This was the first time in ages they'd used the hall for anything but girls' night out.
Dozens of beings lined the walls or sat stiffly on the anti"uated settees. One couple sat atop a woofer.
With so many different creatures here rubbing together - some allied only through ties with another common faction - Mari was pleasantly surprised at how well everyone was behaving. So far only a few nut up or shut up-type ultimatums had been issued.
Of course, she'd taken precautions in case things got ugly.
"How much longer until the vampire is expected to return, witch?" Sabine, the "ueen of Illusions, demanded imperiously, every inch the sorceress, from her crimson mask and elaborate crown to her claw-tipped gauntlets. Her husband, Rydstrom - another of Mari's good friends - had his big hand splayed possessively over her hip.
People "uieted to hear Mari's answer, gazing at her. Among them were Bowen's cousin Garreth and his Valkyrie wife, Lucia the Huntress, both looking exhausted. Mari knew they'd been searching nonstop for Regin all over the world. Garreth was also here because his cousin Uilleam was missing.
Myst the Coveted and several other Valkyrie sat on the settees, awaiting news of Regin the Radiant as well.
The demons, the Lykae, the Valkyrie ... all of them were expecting Mari's magic to, like, work. After all the years when it hadn't, she was having stage fright. There was a reason she'd been called Awaited.
"Uh, soonish," Mari answered, though she had no idea how long. She'd thought he would be back by now. Have I sent Conrad on a suicide mission?
She glanced over at Neomi anxiously pacing, shifting from her pretty and vivacious corporeal form to her pale, ethereal phantom state.
Had Mari just widowed her?
Bowen sensed her nervousness and looped his arm protectively around her shoulders. "Doona worry, witchling. This will work out."
More minutes passed. More rumblings sounded. "How much longer will it take?" "How do we know the witch's magic will work? The captromancer can't even face a mirror." "Where is Nix? She should be here. ..."
Bowen turned to the crowd. "Any more lip, and I'll toss you out on your arses. You're here now only because Mariketa wills it."
Mari gazed up at him. Gods, I adore this wolf. He was the Keymaster to her Zuul. She couldn't think of a better guy to have in her corner -
"Wait!" Mari straightened. "I feel a disturbance." The air began to diffuse. "Something's coming."
"I smell smoke," Bowen muttered. "Whatever it is, it's comin' in hot."
A red-eyed vampire has Carrow and Ruby.
Carrow struggled to get free, her fingers outstretched as she reached for Malkom.
Ruby flailed, screaming for him.
Though the vampire's skin had caught fire, still he would not release them.
Malkom slashed through the Wendigos, evading their attacks. As the creatures began to feed on their own fallen, slowing their advance, Malkom jerked his head around, searching for a way out of the circling horde.
"Malkom, hurry!" Carrow screamed.
Frustration strangled him, his fists clenching. Can't get to her. Gods, to be able to trace.
Then remember how! Never more desperate, never more frenzied, he struggled to recall - as he hadn't been able to in centuries.
He tensed every muscle in his body. Reach her. Dizziness assailed him; confusion followed. I've felt this. In an instant, he realized he'd experienced the same sensation when he'd run for Carrow during the Gotoh attack. And when he'd somehow reached her in the water amidst the sharks.
Both times he'd been panicked to get to her. Remember now - or lose her. With a yell, he strained again.
The Wendigos began tightening their circle once more.
Must ... reach her.
Then came that unforgettable feeling of floating. He'd begun to disappear! No, only a waver. Leveling his gaze on Carrow's beautiful face, he attempted once more.
He'd vanished. No time to thank the gods before he'd reappeared, claws bared, ready to slay -
They were gone. The vampire had traced them away, could have taken them anywhere. Malkom's legs threatened to buckle.
A vampire has my family. The thought repeated in his disordered mind. He should have found a way to take them from here! Carrow had warned him again and again.
Now his selfishness had cost him everything.
Madness threatened, nigh overwhelming him. Keep your wits about you, Slaine. The vampire wouldn't kill Carrow and Ruby; he could've done that at once. So he'd abducted them for some purpose.
Which meant Malkom would have time to find them.
But how? Have to get off this f**king island!
I can trace now. Yet a vampire or demon could only teleport to places he could see or remember.
Do I not remember her life? He could go to the land of her memories, find her coven, launch a search. When I find that vampire ... he'll beg to die.
Malkom spied a mountaintop in the distance, tracing there out of the oncoming rush of Wendigos.
He needed to buy himself time - to remember a place he'd never been.
By the time the vampire transported Carrow and Ruby to Andoain and dropped them unceremoniously, his skin was fully aflame.
While she and Ruby coughed from the smoke, he merely took the pain as his red eyes scanned a crowd of immortals.
"Neomi!" he bellowed. The phantom gave a cry and ran for him, batting at the flames, extinguishing them.
Clearly uncaring of the damage he'd sustained, he rasped, "Koeri, I need you."
Neomi swallowed, looking part apprehensive, part excited. "Of course, mon coeur." He yanked her into his arms, planting his fangs into her neck. Then they disappeared.
"Wait, no," Carrow cried. "Where'd he go? I need him to get back!"
"Get back?" Mari said. "What are you talking about? I barely got you out."
"Crow, he's in trouble!" Tears streamed down Ruby's face. "We need to help Malkom!"
"Who's Malkom, Ruby?" Mari asked. "And what's on your necks? Carrow, what's on your sword?"
Brown Wendigo blood covered it. "There's no time to explain! Where will the vampire go? We have to find him."
Mari shook her head. "Conrad's a special kind of loopy. He won't be right from that for days." To Ruby, she said, "Hey, kiddo, why don't you go with Elianna and get washed up?"
Elianna hurried over, but Ruby flung herself away. "I want to g-go after Malkom!" Her breaths were shallowing.
The girl was hysterical; Carrow was nearly there. She dropped her sword, crouching to grab Ruby's shoulders. "You know how I came back for you twice? I will find Malkom. I swear to you, I'll bring him home."