Rebel Faerie, Page 2Rachel Morgan
“I’m so sorry about that,” Calla says lightly, her perfect smile still in place. “I would have messaged if my amber hadn’t fallen out of my pocket when I was dangled upside down by said Unseelie faerie. Fortunately, my assignment partner and I”—she places her arm around my shoulders and pulls me against her side— “managed to escape this dangerous mission unharmed.”
Perry’s eyes move to me. “Em?”
“Yeah. Hi.” I lift my hand and give him a small wave.
“Oh, thank goodness.” His gaze moves back to Calla. “I’ve been so worried that—”
“Maybe we should catch up someplace quieter,” Calla suggests. “This bar’s always been a little too noisy for me.”
“Right. Of course.”
It takes a good deal of self-control to stroll out of the bar instead of running for my life, which every instinct in my body tells me I should do. I breathe in a cool breath of relief once we’re back outside. We stride away without hesitation, and we’re soon lost in the bustle of activity in the clearing. Though it’s night time, stores are open on either side of the wide walkway. Signs floating above tree doorways announce the names of the stores. Candy Sparkles, Musical Mayhem, and numerous other fascinating places I’d love to explore if my current purpose in life wasn’t strictly focused on rescuing the people I just discovered are my family.
We head along the pathway and into the trees, where tiny insects glow in the branches above us and pedestrian activity is minimal. As we come to a stop, Perry makes a series of discreet but complicated movements with his hands while whispering words too quiet for me to hear. Silvery dust appears in the air and floats down onto us. Wary of anything in this world that I don’t already know about, I try to swat it away. “Don’t,” Calla says, catching my hand. “It’s to keep anyone from overhearing us.”
“So you don’t have an amber anymore,” Perry says, “but instead of returning to your haven and using someone else’s to contact me and arrange a meeting, you decide to walk into the most popular guardian bar in Creepy Hollow?”
“Yes, because I know how to conceal myself, and because Em and I don’t want to waste any time. We need to find out what happened to Vi, Ryn and Dash. I know you’ve probably already passed on whatever you’ve heard to someone at the haven, but I don’t want to hear this information secondhand, and I don’t have time for a whole load of questions about where Em and I have been. So please tell me exactly what you know so I can free my family before they’re permanently locked up somewhere.”
Perry looks at me and hooks his thumb toward Calla. “She’s bossy, isn’t she.”
“Perry!” Calla and I say at the same time.
“Jeez, sorry, I get it. This is important.”
“It’s more than important,” I tell him. “They’re my—I mean …” I cut myself off, not because I want to hide who I am from him, but because we don’t have time for explanations of exactly how I turned out to be the supposedly dead Victoria Larkenwood. “Just tell us where they are so we can get them back.”
“I don’t think I like that ‘we,’” Calla mutters, looking at me, “but we can argue about whether you’re involved in this plan or not once we know what we’re up against.”
“Hey, that part is not negotiable,” I tell her. “I know I can’t fight like you can, but my ability can do amazing things when it’s powered up. I closed the veil, remember? And I’m partly responsible for them being captured, so I want to do everything I can to—”
“If the two of you would let me speak,” Perry says, “you’d know that your plans to rush into an immediate rescue mission are futile.”
“What?” we demand, together once again.
“Okay, not futile, exactly, but you can’t do anything right now.” He swats at a bulbous glowing insect drifting lazily past his face. “Vi and Ryn have already been taken to Noxsom, and Dash is in a holding cell at the Guild, which neither of you can enter unless I sneak into places I’m not supposed to be and spend hours disarming the Griffin Ability alarm.”
“Noxsom? Dammit.” Calla places her hands on her hips and turns away. “I figured if they were in transit somewhere—like sailing to Velazar—we could intercept them.”
I frown. “Why would they be going back to—oh, not the same Velazar where the tear was.”
“No, the other one.” Perry says. “There are two Velazars. Confusing, I know. The Guild split the island in half so the one part could remain stationary with the gap over it, and the other part with the prison could continue to—”
“Perry?” Calla says. “Not really the time for a history lesson.”
“Right. Got it. So, Dash’s crimes aren’t considered as serious as Vi and Ryn’s,” Perry continues. “He’s being charged with conspiring with Griffin rebels and passing information to them, and he’s awaiting trial. Vi and Ryn, however, were taken straight to The Noxsom Facility. No trial, no questions asked.”
“What’s The Noxsom Facility?” I ask.
Perry’s gaze flicks back to Calla for a moment before he answers me. “A prison.”
“And they call it a ‘facility’? That makes it sound even worse.”
“Because it is,” Calla mutters. She’s pacing now, her hands still on her hips.
“And no trial?” I add. “Can I point out once again that your law-makers don’t seem to be particularly law-abiding?”
“You can.” Perry sighs. “Where Griffin Gifted fae are concerned, it seems the Guild Councilors will do just about anything to apprehend them.”
“But Vi and Ryn definitely aren’t being executed, right?”
Perry shakes his head. “No, definitely not. No one’s been executed since Princess Angelica and her witch accomplice. And even then, people thought the death penalty was a step too far. The next Head Councilor came up with The Noxsom Facility instead, although some people argue that death is preferable to whatever happens at Noxsom.”
“Okay, so this isn’t what I was hoping for,” Calla interrupts, “but the good news is that Vi and Ryn are alive. Now we just have to figure out how to free them. And once Dash has been moved from the Guild, we can free him too.”
Perry nods, then adds, “If Flint doesn’t do something before then.”
“What?” Calla stops pacing. “No, Flint mustn’t do anything.”
My eyes jump back and forth between the two of them. “Who’s Flint?”
“Dash’s father,” Perry answers. “He also works at the Guild.”
“And if he does anything to free Dash,” Calla says, “the Guild will almost certainly know it’s him.”
“He’s not stupid, Cal. He isn’t going to get himself caught. And the Guild has much bigger problems to worry about than Flint and Dash. Much bigger than the Griffin rebels too, which is saying something.”
“What do you mean?” Calla asks.
“Do you have any idea of the mess going on in the non-magic realm right now because of the veil tearing further before it was closed? Humans think it’s the apocalypse or something.”
Calla lets out a grim sigh. “Shoot. Of course. I was so focused on getting Em away from Roarke and then finding Vi and Ryn that I didn’t think about the consequences of what happened with the veil.”
I look away from both of them, pressing my fingers against my temples as guilt begins to gnaw at me. “I should have been able to stop it in time. I could see it happening—the ground being eaten up, and then a house and people—and my stupid Griffin Ability just wasn’t ready.”
“Em, their world would be in a far worse position right now if you hadn’t fixed the veil when you did,” Calla reminds me. “Your ‘stupid Griffin Ability’ is amazing, and if every human knew what you did, they’d be eternally grateful to you for keeping the rest of their world intact.” She looks at Perry. “I assume this mess is too big for the Guild to cover up? Too many people’s memories to alter?”
“Exactly. Videos and photos spread almost instantly. I�
�d be surprised if there’s anyone in their world who doesn’t know by now. My sister said she saw it on the news. This big hole in the air with people fighting on the other side, and their world slowly being sucked into the hole.”
“Holy heck, people could actually see that?” Calla asks. “Like, there was no glamour hiding it?”
“No, not once the hole began growing bigger and the guardians casting the glamour ended up fighting Unseelies. The human world has now seen things we’ve been hiding from them for centuries. The theories are endless. Heaven, hell, parallel universes, magic, time travel.”
Calla smacks one hand against her brow. “Ugh, what a disaster.”
“Yeah, and on top of that, we have big problems in our own world. The Seelie King is threatening to declare war on the Unseelies because their prince fought a whole bunch of Guild members and stopped their veil restoration spell.”
“Flipping heck.” Calla slowly lowers her hand. She looks over her shoulder toward the clearing. “Disaster on both sides of the vile, and everyone is just … carrying on with business as usual?”
“Well what else are they supposed to do?” Perry asks. “Your average fae can’t help with something like this. So after gossiping about the terrible state of the world for a few hours, then yes, they go back to business as usual. The Guild Council is obviously trying to find out exactly what happened, since the Unseelie King denies having anything to do with stopping the veil restoration spell. He says his son left the Unseelie Court, took half their army with him, and he has no idea of his whereabouts now.”
“He knows exactly where Roarke is,” I say darkly. “In the shadow world. The world between this one and the non-magic one.”
Perry blinks. “The … what?”
I look at Calla. “If we’re not racing off somewhere to rescue Vi, Ryn and Dash, then I assume we do have time for explanations?”
“If you’re talking about an entirely new world, then we definitely have time for explanations. Is that what that place was? The colorless place?”
I try to ignore the urgent prompting that I need to run! Rescue! Don’t waste time! “Yes. Well, Roarke called it a ‘world,’ even though I don’t think it technically is one. But it’s definitely separate from this world and the human world. Roarke thinks it came into existence when the veil was first torn. When the two worlds collided into each other, the bits of each world that everyone thought disappeared actually formed this new world. At least, that’s what he thinks happened. It seems to exist in the same space as the faerie paths.”
“Insane,” Perry murmurs. “It doesn’t sound possible. Are you sure you weren’t somewhere in the fae realm that you’ve never been before? There are plenty of weird places in our world.”
I arch an eyebrow. “I’m pretty sure Roarke wouldn’t have been so excited about it if that were the case. And it just … it looks and feels different. Very different.”
Perry turns his frown on Calla. “You’ve been there?”
“Yes. I was holding onto Em when someone summoned her there. And it’s … Perry, I’ve never seen anything like it before. It definitely didn’t feel like this world or the other one.”
“That’s why Roarke wanted to open the veil further instead of closing it,” I explain to them. “He wanted to make his new world bigger. Now that we’ve stopped him, I’m sure he’s furious.”
Calla groans. “Wonderful. So now we have two worlds in a mess plus a third world with a ticked-off ruler who’s probably looking to extend his realm in some other way. And if we went straight to the Guild right now and offered our help, I’m sure they’d still rather lock us up than work with Griffin Gifted fae.”
“Or they’d rather sit back, have a drink, and do a fat lot of nothing,” I mutter, gesturing over my shoulder toward the bar.
“Hey, if those guardians are in there enjoying a few drinks, it’s because they’ve earned their time off,” Perry says, the volume of his voice going up a few notches. “There are Guilds all around the world, which means plenty of guardians to try to fix the mess left behind by that prince you almost married, so we don’t all have to work on every problem at the same time.”
My mouth has dropped open by the time he’s finished speaking. “I can’t believe you’re defending these people who completely disregard their own laws, who talked about killing me if they couldn’t keep me away from the Unseelies, who’ve now imprisoned people we care about, and who’d no doubt turn on you in an instant if they knew you helped us!”
“Okay, calm down, Em,” Calla says. “And Perry, you’re not usually so defensive. What’s—”
“I’m defensive because we’re not all like that! The wrong people keep getting elected into positions of power, which makes it almost impossible to change things. I’m actively searching for other guardians who don’t agree with the Guild policies on Griffin Abilities, but when everyone’s afraid of being labeled a Guild traitor, it’s a little bit difficult to organize any kind of official opposition.”
Several beats of silence pass before Calla says, “Okay. Clearly we’re all tense at the moment, so it’s easy for us to lose our tempers. We’re all worried about the people we love, and Em and I are in desperate need of a bath and a meal. So we should probably head back to the haven, clean up and eat something, and then plan with the rest of the team how we’re going to get inside Noxsom.”
I heave a deep breath and look down. My clothes are stained with the dirt I rolled across on Velazar, and both my jacket and hoodie are torn down the side where someone’s magic struck me. “Yeah. Good idea.” I glance up at Perry. “Sorry I snapped at you.”
He smiles. “Me too.”
“Me three,” Calla says. At Perry’s questioning look, she adds, “I’m pretty sure I snapped at you earlier. But I really appreciate you and all the risks you take for us.”
He rolls his eyes, and it’s possible his cheeks turn just the slightest bit pink. “Yeah, yeah. Let’s not get mushy now. Here, let me open a doorway for you ladies.” He removes both his stylus and amber, but as he raises the stylus to the nearest tree, he pauses, his eyes focused on the amber in his other hand. “Oh no,” he murmurs.
Calla steps closer. “What?”
“A Guild-wide memo.” He looks up, his expression falling.
“What? What is it?”
His eyes drop to the amber and he reads, “Eight suspected members of the so-called Griffin rebel movement have been captured while trying to rescue known Guild traitors Oryn and Violet Larkenwood.”
“No,” Calla whispers. “Is Chase—”
“There are no names.”
She takes my hand. “We need to get back home immediately.” And together, we rush into the faerie paths.
We’re already running as a glimmer of light appears ahead of us. I expect hot sand and a blinding sun, but the light is dim and the air that drifts across my skin is almost icy. “Quickly,” Calla says, pulling me across the sand beneath a night sky bright with a million stars. Our feet sink with every step, slowing us as we try to run toward the dome of magic that conceals the Griffin rebels’ hideout. Calla mutters something, and magic shoves us the final distance, launching us clear through the dome layer. I stumble and run forward a few steps as my feet hit the grass inside the oasis.
The lush landscape is filled with giant trees, bushes laden with flowers, and a river tumbling over rocks in the distance. The breeze is just the right temperature, and a fresh floral scent fills my nose. It’s a piece of paradise hidden in the middle of a desert.
The last time I was here, creeping away with Dani’s sleeping body, I thought I’d never see this place again. I figured the Griffin rebels would never allow my mother and me back in when they discovered she and Ada—a faerie fond of killing people by turning them into glass—actually belonged inside the same body. Returning here—knowing that I belong here, that my family already lives here—is surreal.
“Em, come on,” Calla calls back. She’s alread
y hurrying ahead of me. I run to catch up with her, looking up at one of the enormous trees with a stairway spiraling around its trunk and houses built onto the enormous upper branches. A few days ago, Dani was in one of those tiny houses. I picked her up with magic and walked right out of here. Guilt fills me every time I think of how I failed her. Instead of waking her and giving her a happy life, she ended up trapped inside a body that Ada controlled, and then pushed off the side of Velazar.
As we run past the tree, I sense my Griffin Ability—the special magic that lends my voice incredible power—has almost replenished itself. Out of habit, I look down at my wrist to check the level of the ruby’s color. But my bracelet is gone, of course. Calla told me to throw it away after we escaped the shadow world. Having been commissioned by a controlling Unseelie prince, she was worried it might have some kind of tracking enchantment on it. “They shouldn’t be able to detect it once you’re beneath the oasis dome,” she said, “but it’s better to be careful.”
We continue running. Past the hammocks, past the house they call ‘the mountain’ where meetings are held, and past the orchard. When we finally stop outside one of four little houses in a row, I bend over to catch my breath. Calla walks up the porch steps and knocks. Without waiting, she opens the door and walks inside.
At that moment, my Griffin Ability’s magic floods through my body. I concentrate fiercely for several moments, pushing it down so I can use it at another time instead of losing it all in whatever I say next. When I’m confident I’ve got it under control, I straighten and hurry into the house after Calla.
“Gaius?” she’s busy calling. “Gaius, are you awake?”
I try to remember whether I’ve heard that name before. Thinking back to the many things Vi and Ryn’s son Jack—my brother, I remind myself with a startling jolt—told me the day I first got here, I remember he mentioned someone named Gaius. Uncle Gaius, he called him. He said Uncle Gaius was one of the people in charge here, but because he’s sick he doesn’t come out of his house much.