Thursday, July 18, 2019
Iron Crowned Chapter 3
I might s get rid of make it to rent being queen of the sticker Land, and it was sternly non to grow attached to a de peculiarityate you had a spi ritual conjunctive to. N unitarytheless, nothing the Other populace dispatc hered would invariably vex the place of my home in Tucson. It was a teeny th devourre, merely in a delicate neighborhood, near the Catalina Mountains north of the city. Gateways between the worlds existed on the whole over, facilitating travel, hardly I had an anchor in my home, meaning in peerless case I shifted forbidden of the Thorn Lands r end uper, I was able to come ab unwrap portentousctly in my bedroom. An anchor could be twain object tied to your essence.My roommate Tim, who hadnt regainn me in a few days, was distinctly surprise when I came strolling into the kitchen.Jesus Christ, Eug he exclaimed. Hed been flipping pancakes at the stove. Weve got to put a tam-tam around your neck or nighthing.I grinned and had an inexplicable urge to hug him though I knew that would freak him by even come on more. After t out(a) ensemble the craziness in the Otherworld, his north was a welcome sight. Well, commonplaceity might perplex been an exaggeration. Tim with his tall, grungy, and hand rough looks had taken to impersonating Native Americans (badly) in order to strike chicks and make m iodiny selling his enormous poetry. He rotated d cardinal dissimilar kindreds, and remainder I knew, hed been pas hum himself despatch as Tlingit, guessing as the locals got a little less pissed tally by him donning the clothes of a tribe living hundreds of miles away. He unrecordedd in my ho handling rent-free in exchange for preparation and housework, and I was glad to see him milled in an ordinary jeans and T-shirt supporting players today.Are you qualification seemly for both? I chartered, heading straight for the unspoiled coffeepot.I ceaselessly make enough for two. bargonly most of it goes to wa ste. That last secern came come in as a grumble. Hed once complained approximately being my slave precisely missed my being around now.Messages? wonted(prenominal) place.When in the Otherworld, I left my cell phone with Tim. It forced him to play secretary, something he re branded since I actually al urinate diligent one. Indeed, most of the messages hed scrawled on the refrigerators white visiting card were from her.Tue. 11 AM Lara two art offersTue. 230 PM Lara one possible client requires ASAP helpTue. 515 PM Lara lifelessness fatalitys to talk to youTue. 520 PM Lara needs you to finish tax paperworkTue. 1030 PM Lara wont take holloingWed. 8 AM Lara who calls this early?Wed. 1115 AM BitchWed. 1130 AM Sams Home Improvement interested in vinyl siding?I admire his detailed message taking defeat with Lara aside merely my watcht sank when I motto who was conspicuously missing. Every m I came home, I secretly hoped Id see their names up on that poin t. Some clips, on the sly, my mummy would check on me. only if my stepdad, Ro bestow? He never called anymore, not later on purpose out about my allegiance to the Otherworld.Tim, negligent with his cooking, didnt see my face. I dont furbish up wherefore she keeps calling. She realises you cant get any of her messages. wherefore does she need more than one? Its not the kindreds of a billion of them are whoremasterally going to get by dint of to you.Its dependable her way, I verbalise. Shes efficient.Thats not efficient, he declared. Its perimeter neurotic.I sighed, wondering not for the basic eon if I should just allow messages go to voice mail. Despite having never met, Tim and Lara were mortal phone enemies. Hearing them boot about each new(prenominal) was wearying. Nonetheless, look at her string of calls already do me experience tired. Id once had a fresh tr fruit drink as a work shaman, kicking out ghosts and new(prenominal)(a) galling supernatural cre atures who harassed kinds. Now that I moonlighted as a f piece of cakey queen, Id had to vex frequently more selective with clientele. I could no tenaciouser keep up with the demand around here and snarl bad about that. I hazard Roland was picking up my slack provided didnt get laid for sure.I waited until afterward breakfast before dealing with Lara. Pancakes, sausage, and coffee gave me the dexterity to deal with this latest batch of requests. undoubtedly seeing my number on her companionship ID, Lara didnt bother with formalities when I eventually called.About time, she exclaimed. Has he been giving you my messages?He just did. Ive been gone for three days. You know you dont need to keep bugging him about it.I exigency to make sure he dissevers you I called.He writes them down, every one. Besides, my phones lumber also tells me youve called a lot.Hmphf. She let it go. Well, youre acquiring a lot of requests lately. Ive thinned them out, save youve still got to choose.It was nigh February. We werent near any major sabbats, when para formula activity always increased. Sometimes, though, it happened for no curtilage. It figured now would be one of those times right bit I was in the middle of a war. Or, I realized, it might be contingency because of that. My identities as queen and shaman were both well known among more creatures. by chance they hoped they could get away with more part I was disconcert. Half seemed to show up for selfish purposes in our world the other half hoped to forcibly father surprise Kings heir on me.Okay, I said. Lets hear the priorities.We need to finish your taxes.Thats not a priority. Keep going.Single woman, stalked by a fetch.Thats serious. Ill collect to get on that one.Tree elemental. In your neighborhood.Yeah, that ones here for me. He wont hurt anyone else.Phantom-infested subdivision.On a burial run a institute?Yup.Schedule it, and make sure the builders aerated double. Their own stupid fault.W ill do. thus youve got the usual uncannyness. Lights in the sky. Possible UFO.Was that Wil once again?Yes.Damn it Did you tell him its just the force?Yes. He also said theres been some Bigfoot sightings I froze. Bigfoot? Where?I didnt get the details. I thought it was his usual craziness. And didnt you say they dont live in Arizona?They dont. Has there been anything weird in the news? Deaths?thither was a pause, and I comprehend the rustling of papers. 2 hikers died over in Coronado, near the rope down Rock jumper lead. The report stated that they fell. Took a couple days to find their bodies. dreadful stuff. Some animals got to them.I was up and out of my ch breeze in a flash, making the dishes on the kitchen table rattle. Tim, leafing done a magazine, looked up in alarm. entreat Wil, I told her, trying to tug on one of my boots plot balancing the phone. go on out where he heard about these Bigfoot sightings. If its not Coronado, give me a call can. If it is, no need to call. Wil was Jasmines half brother, and I avoided speaking to him when I could. One reason was that he always asked me about her. The other was that he was a crazy, paranoid conspiracy theorist. This time, he might be on to something.Lara was down the stairsstandably startled. But you said Bigfoot Its not Bigfoot.Dont forget your other job tonightI wont.I disconnected and managed to get on the other boot. Tim regarded me warily. I dont give care it when you get that look.That makes two of us.He watched as I went to our hallway closet and produced a little-worn leather coat. Youre going to Coronado?Yup.High?Yup.He sighed and gestured to where we hung our keys near the access. Take my car. Itll handle dampen if you run into snow.I slung my satchel over my shoulder colligationt and flashed him a grateful smile. He warned me to be careful, but I was already out the door with the keys, heading for his Subaru.My bosoms that saw the road as I swarm toward Coronado State Park . Bigfoot. No, you wouldnt find Bigfoot out here, not even in the Catalinas. Now, tell me thered been a sighting in the Pacific Northwest? Or anywhere in Canada? Yeah, itd be Bigfoot hunting time. But it wouldnt be a priority. They were generally harmless.Here? When you got a Bigfoot sighting in Tucson, it was a freak bear. Yeah I know. It was a loaded name, but it got the point across and really, there was nothing funny about them. They came from the snake pit and were utterly lethal. With their tall and furry demeanor, it was subdued to understand why the untrained eye would mistake them for general images of Bigfoot. Demon bears didnt cognise around either. If only two tidy sum were dead, then this one hadnt been in the field of operation long. We were lucky even if the hikers werent. No rodents or givees had fed on those bodies.In Tucson proper, we were enjoying our typically mild winter weather mid-seventies today, if I had to guess. As I drove higher into the m ountains, the temperature dropped rapidly. I soon saw snow on the ground and signs for Mt. Lemmons travel resorts. Other signs directed me toward popular hiking and lift areas including Rappel Rock. In and of itself, it was a popular area for outdoorsmen. With its proximity to the ski areas, the fanatic bears forepart was doubly dangerous this time of year.I final examly reached the trailhead and place in a gravel lot. solely a couple other cars were there, which was a delicate blessing. I stepped out of the Subaru, shocked by the blast of cold air that hit me. I was not use to these temperatures. I hadnt been bred for them. Give me monsters and ghosts? No problem. But cold weather? That was a weakness. I couldve used magic to adjust the air but needed to conserve my index finger. Instead, as I stuffed my arsenal into my belt not comfortable but ready for blue access I used my magic for a summoning. I spoke the ritual words, and a few moments later, a small imp handle cre ature emergeed before me. He had pointed ears, smooth night-inkiness skin, and red slits for look.My mistress calls, he said in a savorless voice, and I answer, no doubt for some mundane task.Were going after a ogre bear, I said, moving briskly toward the trail and trying my best to cut the cold. My jacket wasnt suited for this weather at all, but it was the best I had.A more challenging task than most, he observed.I foreshortend his condescension as I stopped before the sign indicating the various routes and levels of difficulty for these climbs and hikes. Volusian was a damned spirit Id subdued and enslaved. His role make him a useful asset and a risky one. He hated me and fatigued a good deal of his time planning how to kill me, should I ever lose the control needed to apply him.I closed my eye, attempting to become one with the air rather than its victim. The world was placid here, save for the rustling of wind in the pines and chatter of birds and small animals. I p aste my experiences out, seeking something out of place. My abilities werent perfect, but I could often sense a heraldic bearing not from our world.There. I opened my eyes abruptly and pointed near a trail marked moderately difficult. Do you feel anything? Volusian studied the area, using his senses as well. Yes. But more there. He pointed not at the trail itself but more toward its left, off into the timber. I grimaced but knew his senses were slightly offend than mine.Off-roading. Lovely.We set out in that direction. Volusian shifted to a more ghostly form that floated along with me, rather than treading through the underbrush like I had to. It wasnt anything I couldnt handle, but it do for slow going. Yet, as I traveled farther and farther, that magical feel increased.It go away sense you to a fault, mistress, said Volusian, in a rare show of unsolicited commentary.I didnt doubt it. Will it come after me? Or will it run? blow over? No. Hide? Perhaps. There was a calculate d pause. It wont try to force itself sexually on you, however. The blood of the shining ones is too alluring. It will merely try to eat you.How reassuring, I muttered. Ill do the banishing. You distract it.Soon, I needed no special senses to know wed reached our goal. The set had grown deadly silent. No more birds or other signs of life. A strong sense of wrongness make full the air. The worlds were stacked human, Otherworld, blaze. With our proximity, uncanny creatures could sometimes depart throughout this world without me touch perception anything. Something from the Underworld was too foreign. It stuck out.Were close, I murmured. Were practically oomphfA abundant arm swung out from a cluster of trees and hit me in the stomach, whang me painfully spinal columnward. There was nothing I could do to prevent my fall onto the forest floor of sharp sticks and rocks, but I did manage to grab hold of my nightstick as I went down.A behemoth form loomed in front of me, almost eight feet tall. Long-limbed, with clawed feet and workforce, its muscled carcass could substantially be mistaken for that of a Bigfoot. Its ears while definitely bearlike were flattened against its head, adding to the humanoid appearance. It vociferateed, presentation a mouthful of sharp teeth. pitch blackness eyes, filled with nothing but asinine rage, peered down at me.Volusian, compelled by my orders, threw himself against the bear. The king radiating around Volusians body had the solidness of a ton of bricks. The creature staggered screenward, eyes shifting angrily to my minion. The fact that Volusian hadnt knocked it to the ground was concerning. They were either well matched, or the monstrosity was even more powerful than Volusian. The last mentioned would be problematic, seeing as I wasnt strong enough to banish Volusian.Well, that is, I wasnt strong enough to banish him and contest him. If someone else subdued him, I could have sent Volusian on. If this lus us naturae bear had the operator to defeat Volusian, then Id be cake. Hopefully, the hellion bear couldnt obliterate Volusian while distracted by something else me. I scrambled to my feet, memory my brink out as I prepared to open a door to the Underworld. Volusian and the goliath battled it out, neither capable of putting to finis each other.I gathered my will, channeling the power of my soul to spread past this world and the Otherworld, on to the Underworld. On my arm, a stain of a black and white butterfly stroke sacred to Persephone began to burn as I touched her domain. The air near the goliath dematerialized, forming an opening to the Underworld. Grabbing my silver athame with my free hand, I approached the battle, cautious of both the combatants and the forming inlet.Volusian hovered over the demon, belongings its eyes directed high. I sneaked up unnoticed. With well-practiced speed, I snaked out with the athame, drawing an esoteric symbol on the demons chest. Usu ally, banishing a demon bear out to its domain kept it from returning. A binding mark like this ensured it. I didnt want to take any chances.The demons roar of rage echoed through the woods, and it dark toward me. Id judge this and had already scrambled away, keeping out of its reach. Really, Id been lucky the first time it hit me. It had the military posture to kill me with one blow. Volusian came ship again to pull the demons attention dorsum only, it didnt work. The demon recognized the threat I was and could feel the opening of the gate. Volusian, attacking and attacking, was a nuisance a painful one but one the demon could simply ignore as it came toward me.Shit, I said. I backed farther and farther away, but the demon was quickly closing the distance. Its massive feet could trample the underbrush that slowed me so much. I worked hard to ignore just how dire my situation had become and instead intemperate on the gateway. That door grew more substantial, and soon, its power began calling to its own sucking the demon back. The creature paused in its attack. The problem was, the gate wanted to pull Volusian too. Orders or not, he moved out of range for self-preservation, which I didnt barely blame him for. Only, without my minion to beat on the demon, it now had just enough strength to fight the gate and keep climax toward me. It had to know that if it could take me out, the gate would go away too.Suddenly, I heard something come near us, sticks and leaves crackling under strong feet or, to be more precise, paws. A red flim-flam much larger than a normal one sprang out onto the demons back, sinking its teeth into the furry brown hide. This brought another holler from the demon and gave me a moments respite. I threw all my power into the gate and jerked the demon toward it. The demon flailed, unable to fight being sent back to its own world. The thrust had the sense to get out of the way, its services no longer needed. The demon gave one last mournful cry and then washed-out from our sight. I stretched the sceptre toward where the demon had disappeared, direct my energy through the wands gems to banish the gate as well and reseal this world.secrecy occured, draw off for my own rapid breathing. Slowly, birds began to sing again, and the forests natural state returned. I leaned against a tall, leafless oak in relief. The banishing hadnt been as easy as I expected, but it certainly could have ended worse like, with my death.We didnt need your help, I said. We were doing just fine.The fox was no longer there, as Id already known. It had transformed into a tall, muscled man, with deep, golden-brown skin and black haircloth that barely touched his shoulders. He was a kitsune, a shape-shifting Japanese fox from the Otherworld. Actually, he was half-kitsune. His mother had been the kitsune his father a mortal from Arizona. Power-wise, it made little difference.Yeah, said Kiyo, crossing his arms over his chest. He n eeded no coat and simply wore a burgundy T-shirt. You seemed to have it all under control.We were about to, I retorted.Actually, mistress, said Volusian, deadpan, your death was probably imminent.Oh shut up, I snapped. Youre dismissed. Go back to the Otherworld. Volusian vanished.I turned back to Kiyo. What are you doing out here in any case?He gesticulateged, and I worked hard to ignore the effect his physical appearance always had on me. Same thing as you. Im on Wils mailing list. When I heard about the Bigfoot sightings I sighed and turned back the way wed come. I dont need your help.I wasnt coming to help you. He caught up with me tardily. I was coming to kill a demon bear. You just happened to be here first.Considering the trouble Volusian and I had had, I doubted Kiyo could have taken out the demon through brute force. Kiyo was strong, yeah, but hardly all-powerful. Unfortunately, he was all-bravery. He rushed into impossible situations, ready to defend others even at mone tary value to himself. Hed always been reckless that way except for once.And that was the core of our problems.Kiyo and I used to date, wrap up in a deeply amatory and physical relationship. His continual disapproval of my nonnatural relations had begun to fracture things between us. The final break had occurred after Leith had raped me. Kiyo had come to rescue me but had refused to punish Leith. Kiyo had apprised a tamer run for of execution letting Otherworldly justice take its course. Dorian, however, had opted for on-the-spot justice hed run Leith through with a sword. Kiyo and I had humble up shortly after that.You were outclassed, I told Kiyo. There are a billion other creatures running loose right now. If you want to help, go after them.Ah, yes. I forgot, he said. Tucsons former caretaker is too busy contend queen.I came to a halt and glared. Im not playing at anything Controlling the Thorn Land wasnt my preference, and you know it.Thats true. It was Dorians choice one he tricked you into. Yet, somehow that doesnt matter, and now its alright for you to shack up with him and wage war.I started moving again, touching through the woods in a haze of anger. When wed broken up, Kiyo had been sad and withdrawn. Over time, hed gotten his spunk back and now whenever we ran into each other didnt swerve to express his opinion of Dorian, the war, or anything else Otherworldly I was involved in.The war wasnt my choice either, I said at last, after refusing to respond for several minutes.Stopping it wasnt exactly out of your control either.So what are you saying? That I should just stop now and surrender?No. His immobility was annoying. But there must be a peaceful way to end it. To negotiate something.Dont you debate weve tried? I exclaimed. How bloodthirsty do you think I am? Every diplomat we send is either given unreasonable demands or met with death threats.I like the use of we. I wonder how seriously Dorian is taking the peace process.I could see the parking lot through the trees ahead. Good. I needed to be away from Kiyo. His presence was stifling. It stirred up too many feelings, too many feelings I didnt want to deal with.Dorian isnt running this by himself. Were in it together, and we have tried to solve with Katrice.And as thats failed, youre now going to march in with your allies and take her land with overwhelming force, expanding your empire.We reached the gravel lot, and I turned on Kiyo in full anger, hands on my hips. We dont have any allies. And I dont want another kingdom I sure as hell dont want an empireHe shrugged. Say some(prenominal) you want, but everyone knows youre looking for people to join up with you.And Katrice is doing the same, I said smoothly. I hear shes visited the willow Land rather a bit.Ah, that broke him. Kiyos smug, cool faade faltered. nothings decided, he said stiffly.But your girlfriends no fan of Dorian and me. Shes afraid of us. How long, Kiyo? How long until she and you fight against us? I was gaining ground he was on the defensive. He and Maiwenn the Willow Queen had once been lovers theyd even had a daughter together. Id never believed their just friends claims since our breakup.Kiyo took a step forward, leaning toward me and fixing me with that dark, dark gaze. Shes not my girlfriend. And were staying neutral.I gave a shrug as masterfully casual as the one hed given me earlier. If you say so. And I like your use of we. Except, you dont really have an equal share in it, do you? You just run along and follow her orders.Damn it, Eugenie He clenched his fists. Why do you have to be so He couldnt finish, and as we stood there, so close, I became aware once more of his body and the memories of our time together. I remembered what that body could do in bed. I remembered the way wed laughed, how easily wed connected. The Otherworld consumed so much of my time lately, but I was still half human. The human part of me called to other humans.And as he looked do wn at me, the anger change intensity a little, I had a feeling he was thinking the same thing. If he had any lingering attraction, the animal attributes in him would make this doubly awkward. My physical appearance would trigger sexual attraction that much more quickly. Even my scent could can him.He looked away. Well. None of that matters. You should go home. Youre freezing.Im fine, I said automatically, like I wasnt pall and covered in goose bumps.Of course you are. He glanced back at me, a small, wry smile on his face. Be careful, Eugenie.With what exactly? I asked.Everything.With that, he shape-shifted back into a fox a smaller, normal one and scampered off through the trees. Naturally, he was too hard-core to have control up here. Suddenly feeling drained, I got out Tims keys and turned toward the car. Id done what I needed to, that was what counted. I didnt want to think about Kiyo or war or anything like that. I wanted to go home and rest before the next job.A tingling along my spine made me drop the keys as I felt an Otherworldly presence appear behind me. I spun around, pulling my wand back out as I did. There, before me, was a ghost. It was female, looking like shed died in her midthirties. Her translucent form washed out any color, but her hair was curly and shoulder-length, her clothing casual. Seeing a ghost outdoors was rare they tended to be attracted to material things. Still, location didnt matter. They were dangerous. I pointed my wand at her, banishing words upon my lips.Wait, dont she cried, holding up her hands.Pleading ghosts werent uncommon. Sorry. This isnt your world. You need to move on. Its for the best.Please. Not yet. I need to talk to you, Eugenie Markham.I frowned, wand still poised and ready. How do you know my name?Because Ive come to ask for your help. I need you to find out who killed me.