Avenari - Chapter 12
“Okay, here’s the lowdown on what I want to do while I’ve got this opportunity,” I began, only to have the ancient cut me off.
“Before you do anything, I suggest you feed your pet.” Andris had given up on avoiding us at last, and sat with his boots on the leather and his arms around his knees, in absolute disregard for our furniture.
“You’re just hell-bent on destroying my happy time, aren’t you?” I demanded. “What do you care how Nick’s doing?”
Sharp burgundy eyes leered at me over his elbow. “I’m just thinking ahead. If he passes out from exhaustion, I won’t care one iota. Whatever the hell you have planned, I wanted nothing to do with it—but now that you have my curiosity for the time being, I suggest that you take care of the human’s business first. The moment you get sidetracked, I’m leaving.”
I wasn’t as good at reading people as Ivan was, but something in the blood told me that he wouldn’t leave, no matter how sidetracked we got. However, I saw no reason to egg him on with that little observation, and after some thought I realized that he did have a point about taking care of all of Nick’s needs before going on this little trip.
I nodded slowly. “Fine. You’re right, Andris.” I raised an eyebrow at Nick. “You want to eat before we go? There’s a fridge with food for the maids, and I wouldn’t want to starve you.”
He realized that I was talking to him, but before he could reply his stomach beat him to it with a loud gurgling noise. Blushing slightly, he forced a chuckle. “Yeah, I’d eat just about anything right now.” If the bags under his eyes were any indication, he would have fallen asleep just about anywhere, too. I made a mental note to let him nap during the trip.
“Well that’s evident,” I laughed, shaking my head and looking to the disgruntled demon sitting in my favorite chair. “What about you, Andy? Are you hungry?”
Andris’ cold gaze slid up. “Is that supposed to be a joke or are you on the menu?” The darkness of his irises shifted toward his pupils, exposing a ring of crimson around the edges. It was actually kind of eerie.
A shiver picked its way down my spine, but I fought off the sensation and snapped back, “I don’t know. I’ve never been a cheeseburger before.”
He blinked, frowning a little. The red disappeared with the blink, leaving his eyes muted and black. With a bored sigh, he reclined once more, stretching his long legs out to rest his feet on the coffee table. “Go feed your pet,” he muttered.
Nick wanted to protest the prolonged use of the term “pet,” but I shook my head and nodded toward the kitchen. Being far more reasonable than I could ever have been in his situation, he held his tongue.
“Please don’t run off while I’m gone,” I said to the ancient, pausing while Nick got up and muttered darkly about impossibly old people acting like children.
Andris closed his eyes, as though preparing to take a nap, and made a shooing motion with one pale hand. “Go, I said. I won’t leave the Manor—you have my word on that.”
It was only natural to doubt him, but in the end I decided to put that little bit of trust in the capricious being. Maybe, if luck were on my side, he would keep his word and possibly even warm up to the idea of being around others like him. Sure, I didn’t feed on other Shimaren, but we had enough in common to coax him out of that shell…probably.
“Come on,” I said to Nick. “The kitchen’s this way.” Casting a final, thoughtful look at the impassive ancient, I led my mortal friend to the kitchen, where I had first experienced Andris’ power. No one knew about that, though...and I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell.
In addition to a stainless steel fridge housing the drinks which had become the extent of normalcy in our diets, there was also a mini-fridge on one of the black granite countertops. The maids were the only ones who ever used our kitchen for actual cooking. As always, there were plenty of leftovers and sandwich ingredients and whatnot to temper a mortal’s hunger.
After seeking out a plate in one of the cupboards, I turned Nick loose on the minuscule buffet and couldn’t help but laugh when he wisely elected to make a mere sandwich.
“Why not some of this?” I asked, reaching into the fridge and holding up a small container of brownish, soupy something-or-other.
He didn’t even look up from the cutting board. “I don’t think I could identify half of that crap, even if I had a microscope and a spectrometer. What country is your cleaning staff from, anyway? I think one of those containers had tentacles in it.” After spreading a thin layer of mayo on the second slice of bread, he laid it on top of the ham, cheese, and lettuce, and compressed it into something about the width of his thumb.
“You make weird sandwiches,” I remarked, ignoring his comments concerning our maids. They did a damn fine job, so I couldn’t possibly have cared less about how bizarre their cuisine became. Actually, a few of them were from the Philippines, and their food always smelled the best. Sometimes, when no one was looking, I liked to open the containers and enjoy the aroma of food that Mom had once cooked for me when I was little.
“Yeah, yeah, go ahead and mock the lowly mortal all you want, but at least I can enjoy any food I like,” he replied coolly, setting aside the sandwich and barbecue-flavored chips to put all the leftovers back.
“Way to rub the salt, kid.” I eyed his meal with a hint of jealousy. I kind of missed food.
He laughed a little and picked up his plate, but paused before the door with a slightly doubtful expression. “Hey, I have to ask: is it really okay for me to be here? I mean, what with the way you guys were talking about ‘Brood Manors’ and all, I don’t want to pose a potential risk. Besides, you and the twins seem so close...I wouldn’t want to get in the way of any of it.”
I briefly considered his argument, and ultimately reached out to tweak his nose—which he bore more out of bafflement than anything else. “Now see here, whippersnapper,” I teased, “you don’t seem to realize that I’ve been with the twins since I was human. That’s a damn long time to live with the same people. With Simone here, the Emperor himself couldn’t stop me from keeping you around unless he had a remarkably good reason and a really big stick.” I nodded toward the living room, where Andris was supposedly still waiting. “I’m the opposite of him, see? I love having lots of people to talk to. Problem is, I’m kind of not allowed.”
“Huh...it’s hard to imagine where I would be now if you hadn’t appeared out of thin air and shoved reality in my face,” he said.
I laughed, following him down the hall with a trio of sodas. “Well, you know what can be said about hindsight.”
“What, that it’s twenty-twenty or whatever?”
I grinned, laughing even more. “Nope. I usually say that hindsight offers an astonishingly excellent view of what an ass you can be.”
He made a face. “Har-har, very funny. Mock my suicide attempt, why don’t you.”
“I try to be funny in the face of depressing subjects. Life is in the laughter, after all.”
Once we reached the living room, Nick made a beeline for the sofa; setting his plate on the coffee table and executing an agile one-handed catch over his head when I tossed him his soda. However, when I turned to offer the second drink to Andris, I found the chair devoid of any sign that he had ever even been there.
Biting into his sandwich, Nick noticed the empty seat and gave a cynical chuckle. “Why am I not surprised?” He sighed and cracked the drink open. “You should just let him go. As the prey animal in this setting, I’m getting some seriously freaky vibes off of that guy. He’s more dangerous than either he or Simone was letting on, I’ll bet.”
I rounded on him in earnest. “No, you don’t understand! The whole plan is ruined if he’s not involved, and someone like that...the last thing he needs is more solitude. We have to break him in one fell swoop, or else the second attempt would take twice as much time and effort!”
“What am I, a horse?” asked a silky voice from behind.
Nick almost squirted Code Red out of his nose in surprise, and I whirled around, nearly smacking right into the Crimson.
“Whoa! He just appeared! Like a ghost!” the kid was babbling.
From the look on Andris’ face, it was obvious that he now had some serious doubts as to my intentions. His eyes had gone even darker, and his pupils were lost in that darkness.
Time to change the subject.
“Where were you?” I asked, not a little shrilly, as I tried to shake off the jumpy, tingling sensation which the close scent of his blood induced. After getting a taste, I could smell it through his skin, it seemed.
“I was looking around,” Andris said, folding his arms across his chest and lifting a dark, questioning brow. “Now, what’s this nonsense I overheard about a plan being ruined due any absence on my part?”
I tried looking to Nick for some moral support, but he had already moved to the other side of the table to eat with his back to me, making it plain that he refused to take any responsibility whatsoever for my actions, or to assist in any way.
“Actually,” I said with an uncertain laugh, “I’ve got a proposition for you.” I searched his devastatingly handsome, yet eerily emotionless face for signs of cooperation or interest.
Unfortunately, he remained as blank as a sheet of paper. “What is it?”
Clearly, the roundabout chatter would do nothing to improve my odds, so I decided to wing it. “Well, you see, Simone’s being summoned to the Eastern Brood Manor to do some work for the Emperor, but I don’t want him to go…so I was wondering if you could lend me some of your clout and knowledge to help me get there and take Simone’s place.”
“I see,” he muttered, unconvinced. “And the mortal?”
Nick froze with the sandwich halfway to his mouth and cast a curious look over his shoulder. “Hey, yeah. Am I coming with you? I mean, I’m mortal, sure, but maybe you shouldn’t go with him by yourself. Not that I can do anything, but I’ll at least be there for moral support when he turns on you.” Andris shot him a freezing glare and he shut up.
“Won’t your parents notice?” the ancient asked, his expression making it clear that there were to be no more snide remarks from the human.
Slowly, Nick shook his head. “Notice? Probably. Care? No way. I could be gone for a week, and they’d still assume up and down that I was at a friend’s house. It wouldn’t be the first time I disappeared for a few days. Besides, my dad’s on a business trip, so Mom will definitely be spending most of her time either bar-hopping or watching game show reruns. Bob Barker is recruiting a zombie army. Seriously. And my mom will be his general.”
This response didn’t seem to sit well with the Crimson, but he didn’t press the matter any further than that. Instead, he looked to me for my verdict. “Well? You do realize that bringing him to Ivanarke could get him killed. Revealing a Brood Manor’s location to a mortal is unprecedented. Worst case scenario: they’ll execute him.”
I folded my arms. “I won’t allow that to happen. Nick can come if he wants to come, and neither you nor the Emperor himself can do a thing to stop me from protecting him. What about you? Are you coming?”
Andris’ expression was less than supportive. “I don’t feel like crossing the Pacific for someone’s absurd whim. I’ll stay here and relax while you’re gone, if that’s all right with you.”
“But...but I need you to come. I don’t even know where it is, and Simone says that only ancients with powerful spatial senses and people who’ve been shown the location can sense the barrier from outside.” I took hold of his sleeve and tugged in earnest. “Please? I promise not to ask for more than this. I just don’t want Simone facing Tivor again. He starts acting weird, like we’re not even here.”
“Oh? And what’s this delusion you seem to have that I give a damn about Simone’s personality defects when it comes to his Maker?” Andris yanked his arm away and took a step back. “He has built his entire philosophy upon the self-perpetuating lie that all people are good. But when he comes across a person who violates that belief, he refuses to see the truth.
“Well, here I am: solid, living evidence that some of us are too far-gone to ever again be considered ‘good.’ Tivor is no exception. Don’t let your Maker’s weaknesses in that respect dull your instincts. You don’t stand a chance against an ancient, amulets or no.”
Stubbornness was one thing, but now he’d crossed the line. I hadn’t said anything about him, yet he was insulting my Maker? Unforgivable.
“Simone is a thousand times the man you will ever be,” I growled. “At least he has a heart. He’s been taking care of me ever since you killed my mother. You’re nothing but an empty, murderous shadow, so the least you could do is attempt to make up for what you did to me!” I paused for a breath and realized suddenly that I was yelling at someone who could crush me like a bug. I shut my mouth tightly and winced.
But though I had braced myself for a swift retaliation on his part, he flinched instead. “Don’t call me a shadow, please,” he said vacantly, his irises fading to palest lavender. “And I have a heart, believe it or not—had a heart, to be more precise. I don’t know where I’ve put it, but it was there at some point. Otherwise, I wouldn’t feel so empty all the time.”
I couldn’t stop my rootless eyes from gawking at him. I couldn’t even begin to fathom how my remark could have injured someone as cold as he was. However, it seemed that I had, in fact, done exactly that.
Great. Now I felt guilty.
“Damn it...I’m sorry,” I forced myself to grumble, looking away. “You don’t have to come if you don’t want to, but at least tell me how to get there. You can stay in the Manor as long as you’d like.” It wasn’t usually my thing to give up so easily, but my blood was whispering that the color in his eyes meant I had said something horrible. Guilt was my bane, so to speak.
“What?” Suddenly, he returned, shutting down the telltale color show.
I shrugged helplessly. “Well, I’m not strong enough to drag you there, and it’s obvious that you have some serious issues with the Shimari Empire. Plus, you don’t seem to have any self-esteem or motivation to fix the problem. I can’t even imagine what they must have put you through over the years to mess you up this badly.”
He stared at me in curiosity and surprise. “Just like that? What about Simone? I thought you were hell-bent on keeping him away from Tivor.”
I folded my arms, just a little miffed that he found my sympathy so shocking. “Simone’s a big boy. He doesn’t need me to take care of his business for him—I just don’t like how he acts after an encounter with his Maker. It’s like he doesn’t care about me anymore. It passes, of course, but it hurts me just the same.”
For several long seconds he watched me…then bowed his head with an abused sigh and reached out with one hand to place its strange warmth on my shoulder.
“When do you want to leave?” he asked tightly.
“Eh?” I had to crane my neck to look up at him from this close. “What do you mean?”
“If it’s really that important to you, then fine, I’ll come,” he muttered. “Maybe I’ll find some sort of closure in all of this...and besides, I owe you at least that much.” Breaking off, he shook his head in apparent awe. “I can’t believe I just said that.” Slowly, he removed his hand to hide it in his pocket, but on impulse, I took it back with a gentle squeeze.
“Thank you, Andris,” I said as sincerely as I could.
After a moment of surprise, he extracted his hand from mine and slipped it into his jeans’ pocket. “You’re welcome,” he said, turning to go sit back down. “It’s in Japan—Northern Honshu. Do you still feel the cold?”
“Huh? Cold? Triggers, you mean?”
He glanced up briefly in thought, before turning away again and shaking his head. “What am I saying? Of course you still feel the cold,” he half-laughed to himself. “You and the mortal will need coats.”
“My name is Nick!” the mortal snapped, shaking an annoyed bread crust at him.
Andris gave him little more than askance consideration. “When the blood she gave you wears off, and you’re vulnerable to other Shimaren once more, you had better practice extreme caution, Nick. I could kill you just by thinking about it.” His innate loathing of mortals was so obvious that it almost hurt to contemplate. It exuded from him like the scent of his blood.
Rather wisely, Nick backed down and hunched his shoulders slightly, munching the rest of his crust in tense silence.
“You know, for someone so physically warm, your personality is ice cold,” I remarked.
The grandfather clock chimed the quarter-hour and Andris’ chilly eyes traced the path of the pendulum as it swung side to side. “My triggers are fire and ice. That dichotomy alone should be reason enough for my skewed outlook on life.”
I wanted to argue about the impossibility of triggers which occupied opposite ends of the power spectrum—mostly because Shimaren like that ended up destroying themselves very early on. Before I could even think to speak, Andris turned to glare at the window.
“Sunrise,” he growled like a curse.
Frowning, Nick and I looked at each other, and then turned to peer out the living room window at the sliver of gold clinging to the edge of the world. It slowly rose beyond the forest, as if afraid of what it might find on the other side.
“So?” Nick said. “It happens every day.”
When I looked back, the darkness in the ancient’s eyes started shifting restlessly, fading and darkening in patches, as though uncertain as to how he should feel about the sun’s approach. “Would you like to see what happens to a Nariuvne when Helios comes to put you normals to sleep?” he asked, glancing back at me as he walked slowly towards the door. With that offer, the darkness finally made its choice, and lowered over his irises so completely that his pupils vanished. He blinked repeatedly and frowned.
“What is it?” I asked, startled.
“This is how I measure my years,” he said. There was an eerie, hollow quality to his voice, as if mental distance could show in his audible speech. Faster, then, the sun lured him into its flame.
“Nick, let’s go!” I tugged the kid out of his seat and half-dragged him along, while he protested in broken interjections peppered with curses.
Andris was already at the door, pulling it open and stepping out into the crisp morning air. Broken rays of light reached across the land, pouring through the open sky as I brought Nick across the threshold and jerked him to an abrupt halt right behind the Crimson.
The first edge of direct light was mere moments away, and I slowly led Nick off to the side so that I could watch the sunrise. The radiant fireball at last decided to rise, then. It hit us with light like liquid, weightless gold, and I sighed at the warmth. It had been so long…
Smiling, I glanced at Andris, and any words I might have had caught in my throat when the light touched him. His pearly skin took on a warm glow, making him seem so alive—assuming he was “dead” like the rest of us, of course. I could see the colors in his eyes now, though they were shrouded behind a thin layer of darkness. It was like he had built-in sunglasses. After glaring at the sun for a brief moment, his eyes closed tightly.
At first, it was impossible to see what the big deal was, but just as I opened my mouth to make that observation, I stopped before any sound could escape. It was all I could do to stare.
Starting at the tips, the strands of hair making up his fringe began to drain of all color, as though the blackness were being drawn back into his scalp. It was a domino effect, accelerating as the change traveled back, until the hair right behind his ears had faded only halfway, leaving the rest as dark as it had been at night.
The colorless hair shimmered like the purest ice, scattering pinpoints of sunlight into flecks of color, while the black remained normal, giving off a sharp, bluish sheen.
Whatever it was had finished.
Andris’ eyes opened a crack, then a little more, before turning to peer at me through the cascade of frozen strands. His eyes bore stark contrast against all that white, enhanced by his long, black lashes. I found myself incapable of making any sound at all when they met mine. They were black diamonds, with the ghosts of every other gemstone in their limitless depths. They didn’t shatter light into its basic colors—they either absorbed it or reflected it away. I could almost see other colors beyond the darkness, but it was so faint.
He frowned a little at my reaction and cast a final glare at the rising orb, before slinking past me to reenter the Manor. “I hate sunrise...”
Until Nick’s voice broke through my daze, I didn’t even notice that I was still staring at the spot where Andris had been standing.
“Lynn! Wake up!” Nick shook my shoulder lightly, and I had to fight to look up at him. “He’s been in there for a while. Aren’t you going in, too?”
“Uh...yeah.” Still in a state of mild shock, I wandered back inside.
My thoughts gathered in a cluttered mess, each one battling for immediate attention. Never before had I seen anything even remotely like the Crimson. I didn’t even know where to begin figuring him out. I knew that there were plenty of ancients out there who could manipulate the physical world, but I had never heard of the physical world manipulating any of my kind.
We were a static people. We never aged, never wrinkled. Our hair and nails grew, but slowly, and always predictably. Andris, however, seemed in constant flux. He changed—there was nothing static about him.
I had to know more.
Back in the living room, we found the ancient in his chair again. His head was thrown back like before, but this time he seemed to be in pain, pressing a thumb and forefinger to his temples and frowning slightly. His forehead was almost as pale as his new hair.
“Andris?” I ventured, just a little worried. “Are you all right?”
At first he didn’t respond, but after a few seconds he let out a fatigued sigh and peered through slender fingers with those infinite obsidian eyes. “Just a headache,” he said softly. “I haven’t fed in nearly three months, so sunrise wears me out. There aren’t many Shimaren around here, other than your family and that strange one with the restaurant. I didn’t even know the identity of your family until last night...”
“Oh.” For some reason, I was relieved that he wasn’t dying—even more absurd was the fact that I had actually considered the possibility.
Nick, on the other hand, was unimpressed. “A headache? You’re supposed to be some ultra-powerful being, and one little headache puts you out of commission? How lame is that?”
Andris merely frowned. “Shut up or I’ll kill you where you stand.” He kept his voice down, probably to avoid exacerbating the pain, and put his boots up on the coffee table.
“Son of a—!”
Before the kid could say something irreversible, I touched his shoulder and shook my head when he glared at me. “Let it go. It’s not worth it.”
“Is that really okay with you?” he hissed. “A little support would be nice—the guy’s totally dissing my species here!”
“In my world, you’re going to have to ignore that kind of thing. Technically, dinner isn’t supposed to argue. Get it?”
He wanted to argue. He wanted to argue so badly that he looked about ready to break. However, rather than doing exactly that, he let out a frustrated grumble and folded his arms, as if not doing so might result in some violent outburst. Thank sanity for common sense.
“Anyway,” I added, once certain that Nick could keep it together, “if you piss him off, he might lose the inclination to stick around. I need his help, okay?”
I smirked. “Hey, look on the bright side: at least I like having you around.”
He shot me an unimpressed leer. “Like that’s any consolation with that mortal-hating bastard hanging around and insulting me every five seconds.”
I let that one go. He had good reason for resenting the ancient’s attitude.
Andris chose that moment to speak up. “If you two are done, you might as well have a seat. I’m not getting up until this damn headache goes away—unless, of course, Lynn would like to facilitate the process with a small donation.”
The fact that he had heard us made me wince, but that last bit swept away any shame I may have felt. “Pass,” I replied curtly.
“I thought as much,” he sighed, sounding a tad regretful. “Sit. Ask what questions you may have now. There’s no telling what mood I’ll be in the next time you’re curious.”
“Seems to me that ‘pissed’ is your natural state,” quipped the mortal. I slapped his arm and he flinched away. “Dammit! That hurts!”
“Good,” I said, leaving him where he stood and taking the seat nearest to the ancient. Nick stared after me, but eventually shuffled over and dropped down at my side.
The three of us sat in uneasy silence for several minutes. I didn’t know what to ask first. There were too many questions vying for the front of the line.
“Just pick one already,” Andris muttered. “I’ll answer what I can—or, rather, what I feel like answering.”
“Don’t invade my head!” I protested out of habit.
He snorted despite himself. “I’ll invade whatever the hell I want. I’m here, am I not? You couldn’t even keep me out of your own home. Now ask me something. It’ll take my mind off my head...wow, that sounded odd...”
I frowned, slightly piqued at his temperament and bizarre personality. “Why do you get a headache?” I said at length.
“My blood reacts to the sun—thus, the change in color scheme. If I haven’t fed in too long, the energy it takes to assume my daytime form leaves me a little weak—thus, the headache. I didn’t used to get headaches. I think it came with the power.”
“Huh...weird. So what about the hair? And how does the sun tell you how old you are?”
He was quiet for a moment, and his hand unconsciously slipped into his fringe, before dropping into his lap. He drew his knees up to put his boots on the leather and sat forward, staring ahead at something beyond the fireplace.
“My hair used to be about his hair color.” He motioned to Nick. “But that was when I was mortal. Once I came into my blood’s power, it gradually turned black. This was visible day or night. About three millennia ago, once everything was black, it started to turn white. The white only comes out during the day, and it’s changing much more slowly this time around.
“Every so often, it turns completely white for a day, but once night falls it becomes black again. The next day, there’s a little more white than before.” He rested an arm across his knees and laid his head on it, facing us, but not really looking at us.
“What about your eyes?” I pressed, sensing that he was pulling away again. “The whole Christmas light thing is cool, but it’s kind of weird, too. And now they’re so dark…”
His brow creased a little. “My eyes used to be normal, but once I changed they turned black, like how they are during the day. After a while, they started to change color at night—not by much, though. It was gradual, like my hair, but they’ve been this way for a few thousand years now. Most likely, as my blood matured, my eyes built up a tolerance for light. Now that I’m older, the extra protection at night is unnecessary. I hate bright lights at night, though.”
“What makes the different colors?”
He glanced away. “Emotions—it’s irritating. The only way to hide my thoughts is to withdraw until I feel nothing. I suppose that’s one good thing about the dawn. It gives me a break. I can act however I want, and nobody can decipher the reasons behind it.”
This time, it was Nick who couldn’t restrain curiosity. “What does each color mean, then?” he asked.
“Figure it out yourself,” the ancient snapped. “I don’t feel like telling.”
“You’re such an asshole!” Nick exploded, surprising even me. “What gives you the right to write me off when you don’t even know who I am?!”
Andris rolled his eyes. “Spare me the melodramatic, existential nonsense. I hate mortals. I also hate Shimaren. You’re no different from any other random sentient being. I hate people—hell, I even hate myself, so don’t feel lonely.”
“Really? Then what about Lynn, huh? You don’t treat her like trash!”
“Adding insult to injury would be a little much after what I’ve already done, don’t you think?” he growled, flashing some seriously wicked fangs. “I’m allowed some honor, am I not?”
Nick stopped himself before he said anything more, casting me an apologetic glance then pretending to admire the rug.
I barely noticed the kid, though. “Andris, may I see your fangs real quick?” I said slowly, incapable of holding in my fascination.
“What?” The look he gave me was wary, as though whatever expression he saw on my face seemed less than benign.
“Your fangs! Let me see them!” I blurted out.
He hesitated…then grimaced, baring his teeth.
The only normal teeth visible were his top and bottom front teeth. Everything else was pointed. He had eight sets, total—four above and four below, with even his premolars sharpened like knives. And his canines were twice as long as the longest I had ever seen, curving neatly against his bottom teeth. They were all arranged so we couldn’t see them unless he wanted us to.
He closed his lips stubbornly, giving me an irritated frown. “Those came gradually, too.”
“Shimaren don’t have fangs like that. They don’t grow, either. They just show up.”
“I’m not a Shimare, remember? I’m a Nariuvne; I’m different from what you are. Shimaren are a lot more slippery than mortals.”
I shook my head, simply impressed. “Seriously, that’s pretty awesome.”
It was obvious that he didn’t share my opinion. “What about you? You say your mother gave you the family treasures in a dream. I may not be capable of sleep—and, as a result, I never dream—but I still have my doubts about those amulets.”
“Well, she did,” I said with a shrug. “Even I thought it was crazy, but the sun was out when I woke up—impossible, of course—and when I tried to remove the ruby, I nearly fried.” I showed him the pale olive skin of my arm and shrugged. “I haven’t been this dark since I lived in Florida. Plus, every time I make a wish, the ruby glows and the wish comes true. I haven’t figured out the moonstone yet, but I think it just enhances my powers.”
The incredulous look on his face made me grimace. “Yeah, yeah—crazy, right? It’s true, though. At least, it seems to be true.”
His expression still didn’t offer any hint of belief. “Then wish for something.”
I frowned. “No. I’m done doing demonstrations.”
“What? Why not?”
“What if I only get a limited number? I don’t feel like wasting them on frivolous whims. I’ll make a wish when I need to, and not a moment sooner.”
He gave me a sour look. “Fine,” he said. “My head feels better. Let’s go before I change my mind.” The Crimson certainly wasn’t all that tolerant of disappointment, but I wouldn’t budge on this one. He would just have to deal with it.
“All right,” I sighed. “Like you said, Nick and I will need layers. I’ll be back in a few, so don’t run off while I’m gone.” Pretending that I hadn’t noticed Andris’ indignant leer, I hurried upstairs to leave a message for Simone and to find one of the twins’ unused coats. We had to move quickly if we wanted to get out of the territory before the sun set on this side of the world. The last thing I needed was Simone’s intervention.
The second-to-last thing I needed was an aggravated ancient ruining my plans.
At that thought, I doubled my pace.