A Fey New World by Amy Sumida
I slipped out of bed with the sunrise. Viper reached for me in his sleep, made a grumbling sound, then sighed and snuggled back under the covers. I smiled at him adoringly. We'd recently discovered that his star magic could speak to my Trinity Star. He had saved me from losing myself to one of the Nine Great Magics and then helped me save the entire God race. Alaric—the Consciousness of the Void—hadn't been kidding when he said that Viper had his own destiny ahead of him and it was a great one.
I'd nearly lost everyone I loved that day, including myself. Because of that scare, I had spent the last few months reconnecting with those loved ones, especially my faerie husband, Arach. I'd gone to see him just before the battle with the god Adro—the battle that had nearly destroyed the Gods. Viper had been missing at the time and I was nervous. I thought he'd left me willingly and I'd needed some space from the drama. But I never should have visited the Faerie Realm while one of my men was missing. When I finally decided that I needed to get back to the God Realm, Arach had been busy in a meeting and I didn't want to disturb him. Mainly because the Faerie Realm had been flourishing—as Faerie, the Consciousness of the Faerie Realm put it—and all of the Fey were feeling the urge to flourish along with their realm. In other words, the entire realm was horny, my husband included.
I—likely because of my mixed ancestry—wasn't affected by the fertility of the realm and I knew that I couldn't waste any time fending off Arach. The fact that I considered making love to my fey husband to be a waste of time shows you just how worried I was about Viper. I left without saying goodbye. I figured that Arach wouldn't miss me; I'd be back in a minute. And I did return in a minute, but there had been a space of time when my return wasn't assured—a moment when I thought my life would end.
During that moment, I had held Viper's hand as we watched a severed god reunite his halves—and nearly destroy the entire race of the Gods in the process—and said goodbye to my husbands through our Blood to Heart bond, which allowed us to speak into each other's minds. But I didn't have that bond with Arach because he wasn't a god and he refused to allow me to make a vow to him that he couldn't return. Which meant that I couldn't tell him goodbye. And I had missed the chance to do it in person because I didn't want to deal with his overstimulated libido. That regret haunted me, even after calamity had been averted.
I'd gone to see Arach as soon as possible and groveled. I confessed that I had left without saying goodbye and had begged his forgiveness; I was that horrified by what had nearly happened. He'd forgiven me, of course, and since he was still “flourishing” had demanded that I make it up to him in bed. Over and over. But when he was finally appeased, he insisted that from there forward, I let him know when I used my Ring of Remembrance to travel through time and space.
The Ring of Remembrance was a faerie relic I inherited from my fey father (father from another life). There were a few rings in existence—Arach owns one too—and they had all been created to allow the long-lived Fey to go back in time and relive their past. Refresh their fading memories. When I use the ring to return to a time that I've already lived through, I have no power to change things, I can only relive them—experience them as a passenger in my own body, which is how the rings were intended to be used.
But I'd found a loophole. Every realm was a self-contained system with its own past, present, and future. This meant that I could spend time in the God Realm and then go back in time to the moment I left the Faerie Realm and freely spend that same time there, without being limited by what I'd already experienced. For my husbands and children, who mostly stayed in their home realms, it seemed as if I never left but, in truth, I did leave, and sometimes, it was for long periods.
In case you didn't catch it, I have multiple husbands. It's not a religious thing, although it's related to gods; it's a magic thing. Lioness magic, to be specific. I need multiple lovers to keep the lioness inside me happy. Without them, I go nuts and sexually assault the nearest man. But I digress.
Arach had forgiven me, and I promised to never jump through time without telling him. Now, I was back in the God Realm with my other husbands and sort of husband, Viper. I'd given him a ring—a magical gold band that would lead me to him if he ever got abducted again and alert me if he were in trouble—and when I put the ring on him, we'd promised to love each other. So, he was sort of my husband. I just call him my husband now to keep things simple. In short, all was good in Vervain's world once more.
I went to the kitchenette, set against the left wall of the bedroom suite, and started the coffee. I used to be a heavy coffee drinker but I'd switched to tea somewhere along the way. Still, there were days when I preferred the caffeine-brain-slam of coffee. As a goddess, a drug has to be powerful to affect my body even momentarily. The caffeine in tea hardly makes a ripple but coffee will briefly give me a boost. Just enough to wake me up—like a splash of water on my face. And when it comes to coffee, I prefer it sweet with steamed milk. I had a machine that made lattes all in one pot. You poured in the milk and it steamed as coffee was brewed directly into it. When it's poured into a mug, it automatically separates, the foam rising to the top. Presto, a latte! Most of my men, however, are not fans of froth so I had to make a separate pot of regular coffee for them. Silly boys.
As the two pots started percolating, I headed into my dressing room. I usually sleep naked so I didn't have to slip out of pajamas before getting into my underwear. Over the lacy bra and panties I selected, I pulled on a silk camisole, some jeans, and a cardigan. It was late Summer now and mornings could be crisp in Pride Territory even though it never got really cold there. My territory was aligned with Africa so we shared the climate. It would warm up soon and so layers were key. Not that I really needed them. As a Dragon-Sidhe—a faerie dragon-shifter—I could turn up my body temperature with a thought. But I liked clothes and sometimes it was nice to warm up the old fashioned way.
I padded out to the kitchenette, which was right in front of my dressing room door, and found my latte waiting in the hands of a werewolf. A werewolf god, actually.
“Good morning, Honey-Eyes.” I took my coffee, admiring the flecks of green in Trevor's honey eyes that could only be seen when he was that close, then kissed him.
“Good morning, Minn Elska,” he growled in my ear.
Minn Elska meant “my love” in Old Norse. Trevor is from the Norse Pantheon; his father is Fenrir, the Wolf God and Father of the Norse Werewolves. Those honey eyes of Trevor's were slightly tilted like a wolf's, the only indication of his wolf nature when he was in his human body. That and the scent of wolf musk that I eagerly inhaled.
“Should we eat breakfast up here?” I asked.
Pride Palace, home of the Intare, had six floors—if you didn't count the towers, my children's bedrooms, and the basement—and our dining hall was on the first floor. We had an elevator so we didn't have to walk down five flights of stairs but sometimes we preferred to have a private breakfast upstairs before we braved the lions. And that's literal; the Intare are a pride of werelions, about eighty of them, most of them alive. A few were souls, recently returned to us from Duat, the Egyptian Underworld. Even though they were souls, my dead lions looked and felt as if they were alive. However, they were bound to my Intare husband, Kirill, and me which meant that they couldn't leave our territory. Not if they wanted their afterlives to continue.
Kirill had become a god fairly recently—the Lion God of Winter and Death. The magic he'd taken to make himself a god had come from a Russian Goddess so, in a way, it tied Kirill to the Russian Pantheon. But he was also my lion and connected to his fellow Intare through me. This bond allowed Kirill to make the magic his own and join with me to form a small pantheon of two gods.
Forming our pantheon gave Kirill the opportunity to bind our lions to him. This was a benefit because, with his new death magic, he could offer our lions an afterlife—something I couldn't do. So, the Intare—including our dead lions who'd been previously bound to Anubis—had accepted Kirill as their second god, and Kirill had used that new connection to bring our dead home. Now, if any of the Intare died, Kirill could summon their souls to Pride Palace. I don't know if all of this has severed his ties with the Russian Pantheon but I hoped it did. Not that there was anything wrong with the Russians. It's just that multiple loyalties can prove difficult. I knew that better than most.
“Tima!” the voice of one of my werelions interrupted our conversation.
“It looks as if we may not have breakfast at all,” Trevor muttered.
I went to the intercom near the bedroom door and pressed the button to speak. “Yes?”
“Tima, this is Jake. I just got back from England.”
“Oh, lovely,” I exclaimed. “Cheery-O and all that. Or is it cheery pip? Cherry pit? Oh, whatever. Welcome home, Jake.”
“Uh, yeah, thanks. Um, Tima, you need to see some of the pictures I took.”
“That sounds ominous.”
“It was meant to.”
“I'll be right down.” I gave Trevor a heavy look.
Trevor sighed and handed me my coffee. “For the road.”
I laughed as I accepted the mug. “You coming down?”
“Nah, I'll wait for Vero to get up. It should be soon, then we'll come downstairs and join you.”
Vero is our son. He's a little over a year now (I don't do the months thing) but with his Froekn—AKA werewolf—rapid growth, he was more like a 4 or maybe 5-year-old. I'm not the best at judging the age of children since all of mine grow faster than human kids. Basically, Vero walked, talked, and came to about mid-thigh on me. Which meant that he could get into lots of trouble if left to his own devices. Especially, if his older sister, Lesya, joined him. Imagine a cat and a dog teaming up to cause mayhem and you have Lesya and Vero.
“Okay, but I'll need one of these for the road too.” I gave Trevor one more kiss, then headed for the elevator. “What fresh hell is this?” I grumbled to myself as I went.