Changeling (Otherworld/Sisters of the Moon #2)

3,591
05.03.2019

"He's been bitten! Do you think more than one of the Hunters Moon Clan showed up? Maggie!" I turned back to the kitchen, but Camille was ahead of me, Iris right behind her. I listened as Iris's door slammed open. Straining to hear what was going on, I searched for Zach's pulse.

"She's okay," Camille said, returning to the living room with Maggie resting on her hip. "She looks fine. And Menolly can't be killed. Not by poison, anyway."

"No, but they could stake her."

"Oh shit. I'll tell Iris to go keep an eye on her. How's Zach doing?"

His pulse was weak and racing, and I suspected shock. "I need a blanket. Toss me my cell phone, would you? I'd better get Chase and the medics out here right now. They're the only ones who can deal with an Earthside Supe." It flashed through my mind that we had to make contact with more doctors who could treat Supes.

While Camille went in search of Iris, I made the call to Chase and struggled to keep calm. Morio stood behind me, a cool hand on my shoulder. "What are we supposed to do now?" I asked. "Fumigate this place?"

He nodded. "Yeah, and it's going to require a pretty damned big can of Raid."

As I clutched Zach's hand, I prayed Chase would be in time. And just what could we expect next from the Hunters Moon Clan? With the demons on their side, who knew what they'd come up with to make our lives hell? Or to send us there.

CHAPTER 16

"I wish we could stay and help with Zach, but we'd better go convince Smoky to help us," Camille said. "Iris is downstairs with Menolly and Maggie. She's working on a protection spell against the spider poison."

"Just get back here as soon as possible. And try to think of something to do with the closet dude." I desperately wanted her to stay, but there was too much to do and too little time. The Hunters Moon Clan had just upped the ante when they decided to play their warped version of Home Invasion.

Camille and Morio were just heading out when Chase and his crew spilled through the door. He'd brought two of the OIA medics with him. One was Sharah, who was one of Queen Asteria's nieces. She introduced her partner. Mallen was pale and thin and barely looked old enough to shave, let alone be a healer, but with elves—even more so than the Fae—looks could be terribly deceiving. He was probably far older than any of us.

"Watch out for spiders," I warned them as they knelt beside the sofa where Zach still lay, unconscious and barely breathing.

"Elves are immune to their venom," Sharah said, giving me a faint smile. "You say he's a werepuma?"

I nodded. "With the Rainier Puma Pride. He was bitten by a hobo spiderling. We have one of their spies in the kitchen, trussed up in the closet."

As I stepped back to get out of their way, Chase wrapped his arm around my waist. "I've got some news about Goldenrod Road and Snoqualmie."

"Wait a moment," I murmured, wanting to hear how Zach was faring. Sharah and Mallen were taking his blood pressure, pulse, and checking out his heart. After a moment, Sharah said something to Mallen that I couldn't catch, and he handed her a bag out of their medic kit. She prepared a syringe and injected whatever was in it into Zach's arm. Another moment, and she gave him a second shot, and when yet another minute passed with no response, she glanced at Mallen, shook her head, and tried yet a third injection.

I was beginning to think that Zach would be the Hunters Moon Clan's latest victim when his arm twitched. He was coming around! But before anybody could say anything, his body stiffened, and he began to convulse. His eyes rolled back in his head as he began to shake, and foam flecked with bits of blood burbled up from his lips, dribbling down the side of his face. He thrashed wildly, and I leapt forward, prepared to help hold him down.

"Get out of my way," Sharah yelled at me, stopping me in my tracks. She turned to Mallen. "Glassophan—give it to him now!"

Mallen ripped open Zach's shirt while Sharah tore the top off of a sealed packet and pulled out a second syringe, loaded full to the top, armed with a terribly large needle. She handed it to Mallen who, swiftly, without the time to be gentle, stabbed it into Zachary's chest. I cringed as Zach gurgled. Mallen bore down on the syringe, pumping the serum into his system, then the horrible snaking began to slow and, abruptly, Zach stiffened and collapsed.

"Oh Great Mother, is he dead?" I stared at him, horrified.

Sharah pressed her stethoscope to Zach's chest, where a pool of blood slicked his flesh. She paused, then shook her head, a look of relief spreading across her face. "He's alive and should come around in a few minutes. I doubt if any spider venom can stand up to Glassophan."

"What is it?" I asked, kneeling beside her to look at Zach's terribly pale face. The foam on his mouth held a faint trace of pink. "Is he bleeding internally?"

She nodded. "The spider venom was extremely potent. If we'd been any later, it would have destroyed something vital and killed him. The Glassophan is something our technomagi have managed to come up with that actually neutralizes neurotoxins."

"Technomagi?" I gave her a questioning look.

She sat back, wiping a bead of sweat off of her forehead. "Queen Asteria appointed several of our mages to learn the ways of Earth's technicians. They've managed to blend our magic with technology, in order to help the few elves that choose to cross through the portals. We call them the technomagi."

They must have created the crystal we used to find the bug in Camille's car. It was a handy tidbit of information to tuck away for future use. I motioned to Zach. "What do you need for him? Blankets, water? Name it, and it's yours."

She felt his forehead as he murmured softly. "Make sure he's warm and stays hydrated. Wake him up every hour to make him drink a glass of water. He needs sleep more than anything. Sleep and rest. He's in no condition to go anywhere," she added, a warning note in her voice. "Keep him from any strenuous activity for the next few days while his internal organs heal from the damage the venom inflicted on them. We'll come back out here tomorrow for a full exam, to see how he's faring."

I groaned. We needed his help with our raid on the spider nest, but one look at Sharah's expression told me that wasn't going to happen.

"Not a problem," I said. Then, because I couldn't help myself, I asked, "Are you staying Earthside to help us?"

She put away her stethoscope and helped Mallen repack their kit. "We talked things over with Chase and decided that yes, we'll stay as part of your new organization. We don't take our orders from Lethesanar. With the situation at hand, if Queen Asteria approves, we'll stay. We sent in our request to her this morning."

"Now that Zach's out of danger, what are you going to do with the spy?" Chase asked me. "Let me see him."

I led him into the kitchen and opened the closet. The man was still unconscious. Iris had dealt him quite the blow with her skillet.

Chase looked him over. "Looks a lot like Geph von Spynne, doesn't it? Maybe a relative."

"Yeah, I wondered about that. What the hell are we going to do with him? We need to question him, but after that…"

Without looking at me, Chase said, "Why not hand him over to Menolly? I don't think she'd mind being in charge of his destiny."

That jolted me, for sure. I never thought about Menolly's kills without thinking that at some level she must regret them, pervs though they were. But that was my projection. I had no idea how she really felt.

"Did I upset you?" Chase asked. "You look like I just slapped you."

"No, no…" I said. "I just… I suppose that would work. When Camille gets home, we'll ask her what she thinks." But in my gut, I knew she'd agree, just like I knew Menolly wouldn't have a problem with it.

I wasn't sure how either response would make me feel. Biting my lip, I reminded myself that we had no room for sympathy when it came to Shadow Wing and his minions, be they demonic, Supe, or human. I straightened my shoulders and closed the door on Horace. "We'll question him as soon as Camille gets back. By then, maybe he'll be awake."

There was a knock at the front door, and I opened it to find Trenyth standing there. He was followed by an elf who looked to be about sixty, which meant he was probably several thousand years old. Though he looked as unassuming as a computer geek, the moment I glanced into his eyes, I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide. Power. Sheer power. And brilliance.

Trenyth opened the scroll he was carrying. "Trillian delivered your message about the possibility of retuning your Whispering Mirror to contact the Elfin Court. Her Majesty thinks the idea is worth pursuing. Therefore, to that end, she has sent one of our technomagi, Ronyl, to adjust your mirror." He held out the paper. "You need to sign this so I can return it to Her Majesty."

I accepted the scroll and looked around for a pen. The first one I found was a sparkling pink gel pen, and I grinned, wondering how fitting it was to answer the Elfin Queen with pink glitter. I scribbled my name on the bottom and handed the scroll back to Trenyth.

"Should I show you the mirror now?" I asked.

Ronyl gave me a brief nod, and I glanced at Chase. "Keep an eye on Zach, and keep a watch out for those damned spiders. We don't want any more poisonings."

"Poisonings?" The technomage's voice wasn't nearly as deep as I expected it to be but, rather, a pleasant tenor. "You've been having spider problems?"

"Spiderlings. Unnatural Weres and their pets, and they happen to be hobo spiders, which are poisonous. It probably wouldn't hurt my sisters and me too much, but then again we are half-human, so we can't be sure. One thing is for sure, we have no intentions of playing guinea pig to find out." I nodded at Zach. "Unfortunately, our enemies have a form of souped-up spiders' venom. And since they can transform into regular-sized spiders, it's difficult to spot them until it's too late. They also have a resistance to moon magic. My friend—he's an Earthside werepuma—was just bitten by one. We almost lost him."

Ronyl considered the matter for a moment. "I can help you out with your pest control problem. Before I go, I'll cast a repelling spell on your house, and that should drive out any spiders taking residence, magically enhanced or not. It will last for a good three or four months. Would you like me to do that?"

I almost did a happy dance. "May the Lady Bast bless you," I said. "Do you need anything for it?"

He smiled faintly. "Trust me, girl, I need very little to cast minor spells except the power within my own heart. Now, if you'll take me to the mirror, I'll get to work."

I led him up to Camille's suite and removed the cloth from the Whispering Mirror. He cautiously examined it, running his fingers over the frame and then on the glass itself. "Nice workmanship. Whoever made this knew what he was doing. I can fix it so you can directly talk to Trenyth's office. It won't be activated by a specific voice but by a command word. Will that be acceptable?"

"Go for it." A command word wouldn't ensure as much secrecy, but it would make it easier if Iris, Morio, or Trillian ever needed to use it.

"I require solitude. Please leave." And just like that, he turned as if I were invisible. I could feel the threads of magic starting to build around the mirror and decided it was best to comply. All wizards had their secrets, and I had no desire to see something I wasn't supposed to see. Sometimes a little knowledge was a dangerous thing.

As I rejoined Chase and the others, I noticed that Trenyth was examining Zachary. I knelt beside him.

"He was gravely injured. Only by the grace of our healers did your friend pull through," he said, a grim look on his face. "These creatures you face—they are in league with Shadow Wing?"

I nodded. "We were going to make a report to Queen Asteria but didn't have a way to reach her except for Trillian, and we weren't sure if she'd listen to him because…" I drifted off, hesitating to mention the elves' prejudice against the Svartans. Calling them bigots didn't seem very polite, considering all they were doing for us.

Trenyth glanced over at me. "These are dangerous times. Old alliances, as well as old antipathies, must sometimes be set aside for the greater good. Trillian is welcome at our court, provided he behaves himself. You may make your report to me while we wait for Ronyl to finish his work." He pulled out a notebook and smiled at my surprised look. "We learn from others. While we find our own method of making items such as these without terrorizing the environment, we're more than willing to borrow concepts from the humans. Notebooks and pens are very handy devices."

I filled him in on what had happened since we last saw him, leaving out nothing. After I finished, he sat unspeaking, staring at his notes with what almost seemed an awed hush.

"I can't believe you actually invoked the Autumn Lord. You're either a fool or one of the bravest women I've met." He looked up at my forehead. "And now you bear his mark. There is more. Something about you has changed since we last met, Delilah D'Artigo. I can feel it in my bones. You are unrealized, a sleeping lion who has yet to wake and realize how powerful she really is."

I stared at him, wondering what he was talking about. "Are you a seer?"

"No, but I can read energy, which is why Her Majesty employs me as her messenger. I can see beyond the words and give her an accurate picture of what's really going on." He reached for my hand. "May I?"

I held out my hand, and he lightly clasped it in his, then closed his eyes. His touch was like a feather tickling my skin. I wondered if he had a wife, a family, a home. Usually those with positions so vital to the Court and Crown gave up every hope of a personal life and were pledged to the death to protect and serve. What would make someone choose a path like that? I couldn't imagine forsaking my family, but sometimes—as we had found out the hard way—destiny was a cruel mistress.