The Iron Daughter, Page 32Julie Kagawa
“Skrae, pet, I’m over here. Focus, darling. ” The piskie gave me a wink and a suggestive hip wiggle before turning his attention to Leanansidhe. “Good. Now, pay attention. I have a mission for you. I want you to find the streetrats. The half-phouka and the troll boy, I forget their names. Tell them to leave off the eggs for now, I have another job for them. Now go, darling. Buzz buzz. ” She fluttered her hand, and the piskie zipped away out of sight.
“Kimi and Nelson,” I said softly.
“That’s their names. Kimi and Nelson. They were with…with Warren, when we first met. ” I remembered Kimi’s impish grin, Nelson’s stoic expression. “You don’t think they’re involved with the Iron fey, too?”
“No. ” Leanansidhe leaned back, snapping at a brownie for wine. “They knew nothing of Warren’s betrayal or plot to kidnap you. He made that very clear. ”
“Oh. That’s a relief. ”
“Although,” Leanansidhe mused with a faraway look, “the girl would make a lovely violin. Or maybe a lyre. The troll is more of a bass, I believe. What do you think, darling?”
I shuddered and hoped she was kidding.
KIMI AND NELSON showed up a few hours later. When they walked into the foyer, Leanansidhe wasted no time in telling them what had happened to Warren, which left them shocked and angry but not disbelieving. No tears were shed, no furious accusations were hurled at anyone. Kimi sniffled a bit, but when Leanansidhe informed them they had a job, both perked up instantly. They struck me as very pragmatic kids, used to the school of hard knocks, which left little room for self-pity or wallowing.
“So,” Kimi said, flopping back on the sofa, which almost swallowed her whole, “what do you want us to do?”
Leanansidhe smiled and gestured for me to take over. “This is your plan, dove. You tell them what you need. ”
“Um…right. ” The two half-breeds looked at me expectantly. I swallowed.
“Um, well, have you heard of a company called SciCorp?”
Kimi nodded, kicking her feet. “Sure. Big corporation that makes software, or something like that. Why?”
I looked at Leanansidhe, and she waved her cigarette at me encouragingly.
“Well, we need to get inside the building and steal something. Unnoticed. ”
Kimi’s eyes widened. “You serious?”
I nodded. “Yes. But, we need your help to get past the guards and the security. Specifically, we need an ID card from one of the workers, and Leanansidhe said you might be able to get us one. Could you do that?”
Kimi and Nelson shared a glance, and the half-phouka turned to me with a mischievous smile. “No problem. ” Her eyes gleamed, relishing the encounter. “When do you want it?”
“As soon as possible. ”
“Right, then. ” Kimi squirmed off the couch and tapped Nelson’s huge bicep.
“Come on, big guy. Let’s go terrorize a human. Back before you know it. ”
As the two left the foyer, Puck glanced at Leanansidhe. “You sure those two can handle it?” he asked, and grinned mischievously. “Want me to help them out?”
“No, darling. It’s best that you do not. ” Leanansidhe stood, green smoke swirling about her. “Half-breeds have it easier in Silicon Valley—they won’t attract as much attention as normal fey, and they haven’t our allergies to all the iron and steel. Those two will be fine, trust me. Now, then. ” She walked toward me, smiling. “Come with me, my pet. We have a big day ahead of us. ”
I stared at her nervously. “Where are we going?”
“What? Now? Why?”
Leanansidhe tsked. “Darling, you can’t expect to waltz into SciCorp looking like that. ” She regarded my jeans and sweater imperiously, and sniffed. “It doesn’t exactly scream ‘I’m a business professional. ’ More like, ‘I’m a Goodwill junkie. ’ If we’re going to get you into SciCorp, you’ll need more than luck and glamour. You’ll need an entire makeover. ”
“But we’re running out of time. Why can’t Puck just glamour me some clothes—”
“Darling, darling, darling. ” Leanansidhe waved her hand. “You never turn down a chance to go shopping, pet. Besides, didn’t you hear Grimalkin? Even the most powerful glamour has the tendency to unravel if surrounded by steel and iron. We don’t want you to look like a corporate worker, dove, we want you to be a corporate worker. And we’re going shopping, no buts about it. ” She gave me an indulgent smile I didn’t like at all. “Think of me as your temporary faery godmother, darling. Just let me get my magic wand. ”
I FOLLOWED Leanansidhe down another long corridor that dumped us out onto a sunny sidewalk bustling with people, who didn’t notice our sudden appearance from a previously empty alleyway. Even though the sun was shining and the sky was clear, there was a frigid bite to the air, and people hurried down the street in thick sweaters and coats, a sign that winter was on its way or had already arrived. As we passed a newspaper machine, I quickly scanned the date in the corner and breathed in a sigh of relief. Five months. I’d been stuck in Faery five months; a long time to be sure, but better than five years, or five centuries. At least my parents were still alive.
I spent the rest of the afternoon being dragged from shop to shop, following Leanansidhe as she plucked clothes from racks and shoved them at me, demanding I try them on. When I balked at the ungodly prices, she laughed and reminded me that she was my temporary faery godmother today, and that price was not an issue. I tried on women’s suits first, sleek jackets and tight, knee-length skirts that made me look five years older, at least to Leanansidhe’s reckoning. I must’ve tried on two dozen different styles, colors and combinations before Leanansidhe finally announced that she liked a simple black outfit that looked like every other black outfit I had tried on.
“So, we’re done now?” I ventured hopefully, as Leanansidhe had the store clerk take the suit away to be wrapped. The faery looked down at me in genuine surprise and laughed.
“Oh, no, darling. That was just a suit. You still need shoes, makeup, a purse, a few accessories…no pet, we’ve only just begun. ”
“I didn’t think faeries liked shopping and buying stuff. Isn’t that a bit…unnatural?”
“Of course not, darling. Shopping is just another form of hunting. All fey are hunters, whether they admit it or not. It’s in our nature, pet, nothing unnatural about it. ”
That made a strange sort of sense.
MORE STORES. I lost track of all the places we visited, the aisles we stalked, the racks we pored over. Leanansidhe was a faery on a mission; the second she swept through the doors, all salespeople would drop what they were doing and flock to her side, asking if they could help, if they could be of service. I was invisible beside her; even when Leanansidhe announced we were shopping for me, the clerks would forget I existed the second they turned away. Still, they were eager to please, bringing out their best shoes in my size, showing us a staggering variety of purses I would never use, and suggesting earrings that would accent the color of my eyes. (This was also the time Leanansidhe discovered I didn’t pierce my ears. Thirty minutes later, I sat with my earlobes throbbing as a bubbly clerk pressed cotton to my ears and cheerfully told me the swelling would go down in a day or two. )
Finally, as the sun was setting over the buildings, the Queen of Shopping decided we were finished. Relieved that the long day was over, I sat on a chair, staring at the stupid code, annoyed that I still couldn’t solve it. I watched Leanansidhe chat up the clerk as she wrapped and bagged the merchandise. When she announced the grand total, I nearly fell out of my seat, but Leanansidhe smiled and handed her a credit card without blinking once. For just a moment, when the clerk handed it back, the card looked more like a piece of bark, but Leanansidhe dropped it into her purse before I could get a closer look.
“Well,” my temporary faery godmother said brightly as
we departed the store, “we have your clothes, your shoes, and your accessories. Now, the real fun begins. ”
“What?” I asked wearily.
“Your hair, my dove. It’s just…not good. ” Leanansidhe made as if to pluck my bangs, but couldn’t quite bring herself to touch them. “And your nails. They need help. Fortunately, it’s almost time for the spa to open. ”
“Spa?” I looked at the glowing orange ball disappearing over the horizon, wishing we could go home. “But it must be six o’clock. Aren’t most places like that closed?”
“Of course, darling. That’s when all the humans leave. Don’t ask such silly questions. ” Leanansidhe shook her head at my naïveté. “Come now. I know Ben will be dying to meet you. ”
Natural Earth Salon and Spa was crowded tonight. We passed a pair of giggling sylphs on the pebbled path to the salon. Petite and delicate, their razor-edged wings buzzing softly, they grinned at us as we walked by, teeth glinting like knives. A Winter sidhe, tall and cold and beautiful, brushed by us as we stepped through the door into the waiting area, leaving a trail of frost on my skin and a chill in my lungs. A trio of piskies landed in my hair, laughing and tugging, until Leanansidhe gave them a look and they buzzed out the door. Inside, the lighting was dim, the walls hewn of natural stone, giving it a cavelike feel. A marble fountain with fish and mermaids bubbled in the center of the foyer, filling the room with the cheerful sound of running water. Orchids and bamboo flourished in natural planters, and the air was warm and damp.
“Why are there so many fey here?” I asked softly, as a huge black dog loped across the doorway in the back. “Is this a place for exiles? A salon and spa? That’s kind of weird. ”
“Can’t you feel it, dove? The glamour of this place?” Leanansidhe leaned down, gesturing to the walls and fountain. “Some places in the mortal world are more magical than others, hot spots for glamour, if you will. It draws us like a moth to a flame—exiles, solitary and court fey alike. Besides, darling—” Leanansidhe straightened with a sniff. “Even our kind appreciates a bit of pampering now and then. ”