Others, 42

Elias Aerchon’s life had begun in a prison cell. Perhaps he hadn’t been born in one, though perhaps he had, but either way he’d spent enough time in them as a boy that it made no difference. Vandalism, theft, breaking and entering, threats, assault, sexual misconduct, drugs and alcohol, always drugs and alcohol, often together. Until one day the city guard in White Cape had grown tired of him and had thrown him in a cell with some of the rougher criminals in the city for a few days.

Elias had learned very quickly that he was nowhere near as tough as he’d thought he was, and that people far more intimidating, strong and mean than him were very happy to teach him the lessons he needed in respect, politeness and decency.

Many people Elias had known as a child would have taken that lesson to mean they had to be stronger and meaner to avoid being hurt like that in the future. Elias had taken it to mean he had to live a different life. The boy he’d been had died in that prison cell, beaten and raped to unconsciousness for mouthing off to someone for no reason, and a new person had been born from his corpse.

Team, 74

This, Cal thought, was going to be a hot mess.

It kind of already was, but it was about to get worse. They were ushering all of the captives up the ladder, Cal already up top with Wes and Joey and Beatrice, and there was going to be an obvious problem. “We can’t just wander around the base with all of these people.”

“No kidding,” Beatrice said, hands on her hips. “Someone’s going to notice, for one. It would be nice if you could limit what we fuck with to higher demons and hot dragons. You know, stuff we can beat.”

Knighthood, 60

Edwin wished he were guarding the outside of the door rather than the inside. But no, he was in here, and he was going to have to pretend to pay attention and be alert for this whole meeting of Gavin’s. It was going to suck.

Erik was out there, and Edwin would much rather have stood guard with him for however long this took, but Elaine and Owen had both insisted that they only needed one person on each side. Currently only Cal and his people were here with Gavin and Owen, but that was enough people that Edwin was now working.

Not that Gavin needed protecting from all of them, Edwin thought, since Owen was now going over there with a look on his face that suggested that they were all about to get invited to the orgy that Owen had mentioned before.

Stowaway, 67

“If I get arrested I expect you to break me out of prison,” Alec—who’d changed his name to Sylvester, apparently—said to Pax as they headed for the meeting room. They’d been let into Draughten’s house with no problems this time, even with all their extra guests.

“Why can’t you break yourself out of prison?” Pax asked.

“I can, but consider it a test of your abilities.”

“I’m insulted that you think that’s challenging enough to be a real test for me,” Pax said. “Not that practice is ever a bad thing and of course nothing would ever receive less than my whole attention and effort, but breaking someone out of a prison when they’re already a wizard and also very skilled at breaking out of things is rather weak in terms of challenges. Can there at least be a bunch of orphans with you and the necessity of escaping across a series of slanted rooftops in an ice storm?”

Sylvester patted Pax’s shoulder. “No. But if it helps, I’m wanted for several unsolved crimes in Pelican Bay and if you want I’ll throw something at the prince so instead of a prison, I’ll get myself chained to a cliff face during a thunderstorm.”

Team, 65

“I swear to me, the world had better not fucking end because of this meeting.”

“I’m pretty sure the world’s supposed to end because of a battle or something,” Mick said as he took his seat. “Not a meeting.”

“A meeting is just another kind of battle,” Cal disagreed. “And besides, I think I’d know a thing or two about the world’s going to end, so if I say it’s going to end because of a meeting…”

“You literally don’t know fuck-all about how the world’s going to end,” Beatrice interrupted. “Stop acting like you know stuff just because you created the universe and everything in it.”

“Not you.” Cal pointed at her. “Definitely didn’t create you, at least not on purpose.”

“When, exactly, will these two be having sex?” Mathilda asked Lillian.

Dragon, 74

“Do you think I can get Darby to pull another kid out of the snow?” Owen asked, as people came into the meeting room again. He was increasingly worried that this time he was going to have to sit through the meeting.

“How many kids do you plan to adopt?” Gavin asked, tapping his finger on the table as he watched Cal’s people sit. Joey had been convinced to wear clothes, Owen noticed. It wasn’t a great look for him, though it did serve to hide a few things that didn’t need to be in a fancy meeting.

“None, I just would rather do most things than sit through this,” Owen complained. “It’s going to be so boring.”

“It’s going to be about the fate of the known world.”

Owen shrugged. “I can’t stab the fate of the known world, can I?”

Dragon, 66

“We should be back in Pelican Bay within the week,” Admiral Elias Aerchon said to Gavin and to Natalie, and to a lesser extent to Owen. “I expect you will enjoy setting foot on dry land again, your Highness.”

“I don’t know,” Gavin said, tapping the deck of the Queen Geneva with a foot. “I was thinking maybe I’d stay with the Coral Witch. Become a swashbuckler. Sail the high seas, fight pirates. You’re in need of crew, right, captain?”

“Always,” Natalie agreed, eyebrow raised. “I could use someone to mop the decks.”

Stowaway, 52

As it turned out, Gavin who was named after a prince was actually Gavin, the actual prince, which made Pax feel a bit nervous about the whole ‘being slightly threatening in his presence and also criticizing his choice of travelling companions’ thing, but oh well, too late now.

Besides, more pressingly, the big stupid knight who’d tried to cut Nate’s head off was Gavin’s fiancé, and Pax had stabbed him, so oops. Hopefully he didn’t get arrested and beheaded, he really didn’t have time for that.

Pax, you’re not listening to anything he’s saying, are you? Nate asked, the medallion safely around Pax’s neck and inside his shirt. The last thing he needed was Nate getting lost.

Of course I’m listening, Pax scoffed mentally. He’d learned already that he was mentally audible to Nate if he concentrated hard enough, which was convenient, so he didn’t have to go around talking to the air all the time. Don’t assume I’m not paying attention just because my mind is occupied by many other things, Nate. I have the ability to cogitate in many directions at once.