The Muse's Touch

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The Trouble With Oracles

“Woah, wait just a minute.” Seth held one hand up in surrender, the other held up braced in front as if the gesture could ward off the knife Paige held up to him. He backed up with haste. “I’m not fae you know. Iron doesn’t work on me the same way.”

“No, but a sharp edge is a sharp edge.” Paige grinned as she advanced on him with Maeve bringing up the rear.

“Hey, you got your money’s worth last time. Oh, hi, Maeve. Want to talk some sense into your princess here?”

“Are you shitting me? The intel you gave us last time was shit. Anna went after my friends! Not me! And you sold us out right after, to her!” Paige jerked her head towards Maeve but kept her eyes on the little weasel.

“Hey, she did attack you and iron helped, right?”

“It helped jack shit!”

Seth continued to back up, placing the table between them and himself then turned his palms up in the universal imploring gesture. “What about the water? The water did the trick, right?”

It was enough to give Paige pause but not enough for her to lower her knife. “You also called me human. Multiple times. But you knew, didn’t you?”

“Hey, your bodyguard there told me to not say anything.”

Maeve shrugged.

“Yeah, but you kept calling me human unprovoked. I bet you found it funny, didn’t you?” Paige pulled out a chair out and placed one foot on it, pretending to get ready to climb the table across to get to him. “I bet you do that all the time, crack inside jokes like that at your clients’ expense. I wonder what would happen if word got out that an Oracle lied. Especially for the right price.”

Horror dawned on Seth’s face and Paige knew she had hit the right spot with the threat. “Hey those were extenuating circumstances. It’s not every day I get hidden royalty walking through that door.”

Paige withdrew and even sheathed the knife. “Oh I see, so the richer the client… come on Maeve, let’s get out of here.”

“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.” Seth scuttled around the table. “You came for a reason, right? For free, just this time. And we keep all this as a little secret between us.”

Paige exchanged a glance with Maeve who nodded subtly. Inwardly, Paige couldn’t believe that worked.

“Okay. Fine. But if I find out the intel is…”

“Hey now, divination is not a precise science. I’ll give you as good as I’ve got, okay?” Seth moved to sit down at the table and gestured to the other two seats. “Please.”

Paige eased herself into one of the folding chairs and saw Maeve do the same.

“Now, how can I help you, ladies?”

“We want a divination of one Anna Duffeld, the witch you saw after me last time. We want to know where she is.”

Seth nodded along to her words. “Ah, she’s powerful. I remember a lot of you-don’t-see-me spells. You got anything of hers that may help?”

There was one thing. Paige took out the iron long dagger, unsheathed it and placed it on the table. “This blood is hers.”

“Woah lady, how much weaponry do you have on you?”

At Maeve’s glare, Seth quieted and studied the sword. “You want me to divine a strong witch’s presence using blood off an iron sword?” He looked back up at Paige, incredulity widening his eyes.

In return, Paige shrugged. “You said iron doesn’t work on you.”

Seth opened his mouth. “I said it doesn’t affect…” When they continued to just stare at him, he sighed. “Fine. Just be glad I’m damn good at what I do.”

He shifted in his chair and reached out, placing just the tips of his forefingers of each hand on the part of the blade rusting with Anna’s blood.

Paige leaned forward, fascinated by the twitches and twists of Seth’s pasty features. It was obvious he was hard at work as his eyes shifted back and forth behind closed eyelids and sweat beaded on his forehead.

Without warning, his eyes snapped open with a loud gasp. He held his hand up to command for a pause then scrambled towards another smaller table behind him. Seth grabbed a half-empty bottle of tequila with trembling hands, unscrewed the top and downed a good healthy amount before he pulled the bottle away and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

Well, that was new.

Seth glanced at the two of them. “Are you sure you want to do this, Princess?”

Paige hated that title but gave up on correcting him for now. “Just tell us what you saw.”

With more reluctance than before, Seth sat back down. Paige didn’t think he could get any paler but, she was wrong.

“Blood magic, loads of it. Out in one of those rental fancy schmancy vacation homes by a lake forty miles out. She’s hiding out there, trying to deal with iron poisoning. This witch is nasty Paige. She’s sucking up all life energy around her. The land around the cabin is pretty much dead. So whatever you are confronting her for, I hope it’s worth it.”

His use of her name startled her. She didn’t even think he remembered it. An unreasonable sense of gratitude welled up in her. Seth may be a money-grubbing opportunist but he wasn’t evil by nature. “It is.”

And then he had to go spoil it.

“Well then, I think this concludes our deal and you have what you need. Remember, our little secret.”

“Sure Seth.”

When they were outside once more, Paige let out a slow exhale. Despite it being early morning, the sweltering sun was already beating down hard.

“Paige, we should head back first to plan the assault. We also need to retrieve Davin if we want this to work.”

She stared at the sun still, weariness creeping into her bones. Her mind rewound back to the start of all this and she tried to remember when it first started. Had it only been a week ago?

Maeve cleared her throat, drawing Paige’s attention back to the now.

“Yeah, let’s head back.”

An awkward silence hung between them during the drive back to Dante’s. At first, Paige focused on the information Seth gave them but inevitably, her mind returned to wrestling with the idea that she was not entirely human. What did it mean? What kind was she? Did that mean she has an extended lifespan too? Who were her real parents?

“Maeve?”

“Yes, Paige?”

“You said I was royalty of the Sidhe. Descendant of...King Nuada?”

The woman nodded as she drove. “The Daoine Sidhe are featured in Irish mythology. When this is over, there are several books I can recommend but on the basis of it, we are the original faery. King Nuada was a great ruler when we first arrived in Ireland and fought against the Fir Blog.” She paused as she made a turn. “The sword I carry is one of our people’s great treasures, his sword named the Claimh Solais.”

Was Maeve boasting? Paige allowed herself a slip of a smile. “So we’re Irish fairies.”

“In a manner of speaking, yes. We are a long lived race with an affinity for magic, including a certain resistance to it. But no wings. Do some reading later Paige. The humans documented it well enough even if they think it’s folklore.”

Right, they documented it, or faerie was shaped by human imagination in the first place. Chicken or the egg. Her head hurt.

“So are my parents in Ireland?”

“No, many of us immigrated here, same as humans.”

“Oh.”

Another pause.

“You don’t have to do this, you know.” Paige stole another glance at Maeve. “I know your job is to protect me but I’m deliberately putting myself in danger. You don’t have to follow me into it.”

A ghost of a smile tugged at Maeve’s lips. “I’m glad you at least realize what you are about to do. But clearly, this incubus means a lot to you. So yes, you are throwing yourself into danger but it does also mean I will be there to protect you.”

“Why?”

"Because." The smile turned wistful. "Your parents would have done the same for me." She paused as she made another turn. "When your parents had to give you up for your own safety, it nearly broke your mother. The only thing keeping her from going insane with grief is the fact that you're alive and well. So I'm going to make sure you stay that way for her sake."

Paige wondered what her faery parents were like to garner such loyalty.

They lapsed back until silence until the keep pulled up to Dante’s house once more. Eager to check on Davin, it took all of Paige’s willpower to not leap out of the vehicle. As is, she kept her pace brisk even as the door opened for her.

“She’s up in a cabin by the lake. One of those luxury vacation rentals.” Even as the words came out of her mouth, she had to stifle a giggle. Could this get any more cliché? Cabin. In the woods.

“Now. We just came back to get Davin. Is he upstairs?”

“Slow down Paige.”

As Dante stepped back, she saw Lillian sitting on the couch. “Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread, my dear. Now sit.”

There was no disobeying Lillian. Paige sat down in one of the armchairs. Maeve stood behind her and she let out an impatient sigh. “Maeve, sit. Please. You’re not some servant of mine so please stop acting like one.”

“I’m fine standing.”

Paige resisted the urge to facepalm.

“Now, Dante here was kind enough to set me up with a computer and I was able to access my library as well as some others’ in my coven. I’ve sent a message out to the coven as well and got some responses.”

Paige blinked once then twice. Her mind struggled to comprehend the words coming out of Lillian’s mouth.

“Oh don’t look so surprised, my dear. Just because I’m old and the craft is older it doesn’t mean we haven’t caught up to the twentieth century. We’ve digitized most of our and our predecessors’ Books of Shadow. It’s the modern great work we undertake.” Lillian squared her shoulders with pride.

“Wow…”

“Nevermind that though. Let’s talk about that botched binding spell. Now, most rituals and spells rely on three things: power, will and focus. We know Anna’s will is strong and Davin’s own willingness to go through with it was also essential. Oh, don’t look so shocked. Avaline saw it all through Davin’s eyes.”

Paige wondered if she was the most clueless one in the room?

“We know the power comes from that foul creature beyond the portal. Keep that in mind as she’ll call upon its help, whatever it is.”

“The whole thing reminded me of an Elder god straight out from Lovecraft’s stories,” Paige interjected, glad she had something to contribute.

“Knows nothing about the Sidhe, well versed in Lovecraft horror,” Maeve muttered beneath her breath.

“Hey! I played a lot of board games, okay? Arkham Horror was one of my favourites,” Paige protested as she looked back. Her hearing must be getting better.

Maeve only shook her head with a sigh.

“Children.” Lillian sighed.

“Sorry.” Sufficiently chastised, Paige turned to face Lillian once more to pay close attention.

“Now, as for focus, for greater spells like this, most witches rely on symbols. I remember when Anna was making preparations, she kept fiddling with an empty vial on a silver chain. My guess is that she has bottled Davin’s essence in there.”

“So we just have to get close enough to break the vial?”

“No!” Lillian looked up in alarm. “There is no telling if his essence will return to his body once freed. And with that creature present, it’s just as possible it’ll gobble Davin up.”

A shudder ran through Paige’s body. She was a fool for thinking she could rush in.

“Leave Davin here. Retrieve the vial, bring it back and we can design a ritual to put Davin’s essence back where it belongs.”

“I’ll be going with you and Maeve.” Dante stepped forward.

“But what about…?”

“That’s what I’m here for.” Finn strolled down the stairs, hands in his pocket. “You really didn’t think I was going to sit this one out, did you?”

Paige’s jaws dropped.

“I promise I’ll behave and I’ll guard the house. Ava will be back soon too. So you guys go get Davin back.” Rather than the mischievous grin she always associated Finn with, his countenance had turned both serious and grim.

“Only you and Maeve are free to act against Anna but there’s no geas holding me back with defending you.”

“But…”

“No buts.” Ainsley wheeled herself out from another room to position herself next to Paige. “Besides, I asked him to.”

“I was lucky last time and had the element of surprise but I am unsure if the same trick would work twice.” Maeve nodded towards Dante. “I would appreciate the assistance.”

Paige glared around the room. They were all ganging up on her. With a groan, she rubbed her face with one hand. “Fine. Me, Dante and Maeve.”

Ainsley patted her shoulder, sympathy in her eyes. “So when will you go?”

At that, Paige dropped her hand and looked around the room with solemnity. “Now. We go now.”

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