“What do you mean we have to get married first?” Are they insane? “Tabitha has been kidnapped. We don’t even know if she’s alive.”
“The Goblins are not going to hurt her,” Dagda says as if I should know that.
“Goblins? Don’t they eat babies or something?” I’m starting to get hysterical now. I really need to spend a day in Isla’s library and figure out who all the magical creatures are and what they do. And don’t do.
Dagda is trying to hide a smirk at my naivety. How can he be so amused when the woman that raised him has been kidnapped by Goblins? The smile is gone from his face now so I guess I said that out loud. I wonder if there’s a spell that can keep your lips closed if you are about to say something that makes a situation worse? I would be using that one all the time.
“I am as concerned about Tabitha’s state of wellbeing as you are. However, I am able to see the bigger picture here. First of all, the Goblins are not going to hurt her if they have any hope of ransoming her. And second, the rings that the two of you are wearing are shining so brightly that you could light the night sky over half of the Dragon realm. The Dragons are far from blind. It would be impossible to sneak past them.”
“I’m sorry, I must be hearing things. I thought you said Dragons. Did you mean dragon flies?” Please say yes.
He’s smirking at me again. “Your ears are functioning perfectly. I did say
“Fire breathing flying reptiles that eat knights in shining armor actually exist?” Now I know he’s just teasing me. He has such a terrible sense of humor.
Well, if nothing else my uncontrollable mumbling keeps him from smirking at me for very long. Ignoring the fact that he’s glowering at me now, I turn to Kallen. “Is he telling the truth?”
Kallen’s lips are in a firm line. “Unfortunately, he is.” With a sigh, he adds, “He is also correct about our rings.”
His pained expression tells me how hard it was to say that last part. He wants to charge ahead as badly as I do to rescue Tabitha, but I suppose our stealth level would diminish greatly with our rings glowing like this. And we can’t take them off. They are spelled to announce to the world that Kallen and I had sex. It’s the Fairy version of the giant red A from the Scarlet Letter. Turning to Dagda, I say, “Okay, how fast can you marry us?”
“No,” Isla says and all of our heads swing to her. “We will send word to the Goblins that negotiations will begin in two days’ time. That will give us today to plan the rescue and tomorrow for a proper hand-fasting.”
I would speak if my bottom jaw wasn’t suddenly glued to the floor. Super glued to the floor, actually. And then stapled. I’m sure it will hurt closing my mouth again. I’ll probably lose a few layers of skin. Maybe some bone.
Since I am not able, Mom speaks for me. “Isla, I appreciate that you want the kids to have a proper hand-fasting. So do I. But it seems that time is of the essence here. Why don’t we have a quick ceremony now and the kids could repeat their vows in a proper ceremony after this situation is taken care of?”
After everything we have been through, Mom still calls us kids. I guess in her eyes I will always be a kid. “I’m okay with that. Kallen?”
I can tell that he wants to say no. And I can tell he wants to say yes. Instead of saying either, he says to Isla, “What guarantee could we require if we ask for two days?” Good question. He is always so much more rational about these things than I am. I’m working on it, though. A month ago I would have already been on my way to the Dragon realm.
I’m brought out of my internal musing and back to the conversation when he says, “And are you certain that the Goblins that took her are able to communicate at a reasonable level?”
I can’t stop the furrowing of my brows. “What do you mean? They wrote a note so they must be able to communicate.”
Isla shakes her head. There are tension lines around her eyes but that is the only sign of her inner turmoil over the situation. “Goblin evolution is complicated. Some are more evolved than others.”
Now I’m totally confused. “How can that be?” It seems like Darwinism would have taken care of that problem.
Silence. That’s who answers my question. The embodiment of silence. And all the faces around me look uncomfortable. Except for Mom and Dad. They look just as confused as I am. Putting my hands on my hips, I do my best to give the other three in the room a hard look. I suck at hard looks.
Dagda shakes his head. “For god’s sake Isla, just tell her.”
Isla is very good at hard looks. “Of course, your majesty.” That sounded like she had fuzzy, green chunky stuff on her tongue that she was trying to spit out. “And are you going to restrain her so she does not go running off and try to solve the problems of the entire Dragon realm?”
Dagda pushes away from the wall he’s leaning against and straightens himself up. “Have a little more faith that her maturity has grown at least an iota since she arrived in this realm.”
“My priority is keeping everyone alive and well, not taking chances on what she will or will not do.”
What the heck? “Um, you guys know I’m standing right here, right?”
“Isla, what is it you’re so worried about? Whatever it is, I’m sure Xandra can handle it,” Mom says with more than a touch of annoyance in her voice. Yeah Mom for having my back. I give Kallen a quick glare for not defending me. He raises a brow but that’s all the reaction I get. Geez, am I really that reckless about things?
Fine. “Okay, I get that you think I’m going to overreact. I promise I won’t. I’ll sit right here on my stool and I won’t do anything until we all agree on a plan.” Hey, even Mom is looking a little doubtful now. So much for having my back. Parents are so fickle.
Isla sighs that sigh she does when she has to do something she doesn’t want to do. “You promise?” she asks.
“Yes already. What??”
“The reason that there is such a difference in evolution is that some of the Goblins are bred to be food.” My heart is starting to beat a little faster but I just nod for her to go on. I even refrain from trying to pop my ears in case I heard her incorrectly due to some sort of inner ear pressure.
She continues. “The Dragons are the dominant race in the realm and their main diet is Goblin. As some of the Goblins evolved, they figured out that they could breed the…for lack of a better word – stupid ones, and offer them to the Dragons. If they did this, the Dragons would leave the smarter ones alone.”
I fold my hands in front of me on the counter and press my lips together for a moment. When I think my voice will stay even, I say, “So, these ‘smart’ Goblins,” I have to make the quotes with my fingers when I say smart. This sentence could not be said without them. “They somehow get others of their own race to have babies so they can feed them to real live Dragons. Do they at least kill them ahead of time or do they let the Dragons play with their food first.”
Kallen puts his hand on my shoulder but I shake it off. “Xandra…” he starts but whatever look I have on my face stops him from saying another word. Maybe I am getting better at hard looks.
“You all know about this and you have never done anything to save them?” Each word drops out of my mouth as if I am etching them into a tombstone. Three tombstones to be more precise.
“My god, how barbaric are you people…Fairies?” Dad asks. He’s picked up a voice chisel to help me with my etching. “How can you live with yourselves as you ignore such atrocities?”
Dagda’s cold green eyes turn to Dad. “We also know that Cowans kill each other at will, sometimes over trivial things such as fossil remnants.” He means oil, obviously. “You also perform, and even force each other to do, unspeakable acts. Some of which are perpetrated upon your children. Should we come to your realm and do something to stop all of that?”
“You mean come to our realm and kill us off or force us to do unspeakable acts at your will from what I understand of your past actions.”
Isla raises her voice above theirs. “Gentlemen, can we please focus on the topic at hand? Preferably before Xandra throws someone through a wall. I am not in the mood for redecorating.”
I take a couple of deep breaths and try to push the magic that I pulled out of pure reflex back to the ground. Glowering at Dagda, I say, “Fine, you made your point. But human sacrifices have been out of style in our realm for a long time.”
He crosses his arms over his chest and leans back against the wall. “Semantics.”
I’m going to ignore him. Kallen’s hand on my shoulder helps convince me. Yup, it’s a crap shoot whether the hand on the shoulder thing works for him. “Moving on,” I say with more than a little snark in my voice.
“Grandmother?” Kallen says bringing her back to the question he asked before. “The negotiations?”
“We simply tell them that we will not be available to negotiate until two days from now.”
How is that the logical choice? “If I was a Goblin soon to be Dragon food, I don’t think I’d like that response.” Kegan, who has been quiet until now, coughs into his hand to cover a snicker. Isla gives him a sharp look.
To Kallen, she says, “Do you honestly believe that the Goblins are capable of doing harm to Tabitha? At the very most they have her restrained. It is not in their nature to cause harm.”
She did not seriously just say that. “Um, they feed each other to Dragons so it seems like it is in their nature to cause harm. And apparently it’s also in their nature to kidnap people. Do they do this regularly as well?”
Those tight lines around her eyes have spread to her mouth now. “It has never happened before.”
Glad to hear they’re amping things up a bit. “So, you really don’t know how far the Goblins have evolved, right?”
“Yes, Isla,” Dagda says haughtily, “they may have evolved to the point of humans. That would make them capable of anything in regards to violence.”
Mom is physically restraining Dad’s ghostly form. I shake my head and turn to Dagda. “Do we really have to do this?” He raises a brow in a ‘do what?’ challenge. I sigh. “Since I want to go after Tabitha as soon as possible and Isla has already expressed a disinterest in remodeling, I’m not going to throw you through a wall this time. But, if you antagonize my father any more, I will.” I admit it – I do get a selfish satisfaction from watching his face turn red when I refer to Dad as my father and not him. I have no idea why he thinks he’s earned the title. I’m a strong believer in nurture vs. nature and Dad’s the one who nurtured me. Dagda’s nature might be improving but I don’t think he’s even capable of nurturing. He’s more do it my way and we won’t have a problem. Damn it. I hate it when I think things about him that prove I’m his biological offspring.
“Perhaps we can get back on topic now?” Isla says. I give Dagda a last sour look and then nod at Isla. She continues. “I do not believe the Goblins have become violent. I believe they are simply desperate for help. A couple of days will not make a difference.”
“You don’t think they’re going to hurt Tabitha if we make them wait? I don’t know if I’m willing to take that chance. Starting a marriage with part of the family being held hostage by Goblins seems like a bad omen.”
Kallen leans over and whispers in my ear, “The entire Fae realm could be held ransom and our hand-fasting will still be perfect.” I feel my cheeks color as he kisses my neck in a promise of something I am very much excited about. If he does that again, I think I’ll forget about everything else.
“If you two are done, we can start making plans,” Kegan says sourly. He’s just jealous because Alita went home last night so he can’t be doing the same thing. He is right, though. Probably not the best time to focus on our libidos.
“How shall we communicate our response to the Goblins?” Kallen asks Isla.
“I believe Garren would be willing to serve as a go-between. He has spent many years amongst the Goblins and Dragons.” Is she blushing? Seriously? Yup, she’s blushing. The red skin from the neckline of her dark blue sundress which she can still wear to perfection at her age (I have no idea how old she is) all the way up to her still black hairline is a dead giveaway.
“Who’s Garren?” I ask which makes her lips turn into a thin line.
Isla doesn’t say anything. I look at Kallen but he shakes his head slightly. I’d be mad about him keeping a secret from me but I get the impression this time it truly is about self-preservation. Isla has a dangerous look in her eyes and he might end up toast if he tells me at the moment. Which of course makes me even more curious. Is he an old boyfriend of Isla’s or something?
Okay, the quicker we get this settled the sooner I can corner Kallen in another room and make him tell me the story. “Does he live in the Dragon realm? I could just open a passage to there to give him the message.”
“No,” Dagda says shaking his head. “We want to keep you as a secret weapon for the time being. The Dragons would be far too interested in you if you showed too much power up front.”
Yeah, I guess I don’t want a bunch of fire breathing Dragons interested in me. In a bad way or a good way. Who knows what happens if they burp or sneeze. I’m pretty attached to my eyebrows and hair. Hmm. I wonder if they really do breathe fire. I’ll ask Kallen that later. I don’t want to give Dagda another opportunity to smirk at my ignorance. “Then what do we do?”
Dagda pushes away from the wall again and walks to the counter. “The Dragon realm is not closed off from us. Fairies are able to enter as they please. Though most of us find very little reason to enter that particular realm. Not everyone aspires to be a Dragonologist.”
Is that really a word or is he just making it up to be able to make fun of me later? I need one of those floating pens that the reporter in the Harry Potter books had so I can make running lists of questions as things come up. Maybe there really is a spell for that. If there is, I probably shouldn’t perform it. I might end up with the universe’s largest writing implement following me around writing things on a never ending scroll.
“I take it this Garren guy is a Dragonologist?” The new tightening of Isla’s jaw tells me I got it right. “Okay, so who is going through to the realm to ask him to give the Goblins a message for us?”
“I will,” Kallen says.
I’m about to tell him that he’s crazy if he thinks he’s going alone, but Isla cuts me off before a word can form on my lips. “You have a hand-fasting to plan. Kegan, you will bring the message.”
Kegan looks thrilled. “When would you like me to leave?” He might as well have said ‘when do you want me to stick a hot poker in my eye?’ Twice.
“Still afraid of Dragons, cousin?” Kallen asks. His face is lit up in amusement.
Kegan glares at him across the counter. “Simply because I am cautious while around fire-breathing beings does not mean that I fear them.” That answers that question. They do breathe fire. The giant pen in my mind can scratch it from the list.
Kegan’s eyes expose his lies. He’s afraid of Dragons. I start to laugh until I realize that I’ll probably be terrified of the things as well. “Maybe you won’t run into any Dragons.” The look he gives me tells me that he did not find comfort in my words. Okay, I’m done feeling sorry for him.
“I will send two guards with you,” Dagda says with real concern in his voice. Funny, I always assumed he didn’t care about Kegan like he does Kallen because of the Cowan blood thing. That’s what I get for assuming, I guess.
“Thank you,” Kegan says.
Dagda gives him a curt nod. “Be ready to go in an hour.”
Isla turns her eyes to me. “Good, now we can move on to the hand-fasting. Assuming you have not made any more deals with Angels?”