of the line.
“That’s complicated. Did you contact Corrie? Were you able to learn anything about the runes?”
“You better believe I did. I took the runes to
Corrie, like you suggested. We had to search back, way back, in his old tomes to find mentions of these runes and we stil haven’t identified most. Even his library gets a little spotty once you go back a few centuries, but it looks like none of these were in use as late as four centuries ago, and if you’re looking for when they would have been common, you have to search back at least six centuries. Though remember, that wasn’t exactly an age of sharing for witches, so the variation among practitioners and covens was pretty vast.”
So either someone had dug up a
old grimoire or we were dealing with a witch who had been around a
time. I thought about the glamour-coated constructs. I knew a place where a witch could live long enough for magic to revolutionize around her more than once.
I asked about what spel s the runes might have been I asked about what spel s the runes might have been used for, but Lusa and Corrie were stil in the identification stage of research, so I wrapped up the cal in several hurried whispers. Lusa wasn’t happy, but I couldn’t afford to keep playing twenty questions with a reporter when it might get me caught crouching in the dining room by the FIB.
Now to get out of here.
As I turned toward the door, a dog started barking upstairs.
I stopped, stuck in indecision. I was on the run. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know if I’d even be okay in the end. But Caleb was in Faerie by now, and Hol y was missing, so there was no one here to take care of PC if I didn’t make it back soon.
I couldn’t leave my dog. I took the stairs as quietly as possible. When I reached the top, I cracked the inner door and PC barreled out.
“Hey, buddy,” I said, dropping my purse on the top step so I could pick him up. “I’m going to put you in my purse, and then we are going to be real y, real y quiet and sneak out of here, okay?”
He yipped, just happy to see me, and I sighed. It was times like this when I wished someone had invented a charm that made dogs understand English.
I slipped the dog inside my purse. He was a smal dog, but it wasn’t
big of a purse, and his front legs and head popped out the top. I placed the strap of the purse across my chest, and PC didn’t squirm, so he seemed to feel secure. Stil , I kept a tight arm on the purse as I crept down the steps and out the back door.
“Two steps sideways to one step forward. When the
world decays, you must do what is against your nature to
do or the knights will fall.”
I startled at the voice in my head, and whirled around.
The large stone gargoyle crouched down on the side of the porch, its wings curled tight around its body. If I hadn’t the porch, its wings curled tight around its body. If I hadn’t been able to see the slight blue tint of the soul, I would have thought the gargoyle nothing more than a smal stone boulder.
“What does that mean?” I whispered, but the gargoyle didn’t answer. I waited several moments, but I couldn’t stand there waiting for an explanation of the cryptic . . .
I had to get away from the house and out of sight.
It wasn’t until I reached the street where the cabbie had dropped me off that I real y considered where I was going.
Or real y, realized that I had nowhere to go. If I cal ed a friend, I might put him in danger either from the constructs hunting me or the fae trying to drag me to Faerie. Not to mention the fact that the FIB probably had fabricated some sort of warrant for my arrest by now, and most of my friends were in some branch of law enforcement.
Where could a girl with a newfound tendency to merge realities, a ghost, and a smal dog go to hide? Wel , there was one option, though I hated considering it. There was one place no one in his right mind would ever look for me. I pul ed out my phone and cal ed my father.
I huddled under the sheltering wings of the granite angel that had stood overlooking a cemetery three blocks from Caleb’s house for the last forty years. The statue protected me from the casual onlooker, but I could peek out to see the gate and a bit of the road beyond. It seemed to take a lifetime before I heard gravel crunch under tires and saw a black Porsche with mirrored windows rol to a stop outside the smal cemetery gate.
I wished I could have sent Roy to check out the driver and make sure it wasn’t the FIB or one of the skimmers, but he hadn’t been able to enter the cemetery. The gates of a cemetery were meant to keep the dead inside, which also cemetery were meant to keep the dead inside, which also effectively kept ghosts trapped if they entered. He’d headed out to check on Bel ’s activities—and maybe actual y get an address this time—so I was on my own.
Well, let’s hope for the best.
I hopped down from my perch, my legs protesting after being curled against my body so long. I ignored the pins and needles as I turned and col ected my purse—and the dog currently sleeping in it. Then I made my way around the grave markers toward the car.
The Porsche’s doors clicked, unlocking as I approached.
I stil couldn’t see who was inside, which made my hair stand on end and my scalp feel a little too tight. If it was in fact my ride, I’d be happy about the heavy tinting, but if it wasn’t . . .
The passenger door popped open. “Get in the car, Alexis,” a crisp voice said.
I blinked in surprise, recognizing the voice. I hadn’t thought my father would come
My father and I didn’t exactly get along. I’d like to say it was nothing personal, but that would have been a lie. It was very, very personal.
I’d spent most of my life believing he hated me because I’d been born a wyrd witch, and wyrd witches, especial y wyrd children, can’t hide what they are. I didn’t fit his image of the perfect norm family he’d built. Then a month ago I’d learned he was one of the Sleagh Maith, the nobles of Faerie, and it made me reevaluate everything I knew about him. The end result? I’d decided he was playing at something bigger and further stretching than I even wanted to know, and I wasn’t interested in being a pawn in his game. Continuing with the status quo of ignoring each other’s existence had seemed like a good plan.
fae forced me to go home crying “daddy.”
“I thought you’d just send someone,” I said as I slid into the plush leather seat and pul ed the door closed behind me.
“Not for this.”
What’s that supposed to mean?
“How are you, Alexis?” he asked as he pul ed the car away from the curb.
I didn’t answer, but just sat studying his profile. My psyche was apparently now touching both a plane that accepted glamour and one that didn’t because I could see both the glamour that made him look like the clean-cut, just past fifty, respectable politician who walked around Nekros as governor and a leader in the Humans First Party and the face he hid under that glamour that appeared only a few years older than me and featured the striking bone structure of the ruling class of fae.
But from which court?
There weren’t many Sleagh Maiths in the mortal realm.
They were the royal blood of Faerie. Oh, they’d been front and center when the fae came out during the Magical Awakening, as they were humanlike and beautiful—at least by human standards—but of the openly fae, aside from some figureheads and some movie stars, it was rare to see Sleagh Maith. Unglamoured, at least. I guess there was no tel ing how many were in hiding. But now that I thought about it, I didn’t know any independent Sleagh Maith—