I, apparently, wasn’t the only one who thought so. The horse Leila held on to nickered at the fuzzy newcomer.
“Don’t encourage him,” Leila scolded.
Bagel meandered out by us, alternating between flashing his donkey smile and straightening his ears so we could admire them.
“He’s so cute!” I stroked his neck, laughing as he visibly preened.
“He’s spoiled rotten,” Leila wryly said. “He thinks he’s God’s gift to the world. I’m sure he believes he poops gold.” She rolled her eyes. “It’s fine!”
Leila’s horse companion shook his head, making his halter jingle, and Bagel lipped my arm.
“We should get out of your hair—but we have to make plans soon.” I reluctantly gave the donkey one last pat.
“Sounds great. Take care—and welcome back.” Leila waited until Rupert had turned his back to her, then called in a musical tone that sounded as sweet as candy tasted. “Bye-bye Rupert, I’ll miss you!”
When he visibly shivered she snickered, then turned and led the giant horse back to the stable. “Come on, Bagel.”
Bagel erupted into a series of loud brays, but he dutifully followed after Leila.
Felix and Franco exchanged smirks, then jogged after their vampire driver.
“Rupert, wait up!” Felix called.
“Yeah.” Franco’s voice was too innocent and happy for him to be anything except gleeful. “You’ve been holding out on us! You didn’t tell us how friendly you are with other humans!”
“I feel so wounded!”
The pair caught up to Rupert and walked on either side of him, matching his pace even though he was essentially speedwalking.
Momoko, Celestina and I trailed after them, making our way back to the cars.
“She seems nice,” Momoko said. “But I’d never want to get caught between her and Felix—that’s too much dazzling good looks for a regular person to handle.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “I was kind of wondering if he’d see her as competition, or a potential ally. It seems like they’ll be allies. I don’t think that bodes well for Rupert.”
“It’s good for Rupert to encounter frustration,” Celestina said. “It fosters character.”
I started to laugh, but up ahead Rupert grabbed both Felix and Franco by the collars of their shirts, and dragged them down. “Get down!”
I was already on my way down, but Celestina—being so much faster—yanked Momoko’s feet out from under her, dragging her down, and half covered me with her own body before I even hit the gravel driveway.
Pebbles mashed my cheek, but I didn’t dare raise my head. “What is it?” I whispered.
An arrow struck the ground about a foot away from me. The arrowhead glowed green for a moment, and I felt the floral sensation of fae magic. “Break the arrows!” I shouted. “They’re laced with magic.”
I yanked the arrow out of the ground and snapped it in half.
Momoko wriggled her arms out in front of her and got a shield up. “What formation, Adept?”
“Sphere!” I let magic filter through my blood, then jolted up into a sitting position, raising a shield of my own so our magic snapped together, creating a spherical shield as we were back to back. I was relieved to see Leila had made it to the stable with Bagel and the horse, and hadn’t yet ventured back out—hopefully we could end this before she did.
“Celestina, where are they?” I asked.
Momoko and I shuffled to keep the spherical shield intact, but I now faced the front so I could see Felix and Franco pull off the same balancing act with Rupert between them.
“There.” Celestina pointed to a tiny copse of trees where the driveway turned onto the road. “Two archers.”
“If we scare them out of their cover, can you and Rupert safely nab them?” I asked.
Celestina’s smile was cruel. “Certainly.”
“House Medeis,” I shouted, getting the Clark brothers’ attention. “Mark!”
I nodded to Momoko. She dropped her shield and created a green colored sparkler of magic over the trees, marking our target—hopefully Leila and her parents wouldn’t be too upset that we were about to kill their landscaping.
I waited for Felix’s and Franco’s nods, then shouted, “Release!” and dropped my shield.
I shot off a lightning bolt big enough to make the surrounding buildings shake. Even with my eyes shut, the light still burned my eyeballs, and my eyes watered as I heard the other wizards releasing their own volleys.
The noise that was most blessed to my ears, however, was the sound of someone cursing in fae.
“They’re out.” Celestina was gone before the words were completely out of her mouth. She and Rupert closed in on the two archers as they staggered out of the blackened and—in some portions—burning trees.
They slammed the fae to the ground with enough force to make their bones rattle, and I’m pretty sure they half-suffocated them.
I was relieved to see they didn’t immediately kill the fae—that probably meant they were going to hang on to them for use in political maneuvering. Maybe parade them in front of the Regional Committee of Magic or something. Though Rupert seemed to be having a little too much fun shaking his victim.
“Hazel.” Celestina offered me a friendly smile as she pushed down on the fae’s throat, making him gurgle. “Could you check with Leila if she has any rope we could use?”
“I’ll do it.” Franco saluted Celestina then trotted off to the barn. “Excuse me, Leila?”
Momoko and I moved to stand with Felix, bringing us much closer to the nearly comatose fae.
“I thought that went pretty smoothly.” I cringed when I glanced at the smoldering trees. “Well, mostly. I might have overdone it with the lightning.”
“I used fire—I thought it would scare them but wouldn’t burn much.” Felix gazed up at the branches burning on a few trees. “It seems I was wrong.”
Momoko snorted. “Instead of standing there you could always put it out.”
“Good point.” Felix’s wizard mark surfaced again, covering most of his forehead and cheek. A twist of his hand and he dropped water on the trees, putting out the fires with a loud hiss and a cloud of steam.
“What are you going to do with them, Celestina?” I took a step closer, but stopped when Rupert gave me a quelling sneer.
“The Night Court is already in trouble for breaking the bylaws and attacking in the Curia Cloisters,” she said. “We shall use this pair to further press their illegal actions.”
“I’ve got some rope!” Franco jogged back outside, holding up a fistful of twine used on hay bales. “The scratchiest stuff Leila could find.”
“Excellent.” Celestina dragged her sagging fae upright. “We’ll secure them, phone in for reinforcements, and Rupert will drive you all over to Drake Hall.”
Rupert puffed up like an angry cat. “Wait, why do I have to drive them? Why can’t I stay here and you take the rat—take them home?”
“Are you questioning my orders?” Celestina sounded pleasant, but her expression must have been pretty terrifying because Rupert turned whiter than usual.
“No, First Knight,” he mumbled. “I’ll take the wizards to Drake Hall once the fae are secured.”
Rupert’s fae seemed to come out of his addled state, so he gave him another good shake while Celestina tied up her fae attacker and called home.
Us wizards stood together, gossiping with Leila—once she joined us—and casting anxious glances at the singed trees.
But by the time the first Drake vampire showed up—jumping the wrought-iron fence—and Rupert herded us to his car, it had occurred to me there was something about that fight.
It was the first real time we wizards had fought with vampires, and we’d rocked it.
The vampires had given us an early warning, but we’d covered them from the magic that would usually pose a big threat to them. We’d also been able to flush the fae out, and the vampires with their superior speed took the baddies down before I’d even blinked.
The Drake vampires were an incredible fighting force on their own, and House Medeis wizards weren’t slouches, either. But together? …Maybe the Night Court was right to be afraid of us.
“Did you know Rupert gets eye twitches when he’s really annoyed?” I trotted at Killian’s side as we made our way down to the gym. “It’s so fun to watch!”
Killian raised an eyebrow at me. “You were attacked by fae archers, and the most interesting observation you make out of the entire event is that Rupert has poor muscle control?”
“It was pretty uneventful.” I held my katana in place at my side so it wouldn’t smack my leg with my fast steps—since Killian was so much taller I usually had to scramble to keep up. This light jog was a pretty slow pace for him. “We took the fae down in like a minute flat.”
After nearly crashing on the short drive over—Rupert didn’t appreciate it when Momoko tried to fish a leaf out of his hair while he was pulling into the driveway—we made it to Drake Hall.
Instead of discussing the attack, Killian insisted I prepare for training, and listened to a verbal report before escorting me downstairs. (The other wizards were sent to the kitchen for a snack. Momoko assured me they would find me after getting a bite to eat, but I ate here every day for the entire summer. I knew there was no way I’d see them again until it was time to go.)
“That may be, but it shows the Night Court hasn’t given up yet,” Killian said. “To their detriment. I intend to hang Queen Nyte with political ramifications for this until all fae in the region can’t move in the mess of red tape.”
“Can you really do that?”
“I am the Vampire Eminence and on the Regional Committee of Magic. Since they broke the rules, there’s not many who can stop me.” Killian stretched out his fingers and clenched them. “The Paragon might, but I intend to keep him out of the fight.”