Light My Fire

Page 85

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"Don't say my father again."
"No. It started long before him." She turned and, tightly gripping the arms, slowly placed her human body into a high-back wood chair. "Your grandfather. It was his love of the humans that brought this curse down on all our heads. I'd give up all hope if it weren't for that lot out there."
The old She-dragon grinned, and it would have been the most disturbing thing he'd seen in his life if he hadn't recently witnessed a mother cut out the eye of her own child. "Now that there, boy . . . that's power. The three apart are to be reckoned with, but together . . ." Her grin grew, and Celyn suddenly understood where the lizard comparison came from.
With Elina resting near him and knowing they were safe from the Riders, at least for the moment, Celyn let his natural curiosity take over.
"What are you doing here, Brigida?"
"Doing here?"
"In the Outerplains? Why aren't you in the Southlands? Why aren't you part of Rhiannon's court?"
"Rhiannon's court," she scoffed. "I remember her, too, when she was no more than a hatchling, hanging onto her daddy's tail. Now that," the old witch said, "was a mother and daughter who had true hate for each other."
"Rhiannon doesn't hate Keita. Her daughter just irritates her."
"No. No. Rhiannon and her mother. Adienna. Now that Adienna I liked."
"Because you could easily control someone so insipid and worthless?"
"Aye," she replied eagerly, startling Celyn. "That's exactly why! That Rhiannon is a useless girl, too. But we do have something in common."
"You're both White Dragonwitches that terrorize all those around you?"
"You'd think so, but no." She gestured outside the alcove. "It's them three. So much power and they don't even know it yet."
"They know it." Celyn sighed, his fingers stroking Elina's arm. He'd like to think he was doing it for her benefit, but it was really more for his. "And don't pretend for a second they don't."
That disturbing milky eye in Brigida's head that seemed to have a life of its own locked on him.
"You close to them?" she asked.
"Not particularly. We're cousins, Cadwaladrs, and I'd protect them with me life. But if you're asking if I know all their secrets, I don't even know a one."
"Too bad." She tried to push herself up, but stopped after a second or two. "Over here, boy. Give me a hand."
Celyn did as ordered and went to his ancestor. He gripped her arms and helped her to her feet. Once she was standing, he forced himself to be brave and look down into that horrifying face. "What do you want from them, Brigida? What do you want from Rhian and the twins?"
"What do you think, boy?" She patted his chest and began to move slowly around him. "Everything."
She held out her hand. "Give me my staff."
Celyn saw it resting against the wall and retrieved it. But just touching the damn thing made his skin crawl as nothing ever had before. He couldn't hand it over to the witch fast enough.
She leaned heavily on it and began walking again. "Unfortunately," she went on, "it looks like they're Cadwaladr stubborn. So I'll need to find a different way in, won't I?"
She abruptly stopped and looked back at Celyn. "What can you tell me about their mothers?"
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Elina had no idea if it was day or night when she awoke. Nor did she know where she was. The light from a nearby pit fire and torches on the wall lit the room so that she could see. But her head, face, and neck pained her beyond anything she could remember. She tried to go back to sleep, but her body wouldn't allow it.
She thought maybe some water would help, so she slowly-very slowly-sat up. Even that, though, had her feeling dizzy and off-balance, though she hadn't even put her feet on the floor yet. She instinctively put her hand to her head, and that's when she felt the bandages.
Everything rushed back to her then. Every horrible thing.
Determined to face this all head-on, Elina put her feet on the floor. With care, she pushed herself to a standing position and waited until she felt confident she wouldn't fall over or throw up . . . or both at the same time.
Silently and still very slowly, she made her way to the standing mirror she spied in the corner of the room. As she walked, she glanced around at the walls and ceiling. It reminded her of the Dragon Queen's home, making her think she was in another cave. Although this one had a bed and table and chairs and a standing mirror sized for a human.
She stopped walking. Do dragons have mirrors sized for them? How big would that be? Does anyone make mirrors that big?
Realizing she was thinking what Glebovicha always called her "stupid thoughts," Elina continued walking. She was near the mirror, but she must have been off a bit, because she ended up walking into the nearby table. She stared down at it, wondering how it had moved.
Elina sidled over a few feet and continued on. After a few seconds, she reached the mirror but ended up walking into it. Now annoyed, she took a step back, then another, before lifting her head. A large bandage covered the entire left side of her face and the right part of her head, which explained why she kept walking into things.
Determined to see the damage, Elina untied the material holding the bandage in place. That removed, the bandage fell away and Elina just . . . stared.

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