SPG: June, Part 2/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

Val obeyed reluctantly. Part of her was exasperated, the other part filling with slow-moving adrenaline, a weird feeling she now associated with the fey. A combo of adrenaline and dread.

In her head, she went through the ways they might use magic to catch a rabbit. She wasn’t at all concerned about not having magic herself. It seemed unwieldy for something supposedly helpful.

Unfortunately, Pete and Phin had really only mastered things that came from their own senses. Creating nets out of thin air wasn’t in their repertoire.

She made it to the back gate. It was wooden and grass had grown deep around it, preventing it from actually being used. Vines grew over the warped wood. The gate just had the air of age, though. Like everything else in the Sanctuary it bowed only to Dakotah’s powers.

“Val!” called Phin.

She didn’t react in time–the rabbit sprinted by her, panic in its leaping feet. Phin blundered by next, pushing aside overgrown bushes and stumbling on the uneven ground.

She followed, and they dove past blooming poppies and peonies (certainly Dakotah did not tend the garden; it bloomed riotously nonetheless). The lilac bushes, flowerless now, created a shady tunnel. She pursued him down the tunnel.

Val almost crashed into Phin when he drew up on the far side of the tunnel.

“Hey!” she complained.

“Shit,” said Phin.

She looked around him.

“Shit,” said Val. They’d come out the short tunnel into another part of the garden–presumably. The shop was no longer in sight; the sky was a cool, grey color. Val whipped around. The tunnel was gone, lilac bushes blocking the way. In front of them was a swamp. The ground was soggy at their feet, slowly eaten up by brackish water. Mangroves grew farther on, and the sounds of life were everywhere. Monkeys screeched just out of sight, insects buzzed, fish splashed. The bright heat of early June in Minnesota was replaced by a muggy humidity.

There was that feeling again–the mix of adrenaline and fear. The House was built to protect people, but it was still a fey thing, and if they fell in or were eaten by something strange here, who knew what would happen?

Before she had time to voice her concerns, Phin pointed. “There–!”

Then he was off again, scrambling onto the solid ground provided by tree roots, after the damn rabbit. Val, hindered by the grimoire, stumbled along behind him. She cast looks into the murky water, wondering if crocodiles were the worst of their worries.

“Through here!” called Phin, aware he was leaving her behind, as he passed through a curtain of hanging moss. He gasped when he saw the other side: a great grassland, a blazing sun filtering through acacia trees, the air roiling with a coming rainstorm.

Val entered the savanna a moment later with a small gasp. Phin was glad she’d entered the same world as him, but his eyes were fixed on the grasses. He’d seen that fucking bunny look at him with more understanding than an animal should have, seen it plot its way through the swamp with intelligence, not panic.

There–a path through the grasses, low. He dove, grass taller than his body when he crawled.

He drew up from the grass into an artic tundra.

“Ah!” Val shouted as the bitter wind ripped into them.

“Fuck,” said Phin. He wrapped his arms around himself. “I’m Mexican, I should not be here!”

Val laughed. He made the same joke every time he was cold.

He turned back to her.

“I hate you!” she said. “It’s a fucking bunny!”

“Then how did it get into the Sanctuary grounds?” he shouted over the wind.

This made her pause. “Because it’s a harmless bunny?” But she didn’t sound sure.

“Come on!” he yelled. She grabbed his arm and he put up a hand to shield his eyes and lead them forward.

Phin’s eyes closed to slits to block out the wind, and when he blinked they were in a deep forest of tall, tall trees. The ground was filled with pine needles and the air was cool and still. Val looked up, the height of the trees like a cathedral.

When she brought her head down, she saw the bunnies. They ranged around her and Phin, propped on their back legs and wearing armor. Shiny gold breastplates covered bloodred tunics. Their helmets included chainmail over their ears, and swords hung at every waist.

Phin took a slow breath.

One bunny hopped forward. “Speak your names!” she commanded.

Phin froze, wondering what a Hero should do. But Val clutched his arm and said, “Guardian, protect us!”

The air rippled, cracked, and then Dakotah and Pete stood in the forest with them. Frowning, Dakotah examined the forest, but Pete didn’t wait. Her body glowed lightly with the beginning of the Divine Light, her hands raised and ready for a fight.

Dakotah brought his gaze to the head rabbit. “Who the fuck are you?”

The bunny’s ears twitched. “I am Al-Ysa, commander of the bunny army.”

Dakotah looked back at Phin, but Phin was too nervous to revel.

“I beg your forgiveness, Guardian. We are here to ask for sanctuary, but…we had to be sure Ike’s successor was trustworthy.”

“And did you figure it out?” Dakotah asked caustically. “How many days were you going to trespass?”

Al-Ysa cringed. “Forgive me, Guardian. Dark times.”

“How many of you are there?” he asked with a look around the circle.

“We are one hundred, sir.”

“I don’t see one hundred.”

“Forgive me.” Al-Ysa tugged the edge of her breastplate. “My contingent numbers forty-five. We bring with us one hundred refugees.”

SPG: June, Part 1/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

“I think the bunnies are watching us.”

Dakotah, Pete, and Val all looked up from what they were doing. Phin was peering intently through the blinds into the yard, standing at a slight angle as if worried about sniper attacks.

“Dude…what?” asked Dakotah.

Phin let the blinds drop. “I’m serious. There’s a whole bunny army out there. Un conejito ejercito. I think they’re watching us.”

“Why…would they be watching us?” Pete said with arched brows.

Phin shrugged. “You said we aren’t safe. Maybe they’re waiting for their moment. You know, a bunch of bunnies could be more dangerous than just one giant salamander.”

“Stop saying bunnies!” Val giggled. “Is this how you get when there’s no homework?”

School was out in two weeks, and with all their AP tests done at the end of May, Phin and Pete were pretty much home free.

Dakotah and Val were the opposite. She had to do super well on two final projects to get her grades up. He had had to go around to each of his teachers and figure out a way to avoid summer school. Unlike last year though, his teachers were more helpful and less resigned. Putting in more effort during the school year had definitely helped sway some opinions of him.

Ike would’ve been happy. He’d always had a lecture for Dakotah on the importance of school. Dakotah still didn’t give a shit about school but at least it’d be out of his hair for three months, and then he’d be a senior. He did not have time for summer school this year. He had big plans for marketing the shop.

“Besides, the salamander was like three weeks ago,” Pete pointed out.

They’d spent a ton of time trying to figure out the salamander—what its real name was, where it had come from, if it had been sent by someone, if it had died, why it tried to attack them—with no luck. Dakotah had put a strict ban on using the Lake (the only thing he hadn’t tried was going back on it and seeing what happened). Beyond that, he’d sent a note to the Seelie prince, a note that had gone unanswered.

“Three ominous weeks,” responded Phin, with another look out the window.

Val cracked up. “Well, I’m done with this,” she said, dropping her pencil. “Let’s go outside and practice sensing. Maybe you can tell how big the bunny army is.”

“Cool. You guys coming?”

Dakotah and Pete shook their heads.

He said, “I have to finish this.”

She said, “I have to read about salamanders on Wikipedia.”

They all laughed and Phin and Val went out to the backyard.

“Apparently if you coat yourself in salamander blood it makes you immune to fire,” Pete said. “We should remember that.”

Dakotah grimaced. “That’s some Walking Dead shit.”

“Ooh!” said Pete.

“What?” He looked up from his homework.

“There was a Power Rangers salamander monster called Saliguana! That’s what we should call our salamander!”

“Oh Jesus,” said Dakotah, looking back to his homework. “We can’t, it’s probably copyrighted.”

She giggled.

“And stop reading me the Wikipedia page. I read that before the grimoire.”

There hadn’t been a salamander grimoire so they’d been having Val read random tomes, like reptiles (which included amphibians; grimoires weren’t very scientific), winged beasts, and fire. The Fire Grimoire had been surprisingly long.

“Maybe I’d better be practicing Hero stuff with Phin,” Pete wondered. “In case we have to fight.”

Dakotah made a face. “Nobody’s fighting anyone.”

She arched her eyebrows. He sighed.

“Ok, just a little more researching. If we can’t find anything today, we’ll just…”

But he couldn’t finish the sentence, because he didn’t know what they’d do.

“Close your eyes,” Val instructed. She held the heavy grimoire in one hand, referencing it as she told Phin what to do. Ever since Dakotah had first inherited his shop, they’d all been experimenting with the magic they came into contact with. Now she was organizing, setting up mini lessons and trying to teach things to Phin and Pete in a logical way. Unfortunately, she didn’t have any magic herself, but the magic of Heroes was way more clear-cut than Guardian magic, so they could figure it out together.

“Picture the backyard in your mind. No, wait, look at the area three feet around you, then close your eyes and picture that.”

“Ok.”

“Ok, then, like fill it with color?”

Phin opened his eyes. “Was that a question?”

“I think you have to picture it like, really, really clearly, then you infuse it with magic and you can start separating things—even how many blades of grass there are.”

“Ok,” said Phin. “I already know the shop really well, so I’m gonna sense for bunnies.”

“Dude, you are so weird–”

But Phin was already trying. His eyes were closed and he frowned slightly as he concentrated.

“Got one,” he said after a moment. Without opening his eyes, he started to walk forward. “You circle around the back side of the fence.”

“What? Why?”

“We’re gonna trap it.”

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SPG: May, Part 4/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

“Yeah, let’s head back.”

He shook his head and she laughed.

Dakotah raised the Lake and they managed to clamber back into the canoe, which had reappeared at the boundary between the icy Minnesota lake and the mysterious fey one. They picked up paddles and set off.

Dakotah’s soaked clothes were cold, but the fey air wasn’t, which helped a little. Pete shivered as she paddled. He picked up his pace so the exercise would warm them both.

“I should join rowing,” said Pete.

“You even allowed to do another sport?”

“I need a time turner,” she said, then fell silent at the reference to their previous conversation, when she’d wanted to forget everything they’d been through together.

“I’m gonna find you something really cool in the fey world,” said Dakotah. “Somethin’ to say thanks.”

“No,” she said, turning around to face him. “I’m going to find it. And not just one thing, a bunch of them.” She turned back around. “And while I’m at it, I’m gonna do the same in the rest of the world.”

“Fucking wisewoman.”

“I try.”

They paddled on. After five more minutes Pete stopped paddling and pointed.

“What’s that?”

He squinted into the gloomy horizon. “Home?”

But it didn’t look right. Normally their destination came up relatively quickly, out of the foggy air. This thing in the distance was a black shape in the sky, something that really made Dakotah realize the vastness of the lake. And it was moving towards them, much faster than he liked.

“Turn,” Dakotah ordered. Pete obeyed immediately. They went sideways (and arbitrary direction on the Lake, but at least not right toward the…thing). It was no use. Within minutes the shape was close enough to discern.

“What…is it?” asked Pete.

“A salamander?”

That was his closest guess and he wasn’t too far off the mark. A winged lizard-like animal flew toward the canoe. It had moist-looking skin patterned in black and orange, and a wide, blunt mouth. Its tail was short, looking as if half of it had been bitten off. As it approached, it opened its mouth and out fell burning coals. They hit the water of the Lake and sizzled. It banked, swinging its body right for the canoe, revealing back feet tipped in claws.

“Holy shit!” said Dakotah.

The claws came right for him and he threw himself the floor of the canoe.

The salamander screeched in pain as it swooped away. Burning coals rained onto the canoe.

Dakotah looked up to see Pete standing, wielding a paddle.

“Don’t stand in a canoe!” he yelled over another screech. He plucked coals from the floor and dropped them into the Lake.

“Well, how do I fight it?” Pete didn’t even look at him. The salamander was circling back.

“Heroes can summon a weapon for the task at hand.”

“What, like a sword?”

“No, a gun, you nerd!”

Pete actually laughed. “Duck!” she yelled. He did, but he didn’t see what she did because he was blinded as she activated the Divine Light. The Light filled her and spilled outward. Her body moved, the canoe rocked wildly, and he grabbed her legs to steady her.

The salamander wailed its annoyance. He covered his head as more coals bounced down.

“Shit.” Dakotah looked up and saw the paddle she’d been wielding had cracked in two.

“Its tail got me across the chest–“

She stopped talking as they both saw the same thing. Her sweater was disintegrating.

“Take it off!” Dakotah yelled. She sat and pulled the sweater off, and her shirt too. In a sports bra, they both stared at her stomach for a moment.

“It’s fine, I don’t feel anything,” she said. “Its skin is like acid.”

A cry in the distance reminded them of the danger.

“We ain’t gonna fight something like that,” Dakotah said. “We need to get outta here.”

“Relax,” said Pete. She closed her eyes, and in a moment an 81mm mortar materialized in the canoe.

“What the fuck?” asked Dakotah.

“I play Halo,” Pete answered.

“You a baller, Abe.”

She loaded the mortar and aimed it. “Duh. Your powers are weird. Can you breath coals if it’s near?”

“I don’t wanna.”

She didn’t answer. Ratcheting up her Divine Light, she waited for the salamander. When it came in close, she launched. The canoe was an unsteady launch point, but Dakotah watched in awe as the shot caught the salamander in its left wing. It cried in pain, the sound reverberating across the water. Then it hit the Lake with a crash.

“You paddle!” said Pete. “I’ll see if it surfaces!”

He obeyed without question.

~*~

They dragged themselves out of the canoe and into her bedroom. Dakotah didn’t bother to check the canoe for damage just yet. He let the Lake fade away until it was just the two of them, both soaking wet and burned, adrenaline racing through them.

Pete put her fingers to her ears. They probably rang just as loudly as his.

He was about to speak when the door opened and Pete’s mom stepped in. “Did you see the rain? It’s pouring like–”

She stopped when she saw them.

Dakotah saw the situation like she saw it and blushed.

“Ok, thanks for your help, Pete. See you.”

He scurried out the door and back home.

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SPG: May, Part 3/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

“You know I’m fucking sorry, right?”

Someone had to talk first so he did. Her topknot wobbled as her shoulders stiffened.

“I don’t wanna hear it.”

“Well I don’t really know what else to say to make you not mad. What d’you want?”

“Take me back in time and make it so I never learned about the fey world.”

“There aren’t any spells to mess with time.”

“Caitlin tell you that?” She threw the comment over her shoulder before turning back around.

He pressed his lips together. Was her point that Caitlin couldn’t be trusted? That he had been dumb to ever trust her? That the fey world was full of people trying to kill them?

“I’ll tell you what’ll fix it.”

His eyebrows arched in surprised at this turnaround. “Ok, great, yeah, what is it?”

“I want you to erase my memories. Like you did with Roland.”

“The fuck—I’m not doing that!”

She finally whipped around, swinging her legs around. Her face was twisted up with anger.

“This shit is ruining my life, Dakotah! Your shit! I’m done having monsters trying to kill everyone around me!”

“You think losing your memory will help? They aren’t going to stop trying to kill you just because you can’t remember them. You’ll just be in more danger!”

“I don’t care! I want my normal life back!”

“Everyone does!” he yelled.

“Don’t lie!” she yelled back. “You love it and so do Val and Phin!”

That brought him up short. He was used to complaining about everything, he kind of forgot he actually liked the responsibility. Before meeting Ike, he hadn’t been doing much of anything.

“I don’t like people trying to kill me,” he grumbled. “And you loved it too.”

“That was before I knew what it meant.”

“Yeah, well, being a Hero isn’t just about the glory. You have to earn that glory.”

“Well I don’t want any of it anymore.”

He scoffed. “Yeah, because it’s the first hard thing you’ve had to do.”

“Fuck you! I’ve worked hard every year at school, unlike some people.”

“You’re smart and pretty and good at sports. Everything’s easy for you. And Phin. What the fuck’s so hard about having rich parents?”

Pete’s eyes blazed. “I’m sorry bad shit happened to you in your life but just because we’re doing different stuff doesn’t mean my life is easy. I try really hard, and helped you all year. I don’t want to be the perfect Hero! I don’t want to be perfect Pete! I’m tired!”

“Fine,” said Dakotah, putting up his hands. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t’ve said that. But you know we’re about to be in the middle of a fey war. Ro—the Seelie Prince can say he’ll handle it but it’s going to influence all of us. And then you want, what, nine months of your life erased? How the fuck are we gonna explain things to you? How are you going to hang out with us if we all know and you don’t? I’m sorry you didn’t really get a choice in all this but there’s no going back, Pete.”

His fingers tapped the paddle, which he hadn’t moved in minutes. “For any of us. We have to accept the good with the bad. You can stop doing stuff with us. You can stay away from the shop. But I can’t take your memory. And it won’t fix anything with Roland. And…I…wish you would…stay.” He looked out at the gloomy shoreline. “This never would’ve worked without you guys backin’ me up.”

She sighed. He watched her face for a sign. A familiar face, but one he never really thought about, until she threatened to leave.

He opened his mouth to say something else, though he didn’t know what yet.

Then the canoe vanished beneath them, plunging them both into the water.

Seeing as they had been sitting in the canoe, there wasn’t much of a splash—or much time to react. He and Pete had time for one surprised look.

They surfaced at the same time, his hair stuck to his face, Pete’s topknot toppled.

Pete looked at him, and burst into laughter.

After a moment he laughed too, relieved she was laughing.

“That answers that question!” she said, treading water. “No Craft outside the Lake to Everywhere!”

He tried to answer but choked on water. She laughed harder.

“Should I raise the Lake?”

“No!” she said. She turned and floated on her back. “Five minutes.”

It was cold, but he stopped treading and floated on his back, too. She reached out and grabbed his sleeve so they wouldn’t drift apart, and Dakotah breathed and watched the stars.

~*~*~*~

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SPG: May, Part 2/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

“D, goodness, why aren’t you at prom?”

Dakotah rolled his eyes while his mom, November, burst into laughter. She continued in mock distress, “Quick, get dressed, you’ll be late for the Grand Promenade!”

“Shut up, Mom,” he yelled from the couch, over the sounds of his music blasting from his laptop.

“Talk that way to me again, young man, and your punishment will be me driving you down to the Landmark Center in a rented tux.”

“You had to buy tickets like a month ago, they wouldn’t let me in.”

November cackled as she flopped into the armchair. “I bet they sell them at the door. The only good thing about all your friends being at prom is that I finally get to see you. I never thought I’d have to say ‘You work too much’ to my seventeen-year-old son. Is SVU on?”

“Wrong channel,” said Dakotah, finally grabbing the remote out of her hands as she switched modes instead of channels. “Here.”

“Thank god,” said November. “I can’t live without my crime shows. Seriously though, I can drive you over there. I’ll buy your ticket. Are you sure you don’t want to hang out with your friends? I bet it’s fun.”

Dakotah made a face. “Phin’s there with his other friends. Val’s got a date. Anyway, I don’t wanna go at all.”

“What about Pete? Should we invite her over for a movie?”

He winced at the sound of her name. “No.”

“Why not?”

Frowning, Dakotah twisted his head to see his mom. He could tell from her face she already knew something was up.

“Because she’s pissed at me.”

“Because you didn’t ask her to prom?”

“What? No! I don’t know why.”

He did know why. A couple weeks ago he’d revealed Pete’s almost-boyfriend to be a changeling fey, and the almost-boyfriend had not taken the news well. He’d dumped Pete–or actually, told Pete to dump him after his memory was wiped. Pete had obeyed, and been furious with Dakotah ever since. She hadn’t been to the shop. She stopped tagging along if Phin came over. She didn’t greet him in the halls.

“Vio says she broke up with her boyfriend and now you two are fighting. I think you know why.”

Dakotah sighed loudly to indicate his annoyance at being tricked into a heart-to-heart with his mom. “That wasn’t my fault. She’s acting like it’s my fault!”

“But you were involved in some way.”

The computer screen stared blankly at him. “Well, I mean, yeah, but, like…”

“What did she say when you talked it out?”

“We didn’t talk shit out.”

“Don’t curse. Why don’t you go talk shit out then?”

She’s the one–”

“I’ll tell you right now, D, that tone won’t help things. That’s your friend. Go say sorry for whatever you did, and then tell her how you feel–like she’s blaming you for something you didn’t do. Pete’s a great girl, she’ll respond to that. And you know she’s home now.”

“I thought I was spending time with you.”

“Come back after. We’ll watch a prom horror movie.”

~*~

The night air was heady with the scent of lilacs in full bloom. The bushes covered St. Paul, coloring the streets from his landscaped backyard to his shop and everywhere in between.

Dakotah entered through the back door. The Abe’s house was large enough that he could avoid Violeta and Adolfo and take the back staircase to the second floor. He knocked on Pete’s bedroom door.

She called, “Yeah, come in,” and then sat bolt upright in surprise as he entered.

She wore floral shorts and a tank top with her thick black hair in a messy topknot. She’d been reclining on her bed, eating cereal while The Office played on Netflix.

They both waited while Dakotah closed the door, because her parents could be strict and might kick him out. Then she moved her laptop, set her cereal down, and said, “Get the fuck out of here.”

“Nah,” he said flatly. “We gotta talk. Let’s get out of here.”

“I’m not going into the fey world.”

“Ok, fine. We’ll just take the Lake outta the house. Grab a sweater or whatever.”

She obeyed with a roll of her eyes, throwing on track pants and Nordic skiing sweatshirt.

“Let’s go,” she said, standing a yard away.

Dakotah responded with his own eyeroll and raised the Lake. She got into the front of the canoe without help while Dakotah steadied it. They both took up paddles and Pete’s room faded away.

Behind her back, Dakotah sighed and looked up into the gray sky over the Lake. He’d never done that before, and the feeling of vertigo was so intense he was forced to look back at the back of Pete’s head. He changed his mind about where they were going.

The oppressive silence of his companion and the Lake in general made the trip go faster than ever. Their paddles cut the water until a strong stroke sent them out of the Lake. The mortal sky bloomed over them suddenly, sprays of stars arriving with a wash of cold air.

Pete made a small sound of surprise as they glided from the Lake onto real water. She whipped her head around, but behind her was the bank and trees.

“Won’t the canoe disappear?”

Dakotah shrugged.

“You should’ve let us out closer to shore,” she accused as she turned back around.

“We aren’t going to shore.”

She turned back around to glare. “Where are we going?”

“For a paddle. My uncle used to take me here when I was angry.”

“Where’s here?”

“Up north. On the rez.”

“Huh,” was all she said, though her head swiveled to take a look around.

There wasn’t much to see from the lake. He’d purposefully taken them to the far side. They’d lived here on and off for most of his childhood, and he had a bunch of family around. If anyone saw him, he’d have a lot of explaining to do to his mom.

Pete stopped paddling and he took them on a slow arc. This far up north the night was alive with sounds of nature, bookended by his paddle in the water.

But he didn’t give a shit about that because Pete didn’t seem more relaxed at all. And despite what his mom had said, he didn’t know how to fix things. What was he going to say, “Thanks for all your help, sorry the fey fucked up your life?” The damage was done; she’d never not know about this other world. Knowing about it was going to influence the rest of her life.

He couldn’t begin to think how it would influence his.

 

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SPG: May, Part 1/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

Dakotah didn’t have time to move or think before a boy stepped out from behind a fence.

“Let us in,” the boy commanded. “If Samantha had realized I was here, the devil-queen wouldn’t have stayed hidden in her cloud.”

The regal tone was earned. Dakotah did not have to ask who the boy was. Though seven or eight years younger, there was no mistaking Roland Cunningham’s striking black albino features. The boy didn’t look human–he was elfin and held himself with poise well beyond his years. This, then, was the lost Seelie Prince.

“I have some questions, bro,” Dakotah said flatly.

The prince waved a hand. “In time. Let us in.”

Slowly, Dakotah opened the gate and the Sanctuary allowed the entrance of the prince and his fifteen warriors.

“Remain out of sight,” the prince barked to his warriors, and only two peeled off to accompany the prince and Dakotah inside.

Dakotah led them back to the circle of chairs and bay window where they liked to do homework. Phin tapped anxiously on the arm of his chair, standing as Dakotah approached. Pete and Val sat on the sofa with Roland–the changeling–between them.

Roland’s slanted fey eyes bulged at the sight of the prince.

The prince took a seat without asking. He did not look at Roland.

“Like your predecessor, you have stumbled into the affairs of the Seelie Court,” the prince said to Dakotah.

“We heard it different,” Dakotah said. “Ike took down Sunil and saved the fey world.”

The prince responded with a soft but scornful snort. “Icarus blundered across our world, leaving a wake of devastation when he poked his nose into what he did not understand. You have done the same.” Here the prince gestured in Roland’s direction. “If Caitlin had gotten the changeling…if the devil-queen had attacked now, before we were ready…it would have been an end to all Good in the fey world.”

“K, well, if anyone had told me about all this, maybe I would’ve known if I was fucking something up!”

“If you stayed within your damn job description, Guardian, it wouldn’t matter at all! Why must we be cursed with the world’s most inadequate House? Why can you not just protect the few who come to you and let that be that?”

“It’s you fey who should just leave me alone!” Dakotah said heatedly. “I’m not looking for trouble, but I’m not going to sit around until there’s a war right outside my door.”

The prince leaned back into his chair and rubbed his eyes. “Outside these walls, you have less power even than your Heroes. That’s why you’re not involved in the greater fey world. We wouldn’t have needed Icarus if Samantha and Sunil hadn’t attacked at the same time. We do not need you know. I am building the army. I will get my parents back. I will defeat the devil-queen and I will defeat Sunil if he dares return. You are making that harder for me, not easier.”

“I don’t want anything to do with your shit. I just don’t want to get killed.”

The eight-year-old boy in front of Dakotah looked more stressed than President Obama. “I admit none of us are safe. But I hope you will do better at staying out of our way. In exchange, I will leave you a way of contacting me. Just in case.”

Dakotah wasn’t sure this was any kind of solution, but he didn’t want to argue. “Fine, works for me.”

The prince nodded in satisfaction. “These are not human affairs.”

Phin snorted. “You’re human.”

The two guards at the prince’s side bristled, their dragonfly wings raising. The prince waved a dismissive hand at them. “He knows nothing of changeling magic, be not offended. Young Hero,” he said to Phin, “what matters most is which side you’ve chosen. I am fey.”

“Then I am human!” Roland said suddenly, loudly. “You have to do something. Fix me.”

The prince and guards traded looks. “What if we send you back to your old life, and Caitlin or another of the devil-queen’s thugs come for you?”

“Dakotah will protect me,” Roland said. “He fucking owes me that.”

“I told Caitlin you were dead,” Dakotah said. “I don’t know if she believed me.”

“It’s plausible,” said the prince. “A changeling might not do well in the human world, and pass prematurely. At least a few of our warriors have been revealed to Queen Samantha, but that won’t be new information to her. She might even count our encounter as a close call, and be wary of hunting you again.”

Roland did not take his eyes off the prince while the boy considered.

“You’ll protect him?”

All eyes flicked to Dakotah to hear his answer.

“That is my job,” Dakotah said.

“We’ll do it,” the prince decided. “It will take a few minutes, and I’ll need your help, Guardian. My parents performed the original glamour; we will need a lot of magic to make one as strong.” He looked to Roland. “And we’ll take your memory, to be safe.”

Roland nodded eagerly.

“Step back,” said the prince to Phin, Pete, and Val.

As they moved away, Roland said, “Pete?”

“Yes?” she asked, stepping closer to him.

“When everything’s back to normal, I want you to break up with me. Make up a reason.”

Her face fell and Dakotah looked away so he wouldn’t have to see her disappointment.

“Yeah, ok, sure.”

She walked past Phin and Val, between the shelves, and out the front door.

“Ready?” asked the prince.

Dakotah turned from her retreating figure. “Let’s do this.”

 

My novel TURQUOISEBLOOD is out now! Check it out here!

Interlude: Ack!

I’ve been so busy adjusting after getting back from traveling last month that I forgot all about SPG! The next installment will be up Sunday. I’m excited to get back to the story and I hope you are too!

My new novel TURQUOISEBLOOD is out now! Read about it here.

SPG: April, Part 4/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

“The Seelie lost prince,” Phin clarified. Dakotah thanked him for that. He didn’t need a lost Unseelie prince to add to his problems.

“That’s right,” said Yolanda. “He is, of course, a human. A boy stolen at birth by the Seelie Queen and King.”

“So the Unseelie queen Samantha is looking for the lost prince because he could unite the scattered Seelie and overthrow her.”

“Or at least try.”

“So why would an enemy of the Seelie court want to find the lost prince’s changeling?”

This was another good question from Phin. Dakotah’s brain was going so fast he’d practically forgotten about Caitlin. But by now there wasn’t much doubt she was working against the Seelie court. To what extent remained to be seen.

“I doubt the Seelie will rally behind the untried changeling, but certainly there is a bond between the two. If one wanted to find the Seelie Prince, the changeling would be a way to do it.”

Dakotah sighed. “Thanks Yolanda.”

~*~

Back at the shop, they regrouped around the front counter.

“We need a plan,” decided Dakotah. “To get Caitlin off Roland’s trail.”

“And the hell out of here,” Pete added.

“I want to go home,” said Roland suddenly. He hadn’t spoken for an hour.

An awkward silence settled over the group.

“You…can’t,” Dakotah managed. “You aren’t safe. Caitlin would’ve found you eventually. The Unseelie think they can use you. And anyway, you can’t go back looking like…that.”

Roland’s wings twitched in distress. “I don’t understand any of this.”

“Join the club,” Dakotah snapped.

“What Dakotah means,” Pete said with another glare at Dakotah, “is that we only found out about all this fey stuff in September. We just try and figure things out together. We didn’t mean to drag you into anything but you believe you’re in danger, right? We’re trying to help.”

These assurances finally began to register with Roland. He took a deep breath. “Ok, fine. So you’re a Guardian?”

Dakotah nodded.

“And Caitlin is…”

“A fallen Guardian. We don’t know if she’s working for the Unseelie or not. We don’t know where her magic comes from now but she can do magic. We don’t know how she planned to use you to find the lost prince.”

“What do you know?” Roland asked peevishly.

Dakotah laughed unexpectedly.

“Weirdo,” said Val. “What you laughing for?”

“I don’t know,” said Dakotah. “It’s just funny to be the one who knows more. Finally.”

“We still dunno shit,” Valene reminded him. “So think.”

Phin spoke up. “We could wait for Caitlin to get back and try confronting her. Maybe that will scare her off. Like, it might be too early in her plan or maybe she’s not working with the Unseelie and she’ll just have to leave because she can’t fight us off.”

“What ‘us‘?” Dakotah asked. “She’s been teaching me magic, so I know how powerful she is. What if she knows I’m no threat, and takes me down?”

“Pretend you want in,” Pete said.

“Like what? Like I’m a fallen Guardian, too?”

“Yeah,” Val agreed excitedly. “Like you know where Roland is and you’ll give him up for a price.”

Phin frowned. “Will she fall for that? She’s been training you, she knows what you’re like.”

Dakotah considered. “She also knows I used to run with a different crew. And I’ve complained about Guardian powers. Maybe I can make her think I want more magic abilities.”

Before they could discuss any further, a voice called from the front gate–“Hey Dakotah, lemme in!”

The view to the front gate was partially blocked by stacks of shop merchandise and signs in the window, but Caitlin’s voice was clear.

“Damn,” said Dakotah. “She’s back.”

“Well, a magic lightning storm did announce we’d found Roland,” Val pointed out.

“K, well, I’m gonna try it,” Dakotah decided.

“We’re pretty slapdash around here,” Pete said to Roland, clearly trying to lighten the mood.

“Fake it till we make it!” Val said.

Dakotah rolled his eyes at Phin.

“Stay out of sight,” he instructed as he left.

“Heya,” Caitlin greeted him, her hands on the closed gate. It was full dark out but the lampposts cast plenty of light. His cats stood at attention.

“I tried to take the Lake right in but it looks like you locked down the House. What happened?”

“I found Roland Cunningham,” Dakotah said figuring there was no need to be coy.

Caitlin’s face was still. “Who’s that?”

“Ain’t you been looking for him?” Dakotah’s voice grew harsh and he wasn’t sure anymore about pretending to be a fallen Guardian. She’d been living off him for months with free range over the House. Not only that, what was with all the fallen Guardians? He’d only met four other Guardians and half were bad guys! Would Ike have pretended to be a fallen Guardian?

Probably, because he’s smarter than you. But Dakotah’s pride wouldn’t let him.

“Well, you can stop looking,” Dakotah said. “He’s been six feet under for a few years now. We’ve got more important things to talk about.”

He’d made it to the gate by now, so only the rusted wrought iron separated them. Iron, and a hundred years of Sanctuary magic.

“What’s this?” he asked, holding up the blackened chunk of (formerly sky-blue) Belfast crystal.

Her lips pursed. “I don’t know.”

“Well you fucking should. It’s the crystal from your House, the Sanctuary you promised to protect. Do you know what it means when it’s all broken like this? It means you’re not a Guardian anymore.

Caitlin figured out the jig was up and dropped her act. She sneered. “Took you long enough.”

“Yeah, don’t worry, I know what I’m doing now.”

“I doubt that, Guardian Dakotah. You think you know about the Unseelie–”

The cats yowled and Dakotah sprang back automatically from the gate. Caitlin did, too, in the other direction.

The cats had saved them both from a hail of arrows shot toward the gate (though Dakotah noticed none actually got through the Sanctuary barrier).

He flipped into Other St. Paul just as the street flooded with fairies. They carried bows and dressed in a ragtag style, though each was marked with a yellow cloth armband.

Caitlin hissed as they raised their weapons again, all aimed at her. She raised her hands add if intending to do some magic, but Dakotah felt a ripple go through the air as he opened his gate. The ripple held a clear warning–all fifteen of their combined magic against one of her.

The fairies started to advance on her.

Another current of magic caused the air to flex again–but this time, a cloud was blooming in the middle of the street. When the cloud took up half the street it stopped growing. The middle of the cloud crackled with lightning and then started to separate. Through the flickering clouds was not the other side of the street but another place entirely.

Dakotah had been so busy watching the cloud he forgot about Caitlin until she leapt for it.

“Hey!” called a fairy warrior, but she was already pulling herself through. A warrior ran up but lightning forked out of the clouds, striking him down.

Caitlin, safe in the cloud’s embrace, turned back to scowl at them. As the cloud began to fold back in on itself, Dakotah could make out another person’s shape, a moon-faced fairy with six-pronged anters coming from her head. Lightning crackled around her. But then the cloud folded in on itself, and Dakotah and the warriors were left staring at each other.

My YA fantasy novel TURQUOISEBLOOD is out now! Get your copy here!


Turquoiseblood-300x200

When the dangerous rogue dragon Anya crash lands in an isolated mountain village during a snowstorm, Kiri saves her life. Anya awakens seemingly cured of her madness and in thanks offers to show Kiri the country outside her village.

What starts as a simple pact quickly becomes something more as Kiri becomes embroiled in the intrigue of the royal court and the hunt for a murderer. 

Meanwhile, 200 years in the past, Pristina fights to stop a rising civil war. 

Get your copy on Amazon today!

SPG: April, Part 3/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

Nobody had much time to react. As soon as the glamour was off, lightning forked in the sky. The night had been clear, now clouds billowed and began to pour rain.

Dakotah knew he’d made a mistake. “To the Lake!” he yelled. He raised the Lake and they piled into the canoe. Roland was still staring in shock. His only movement had been to raise his fingers to his eyes. Dakotah grabbed his wrist and pulled him into the canoe.

No rain fell on the Lake, and the sounds of rolling thunder faded as they paddled into the fey world. Dakotah handed his paddle to Phin and turned around to Roland.

“Listen, man, I’m sorry. I thought you were hiding something. I had no idea…” He trailed off.

Roland blinked several times. “Am I high?”

“I mean, maybe,” Dakotah joked lamely. “But this is all real. I’m a Guardian in the fey world. We came to protect you. You really didn’t know you’re a fairy?”

“Is that what this is?” Roland asked, eyes still on his fingers. Dakotah could understand why Roland couldn’t take his eyes off them. He had changed completely. He’d lost a foot in height and his body had thinned. Gone were his broad African features, instead his face had a sharp, wary, fey beauty.

Dakotah always pictures fairies like flowers. Roland looked more like a tree. His skin was dark and rough and patterned as bark, his fingers spindly branches, his hair many shades of green. Dragonfly wings lay flat down his back.

“He sounds bad,” Pete said. Her voice was taut. There was no way to move around in the canoe, so she twisted to look back at them. To Dakotah’s surprise, she was glaring at him.

“I think he’s a changeling,” Val offered.

“What’s a changeling?”

“It’s when a human baby is stolen and replaced with a fey one.”

Phin was the only one paddling now, which was making their progress slow. Not that it really mattered, they’d get there whenever the Lake wanted. “Why would a fey steal a human?” He was thinking of Eyerusalem kidnapping Leal.

“If they think it’s beautiful. They’ll keep it young in the Seelie court forever.”

This Dakotah understood. Fey loved beauty. “So there’s a real–another Roland out there. But we don’t know what happened to him since the Seelie Court has disbanded.” He thought about this. “Ok, we need the full story on the Seelie Court. Let’s go to the shop, I have to pick something up. And then we’re gonna visit Yolanda.”

~*~

He’d rescued Yolanda’s chest from the golem only a few days before. This was as good an excuse as any to visit the friendly older fey…and ask her about the Seelie Court.

“Maybe Roland should stay in the shop,” Pete suggested.

Dakotah shook his head. “Caitlin could come back. Until I know her game, I don’t wanna get her suspicious.”

Yolanda greeted them effusively. It was later in the evening and Morticia’s was closed to customers, so they sat in an old-fashioned drawing room.

Pete put her hand on Roland’s arm but he pulled away.

“Icarus would’ve been so proud,” Yolanda said as she settled the chest in a corner.

Dakotah grimaced at the thought of Ike. The old man was probably berating him for pulling off Roland’s glamour so abruptly.

“Yeah, well, like I said, it only makes bigger trouble for me to have to clean up the Seelie Court’s messes. That’s why I wanted to hear the whole story about the fall of the Seelie Court from you.”

Yolanda steepled her fingers as the brownies served tea and cookies to the guests.

“A small price to pay for your assistance with my chest, Guardian, but where to start?”

“My friends don’t know anything much about the fey world. Start from the very beginning. Give lots of details.”

So she did:

~*~

As you may have guessed, there has never been a peace between the Seelie and Unseelie courts. That being said, we used to live in a relative truce. If one had a problem with the other (usually the Seelie court objecting to the Unseelie’s actions) it was settled without escalation.

Much of this was because the Unseelie had no leader. None could hold that tumultuous throne for too long. But with the rise of Sunil, things changed. Sunil wasn’t interested in the Unseelie throne himself, he had no interest in splitting his power, or of the chaos the Unseelie like to create. He wanted to be the ruler of his own orderly world. The Unseelie himself probably wouldn’t have had him. They despise humans in general, and seek to make your lives more difficult.

But Sunil’s rise distracted the Seelie court–and Guardians like Icarus–and so a fey was able to take over the Unseelie. Her name is Samantha. She defended the Unseelie court from Sunil and eventually brokered a deal that kept Sunil out of Unseelie affairs. For this, the Unseelie gave her as much loyalty as their small hearts are capable of.

Samantha used this loyalty to further her goals–whether or not this move was included in her deal with Sunil, we cannot know. But while the Seelie court fended off Sunil in some parts of their territory, Samantha attacked from the unguarded edges. She was relentless and her troops ruthless, and after some time the Seelie court was devastated by its two enemies. Those left alive fled and went into hiding. Even those who had not fought, but who had lived under Unseelie protection, were targeted. Icarus defeated Sunil, but the Seelie King and Queen were trapped by Samantha. She has them prisoner to this day. Without their power, the Seelie court is unlikely to rally and overthrow Samantha’s rule. I hesitate to eve say “rule”. Samantha has done what any Unseelie leader would: let chaos reign. The only things she worries about is ensuring the continuation of her reign by taking down even the slightest threats.

~*~

Dakotah had a lot of questions after that, but Pete beat him to the punch.

“And who’s Roland?” she asked.

Yolanda couldn’t help her eyes flicking over the faery at Pete’s side. “Roland is the lost prince.”

My YA fantasy novel TURQUOISEBLOOD is out now! Get your copy here!


Turquoiseblood-300x200

When the dangerous rogue dragon Anya crash lands in an isolated mountain village during a snowstorm, Kiri saves her life. Anya awakens seemingly cured of her madness and in thanks offers to show Kiri the country outside her village.

What starts as a simple pact quickly becomes something more as Kiri becomes embroiled in the intrigue of the royal court and the hunt for a murderer. 

Meanwhile, 200 years in the past, Pristina fights to stop a rising civil war. 

Get your copy on Amazon today!