It is finally spring break! Which means I will bury myself in editing Trickster at long last, and have it to my editor by the end of the week. Fingers crossed that all goes well. I celebrated my break beginning by writing a short story Friday afternoon, which was a fun surprise. My brain is entirely too well trained. “I can write now? Whee! Let’s write!”
These snippets contain material that I know is going to change substantially before the release of the novel – several beta readers pointed out that I just started Trickster where Pixie left off, and I need to do a bit of back-story intro work to refresh people’s memories – or help along new readers who had not read the first book. Also, the ogre battle needs… something. I’m not sure what, but it needs help. Otherwise, minor tweaks are all I have planned.
Bella stumbled on stepping out of the doorway from Underhill to the human world, and Ewan bounced off the back of her head.
“Ow!” she put up a hand and rubbed where he’d hit her, with his boots, it felt like. “Watch where you’re going!”
“Och, and when y’grow a foot in front o’me?” He shot back, hovering at head-height, incongruously standing in midair with his hands on his hips.
Bella sighed. “I didn’t think to warn you of that, truth is, I’m not used to it myself.”
“What’s the plan now?” Dean looked around the little glade.
“We hike down the hill and I call for a car.”
He looked up at her. “Got it. By the way, remind me later to show you other doors, hey?”
Bella felt foolish. “I ought to have asked about that before, but I only know this one and one other, which doesn’t open on this continent, I don’t think.”
He nodded, “Nah, you’re learning. And a little fresh air won’t kill me.” He winked, and lit another cigarette.
Bella got the phone out and dialed.
“Raven?” She asked when the ringing stopped.
“Who else would it be?” His irascible voice sounded in her ear.
She laughed. “Well, one of the cousins. You aren’t as alone as you make yourself out to be, Uncle.”
“Hrmph. Where are you?”
“We just crossed over from Underhill. We’re in Oregon, down on the coast near Florence.”
“T’boys are on their way.”
“Did I tell you where they needed to go? And is Tex flying all the way down?” She was confused.
“No, and yup.”
She could hear the amusement in his voice. “Uncle… “
“Your Folke aren’t the only ones with eyes and ears. Don’t forget that I have resources too, young lady. And I’m not letting them think your family has abandoned you.”
She hadn’t thought that she was abandoned – after all, they had come when she called for help with Lom, and into a very strange place, at that. Bella suddenly realized that she was once again a pawn in a power display. Raven was ruffling his feathers and looking big in front of the Fairy Kingdom. She sighed.
“So…” she started.
He cut her off. “Get yourself up to Longview. You have transport?”
“T’boys will be at the hotel.”
He hung up, and she stared at the phone, thinking there had to be more than one hotel in Longview. She would have to call Dan and ask. But not until they were on the road, they still had about four hours drive ahead of them. Bella didn’t even want to think about having the sprites cooped up in the car with them. Dean was bad enough. He got… twitchy when he had to be still for long.
She caught up with them at the pull out, where the rental guy was shifting from foot to foot outside the little black sedan, and the sprites were nowhere to be seen.
“I’m Bella Traycroft.”
She held out her hand and he shook it. “Um, could you sign here?”
He glanced at Dean and hastily away again. Bella wondered what the fairy had done. She took the clipboard and scrawled where he pointed.
“Thanks so much, we didn’t expect to wind up here when we started the hike.” She gave him the same cover story she’d fed the rental office, as he handed her the keys. “Do you need dropped off?”
He shook his head and checked his watch. “No… “
Another car pulled in, the tires crunching on the gravel.
“There’s my ride!” He blurted, and went.
He almost ran to the other can, and as they pulled out, Bella turned to Dean. “What did you do?”
He shrugged, and she knew she wasn’t going to get anything out of him. Hopefully it hadn’t involved obvious magic, that was what they were here to prevent. He held out his hand.
“I don’t ride shotgun. Keys.”
She blinked at him. “Have you got insurance?”
He laughed. “Just let me drive, ok? I promise no one will see me doing magic, but I hate being a passenger.”
She shook her head and handed the keys over. “Where are the sprites?”
“I sent them ahead. They have their ways.”
She opened the door, and it occurred to her, “When was the last time you drove? Do you know how to drive this kind of car?”
He started the engine and she jumped. “Get in, Bella, and stop worrying so much.”
He drove like a bat out of hell, she discovered, and she learned that the only way she could deal with some of the turns he took was to close her eyes and hang on to the edges of her seat for dear life. They were never on two wheels, although she could have sworn that they should be, and they weren’t pulled over, which she decided had to be through the use of magic in some way. They made Eugene and I-5 in less time than she would have thought possible, but at least on the freeway she could relax. He did not drive weaving in and out of traffic, he just went straight and outpaced all the other cars.
He winked, never looking away from the road in front of them. “Still alive over there?”
“Yes, strangely enough.” She slumped down a bit. “This is much better.”
“I do like a curvy road.”
She could hear the satisfaction in his voice and decided to ignore the subtle innuendo. “I didn’t think you could get through the Cascades that fast.”
She looked out the window, they were through the city and out into the Willamette Valley. “I haven’t been through here since I was a kid, it’s gotten built up.”
“I haven’t been on this stretch of road, I don’t think. My old stomping grounds were quite a bit further south.”
“Oh?” Bella prompted, curious. He didn’t answer, and she decided she wasn’t going to push him for answers. Or distract him, at the speed he was going.
She settled for looking out the window and checking the time, wondering when she could call Dan. She had been thinking she would wait until Portland and they were only an hour out… but now she was thinking it wouldn’t even be that long. Bella wondered if she could bubble the whole car, and how long it would take. Magic above was… she closed her eyes and accessed the library. If she couldn’t do anything else, she could at least research.
Alger’s gift was oddly useless at times. There were whole sections of magic it didn’t seem to cover, or not well, like the use of magic in human realms. Bella had decided this was more about Fairyland not going above if they could help it, much less studying it. And the rogue Folke were turned over to the Hunt, and if they were questioned about life above she couldn’t find transcripts of it.
Right now, she was going over anything she could find about ogres, volcanoes, and the area they would be working in. She’d suspected, from the very early magic lessons Lom had given her about the influence of earth, wind, fire, and water on magic users, that the volcanic proximity to the ogre nest had a meaning. There were allusions to a fire affinity, but those who tried to study ogre habits mostly wound up finding out their dietary preferences by serving as a meal.
It might help find them, though. If there were active fumaroles… she pulled out her phone. This wasn’t something the centuries of books in her head could help with. But a few USDA maps later, she thought she knew where to start looking, at least. She sat up straight and stretched a bit in her seat.
“Back with me?” Dean glanced quickly at her, a wry expression on his face.
“Where are we?” She looked out the window at suburbia.
“Just getting into Portland. I was thinking we’d stop and stretch our legs, maybe food.”
She nodded. “That sounds good. I need to make a call, too.”
Bella mused as they stopped at a fast food place that she had been away long enough to make even this seem exotic. Not that there had been a place like this within a hundred miles of her cabin in Alaska, either. For the moment, it was hot, filling, and not sitting in the car with a bubble on her fingertips while Dean drove.
She left Dean sitting in a hard plastic booth and sipping soda meditatively and stepped outside to call Dan. Looking through the window, she wondered just how long it had been since the fairy man had been above.
“Dan, It’s Bella.”
“What have you been up to?” she could hear the laughter in his voice. “Raven scooped us all up and had us in Washington before we could ask what was going on. You in big trouble again?”
“Nah… I just need help hunting some really big game,” she copied his teasing tone.
“So that’s why Raven had us fly in packin’ heat.”
“Good to hear. So where are you? Raven just said the hotel.”
“Ah. He’s not so good with details, the old man.”
Bella sighed. “He’s helping me. I’ll take it.”
Dan gave her directions to the hotel and she hung up as Dean came out. “Ready?”
“Want to let me drive?” She didn’t have much hope, but she had to ask.
He shook his head. “Nope. You’ll live.”
He grinned evilly as she rolled her eyes and got in the passenger side.
It didn’t take anything near an hour to get to the hotel. Bella was working very hard to not look at the speedometer. She appreciated that they were getting there fast, but still. She made a mental note to ride with the boys when they went on the mission.
She had a budding plan. Time to find out if they could do it.