“Just a minute, my little peacock,” he said. He turned back to me. “Talk to Maisie.”
I nodded. “I’m about to go to the council meeting. I’ll see if I can talk to her after.”
“Thanks, Sabina.” The golden hands pulled him back into the room and slammed the door behind him. A few seconds later, squeals and moans echoed down the hallway. I sent a quick prayer of thanks to goddess I had somewhere else to be. Giguhl and Valva’s sex-a-thon kept waking me up all day, and I was going to stake myself if I had to listen to another round.
I grabbed my gun and hid it in a thigh holster under my chiton. The council didn’t allow mundane weapons into the council chamber, but what they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them. After Lenny’s revelations the night before, I wasn’t about to put myself in a room full of mages without a weapon. I might need more practice with my newfound magical skills, but I had plenty of experience using a gun. And I wouldn’t hesitate to put that experience to use if someone came after me again.
From my vantage point in the front row of the audience, the entire council looked wound up tighter than concertina wire. In addition to the tension of the coming meeting, the fallout from the previous night’s debacle was also clearly in play. Maisie kept shooting resentful looks at Orpheus. He steadfastly refused to even look at her, preferring instead to glare at me. I preferred to watch the small male sitting to Orpheus’s left.
He had to be a faery with his knife’s-blade cheekbones and luminescent skin. He filled out his green velvet coat and frilly white shirt with a muscular torso. His long brown hair covered his ears, but I’d bet cash money their tips were pointed. In short, he was gorgeous, but that wasn’t why I watched him. Disdain twisted his cupid’s-bow mouth and narrowed his almond eyes as he watched me.
Looked like the queen’s emissary wasn’t a fan. Since we’d never even met, his attitude surprised me. But before I could ponder the whys, Orpheus banged his gavel on the table.
“This meeting of the ancient and venerable Hekate Council is now called to order.”
The room fell silent except for the occasional shifting of bodies trying to get comfortable on the impossibly small cushions covering the floor. I caught Maisie’s eye and sent her an encouraging smile. She tried to return it, but her lips formed a tight grimace instead.
Poor Maisie, I thought. Now that I knew about her vision problem, I could only imagine the intense performance pressure she must be feeling.
“As you all know, the council has been seriously debating the prospect of declaring war against the Dominae. We understand you’re all invested in the outcome of our decision, but we ask for your continued patience as we weigh all the potential consequences.” He paused and took a sip of water. I couldn’t help but get the sense he was stalling.
“In addition to investigating the situation, we have also been in negotiations with Queen Maeve’s special envoy, Hawthorne Banathsheh.” He nodded toward the faery. “If the Council votes for war, the Queen’s support will be crucial to achieving victory. To Mr. Banathsheh, we’d like to extend our welcome and our assurances the Hekate Council is committed to continuing our cherished alliance with all faekind.”
Hawthorne nodded regally with a slight smile. “High Councilman Orpheus, Queen Maeve, may the Goddess protect Her, would like to extend her warmest regards to all members of this esteemed council as well as your honorable constituents. The queen is pleased we were able to come to a satisfactory resolution to our negotiations. If the Hekate Council, in its wisdom, decides war is the best course of action, the queen is prepared to offer her full support.”
A ripple of excitement made its way through the mages. I sat up a little straighter at the news myself. I just couldn’t figure out why Maisie didn’t look more pleased by her success with the fae envoy.
Hawthorne smiled at the audience. “Together, our ancient and noble races will finally dispense with the scourge of all the dark races—the Dominae!”
As a cheer rose, the faery’s eyes picked me out of the crowd. I shifted on my cushion uneasily. What was this guy’s deal, anyway?
“Thank you, Envoy Banathsheh,” Orpheus said. “Please send the queen our warmest regards upon your return to court tomorrow.”
He shifted then to look at Maisie. “We will now hear from the Honorable Maisie Graecus. Maisie?” His voice was tight, as if he’d prefer not to talk to her. As it was, he barely managed to look at her.
Maisie, to her credit, rose with her shoulders back and her head held high. “I have nothing to report.” She inclined her head respectfully in Orpheus’s direction and sat back down.
Confused murmurs swarmed around me. Obviously, everyone was disappointed their oracle didn’t have any new visions to report. Orpheus frowned and leaned over to Maisie, whispering. Maisie shook her head, her mouth tight. Orpheus stared at her hard for a moment. She met his gaze with her own, all but daring him to give her shit about her continued lack of visions. Finally, he sighed and turned back toward the mic. “This meeting is adjourned.”
Outraged cries rang out over the crowd. The mages wanted more answers, but Orpheus stormed from the room. The envoy rose and went to speak with other members of the council, no doubt playing his diplomatic role to the hilt. I rose and went to Maisie. She was gathering paper and avoiding the glares of mages who walked by on their way toward the exit.
She looked up. “Hey, Sabina,” she sighed.
I jerked my chin toward the door. “Someone’s pissy. You okay?”
She sighed. “The only thing that will redeem me in Orpheus’s eyes right now is being able to predict the outcome of the vote.” She leaned in, whispering. “That’s the real reason they’re holding off now that we have the queen’s support.” She didn’t sound happy about that bit of news.
“You’d figure they’d be happier about that.”
A rueful smile spread on her lips. “Oh, the council’s thrilled with the outcome. Queen Maeve has committed her army and resources to the war effort if the council declares.”
I frowned, not understanding her bitter tone. “Isn’t that a good thing?”
She shrugged. “In some respects. But I’m afraid of the price we’ll all pay when this war happens.”
I wasn’t sure what I could say to ease her mind. The minute I found out the Dominae were angling for war, I knew it wouldn’t end well for anyone. But with each passing day, war seemed inevitable. “Listen,” I said, clumsily changing the subject, “I hope I didn’t get you in trouble about last night.”