High Voltage

Page 40

Tonight I was getting something else, too, a thing I’d never noticed before…or never heard. There was a low, annoying buzzing sound beneath it somewhere. A sort of distracting static on my channel.

Something about the dance floor wasn’t quite right. I nudged my volume up a hair, to no avail. I dialed it higher, and still nothing. I cranked it even higher until the presence of so many Fae was deafening, charring a hole in my gut. With supreme force of will, gritting my teeth against the savage onslaught of primitive drums beating in my blood, telling me to Kill, kill, I punched it up yet one more notch, going wider open than I’d ever before been. I’d never needed to.


There wasn’t a single person on that dance floor.

It was empty. I could see that now.

But no other human could. Holy insidious illusions, the Fae had gotten better at glamour! The Shedon needed to know about this!

Like the foyer, the dance floor was fashioned of brilliantly lit LED screens, featuring still more graphic images of humans having sex with Fae streaming across the surface.

I dialed my volume higher, wincing as the presence of so many Fae crashed and banged inside my head with the storm and thunder of the “Ride of the Valkyries” meets the worst, most bone-chilling parts of “The Requiem.”

Oh, God. There were no Fae having sex with humans in a TV screen at all!

It was only humans. And they weren’t images on the surface of an LED screen, they were real live people.

Trapped beneath it.

Some were clawing at the bottom side of the floor, trying to escape. Others…oh, God, others were dead. There was a tangled, seething mass of humanity, some fucking, some fighting to escape, amid hundreds of corpses.

What was this? If you stepped on that treacherous dance floor, were you abruptly sucked below, never to be released again? Forced to make the choice of either dying trying hopelessly to escape or dying doing something that felt good, while the icy Fae sat by, soulless, emotional vampires feeding off the passion of human suffering, savoring each morsel of torment? I’d thought only the Unseelie were so depraved!

Was this what happened when the Light Court ran unchecked by a queen? They devolved to the worst possible version of themselves, like the worst of humans cut loose when the world went to hell, and indulged their basest urges to riot, loot, and pillage? How many people had we lost over the past two years in this damned club?

I dialed my volume back down, to see the club the way humans did. Above us, a starry sky twinkled at the high domed ceiling, around us four courts decorated as the seasons beckoned. It was utterly lovely, seductive and pain-free and utterly false.

I turned it up again, blasting my channel wide open.

We were in a living Hell. The interior was completely undecorated but for the LED panels. Concrete walls. Concrete floors. And I’d been wrong, there was only one Seelie Court in attendance at Elyreum, the iciest of them all. The others were illusion.

Winter had claimed our city.

“We’re going to kill every last one of them one day,” I gritted.

“Agreed. For now, objectives and get the fuck out.”


We glided into motion and began to descend the staircase together. Before we even reached the bottom, heads whipped our way, conversation stopped, and a tight, suspended hush fell over the club.

The silence had fallen so abruptly, I scanned the subclubs, certain the Fae had killed their human partners. They hadn’t. They’d immobilized them somehow.

They’d known we were here the moment we stepped inside the club. They’d permitted us to walk in, been waiting for us.

This was not what I’d envisioned happening. I’d imagined a small skirmish, with the majority of Fae otherwise occupied. A bit of bear-baiting. We’d saunter off. Laugh. Having stirred up enough shit to get some answers about what was going on in Faery.

As it was, we were the sole focus of a thousand Winter Court Fae, rising, approaching, closing in on us. From below, from above, behind the balustrade and the foyer beyond. They surged in a glittering, icy wave, moving with predatory, inhuman grace.

The power they radiated was exponentially greater than I’d ever felt coming from a court sans royalty, and with my sense wide open, I could tell there wasn’t a single prince or princess anywhere in the club. Royalty’s melody is unmistakable, drums from hell, seductive, hypnotizing, mind-stealing.

The Fae had changed. Even their gazes were different, no longer shimmering a uniform, swirling iridescence. Lethal as razors, they sliced into you, each a unique color, for lack of a better word, though I’d be hard-pressed to name the shade: here, a tint of immortal decay, rot, and graveyards; there, the precise nuance of toxic nuclear war without end; here, the hue of rabid, bone-stripping hunger; there, the stain of madness galloping down on you with thundering hooves.

I used to mock them, these strutting, beautiful, but relatively innocuous Fae without royal blood. They’d struck me as poseurs who weren’t what they pretended to be, bidding us believe they possessed far greater power than they did.

Now your average Winter Court Fae was—I had to force my brain to accept the truth—viscerally terrifying.

Objective one accomplished. We knew our enemy was far more powerful than they’d ever been. “The Song definitely changed them, Ryodan,” I murmured as we drew to a halt halfway down the stairs.

“No shit, Sherlock,” he agreed.

In spite of the gravity of our current situation, I smiled.

It was about damned time he’d finally gotten our roles right.

I would give everything I own


There’s a rabbit hole I’ve fallen down a few times.

Sometimes reluctantly, other times, on dark nights, Shaz snoring beside me, one of his downy legs kicking restlessly in dreams, unable to sleep, I’ve walked deliberately to the dirt-crusted edge and plunged down. Gone exploring that fantastical, killing wonderland of madness, monsters, and maybe.

His brains, my superpowers: what kind of babies would we have made?

If Dancer’s heart had been whole, if, say, he’d taken the Elixir of Life, what daring feats of bravery and brilliance might we have accomplished together on behalf of the world?

Batman didn’t have a single superpower, unless you count his inner darkness. Dancer definitely didn’t have that. But maybe inner lightness is a superpower, too, and he had that in spades.

Shazam could have babysat.


He might have eaten them. But still, Shaz is the ultimate kid’s best friend. The children we didn’t have would have flat-out adored him, bragged about him to all their friends, and Shaz would have loved that. And if they’d zoomed around, we’d have moved somewhere I could have zoomed along with them and we’d have feared nothing.

I don’t even know if my ovaries work. I don’t know everything Rowena did to me. There were chronological gaps in her narcissistic journals that implied oodles of missing volumes.

Another rabbit hole: I have no idea who my father is. I’m not sure I even had one. All I do know is every journal of the old bat’s I ever found contained zero mention of my patriarchy. Such a complete omission on such a critical topic is, to my brain, completely damning.

So, maybe, those adorable little kids with Dancer’s dark wavy hair and beautiful sea-surf eyes were never a possibility.

Maybe Ryodan’s right.

Maybe I’m not human.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The throne belonged to Conchobar, to Cathain, the witch’s glove

“YOU WILL FIND,” A towering, pale-skinned Fae male with waist-length silver hair purred to Ryodan, pushing through the crowd, “even for an abomination like you, some of us are far more difficult to kill.”

It was two against a thousand. Sucky odds.

I narrowed my eyes, modifying my assessment. Beyond the Fae, seven black beasts began to prowl silently forward from the perimeter of the room.

Yes! It took immense effort to resist my urge to fist-pump the air.

The Nine were here. Thank you, Ryodan.

Had been all along, perhaps melted into a trellised column, camouflaged as a piece of furniture. Or, more precisely, blended chameleonlike with concrete walls and LED screens.

Fae can sense their own hallows, the spear and sword, if they get close enough, which, Mac says, has to be within a dozen feet or less. But they can’t sense the Nine, which makes them Fae enemy number one. One of the Nine can sneak up right behind them and kill them before they even know a threat is in their vicinity.

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