Dark skye, p.56
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       Dark Skye, p.56

         Part #15 of Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole
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Chapter 55

  “What have I told you about chasing after boys?” Sabine drawled, sashaying into Lanthe’s substitute suite. Her former residence was still being repaired, nearly a week after the Territories had fallen. Lanthe glanced up from her desperate letters and lists, allowing Sabine see her panic, her despondency. Both grew with each minute. “Thronos is not a boy—he’s my husband. And I want him back. ” “You look like hell. Would you like me to weave an illusion over you?” As if Lanthe could be bothered with her appearance—when every other thought in her head was YOU’RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME TO FIND HIM! How was Thronos dealing with the destruction of his kingdom? How was he coping with his feelings of loss? What if he thought he had nothing to live for and was careless in some battle? What if Cadmus staged a refugee coup? “You’re pushing yourself far too hard, Lanthe. ” Sabine reclined on a nearby divan. “Since when have you been able to create portals so frequently?” After Lanthe had failed to locate the outpost that first day, she’d reasoned that Nïx had actually been talking about all of Lanthe’s powers behaving like muscles. She’d been able to shave down the time between her portals to once a day, but that was the limit. Use, use, use, use, use—and no rest? Accuracy . . . suffered. “You need to dial down the thresholds,” Sabine warned. “I haven’t created one today. ” Holding off was one of the hardest things she’d ever done. But she was about to go for broke, to try to reach a realm that could be light-years away. “That’s only one of the things I’m here to talk about. ” She’d known Sabine would want a sit-down soon. Lanthe heard the whispers in the castle growing louder and more numerous. They said that Thronos had surely perished. She supposed they had reason to believe that. . . . As soon as Morgana had left Rothkalina to go watch her handiwork from some vantage like a ghoulish spectator, Lanthe had slashed open a rift to get back to Thronos. In time to catch the blast. Sabine had shoved her out of the way, taking the full brunt—a force strong enough to send her flying across the room. Her impact had buckled a tower wall. Luckily Sabine had been wearing scads of metal. Lanthe hadn’t been able to create another portal until the next day. With a suitcase full of clothes and big hopes, she’d portaled to Canada, using the just-in-case directions Thronos had given her to the Vrekeners’ outpost. Past Lanthe’s threshold, there’d been nothing but rocks and trees, not a trace of Vrekeners. She’d been greeted by a herd of deer so tame they’d approached her. Clearly, no winged hunters had been in that area stalking them, though Thronos loved venison. Either she’d gotten the directions jumbled (as she had every other time in her life, in which case, she sucked) or her portal had gone awry (in which case, she sucked). While she’d been recharging for another futile go at Canada, Sabine and Rydstrom had told Lanthe that even an immortal like Thronos couldn’t survive a fire born of sorcery like Morgana’s. Sabine relayed to her that Morgana had watched it all—after the blast, the islands had simply crumbled into flames and plunged. “Yes, but Thronos’s wings are fireproof,” Lanthe had argued. Sabine had said, “Even his wings would be vulnerable to an unnatural fire. ” Lanthe had reasoned, “Someone could have swooped in to save him. ” With grave hesitation, Rydstrom had pointed out, “But hadn’t everyone already evacuated, Lanthe?” Whatever. Thronos had survived. Period. Lanthe had promised herself that she would never underestimate him again. He was an extraordinary male who would prevail in any situation. Besides, her husband had one more trick up his sleeve. Granted, he wouldn’t quite know he had it. . . . “We can talk later,” she told Sabine now. “I’m busy. ” She waved at the stack of missives she was penning to witches and oracles all over the worlds. The afternoon of her first ill-fated Canada trip, Lanthe had gotten one of the castle guards to trace her to the Louisiana chapter of the House of Witches. Carrow and her super-powerful friend Mariketa had scried for Thronos, but some of the Vrekeners’ ancient magics still held. The same cloaks that had hidden them from humans lingered. The witches couldn’t locate an entire populace. So Lanthe had dispatched Cadeon’s former band of mercenaries to manually search Canuck forests. “Which ones?” they’d asked. All of them. Because I suck. From the divan, Sabine picked up one of the maps that Lanthe had spread over every available surface. “Too busy with your search to inquire after my healing? I’m right as rain, by the way. ” Lanthe felt a twinge of guilt. “Busy or not, you won’t get rid of me so easily. ” Her sister rang for wine. Powerless Sorceri servants known as Inferi promptly answered the call, then vanished once more. “Rydstrom made me promise to talk to you because he thinks I’m upset about this tiff between us. ” Sabine sipped from a golden goblet. “So here I remain because, weirdly, I keep promises to him. By the way, Morgana wanted me to ask you why the sea god Nereus sent her a coral tube carved to look like a humongous cock. Apparently he mentioned your name in a very naughty gift card. ” “Long story, meager payoff. ” Sabine sighed. “You’re still angry with me. Though surely you know I couldn’t have convinced Morgana to call off her attack. Fearing for your life, I went to her, trying to do just that. She suggested the use of that scry crystal to evacuate you. I did what I thought was right. And I do believe my actions prevented Morgana from simply smiting the Vrekener outright. ” Lanthe put down her pen. “You want credit for that—even though you think he’s dead anyway?” No, she couldn’t have expected Sabine to defy Morgana any more than she had. But Sabine didn’t seem to regret what the queen had done, even after Lanthe had told her everything about Thronos, about all that she and the Vrekener had been through together. The pages Lanthe had written of their history had been erased from existence—just like their history had been erased from Thronos’s mind. Sabine had been shocked to discover that Lanthe truly loved him, and probably had since she was a girl. But she hadn’t embraced the idea of her little sister wed to an enemy Vrekener: “Especially one who doesn’t even have a house, much less a kingdom,” Sabine had said, making Lanthe want to punch her in the tit. Sabine had been more worked up about Emberine daring to cut off Lanthe’s tongue: “She will pay dearly for that. I plot for her very soul!” Sabine had also raised a fuss over the dragon gold: “I didn’t conceal your necklace from Morgana just so you can throw it away willy-nilly! Let me handle Bettina. I know her pressure points. Consider their declaration of war null and void. ” In an attempt to distract Lanthe from her search, Sabine had invited Cadeon and his family to stay for a few weeks. Lanthe had paused only to press a kiss on each babe’s downy head, greet their parents, and ask Holly if she knew where Nïx was (“No earthly idea”). So Lanthe had gotten back to work. The entire royal family pitied her. Yesterday Lanthe had gone to Tornin’s library for more maps. Rydstrom and Cadeon had been down in the courtyard, conversing amiably in their deep demon voices and Sith Ifrican accents. With a swaddled babe in each arm, Cadeon had crowed, “I’ve got a trio of females who all adore me. Life is rich, brother!” Spying Lanthe above, Rydstrom had motioned for Cadeon to keep it down. They shouldn’t pity her. Because Lanthe was going to fix this. She needed to get her husband back for more than just— “Are you sending out even more gold?” Sabine said now, setting away her goblet. “Lanthe, you’ve spent a fortune!” In their childhood meadow, Thronos had tickled Lanthe, teasing her, “You like me far better than gold. ” I do. I really do. “As if you wouldn’t do the same for Rydstrom. ” “But Thronos is a Vrekener. They’re despicable!” “Those are my subjects you’re talking about!” Lanthe could call them names all day long, but if anyone else did . . . “I insult our age-old foes, and your eyes glimmer with outrage? Up is down, down is up. ” “Just leave, Sabine. I don’t have time to make you understand. ” “Kicking me out, when I have in my possession a letter from Thronos to Rydstrom, sent before the collapse of the Territories?” Lanthe’s eyes went wide. “Why didn’t you say anything before?” “We’ve only just learned of it today, because I allegedly ordered the Vrekener messenger to be waylaid and interrogated—in defiance of Lor
e law. Which allegedly delayed the letter a bit. ” She tugged a folded sheet of parchment from inside her gauntlet. “I make no apologies. Based on the information I had, I was desperate to find you. ” “Open it!” When Sabine patted the divan beside her, Lanthe nearly tripped on her feet to join her there. “You haven’t read it?” “No. Rydstrom has, and he suggested we read it together. ” Lanthe saw Thronos’s handwriting and seal, and tears welled. She didn’t trust her voice, so she circled her hand in the air, come on, come on. Ever dramatic, Sabine took her time unfolding it. “I wonder how your Vrekener will respond. Rydstrom’s letter to him was by no means gentle, so I can only imagine what this rebuttal will contain. ” Finally Sabine held up the letter, and together they read: King Rydstrom, My first reaction when I received your message was anger. Who the hell are you to advise me on how to treat my beloved wife? To make her happy? Beloved wife? Lanthe’s tears spilled down her face, making Sabine roll her eyes. They read on. . . . I think you and Queen Sabine have a mistaken impression of Melanthe’s life in the Territories. She roams the kingdom freely, fully empowered—because I trust her implicitly. She wears whatever garments she chooses and worships gold, of which I plan to provide her ever more. She doesn’t do these things because I allow her to, or because she demands to—this is simply the way things are in our life. We co-rule our kingdom. Our marriage is a partnership. It works. Lanthe gave a sob. “Thronos truly understands about the gold?” “He m-met Mother when he was a boy. He understands the importance. ” Sabine didn’t look surprised, but then she’d long since woven an illusion over her face. However, upon further reflection over your letter, I realize that my only response to you can be gratitude. Melanthe is not only my wife and queen, she is my most treasured friend. You helped free her from the tyranny of Omort, and you’ve pledged your protection since. Because of this, I am deeply in your debt. I wish for no war between us. If you can agree to terms, I propose a meeting that would include you with your wife, and me with mine. Melanthe has been against this course, fearing that you or Sabine will take her from me against her will. I look upon my powerful queen even now as I write this, and confidently dare you to try. Thronos Lanthe choked back her next sob. If he hadn’t written of her being a powerful queen, she’d probably be curled up in a ball, her tears wetting the divan upholstery. “That was . . . big of him. ” Sabine folded the letter. “Perhaps we Sorceri oughtn’t to have blown up his kingdom?” Lanthe whirled around and punched her sister in the tit. Regrettably, Sabine was wearing a metal breastplate. As Lanthe shook out her hand, Sabine snapped, “You should’ve told me about your history with the Vrekener!” “I didn’t know what to make of it back then! For so long, it only brought pain. I was embarrassed. It seemed like all I ever did was confess my poor judgment to you. ” “Can you not understand what it looked like to me? I thought you’d finally been caught by a fiend. I was just trying to protect you. ” “I don’t need your protection anymore! I don’t need your worry! Sabine, I stole keys to the gates of hell and convinced demon hordes that I was a goddess. ” She held up her necklace, the red gold nearly mesmerizing Sabine. “I somehow made a portal under duress in the belly of a beast! Thronos and I prevailed over a deity. ” “I can’t simply stop worrying about you or stop protecting you. Short of your commanding me not to, it will never happen. ” “Then fine, don’t stop. But support me in this. ” She took her sister’s face in her hands. “For me, Thronos is all the gold in the world. He’s my next heartbeat. ” Sabine was bewildered, and let her sister see it. “Well. Way to sum up your feelings. ” At length, she exhaled with defeat. “All right, then, consider me . . . supportive—if you’ll forgive me, and stop being cross. I can’t stand having discord between us. ” She opened her arms. “You know I only want what’s best for you. ” Lanthe hugged her for long moments—she’d hated the discord too. Sabine was teary when they broke away. “You know, the Queen of Zephyr is a very disagreeable sorceress. In the future, if you’d like to spend some quality sister time together, we could ambush her and steal her power of flight. In case Thronos wants a flying wife, or whatever. ” Lanthe smiled through her own tears. “QT with my big sis? I’d really like that. ” “Also, if you’re out of leads, you could renew my search for the Hag in the Basement. ” After Omort had died, Hag had delivered those antidotes for the morsus, then fled Tornin. “She’s rumored to be working for King Lothaire in Dacia. Wrap your head around that for a moment, will you?” Hag possessed locating powers! “You’ve stopped looking for her?” “We sought her—only to find her partner in crime, Lothaire, and his hateful book of debts. No longer. It’s rumored that he gave the book to La Dorada for some reason. ” Then Rydstrom owed the Queen of Evil a blood debt? That didn’t bode well. And he and Sabine already had a lot on their plate. Because the mysterious Well of Souls was . . . stirring. “Hag’s a great idea,” Lanthe said. “I’ll send a dispatch to Dacia right away. ” “There’s one more idea. Cadeon came up with it. . . . If Thronos truly is a demon, it might be possible for you to summon him. ” A female who slept with a demon of certain breeds could summon him at any time—if she knew the rites and possessed the esoteric ingredients. The demon would uncontrollably teleport back to her. Lanthe had contemplated this—was preparing for it—but had decided to save the idea until she’d exhausted all others. Despite the amount of gold she’d offered Loa the Commercenary, the priestess couldn’t get the ingredients to Lanthe for another three weeks. In any case, the situation with Thronos was . . . tricky. He wasn’t going to remember Lanthe when he saw her. As far as he’d know, she might be an enemy sorceress. Plus, she wasn’t sure whether he’d ever fully accepted he was a demon. Being involuntarily demon-summoned by an unknown Sorceri would have to spook him. “Of course, some breeds are immune,” Sabine continued, “and I can’t imagine anyone having tried it on a Vrekener. ” “Tell Cadeon thank you from me. But it’s my last-ditch option—since I have Thronos’s memory issues to consider. ” Sabine narrowed her gaze. “You’ve got another plan up your gauntlet. You never used to keep secrets from me. ” She snapped her fingers. “Oh, wait. You did for five hundred years. ” “I’m saving up my sorcery till tomorrow, so I can create a portal all the way to Pandemonia. ” She’d attempted it yesterday and had accidentally opened a rift back to the belly of the beast. She’d slammed the portal door in an instant, but her room had still smelled like gastric acid. Surely if Lanthe rested her threshold muscle, she could reach that demon plane. “I think he’ll be there. ” “How? Does he have a portal . . . Ah! You think he can trace! That’s why you’re so confident he lives. ” Lanthe shrugged. Nïx had mentioned it in faux Feveris: You’d be able to trace—big deal. Thinking back, Lanthe realized the Valkyrie might have been saying that in earnest. Tracing was a big deal. It could save a demon’s life. Even if Nïx had said nothing, Lanthe would believe. “Sabine, you’d have to know Thronos like I do—he always beats the odds. He wasn’t supposed to survive his fall as a boy. He did. He wasn’t supposed to fly again. He does. He was never supposed to catch me or win my heart. How could I ever bet against him?” “So why Pandemonia?” “I think his subconscious will take him back there. Or his demonic blood will, or vestiges of our history. Pandemonia is where Thronos and I made a fresh start. ” Melanthe, let’s begin with a kiss. “There’s a glade we rested in, where we had our first real connection. ” Or reconnection. “Then Rydstrom and I will accompany you,” Sabine said. “I’m very interested in that realm’s dragons. We have an extraordinary female here who needs her own stable of males; she’s basically a basilisk rock star—” “I’m going alone. If Thronos sees two Sorceri and a rage demon, it’ll put him on guard. And even with no memory of me, he might remember you as Morgana’s henchwoman. ” “It’s too dangerous. ” “Pandemonia’s really not that bad once you know the zones. Some parts were even hauntingly beautiful. The dragons can be a problem, but I’ll
figure it out. ” Lanthe didn’t expect to arrive there on the same day he did. Which was why she’d packed a bag—and a tent. She wasn’t leaving hell without her man. Melanthe, of the Deie Sorceri—late of the lavish Castle Tornin—was going to . . . camp out. “Say he lives, Lanthe. Say he can trace. Then say he goes to Pandemonia. If you can somehow find him, how will you handle him? He might be so enraged at Sorceri that he’ll kill you first and ask questions later. ” “He would never hurt me. ” “You won’t be able to undo Morgana’s curse with a wave of your hand. You’ll have to be fully empowered. She amped up the voltage of your sorcery to astronomical levels. ” “I’ll figure it out. ” Lanthe’s persuasion had been strengthening once more, but would it be enough? “Are you sure you should restore his memory?” At Lanthe’s glare, Sabine said, “Based on what you told me, he had some issues with how you’ve lived your life. Why not let him be blissfully ignorant? You two could meet and date, as if it’s the first time. ” “He changed; those issues are resolved. And even if I had no problem lying to him—which I do—I have to let him know that we were together. ” “Why?” “So he doesn’t fall over in shock when I have a halfling in a few months. ” The witch Mariketa had been the one to sense it, telling her: “You do know you’re totes preggo, right?” Lanthe’s biological clock had cried, That’s right, bitches, remember my name! Her first reaction had been a muttered “Fuck,” à la Thronos. But with each passing hour, she’d had time to grow accustomed to the idea. She was now officially elated—or she would be. As soon as she located her kid’s father. “Amusing, sister. ” When Sabine saw that she wasn’t joking, she gasped, “Mother of gold. ”
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