Cherry had barely begun to fill in Trina, Sofia, and Brute on what she’d seen before Al came bounding into one of the numerous barely-used rooms they were using to talk out of the way.
The door burst open, Al already apologising, “Sorry, I’m sorry, you said don’t disturb except in an emergency and, uh…” Al trailed off, his face working as his brain tried to spit out the words.
After a few moments, Cherry realised he was trying to hold back laughter.
“Get hold of yourself,” Sofia snapped, already on her feet, eyes flashing as she used her inner Alpha to help snap him back.
Al straightened up immediately, “Thank you, Alpha. It’s been busy outside! First the pixie necromancer came to tell us that Cobalt is on the way. He didn’t want to hang around, but he did have just enough time to ask Sue-Ellen, who was with me in wolf form, if he could have a lock of her hair. She growled at him for that, which he thought was real funny, then he left. It was incredibly but we stood and waited anyway.
“She did show up, almost immediately after he had left. She’s come to the edge of the alarm zone. No other pixies–or anything else– nearby that we can tell, but I have some good noses out, checking to be certain.”
“Has she spoken?” Sofia was still, but the whole room hummed with suppressed power.
Al nodded, “She has said to me, with others in earshot, that she wishes to parley. That she did bring a guard but has come the last few miles alone. She says she has learned some things, and wants to make the beginnings of peace between us. Also, she could do with our help.”
Sofia quirked an eyebrow at that last, and turned to Cherry, “Thoughts?”
“I think she means what she says, and I have reason for it.”
Sofia nodded, “Then find one of our mage guests, Al, and have them make a pathway for Cobalt to the house. Get her inside, sit her down in one of the rooms off the hallway, get some food and drink ready, and have someone stay with her. Tell them don’t ask anything, don’t get into conversation. I need to hear from Cherry and have a chat, then I’ll come and collect the food tray.”
“Yes, Alpha,” Al moved more slowly back out of the room, closing the door behind him.
Once she was sure he was out of earshot, Sofia let loose a short bark of laughter, “Wolf! That one’s more like a charging bull most days,” she sat again. “Go on, Cherry. You overheard some of a chat between Cobalt and this necromancer?”
Cherry nodded and recited it as close to word-for-word as she could, but before Sofia could speak again once she’d finished she held up a hand, “There’s more, and it does bear directly on why I think Cobalt’s here. And why I said we could trust her, at least to a point. I can’t give you many details on this. Partially because I only got flashes myself. Partially because to do so endangers the very future I saw. I have to ask you to trust me, and that I will always tell you anything you need to know.”
Sofia studied Cherry for a long moment before nodding, “I accept that. Knowing the future is a dangerous gift, in the wrong hands. I’m glad to have it in yours. Tell me what you can.”
“I saw that most of Cobalt’s army interestingly, did stay with her for this even though standing against Deserina is technically treason. I saw that the pack and Cobalt make an alliance to take down Deserina and the few supporters that might stand against us. And I saw some more that I can’t tell you–at least not before it happens. The future likes to keep its secrets, and those it entrusts them to have to do the same, or we risk everything.” Cherry sighed and slumped a little in her chair, clearly exhausted, eyes struggling to stay open.
Trina took her hand, “Sofia, it looks like our farseer is falling asleep, but with your permission, I’d like to be with you when you speak to Cobalt.”
Sofia’s mouth pulled to one side, dimpling her cheek as she considered, “You’re a new pup, still–relative to most of the pack, that is. But you’ve come through for us, a lot. And…” Sofia smiled, “You’ve given our adopted one a sense of place and home and warmth that no amount of love from us could offer. You can be there, but only as a silent witness. Hear, listen, and remember, but one word, and you’re out.”
“Understood. I’ll emote later. Can I take Cherry upstairs first?”
“Of course, put her to bed.”
Trina lifted Cherry easily into a cradled position and Sofia, walking to the door, stopped to brush some hair back from the pixie’s cheek and kiss her forehead.
“I’ll wait for you in the kitchen–ten minutes.”
Trina nodded her thanks to Brute for holding the door and went upstairs, settling Cherry in her bed and ensuring her comfort. Cherry was fast asleep as soon as she nestled into the pillow, and Trina kissed her softly on the corner of her mouth, before closing the door quietly and heading for the kitchen.
Arriving, she looked at the tray of food and drink and realised she was famished.
Al grinned and handed her a plate of meat, cheese and bread, with a tall glass of iced coffee.
“Oh Al, you’re a fucking legend,” Trina groaned, wolfing down the food and gulping the drink, barely taking a breath. “Wow, that’s much better.”
She finally noticed Sofia, leaning on the table with a smirk, “Hungry work all that being an anchor stuff, huh?”
Trina grinned, “I’m ready. Mouth zipped.”
The side room in the hallway had once been the valet’s room when all around it was a working farm, and it still smelled of shoe polish, leather, mud, hay and horses. The old table the valets had used, along with the uncomfortable wooden chairs, had been left where they were. Everything in the room was different shades of brown, and the sight of Cobalt and her glittering blue skin, sitting in one of those torturous chairs, put the whole thing to shame.
“Cobalt, I’m Sofia,” the Alpha said, reaching out a hand to shake. Cobalt offered hers, and Sofia sat in another of the evil chairs, facing her.
Trina silently placed the tray of sandwiches and iced coffee on the table, and then moved back to stand beside the closed door, putting on the thousand yard stare that was the mark of a good bodyguard–looking like you’re miles away, whilst still hearing and seeing everything.
“Please,” Sofia offered, “Take this food and drink from us. The old traditions state that doing so gives you safety in our domain for the length of your visit, so long as no violence is offered by you, to us.”
Cobalt nodded and took a sandwich while Sofia poured her a glass of the coffee, “I know the custom, thank you for providing such nice food and drink for it.”
Sofia smiled a little, “Thank you. Now you know you need not fear me–for as long as this truce lasts–why have you come? Onson told us you were on your way and left immediately afterwards, but you weren’t far behind him.”
Cobalt looked surprised, “I didn’t realise he planned to do that. He delivered a message to the rebel group for me, and said that he was leaving until the dust settled.”
“Maybe we were on his way, who can know the mind of a necromancer,” Sofia shrugged.
“True enough, he’s surprised me plenty. But that’s not what you want to hear from me, I know. I came because Deserina, our current leader, is going through something known as the Breaking. It turns out that her insanity is actually a phenomenon that is known, but hidden. A leader, because of the ties that bind them to their clan, lose their mind, or their will to live, or both. Those who simply die are no real problem. But those who rage, like Deserina, get worse and worse until someone kills them–or they kill themselves. There are hidden histories, people who note these things down and then ensure they never make the records that we are allowed to read through any time. Onson is the only reason I know anything about all of this.”
“Priority-wise, dealing with Deserina is, I assume, your first task,” Sofia asked.
Cobalt nodded, “It has to be. I hope I can command enough influence to get the hidden records unsealed, or at least this one not hidden with the rest. But first we need to remove her from command. Because when a leader rages like this, it affects all of us. We feel the pull of anger so much more, and we wind up infighting. Warriors can resist it more easily, at least to a point, because we’re used to doing so, but I imagine when one of us falls to rage it goes badly for anyone in their way.”
“It sounds fairly horrible,” Sofia finished her glass of coffee and leaned forwards slightly in her chair, ”Now is when you tell me exactly why you’re here, and how it relates to what I can only imagine is very classified information that you’re telling me. I believe I know your request, but it must be spoken by you.”
“It’s true, I would like to ask two things of you and your pack,” Cobalt smiled sadly. “Many of my own clan would see me dead for this, but I believe it necessary. First, I ask simply for a truce. Peace between your pack and my clan. Any who try to harm the other, of course, break this truce, and must be dealt with within their circle, but I first hope that none will, and second hope that a single pixie or wolf doing so will not destroy the whole peace.”
Sofia nodded, leaning back again, “I can accept your offer of peace, though I know it applies only to those on your side of this. I doubt Deserina and her own would agree to it.”
“That’s true enough. I can promise my army, and my allies within the clan will adhere to it.”
“Then I accept. My pack will also adhere to this–no attacking pixies unless one attacks them first. And vice versa.”
“And vice versa,” Cobalt agreed with a smile.
“And your second request?”
“I ask that some of your pack join me and my army, to fight with us when the signal comes from the rebels. Tactically, some rampaging werewolves will certainly come as a surprise, and as guards they could also make it very difficult to escape the cave. But on a separate level, it would also advance the truce between us, give us the first glimmerings of a new relationship.”
Sofia stared at the top of the wall, where it met the ceiling, and thought through this for a long time, and Cobalt sat, steady in her chair though it must be hurting by now, and waited.
Finally, Sofia brought down her head and smiled, “I think I can arrange for some help to be yours. If you would like to go back to your camp with them, I’ll need you to wait here. If you’re satisfied that they can pass into your camp without your guard trying anything, then I’ll have you led out safely.”
“I think it might go better if I was with them. I haven’t exactly explained this plan to anyone–even the ones who came with me don’t know where I was headed. So I’ll start with them, and then we’ll deal with the rest.”
“Then please allow me some time to gather my pack and brief them, and see who will volunteer. How many do you hope for?”
“Hope for? A dozen. Expect? Perhaps four or five. But I will be perfectly happy with just one if that’s all you have.”
Sofia grinned, “I think we can do better than just one. I’m going to take the guard off this room, but please stay in here. Next time, perhaps you can get the grand tour, but we have a brand new truce that I’d rather not be broken by a wolf who didn’t hear about it yet!”
“Of course, Alpha. Thank you, for the new hope this gives me and my clan.”
“And mine,” Sofia shook Cobalt’s hand again, and left the room, Trina whirling around smartly to follow her.
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