Lord of the Wolves Chapter Twenty-Four

February 24th, 2018  |  Published in Haventon Chronicles

Start | LoTW Chapter Twenty-Three| Index | LoTW Chapter Twenty Five

 

“What about reading her mind?” David asked. “Wouldn’t that prove if she’s honest or not?”​

“Would it were so easy,” Lillian said. “Most often that would be a solution, but Lady Cheryl is a lorekeeper and the magic that grants them their deep knowledge of our kind also protects their minds from such probing so it may not be taken by our enemies.”

“It’s how we protect our secrets from the Hollowers,” Cheryl said. “To be a lorekeeper is to be both a living library and its librarian. On the positive side that means even if I were being forced to work against you – which I am not – Gwen wouldn’t be able to get your plans from my mind.”

“That much is true.” A golden cup which radiated a pleasant warmth appeared in Lillian’s hands. “Lorekeeper Cheryl, Ellyllon of the Court of Seasons. Will you swear allegiance to the Rebel Court and oppose the treacherous Summer Warrior until the day the summer throne is filled again?”

“I will, Lady Lillian,” Cheryl said firmly. “I swear I will aid you in all that you do.”

“And will you accept a Doom to this end?” Lillian asked.

“I will, Lady Lillian,” Cheryl said again.

“Then drink, Child of Winter, and join with us.” Lillian held out the cup to Cheryl, who emptied it in a single draft. Lillian took the cup back from her and it vanished.

“So what now?” David asked. “You said you can get us in to the Winter Palace?”

“I can,” Cheryl said. “But I won’t say it will be easy. Gwen is reinforcing the guard with forces who are loyal only to her.”

“Yes, she’ll be expecting us,” Maelin said. “We need to make our distraction attack on the Summer Palace convincing, and too dangerous to ignore.”

Cheryl nodded. “I don’t know the Summer Palace as well, but I might be able to help with that as well, Lord of the Wolves. I do have some idea where its weaknesses are.”

“We need to convince her that David is still here while we’re attacking the Summer Palace,” Morna said. “That way she won’t think we have anyone to attack the Winter Palace and if she does break out of the Summer Palace she’ll head for here and not the Winter Palace.”

“A double distraction,” Cheryl said. “I like that idea!”

“I’m going to speak with my Queen as well,” Morna added. “I can probably persuade her to inform Gwen that our Court will no longer recognise her as regent of the Court of Seasons given her crimes. She’s not very level headed when she’s angry which makes her less likely to realise our deception. I can offer you my guard as well.”

“The Reynadine will probably help as well,” Lucy said. “I was talking to them earlier and they really don’t like Gwen.” She turned as Stephen staggered into the room and leaned against the wall breathing heavily. He was bleeding badly from several gaping wounds and one of his antlers had been snapped off. “Huntsman! Please sit and I will tend to your wounds.”

“Thank you.” He sank into one of the plush chairs with a groan. “I couldn’t get the girl back, I’m afraid. Gwen was too strong for me even injured and without her sword.”

“Not for want of trying by the looks of it,” Maelin said. “My mother did this to you?”

He nodded. “She bested me though not without cost to herself. She bears more injuries now and she will not heal them easily. Do we know what she wants with the girl.”

“We do,” Lucy told him and we will explain while I heal your wounds.”

* * *

Laurel groaned as she came to. Her head was killing her and wherever she was the air felt strange. She lay still and tried to figure out where she was. She’d been struggling hard as Gwen carried her away. She’d even popped out her fangs and bitten the Summer Warrior. That was the last thing she remembered before waking up, so she guessed Gwen had knocked her out. She was about to open her eyes when she heard a door creak, she immediately went still and tried to pretend she was still sleeping.

“I know that you’re awake, miss.” That wasn’t Gwen’s voice. “Now why don’t you come here and I’ll feed you. The regent says that she wants you as strong as possible when the ritual hits you.”

The regent must be Gwen, Laurel decided as she opened her eyes. A woman with rose entwined green hair and strange colourless eyes was sitting at a table near the bed where Laurel was lying. She smiled showing sharp thornlike teeth and beckoned to her.

“Who are you?” Laurel asked as she stood. Someone had changed her clothes while she was unconscious and now she was wearing a white linen slip dress. “Where is this?” Then as her brain caught up with what the woman had said. “What ritual?”

“This is the Summer Palace,” the woman said. “And I am Jana, I’m a rose faerie and the Summer Warrior has given me the task of looking after you. As to the ritual…” Jana trailed off with a shudder. “I should not have mentioned that. You will be happier not knowing that trust me.” She offered Laurel her wrist. “You look hungry, miss.”

“Well, that’s not ominous at all,” Laurel murmered. She met Jana’s eyes. “And it just makes me want to know more. What ritual?”

Jana shuddered again and looked away. “I shouldn’t have mentioned it. You’ll find out soon enough and it’s not like you can do anything about it. Even if you could escape from the mists the magic will find you anyway.”

Laurel narrowed her eyes. “Is that why her son wanted to kill me? To stop this ritual?” She looked at Jana’s wrist again. “I’m not eating until you explain what’s going on.”

Jana swore under her breath. “Okay, she’s not going to be happy that I’m telling you this and I don’t know all of it but I do know she’s going to feed your soul to the Winter King. She wants you strong because the Lord of the Wolves has stopped her the last couple of times. If it fails again the Winter King might die. Please eat… she’ll probably force blood down your throat if you won’t.”

Laurel stared at Jana for a moment before blurting. “My soul? Why?”

“I don’t know. I’m not even supposed to know this much but she let it slip when she was briefing me. If I dared I’d flee to the rebel court now I know but she has my daughter’s in the dungeon.” Saplike tears dripped onto the table. “Please feed, she’ll hurt them if I don’t make sure you are in the best shape possible.”

Laurel stared at her for a moment then reached out cautiously and brushed Jana’s mind. She was wide open and her fear for her daughters was like an open sore in her soul. It seemed she was telling the truth. Laurel sighed heavily and lifted Jana’s wrist to her lips. As she bit down Jana gasped – apparently Mistwalkers were effected by the bite much as humans were. Laurel took advantage of her distraction to read a little deeper looking for an escape route. The mists were supposedly dangerous but she was going to die – worse than die – if she stayed here. Risking them and trying to reach Morna’s Bar seemed her best bet but first she needed to get out of this prison.

Rose faerie blood was unsurprisingly heady with a hint of perfume, sweet on her tongue but it hit her stomach like fire or the whisky she’d got drunk on once when she was still human. Laurel shivered, she didn’t want to stop. She wanted to drain every drop of this fire from Jana. It took every hint of willpower she had to pull away once she’d taken enough to assuage her hunger. It was still enough to leave her unwilling jailer feeling a little the worse for wear. She also took a fairly decent mental map of this place. Escape would be hard but she was not sitting around waiting for someone to rescue her.

As she withdrew her fangs and mind Laurel felt something else brush against her mind momentarily. A touch so fleeting she almost thought she’d imagined it. She released Jana’s wrist and patted her shoulder.

“Thank you. I’m sorry I took so much,” she said. “Your blood is strong and rather moreish, I’m afraid.”

“I’ll be fine.” Jana pulled herself to her feet. “You should rest some more. I’ll check on you later.”

Laurel just nodded, her head still spinning from the strength of Jana’s blood. She headed back to the bed and sat on the edge until the mistwalker woman left. She really wanted to lie down and let her head clear but time was of essence. She looked around taking stock of her surroundings. The room she was in didn’t really look like a prison, well not if you ignored the total lack of windows. It was appointed like a fine bedchamber. From Jana’s mind she knew it was one of a group of cells for prisoners of some rank, and a couple of floors above the main dungeons. They were guarded but that was mostly ceremonial. They expected the size of the palace and the distance to the solitary exit to be the main ways of stopping prisoner’s escaping.

She searched the room but found little that would aid her except a hand mirror – useful for checking around corners, so she didn’t walk into guards. She pocketed it before checking the door. It was locked, of course, but as she ran her fingers over the wood she realised there was a distinct lack of anti-vampire warding. That definitely made things easier. It was rather arrogant to try and hold a vampire without warding or restraints, Laurel thought as she collapsed into her mistform and slid under the door. But then arrogant seemed to describe Gwen perfectly.

She was still new to using her mistform and couldn’t hold it for long, but she managed it long enough to slide along the floor and past the guards’ feet unseen. As soon as she found an empty corridor she pulled herself back together and looked around getting her bearings. She consulted her mental map, trying to figure out her next move. Jana’s memories told her pretty clearly that she wouldn’t make it to the gate – it was too far and too well guarded – but there were windows closer. If she could get to one of those she could use her mistform again and escape that way.

As she tried to figure out the closest one and best route she felt the unknown presence touch her mind again. This time it tugged gently on her mind. Whatever it was it was below her, below even the dungeons, and it wanted her to come to it. What was beneath the dungeons? Laurel consulted Jana’s memories again and discovered that yes, there was something down there but Gwen forbade anyone from going there.

The tug came again more firmly, Laurel tried to ignore it, she needed to escape, after all, but found her feet carrying her towards the stairs down to the dungeon regardless. It wasn’t that she was being compelled, she realised. She wanted to investigate in spite of the risk. Her head was telling her to flee and find help but her heart and her gut was telling her that she had to do this if she wanted to live. Last time she’d felt so sure of something that seemed so counter-intuitive was when she had got the urge to bite Michael when he refused to turn her and that had saved her life. She couldn’t shake the feeling this was the same. So, against her better judgement, she headed down.

 

Start | LoTW Chapter Twenty-Three| Index | LoTW Chapter Twenty-Five

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