Night vision, p.1
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       Night Vision, p.1

         Part #4 of Indigo Court series by Yasmine Galenorn  
Night Vision
Page 1

  The Beginning

  So in time, the Court of Rivers and Rushes and the Court of Snow and Ice rose once again. Their beginning was bathed in blood…The blood of the innocent, the blood of the guilty. The blood of the holy and the blood of the damned. The old ways were passing, as new traditions and alliances emerged. Enemies became allies, and the Lost Ones came in out of the Wild to dance at the feet of the new Queen of Snow and Ice. It is thought that by joining with the civilized world, the Courts of Fae became more feral and primal than ever. But still, Myst, the Usurper, lingered, regrouping her forces, for the final battle yet to come…

  —From The Return of the Summer and Winter:

  A Historical Study of the New Courts of Fae

  Chapter 1

  As I stepped out from the forest, under the open stars, the dark silhouette of the Veil House warmed my heart, but it was a bittersweet moment. The house stood silent against the night sky, but signs abounded that it was slowly returning to life. The walls had been rebuilt, the roof repaired, and it was beginning to look like a house again rather than the bombed-out shelter that it had been. But it would never again be my home. After too many years on the road as a child, I’d returned to New Forest, Washington. I’d come home to my aunt Heather and the Veil House, only to lose both of them for good.

  So much had changed over the past few weeks since I’d rolled into town. And so much was still in flux. Literally caught up by a whirlwind, I barely recognized myself now. Everything I’d ever thought about my childhood and heritage had been turned upside down.

  A light flurry of snow fell softly, drifting flakes clinging to my shoulders like frozen butterflies. My breath hovered, a pale fog in front of me. Over the past weeks, I’d learned to hate the snow. Myst had destroyed my love for the icy months of the year.

  “You’d better learn to love the cold,” I whispered to myself. “Soon enough, winter will be your permanent home. ”

  Standing on the precipice of a transformation, I would soon enter the realm of snow and ice forever. Today…today I was still Cicely Waters, Wind Witch and owl shifter. But soon, I’d be…

  Who am I becoming, Ulean?

  Are you afraid? Do not worry. The initiation will change you—make you stronger.

  Again, I shivered. That’s what I’m afraid of. Will I still be me afterward?

  Ulean’s laughter surrounded me, a gentle breeze that swept by, almost warm in its touch. The Wind Elemental had been with me since I was six years old. We were bound, and she guarded my back.

  You will always be who you are. You’ll just know more about yourself. You’ll learn to control your emerging powers better. You’ll be you, but you’ll also be a queen. And I will always be with you. Lainule bound me to your service before you ever knew who or what you were to become. Her visions guided her. I will not leave you.

  And then she fell silent, leaving me with my thoughts again.

  I kicked a pile of snow, wishing for spring. Wishing for any season that involved green growing things. Myst, Queen of the Indigo Court—the Vampiric Fae, upstart winter queen—had brought the eternal twilight to town, determined to spread her ice and chill across the land. Her Shadow Hunters fed on bone and gristle and marrow and life force. Once we finally defeated Myst, the seasons would return to their normal ebb and flow. Until then, we were caught in her unwavering grasp, even though we’d driven her into hiding.

  “Any sign of Shadow Hunters?” Rhiannon, my cousin, emerged from the wood to stand beside me. “I’m sorry I’m late—the Summer Court has been keeping me busy. ” She didn’t sound exactly thrilled about the whole thing, but I knew that it was just her nerves.

  I shook my head. “I don’t see any. But they’re out there. Somewhere. I doubt if they’ll show themselves until Myst regroups her forces. Who knows how many of them managed to escape? And there were plenty of others scattered around the country. They’ll come to her aid when she calls. She’s just biding her time until she rebuilds her army. ”

  “That’s what I’m afraid of. ” Rhiannon glanced over her shoulders. “I wish I felt it was safe to go out alone. Do you think we should bring a couple of the guards?”

  I glanced back at the trees. They were there, hidden in the woods, ready to join us if we required. But I’d managed to convince Lainule that—with Myst currently out of the picture—we really didn’t need them. Especially since we were headed to the Emissary’s mansion. Myst couldn’t get through the vampires’ defenses—not when she was at the peak of her power, and not now.

  “I think we’ll be fine. We’re just going to Regina’s…” I paused. “But soon enough, we won’t be able to travel alone. Although, Lainule does. So maybe…maybe…they won’t be on our tail every place we go. ” The thought of being watched everywhere we went didn’t sit well with me.

  As the dusk fell across the snowbound evening, Ulean whipped around me. She seemed agitated.

  Trouble. There is trouble in the Veil House.

  Fuck. Maybe we did need the guards. Shadow Hunters?

  No, not Shadow Hunters. Vampires, and they have Luna with them. She’s afraid—I can feel her fear.

  I turned to Rhiannon. “Luna’s in the house and Ulean says there are vampires in there with her. ” I rushed forward, wondering if the guards would follow. I had no idea if they could see us from where they were in the forest.

  Rhiannon plunged through the snow after me. “Damn it. Lannan promised allegiance—”

  I raced through the snow, slipping on the icy crust a couple of times. “I don’t think it’s Lannan. ”

  A sense of dread seeped through me. We’d been cocky. We’d driven Myst back and, even though we knew she was regrouping, the town had felt safe enough to wander around. We’d grown careless the past couple of days. So, when Luna had gone to the market alone, assuring us she would be fine, we let her go. Apparently, she was wrong, and so were we.

  The back porch of the Veil House had been fully repaired and I bounded up the steps, glancing over my shoulder. No sign of the guards.

  Ulean, can you warn Lainule we might need help?

  I will. Be cautious, Cicely. I do not know what’s going on in there. I cannot read the vampires’ energies.

  With Rhiannon on my heels, I slammed through the door and into the kitchen, skidding to a halt in case they were there. Nothing but a silent room.

  The kitchen had been entirely rebuilt. The new color was chiffon yellow, pale as the cool morning light in early spring, and it spread across the room, a gradient of apricot blushing toward the ceiling. The trim had been replaced, and all the cabinets and cupboards. The workmanship was meticulous.

  I glanced around, trying to decide whether to go up the back staircase to the bedrooms or—

  A noise from the living room caught my attention and I slowed, motioning for Rhiannon to stay behind me. I felt for the sheath hanging off my belt, gripping the hilt of my new dagger. Lainule herself had given it to me, and it was fit for a queen—wickedly sharp, a magical silver alloy, and deadly. Behind me, Rhiannon drew her matching gilt-edged one. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Rhia hadn’t been trained in use of a blade, and I didn’t want her stabbing me by accident. Or herself.

  We peeked around the wall leading to the living room. Here, where the smoke had damaged furniture and wallpaper but not the actual structure, the walls had been stripped and now a pale green illuminated the room, and the antiques had been restored where they could be. New furniture replaced the pieces too broken to be fixed.

  Standing in the middle of the room were two men—vampires by the looks of their eyes—wearing dark suits. Between them, they restrained Luna, each holding one of her arms. They were ignoring her as they talked in soft whispers over her head.

  Luna was crying, softly, and I saw her shiver as one of the vamps reached down to tip her chin up so she was staring him in the face. He said something—I couldn’t hear what—and she let out a whimper, then pressed her lips together.

  “So, what the fuck do you plan on doing with my friend?” I stepped out from around the wall. I wanted more backup, but we had to do something.

  The vamps glanced over at me, and then one snorted.

  “Took you long enough, witch. We’re here to deliver a message. ” He let go of Luna and shoved her forward with so much force that she went sprawling at my feet.

  She landed hard on the floor, and I quickly bent to help her up. Struggling, she looked up at me, dazed. Her eyes were wide, and two ragged punctures marred her neck, dried blood from them coating her skin. I knew exactly what that meant.

  “Fucking perverts, you fed from her. ” I whirled on them. “You’d better not be aligned with Lannan, or I swear, I’m—”

  The first vamp sneered. “Shut up, cunt. Try being a little more respectful. You see, we don’t give a fuck about your powers or your lineage or the fact that your oh-so-fragile neck is going to hold up a pretty little diadem. ”

  “Quiet,” his partner said. He pointed to Luna. “The girl is your message. ” They turned to leave, but he stopped and glanced back. “Next time we meet, the warning will be harsher. You might caution your friend about being so carefree. We could have broken her neck without blinking an eye and left her on the street. We could have turned her and taken her with us. ”

  “Who sent you? Who are you working for?”

  He laughed. “You’ll find out soon enough. We’re just administering a gentle reminder that not all vampires in New Forest are as entranced with you as that sycophant Altos and his bitch whore sister. ”

  I drew back my dagger, knowing it was a foolish move. But I had to do something. I couldn’t take them down with it, but I could do my best to protect us—at least for a while. I moved in front of Luna.

  “I don’t care who hates me. Just don’t take it out on my friends—” And then I paused. Crap. I knew who had sent them. At least, I was fairly certain. “Geoffrey and Leo sent you, didn’t they?” Behind me, Rhiannon gasped. “Get back, don’t let them near you. ” I glanced over my shoulder to make sure nobody was behind us.

  The larger vampire snorted. He cocked his head to the side, his obsidian eyes gleaming. “Don’t worry your scrawny neck about it. We’re not out for the win. Yet. Just consider this visit a promise of things to come. Geoffrey loves the chase, and the hunt. But you’d better prepare yourselves, because when it’s time to get real, little girl, you can be sure there won’t be any place to hide. ”

  And then, in a blur so fast I couldn’t see them move, they were gone.

  I stared at the front door. It was open, blowing in the wind.

  “We’re in deep shit, aren’t we?” Rhiannon leaned close to me.

  I nodded, staring at the snow that swirled in on the wind. “Yeah,” I said softly. “And somehow, I don’t think it’s going to get any easier. Not for a long time. ”

  Rhia and I managed to get Luna onto the sofa. I was attending to her wounds—the punctures were jagged and deep, and she’d lost a fair amount of blood—when Grieve burst through, followed by Kaylin and several guards.

  Kaylin took one look at Luna, on whom he was crushing bad, and rushed over, sliding to the floor beside the couch. “Is she—” He glanced up at me.

  “I’m not dead, if that’s what you mean. ” Luna groaned and sat up, gently pressing her hand to the bandage on her neck. “But damn, I hurt, and I’m dizzy. ”

  “There’s no food in this place. We need to get you something to eat. ”

  Kaylin pulled a candy bar out of his pocket and pressed it into her hands. “What happened? Did you cut yourself? Lainule said there were vampires up here…” He glanced around. The guards had already spread out through the house, making sure the coast was clear.

  “The vamps are gone, for now. ” I let out a deep breath. “Geoffrey and Leo sent them. Luna…they…” My gaze went to the bandage on her neck.

  Kaylin followed my look. “Those fuckers drank from her?”

  His eyes grew dark. He was Chinese, and his long hair was pulled back in a ponytail. He looked our age—around his mid-to-late twenties—but in reality he was more than a hundred years old. With a night-veil demon wedded to his soul, Kaylin walked in shadows. He played in the dark.

  “Yeah,” I said slowly, standing so I could stop him if he tried to follow them. His eyes flashed dangerously, lighting with a fire I had seen only once or twice. “She’ll be okay, Kaylin. They didn’t feed enough to endanger her life. ”

  Waiting for a moment till he calmed down and sat beside her, I turned to Luna. “Can you tell us what happened?”

  She shuddered. “I was on my way to the market—I wanted to make apple pie, but they didn’t have everything I needed at the Barrow. I thought I’d be fine. If anybody had to worry about going out alone during the day, I thought it would be you and Rhiannon. I argued with the guards until they let me go alone. ”

  “Right. I heard. ” I’d vouched for her, told Lainule she’d be okay. I hung my head, sorry I’d ever opened my mouth. “You left around four, right?”

  “Yes. I wanted to stop in at the bookstore to see if a book I ordered last week had come in. It felt so good to walk down the sidewalk without being afraid that the Shadow Hunters would be hiding in the alleys. ” She grimaced and stretched her neck, wincing from the pain of the bite. Vampires could make you come by drinking from you, but the aftermath? Not so much fun. Kaylin and I helped her sit down again.

  “I guess you should have taken a guard with you. ” I stopped, realizing I’d just spouted off the same advice Rhia and I had refused to take. With a sigh, I shrugged. “What happened?”

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