Monday, May 19, 2008

Guest Excerpt: Treaty of Desire by Cynnara Tregarth

Treaty of Desire Excerpt--- Rated PG

A two-year-old was turning from boy to wolf cub and back again as he tried to manipulate the toys in front of him. A dark-haired woman laughed as the boy’s father knelt down to help him. The man glanced up at the leather-clad woman. “Laugh it up, why don’t you? You don’t know how frustrating it is to deal with a child shifter, Taja Marya Drevin.”
Taja laughed. “Byron, because Juren is constantly shifting, it means he’s got to learn control early. Better he learn on his own than have it forced on him. You know the reason is because of the Unseelie blood in us.”
A knock at the door interrupted Byron’s response. Taja jumped up lightly. Quickly, she palmed her dagger and spoke. “Yes?”
“Open up, Taja. This is Reina.”
Taja blinked to let her senses enhance beyond the human range. The woman’s scent was indeed that of her queen. Taja slid her dagger back into its sheath before opening the door. She looked at Reina, who was dressed casually in a leather jerkin and a soft blue linen shirt. “Often dress like a peasant?” she teased. They both knew the value of being underestimated. Sometimes it was best in the long run.
Reina laughed as Taja shut the door behind her. “Not often enough, it seems. I’m glad you were here. The treaty is signed. We are now in alliance with the Seelie court of the fey. And thanks to your personal information about how the courts work, the treaty was easier to achieve than it would’ve been.”
Taja gestured for Reina to take the seat she’d just vacated and arranged herself on the floor next to Juren. The young boy crawled into his aunt’s lap. She kissed his furry face and hugged him close. “Tell me, what are the costs and the benefits of this treaty?”
The were leader quickly listed the requirements of the treaty on both sides. Taja withheld her comments until Reina had finished. “So we’re teaching them the skills they lost, while learning how to use some of their basic magick for defense of our people. Who are you going to con into taking this job? Anyone with brains will step back and run like hell before accepting this asinine assignment.”
Reina looked pointedly at her and Taja got the hint that the answer wouldn’t be one she liked. Taja squeezed her nephew harder while Byron spoke. “Whoever it is, they’re going to be fighting an uphill battle there. The Seelie don’t like interlopers, even if they asked for help. Hell, they’ve not asked for much help from their own Unseelie cousins in centuries.”
Taja nodded as the young cub fell asleep in her lap. “This is true. I know that they’ve got to be concerned about the gateway being opened, if they’ve come to other races.”
Her hands stroked her nephew’s soft fur. She knew what was going to come. Her queen gave her that stern, commanding look only when she wanted her to do something. Taja tried not to think about it. Facing people who would consider her impure or a crossbreed if they knew the truth…it would tear into her. No matter how much time had passed, no matter how much she was truly a sub-queen among her people, she was nothing but a half-breed with ill-gotten abilities among the Seelie. She tried to control her thoughts, hoping that she had misread her queen.
Reina looked quizzically at her friend and confidante. The scent of fear had increased slightly. Taja let out her breath. “Who are you sending to deal with the Seelie court? You need someone strong and able to hold their own, no matter what’s thrown their way. It has to be someone also familiar with their ways and their basic culture.”
The queen’s gaze narrowed. “Who do you recommend, Lady of the Cats? Who knows enough of the policy and procedures of the sidhe, as well as the Seelie court, to not embarrass us?”
Taja lowered her eyes to the sleeping child. Here was a child who could benefit by being able to call the Seelie court friend. Knowing their basic magick for protection could keep him safe while under the influence of the full moon each month. In her heart, Taja knew the decision that had been made by both her laird and herself. It would be tough, but if it meant peace for her nephew and those like him, it didn’t matter the price she paid.
“We both know the only one qualified to do so is me. When do I go to the Seelie court?” Taja asked, while silently forcing her magick to change her nephew back to human form. When it was accomplished, she gently handed him over to his waiting father. Her brother always knew when to leave at the right time.
Byron departed the room. Taja stared at her queen, aware of how her friend’s thought processes worked. Reina broke the quiet first. “There’s no one else who’s qualified. Plus, you’ll be under the guidance of Alterran’s heir. He’s promised you full support for your time there.”
The tone brooked no disobedience. Then, as the were queen shifted from one animal to another, Taja realized just how much power and control this negotiation had taken. Finally, Reina regained her human form, though her eyes were still slightly flat, as if shedding a reptilian nature had been tougher than normal.
Taja snorted, though she was careful not to be too disrespectful. “If you think your evil snake glare will work on me, you’re sadly mistaken. You don’t know how hard it was for me growing up between our realm and my dad’s family.” Her queen’s look didn’t change and the sense of a trap being snapped around her made Taja even more uncomfortable. “Reina, please, you can’t be serious.”
The were leader shifted into a large vulture. “I’m dead serious,” she said mentally. “There is no one else I can trust. Plus, your heritage is a bonus. It’ll help you learn quicker.”
“It won’t show us if a true were can access those abilities.”
“You’ll make it work. I know you will. You’ve done it before with the vampyr. Why would I doubt you?”
Taja scrubbed her face with the back of one hand. There was the rub. Reina had faith in her, where she herself lacked it. What the hell was she supposed to do? Telling her queen that she didn’t want to face the people who shunned her father because he was half sprite and half sidhe was a pretty poor excuse.
She drew herself up straight. “I guess there is no choice. So I’m the guinea pig. Joy.”
The lack of inflection was evident to her, to Reina, and to the returning Byron. He looked from her to Reina, then said, “So the queen of the shifters got you to do it? I’m impressed. I’d thought you’d figure out how to get out of dealing with the people who shunned our father, but kept his parents in their court.”
Taja shrugged while shoving down her emotions. There was too much to think about to let her emotions run the moment. Control first, release later on, perhaps during a run in panther form. “That is the past. Supposedly, the Seelie court is looking to be more accepting and more open. They might not like it, but they’ll entertain crossbreeds during this time before the gateway opens.”
Reina smirked. “Taja, I’ve not told them you’re a crossbreed. No one knows. To them, you’re a full were. I’ve not said anything about you, except that you are the Lady of the Cats in the were realm. The king’s heir will be your teacher and his second son will be one of your protectors. You leave in ten days. That should be enough time to get ready.”

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