Remembered Kisses: Chapter 18: A Grey-Eyed Lady
When Sam woke up it was dark. He hurt all over. He was on a bed, he thought. It was warm. He turned. It was a mistake. It hurt more.
“I wouldn’t do that,” said a woman’s voice. “You were pretty banged up.”
“I... yes. I was.” He remembered everything perfectly, the whole struggle by the monument, the whole thing seared into his memory. He slowly pushed himself up and pushed the blanket down to his waist.
The voice belonged to Pallas. She was sitting across the small bedroom from him, a bronze-bladed sword in her lap. She was watching him with those steely grey eyes. The room was sparsely appointed, with one or two pieces of furniture that looked as old as Sam was. There was a single window by the bed’s side that had the blinds drawn tightly. The only light in the room came from a small brass brazier with slowly-burning embers, filling the room with a gentle earthy smell.
“You’re armed,” he said, eyeing the bare blade.
“I am,” she said. “I am being wary. The nightmares left some serious damage. And I’ve never seen that much power drawn in one place by a single person. You give lectures on how dangerous the otherworld is, Professor. I would be a fool to be unprepared for something else to wake up behind your eyes.” She met his gaze.
They looked into each other.
“Something is different about you,” he said.
“I could say the same thing,” she replied. “But I am convinced that it’s you. I can see the self-righteous ass hiding just inside.” She rose. She was dressed simply. Draw-string work out pants, loose enough to allow easy movement, and a tank top that left her powerfully built shoulders and arms bare. She moved the chair out of the way, and then the set the sword in front of the brazier. She muttered a small prayer in Greek and turned back to look at Sam. “How do you feel?”
“Like I was chewed on by evil mutant spiders from another dimension.” Sam managed a wry grin. “Where am I?”
“My boarding house,” she said, still watching him. “I inherited it from an aunt. Lucky for you there was a spare bed.”
“I’m grateful.” He stretched a little, filtering things out. My leg hurts, but not as badly as I expected. What hurts more is my head, and my insides. My channels are probably burned out halfway to Hell. “How did you find me?”
Pallas fixed him with her owl-like gaze. “Professor. My chosen moniker is no mistake. When that much of my lady’s power is manifested in this world, I notice.” She rose and walked to a small dresser. She lifted a battered silver decanter and poured a glass of water. She walked over to him and offered it. “I thought you were a mage. Not a theurge.”
“I um. I am. That is to say you are right. Usually.” He took the glass of water and thanked her. It was cold and crisp and perfect.
She shrugged. “You say that,” she said, pouring herself a glass and setting the decanter down. “But that’s not the kind of power I felt. I felt her power, Professor. And a lot of it.” She lifted the glass to her lips. “More than I could have managed.”
“Is that how you found me?”
“Is that why you came?”
She shrugged. “I wanted to see. And I saw.”
“Did you see the webs?”
She nodded again. “My third eye,” she said. “It’s always open. The grey-eyed lady does not want us to shy away from hard truths. I think I see things differently than a mage does, but I am well aware of the creeping menace.”
“How long has it been happening?”
“Right under my nose,” Sam muttered. “I’ve been so focused on the murder lately. I haven’t seen a damn thing.”
“We all have been,” she said. Her voice was surprisingly gentle. “I knew what you were up to. I left you to it.”
“Did you go for any help at all?” He was incredulous. A cold chill of regret passed over him. I’ve been so busy obsessing about the dead I have forgotten about the living. I see where Marcus gets it from. “There’s the entire Arcane College. Did you report it to anyone?”
“I went to a mage a few weeks ago,” she said. “Professor Ling told me ‘We are aware of the presence of nightmares in the city and we are were hard at work. We will take your warning under advisement. Thank you for your time.’” She finished her water and put the glass down. “I dislike being blown off.”
“So naturally you didn’t want to go to a second mage.”
“You’re all pretty much the same,” she said coolly.
He watched her carefully. “You’ve been fighting this yourself,” he said, setting his own glass aside.
She looked away from him, pushing open the blinds to look outside.
“How?” He gestured at the brazier. “I mean. Clearly you have the ritual down. I can feel the sanctity of this room. But witches. They’re not big on the on-point combat magic. Their talents lie elsewhere. And your eyes don’t look like a theurge’s.”
She didn’t answer at first, then she slowly looked back at him. “I am not solely a witch, Professor. I am a priestess, and my patron goddess is a warrior. Her gifts are not limited to tending the wounds of errant mages.”
His eyes widened. Of course. “That’s what’s different! You’ve become a conduit. Your body is infused with power. That’s… hard to sustain, long term.”
“So I have heard,” she said. “But someone has to do something. Some of the coven have suggested a summoning. But that sounds like a mistake waiting to happen.”
“Long term? Yes, very much so.” Sam pushed himself up a little more. “You need to be careful, Pallas. You’ll burn out trying to do it all yourself.”
She raised an eyebrow. “So I’ve heard. Not unlike using yourself as a lightning rod.” He blushed, and she continued. “But if the mages won’t do anything to protect us, we will act in our own interests.”
Sam looked away. “You should have been Catholic. You wield guilt like a weapon.”
“I speak what I see,” she said, and walked back over to him. Her shoulders were tense, but her voice was cool and calm. “I’ve tended the wounds I could find. You had a number of bites, and some burns I couldn’t explain. You’re familiar with the Philter Vert?”
“Most apothecaries provide it as a potable. It works better topically. I cleaned your wounds and then applied it as a poultice. You will be very hungry for the next few days. Be prepared. If you don’t feed yourself appropriately you will regret it.”
He nodded again. “Thank you. But you didn’t quite answer my question. Why?”
“Why did you help me? As you said, my kind haven’t exactly been helpful to you.”
“You summoned the grey eyed lady’s power,” she said. “She wouldn’t have given it if you were unworthy.” She turned away, and he saw the tension written in her shoulders again. “She has never given me as much power as she leant you this time. Perhaps your name, too, was given wisely, Samuel.”
She touched the handle of the sword where it rested, running her finger along its polished brass pommel. She raised an eyebrow, and he sensed a ghost of a smile on her lips. “That’s not all. Kendra liked you. Which counts for a lot. And, there were a couple of people that helped me find you.”
“Three in fact. Some of my recent boarders. Are you up for company?”
“I think so. Mages heal quickly.”
“Good,” she said, and opened the door.
There were three women standing on the other side, watching anxiously. They appeared as human, but no mage out of his first decade could mistake that scent of moonlit glades and night-blooming flowers.
“Pixies,” he whispered. They smiled, and as they entered they closed the door behind them.