Here’s today’s Friday Snippet for you! This segment begins Chapter Three. As always, this is draft material and things are subject to editing (and possibly deletion), so please don’t share.
Hope you enjoy!
After finalizing details of the agreement with Annwyn Kathryn took a week to get her affairs in order, since the time slippage between Lyonesse and Earth worked so strongly in her favor as long as she remained in New York.
She also took the opportunity to meet extensively with Morgan, which was a fascinating experience all on its own, as the sorcerer taught her the sophisticated details of his assassination spell and the various tactics he thought might work in reversing it.
Talking to him was mind-bending; as she told Bayne later, Morgan was friendly, brilliant, and toweringly talented—basically the Stephen Hawking of all things magical. Isabeau had been incredibly destructive, both to his spirit and to the world in general, when she had weaponized him.
At the hospital, she worked to transfer all her active patients over to Angus. She owned her Manhatten apartment outright, so she had her furniture swathed in dust covers and arranged her finances so the taxes and utilities would be automatically paid for for the duration of her absence. And she spent her evenings going out on the town with Bayne and other friends who she wouldn’t see for months of their time.
As they enjoyed their dates, Bayne was all too happy to fill her in on the other changes Dragos had alluded to that were soon to hit the Wyr demesne in New York.
The biggest and most sweeping change was that Dragos, his mate Pia, and their baby son Niall were going to relocate to his newly named Other land of Rhyacia. For years, Dragos had been experimenting there with technology and magic, but other than the fruits of his labor the land was pristine, easily protected, and as big as Greenland. The Cuelebre’s departure would leave a power vacuum in the Wyr demesne that Dragos was determined to fill, one way or another.
“Wow. Just… wow,” she said as she sat back from her dinner and worked to absorb the news.
“Yeah, it’s pretty huge,” Bayne said laconically. He didn’t stop eating when she did. They were enjoying a late meal at one of his favorite restaurants, and he’d also had a bit more time to adjust to the upcoming changes. “But I get why they made the decision.”
As she thought things over, she did too. “What’s going to happen here?”
He shrugged. “Don’t know yet. At first Dragos was certain Liam would choose to take over, but then Liam went to talk it over with his mom. Turns out, Pia had other ideas. Liam decided to take her advice and finish his year away at college. He has promised to make his decision by the end of his college stint. In the meantime, Rune has agreed to step in as regent until Liam’s year is over. Rune and Carling are moving into Cuelebre Tower by the end of the month.”
Sipping her wine, she watched Bayne’s expression with fascination. “What happens if Liam chooses not to take over? Is… that even a possibility?”
Bayne had just taken a huge bite of prime rib, so he shrugged without answering right away. “Nobody knows,” he said after swallowing. “Apparently after talking to his mom, he had a long list of very good questions that he asked his dad—like, would Liam take over as CEO for Cuelebre Enterprises as well as assume the title of Lord of the Wyr demesne when Dragos leaves?”
She rubbed her mouth to hide a smile. Pia had achieved what she could only daydream of— she managed to disconcert her mate on what was to Kathryn a satisfyingly regular basis. “And what did Dragos say to that, do you know?”
He snorted, eyes gleaming with amusement. “Dragos is about to start a very expensive community building initiative in Rhyacia. He was counting on drawing on the profits from the company to fund it over the next five or so years. Yet Cuelebre Enterprises and the Wyr demesne are inextricably linked. That wasn’t a problem when Dragos was in charge of both. He could move funds around as he wished. But as Liam pointed out, if he takes over the Wyr demesne and Dragos continues to operate as CEO of the company, albeit long-distance, Liam will always be under his father’s control to some extent. That would not only undermine his authority internationally as the new Lord of the Wyr here, but it would also hamstring his ability to take any quick action that would involve significant expenditures of resources.”
She burst out laughing. “I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for that conversation.”
He grinned. “Me too. One dragon negotiating with another—truly a first in Wyr history. The talk caught Dragos by surprise, and you know how he hates to give up control and hates to lose money. Anyway, nobody is quite sure how this is going to play out, but all the sentinels are pretty certain we’re going to be entertained by the process. Will Dragos relinquish control over the company? Will Liam decide to take over, or will he choose to go his own independent way? And in the meantime, what will Rune and Carling choose to do?” In a mock TV announcer’s voice, he said, “Stay tuned for the next installment of Days of Our Wyr Demesne.”
She laughed harder. “I’m starting to think I might be glad to be gone for the transition period. I can just come back and find out what happened next.”
He nodded. “Never a dull moment around here, that’s for sure. We’re going to miss you, though.”
We, not I. It was a small thing, but important and telling, she thought without passion or hurt. She didn’t blame Bayne in the slightest—she said things like that too. But it was all symptomatic of that elusive, ephemeral condition that transpired to keep them squarely in the “friend zone.”
* * *
By the time she arrived in Westmarch, the English village nearest the property Sophie had inherited, Kathryn was too excited for jet leg to affect her much. While she had traveled extensively on Earth, it had been decades since she had taken a trip to an Other land.
Experiencing Lyonesse would be fascinating in its own right. Added to that, she would get to help a lot of people who were suffering while she attempted to solve a medical mystery, and already she had learned more valuable magic to add to her repertoire of skills. Life just didn’t get much better than that. She refused to dwell on the possibility that Oberon might not be salvageable. They would learn the truth of that soon enough.
Once in the village, she turned in her rental car. As she finished the transaction, Sophie pulled up driving a Range Rover. A handsome male, clearly not human, with long dark hair and the cynical good looks of a dissipated rock star rode shotgun beside her.
His gaze landed on Kathryn and sparked with interest. Even though the windows of the Range Rover were closed to the damp, chill autumn air, Kathryn’s Wyr hearing was sensitive enough to pick up Sophie’s words as she turned to fix her companion with a hard stare.
The male gave Sophie a slow, sweet smile. “I always behave in direct relation to my companion’s desires.”
Sophie burst out laughing. “Bah. You’re incorrigible.”
Raising an eyebrow, Kathryn suppressed a smile. Clearly he was Trouble looking for some place to happen. It was only when they stepped out of the vehicle that she caught a glumpse of the weapons he wore underneath his autumn jacket, along with the hard, sweeping glance he gave the scene.
Comprehension clicked into place. She had spent far too much time with the sentinels in New York to miss the unmistakable signs of a guard on duty.
Sophie approached with a bright smile, and Kathryn gladly gave her a hug. “Thank you for meeting me here.”
“Of course, totally my pleasure!” Sophie replied. “It made complete sense, since you’re not going to need a car here for months. It’s good to see you. Until the conflict with Isabel is resolved, I promised Nik I wouldn’t leave the property without protection, so this is Rowan Nyghtseren—he’s playing bodyguard today. Rowan, this is Dr. Kathryn Shaw.” She added telepathically, Fair warning—he’s a scamp. He’s good at respecting boundaries, but he might tickle them a bit.
The part of Kathryn’s brain that loved etymology and word puzzles chewed on Rowan’s last name. Sophie had pronounced it as “Night – seren,” and seren in Welsh meant “star.” Rowan’s last name meant, literally, “Nightstar.”
With a name like that, he really should have been a rockstar. She grinned. I appreciate you telling me.
Rowan, she noted with approval, didn’t turn his attention to her until he was fully satisfied their surroundings were clear. Then his dissipated rock star eyes met hers as he took her hand gently between his. “A great pleasure to meet you, Dr. Shaw,” he said. “Or may I call you Kathryn?”
“Nice to meet you too.” She recovered her hand from his grasp. “And Dr. Shaw will do fine, thanks.”
His eyes narrowed in calculation, until Sophie smacked his chest with the back of her hand. “For God’s sake give it up and stow her luggage in the car.”
Genuine affection warmed his face as he tilted an eyebrow at Sophie. “Anything for you, love.”
As Rowan put her luggage in the Range Rover, Sophie turned back to her. “Annwyn wanted me to go over the type of warm clothes you brought with you,” she said. “She’s concerned you might have brought things that are more suitable to the city.”
Kathryn smiled. “I suppose she doesn’t have any clue how bitterly cold temperatures can get in New York.”
“Well no, she doesn’t.” Sophie made a face. “But she also has a point. I’ve been over to Lyonesse, and right now the cold over there… it’s not normal, Kathryn. The weather is awful all the time, and plus the terrain is very rugged. A shop has opened up here in town that specifically caters to those who traveling back and forth across the reopened passageway. Do you want to stop and have a look at what they’ve got before we leave?”
She took a moment to consider. Despite her ability to meld comfortably into an urban landscape, she was one of the Wyr who had never moved very far from her wild roots. She loved the wilderness and being out in the elements, and she’d packed a selection of clothing she’d bought from REI. But was it suitable for “not normal weather”?
“It won’t do any harm to take a look,” she said.
“Great! It’s just a few blocks from here.” With a click of the keyfob, Sophie locked the Range Rover and the three of them headed down the sidewalk.
Once inside the shop, Kathryn inspected everything with interest. When she had packed she had tried to balance the need to be portable with basic layering techniques for cold weather: using a base layer to wick sweat away from the skin, a middle insulating layer to retain body heat, and then a shell layer to shield from the weather.
She had underwear, three sets of thermal silk shirts, and wool sweaters to wear over them, two pairs of flannel lined jeans, three pairs of wool socks, hiking boots, and an insulated down jacket with a hood, a woolen scarf and insulated gloves. She would be wearing some of her cargo, and hopefully be able to utilize a horse, but if it came down to it, she could carry the rest in a rather heavy pack on her back.
Now, she considered what Sophie had said while she browsed the wares in the store. Like Kathryn, the Daione Sidhe weren’t human. They were a hardy mix of the Elder Races, yet conditions were so bad in Lyonesse they were facing the possibility of needing to flee.
When she came upon a shelf dedicated to packets of emergency hand and body warmers, she picked one up curiously.
Time and space had buckled when the Earth had formed, and the Other lands—connected to Earth through crossover passageways—were magic heavy and many modern technologies either didn’t work or were outright dangerous to try to use.
But as she read the instructions on the package, the emergency hand and body warmers were made of biodegradable chemical compounds that were air activated, which was a passive enough, naturally-based technology that made them safe to use in an Other land. She threw several into her basket.
She was already quite comfortable with the things she had brought—her carefully curated physician’s kit, choice of toiletries, small portable hand axe, and Swiss Army knife, and her tried and true flint fire starter kit was over 150 years old.
But after a few more minutes of consideration, she also chose several bags of jerky along with several more of a high fat, high calorie trail mix. Getting enough calories was important in harsh weather, and Kathryn had an animal form with a high metabolism that ensured she burned through calories at an accelerated rate.
Then she added a Mylar emergency blanket, as it was small, extremely lightweight, and would hold ninety percent of her body heat if needed. The last thing she considered was the rack of fur lined, floor length, water resistant cloaks. They were bulky, and they would be heavy. They would be great for heat retention, and lousy for carting around. As she chewed on her lip, Sophie walked over to join her.
Kathryn told her, “I already have a down insulated hooded coat.”
Sophie pulled one of the cloaks off the rack. “This will fit over anything else you wear, and it’s better to have too much than too little. You don’t know what you’re going to run into, and honestly, I don’t know that it would be too much. If you find it’s more than you need and you get tired of lugging it around, you can abandon it if you have to, or you can always donate it to someone else.”
“Good point.” Unfortunately, with the addition of the cloak, she was sacrificing some of her valuable portability. There was no way around it. She going to need another pack. She grabbed a weather proof pack and then took all her selections to the counter, but before she could pay Rowan smoothly stepped in to hand over a credit card to the shop attendant.
“Don’t fuss,” he said as she turned to argue with him. His previous calculated charm had disappeared for the moment, and he gave her a simple, warm smile. “You’re on Dark Court business, and I have my orders.”
It was hard to argue with that, so she didn’t. “Thank you.”
With that, their small shopping excursion was over, so they walked back to the Range Rover and drove to the property.
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