Stitched(Rylee Adamson #8.5)(8) by Shannon Mayer
Morbid curiosity kept my eyes glued to what I was seeing. If snow and ice could take a physical form, that was what I was looking at. The creature moved like a large ape, hunched shoulders and over-long arms, but there was no doubt that it was anything but a primate. With the head that looked as though it were shoved down deep inside the neck crevice, the bright pink eyes were barely visible.
“Ack, ignore that beastie. He’s all bark, and only a little bite.”
I rolled to my hands and knees, and pushed to my feet to see a woman in front of me. Just one. Except she wasn’t really just one. She was a conjoined triplet by the looks of it; a single body in the middle, and a partial body hanging off each side. Three heads, six arms, two overly thick legs. Dressed in furs on top and snug pants below, almost as if she wanted you to see that she was truly conjoined. I didn’t know what to say. I went with simple.
Her three heads grinned up at me, broken teeth on each of the faces showing through. Grizzled white hair on one, dark brown on the other, and brilliant red on the third caught my eye. I looked closer. They weren’t even the same age. The looked to be all over the map, young, old, middle aged.
Erik cleared his throat. “Sometimes, fate can be a bitch.”
The women turned toward him, the voices speaking in a sing-song tandem. “Calling us a bitch will get you nowhere, young man.”
I wanted to groan and put my hands over my head. Fates. And I thought I’d seen it all. “Tell me you are just a witch with a funky sense of style. I can’t deal with fate right now, never mind THE fates.”
The women laughed, the sound of their mirth filling the room. “We gave up that title years ago after we dealt with the gods of our time, snipping their threads one by one,” the oldest of the three said, waving one of the middle arms at me in a dismissive gesture. “But we still find ourselves defending the position from time to time. No, now we are but a simple fortune teller.”
My shoulders slumped and fatigue washed over me. “Fortune tellers. Shit, so you have no magic of your own? You can’t help me then.”
All six hands shot straight into the air, and once more they spoke in unison. “Help you, we can, child. You seek a way to have a healthy child ahead of term?”
I shot a glare at Erik and he shook his head. “I said nothing.”
“Yes.” I fought with my natural inclination to be snotty. “That’s what I’m trying to find. But I was told you could help me with a spell.”
The three heads wove back and forth several times, like a snake trying to charm a mouse. “There is a spell that will speed up the birth, but it is complicated, and the only way you would be able to make it happen is if you called on the magic of a demon—”
“Which isn’t happening.” What frail hope I’d hung onto slid through my fingers. So much for their help. I turned my back and started toward the door.
They shuffled behind me. “Or you can take your chances with this.” The sound of paper fluttering turned me around. The one on the far right held a single, partially burned piece of parchment. Words were printed in red across the paper. I reached out and took the sheet from them.
Venom of a Guardian
Blood of a Vampire
Yoke of dragons
Fire of an elemental
“This is some sort of recipe?” I ran a finger over the words.
“Yes, but you must gather the items in order.”
I looked at Erik who was reading over my shoulder. “What do you think, will it work?”
The women cackled. “Oh, it will work, Blood of the Lost. That we know. It will kindle the child in your belly, bringing her with a speed that will leave you plenty of time to love her, so when you leave her, the pain will be as if your heart is being torn from your body.”
Jaw tight, I stepped back from them. “So you’re doing this to make me hurt myself.”
Three heads nodded in unison, grinning. “Yes.”
Erik’s hands tightened around my upper arms. “Why would you want to hurt her?”
“Pain is beauty, pain is life, pain is all there is in the end. We do her a favor, we offer her a way to hold her child sooner. What is that worth to you?” The head in the middle, the oldest one stared at me while the other two stared at the floor.
“You want something for this?”
“We want to be there when you leave the child. When you say your goodbye. The taste of your pain . . . it will be exquisite.” Her lips, all three sets, curled up into an unpleasant smile that did not reach any of her eyes.
Erik put his mouth to my ear and spoke. “They are like a vampire, but feeding off emotion instead of blood.”
A shudder slid through me and I stared at the paper in my hand. What choice was there? I needed this to work, and if my pain was the cost, pain I would experience no matter how this turned out, what did I care if they fed off it?
Back in the monastery I sat in the warm garden watching Catya trying to get the snow leopard to play with her. Across the way from me, Daisy held Zane in one arm while she watched her daughter play in the grass at her feet. At least I knew he was safe, well loved. Not that I didn’t care, I just couldn’t manage more than I’d done for him so far. And I was afraid to give him more of my heart. To leave one child I loved was going to be torture. I wasn’t sure I could leave two.
Catya bopped the leopard in the nose with a paw, and let out a growl. The leopard rolled onto her back and stretched out her limbs. Amusing, and it kept my brain from thinking too hard about the list of ingredients I needed in order to make things happen. The piece of paper crinkled in my hand and I looked down, the words jumping out at me.
“Blaz¸” I called softly, knowing he heard me regardless of the fact I was being quiet. “What is a yoke of dragon?”
His head slid over the edge of the garden wall. Yoke of dragon? Marriage.
I frowned at the paper. “This is a fucking riddle then. I have two ingredients, a marriage and a fucking elemental. How the hell is that a spell?”
Blaz crept along the edge of the wall until he was behind me and could peer over my shoulder. Not that he really needed to do that, he could have picked through my mind to see what I was seeing. But he was never that disrespectful.
I think that’s exactly what you have. The two ingredients are needed, the words for the marriage vows that yoke two dragons together is the incantation and likely the whole thing needs to be done over the fire of an elemental.