SPG: April, Part 1/4

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His grades might be bad but Dakotah knew he was no idiot. He had brought Caitlin to this place, this hideout of the few remaining Seelie. Barely two hours later, it had been razed to the ground.

With no plan in mind, he raced back to his shop. He stowed the chest in the front entryway before entering. The ground floor was dim and empty. He was about to run upstairs when he noticed he’d gotten a text.

Caitlin had written: Gone to see Arturo in Mexico City. Back next week.

Dakotah sighed, sagging against the front counter. He had a few days to figure out what the hell he was going to do. To figure out what the hell she was doing. With another sigh (this one resigned, since he knew he wasn’t getting to sleep anytime soon), he set off for Belfast.

~*~

The next day he gathered Phin, Pete, and Val and told them everything that had happened.

“Shit,” Phin declared. The four of them sat in a circle of antique chairs at the back of the ground floor of the shop.

“Lock her out of the shop!” Val said. “We can’t let a murderous psycho into a Sanctuary. She killed Inkar, remember? We should’ve known then!”

“Inkar was evil,” Phin reminded her. “Dakotah obviously wouldn’t suspect someone who killed a vampire, he thought she was trying to help.”

“Inkar tried to warn me of something,” Dakotah said. “Do you think he knew Caitlin was a rogue Guardian?”

Phin muttered, “What’s with all these rogue Guardians, anyway?”

“Can’t you tell, Dakotah?” Pete asked with a frown. “Wouldn’t you know if she’d…like if her Guardian-ness was corrupted?”

Dakotah spread his hands in a gesture of helplessness. “Guardian powers are useless.”

Val sighed. “You probably just don’t even know where to look! This grimoire is the useless thing!” She slapped her purse with the hefty Guardian grimoire stuffed inside it.

Dakotah reached in a pocket and produced the piece of sky-blue stone shot through with black cracks. It was from the Belfast Sanctuary’s Heart. He had picked it up the first time he’d been to Belfast. Last night’s trip had revealed nothing else. “Sunil admitted to destroying the Belfast Sanctuary. I bet he thought Caitlin was a rival. Another Guardian who wanted more power. She pretended to die and came back when he was gone and she could pretend to be a victim.” Dakotah shook his head. “Ike would’ve known.”

“It’s fine,” Val said. “Now we know. And we can lock her out of here.”

“That’s a bad idea,” Pete interrupted. “If we do that, she’ll know we’re on to her and we still have no idea what she’s doing. How would killing those faeries help her?”

“She wants to make sure the Seelie court doesn’t come back and challenge her power?” Phin guessed.

“What power?” asked Pete. “She’s living off Dakotah right now. I don’t know, she’s kinda slimy. She doesn’t seem like a leader to me.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Dakotah said. He took his feet off the table and sat up. “We can’t lock off the house until we know what she’s doing.” He turned to Val. “It’s time for you to finish that grimoire.”

~*~

Three days later, March was sliding into April and spring break started. Dakotah helped customers at the shop, flinching every time someone entered since he always expected Caitlin to come breezing in. He started to worry about Arturo but couldn’t think of a reason to check in on the other Guardian.

A search of the room she stayed in had revealed nothing. Caitlin barely owned anything, which made sense since she’d been chased out of her Sanctuary.

Dakotah’s leg bounced on his chair as thoughts of Sunil circled. Whatever Caitlin was, Sunil had been able to breach her Sanctuary and destroy her Heart. How had he done it?

Sometimes Dakotah missed Ike, and sometimes he cursed that old man’s bad planning. Why the hell was he having Dakotah stock shelves when he should’ve been learning how to be a Guardian? Caitlin could stroll right into his Sanctuary, and not only that, she knew better than him how to use it.

The thought gave him an idea. He left a cat at the front counter in case someone came in. Then he went downstairs and unlocked his treasure room.

He almost never disturbed this room. The piles and piles of money never gathered dust but he certainly never touched them. In fact, now that the shop turned a slight profit each month, he practically forgot he was a millionaire (billionaire?). His accountants had probably used this money to cover expenses in the early days.

Today his goal was the same as always: the huge purple crystal spar in the middle of the room. Dakotah placed his hands on the crystal and breathed deep, connecting to the House.

He could feel it breathing, expanding far beyond the rooms he knew of. He’d never walked all of the House and maybe never would, unless he made it to be as old as Ike.

With all the shit I’ve gotten into, I dunno if that’s gonna happen.

Focusing, he asked, “Show me things Caitlin’s been doing. Secret things.”

He didn’t sink into the crystal like he had when he’d Ascended. Instead, images appeared on the flat plane. What followed was like a supercut of Caitlin stealing his shit.

Okay, he had to admit the shop was a little messy, and he hadn’t noticed things vanishing. With Caitlin’s experience, he had no doubt she knew what was valuable and what wasn’t, and had taken some powerful stuff. He shook his head in disgust and paid special attention to how she used magic to hide the stolen things.

The last scene was Caitlin hunched over a piece of paper, writing a few things, and then burning it.

“Go back,” Dakotah commanded. He squinted at the paper. He couldn’t make out much, except for the name at the top: Roland Cunningham. Dakotah frowned. Did he know that name?

A pounding, and someone calling his name. Still connected to the House, he could feel his friends come in, and Val’s voice, as if they were right next to him.

He disengaged from the House and went upstairs.

“I’m so close to finishing!” Val declared, slamming the Guardian grimoire onto the counter. “I have so much to tell you.”

“Awesome,” said Dakotah. “Who’s Roland Cunningham?”

Immediately, Val started to giggle. Pete hit her arm.

Phin’s brow creased. “Isn’t he in theater?”

“He goes to Central?” Dakotah asked sharply.

Val’s giggle got louder. “He’s also…Pete’s prom date!

Pete blushed furiously.

What?” Phin demanded.

Dakotah waved his hand to get everyone’s attention. “Well I’ve got fucking bad news then. Caitlin’s looking for him.”

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