â€œDavid!â€ His mother hugged him tightly when she arrived with Philip and Emma. â€œPhil told me what’s been going on. Thank goodness you’re okay!â€ She pulled back and looked at his eyes. â€œAh, yes. I can see the silver if I look. You do have my mother’s eyes and you need to get better at glamour. I never imagined you might be a Mistwalker. You never showed the slightest sign of a glamour affinity as a child and I was looking. I would have tried to contact mum if I’d known.â€
â€œIt’s okay, mum.â€ David hugged her back. â€œIt caught us all by surprise. How are you doing?â€
She hesitated. â€œI’m completely confused at the moment,â€ she said finally. â€œHalf the time I want to curl up and die because Mark is dead and I don’t think I can live without him and the rest I want too shout my joy to the heavens because Emma is alive.â€ she clung to him harder and began sobbing against his shoulder. â€œI’m sorry, you need to be together with everything that’s going on.â€
â€œYou have every right to be in pieces in the circumstances, mum.â€ David helped her into the dining room and sat her down. â€œI’ll be okay.â€ He turned to Emma. â€œHey, Em.â€
Emma also hugged him fiercely. â€œAre you okay? Suddenly not being human is a shock to the system, I know.â€
â€œIt’s certainly interesting,â€ he said as Tanya poked her head out of the kitchen and called for someone to help her carry the plates. David and Emma hurried over and the three of them carried in plates and plates of pork chops and bowls of steaming vegetables.
â€œHelp yourself, everyone,â€ Tanya said.
â€œThanks, Tan.â€ Philip immediately began loading his plate. â€œThis looks delicious.â€
â€œSave some for Leisa and Michael,â€ Tanya said. â€œThey are still calling around their kids. Just how many do they have?â€
â€œNot that many,â€ Meredith said. â€œThough they also have various strugs like Emma who they’ve they’ve picked up who’ll they’ll be checking up on. It’s a bit of a running joke that is anyone was to start a boarding school for fledgling vampires it’d be Leisa and Michael. They won’t of course, can you imagine the logistics?â€
â€œLeisa called me while I was sleeping according to mum,â€ Emma said. â€œEven though you’d told her I was coming with mum and Uncle Phil.â€
â€œAnd you won’t be the only one who was sleeping,â€ Meredith said. â€œI rather suspect they are trying the real youngsters again now it’s nearly full dark.â€
Philip, in the meantime, had turned to Liam who was seated next to him. â€œYour majesty, it is my honour to meet the Night King.â€
Liam waved the formality aside. â€œMy name is Liam, please use it. Kate and I don’t stand on ceremony unless we have to.â€
Philip gave him a warm smile. â€œOnly if you call me, Philip,â€ he replied. â€œAnd you must be regretting helping my nephew for the trouble it’s brought to The Court of Hours.â€
â€œNot at all,â€ Liam said. â€œBut its a pretty problem handling it diplomatically.â€
â€œYes,â€ Philip said. â€œEspecially when he finds out that you’ve already informally allied with us.â€
Liam frowned at that. â€œApparently he already knows according to Keran. Oh, and you might want to reconsider sending Anna to his class.â€
Philip gave a heavy sigh. â€œHe’s taken another renegade student?â€
Philip scowled angrily. â€œI’ll concede the ones he takes keep to his rules but I still don’t understand why he takes them. He usually has better taste than that.â€ He turned to Anna who had looked up when Liam mentioned her name. â€œDo you think that you can?â€
â€œCan I what?â€ she asked.
â€œTan’s told you that she’s arranging Martial Arts lessons for you right?â€
â€œYeah, with some guy who knows about the supernatural world and takes supernatural students.,â€ she said. â€œHe takes students from our enemies?â€
â€œKeran will take any supernatural who will keep his rules as a student,â€ Liam said.
â€œAnd these renegades killed mum? And they eat people?â€ Anna bit her lip. â€œI-I’m not sure I want to be in a class with one of them.â€
Philip walked around the table and knelt beside her. â€œI can understand that but if you’re willing and can keep from trying to kill him in class this might be a chance to get some intelligence. He’ll almost certainly try and convert you.â€
â€œEspecially if he finds out that you’re a seer,â€ Daniel said. â€œMaelin targets seers and healers for conversion. Like… its too–â€
â€œShe’s a seer?â€ Liam eyed Anna appraisingly. â€œThat’s curious. Keran says the renegade boy is as well. He saw straight through his glamour. True seers are pretty rare among your kind, aren’t they?â€
â€œI wouldn’t say rare but definitely uncommon,â€ Philip said.
â€œUncommon enough that two about the same age in the same town, even this town seems unlikely?â€
â€œHmm…. usually yes,â€Philip said. â€œRandom seers are unusual but Karen was a seer too and the ability does run in families.â€
â€œI’ll do it,â€ Anna said. â€œI want revenge for mum’s death now I know she was murdered. What are these rules I have to keep?â€
â€œI still say it’s too dangerous,â€ Daniel said. â€œAnd not just to you. He’ll go after Jason to force you to join him if he realises he can’t convert you. I’m always shocked that he hasn’t come after me.â€ He looked at Philip. â€œI know everyone always tiptoes around the subject around me but if you want her to do this you have to tell her about Mum. She needs to know what she’s getting into.â€
â€œYes, I suppose we should,â€ Philip said. â€œIt’s not a pretty tale though.â€
â€œThe most amazing bit,â€ Tanya said. â€œIs that any of us are alive. Do any of you remember Daniel’s mother?â€
David thought back to when he was a child and remembered the tall, elegant woman who used to bring Daniel over. â€œAunt Lucy! I remember her. She used to bring me sweetsâ€â€
â€œToo many sweets as I recall,â€ his mother said.
â€œI remember her,â€ Jason said. â€œShe vanished not long after mum died. I think that was why Dad moved us away. Did they do something to her as well.â€
â€œYou might say that,â€ Philip said grimly. â€œLucy was the pack leader before me. She was also a skilled healer–â€
â€œShe put me to shame,â€ Daniel said.
â€œMaelin decided he wanted her.â€ Philip’s eyes and jaw tightened. â€œI’d say after he’d killed Karen there was zero chance of of her converting freely, but there was zero chance of that happening anyway. Lucy was one of the best people I have ever had the honour of knowing,â€
â€œBut Maelin didn’t take no for an answer?â€ David guessed.
Tanya pulled up her blouse to reveal a faint set of scars that looked more like they’d been made by talons than wolf claws. â€œI hadn’t long had my first change when he and his personal pack attacked our pack. They managed to take us all down. But he didn’t kill us even though he could, instead he made it clear to Lucy that he would unless she agreed to serve him for three months after which he would release her if he hadn’t changed her mind. She agreed to save our lives and he kept his word, which is kind of stunning.â€
â€œShe didn’t come back?â€ David asked.
â€œNo,â€ Philip said. â€œThough we do run into her from time to time. We don’t know if he’s still threatening us or she’s got Stockholm Syndrome but my best guess is the former as she wasn’t the sort to fall victim to the latter.â€ He rubbed his forehead. â€œIt’s awkward because she’s always so cool and polite.â€
â€œSo as well as avenging mum there’s an aunt to rescue,â€ Anna said. â€œI think I vaguely remember her. A tall, pretty lady who used to spend a lot of time with Mum.â€
â€œThat sounds like Lucy,â€ Philip said. â€œBut that’s why Daniel says it’s dangerous.â€
â€œYes, but I don’t think flying under his radar is actually an option for me,â€ Anna said. â€œI’ll do it, but you do need to explain this Keran’s rules to me.â€
â€œNothing terrible,â€ Liam said. â€œNot to attack other student in class other than sparring and don’t reveal yourself to humans in a mixed classes.â€
â€œYou won’t be in a mixed class at first,â€ Philip said. â€œBut eventually.â€
â€œI think I can manage that,â€ Anna said.
â€œYou know it might not be a bad idea for David to take lessons from Keran as well,â€ Liam said. â€œHe needs to learn to defend himself from our kind Gwen is after him.â€
â€œThat’s a good idea,â€ Tanya said. â€œAs long as Keran doesn’t have any students from the Court of Seasons at the moment.â€
â€œHe never does,â€ Liam said. â€œHe’s got a few Seasonal types, but they are all from the Rebel Court. True Court students can’t keep his rules because Gwen insists they attack Rebel Court Mistwalkers on sight.â€ He made a thoughtful face. â€œYou know the Rebel Court has some sort of relationship â€“ I hesitate to call it an alliance â€“ with Maelin. It’s how they survive having the entire wrath of the Court of Seasons aimed at them.â€
David was about to ask who the Rebel Court were but before he could his mother leapt to her feet, fork clattering to her plate, and glared angrily at Liam.
â€œI won’t believe that!â€ she said. â€œMy mother was Rebel Court and she would never have had anything to do with the renegades, nor would my father have married her if she did.â€
â€œThey don’t advertise it,â€ Liam said. â€œI think it embarrasses them. It’s not even that well known among our kind, so your father probably didn’t know. And it’s not certain what he gets from the relationship. It’s possible he does it for the sheer joy of frustrating Gwen. But like I said it’s not an alliance. The Rebel Court have always refused to either fight or spy for him.â€
â€œI’m glad you added that last bit,â€ Philip said. â€œBecause I like Lillian and would have hated too think she was a spy. But could that be why the Summer Warrior wants him dead? Because she’s assuming he’ll be a rebel like his grandmother?â€
Liam shook his head. â€œNo, Gwen would try and force him into the True Court first, and even if she thought that was impossible none of the lore keepers attacked him which if they were thinking of him as a rebel they would have done.â€ He scowled. â€œAnd that’s odd in itself. â€œGwen apparently wants him dead but she hasn’t ordered the court to attack on sight. I’d expect her to, so why not?â€ He grimaced. â€œI wish this wasn’t a matter of life or death, so I could just enjoy unravelling the mystery.â€
Before anyone could react to that they were interrupted by Leisa and Michael returning to the room looking serious.
â€œYou couldn’t raise someone?â€ Liam asked.
â€œMy most recent child, Laurel,â€ Michael said. â€œHopefully it’s nothing since she has no connection to werewolves, positive or negative, that I know of, but it’s not like her not to answer. Of course it’s still vaguely twilight out there so she might well be asleep given how young she is, though she’s strong enough that I wouldn’t have thought so. We’ll check on her after full dark just in case.â€
â€œOn the up side everyone else is fine,â€ Leisa said. â€œAnd we double checked â€“ no one else has any werewolf connections that they know of, so hopefully they’re safe from this enemy at least.â€
â€œBut just in case she has attacked Laurel would you accompany us to visit her?â€ Michael asked Liam. â€œI mean if she is afflicted by some sort of elf-shot you’ll be able to tell, right?â€
â€œOf course I’ll come along,â€ he said. â€œAnd I will know if it is, though I doubt I’ll be able to help if it is. I have no idea how you would even effect a vampire with elf-shot. It usually only works on humans.â€
â€œNo, but I bet James could work out how to fix it given time,â€ Penny said. â€œHe’s an expert on elf-shot after all.â€
â€œPossibly, yes,â€ Liam said. â€œI think it would startle even him, but he probably would be able to work out a cure though. He’s the Day Herald, I’ll ask Kate to send him if needed.â€
â€œWhat’s elf-shot?â€ David asked.
â€œYou know how Mistwalkers can make people sick or paralyse them?â€ Tanya asked.
David thought back to the brief overview of other supernaturals he’d had from the Order then nodded. â€œWill I be able to do that?â€
â€œPeople used to think it was caused by them firing arrows at the victim,â€ Tanya said. â€œHence the name elf-shot. And as I understand it, yes, all Mistwalkers can use elf-shot.â€
â€œActually some people do use arrows, but it’s not necessary. But Tan’s quite right â€“ it’s a power we all have. Since you can’t use it unintentionally, so we teach it later.â€
â€œI see.â€ David didn’t want to think about why anyone might be using a weapon that was only usable against humans though he knew he should.
â€œUsually it’s for self-defence,â€ Penny said. David stared at her and she grinned. â€œIt was obvious from your face what you were thinking.â€
â€œIt’s also used to undo the effects of an elf-shot attacks,â€ Meredith said. â€œI’ve seen Jas do that.â€
â€œI think I like your friend,â€ Penny said before turning back to Liam. â€œTyler and I have something to tell you. Something happened and I have an idea but he thinks it’s too dangerous.â€ She told him about Gwen’s phone call and her idea to act as a double agent.
â€œToo dangerous is an understatement, Pen.â€ Liam scowled at the ceiling. â€œBut if know Gwen she won’t take no for an answer so you’re in danger either way, so we don’t have much choice. So the question is how to make it as undangerous as possible. I don’t want you hurt, my herald.â€
Penny blinked in surprise. â€œYou’re really worried if you’re getting all formal on me.â€
â€œOf course I’m worried, Pen,â€ he said. â€œYou’re my friend. See if you can string her along without her getting angry while Kate and I figure out how to protect you while you”re doing this.â€
â€œI can manage that,â€ Penny said. â€œAs long as it isn’t for too long. She seemed to understand that I’d be hesitant.â€
â€œIs the Summer Warrior really that dangerous?â€ Philip asked.
â€œProbably even more,â€ Liam said. â€œOur kind are potentially immortal but between the occasional inter-court wars and the fact that a lot of humans used to know how to kill us we rarely live more than a couple of centuries. That’s how come I’m the Night King in my twenties. My predecessor fell foul of a human who knew how to stop him. From what I know he deserved it. Gwen is over two thousand years old and she’s mostly managed to hold the Court of Seasons together in spite of the Summer throne being empty and the Winter King being maimed and Warriorless… and that’s without considering that fact that both Seasonal Heralds are resolutely Rebel Court. She’s had a lot of time and reason to hone her skills.â€
â€œSo the Winter King is ancient as well?â€
Liam snorted. â€œHe is but he’s not really dangerous. If it wasn’t for Gwen he’d have died long ago. He’s maimed and can’t leave the Mists, or even his castle. He doesn’t even have a Warrior to lead his armies. There hasn’t been a Winter Warrior since Eseld died just around the time the Summer Throne fell vacant. He’s completely reliant on Gwen. Much as I dislike her I’ll give her this much credit. She’s remained loyal to the task fate set her centuries ago in very difficult circumstances.â€
â€œUnless the Rebel Court are right and she engineered those circumstances for some reason,â€ Michael said drily.
â€œYou know an awful lot about our politics,â€ Liam said. â€œYou’re clearly weren’t a Mistwalker when you were alive so I’m going to hazard a guess that you were a spectral hunter at some point.â€
â€œAt the worst possible point,â€ Michael admitted wryly. â€œIt got me killed but I got better.â€
â€œAh!â€ Liam said. â€œI know who you are then, presuming Michael really is your name.â€
â€œIt is, and you probably do,â€ Michael said. â€œSo did you recruit the guy who killed the previous Night King? Or was he already a hunter?â€
Ha!â€ Liam said. â€œNo, he wasn’t a hunter, but I didn’t recruit him. I was only fourteen at the time and had neither emerged or joined the Order. My predecessor on the Council did though and then the guy recruited and trained me. He’s a good friend actually â€“ he realised I was a Mistwalker before I did and helped me through my transformation.â€ He looked at his watch. â€œIt’ll be full dark soon, so let’s finish eating and head out to your kid’s place.â€