The Keeper and the Dragons - Cover

The Keeper and the Dragons

Copyright© 2023 by Charly Young

Chapter 7

Emory, WA

Two teenaged acolytes ushered Niamh and Katherine into the Queen of the Sabina Coven’s sun porch office as soon as they arrived.

Althea Hayden, the Queen, was a woman as hard as a hickory knot, tall and spare, with flinty brown eyes and a severe mouth. She had secured her iron-gray hair in a tight bun. As they entered, she sat in a rocking chair, poring over a document. She held up a hand, asking for a minute while she scribbled notations on the typewritten pages.

Niamh looked around curiously. The sun porch looked the same as she remembered—a polished heart-pine floor covered by a scatter of brightly colored throw rugs, created no doubt by one of the magically talented crafters on the north side of Emory. Two French doors and a bank of large, beveled glass windows looked out over the garden.

The last time she was here was when she was fifteen and had been called on the carpet for getting into a brawl with Katie. They had gotten into a furious argument that escalated into a hair-pulling fistfight to decide which one would be the first to kiss Lachlan. Ironically, that bitch Mandy beat them both to the punch. She quirked a slight grin at Katherine and received a faint twinkle of a grin, showing she remembered it as well. Then, her grin morphed into a quelling frown.

Althea finished her reading and crisply said, “Report.”

Birdie Penrose, the queen of the McNeil Coven, entered the room and perched on a plain wooden rocking chair. Niamh nodded a polite greeting and focused on Althea as Katie filled her in on their efforts in Oldtown.

After she finished, Birdie cleared her throat. “Althea, do you want to explain why one of your brightest is on a mission in Oldtown, of all places? Our mission is here. And please don’t take offense, Niamh Harpe, but your kind and ours have been at loggerheads for years. Althea, why the sudden change of heart? Dammit, you’re going off on your own again. What are you up to?”

“What’s changed is the predicted manna surge. From what the seers foretold, it’s overdue. Emory is right in its path. For the first time in centuries, the Faery folk will move freely between Alfheim and Earth. Look at how much damage the two faeries Lachlan banished did. Our covens are a powder keg during the best of times. Selwyn Harpe has the same set of problems with the were-kin. That new Alpha of the Chelan pack is proving a real problem. He has convinced himself that he has a justified claim on Keeper House and the lands surrounding the Opari.

Now, there is the matter of the developing chaos in Oldtown. The power vacuum down there caused by that idiot boy going off on his own down there instead of consulting with us is playing right into the hands of the Sidhe. They have long desired a foothold in Oldtown. It’s perfect for them. The place is lawless.”

“Unfortunately,” Katie said. “We have more bad news. Niamh, show them the amulet.”

Niamh wordlessly opened her pack, took out the orb, and handed it to Althea.

The two older women eyed the artifact like it was a pit viper.

“Sweet Mother, bless us all,” Birdie said. “Where did you find that thing?”

“We took it off the corpse of the were-hyena clan queen.”

“You’re telling us that a pack of Crocuta shifters could manipulate this artifact?” Birdie asked incredulously. “Do you know what this is?”

“I think it’s a Daoine mind ripper. We were hoping you knew someone who could unravel the tangle of wards that protect it so we could find where it came from. Maybe even view what’s on it to get to its purpose.”

“Birdy, this is what I’m talking about. I suspected months ago that the Sidhe were that well involved down there. My suspicions were aroused when I heard tales of a new designer drug that could only come from the labs in Alfheim crossing over from Oldtown into Seattle. But then that damnable hag ambushed me. My stay in the hospital delayed any decent intelligence gathering. So, when Selwyn contacted me for an ally, I agreed. He is a snake, but a snake we know.”

The source of this story is Finestories

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