Home > Crown of Moonlight (Court of Midnight and Deception #2)

Crown of Moonlight (Court of Midnight and Deception #2)
Author: K.M. Shea

Chapter One

 

 

Leila

 

 

I squinted at the crumbling Night Court Castle and wondered if all of Skye’s antacids were finally starting to affect her mentally.

It was dark—it was always dark in the Night Realm—but at least for now the moon was out, which shed just enough light to illuminate the disintegrating castle walls, the broken windows, and all the weeds that jutted out of the massive stone patio we stood on.

“Skye,” I said. “There’s no way we can use this place for my crowning banquet. We’d need a year to get it ready, and I’m not willing to spend the money to get it fixed when the Night Court’s finances are already terrible.”

Skye glanced down at the screen of her tablet, which cast a blue light on her face and her brown hair that made her look like a movie star. Her hair was cut in a bob that went just past her chin and curled in the most amazing, thick, frizz-free curls I’d ever seen on a living being. “Yes, I figured as much.”

I pushed my own hair—long and dark black—over my shoulder and eyed my steward. “Why, then, did you insist on dragging me here?”

“Because I wished to show you the preserved weapons of the first few Night Court monarchs, and I knew if I said so you’d refuse to come,” my steward said—proving she could scheme like the best of her kinsmen, even if she was half fae/half human, like me.

“Skye,” I groaned. “I need to talk to the Court accountants to see how much of the deficit I’ve covered since I’ve sold the Chicago condo and the cabin in northern Wisconsin. I also have to mediate a talk between the head representative of the mermaids and the head representative of the naiads because they’ve gotten in an argument about the mansion’s lake—and Indigo said she’d make a cake for that occasion!”

I mournfully stared at the star spattered sky, even though it was barely past ten in the morning. “The point is, there’s a ton of stuff that’s way more important than being dragged before the weapons of some long dead rulers!”

“It’s vital that you understand the history of your Court.” Skye was all serenity and grace as she gave me a slight smile that accented the beauty of her heart-shaped face. “It will further your understanding of current Court politics.”

I glumly stared at the tiny, cat-sized griffins that were half pigeon half raccoon and roosting on the roofline. “But I don’t want to learn about the original Night King who lived and died centuries ago. Particularly not when he’s the reason why I’m stuck in this mess, because of those stupid laws and agreements he made when he established the North American Night Court!”

Skye made a choking noise, and I heard the familiar rattle of her mint tray—which was stuffed with antacids.

As I waited for my steward to collect herself, I looked from the pigeon-raccooon-griffins—I needed to come up with a shorter name for them—to Kevin and Whiskers who were lounging by my feet.

Kevin—a shade—stood about waist high and was wolfish in shape…if wolves had glowing crimson eyes and looked like they were wrapped in shadows that made his shape almost flicker.

Whiskers—a gloom—flicked his tail before he twisted and licked his back, smoothing out his black fur which was swirled with tiny red hairs. He was a cat, but like all the glooms that hung out with me, he panted, and was so skinny he looked diseased.

I eyed his patchy fur, then Kevin’s spine—visible even through the haze of his fur—with displeasure.

Dusk and Dawn have been diligently feeding all the glooms, shades, and night mares a high fat, nutritional diet. Why haven’t they put on any weight?

I petted Kevin, smiling even though his fur felt greasy and thin. The shade wagged his tail and leaned into me, almost knocking me over in his exuberance.

Indigo shuffled across the far end of the patio, cradling a magic-made orb of light that acted like a lantern. “My Sovereign,” she drawled. “I’m afraid you might have broken Skye with that response.” She strolled up to me, hesitating when she came face to face with Whiskers before offering her hand to the feline—who plopped his chin in her palm for scratching.

Indigo bravely scratched, even though she was barely taller than Kevin, and the glooms and shades had a bit of a wild reputation among our Court.

“Sorry, Skye, I don’t regret it,” I said. “I’ve had enough time to think about it, and I’ve concluded every problem—my getting picked and forced to become the Night Queen, the fact that I can’t abdicate, and getting married to a freakin’ assassin—is all the original king’s fault, because he made all those stupid laws when he ruled. The creep.”

“Hey, you only have yourself to blame for getting hitched to an assassin,” Indigo said. “Skye went through all the half decent candidates with you, but you had to go for the bad boy.”

“Because he doesn’t have any political connections,” I protested.

Skye had regained some of her spirit—or at least she stopped crunching antacids. “The first king made those laws as a way to limit the power of the Night Court because he saw—in his immense wisdom—that as the sole Night Court in North America, it would have too much power.”

“And because the Night Court and Day Court are inescapably linked given that they rule day and night together, the limitations on the Night Court would force limitations on the Day Court even if their monarchs did nothing,” I recited. “I know, I know—you’ve spent a lot of time tutoring me on history, and because I’m highly motivated to move on to new subjects I’m not going to forget it all.”

“Don’t worry, Skye,” Indigo assured her. “It’s not that she doesn’t listen to your lessons—our queen is too diligent for that. It’s merely that she’s a heretic.”

Skye looked contemplatively at the mint tin in her hand, the golden skin of her forehead puckered with thin wrinkles.

I vaguely noted that even when in distress, Skye still looked gorgeous and graceful—and far more queen-like than me.

Sure, my fae blood made me pretty enough for a human. It was also responsible for the unusual purple-ish-blue shade of my eyes, and I’d inherited my height from my fae biological father. But while I was prone to flashing my emotions across my face, Skye was far more controlled and better at hiding her expressions. Or she usually was, unless she was getting out her antacids because of something I did or said.

But that might have had something to do with our upbringing.

Skye grew up among the fae, living with her fae mother’s family. I lived with my human mom and dad—or step-dad, really, but he practically raised me. To me he would always be Dad.

Fae are pretty vicious supernaturals. They play all sorts of games—mental and political. And even though they can use magic and have certain limitations that you think would improve their personalities—like the inability to lie—they’re all about power. Both obtaining and keeping it.

“You can’t tease Skye like that,” I told Indigo. “You’ll give her ulcers.”

Indigo kept scratching Whiskers’ chin, eliciting a deep purr from him. “I wasn’t teasing.”

I made a noise of dissatisfaction. “I see how it is around here. There’s no respect!”

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