Dixie was feeling her age, her joints creaking, her head foggy, her body slow. She’d begun to plan her drives further and further in advance, thinking about turning blocks before she had to so she didn’t miss the street. The connection between her mind and her muscles had gotten so slow, like there was a lag or the connection broke periodically, for nanoseconds, as the kids would say, and then came back. Lorne had no such issues, being as vigorous as he always was, still mowing the lawn, going out hunting, bowling even, and was better than ever. It wasn’t fair.
But life wasn’t fair.
Dixie was feeling that call, the one that told her to go out and talk to Emrys. She got up from the sofa and walked out to the backyard, wondering when it had changed to an overgrown jungle of plants and trees around the edges. There was a large plot of grass in the center and over the side was where she’d had Kay’s playset that included a climbing tower and swings all done in browns and greens, something Dixie would have loved as a girl and Kay seemed to take for granted.
Dixie sighed, standing there, looking around. There were chairs outside but they were beginning to rust, the white metal now sort of orange and brown, though the blue canvas that stretched across the frame on the seat and the back was still solid and unsoiled. Lorne took good care of them. She didn’t come out much, hadn’t since she’d had her last conversation with Emrys so many years ago. But Lorne did.
This early in the year it was still chilly, and Dixie folded her arms across her chest, trying to avoid a shiver. The daffodils were just poking their heads up. The bushes smelled faintly pungent and she missed the scent of the grass which wouldn’t really smell for another month or so when it started to grow and Lorne used the lawn mower for the first time after the finish of winter.
The cement upon which her feet stood was cold, making her want to curl her toes in her heavy slippers, their rubber soles fine for a quick run down the walk to get the mail but not for sitting outside in the early spring. But this needed to be done. Dixie had a feeling she didn’t have that much time.
She closed her eyes, the garden fading from sight, the image becoming black.
“Emrys,” she whispered.
Faster than she remembered, or perhaps her thoughts were just slow, he was there. Even in her vision the yard was an overgrown tangle of bushes and trees mostly colored in a bright evergreen green, practically burying the crepe myrtle that was only beginning to bud. The foliage all sat behind Emrys like a fence between her yard and the rest of the world, creating a tiny kingdom that belonged only to her.
“Lady of the Blood. I am at your service.” Emrys even made a little bow which looked funny on him as he was so much shorter than she was, at least in her mind’s eye. Could she make him look like anything?
“I can look however you want to me to look,” Emrys said, “but, as you have not had any preference to date, I look only like myself.”
Dixie said nothing in reponse to his joke. She just looked at him, letting him wait. Finally, she spoke. “You must promise to leave my daughter out of this when I die.”
“That I cannot do,” Emrys said. “I have an oath older than my oaths to you that must be kept, and she is of the Blood. I will need her here to be a sort of liaison between my kind and the mortals here.”
“And if she does not wish to do that?” Dixie asked. She had fed Kay so much information about being a good girl, a good Christian woman, and how Corbin Meadow made it hard, she knew that although the child was married to her high school sweetheart, Taran Rees, that she longed to live elsewhere. Dixie hoped that perhaps that would happen one day.
“There will be pain and suffering here,” Emrys said. “Ultimately mortals will win out because there are but few of us, but we will take many with us, make more suffer, and spread terror. I will be unable to stop them, nor will I be able to participate for I have, as I said, made oaths to that effect.”
“But you’d want to,” Dixie asked.
Emrys smiled, his teeth looking particularly sharp to her eyes, which, she realized, seemed sharper in her mind’s eye than in reality. Had she begun to lose her sight, too? Cataracts or some such thing floated through her mind.
Dixie sighed. He was indeed a demon and she was probably going to hell.
“Keep my daughter safe,” Dixie pleaded. “I know you have other oaths but keep her safe. Do it for me. I will do what I can to keep her here.”
Or not. But Dixie shut that thought down even as she considered the best way to convince Kay to leave and never come back. Did she really care about the town as much as she cared about her daughter’s soul? Her own was long since forfeit.
“I will do so,” Emrys said. “Though all of the Blood have a certain amount of protection, imperfect though it is, especially now when the blood is so thin in most, it is harder for me to exert my will over the rest.”
Dixie didn’t understand his words, didn’t care about his words.
“Can I release you from your first oath?” Dixie asked.
Emrys was silent for a few moments. Then he said, “It has been tried and with words that seemed airtight to me, yet I am bound. Only the original binder could release me, and he is long dead.”
Dixie sighed. “Then I wish to be able to protect my daughter from harm. I wish to help keep the town safe so she doesn’t have to risk her soul! I wish that my wish extends beyond my lifespan.”
Emrys sighed. “Your daughter does not risk her soul talking to me, nor have you. I will do what I can to grant your wish, though you may not appreciate the outcome.”
Dixie smiled and opened her eyes. She went inside the house, looking around at her things, the small kitchen that had always seemed too dark despite the large window over the sink, the wood flooring that Lorne had put in, the family photos she’d arranged in a collage along the hallway. When she was gone what would happen to these things that were a repository of her own hopes and dreams?
Chapter 43 will be coming next Friday. Don’t want to wait? Find the book here.