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The Grey Edge: Chapter Thirty-Three


Magnolia opened her eyes. The curtains around the four-poster bed were still drawn, but the morning sun permeated anyway. Sun. Sun was a good sign, it meant more possible escapes. Sun meant sky, and sky meant open spaces, meant weaknesses in security – even for a Court where most of the members could fly.
It was a comfort – the only small comfort about the situation. The majority of the Court that she had seen, or been dragged through, was underground or a windowless building. All designed, likely, to give a feeling of hopelessness, to show Magpie’s control and to induce claustrophobia in her sky-loving brethren.
She sat up, hands landing in the dried wet patches on the red cotton sheets and took quiet stock of herself.
Urge to murder, check. Sanity, check. Free will, check. No major injuries. No muscle damage. No open wounds.
In far better condition than her commander.
She slid across the bed, pushed open the curtain and stepped toward the window. There was no clock visible in the suite, but the sun was high enough in the sky for it to be approaching lunchtime.
Far too long since she had checked in with Taylor. The first aid treatment had been shoddy – they failed to cover emergency situations like that in the four-hour seminar. It had mostly covered treating fellow recruits, using a few common fae over-the-counter healing items, and the application of emergency packs for agents.
It had not covered creating a foot smoothie. It had not covered how much of their own flesh an agent needed to consume to come back from a near-fatal injury, and it did not follow the recommended follow-up treatment.
Cutting him more was out of the question – the loss of a leg would be too much, even if he couldn’t feel it. Paralysed. He was paralysed. It would be an easy fix once they were back in a system area, but until then, he was at risk.
He was helpless.
If Mordred went after him. If her mother went after him. If there was a particularly motivated guard wanting to gain favour. If there was simply anyone with a vendetta against agents – and there were far too many of them, especially among the unfriendly Courts.
It could all so easily end in war. Just as easily, the Agency could cut them loose – it was treason and treason by proxy. It was not deserved, but the rules were what they were. All would be forgiven, though, if they executed Magpie and brought her head back as proof.
The Agency was neutral, there was no official conflict, but Magpie was blacklisted – that was permission to kill her whenever given the chance. If that led to the war…at least they would be on the winning side. A family without a warden would be in chaos, and in no position to mount a decent battle.
Neutrality was bullshit.
If it ever came to war – with the Magpies, with another family, another Court, or another faction – they would be left alone, vulnerable and without allies. Small scale alliances – a Liar informant here, relative peace with most of the major Courts, meant nothing in the face of all out conflict. The ability to sit down to courteous meetings with Madchester and discuss issues of mutual benefit would be forgotten as soon as it came to choosing sides.
They needed to form alliances now, rather than hiding in the sand pretending that being neutral would protect them.
She stepped into the adjoining bathroom and turned on the shower, grateful of the hot water. It washed away the dried sweat and stickiness from her skin, even if it did nothing to wash away her disgust. Three minutes later, she turned off the hot water and pushed back the shower curtain.
‘Don’t bother getting dressed, Magnolia.’
She tied her hair back. ‘In here, Mordred, or back in the bed?’ she asked.
‘Not that, sis,’ he said, ‘I won’t need your whore ass for another few hours yet.’
‘Then let me get dressed, I’m not a walking peep show.’
He moved, and was against her faster than her eyes could track. His hand went around her throat and he squeezed – no where near hard enough to be an actual threat, barely enough to make a point. She stayed calm – she was in no danger, and fighting him would cause nothing but trouble for her commander, so there was no reason to panic. She adjusted the size of her breaths, taking smaller ones, rather than trying to gasp for larger ones, and making herself look weak. She was not weak, and she had been trained better than this.
He squeezed harder, making a point this time. ‘You are whatever I want you to be,’ he said, breathing foul breath in her face – whatever his breakfast had been, it had not been something as inoffensive as cereal. Roasted salmon probably. Cannibalistic brunch, not beyond belief, someone had to be eating all of the deceased innocents, and Mordred probably had no problem following every one of their mother’s orders.
‘Your specialist is here,’ he said as he released her throat. ‘He needs to examine you, so he can detox you, so that we’re not just fucking for fun.’
She gave a shrug and followed him back through to the bedroom. The magpie doctor stood there, such a sharp contrast to the Parkers. He was short, rotund, his grey hair tied back in a neat ponytail, dressed in a suit about eighty years out of date. ‘Artsmith Tenner,’ he said with a strange, bobbing bow.
She stared at him for a moment, cataloging his eyes, his skin, all the places were the secondary characteristics tended to show, at least to those who knew how to spot them. She saw nothing.
‘Are you human?’ she asked as he invited her to sit.
Mordred clapped a strong hand on Tenner’s shoulder, and the little man rocked a little. ‘Remember, Arty, not for you.’
‘You don’t need to remind me, sir,’ the doctor said Mordred took his hand away. ‘And you know young women don’t interest me.’
‘And I told you to stop being a faggot.’
‘I predict I’ll be done in an hour, if that’s acceptable.’
‘Mother needs me for at least that,’ Mordred said, ‘but don’t take your time, I want an heir as soon as possible.’
‘Yes sir.’
Mordred took one last, lustful look at her, then faded away with a flourish.
‘No, not human,’ Tenner said as he removed a stethoscope from his old-style doctor’s bag. ‘Weak of blood though.’
‘If you’re as weak as you look-’
‘Oh, weaker, believe me.’
‘If your blood is as weak as it appears,’ she snapped, unwilling to hear his self-pity. ‘Then that means you’re here willingly. That’s the Kings’ law isn’t it?’
‘In order to understand the laws that apply to me, you would have to understand what I am, and I don’t have time to explain it to you.’ He pressed the stethoscope to her chest. ‘Breathe. And I am thoroughly sick of all this talk of law, it is not my chosen field, and it bores me.’
‘I’m not exactly happy about fae law right now, either.’
‘Your mother’s lawyer has been visiting all too much,’ Tenner said, ‘pointing out more Kings-approved ways that she can exploit her family. He’s good at what he does, and that’s unusual. Deep breath now.’
‘Ex-Kings? Ex-Liar?’
‘Human,’ Tenner said as he pulled a smartphone from his pocket. ‘Now, do you know the exact kind of pill you take?’
She shrugged. ‘Used to, then I went to the Agency, they’ve got their own brand so to speak.’
‘That isn’t going to make your mother happy.’
‘You keep calling her my mother,’ she said as he pulled a syringe from his bag. ‘I know you aren’t half-’
He swabbed her elbow and gently inserted the needle. ‘Even in the broader sense, she’s your mother, not mine,’ he said. ‘You want to know why my blood is so weak? I’m of the last warden, not of your mother. You want to know why I work for her? She owns me, she bought me, for ten quid, hence my name. She at least let me be schooled, some freedom is better than none, at least that’s what I keep telling myself.’
He placed the vials of blood into a small case, and handed her swab. ‘Inside the cheek please.’
She did as asked and handed it back. ‘My commander is here,’ she said, ‘if you look in on him, I’ll reward you.’
‘Like I said, I’m not interested in young ladies.’
‘I know some guys-‘
‘I’m not interested in anyone,’ he said, ‘I have my work, and I enjoy music, but that’s all. Your mother castrated me, she thought it would give me less reason to stray, more reason to stay loyal.’
‘Jesus.’
‘I’ll take these samples, I should have some test formulas in the next day or two.’
‘Once I get out of here, I’ll have my full designation as an Aide, and that’s not insignificant, to-‘
‘Miss Hammond-‘
‘Don’t fucking call me that.’
‘Miss, you’re out of your mind if you think I’ll look in on the agent. Even for how worthless it is, I value my life.’
‘He could be dead, and I’m locked in here.’
‘Mordred said he would be a while.’
‘You would-‘
‘Call you a guard, have you escorted there and back? Yes, Miss, I can do that. When I’m finished.’
‘What else do you need?’
‘Do you have some sort of problem with physicians?’
‘My usual doctors…aren’t quite stable, and threaten organ extraction on a regular basis. I have my reasons for not trusting them.’
‘I’ve just got a few questions.’
‘All personal and uncomfortable, I assume.’
‘Sarcasm won’t get you to your proxy any sooner.’
Taylor’s face flashed in her mind. ‘Ask.’
‘Orientation?’
‘Bi.’
‘Any history of STIs?’
‘Not that I’m aware of, and nothing that the Parkers are aware of, so no.’
‘You’re active sexually?’
She gave him a withering looking. ‘Yes.’
‘Any pregnancies, miscarriages or abortions?’
She shook her head.
‘Recipient of any sexual violence?’
‘Other then being raped last night?’ she asked bluntly.
‘You agreed to be here, Miss.’
‘There’s a difference between consent and coercion,’ she said. ‘Answer to your question is yes, but no lasting damage. Anything more?’
‘Nothing this minute, but I will warn you that any formulation I’ll use will include elements to enhance your fertility, so you could get a little moody.’
‘Think you could call for that guard now?’
‘As you wish, Miss.’
She stood, turned from him and walked to the small wardrobe across the room. It was locked, no key was visible, but a dress hung in a dry-cleaning bag, with her name scrawled on the ticket.
She discarded the bag and pulled on the dress – which was far too sheer, far too short, and gave her the distinct impression that it was designed for easy access – the Court didn’t have a bottomless budget, so Mordred wouldn’t literally be able to rip all of her clothes off without denting his petty cash.
She tied her hair back up, then crossed to the doctor again. ‘Can you arrange for some food to be brought to his room? Nothing extreme, whites and clears. And more bandages, antibiotics, and some bags of-‘
‘You overestimate my importance here.’
‘Then who do I talk to about this stuff?’
‘Frankly, Miss, everyone just expects the agent to die, so why go to the effort?’
‘Because if he dies, I’ll have no reason to stay here. I’ll-‘
‘Don’t be over dramatic. You’re a recruit, aren’t you a little worldly to think that grand gestures for love mean anything?’
‘Unless Mordred plans on copulating with a corpse, it should.’
‘…and you think he hasn’t, Miss?’
There was a knock at the door, and Tenner pulled it open, giving another of his strange, bobbing nods to the guard.
She drew herself up to her full height, and fixed a glare on the guard. ‘Take me to the agent.’
‘You’d best be back by the time Mordred returns, Miss,’ Tenner said, ‘none of what I need to do or what he wants to do requires you to be conscious.’