House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City) (56 page)

BOOK: House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City)
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Ruhn’s hand slid across Bryce’s back, squeezing her shoulder.

On the screen, Bryce motioned to Lehabah to follow her upstairs, and the two of them left. She had no memory of this day, this
moment. She’d probably gone to grab something and hadn’t wanted to leave Lehabah alone with Danika, who was prone to riling the sprite into the hottest of blue flames.

A second passed, then two, then three—

Danika moved. Swift and focused, like she’d been using the time lounging at the table to pinpoint where she needed to go. She headed straight to a lower shelf and pulled off a book. Glancing at the stairs, she flipped it open and began snapping photos with her phone of the inside. Page after page after page.

Then it was back on the shelf. Danika returned to her chair and lounged, pretending to be half-asleep when Bryce and Lehabah returned, still arguing about the stupid show.

Bryce leaned in toward the screen. “What book was that?”

“I clarified the image.” Declan pulled up a frame of the book right before Danika’s black-sparkle-painted nails grabbed it:
Wolves Through Time: Lineage of the Shifters.

“You can see her finger going to some text here,” Declan went on, clicking to another frame. Danika had opened the book, skimming over the text with a finger. Tapping something right near the top of the page.

As if it were exactly what she’d been looking for.

Bryce, Declan, and Ruhn studied the still frame of the book in Danika’s hands. Cormac had departed upon getting a call that he would not—or could not—explain. The book was leather-bound and old, but the title indicated that it had been written after the arrival of the Vanir.

“It’s not a published book,” Declan said. “Or at least it predates our current publishing system. But as far as I can tell, no other libraries on Midgard have it. I think it must be a manuscript of some sort, perhaps a vanity project that got bound.”

“Any chance there’s a copy at the Fae Archives?” Ruhn asked her.

“Maybe,” Bryce said, “but Jesiba might still have this one at the storage unit.” She pulled out her phone and dialed quickly.

Jesiba answered on the second ring. “Yes, Quinlan?”

“You had a book at the old gallery.
Wolves Through Time
. What is it?”

A pause. Ruhn and Dec picked up every word with their Fae hearing.

“So you did look into the footage. Curious, wasn’t it?”

“Just … please tell me. What is it?”

“A history of wolf genealogy.”

“Why did you have it?”

“I like knowing the history of my enemies.”

“Danika wasn’t your enemy.”

“Who said I was talking about Danika?”

“Sabine, then.”

A soft laugh. “You are so very young.”

“I need that book.”

“I don’t take demands, even from Starborn Princesses. I’ve given you enough.” Jesiba hung up.

“That was helpful,” Declan groused.

But twenty minutes later, Marrin buzzed to say that a messenger had dropped off a package from Miss Roga.

“I’m disturbed and impressed,” Ruhn murmured as Bryce opened the nondescript package and pulled the leather tome free. “We owe Jesiba a drink.”

“Danika snapped photos of the beginning pages,” Declan said, now reviewing the footage on his phone. “Maybe only the first three, actually. But I think the page she tapped was the third.”

Bryce opened the book, the hair on her arms rising. “It’s a family tree. Going back … Does this go all the way back to when the Northern Rift opened?” Fifteen thousand years ago.

Ruhn peered over her shoulder as Bryce skimmed. “Gunthar Fendyr is the latest—and last—name here.”

Bryce swallowed. “He was the Prime’s father.” She flipped to the third page, the one Danika had been most interested in.

“Niklaus Fendyr and Faris Hvellen. The first of the Fendyr line.” She chewed on her lip. “I’ve never heard of them.”

Declan tapped away on the computer. “Nothing comes up.”

“Try their kids,” Bryce suggested, giving him the names.

“Nothing.”

They went through generation after generation until Dec said, “There. Katra Fendyr. From here … Yeah, there’s an actual historical record and mentions of Katra from there on out. Starting five thousand years ago.” He ran a finger up the tree, along the generations, counting silently. “But nothing on any of these Fendyrs before her.”

Ruhn asked, “Why would Danika feel the need to be secretive about this, though?”

Bryce examined the first two names on the list, the ones Danika had tapped like she’d discovered something, and countered, “Why were their names lost to history?”

“Would Ithan know?” Declan asked.

“No idea.” Bryce chewed on a hangnail. “I need to talk to the Prime.”

Ruhn protested. “Need I remind you that Sabine tried to kill you last week?”

Bryce grimaced. “Then I’ll need you two to make sure she’s not at home.”

Bryce didn’t dare inform Hunt over the phone what she was doing, why she was doing it. She’d risked enough by calling Jesiba. But not having Hunt at her side as she slipped past the guards at the Den’s gate felt like a phantom limb. Like she might find him in the shadows beside her at any moment, assessing a threat.

Declan was currently arguing with the Den guards about some imagined slight. And at the Aux headquarters … Well, if they were lucky, Sabine had already arrived to meet with Ruhn about an “urgent matter.”

Bryce found the Prime without much trouble, sitting in the shade of a towering oak in the park that occupied the central space of the Den. A gaggle of pups played at his feet. No other wolves in the area.

She darted from the shadows of the building’s columns to the wooden chair, a few curious pups perking up at the sight of her. Her chest squeezed at their fuzzy little ears and waggly tails, but she kept her gaze on the ancient male.

“Prime,” she said, kneeling on his far side, hidden from the view of the guards still arguing with Dec at the gates. “A moment of your time, please.”

He cracked open age-clouded eyes. “Bryce Quinlan.” He tapped his bony chest. “A wolf.”

Ruhn had told her what the Prime had said during the attack. She’d tried not to think of how much it meant to her. “Your bloodline—the Fendyr lineage. Can you think of why Danika might have been interested in it?”

He hesitated, then motioned to the pups and they scattered. She figured she had about five minutes until one of them blabbed to an adult that a red-haired Fae female was here.

The Prime’s chair groaned as he faced her. “Danika enjoyed history.”

“Is it forbidden to know the names of your first ancestors?”

“No. But they are largely forgotten.”

“Do Faris Hvellen and Niklaus Fendyr ring any bells? Did Danika ever ask about them?”

He fell silent, seeming to scan his memory. “Once. She claimed she had a paper for school. I never learned what became of it.”

Bryce blew out a breath. There hadn’t been any papers about wolf genealogy in the secret coffee table stash. “All right. Thank you.” This had been a waste of her time. She got to her feet, scanning the park, the gates beyond. She could make a run for it now.

The Prime halted her with a dry, leathery hand on her own. Squeezed. “You did not ask why we have forgotten their names.”

Bryce started. “You know?”

A shallow nod. “It is one scrap of lore most of my people were careful to ensure never made it into the history books. But word of mouth kept it alive.”

Brush crackled. Shit. She had to go.

The Prime said, “We did unspeakable things during the First
Wars. We yielded our true nature. Lost sight of it, then lost it forever. Became what we are now. We say we are free wolves, yet we have the collar of the Asteri around our necks. Their leashes are long, and we let them tame us. Now we do not know how to get back to what we were, what we might have been. That was what my grandfather told me. What I told Sabine, though she did not care to listen. What I told Danika, who …” His hand shook. “I think she might have led us back, you know. To what we were before we arrived here and became the Asteri’s creatures inside and out.”

Bryce’s stomach churned. “Is that what Danika wanted?” It wouldn’t have surprised her.

“I don’t know. Danika trusted no one.” He squeezed her hand again. “Except you.”

A snarl rattled the earth, and Bryce found a massive female wolf approaching, fangs exposed. But Bryce said to the Prime, “You should talk to Sabine about Ithan.”

He blinked. “What about Ithan?”

Did he not know? Bryce backed away a step, not letting the advancing female out of her sight. “She kicked him out, and nearly killed him. He’s living with my brother now.”

Those fogged eyes cleared for a moment. Sharp—and angry.

The female lunged, and Bryce ran, sprinting through the park to the gates. Past the guards still arguing with Declan, who winked at them and then burst into a run beside her, into the bustle of Moonwood. More questions dragged along behind her with each block they sprinted.

She had every intention of collapsing on her couch and processing things for a long while, but when they got back, Cormac was waiting outside her apartment.

Bloody and dirty, and—“What happened to you?” Declan said, as Bryce let them into the apartment, flinging the door open wide.

Cormac helped himself to a bag of ice from the freezer, pressing it to his cheek as he sat at the kitchen table. “Mordoc nearly snared me at an intel pickup. Six other dreadwolves were with him.”

“Did Mordoc scent you?” Bryce asked, scanning the battered prince. If he had, if Cormac was tracked back here …

“No—I kept downwind, even for his nose. And if any of his soldiers did, they’re not a problem anymore.” Was the blood on his hands not his own, then? Bryce tried not to sniff it.

“What’d the intel say?” Declan asked, going to the window to scan the street beyond, presumably for anyone who might have followed Cormac.

“The hit on the Spine was successful,” Cormac said, face hard beneath the blood and bruises. “The Asteri’s new mech-suit prototype was attained, along with an invaluable amount of ammunition.”

“Good,” Declan said.

Cormac sighed. “They’re shipping the prototype here.”

Bryce started. “To Lunathion?”

“To the Coronal Islands.” Close enough—two hours away by boat. “To a base on Ydra.”

“Shit,” Dec said. “They’re going to start something here, aren’t they?”

“Yes, likely with Pippa and her Lightfall squadron at the head.”

“Don’t they know she’s nuts?” Bryce asked.

“She’s successful with her ops. That’s all that matters.”

“What about Emile?” Bryce pushed. “Was she successful with him?”

“No. He’s still out there. The agent said the hunt for him continues.”

“So what do we do?” Dec asked Cormac. “Go to Ydra and convince them
not
to let Pippa have access to all those weapons?”

“Yes.” Cormac nodded to Bryce. “Send an otter to Captain Ketos. And I believe we’re also going to need Hunt Athalar’s expertise.”

 

42

Bryce was just walking down the shining hallway to Celestina’s office when her phone rang.

Juniper. Bryce sent her to audiomail. A message came through instead.
Call back now.

Dread burning like acid through her, Bryce dialed, praying nothing had happened with Fury—

Juniper answered on the first ring. “How
dare
you?”

Bryce halted. “What?”

“How
dare
you call Gorgyn?”

“I …” Bryce swallowed. “What happened?”

“I’m principal, that’s what happened!”

“And that’s a bad thing?” She was due to meet with Celestina in one minute. She couldn’t be late.

“It’s a bad thing because
everyone
knows that
Princess Bryce Danaan
put in a call and threatened to pull the Autumn King’s donations if CCB didn’t
recognize my talent
!”

“So what?” Bryce hissed. “Isn’t this the only bit of good that being a princess entails?”

“No! It’s the
opposite
!” Juniper was absolutely screaming with rage. Bryce started shaking. “I have worked my entire life for this, Bryce! My
entire life
! And you step in and take that accomplishment away from me! Make yourself—not me, not my talent—into the
reason I got this promotion, the reason I made history!
You
, not me. Not me sticking it out, fighting through it, but my Fae Princess friend, who couldn’t leave well enough alone!”

The clock chimed in the hallway. Bryce had to go. Had to talk to the Archangel.

“Look, I’m about to go into a meeting,” she said as evenly as she could, though she thought she might puke. “But I’ll call you back right after, I promise. I’m so sorry if—”

“Don’t bother,” June snapped.

“Juniper—”

The faun hung up.

Bryce focused on her breathing. She needed one of Kyrah’s dance classes. Immediately. Needed to sweat and breathe and majorly unload and analyze the tornado wreaking havoc inside her. But this meeting … She squared her shoulders, putting away the fight, the fact that she’d fucked everything up, had been so arrogant and stupid and—

She knocked on the door to Celestina’s office. “Enter,” came the sweet female voice.

Bryce smiled at the Governor as if she hadn’t destroyed a friendship moments ago. “Your Grace,” Bryce said, inclining her head.

“Your Highness,” Celestina answered, and Bryce reined in a wince. It was how she’d gotten this meeting, too. She’d asked the Archangel to meet not as Bryce Quinlan, but as a Princess of the Fae. It was an invitation even an Archangel had to agree to.

She wondered how it’d come back to haunt her.

“Just for this meeting,” Bryce said, sitting down. “I’ve come to make a formal request.”

“For the return of Hunt Athalar, I take it.” A tired, sad sort of light gleamed in the Governor’s eyes.

“A temporary return,” Bryce said, and leaned back in her chair. “I know he bailed on you at your party. If I’d been aware he was doing that, I would never have asked him to assist me that night. So—totally feel free to punish him. You have my blessing.”

BOOK: House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City)
5.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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