I have a week, and about 20,000 words, left to write Trickster Noir. I might actually make this deadline. I have the ending all mapped out in my head, and feelers into book three. I only plan for a trilogy, although I may do some shorts exploring Alger’s past, and Lom’s past missions. We’ll see. My focus once Trickster is released will be on the sequel for Vulcan’s Kittens, and on an abandoned space opera I’d really like to finish.
So here you are, reminded that this is rough draft… feel free to leave comments telling me about typos, but it is a moving canvas, still.
She shook her head, smiling a little. “You had me worried up until last night. Wanting to shave was a sure sign that you were coming back from the edge.”
“I lost my magic.”
She shrugged. “There’s a whole world of people without it up above. You’re alive, and you have been doing very little with magic for a long time, I talked to Alger about it.”
I sighed. I couldn’t explain what I was thinking, that if I had to be helpless, dependent on others for everything, I didn’t want to be alive.
“Will you sleep with me tonight?” Now I did succeed in startling her.
“I don’t know…” she began dubiously, and I could tell she was trying to figure out how to say this.
“I’ve been sleeping here,” she patted the couch cushions. “But yes, I would like that.”
She put her head on my shoulder, not resting any weight on me, and I realized I was all skin and bones. No wonder I was having trouble moving, my muscles were shot. If I wasn’t going to die, that was going to have to change.
I fell asleep like that, her warm against my side. I woke up to her curled up under the covers with me. Someone, likely Mark and Bella, had tucked me into bed. It was what I had wanted, but I lay there staring at the ceiling, worrying. What if something did happen to me, despite her assurance that I would be recovering now? I needed to talk to Alger, who seemed to be avoiding me. He had been part of the hubbub earlier, but hadn’t talked to me, and I hadn’t noticed until later.
Bella rolled over. “Hey.”
Her eyes were only half-open and her hair tangled over her face. She pushed it back, and I could see her face pale in the half-light of the room. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“I’m not used to sleeping with someone. And I have been a bit worried about you. I was…” she paused, and in the dark I couldn’t see her expression, but I could hear the tears when she went on “You got really still.”
“I’m still here.”
“I almost didn’t sleep with you tonight. I was afraid I’d hurt you.”
I huffed a short laugh. “Roll over on me and smother me? you’re not that big, Bella.”
She sniffed. “All right, it wasn’t rational. But this wasn’t how I wanted our first night to go.”
“Me, neither.” I reached out and took her hand. I wanted to hold her, but she was right, it would hurt.
Bella woke up with a start. There was another person in bed with her… she was in a bed, first time in weeks. Lom! She rolled over carefully. He was breathing softly, still alive. She relaxed and watched him sleep. It was full daylight, and although the curtains were drawn, she had enough light to really study him.
His face was thin and pale. Asleep, she couldn’t see the pain lines around his eyes, but the deep crushed-violet circles under them were not reassuring. She didn’t know what had happened under Baelfire Tower, not all of it. His injuries from the physical side were healed, thanks to Melcar on the spot to take care of the immediate trauma, and the time since, but she was very afraid that her using the poison of the elfshot had been what was keeping him from fully healing.
She slipped out of bed without waking him and went to the room across the hall. When it had become obvious that he wasn’t recovering anytime soon, Ellie had asked if she would like this room. It was closed, dusty, and very empty, had been for a long time. Bella knew very well that there was history in this house she knew nothing about. Ellie, who had hired or just called in a favor, Bella wasn’t sure which, had brought in a crew of your wood elves to help around the house. Alger, Lucia, Devon, and Mark were all staying here, in rooms that stretched improbably off the end of a hall she knew had not been there before. Fairyland was strange, and it hurt her brain if she thought too hard about it.
She had a bed, and clothes in the wardrobe, but not much else, and it didn’t feel like home. Bella looked around the room. The brocade wallpaper was gaudy and hideous. Dressing took only a moment, and pulling a brush through her hair to re-braid it not much longer. She kept thinking she was going to cut it short, but there was no time. Ready for the daytime, she slipped back into Lom’s room.
He was still sleeping soundly, she saw. This seemed to be a natural sleep, though, not the coma he had been slipping in and out of for so long. Bella bent over him and could see the movement of eyes beneath his closed eyelids. He dreamed. This was a good thing. She resisted the urge to kiss him, lest she wake him up, and retreated to the couch, where there was less temptation, and a book on the table.
Carrying a library in her head was, she had decided months ago, a wonderful thing. But paper was still nice, too. She had this, Thaumaturgy for Wylde Beastes, in her head, but it helped her organize her thoughts to look at it in paper. For one thing, what she was thinking of as the search engine in her brain, was not terribly controlled and from time to time she would be overwhelmed in answers when asking a simple question. Besides, the old books smelled good.
The house was still and silent, and Bella wondered what time it was. Time Underhill was not linear. She had never seen the moon, here, and although a sun rose and set, the night skies were milky, with a pearly opalescence. No stars, which she missed. She wondered what season it was back at her cabin, and had anyone remembered to clean out the refrigerator?
Ellie put her head in the door and looked at Bella. Bella nodded silently and came out into the hall, relieved at the interruption, as she wasn’t focusing well on her studies.
“How is he?” Ellie asked.
“He seems to be dreaming. He’s…” Bella looked for the right words to describe how she felt. “He’s there, again.”
Ellie nodded, smiling. “There will be breakfast and coffee shortly, then. But this came, and I thought you needed to see it right away.”
She handed over a small, stiff envelope sealed with red wax. Bella was reminded again just how archaic some customs in this place were. She’d seen the seal before, on notes that came requesting a status update every few days. This missive from the king, she was sure, was not another of those.
She opened it slowly, apprehensive. This whole business of having a king still rubbed her wrong, and he hadn’t been the most rational person in their dealings.
We summon thee to an audience with the King and Council on this day. An escort to Court will be provided.