Home > Knights Magica (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #5)(17)

Knights Magica (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #5)(17)
Author: B.R. Kingsolver

“Any idea if your friends from last night are okay?” I asked.

“They made it out long before we did,” Oriel said. “They’re probably sitting in a cozy inn in Tir na Nog by now, enjoying breakfast.”

While we cooked our meal, I called Frankie and gave her an update on our situation.

“I’m just glad you’re okay,” she said when I finished. “We got word that you’d been found, then we heard that the outpost that reported you had been wiped out. The army’s mage corps are fighting a running battle with the Knights all over that part of Virginia.”

“How are things there?” I asked.

“Not so hot. The President has imposed martial law, but Congress has split. The President has issued a proclamation for the Knights to stand down, but the Universal Church and the Knights’ supporters have refused to abide by it. The Knights have taken control of the Capitol. We’re packed and ready to get the hell out of town but waiting on you.”

I relayed that to my companions.

“Tell her not to wait on us,” McGregor said. “We can take care of ourselves.”

“Frankie, we’ll catch up to you later. Where are you going?”

“We’re going to take the train to BWI and fly home,” she said. “I can leave tickets for you at the airport. Getting out is going to be problematic in any case. Airline schedules are unpredictable at the moment.”

After I hung up, I saw Ian and Oriel with their heads together.

“What’s the plan?” I asked.

“We’re going to split up,” McGregor said.

“We’ll set Ian up with a car and a change of clothes,” Oriel said, “and he’ll try to make his way to an airport. We’re thinking Charleston, West Virginia, might be safer than any of the Washington airports or Richmond. Then you and I will take to the mounds.”

I responded with a witty and intelligent, “Huh?”

After breakfast, which was far better than I had feared it might be, we put out the fire and went looking for an abandoned house with a car. As had been the case all morning, we frequently saw military airplanes and helicopters overhead. Ground traffic was almost non-existent.

We found a large house with horses in the pasture around it but no one around. Oriel used magic to bypass the lock on the door, and we searched the closets to find some clothing for Ian and me that was less conspicuous than our Hunter uniforms. The men’s clothing Ian found was a bit small for him, but he said it would do. The family’s teenage daughter had clothing that fit me almost perfectly. We also found food, and I made up two bundles to take with us. At my insistence, we left a note and some money to pay for what we took.

The four-car garage contained a car and a pickup truck. McGregor chose the pickup, and Oriel siphoned gas from the car to fill up the truck’s tank. He didn’t even have to hotwire the vehicle since we found a set of keys for it in the house’s kitchen.

It was late afternoon when we watched McGregor drive away.

“So, what now?” I asked. “Are we going to take the other car?”

Oriel grinned at me. “Nope, we walk.”

“There’s a mound near here?”

“There’s a mound near everywhere. Feel the ley line?”

“Yeah, though I try not to. They’re still all screwed up.”

“Yes, but it will still take us to the underworld.”

“Are you sure I have enough Fae blood to go there?” I couldn’t decide whether I was more afraid that I could go than that I couldn’t. All the old myths about what happened to humans in the Fae’s world swirled around my mind.

Oriel took my hand, and the world around me vanished.

We were in the ley line, and I felt like I was drowning. Rather than a smoothly flowing river of magical energy, it was like being tumbled around inside a washing machine. The churning, chaotic flow was tainted and foul . The disruption in the ley lines was in its third day and not showing any signs of relief.

I panicked and tried to pull away from Oriel, but he refused to let go and pulled me closer to him.

Chapter 13

The next thing I knew, we were standing on solid ground again in a paved courtyard. Plants grew all around us, sporting a riot of colored flowers. Equally colorful birds flitted about, singing and chittering, and water splashed in a fountain surrounded with a stone bench. I looked upward and saw an arched ceiling almost impossibly high above us.

Oriel had reverted to his Unseelie form. “Welcome to Fairyland,” he said, pulling me to him and kissing me.

We walked along massive hallways from one wonderous place to another. The halls were lined with pictures—portraits, landscapes, and city scenes. Some were realistic to my eyes, some fantastic, and some surreal. The people we passed fit those descriptions as well. A few looked almost human, some I would call monstrous.

Something that looked like a swamp thing from a low-end movie wrapped a tentacle around a laughing woman who was half-covered with fur and at least seven feet tall. A group of fairies no more than a foot tall flew past on dragonfly wings. A woman—blonde, blue-eyed, and extremely busty—walked by on furred legs with cloven hooves. Her companion looked perfectly human, if you discounted the enormous nose like the beak of a bird of prey, the feathered crest, and the feathered wings folded against his back.

“I thought the mounds were closed to the outer world,” I said.

“They are, or at least closed to the ley lines.”

“So, how did we cross over?”

“I have a token my mother gave me. In concert with the Knights’ ruby I carry, it allows me to cross the ley lines and enter the mounds.”

“Oh. Something she made?”

“Maybe. I didn’t ask her.”

In places it looked as though we were outside—one enormous room reminded me of walking through New York’s Central Park—but it never felt outside, even when the ceiling was impossibly high above us, blue and with drifting clouds.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“Underground.”

“Literally?”

Oriel sighed. “Yes and no. Consider it another dimension. It’s of your world, yet apart. It’s the world we created to escape when your ancestors mounted their genocide against us.”

“Didn’t the Fae enslave humans and rule over them?”

He gave me a grin and winked. “What’s your point? We never slaughtered humans.”

I chuckled.

“We didn’t attempt to exterminate you,” he continued. “As far as I know, that is a distinctly human trait. If it were up to you, you’d be the only species on earth. And before you object, ask the dodo birds, honeybees, and rhinos for their opinions. Hell, you slaughter yourselves with a weird kind of glee. See references to Nazis, Knights Magica, and Illuminati.”

I couldn’t argue with him. For one thing, he was a lot older and more educated than I was, not to mention smarter. But I had done a lot of soul searching since learning the truth about the Illuminati. Humans were incredibly cruel to each other. If aliens or angels or the Fae conquered humans and imposed order and peace on us, I wasn’t sure it would be worse than us ruling ourselves.

“Are you looking for something in particular?” he asked a little while later.

“What do you mean?”

“You keep looking around, not just at the sights, but as though you’re looking for something.”

“Oh. I guess I was hoping I might see Lizzy. I know this is a big place, so probably unlikely, huh?”

“Ah. She’s on the other side. Would you like to see her?”

“The other side?”

“The Summer Court. We’re in the Winter Court, also called the Night Court. That’s why some of the foliage looks like it wants to eat you. It does.”

I looked over his shoulder, and a plant I had been trying to make sense of came into focus. Those really were teeth and a tongue in that flower.

“Oh.”

“But if you’d like to see her, I’m sure it can be arranged. You can’t enter the Summer Court, but she can visit you here.”

I nodded, suddenly unsure of my voice. I missed her so much.

“I’ll ask my mother to arrange it,” he said.

He took me to a place with small tables overlooking a pond. Black swans swam languidly around, occasionally attacking and eating the small red ducks who also seemed to live there.

As soon as we sat down, plates of food appeared on the table, along with goblets of wine.

“That’s what I call service,” I said.

He winked at me. “And we don’t even have to tip. The brownies would actually be offended if you tried.”

We ate while we watched the savage swans decimate the ducks. Then some pixies showed up and attacked the swans.

“Is this the normal entertainment?” I asked.

“At this particular place, yes. I could have taken you somewhere with fish wars.”

“Charming.”

He chuckled. “They’ll all be back, healthy, tomorrow. It’s kind of like the movies. Everything miraculously heals overnight.”

“And is this what it’s like in the Summer Court?”

“Oh, no. Everything over there is saccharine sweet and perfectly beautiful. Except for the backstabbing. They prefer emotional and psychological torture over blood and guts. Lots of sneaky intrigue, conspiracies, and subtle jockeying for position.”

Oriel laughed at my expression. “Hey, we share a homicidal ape as a common ancestor with humans. For all our arrogant superiority, we do have some faults, and it can get boring here.”

When we finished eating, he took me down a side hall, and then into a grotto with a waterfall and steaming pool. We helped each other take off our clothes, bathed, made love, then fell asleep on a moss-covered shelf off to one side of the pool.

“I can’t believe we were the only ones there,” I said as we left the grotto the next morning. We had breakfasted on fruit growing from the trees surrounding the pool.

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