Shadow silence, p.29
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       Shadow Silence, p.29

           Yasmine Galenorn
 
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  “How long?” he asked.

  Oriel paused from her singing. “Ninety seconds. Give it another minute. When three minutes are up, I will tell you.”

  Corbin pulled out a syringe. It was filled with a pale yellow liquid. Somehow I didn’t think it was quite the same thing as snake anti-venom. He waited, poised over Peggin’s arm. Time seemed to flow by so slowly that I could hear every single breath taken, every single note that was being sung. I could hear the swish as the ring of energy raced around us. I could hear my heart beating even as I joined in the song. As much as I wanted to scream bring her back now, I knew that it was vital that we keep up the protection around us.

  “Now,” Oriel finally said after what seemed like an eternity.

  Corbin inserted the needle in Peggin’s arm and plunged the liquid into her vein. Then, tossing the syringe to the side, he began to pat her face.

  “Wake up, Peggin. Can you hear me? Peggin, I need you to wake up. Come on, girl, don’t fail me now.” He looked over at me. “Kerris, start talking to her. Take her other arm and began rubbing vigorously. We need to get her circulation going. Bryan, massage her feet.”

  As I grabbed her hand and began rubbing vigorously, calling to her as I leaned near her ear, Bryan began to rub her feet. Corbin dropped her arm and began CPR, motioning to me when it was time to breathe into her mouth.

  I tipped her head back, holding her nose and making sure her throat was clear, and then fastened my mouth to hers, breathing deeply and then pulling away. We worked for what seemed like hours. Suddenly, as I was beginning to fear the worst, Peggin’s chest rose, and she coughed. Corbin reached behind her shoulders to lift her into a sitting position.

  “I think I’m going to throw up,” she said, looking queasy. Bryan grabbed a basin that was beneath the table and handed it Corbin, who held it in front of Peggin. She clutched both sides of the tub and the next moment, was puking her guts out. The frothy matter was dark, not with blood but with what looked like seaweed and brine. It was as though I could smell the Lady again, like I had when we rescued her. I looked across at Corbin, questioning.

  “The Lady got into her lungs, into her very bloodstream. This is the residue. Once she gets it out of her system, she’ll be okay and no more prone to the Lady’s siren song than you or me. We all have to keep our guard, and so will Peggin, but she won’t be under the Lady’s spell anymore.”

  I let out a long breath, realizing how close we’d come to losing my best friend. I also realized just how incredibly strong each person in this room was, including myself. I had so much to learn about Whisper Hollow and the people who lived here, and I had merely scraped the surface. There were so many secrets, and so many layers to this town that I wondered if anyone ever knew the true scope.

  * * *

  Cleanup always seems easier than preparation. As we gathered in the sitting room of Oriel’s inner sanctum, everyone seemed both exhausted and exhilarated. Oriel passed out food—crackers and cheese, sliced deli meat and grapes, and cookies. She made everyone take a plate, including Peggin.

  “I don’t care if you think you’re hungry or not. You need food. The amount of energy we expended in there is tremendous, and before long you’ll be incredibly light-headed and feel like you’re going to faint. This goes for all of you.”

  I looked over at Peggin, who—for the first time in days—looked relaxed. In fact, she looked almost euphoric.

  “Are you all right?” I asked her.

  “Actually, I feel kind of giddy. I can’t explain it, but I feel like laughing. It’s like this huge weight is gone from my shoulders. I know that I died in there, you told me so, and I suppose I should feel some sense of vulnerability, but I feel almost invincible.” She looked bemused as she bit into one of Oriel’s thick oatmeal raisin cookies.

  “I can tell you why,” Corbin said. “The antidote I gave you, to bring you back, contains a euphoric. It’s a magical strengthener. That’s no ordinary anti-venom. Snakeshifter venom is quite different than that of a regular rattlesnake. It’s far more potent, and far more deadly. And it can leave you feeling drug down for days, so when we create our anti-venom, we add a little joy juice, if you will. You’ll be fine and you won’t be exhausted.”

  “How come you kept the fact that you’re a snakeshifter silent?” I was looking at the doctor with a new respect.

  “How many people do you know who are afraid of snakes? Almost every snakeshifter is a healer. It’s our nature—we’re born to it. But people are terrified of snakes, and so we tend to keep our natures private. It’s scary enough to go to the doctor, scarier still if you know your doctor is a snake.” He laughed, and shook his head. “Unfortunately, we can’t cure every ill, but we do our best.”

  “Is your daughter a snakeshifter, too? And your wife?” I was curious now, especially since I had met Corbin’s wife and she was a gorgeous accountant. But I knew his daughter was following in his footsteps; she was working with herbs and learning their healing natures.

  “My wife isn’t, she’s human. But our daughter, yes. Kimberly’s a snakeshifter. And she’s very interested in going into the medical field, I’m proud to say.”

  I nodded, promising him that I would keep their secret. As he motioned for Peggin to jump up on the table again, to check her vitals and make sure that everything was working just fine, I wandered over to Starlight. It was time to put our feud behind us. She had just helped save my best friend and that alone made me want to bury the hatchet. And this time, I didn’t want to bury it in her head.

  “Thank you, for helping.” I held her gaze, trying to see her for who she really was.

  She nodded, a soft smile playing on her lips. “Sometimes it takes danger to bring people together. I wasn’t sure about you when you came back to Whisper Hollow. I suppose I felt like you had defected on us years ago. But now I understand, given what happened with your grandmother and your mother and Duvall. And seeing you now, keeping your head in a ritual that put your best friend’s life in danger . . . I’ll hand it to you, Kerris. I think you’re going to be a wonderful spirit shaman. Whisper Hollow needs you. I’m glad you came home.”

  I waited, but she fell silent. After a moment, I said, “You’re not going to tell me what you are, are you?”

  She laughed. “I don’t know you well enough yet. Someday . . . someday I will.”

  Corbin pronounced Peggin fit to go home. “She’ll be fine. But I recommend against buying a new house on the lake. For anybody in this town.”

  Bryan and I bundled up Peggin and headed to our car after making our good-byes. As we drove home, Peggin kept giggling from the backseat. Corbin had told her she would act like she was drunk for the rest of the evening, but by tomorrow should be back to normal. I looked over at Bryan. “I’m tired and yet I feel so energized. I don’t know how I can be both at once, but I am.”

  “I know, my love. I know,” was all he said.

  * * *

  Three days later, I woke up to a winter wonderland. We had yet another snowfall, and there was a good eight inches in the yard. Everything was sparkling white and felt new again, and as I watched out the kitchen window, the sparrows converged on the birdfeeders. Bryan was already outside, putting up the lights on the outside of the house and trimming the trees in the front yard. He had suggested that when we got married we live here, in my house, and keep his estate for business purposes. I had agreed, content with that arrangement.

  Deev and Peggin joined me as I was making peppermint mocha for breakfast.

  “What can I do?” Peggin asked.

  “What do you want for breakfast?”

  “How about eggs and pancakes and sausage? I can start the pancakes.” She moved to the cupboard and pulled out the mix, as Deev rolled over to the refrigerator and handed her eggs and milk and a package of sausage. Corbin had told him that if he was good, by the next day he’d be up on crutches
and within a week he’d be walking normally again, even though he would probably need some physical therapy.

  “The Winter Fun Fest begins today. I suggest we head down there this afternoon and show some community spirit. I also need to finish my shopping. Peggin, do you want to join me?”

  She frowned. “Afraid my shopping this year for the holidays isn’t going to be very extensive. I have to save every penny I have for a security deposit and rent.”

  “About that,” Deev said. “I’ve got some news.”

  We both turned to look at him. For once, he was sans top hat and wearing his normal glasses rather than his goggles. His eyes still struck me as startling—they were crystal clear and as blue as the morning sky.

  “I talked to your former landlady. Turns out, she’s more than willing to sell the house for a good price. So I bought it. If you want to move back in, you’re welcome to. I’ll charge you one hundred dollars a month rent—that way you can get back on your feet and you won’t have to worry about ever being kicked out. I’ll give you a ninety-nine-year lease, cancelable on your end whenever you want.” He grinned at Peggin, who let out a little squeal.

  “You’ve got to be kidding! You can afford to do that? I love that house.”

  “It’s yours for as long as you want it.” He paused, then added, “I think I could come to like it, too. For now, do you want it? We can talk over the details later.”

  “Are you kidding? Of course I want to live there. I hated having to leave. I spent years getting that garden into the shape it’s in.” She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, leaning over to give him a long kiss. He reached around her, gently stroking her back.

  I wondered what she would think when he told her the reality about who he was, but that could come when it came. She was recovering from the ritual rapidly, but I could still see the fear in her eyes whenever we passed the lake. Peggin wasn’t going to be forgetting her experience anytime soon. But Whisper Hollow wouldn’t let her go, that much I knew. It needed her as much as it needed me, although I wasn’t sure just what her place was yet.

  “How about some pancakes, then, now that that’s settled?” I finished making our mochas and handed around the mugs, garnished with dollops of whipped cream. I set another to the side, for Bryan when he came in. In another few minutes he came stomping to the door.

  “Lights are all up around the house. And the trees are covered with lights, so unless you are planning on anything else, I’m pretty much finished.”

  “Oh, I plan on getting some of those lighted polar bears and elk, so we’re not done yet. But we’ll do that this afternoon, after we check out the Winter Fun Fest.”

  We all pitched in to finish making breakfast, then carried our food into the living room where we settled in front of the TV. The cats sprawled on the floor at our feet as we turned on the old Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol. As the black-and-white images filled the screen, I looked outside. It was beautiful, and sparkling, and I realized that I was truly at home. I was engaged to the man I loved, with more friends than I had ever imagined having, and if that meant I walked with the dead at my shoulders and a goddess at my back, so be it. Life was a magical ride, and I never wanted it to be different.

  * * *

  I was standing in the middle of a forest, and the ground was covered with snow. The old crone was out there and the bloodthirsty Hounds with her. I could feel them, watching the town, waiting and biding their time. Beside me the Crow Man stood, silent as the flock of crows gathered around our feet.

  “You have the blade now,” he said. “It’s time you learned to use her.”

  I lifted up the dagger. The bone hilt and crystal blade gleamed in my hands, resonating deep within my heart and core. “This belonged to my ancestors, didn’t it?”

  “Yes, it was a gift from the Morrígan to the very first mother of your family line. To the very first spirit shaman, whose blood you come from. Nine great families . . . and generations past counting. You are the fiftieth generation.”

  “I need to know them. I need to understand.”

  “You feel it, then. It’s time you started learning about your heritage, Kerris. It’s time you started delving into the history of your kind—of the spirit shamans. There’s so much that your grandmother did not know, that your great-grandmother did not know. They could not speak with me as easily as you can. Each generation loses a piece of the puzzle and one day, unless the history is pieced together, it may die out altogether.”

  “That’s my job, isn’t it? To remember the history and bring it back stronger than before.” The wind whipped my hair as the Crow Man cackled.

  “Yes, you are a smart one, girl. For if you were to forget, and those after you, the danger would grow stronger. The spirits will never stop walking. And the Ankou and the Hounds will never stop. For, you see, the Hounds know more of their history than you do of yours. So talk to the blade, and she will help you remember.”

  The crows suddenly took wing, screeching and cawing as they circled overhead. As I looked up, a giant dog formed in the sky. The Great Hound . . . Cú Chulainn himself. I realized that he had bigger plans than just taking over Whisper Hollow. He meant to destroy the lines of the spirit shamans, and the Morrígan herself if he could. I needed to learn, and I needed to learn fast. A shiver ran down my back.

  “Will I ever meet any of the others? Perhaps if we meet, we can pool our knowledge.”

  “That you may. But for now you have to take care of Magda. The old crone stands between you and fulfilling your destiny. There are still three witch bottles in the woods. But she won’t be making more—she is working on something far more dangerous. Talk to Veronica, talk to Penelope. Listen to the spirits and the Elements. For they are in danger as much as the living. Enjoy this brief lull, because the storm is rising and when it hits, you will need all of your reserves.”

  And with that he furled his cape and a swirl of color rose up to surround me, filled with snow and crows and the creaking of trees. When I opened my eyes the Crow Man was gone, and I was standing in my backyard. But a lone crow in the apple tree called to me, and I knew that the Crow Man would never be far from my side. And the Morrígan was watching and waiting for the new game to begin, between her sons and daughters and her enemies.

  And the first move was mine to make.

  THE PLAYLIST

  I write to music quite often, and each book will have a playlist that fits the mood of the book. For Shadow Silence, this is the list of songs I listened to:

  A. J. Roach: “Devil May Dance”

  Air: “Napalm Love”

  Al Stewart: “Life in Dark Water”

  Android Lust: “Here and Now”; “Dragonfly”

  Arcade Fire: “Abraham’s Daughter”

  Arch Leaves: “Nowhere to Go”

  AWOLNATION: “Sail”

  Beck: “Nausea”; “Broken Train”; “Think I’m In Love”

  Black Angels, The: “Young Men Dead”; “Never/Ever”; “Don’t Play with Guns”; “Always Maybe”

  Bobbie Gentry: “Ode to Billie Joe”

  Bon Jovi: “Wanted Dead or Alive”

  Boom! Bap! Pow!: “Suit”

  Broken Bells: “The Ghost Inside”

  Celtic Woman: “The Sky and the Dawn and the Sun”; “Newgrange”

  Clannad: “Banba Óir”

  Crazy Town: “Butterfly”

  Cream: “Strange Brew”

  Damh the Bard: “Morrighan”; “Oak Broom and Meadowsweet”; “Grimspound”; “Cloak of Feathers”; “The Cauldron Born”

  David Bowie: “Fame”; “Golden Years”; “Without You”

  Dire Straits: “Down to the Waterline”

  Dizzi: “Dizzi Jig”

  Donovan: “Season of the Witch”

  Eagles: “Witchy Woman”

  Eastern Sun: “Beautiful Bein
g” (Original Edit)

  Fats Domino: “I Want to Walk You Home”

  FC Kahuna: “Hayling”

  Feeling, The: “Sewn”

  Fluke: “Absurd”

  Foster the People: “Pumped Up Kicks”

  Garbage: “#1 Crush”; “I Think I’m Paranoid”; “Queer”

  Gary Numan: “Sleep by Windows”; “Petals”; “My Breathing”; “I Am Dust”; “Everything Comes Down to This”; “Love Hurt Bleed”

  Gordon Lightfoot: “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

  Gospel Whiskey Runners: “Muddy Waters”

  Hanni El Khatib: “Come Alive”

  Haysi Fantayzee: “Shiny, Shiny”; “John Wayne Is Big Leggy”

  Heart: “White Lightning & Wine”; “Magic Man”

  Hollies, The: “Long Cool Woman”

  Jay Price: “Number 13”; “Dark-Hearted Man”

  Jeannie C. Riley: “Harper Valley P.T.A.”

  Jessica Bates: “The Hanging Tree”

  Jethro Tull: “Old Ghosts”; “Dun Ringill”; “Undertow”

  Johnny Otis: “Willy and the Hand Jive”

  Joy Division: “Atmosphere”

  Julian Cope: “Charlotte Anne”

  Kills, The: “Dead Road 7”; “Sour Cherry”; “You Don’t Own the Road”; “DNA”; “Nail in My Coffin”; “U.R.A. Fever”

  Lorde: “Royals”; “Yellow Flicker Beat”

  Low with tomandandy: “Half Light”

  Mark Lanegan: “Bleeding Muddy Water”; “Riding the Nightingale”; “Mockingbirds”; “The Gravedigger’s Song”

  Matt Corby: “Breathe”

  Mogwai: “Hungry Face”; “The Huts”

  Motherdrum: “Big Stomp”

  Nancy Sinatra: “The Boots Are Made for Walkin’”

  Nirvana: “All Apologies”; “Lake of Fire”; “Come As You Are”

  Pierces, The: “Secret”

  Rachel Diggs: “Hands of Time”

  Stone Temple Pilots: “Atlanta”

  Sweet Talk Radio: “We All Fall Down”

 
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