Silent Blackmail (Quest)
Part 58 of Quest
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Sun god gilded gold
stunned he faced a friend from old
who stands silvered, bold.
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“Let them go,” said another male voice as soothing silver draped the ward, enfolding the flames, cradling them all the way to the ground. The newcomer’s power snuffed out both ward and fire.
“Why should I do that?”
“Because you owe me.”
The Watcher of the Moon leaned against the cottage, fingering the pumpkin vines sprouting in the window box. Their green shoots already had leaves and grasping tendrils, one of which curled around his forefinger.
Raithen gnashed his teeth and the loud clicking sound the enamel made as it took that beating made everyone flinch. Everyone except the Watcher of the Moon, who disentangled his finger from the vine’s grasp. His silver eyes held pain cupped in their depths–the kind that couldn’t be soothed. Whatever this debt between him and the Sun God, it was one that could not ever be repaid and they both knew it.
“Fine,” Raithen bit out, turning his back on everyone except his offspring. He corralled them with a glance and they moved to flank him. “I’ll hold you responsible for them.”
Without another glance, Raithen, Solara and Solan stepped into a swath of sunlight spearing through the oculus and merged with it. They vanished from sight but everyone, except the Watcher of the Moon, stayed tense and alert.
“They’re gone. They won’t return,” said the Watcher.
He wore darkness starred
cold pinpricks wink in his cloak
moons blink under hood.
Shadows obscured his face but not the impenetrable kind. These shadows had the dusky hue of twilight and allowed hints of the contours of his face to be seen when he moved, but nothing more.
Or perhaps only her eyes could tease those hints out since she was Undeem and night’s darkness hid nothing from her. Undreal glanced at the baby in her arms; he’d been quiet through all the drama. He blinked tired eyes at her and yawned; his fingers opened and closed, alternating between gripping and releasing her sleeve.
“What do we owe you for intervening?” Henneth asked.
Undreal cursed herself for not thinking of that sooner. Of course this mysterious Watcher person would want some kind of boon. None of the immortals ever helped anyone without expecting something in return. What did he want that they could give?
“For now, keep your promises. Do what you set out to do.”
“And later?” Henneth took a step towards the Watcher.
“Nothing you need worry about now. Maybe not even later, only time will tell.”
The Watcher shrugged, but his gaze, after dismissing the rest of their party, locked on Chero, who hadn’t said a word since the Watcher had appeared. Chero, who bore the Moon Court’s colors and who had issued his own challenge to the Sun God.
A sick feeling erupted in the pit of Undreal’s stomach. The Watcher had plans for Chero and the Aisling was on board with that plan without knowing what it entailed. Not good and there was nothing she could do about it. What could the Watcher want with a youth about one-sixth the size of a human male?
Small friends caught up
in plots spun from help given–
it’s salvation’s price.
Undreal caught Anasril’s eye; the Aisling girl’s thoughts ran on parallel flight paths to Undreal’s judging by the way she bit her lip. Diminutive she might be, but she was no fool. A wave of protectiveness washed over Undreal and she held the baby tighter. He nuzzled her arm with his cheek, kitten-like.
“We should go,” Chero put in, eager to be off and on whatever errand the Watcher had in mind. “The day’s wasting.”
That snapped Undreal’s attention to more immediate danger–the Undeem horde. It would be out in force tonight hunting them. They needed to find a place to hold up in. Staying here wasn’t an option, not when half the remaining pantheon knew where to find them. No doubt the Undeem Queen had divined their position by now too. She’d had enough time to figure it out.
“Where do we go?” Undreal looked at her three companions–the three who could talk anyway. The baby’s opinion, if he had one, didn’t count since he couldn’t express it.
“My–our–home, I–we–have to go back,” Anasril took Chero’s hand and looked at each of them but no one gainsaid her. “My father will worry.”
“Then let’s go. You’ll have to carry the baby,” Undreal handed Henneth the child, who woke up from his doze and scrunched his face up to complain. Henneth caught twenty pounds of unhappy baby with stiff arms.
She steeled herself for a rejection. “And I need to ride in your shadow. I’ll burn up out there.”
Henneth tensed. “How does that work?”
Undreal let go of her physical form and melted back into the shadow that had birthed her into this unlife. A woman-shaped patch of darkness slid across the cobbled walk, joined with Henneth’s shadow and disappeared from sight. Keeping her powers in check would take concentration but she’d do it. She had to. If she drained Henneth even a little, he’d drop the baby.
She just had to concentrate and hope she could curb her powers long enough for them to reach the forest. Dappled light would still burn but not as much as direct sun.
Melted shadow rides
safe in friend’s shaded confines
fight the urge to leech.
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