Ealasaid practically glowed this day. She had scarcely stopped smiling since we’d arrived at Ian MacAsgail’s Gralvein estate. I kept my distance, choosing the corner of the great parlor. My presence was painful for her, though she often claimed the contrary. How could it not be? I knew what I was. I was ice. My blood ran cold, as did my breath. My heart beat at half the speed of a human or witch, my blood ran thick, and my flesh was so frigid it could hold no color.
My magic consumed heat—fed off of it—and turned it into my icy power. Despite my discomfort with being above ground, sitting in a corner of a too-warm room watching this odd band of witches and humans I had unwittingly found myself a part of, my power was strongest here. If I had need to wield my spells, they would be unstoppable. Thus, I set myself to keeping watch. It was the least I could do for much of Ealasaid’s pain and suffering was the result of my ignorance.
I had known of the pathetic git Lennox for years. I had even been to his lair once and smelled the scent of sex mixed with blood and fear. But I had never ventured to the underground prison where he’d kept Ealasaid, nor seen her. Still, I felt as if I should have known somehow. In part due to my guilt, I would refuse the witch nothing. If she requested my presence, I would give it. If she requested she never see me again, I would give that as well.
Ian towered over me. I was convinced he had a giant in his line some years back. No one should be that tall.
“The least you can do, human, is to sit. I do not relish getting a crick in my neck.”
He complied. “Are you well?” He clutched his athame, but I knew it was not done in anger. The athame helped ward against my icy magic.
“I am boiling in this heat,” I spat. “The least you could do is open a window.”
Ian rose and did just that. The night was unseasonably warm for the equinox, but still cooler than indoors. He dropped back down into the chair. “We may have a problem.”
I just stared at him. The breeze wafted over my bald head, bringing some relief from the oppressive heat in the room.
“Raven received a parchment this morning. King Eideard is demanding an audience in two days at our offices with both of them.”
“And? She is the Jewel. I am surprised he has not wished to meet with her before now.”
“Moire knows nothing of this meeting. Nor does King Conall.”
“I still do not understand why you think this is a problem.” I lifted my mug of brew, muttered a few words to chill the liquid nearly to freezing, and sipped. It was Ami’s own concoction, an amber ale brewed with the first hops of the spring. A dozen feet away, Ealasaid danced with Raven. Her eyes were closed and there was a soft smile on her face. The first time I’d seen her, she’d been a waif with sunken eyes and pale skin, but now her hips were gently curved and her cheeks were rosy. Scars circled her wrists and her throat, and a particularly nasty one slashed through her lower lip, but her joy and contentment eased them somehow.
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