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We were late to the battle.
As I'd been promised, the Promontory of Magic enjoyed a spectacular view, though I wasn't there to sightsee. The finger of rocks thrust well out into the ocean, the water the unnatural blue of a resort hotel pool, despite the thunderous surf and driving rain.
Below, two fleets of sailing ships exchanged fire. They were conveniently arrayed on each side of the promontory, flanking me as if I were a Wimbledon line judge sitting at the net, ready to call faults and points. Except my power was even greater.
I would decide who lived or died.
Whether I wanted to or not.
My hair lashed against my cheeks, stinging me, and I pulled up the hood of my cloak, grateful for its warmth. A gift from Rogue, the cloak magically repelled water. Despite all I'd learned about controlling and stabilizing magic, Rogue's abilities far exceeded mine. The scent of sandalwood teased me, bringing up warm and sensual memories of his devastating kisses. Rogue managed to be both the bane of my life and the addiction I couldn't seem to shake. My life had become irretrievably intertwined with the fae lord's, though I hadn't seen him in days. His absence made my heart that much more vulnerable to the longings he stirred in me. I tucked them away, where they wouldn't distract me.
"Which side is ours?" I asked.
My fae companion, Pucka vision in celadon polka dots that clashed quite alarmingly with his strawberry blond locksgave me a goggle-eyed stare, as if I'd asked which way was up, and pointed at the left side. Good thing I'd askedI'd thought maybe it was the other. One of the many disadvantages of being a human in Faerie was missing out on their hive-mind shared understanding.
"It's a fine day for a battle!" Puck gazed out over the ships with a gleeful expression and I tried to fake the same enthusiasm, despite the dread in my heart.
Of course, every day in Faerie was fine, in a purely aesthetic sense. The sun, which shone most of the time, did so with lustrous brilliance in depthless skies. The grass glowed an emerald green Oz would have envied. Even the rain shimmered like effervescent and musical drops of platinum.
Beautiful, gorgeous, yes.
Don't wish you were here.
In a place like Faerie, the pretty merely masked the reality, which could be horrible indeed. I hadn't liked my university job as a neuroscientist in the physiology department back in Wyoming, but being employed as a war sorceress sucked far more. Forget the glam sound of itkilling people at someone else's whim whittled away your humanity in hateful bites. Compared to that, my old tenure committee seemed like amateurs.
"You recall your instructions?" Puck bobbed his head as he spoke, encouraging me to agree.
"Piece of cake."
Puck cocked his head, puzzled, and I knew my idiom hadn't quite translated. Usually my intended meaning got through just fine via the telepathic network, but sometimes, particularly if I didn't pay attention, my good old American English slang created strange images in the fae mind.
Some gaps could never be bridged.
"Yes. Darling will inform me of the moment and I will sink exactly half of the enemy ships." I sent a questioning thought to Darling, my cat Familiar, to make sure he was still on board with the plan, especially since he provided my only long-distance communication access. When he felt like it. Imagine a cell phone company run by kittens.