Fairy Slayer, page 6
“Danira--” Ariette started, but the elder elf held up one hand in warning to stop her speech.
Danira kept her lone eye on me and waited for an answer.
“Yes, I did,” I admitted, “but only because--”
Her hand came up again, this time to silence me.
“And you both lied to me about it.” Danira looked long and hard at the two warriors by my side.
Both of them nodded solemnly.
Danira took a moment and looked toward the ceiling as if she could find strength there. “That was no regular Hand of Blood, boy, do you know that?”
I shrugged, not sure if her question was rhetorical.
“The way you ripped the creature to shreds,” she continued, “it’s like no Seelie power I have ever seen. You said you were given this power by a fairy. Now, I am going to give you one chance to explain this to me, and one chance only.”
There was dead silence. Blue eyes and violet eyes stared at me intensely. I slowly met them both, and then Ekador’s gray ones. He looked at me with a cross between pity and wonder. Finally, I met Danira’s lone black eye. It was hard and impatient.
I was pretty sure at this point the fairy had been Unseelie. Why he gave me his powers in order to save people, I didn’t know. The Unseelie weren’t supposed to do things like that, according to the stories I’d heard. But those stories also said that the Unseelie never ventured into Seelie territory because of the treaty, so I wasn’t too sure how much stock I could put in them right now. Regardless of why Oragon did it, there were no witnesses. The only person I could point to was dead, and his body returned to the energy in the air as soon as he transferred his Hand to me. No matter what I said, the truth didn’t look good. I had no doubt Danira wouldn’t hesitate to throw me into the clutches of the High Court and let them have their way with me.
And yet, I didn’t want to build a relationship with these women based on a lie.
“While I was delivering packages in an alley, a fairy came exploding out of the wall beside me,” I finally admitted at length. “He had been mortally wounded by the troll thing. I helped him while he was dying, and he gave me the Hand. I didn’t even know what I was doing until it was done. But wherever my Hand comes from, I used it to do something good. I used it to stop the monster before it killed even more people. If you want to punish me for something, punish me because it was totally unsanctioned. That’s valid, but to punish me for using a power you think is evil in order to save all those people? To save a little girl? Well, that would just be stupid.”
Danira quirked an eyebrow at me but didn’t say a word.
“And besides,” I added, even though I knew that I was treading a fine line between bravery and stupidity, “I thought you needed a new adept after your last one was, what, blown to smithereens?”
I saw Ariette smirk out of the corner of my eye, and Kalista hid a snicker behind her hand. I took a deep breath before I looked back at Danira again. I desperately hoped that she wouldn’t just kill me on the spot.
“Well, you’ve got spunk, boy,” Danira said, a mixture of surprise and amusement evident in her voice.
I let out a sigh of relief when she smiled.
“Humans are known for that,” I joked.
“I’m giving you a chance. You say you didn’t know this fairy, then I trust your word. But you get one chance, and only one, to be on my team. After seeing what you did to that creature, we could really use a powerful Hand like yours around here.”
“Thank you--” I started to say, but she cut me off.
“But,” she said as she raised one finger in my face, “if you fuck it up, I will personally see to it that you have the worst day of your life. Until you are dead. Understood?”
I nodded slowly.
“Good.” Danira stood up abruptly. “Then follow me, you three.”
Ariette and Kalista fell in place behind Danira and shared looks of shock and relief. I moved to follow them when I heard Ekador’s voice.
When I turned, he threw a small black sack at me. I caught it and felt the weight of coins in my hand.
Ekador smiled slyly. “It’s my duty as bounty collector to dole out the payments. That’s for killing the monster. Once you’ve been initiated into the guild, you can choose between money and the rewards program, but for today, I thought you might appreciate the coins.”
“Rewards program?” I questioned the wizened man.
“Yeah,” he grunted, “I’d personally shoot for tier one if I were you. There’s a nice car that comes along with it.” Ekador winked at me before he hobbled back toward the computer screens.
“Well, that’s pretty cool.” I smiled as I followed the three women under the archway with the bounce of new coins in my pocket. This new job had already paid off, and I desperately wished I could have shoved this sack full of gold into old Bill’s face.
The three of us followed Danira down two flights of stairs before our group was stopped in its tracks by a rush of panicked Fae that ran past us at top speed. At first, I thought the building was on fire, but then I remembered Fae were smart enough to not build their homes and buildings out of wood.
Below us, on the ground floor, the rush of the Fae picked up intensely. If I had thought they looked stressed and busy when I first arrived, that was nothing compared to how they looked now. The only word I could think of to describe the scene below me was panicked, and my stomach turned in knots as I heard shouts go up across the room. The Elvish words were incoherent to my own ears, but tone translated across all languages, and every shout sounded strained and scared.
I heard a tiny beep come from Kalista’s pocket, and she pulled out a flat black device with a bright screen. She read what was on the screen quickly and looked up at all of us with her brows furrowed.
“There’s been a breach in the computer system!” the dwarf growled.
“Shit,” Danira muttered before she rushed down the remaining flight of stairs, Ariette and Kalista close behind her. It took me a moment to gather myself and make sure the panic I felt in my bones did not make its way to my face, but then I followed quickly after the three women. I took the steps two at a time and narrowly avoided multiple collisions.
I caught the expression of one elf near the bottom. He looked young, probably no older than forty, and his eyes shone with tears. His upper bicep shook, and there was a damp area around his armpit that grew bigger by the second. The elf’s hand was wrapped around a yellow folder, his knuckles white from the tight grip he had on the thing. As he reached the step below mine, his foot caught on the lip of the stair, and he flew right into me and almost took us both down. Luckily, I braced myself against the wall as his chest crashed into my shoulder. In his haste to recover, he didn’t even throw out a “thank you” as he continued his sprint up the stairs.
Finally, I made it to the bottom of the staircase, still in a rush to catch up with the three warriors. Kalista’s legs were the only ones shorter than mine, and I caught up to her in a few seconds.
“Come on!” Kalista yelled as soon as I reached her.
One tiny hand grabbed my forearm, and she rushed us forward. We followed Danira and Ariette into a small room to the left of the large oak front door. It looked very much like a miniature version of the control room we had left moments earlier, but this one was much darker and filled with a bunch of extremely young elves who rushed from one computer screen to another, typing away at the keyboards for a few short seconds before they moved on to another keyboard.
Huh. For some reason, I didn’t imagine the Fae having an IT department.
I stepped inside and squeezed behind Ariette as Kalista shoved through the crowd of young Fae.
“Everybody, get out of my damn way!” the dwarf shouted as she stood not higher than most of the elves’ abdomens. Immediately, the young elves shrunk back so Kalista could plop herself in a chair.
She was seated in front of five monit
“Careful, HC,” Ariette whispered, but her eyes were fixated on the computer screens, just like Danira’s and Kalista’s.
Kalista’s fingers flew furiously across multiple keyboards, and she swiveled her chair down the desk as she went from computer to computer. The furrow in her brow continued to deepen as she went, and then she let out an angry cry. Danira placed one soothing hand on Kalista’s shoulder, and it seemed to calm her down for a moment.
The room was filled with nothing but the sounds of Kalista’s fingers as they tapped away. The normally chattery interns were so dead silent that I couldn’t even hear them breathe.
The heavy door we had all stepped through served to block off the noise and panic I was sure was still going on outside. I didn’t want to interrupt to ask them what the hell was going on, so I took a moment to absorb the rest of the room.
It was small and dark, so much so that the glow of the computer screens was the only source of light. Behind me, the wall was blank except for a single silver button. I had no idea what would happen if someone pressed it, but my gut told me I most definitely did not want to find out.
Danira was hunched over Kalista. Sometimes, she muttered something in the dwarf’s ear, but I couldn’t even make out whether she spoke in Elvish or English.
Ariette was a foot in front of me, and her arms were crossed under her ample breasts. Her expression was intense. Both thin eyebrows were furrowed together, and her chin was tilted down toward her chest. It seemed like she kept forgetting to breathe because every once in a while, she would take a huge inhale, and let it out audibly. Her legs were a hips’ width apart, and her stance gave her already shapely ass even more toning.
I caught myself before I started to fantasize about what she would look like if she stood that way without her uniform on. It was weird, but I almost felt like she could sense my thoughts, and I definitely didn’t need this gorgeous goddess to think I was some weird creeper, so I shook myself out of it. If I was going to work with the warrior, I couldn’t fantasize about us falling into bed together every time I thought she looked good. I’d never get anything done.
“I don’t understand how they flooded us with so much damn data,” the dwarf mumbled and shook me out of my fantasy even further.
I remembered when my high school buddy, George, had said something very similar when he tried to hack into the school’s computers to change our grades senior year. Of course, he’d been the one hacking, but maybe, just maybe, Kalista could counter-attack this hacker with the things I remembered. Quickly, I stepped forward and surveyed what Kalista was doing.
“Are they using a DDOS?” I asked in a hushed tone.
“Yeah,” Kalista breathed next to me. “I managed to hide all the super top secret shit from them, but I can’t tell what their actual target is. Too many systems coming at us.”
“What’s their threat model?” I asked.
“They don’t even have one,” Kalista responded in a low tone. “They’re just going after everything.”
“Okay.” I stroked at my chin as I thought about what George had done, and what eventually stopped him. “Do an info dump in the heaviest area of activity.”
“Brilliant,” Kalista nodded, and I watched her get to work.
Finally, after what felt like an hour, the hacker sat back in her chair, with both arms on her head. Danira stood back, too. She cracked her neck, but that one black eye still flicked from screen to screen. Ariette turned around to walk toward the wall behind me, and she rested her head against it with a soft bang but didn’t seem bothered by the contact.
“Nice hacking, Milton,” Kalista said as she turned toward me.
“Computers are kind of a hobby of mine, though I’m sure I’m not as half as knowledgeable as you,” I replied with a casual shrug.
“Humpf,” Kalista grunted, but I saw her cheeks darken in the glow of the computer screens.
“So, did it work?” Ariette asked as she searched our faces, but no one spoke for a moment.
Danira frowned and then her lone eye latched onto me as if she thought I had something to do with whatever just happened. She seemed to decide I didn’t, though, because then she let out a big huff of air and swung her arms down to her sides.
“There was a breach. Someone got into our database. They triggered our system alert because they were coming from an unrecognized computer, but they had a high-level clearance password to get past the first firewall that only a Seelie can have, which means ...” Danira trailed off, but Kalista picked up her sentence.
“It means, we’re in deep, deep shit. I’m talking, a hundred cows stood on top of each other, and all took a shit at the same time, and it piled up, type of deep shit. I hid as much from them as I could, slowed them down and stopped them from actually downloading anything, and they didn’t see too much from what I can tell. Still, all the firewalls I’ve put up didn’t block them because they had a password, and the system is designed so I can’t see who’s password actually got used. So I thought I could backtrack them, try to see where they were coming from, but they routed their IP address through a thousand different locations. They made their footsteps vanish as soon as I blocked their progress. They didn’t get into the serious, end of the world shit, but they made it close. And then suddenly, poof.” Kalista threw her hands up in the air, fingers outstretched. “Gone. No way to track them. Whoever did this disappeared so well it’s like they were never even here.”
The seething anger was apparent on the small woman’s face. Her violet eyes had turned a deeper shade of purple, and she bit down on her bottom lip so hard I was afraid she’d draw blood.
Ariette simply stood there, stone-faced, her eyes still on the computer screens. It was like she thought she could will them to tell her who had done this.
“Okay, so someone got into the system. Can you tell me what they saw?” Ariette took a few steps toward the screens and glanced at Kalista with a scowl.
“Yeah, yeah, let me see.” Kalista turned back to the monitors. After a moment, she sat back again. “What the fuck?”
“What? What is it?” Danira squinted as she bent back over the desk so she could get closer to the screens.
“The video we had of Milton,” Kalista paused before she inhaled sharply and continued. “The one where he took out that thing with his Hand. That’s what they were going for. They didn’t see much more than an image, but they know what he looks like now, that’s for damn sure.”
Silence hung in the room, and my heartbeat started to reach deadly high levels. Someone had just broken into a state-of-the-art computer system that had been encrypted by one of the top minds in the entire world and belonged to a super powerful Seelie guild full of deadly Fae. Someone who had a super-secret password that only high-level Seelie were supposed to have and that someone did it specifically to try to look at a video of me.
But not just any video.
A video where I could be seen using an Unseelie power given to me by a fairy as he lay on his deathbed.
I was a target. There was no other explanation. That fairy hadn’t given me his powers for any specific reason. I knew he would have transferred his powers to any living being who was within his reach. I was nothing special until the fairy gifted me his powers.
And then I had used those powers to kill off some sort of hybrid creature that no Fae ever saw before.
I saw the realization dawn on Ariette’s face at the same time it hit me.
“The car,” Ariette whispered quietly.
Danira and Kalista looked at her in confusion. For a moment, Ariette was frozen, and I could alm
The man’s voice filled the room.
“Yes, sir, just how you wanted… No, he was taken down by a human… Yes, sir… Right away.” There was a crackle, and then the sound of the engine as the car left. Ariette clicked off the recorder and shoved it back in her pocket. Danira and Kalista stared at her and waited for an explanation.
“When Milton and I were counting the bodies, there was a car at the beginning of it all. It was sitting right where the monster started its rampage. It was so weird like the troll had just been dropped on the street, and the thing then started tearing apart whatever was in front of it.” Ariette sighed as she remembered the bloody scene. “Anyway, the car was sitting there, and that’s all he said before he drove off.”
Silence hung in the air, and then Kalista looked up at me.
“Has anyone tried to recruit you into the Unseelie Court?” the dwarf questioned.
“No!” I exclaimed. “Whatever is happening right now is literally a result of this afternoon. Something fucking crazy is going on, and I bet you anything it has more to do with troll-2.0 than it has to do with me and my powers. That should be your focus.”
“You’re right,” Ariette interrupted before Kalista could shoot out another sentence. “I think whoever hacked our system did it because they wanted to see how Milton killed that thing. They might have been prepared for us to try to stop that thing, but there’s no way they were counting on a human destroying it in a matter of seconds. It sounded like a henchman was sitting in that car, and I’d bet my life that whoever is sending out these monsters has got a bone to pick with you now. But that still doesn’t explain why an Unseelie gave you his powers, or even what he was doing in our territory in the first place. Can you tell us anything about the fairy who gave you his Hand, Milton?”
I tilted my head and thought for a moment.
“The only thing I know is his name,” I replied as all three women stared at me. “He said it was Oragon. Can you search your giant ass database for anything on him?”