The last man was obviously the leader. He stood a little in front of the group and held his chin at an angle which clearly broadcasted his disdain; either for us or his task. I wouldn’t be sure which it was until we talked to him. His hair began as bright, platinum blond at the roots; a color so light as to almost be colorless. Then it slowly darkened, shifting through golden tones like a lion’s mane; warming deliciously to caramel and then to chocolate until it hardened into onyx at the tips. Those stark ends shifted like wet ink over the shine of his armor.
Within that maddening mane was a majestic face ruled by startling silver eyes; made even more intense by a thin outline of black around the irises. Skin—pale as raw silk—covered a wealth of muscles but it wasn’t pale enough to conceal a thin, silvery, curling line which trailed over the top of one high cheekbone. With those artistic swirls, the mark looked more like decoration than defect and it actually accented his eyes beautifully; making them seem to shine even brighter. Still, it was a scar; I was sure of it. One created by magic.
A scarred fairy; you didn’t see that often. Most healed too quickly to leave scars but then this was the Wild Hunt, and he wasn’t just a foot soldier. He stood with the bearing of a commander but against the backdrop of my overgrown yard with its waist-high grass and our humble wood home painted a sweet baby blue, he almost looked silly. At the very least, he looked extremely out of place.
“Extinguishers Ewan and Seren Sloane?” The scarred one asked in a deep voice as he casually laid a hand on the pommel of his sword.
“Yes,” my father spoke for us; his own sword laid back casually over his shoulder as if it was a Louisville Slugger. “And you are?”
“Tiernan Shadowcall, Lord of the Wild Hunt,” he said tonelessly but then his wide shoulders tensed; muscles flexing enough to shift his silver breastplate, and his gaze shot to mine.
I blinked at the intensity in those strange eyes and a shiver of precognition coasted through me. The silver in his gaze seemed to warm, melt, and go liquid as a trailing tickle of fingers ghosted over my flesh. My eyelids twitched over images of his face above me; long fingers clenching in the grass beside my cheek. I inhaled sharply and determinedly pushed the vision away to focus on the present. Tiernan cocked his head and took a step toward me. I was about to move toward him as well when I realized how crazy that would be and stopped myself.
“How can we help you, Lord Hunter?” I asked as I lifted my sword and made a lie of my welcoming words. I didn’t know what the vision meant; if it was a promise or a warning, an attack or… something else entirely. I couldn’t think about it right then so I let the questions go and focused on the job at hand.
Tiernan stopped moving and blinked rapidly as he frowned; shifting his gaze from my eyes to my sword. He took a step back and then his eyes fell on the black SUV behind me. Those silver orbs seemed to flash and then he began to smile.
“You’ve found her already.” the hunter looked back at me. “Well done, Lady Extinguisher.”
“Thank you.” My father stepped between us. “We’ve got it from here.”
“I’m afraid my orders are to return with Aideen Evergreen’s body.” He finally looked toward my father. “I’ll wait if you’d like to kill her yourself. I know you have a hatred that needs to be fed, Ewan Sloane. Far be it for me to begrudge a fellow warrior his share of blood.”
“I’ll feed my hatred with your blood if you don’t get off my property.” Dad edged forward, and the fairy tensed.
“Easy now.” Tiernan waved his soldiers down without even glancing at them. This was a man who expected to be obeyed. “You have the warrant of execution. We both want the same thing. Just kill the girl and be done with it, then we’ll leave peacefully with her body. You won’t even have to bother with the clean-up.”
“No one’s going to kill her. Not today.” I edged around my father and heard his sharp intake of breath. I always let him handle business, and I never got between him and a fairy. I don’t know what came over me.
“What’s that, Extinguisher Seren?” Tiernan shifted his weight smoothly; his thickly muscled frame moving with the grace of one much leaner. He almost appeared to have glided sideways so that he was once more in front of me.
“She’s asked for asylum,” I continued and lifted my sword higher. If he moved just an inch forward, the tip of my weapon would be directly beneath his chin. “Aideen Evergreen is now under the protection of the Human Council. Care to start a war by trying to take her?” I lifted a brow at him.
“Seren!” My dad growled.
“Do you have anything to add, Extinguisher Ewan?” Tiernan angled his gaze to my father but remained where he was.
“The girl is under our protection,” Dad snarled. “But I have no problem fighting you for her if you choose to ignore it. I won’t tell if you won’t.”
I nearly groaned. My father’s hatred was greater than his common sense. If the Wild Hunt tried to remove Aideen from our custody after I’d just informed them of her status as a refugee, it could indeed be considered an act of war… whether or not my father was inclined to fight.
“Just leave now,” I used my pyrokinesis to cast a circle of fire around us and the SUV; forcing Tiernan and his hunters to step back. “Tell the Fairy Council that Aideen is under the protection of the Human Council.”
“So brave here in the light of day; surrounded by a ring of fire,” the other light sidhe hissed at me. “We’ll see how impudent you are in the depths of night when death comes for you on silent wings. Just wait and see how delicious our next meeting shall be, little Extinguisher.”
“Enough!” Tiernan snapped, and the fairy went still. “We can’t break the sanctity of asylum but asylum can only be invoked for political reasons, and Aideen Evergreen is a murderess on the run. That is not a matter of politics.”
“She denies the allegations.” I leveled my stare at him. “She claims that Dylan Thorn was killed while trying to help her escape from those who would murder her.”
“Those are fascinating claims.” Tiernan’s face went pensive. “But why should we believe them?”
“She says they want her dead because she has information about a fairy threat against humanity,” I continued. “A plot to exterminate my entire race.”
“She’s lying of course,” the lone female in their group snapped. “A desperate bid for her life.”
“Perhaps.” I nodded at the redhead. “But her claims are serious enough that we need to take her to the Human Council and let them decide. If they find her information to be false, we will hand her over to you.”
“Hmm.” Tiernan glanced over at the others. “Sounds fair enough. Which council house will you be taking her to?”
“The closest.” My father shrugged.
“San Francisco?” Tiernan asked, and my dad nodded. “We shall see you there.”
“If not sooner.” The winged man grinned at me as they walked by; skirting the flames of my circle.
“Come by anytime,” I called to him. “I’ll be happy to wear those claws on a necklace and those wings will look good on my wall.”
The winged fairy stopped in his tracks, turned, and started to head back over to me, but Tiernan grabbed him by the shoulder, hissed something in his ear, and then shoved him in the direction of the car. Tiernan and the two dark sidhe got into the car while Mr. Death on Silent Wings leapt into the air and disappeared. His shining aura flared brighter; giving away his location as he flew off.