"Crow, are you awake?"
"Why do kids ask that when they know you're not?" She cracked open her bleary eyes. "No. Really."
"I'm hungry. And that demon's gone, so I can't get him to fetch me something."
"Ruby, he's not a dog." She rose from the net, wincing at her body's chorus of twinges. The floor was going to be freezing on her bare feet, and there was no enticing aroma of coffee to coax her out of bed. Still she rose. Have more than myself to look out for now.
Carrow had always been fiercely defensive of her coven, raring on the front line in any conflict. But looking out for Ruby was different, the need to do right by her even stronger. Because she's depending completely on me. "Was Malkom here when you woke up?"
"Oh. Well, let's see what we can find." She rooted through the feys' pack, finding only two energy bars and a few packs of energy gel.
Again, there were no multipurpose tools or weapons of any kind. But there was shampoo and soap aplenty. The feys were just as silly as she'd been when packing.
Carrow held up her find. "You wanna chocolate-chip energy bar or some energy gel?" She might have been worried that they'd run out of food, but she knew Malkom could catch more.
As Ruby ate the chocolate chips off the bar, Carrow peered out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. Surprise - it was still raining!
Fern fronds climbed upward like trees, stretching as tall as she was. Lichen seemed bent on covering every inch of rock, battling with fungi for dominance.
At the shore in the distance, all appeared harsh, scoured by wind. Here within the trees, fog subdued the scenery, muting it.
She realized Malkom wouldn't have to fear the sun here today, could travel comfortably under the cover. And in the interior, the forest was just as dense as here. So how far would he go? she mused as she began exploring the cabin.
First thing she noticed? Nonpoisonous spiders and centipedes filled the place to the rafters. Good thing witches like insects.
The sole closet contained a coil of rope, some life jackets, and a pile of decomposing blankets. At the bottom was a bucket and an old-timey wooden tub.
In the cooking area, she found a rickety stove, a couple of rusting food tins, and an assortment of mismatched pots and pans. Twine, clothespins, a whalebone comb, and a moldy deck of cards were in one drawer.
Another stroll to the window, another eager scan. No Malkom.
Carrow needed to talk with the demon so she could run her new plan by him. She thought they should get this place fortified, and then he could venture out to search for a way off this island, looking for allies, a boat, a severed hand, anything.
She suspected that Lanthe was still here. Though Thronos could fly, there was no way he could go a thousand miles over an ocean with a passenger, especially not when he was so broken, his wings twisted. If Malkom could rescue Lanthe, then they might be able to track down Fegley's hand.
Long shot? Absolutely. But Carrow didn't exactly have any short shots to choose from....
Still he hasn't returned. She needed something to take her mind off him, something to keep her occupied.
So she strung up a line of twine in front of the fire, using the clothespins to hang up Ruby's damp clothes.
Which took ten minutes. What to do now ... ? Her gaze fell on Ruby, hopping after a centipede on the floor.
"You need a bath, kiddo."
By dint of Herculean effort, muffled curses, and trial and error, Carrow procured water from a trough outside, warmed it on the stove, and filled the wooden tub.
"I'm kind of getting handy," Carrow said as she began washing Ruby's hair with the feys' shampoo. "Little House on the Prairie-es"ue, even. We're just like pioneers, except we don't have to wear bonnets, right?" Ruby gave a half smile.
I'll take it. The first smile she'd seen from her since their ordeal began. "Look at that. I almost forgot you had dimples." Carrow ran her forearm over her brow. "Come on, let's get you rinsed off."
After the bath, once Ruby had been fed, washed, and dressed, with her hair combed out, Carrow gave a mental hat tip to moms everywhere. She also felt a flare of alarm that Malkom still hadn't returned.
"What're we going to do now?" Ruby asked.
"Maybe check out the beach?"
"It's raining outside."
"No prob." Carrow helped her don the tall fey's rain jacket, but it swallowed her, looking more like a poncho. After rolling up the sleeves, Carrow said, "Let me see you rock the poncho. Who rocks the poncho?"
"I do!" Ruby put her hand on her hip and flipped her hair. Adorable.
"Come on, you," she said, grabbing Ruby's hand as they tromped outside into the fog. One side of the cape was wave-tossed, the other smooth. They headed for the windward shore.
The beach there was eerie to Carrow, forlorn even. Giant whalebones arced up from the rocky ground, while ragged seaweed lined the edge.
Carrow was used to Gulf Coast beaches, full of fun, sun, and sometimes drunken nudity. This is not my scene. She recognized this like a malamute plopped in a desert.
As if reading her mind, Ruby said, "I wanna go home."
"Me too. I'm going to talk to the demon about it when he gets back." She gazed around. Hours had passed, and still no sign of him. Maybe he'd just left them behind? Said to hell with her and her kid? No matter that she and Ruby were defenseless without him?
" Now what do we do?"
"I don't know, honey." Or maybe he'd been waylaid by a covey of nymphs? Fornicating with them in the rain. His magnificent body damp and flexing with strength. "I'm coming up with an idea as we speak," she lied.
"What if he doesn't come back?" Ruby asked.
Then they'd be totally and une"uivocally hosed. Carrow could try to find Regin or Lanthe, but she would have to bring Ruby with her into the mountainous interior. Worse would be to leave Ruby here. What if I never made it back to her?
"I don't know. We'd probably be in a pickle." Last night Carrow had thought that she could get used to having a demon around to do things for them. Now she chafed at how dependent on him they'd become. For the thousandth time, she yanked at her tor"ue. She needed her powers back now!
"Should I be nicer to him?"
"You should be nicer to him because he's a good guy." Carrow sighed. He was good, a bighearted, proud demon. She knew better than to believe he would abandon them or leave them unprotected while he bedded nymphs. Which meant ... he could be hurt. "Maybe he's at the cabin, waiting on us."
The demon wasn't at the cabin. Now her worry went into overdrive.
She'd just slipped Ruby the last energy bar to de-chip and anxiously dealt a hand of go fish when the door swung open. He was safe! She leapt to her feet, rushing toward him.
He glanced over his shoulder, then faced her with a frown. "What?"
You're safe. "I was worried. Where'd you go?" She blinked up at him, trying to listen to his reply. Safe. With us.
"Searching for a better place to stay." He was soaking wet, but the grim set to his lips had eased.
Carrow tilted her head. I think he likes it here. Thank goddess for that.
He edged away from her, putting down some supplies he'd collected - ropes and a shovel. Then he shook his hair out, like an animal, making Ruby giggle around a mouthful of chocolate chips.
Had he just given a half smile before his face grew stern again? "You will remain here," he said. "This is safest."
"Okay, whatever you think."
"But others might come. I'll set up traps, block off this branch of land."
"A peninsula," Carrow absently corrected, then wished she hadn't. "Um, it's a peninsula of land."
"You're gonna make traps?" Ruby asked with wide eyes. "Can I see?"
"Honey, I'm sure he'll be busy."
"The child can come with me."
"She doesn't have to go, Malkom. It could be dangerous."
He glowered. "I would never let her get hurt."
"I know that." She trusted him implicitly, especially after he'd gotten her safely back to Carrow last night, a miracle in itself. "I just - "
"We will be back in an hour or so." He motioned for Ruby, who ran to him so fast she almost forgot her rain jacket.
Carrow wasn't invited? Leaving the little lady back at the homestead? Bite your tongue. She forced a smile that made him frown again.
At the doorway, he paused and asked over his shoulder, "Do you need anything?"
You. Being loving again. "I'm good for now." When they left, she glanced around the cabin.
I wonder if I can fit in that tub.