“Everyone here has something to lose,” Broderick paced back and forth. We were sitting the basement office, just below Howell’s pub, as I’d come to learn. There were seven of us here. Broderick, Mellie, my sister, and a few other people I hadn’t met yet. I was sitting on the desk, Meghan beside me, her hand in mine. “Everyone here, in this room, save for the vampire, is a member of house Greystem-“
“Wait, what?” I interrupted. “Greystem?”
“Had Meredith taught you nothing?” A short man on the other side of the room demanded. “Vampires have clans, the wolves have their packs, Fae have houses. Basic shit, little girl.”
“Your mother is a member of House Graystem, and by extension, so are you,” Broderick stared directly at me. “She brought you into this house, you’re a part of this house, end of. Your mother never told you that you were a Graystem?”
“I…guess it never came up,” I was so confused.
“Whatever,” The short man said. “We should all introduce ourselves then. My name is Ralthor, they call me Ralph here. You already know Mellie and Broderick. Over here you have Craven, and of course Celina.”
“Don’t forget me,” Another girl about my age spoke up. “My name is Rhea.”
“Ah yes, Rhea,” Ralph chuckled as if he had forgotten. Rhea shot him a nasty glare.
“Wonderful,” Broderick snapped. “Now that we all know eachother, let’s get down to business here. You, Jasmine, believe it or not, this entire thing revolves around you.”
“I think she’d believe that at this point,” My sister spoke up. Broderick glanced at her, the look on his face told me he was angry that she had even dared to speak.
“This whole thing is a cosmic joke,” Ralph growled, shaking his head.
“Agreed,” Mellie nodded, stepping forward to stand beside Broderick. “Jasmine, it’s time you were clued on what’s going on, with you, specifically.”
“I don’t care,” I replied, looking down at the floor. I could feel Meghan turning her head to look at me, I didn’t meet her gaze.
“Now you listen to me,” Broderick snapped, stepping closer to me, glaring down. I could practically feel his breath on my neck. “You’re alive. Your mother is alive. Your…sister…is alive. All of us, we’re still alive. There will be time to mourn the dead later. For right now, you need to fight for the living, and if you keep moping around I’m going to beat you from one side of this room to the other, are we clear?”
“We’re clear,” I said, my voice completely emotionless as I looked up at him. He stared at me for a moment more with a hard expression on his face before turning and rejoining Mellie at the center of the room.
“Allow me to continue,” Mellie said. “We learned three years ago that Eustace was sent on an assignment by the Seelie court adjunct, and during that assignment, he discovered information that could indicate a plot hatched by the highest levels of the court, that plot involves you, Jasmine. You see, you have a neutral soul, as you’ve been told many times, and we’ve tried to keep it under wraps. That’s why you’ve been sequestered at Angela’s house for nearly five years. Well, sixteen really, but we don’t really count the first eleven. Somehow, someone found out who you were, and what you were. Eustace was trying to investigate, he went missing. The Seelie court adjunct sent your mother to investigate his disappearance, though we know the orders were handed down by a member of the Seelie court proper. We feel she walked into a trap. We also feel that whoever gave the order had expected Meredith to go with her, which would have perhaps left you alone in the house. It didn’t work out, and it took three years for them to come up with a proper assault plan. Whoever did it figured out how to make it through the wards we put on the house, the energy barriers, and all of the other precautions we put in place, you understand.”
“Here’s what we do know,” Broderick cut in. “If the entire Seelie court knew what you were, then it wouldn’t have been a drone attacking the house, it would have been officers of the court showing up to take you into custody. That means perhaps only one of the nineteen in the Hish'Virt is aware. That’s good, to a point, it keeps you out of a cell. The bad news, is that it means someone on the council would like to break the Ritual of the Weeping Sage.”
“The Ritual of the Weeping Sage,” Mellie broke in. “Is the blood rite taken by each member of the Hish'Virt. It ensures that one member cannot kill the other without sacrificing their own life. This cannot be undone, but if they managed to get their hands on a neutral soul, and merged that soul with their own, they could theoretically override the blood rite and slaughter the entire council, which has plenty of consequences. We don’t have time to go into all of it, but suffice to say, we don’t want that.”
“The entire balance could be disrupted, absolutely anarchy,” Broderick added. “Imagine if vampires were no longer under the rule of Fae law and were able to hunt freely again? What if the wolf clans no longer cared who they were infecting? The bloodshed would be insurmountable. The world would become a warzone, at least until order was restored, but would it be? It’s too unpredictable. The Hish'Virt must live, and most importantly, you must live, at the behest of your mother.”
“So,” I said, shifting my weight on the table a bit. “We just kill the… Hish'Virt person. Whoever killed Meredith, I want them to die.”
Broderick chuckled a bit, the others in the room did the same, except for Meghan who stared intently at me.
“Girl,” Broderick shook his head. “It took a top member of the Hish'Virt three years to break through the wards that were placed on your mother’s house, can you imagine what they must have guarding the Alloquandirum? No, we bide our time, and most importantly, we get your mother out of Eaves where she’s been holed up.”
“Then I want to go to Eaves,” I said quickly. “I’m ready to go now. Where is it? Another planet?”
“No, Jasmine,” Mellie said. “It’s outside of the Antarctic ice wall, the Earth you know is much larger in reality. An ice barrier surrounds the eastern and western continents, magic makes it appear to be a complete sphere, and outside…countless lands, including the city of Eaves.”
“Before you ask,” Broderick broke in. “No, the world is NOT flat.”
“Then we should go,” I stood up and gripped my bow. “I’m ready to go, now.”
“Sit down, Jasmine,” Mellie instructed. “You’re going nowhere. We can’t risk taking you across the barrier, you could be seen. Oh, and, you need to stop using the mirrors.”
“Yes,” Broderick nodded. “That’s precisely how we found you. Whenever Meredith took you through a mirror, she placed her hand on yours to distort the signal, but when you went through on your own, you lit it up like a Christmas tree. We took an image of the network from earlier, you were there, clear as day, going to that abandoned house, and then to that ice cream shop. From now on, if you need to go somewhere, you walk.”
“We’ve taken measures to make it seem as if you fled Ypsilanti,” Mellie informed me. “Your enemies…the enemies of Greystem, are searching elsewhere. For now, you stay here. We’ll protect Angela’s legacy and the honor of the house, we’re sworn to it.”
“And what the hell am I supposed to do here?” I demanded. “My mother is out there, waiting for me. I need to find her.”
“Your mother would want you to sit still,” Broderick said sternly. “If you need something to do, why not read a book? We have a few in the other room.”
“Absolutely,” Mellie said. “We have the entire ‘Woodcrest’ collection, AND the sequel series.”
“ Okay, first of all,” I growled. “Woodcrest is a terrible series. The only thing that would be worse, is if someone wrote what amounted to a shit post of a story about bondage, posted it online, got drunk, and then somehow extrapolated it into a high fantasy series as a means of dealing with their depression over being unable to beat their body dysphoria and for some reason thrived on the comments like they were snorting cocaine, but in the form of validation. Secondly-“
“That was really specific,” Mellie commented.
“Secondly, I can’t just sit here and do nothing. Do I just sit in this basement?”
“If you want something to do, go to school,” Rhea said, stepping forward.
“Sorry, what? Go to school?”
“There’s a great middle school here, I go to socialize and interact with the community. You can too. You’re going to be stuck in Ypsilanti for a while, you might as well made the best of it.”
“I am NOT going to school,” I protested. “I already graduated high school, I can’t do that again.”
“Actually, I think you’re going to,” Mellie smirked. “Saves us the trouble of keeping tabs on you. Rhea can do a fine job of that.”
“I’ve got nothing else going on,” Rhea shrugged.
“Then it’s settled,” Broderick said. “Welcome back to the real world.”
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