“We love you too, Adept!”
I plopped down in the uncomfortable wooden chair, rocking it slightly, and rested my arms on the polished table.
“I wish they’d serve coffee at functions like this.” Franco groaned and rubbed his eyes. “I am dying.”
“It was a lot of information to take in.” I peered at the notebook I’d taken a few notes in.
The group from South Dakota had already given a presentation—which had lasted three hours, not including the break we got at the halfway mark. They were finished now. The wizard Elite, the werewolf Pre-Dominant, the vampire Eminence AKA Killian, and the Winter Queen—who was acting as the fae representative on the Regional Committee of Magic starting in November—were supposed to publicly discuss the talk for a bit and give some closing remarks, but we still had five minutes left of our second break.
I glanced down my table. Everyone I had brought—Felix, Momoko, Franco, Leslie, Mr. Baree, and Mrs. Yamada—was already back from the bathrooms and seated in the wobbly chairs.
“I would have thought they’d get more comfortable chairs for this room.” Felix scowled as he wiggled in his seat.
“Maybe the point is that they are uncomfortable, so you don’t fall asleep,” Leslie said.
The meeting was held in the Regional Committee Chamber—the largest room in the Curia Cloisters. Like the assembly hall, it was filled with seemingly endless tables and chairs, though pressed at the front of the room was a raised dais that held a big, grand table and cushy chairs Felix would love. When in session, that was where the Regional Committee of Magic was seated. All the other seats were set up for their staff, and for the observers. (They drew quite the crowd—though there was some politics mixed into that as I think every leader made sure a good show of their people came, for intimidation or something stupid.)
The chamber also had a second story for observational purposes, which was filled with all the werewolf representatives—who had really shown up tonight. Probably because Pre-Dominant Harka was so interested in this. Based on the amount of yawning I saw up there, it didn’t seem like all the shifters shared her enthusiasm.
“Are we going to stay for the entire discussion portion of the meeting?” Momoko asked.
“I planned to,” I said. “What time is it?”
Mrs. Yamada—Momoko’s mother—checked her phone. “Nearly seven. I’m surprised the meeting lasted as long as it did, given that they started late in the afternoon.”
“I imagine they hoped more vampires would show.” Against my will, my gaze crept in Killian’s direction.
He—and his retinue—were the only vampires present. Given that there weren’t any younger vampires in attendance from the other Families, I was pretty sure this was a political statement on his end, and not a case of the vampire Elders being disinterested with life and society in general as they were prone to do. (Although he had only a handful of Drake vampires present.)
I was pretty sure the Elite’s hope that my presence would rattle him was a huge failure.
Killian hadn’t looked my way since I entered the room. And he didn’t appear any different. His skin was always pale—though instead of the more ghostly shade of some of his cohorts, his skin was more of a snow-white. His eyes appeared black instead of the regular vampire red from this distance, and his hair was artfully mussed so he resembled a model in his designer suit, but that’s how he always looked. The only difference I could see was that he had a five o’clock shadow, which was pretty unusual for him. I don’t think I’d ever seen him any way besides clean shaven. But it’s not like it made him look haggard—if anything he looked more model-like than usual.
Maybe I overestimated my own importance and he really did kick me out because he had no use for me…but he still could have had me sense when fae magic was used around him. That would have been dead useful in a fight with the Night Court.
“Good evening, Adept Medeis!” The Elite sauntered up to my table and leaned against it. “And greetings to those of the honorable House Medeis.”
Even Felix looked cowed as he stared up, slightly open mouthed, at Elite Bellus.
“Good Evening, Elite Bellus,” Mrs. Yamada said.
“Thank you for being my guests this evening!” He peered up and down the table at my escorts. “I’m glad you could make it.”
“It’s our honor,” Franco said. He showed no sign of all the passionate statements he’d made on the way here, talking about how all of them were coming just because they were paranoid about me leaving without at least a couple of them to guard my back, and lecturing me for letting Elite Bellus use me to try to manipulate Killian. (Who, Franco had spent a portion of his lecture pointing out, it was impossible to out manipulate, so why was Elite Bellus even bothering to try?)
“What did you think of the talk?” Elite Bellus clasped his hands behind his back as he studied me.
“It was very interesting,” I said. “It’s wonderful to hear how communities have been able to successfully pull together.”
Elite Bellus nodded, and kept staring.
I shifted in my chair; my butt was starting to ache from all the sitting. “I don’t know that I picked up on anything you could immediately apply to Magiford,” I cautiously continued—I didn’t want to offend him, or the South Dakota crew. “But I did wonder if one or two of the smaller cities that are mostly occupied by those of us from the magical community could enact some of their practices—like a joint police force.”
Elite Bellus smoothed his goatee. “I wondered as well. You know…” he trailed off and frowned.
I tilted my head, wondering why he stopped, when I tasted the distinct, floral-bathwater taste that active fae magic always gave off, and a second, stronger flavor of magic that felt old and wild. “Do you feel—”
The Curia Cloisters shook as though an explosion had rocked them at their very core.
I leaped to my feet, throwing my magic-made shield up in record time so it blocked both myself and Elite Bellus. The air around me hummed as the six House Medeis wizards copied me, creating their own shields. They moved around so we stood in a circle, all sides guarded.
Elite Bellus blinked slowly. “…What?”
“Other side of the room,” Mr. Baree barked.
I swiveled my gaze just in time to watch Consort Ira of the Night Court raise a staff studded with a crystal and point it at Killian.
Purple magic swirled around the staff’s largest crystal, then shot across the room at Killian.
He ducked, avoiding the magical blast, which punched a hole through the drywall of the far wall.
“Really? They’re going to fight it out in the Curia Cloisters?” Felix snarled.
“Oh dear,” Elite Bellus said. He sounded only mildly concerned as he watched the fae with a cocked head.
The crowd seemed spooked, but only those closest to where the Drake Family was seated bothered to scurry away.
Until the consort tried it again, this time narrowly missing a vampire standing at the back of the room.
Everyone lost it.
(Well, everyone except Celestina. She unholstered her firearm and took a shot at the consort—although she missed.)
Someone screamed, and tables and chairs were overturned as everyone ran for the door. Up in the second floor the werewolves were more orderly about leaving. They clustered around the Pre-Dominant, and were slowly backing out, their teeth showing as a few of them transformed into their giant wolf forms for good measure.
I turned to my people, our shields glowing bright blue as everyone streamed past us. “We have to get the Elite out of here.”
Franco grimly set his shoulders. “Understood.”
Momoko squinted at the direction of the fighting night fae and Drake vampires, but it was too bright from the magic to see much. “It seems like they aren’t involving outsiders.”
“I don’t believe that,” Felix snarled. “Why else would the Night Court attack them in the middle of a public forum in a building that’s a neutral zone?”
“We should go out the side exit,” Mrs. Yamada tipped her head, pointing to an unassuming side door. “The main doors are swamped.”
“Right,” I agreed. “Let’s do it—moon formation, Leslie and Mr. Baree in escort mode.”
My family snapped into position, the weeks of drilling making our movements precise and clean.
Together we created a half circle, and Leslie and Mr. Baree moved to our unprotected side, ready to bodily push anything out of our way and open the doors.
“This way, please, Elite Bellus,” I said.
Mr. Baree set a hand on the Elite’s elbow and guided him away, making my request more of a command, but the Elite didn’t seem to mind.
“Very well!” Elite Bellus slid two fingers into his mouth, producing three shrill whistles that were almost eclipsed by the hungry roar of fae magic smashing through a solid oak table.
We made our way to the side door in an ungraceful shuffle. Even with Leslie and Mr. Baree moving things for us, we had to navigate the aisles, and once a terrified fae—Day Court, if her sunshine blond hair was anything to go by—in a hurry to escape smacked into my shield with such force she actually ricocheted off it and hit the ground.
“What kind of magic are you using?” Elite Bellus mildly asked when we hit one of the main aisles and were finally able to pick up our pace.
“This side of the room is clear,” Leslie shouted, ignoring the question. “Everyone’s run to the main doors.”
I glanced over my shoulder and grimaced.
Like terrified sheep, the crowd had flocked to the main double doors that had remained open, rather than using one of the four side doors, like we were.
We reached the door and Leslie opened it then stepped to the side as Mr. Baree thrust out his hand—encased with fire—and slid into the hall.
“Clear,” he shouted.
We started to slip through the door, Mrs. Yamada going first, shifting so she could keep her shield up. Leslie followed her, and I frowned at the stampede at the main doors.