Margot fumed as she stalked the length of the Queen’s chamber. That damned Queen. Jamie had acted so quickly she hadn’t been able to complete her attack. Now she was exposed as she hadn’t been in centuries. Yasmina, her beloved dragon, wouldn’t even tell her where Jamie and Scott – and those kittens – had gone, other than to tell her that they were safe. They had to be at the nesting grounds again with Marisol, where they would lure the council away from her to try to defeat her just like Ashton. Well, she wasn’t a fool like him. She broke no rules.
She turned. Gerald, the head of the men’s council, was standing in the open doorway. Time to see how much power she really had. She smiled and approached him. He flinched. Her smile faded a little. So he knew what had happened. That meant the ranking dragons had likely told all their partners. Unfortunate, but it would ensure their obedience.
“A council meeting needs to be called,” she announced. “Both campuses. Immediately.”
He agreed and started to leave when she grabbed his arm. He paled.
“We’ll be able to work together, won’t we?” she asked, still smiling.
“Of course,” he said. “The council respects its leaders, and you’ve always been my superior. That will never change.”
She nodded and let him go. She took one more look around at Jamie and Scott’s room, tempted to destroy everything, but Gerald’s answer was reassuring. She reached out to Yasmina and received a confirmation. None of the ranking dragons on campus planned on acting against her because they were protecting their humans.
Margot began heading to the council chambers and fingered the bump on her head. She again cursed Jamie. If only Jamie and Scott had just given her the kittens. But they resisted. She knew she couldn’t really hurt Jamie, only erase his memories for long enough to forget the conversation, but she could strike at Scott. She felt a little pleased about that. No matter what else happened, at least Jamie would be in agony having lost Scott.
Oh, Narné would be able to tell Scott about his forgotten memories, his forgotten life, since nothing could erase a dragon’s memory, and she suspected Scott would fall in love with Jamie again. But it would be torture for Jamie and it was the only solace she had now that the kittens had escaped.
Her eyes narrowed. She never should have let Jamie adopt the cat in the first place but she had never suspected that she would need to use her powers on him. She still wasn’t sure if he realized she had used her powers on him. If he had, he hadn’t told Scott because when she confronted Scott about it during one of his classes, he had been furious and without fear. She had erased that confrontation, of course, and knew for a fact that he had no lingering memory of it.
She reached the council room and immediately went to the dais. She glanced at the Queen’s chair. Once, she would have given anything for that chair. But then she learned the strength of the council and would never give up her current role. Ashton had been foolish thinking he could become the Queen’s mate. He was far more powerful as head of the council. And now he was dead. She had to remember that, and walk carefully. Jamie was a child, but a powerful one. She would not let him kill her as well.
Those cats. This was her year, the year she had finally rounded all of them up and gotten all of them spayed or neutered. All of the female students had been studying the cats for years, tracking them, counting them, and she knew that with this sweep, she was eliminating the colony from future generations. Even though they were her weakness and a powerful source of what most humans would call magic, she didn’t have the heart to kill an animal, especially not a cat. She never would. But she needed to get those kittens away from Jamie and Scott – and those cats, too – and make sure that none of them could spawn any more dangers to her.
She had no idea how one cat had escaped her net, let alone two. It was always possible, of course, that the male tabby was a regular cat with no power to bring back people’s memories from where Yasmina banished them. Either way, though, she had to get them. They had to be stopped. She would not start over, watching those cats escape and spawn out of control for centuries until she finally tracked them all down. It could not happen.
A few councilmembers lingered at the edges of the chamber but didn’t approach until there was a significant group. Strength in numbers, she thought with an inward smirk. They kept noticeably back from the dais and when Gerald entered, he came up next to her slowly. Everyone went silent and looked to her. It was clear that no one, not even Gerald, knew what to say or how to act. They knew they wouldn’t act against her, but they didn’t know anything else. She let them stew for a moment, then stepped forward.
“Our Queen Jamie and her mate will be away for the foreseeable future,” she announced. There was some uneasiness but no surprise. She wondered if they knew where Jamie and Scott had gone, if they could access the nesting grounds like Jamie’s allies had been able to do in the battle against Ashton.
“As is usual, power will revert to the heads of the council,” she said, nodding at Gerald. “I will take lead in disputes. I expect no communication with the Queen until Jamie and Marisol choose to return.”
Another murmur of uneasiness but that would prevent Jamie from luring them away and forming an army. She signaled the end of the meeting but placed a hand on Gerald’s arm to keep him in place. He was again slightly pale. Once the room was empty, she turned to him.
“I’m sure you have questions.”
Gerald licked his lips. “Are they all right? What happened?”
She considered. So the ranking dragons hadn’t told their partners everything. That was good. The dragons knew exactly what had happened thanks to Marisol and Jamie’s quick actions and Jamie’s damnable ability to speak to all dragons, but there was often a large gap between what dragons knew and what they told their partners.
“Scott was injured, regrettably, but they’ll be fine until they return,” she said. “There may be a need for a new Queen’s mate, but I’m sure you and the council would be willing, won’t you?”
Gerald looked shocked, but nodded quickly. Then he hesitated. “Do you know how long they’ll be gone? Will Marisol’s eggs be prepared for the first year exam? She nearly killed Derek last year when he approached her nest.”
“Marisol should be prepared this year,” Margot said slowly. She actually hadn’t considered that. It was true that Marisol’s protective nature had nearly led to the death of another Queen and only Jamie had been able to stop her.
Gerald seemed to be preparing himself for another question and she gestured for him to continue.
“Will Marisol have her mating flight here? There are plenty of us who are willing, but if she flies somewhere else, especially in Spokane, the Elder might find her.”
She hadn’t considered that, either. She asked her dragon again where Jamie and Scott were, and again Yasmina refused. But even if Marisol were far away from all other dragons when she flew, Margot suspected that the Elder would be monitoring the situation and track her down. He already held one of the Queens; she would not let him take both.
“I will ensure that Marisol knows the dangers of flying anywhere else,” she said. Surely Yasmina would send that message at least. Margot wondered how far Jamie would go. His aunt’s dragon was in Africa so Jamie knew where that community was, but Jamie hadn’t learned where the exact communities within each nation were. Marisol would know, she realized. Dragons shared everything. They may have gone to the nearby Canadian community. There were only a dozen dragons, but they had the resources to take care of another. Margot didn’t know if Marisol had left the eggs but she doubted it. She still suspected all of them were on the nesting grounds, but she did have to consider other options.
Gerald edged away and she dismissed him, then began the long walk through the mist to the woman’s campus. To her surprise, the mist didn’t clear the same way it usually did. Normally, it opened enough for her to see the trees on each side of the path and quite a way ahead. Tonight, the mist crowded in around her and she could only see a few steps in front of her. The mist wasn’t stopping her, but it was making it more difficult. Clearly the magic of the mountain didn’t approve of her actions, but she grit her teeth and continued. She had been on the bad side of Tarragon society and would be again. And once this was over, no one would ever remember what had happened.