Normally, after calling someone three times without answer, a person would accept that that someone is busy and go do something else for a while. Risa continued trying to call Zephyr instead. She justified it by reminding herself that crystals don’t have voicemail or caller id functions, so how was he supposed to know that she wanted to speak to him unless she called him every thirty seconds until he picked up? Clearly, the best solution was to keep trying.
Not that it was a very good solution, though, since every attempt to connect ate up a little more of her energy. It got to a point where she had no choice but to stop. She flopped back onto the rug in her living room and started rolling around.
“Are you alright?”
Risa stopped flat on her back and wiggled around until she could see Aubrey. “FML.”
Negotiating with the Mid-grounds was a very different experience from negotiating with the Overcurrent. When she tried to get the Overcurrent to do things, she could usually expect it to take a while (except for that last time with Aubrey, that had been an exception). There would be a lot of talking amongst themselves, then talking with her, then some back and worth and trying to threaten them. Negotiating with Crow made her wonder if there was actually anyone higher in the organization than him. It all seemed too fast for a government organization.
Risa and her bros had been lounging in the conference room Peri led them to for only a couple hours before being summoned back to Crow’s office. Where she was handed a written contract that was several pages long, front and back. Risa couldn’t help but wonder if that meant the contract had already been written up ahead of time. Maybe he’d had a document on his computer that he’d just made a few quick adjustments to after speaking to his boss? Or had he even done that? Had he just sent her out of the room to give the impression that he was talking to other people about her proposal when really he had the authority to make these decisions all on his own?
That was probably her just being paranoid, though. Did he really have anything to gain from doing something like that? Probably not. Unless it was just a thing to make them appear to be a larger, more powerful organization than they actually were?
It was a strange feeling, heading home after being gone so long. How long had it even been, anyway? She tried to take stock of how much time had passed between traveling, hanging with Zephyr, traveling, hanging with Zane and Liam, traveling, hanging with the Lenisyrr bros, and traveling again. She had a vague recollection of days and nights passing, but trying to actually put words to and quantify that was just…not working. Her memories were too fuzzy on that front. That wasn’t normal. She didn’t remember having that much trouble with time before. Was that normal for a Fey?
If she’d been in human form (or at least had her feet on the ground), she would have shaken her head. She really needed to focus on navigating. She gave the wings of her crow form a deliberate beat. Since her instincts were so used to flying, it was easy for her to get lost in her mind while her body flew on autopilot. That was usually fine, had even been a blessing during the first part of the trip from Lenisyrr when Aubrey and Chrys argued over the safety of flying upside down and in loops around the other members of their mini-flock. It wasn’t so good now that they were flying over the suburbs on the outskirts of her city in the Mid-grounds.
I consider 5.9 to be a particularly important scene since it’s time for a chat with the bird agents. When I outlined Quest 5, I specifically left myself a note to make sure this scene was finished early so I could edit and make sure everything was correct. Despite starting to write it before 5.8 was even published, I still failed to finish it early (or on time for that matter). I’m disappointed with myself for breaking my updating on time combo. I don’t want to rush this one, though, so I’m going to take some more time to work on it. Update will be posted before Friday and it shouldn’t affect next week’s update. Sorry guys!
Getting the scene of the fire under control was a struggle. Though, in Zane’s opinion, it was far easier than sitting quietly through the ridiculously long debriefing that the guard captains on the scene insisted on having afterwards. The humans were reluctant to credit a demon with having helped at all, so Liam and his “drake handling skills” got the credit for both of their efforts. It was annoying, but Zane let it go out of gratitude for Liam managing to convince the guards in charge not to send the demon into the burning building.
Instead, he and Liam had been tasked with catching the escaped drakes so that the Angels could focus on fighting the fire (which, thankfully, kept Friday too occupied to hurt him). It had simultaneously been a good and a bad idea. Good in that there were many panicked animals that froze when they felt him near them just long enough for Liam to restrain them. Bad in that there were quite a few other panicked animals that simply panicked more in his presence. Zane had taken the form of a drake species that would boost his tolerance for the heat and smoke. It wasn’t perfect—he was still an ice demon at his core and that prevented him from taking full advantage of this form’s abilities—but it was better than staying in human form. This particular form also provided him with a long, whip-like tail that he put to use tripping some of the ones that tried to flee. Which then gave Liam the chance to restrain them.
(Note: Good luck to anyone participating in this month’s Camp NaNoWriMo! Write ALL the things!)
Zane cracked an eye open when he felt someone looking at him. Liam was staring at him again. Towards the end of the call to Risa, he’d noticed that the three humans had finished their conversation and were listening to him talk. It was the major reason he’d decided to end his conversation with her when he did. Not that they were really going to be talking about things that the humans shouldn’t hear (and if they were they could easily phrase things in a way that they would understand, but which would be ambiguous for any other listeners). He just didn’t like having people so obviously listening to him. Especially while talking to Risa. His time with Risa, even when they were far apart, was something that he felt an urge to protect. Nico would probably have some kind of story about the history of his species and their peculiarities to explain such behavior. Zane really didn’t care for an explanation; he was content to be protective.
After the call had ended, he hadn’t particularly been in the mood to share the content of said conversation. Seeing the humans staring at him expectantly, he’d yawned, then stretched out on the ground with an ankle resting on his bent knee and his hands behind his head. “Wake me when you find something interesting in those books” had been the only thing he’d said. He’d ignored every attempt from any of the humans to strike up a conversation after that. Ami had huffed, but she knew better than to push him if she actually wanted to get answers. William had simply handed her some books and gone back to his own portion of the pile. The two had shot a few annoyed glances in the direction of the third human, who’d persisted in asking questions about the call for several moments more. He’d only stopped once Ami fetched a few more books and dropped them heavily into his lap. Every so often, he’d paused his reading in order to stare at the demon.
This time, Zane actually made eye contact. He smiled, kicking his foot a little. “How’s the research going, Liam?”
“Eventually you’ll have to tell everyone.“
Risa felt frozen as she heard the voice of the demon she’d killed as clearly as if she’d been there whispering in her ear. Ilise had said it thinking that eventually Risa’s guilt over the death would lead her to tell Zane and everyone else. It hadn’t. In fact, Risa hadn’t thought about Ilise at all recently. With all the new revelations about awful things the Overcurrent Council had done over the years, that memory should have come up again, shouldn’t it? She felt guilty and uncomfortable that it hadn’t. Was she just heartless or something? Was that why it was so easy for her to forget about having killed someone? Or was it residual from her original Angel life where she’d thought nothing about killing demons? Each possible explanation she thought of just made her feel worse.