Moonsilver Transfusion Chapter 9

Chapter 9

We’d barely returned to our territory when I found a familiar and unwelcome scent wafting through the night. A sickly sweet odor that clung to my nostrils like inhaled spider silk. The Knight of Joy. The breeze blew the wrong way for it to be carried down from the butte. Barring that the Seal of the Nine had eroded so far that the Fey could step back into the crossroads whenever they felt like it, there could only be one explanation.

Secret growled when she caught the scent a moment later and Victoria whined with confusion.

I hadn’t told either of them about this part of the deal, and although Secret knew it in the abstract, she hadn’t been privy to human me’s conversations with the Mayor. Chuffing at them to calm themselves and follow, I led them into the interior northeast corner of our territory. The source of the scent, a rectangular plot of land, fenced off with green chain link fencing and lit by a single street lamp that had been transplanted into the corner. Large raised soil beds checkered the ground on either side of the single dirt path down its center. From each erupted a vibrant crop of vegetables or flowers.

A small lamp illuminated two signs. One old and weathered, the other, below it, shiny and new. Together they read: The Earl Boyles Community Garden, Dedicated to the Joy of Summer.

Victoria stared at the sign, eyes narrowed to slits as she gave an uneasy whine and dropped her head.

I lifted her chin again. No. Good.

A voice drifted through the fence. “Doesn’t look like much but it's so nice to have a patch to call my own.”

We whirled to face the fence, both issuing growls of threat and malice. A lone figure knelt at one of the beds, one that had definitely not been there a moment ago. She dressed in light tan and her face was hidden by a wide brimmed hat but the scent that billowed out towards us identified her as the Knight of Joy.

“Now, now, puppies,” she chided as she stood, flipping a gleaming trowel in her hand, “You gave me this garden; it’d be impolite if I didn’t tend it.”

Secret leapt from my back, her form rustling, and hit the ground with two feet instead of four paws.

“I closed the gate behind you! You can’t be here.” She hissed, her tail puffed and claws gleamed at the ends of her fingertips.

“You did! And you did such a good job. Even Titania couldn’t find a crack.” Joy's voice dripped with sickly sweet praise.

“How did you get back so quickly? Tell me.” Secret’s words blended with a threatening growl as she drew my hacked-together silver blade from the folds of her dress. She gripped it in two hands to raise it up to her shoulder.

Joy chuckled, a smile gleaming out from the dark shadow beneath her hat. “Question for a question, child?”

One ear twitched uncertainly before she leapt. I barked in surprise as she hurdled over the fence and charged at Joy, moving as a bounding shadow in the feeble light. I followed after her, jumping the fence, but as I landed she cleaved her gleaming blade through Joy’s knees. 

A soft tang reached my ears as Joy’s entire body winked out.

“Merow!” She cried out victoriously as she twirled her sword. “I’m not playing your games! You’re not here!”

I rushed up behind her, ready to grab her by the scruff of her neck and fling her back over the fence at the first inkling of a counterattack.

Joy answered with a laugh that swelled from the very ground. “Aww, look how bold you’ve grown, child! One might start to believe you are actually the child of a wolf instead of a cowardly pussy cat.”

Secret responded with a strangled roar and swung at the empty air. The blade carved through the air, decapitating several flowers at the end of the arc. “You take that back!”

Enough, I commanded. I’d never seen the girl rage like this and I didn’t like it. Clamping my teeth on the back of her neck; even in her human form she retained a stretchy scruff of skin. Her knees buckled and I hauled back.

“Noooo, Abby!” She resisted, planting her clawed feet on the grass and lurching forward. “She can’t hurt us. It’s a peephole. She can’t do anything! A peephole we can stab her in the eye through! Nyyya!” Secret lifted the blade over her head and tried to drive its point into the ground.

I tugged hard, pulling her off her feet and ruining her aim. The last thing I wanted to do was antagonize Joy; we had to let her come back for the wedding. I’d rather the fey attend with an eye toward mischief instead of bloody vengeance.

“We rip out all the flowers! Toss mice in the vegetables and cut holes in the fence! Make it nothing but sad!” With each pronouncement she swung her blade through the air. Then Victoria rushed beside me and with a flash of her teeth, wrenched the makeshift sword out of Secret’s hands, who released a piteous yowl. “No! Vickieeee give it back!”

Ignoring her protests, I dragged her toward the fence. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Joy’s image reform, her outline hazy and indistinct, the glow of a cigarette tip lighting her face in the shadow of her hat. Her features swam as a heat shimmer between us.

“The legendary bravery of a cat against one who cannot fight back. I see the family resemblance now.” The pink smoke Joy exhaled circled around her head.

“I’ll do it! Abby can’t watch me all the time! You didn’t make any deals with me!” She hollered. I dragged her back to the fence but she grabbed hold of it, interlaced her fingers with the wire and refused to budge. With a grunt of frustration, I let her go and took a breath in, looking for a way to pry her loose, when Joy spoke without a trace of her usual mockery.

“Child, you could salt this patch of earth, hunt me down in the dream and scatter me back to the chaos that birthed me. Then do the same for all my fellow knights. Yet, that would bring you no closer to forcing my Queen Titania’s hand to release your mother…” She took a drag and exhaled. “I would like to taste the joy of that reunion someday, but you’d need to wager another heart of equal value to you. Are you strong enough to lose what brings you so much joy? Again?”

Secret sagged against the fence. The furious strength of her limbs vanishing.

“No. I’m not that strong.” She whispered. “I don’t want to be that strong.”

I nosed the back of her head. Come now, I sent as tenderly as I could, perhaps a little relieved that she wasn’t entertaining the idea of trading my heart for her mother’s. We’d find another way, someday.

Sniffling, she let go of the fence and stood. The green coating on the steel wire must have flaked off in places, small burn blisters were rising on her cheeks. The pain in her slitted eyes went deep, far deeper than the touch of steel. I reached forward to lick at her injured cheek but she surged toward me, wrapped her arms around my head and pinned my muzzle against her chest.

She said nothing more, just hugged me, clung to me. In that embrace, I felt her heart beating within her chest through the top of my skull. It beat quickly, resonating with such force that her little rib cage struggled to contain it.

The moment ended with a squeak of protest, “Vicky! Lay off! Nyaaa.” She released me to ward off Victoria’s cheek-seeking tongue.

My pup, too, she sent as she drove Secret back and checked my shoulder, grinning.

“Merf!” Secret tackled Victoria, hugging her long neck. “I’ll show you.” She extended her arm down Victoria’s spine and scratched her right beneath her ribcage. Victoria gave a yelp of surprise, eyes widening before they squeezed shut and her head bowed. A small grumble-whine rolled out of her partially open mouth as one of her rear legs started to kick.

“There! How's that for affection?” Secret giggled. “Like that?”

Victoria gave a soft howl of surrender as her ears drooped with embarrassment.

I gave Secret a small nip on the shoulder. Not in front of the fey.

“She asked for it.” Secret stuck her tongue out at me. “Can I get a deer heart tonight? I’m hungry.” Then with a ripple of air, she mounted onto Victoria’s back, shrinking down into her kitten form.

My body gave a strong shake both to right my mussed fur and to express my exasperation with the cat pup. Human me would have handled this better, her words would better explore the twist and turns of Secret’s emotions. Yet, we didn’t need those to love her. My heart swelled watching her cling to Victoria’s back. Her short fine fur didn’t give Secret much to cling to, so she sank her tiny teeth and claws into Victoria’s scruff. The death wolf grunted and endured this before hopping over the fence and running south toward the forest and its dwindling supply of unwary deer.

I made to follow when Joy spoke again. “You’re welcome.”

My smile died with a blink. Had that all just been her? But I hadn’t felt any of her suffocating glamor. I rounded on her, growling.

“Oh, come off it, girl. You’re standing in a garden of Joy. What do you expect happens here? You have a happy family; it's easy for Joy to spark.” She hadn’t moved from the street lamp, puffing on her cigarette. “I don’t have to lift even the littlest of my fingers. Oh, and don’t forget that hunk of metal. You might need it.”

Secret’s sword, my cobbled together silver blade, lay in the dirt where Victoria had dropped it. I gave her a warning flash of my teeth as I bent to retrieve the silver blade. What the hell was her game?

“I’m the Knight of Joy, puppy girl, and I appreciate my aspect in all its many flavors, especially the bittersweet ones. Watching children grow is one of my favorite genres of memories.” She snuffed out her cigarette in the palm of her hand. “There’s no need for us to be enemies all the time, darling. Besides,” her smile bore an impossible measure of smug satisfaction, “you see what happens when you drive Joy out of a territory. You wouldn’t want that to happen here, would you?”

A bark of surprise erupted from my muzzle as the spirit’s sudden domination of its pain suddenly made sense. Joy had taken all of herself and gone home, including the Joy that had already been there. That's why it was so angry and focused on its pain. It no longer had any joy to balance it out.

“Ah, you get it now. It's so much better if we’re friends. Even those with hearts of ice need a little joy in their lives.” She pinched two fingers together, “But you, you have this big gooey heart.” She widened her hands and mimicked hefting a bowling ball. “Big enough for all your pack, your children and all the werewolves to come. And you know what’s the glue that’s going to hold it all together? Moments like that one you just had. That's me, Joy. Pure, natural and unfiltered. It won’t always come so easy. You’ll need my help sometimes.”

I stared at her. Such a strange creature, she’d stolen away at least a hundred people and would have gladly snatched up thousands more, to be feasted on. She’d nearly taken my Cliff from me. And now she wanted to be friends?

Keep your friends close, your enemies closer still. Human me whispered.

No. I’d be keeping my pack as far as I could from her ilk. Friendship with a fey like her would be an empty thing. A pause before a knife in the back. While she was part of Luna’s new age, I’d never be inviting them into the crossroads.

Willingly, human me amended, tugging on the promise that weighed on my heart.

With a dismissive huff, I went over the fence and hurried after Secret and Victoria. Feeling Joy’s eyes on me long after I’d placed a building between us.

“When you're ready, just bring that invitation to the wedding here. I’ll get it then.” She called after me.


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