They ride back to Staðarfell in silence, both sisters are totally absorbed in thoughts about what they just have seen.
It is not before they almost run over some Icelandic horses grazing in liberty by the roadside that they finally focus on what is laying ahead.
‘We could always rent one of those,’ Granny says as they watch the ragged small horses cross the road.
‘They seem more suited for kids. I’d hate to force them to carry us around for miles.’
‘They are built to carry Viking warriors, Missy.’
Missy frowns. ‘I think I prefer the hot air balloon.’
They have to drive through the little town. The traffic is slow and calm, the cars stop politely as soon as they see a pedestrian even if there is no crosswalk in sight.
The fog that had accompanied them on their drive around the bay clears and when they arrive at the venue, the sky is a blazing blue without a cloud in sight. Perfect weather to go hot air ballooning.
They can hear sirens in the distance when they get out of the car. They are rapidly approaching but the sisters don’t react, used to the hustle in larger towns. They stop and shade their eyes looking at the brightly colored balloon. It seems ready for take-off, but the office building looks abandoned. They can see from where they are standing that the blinds are down at the entrance.
‘Maybe it’s to keep out the sunlight,’ Missy suggests.
‘Or it is simply closed,’ Granny answers. ‘Let’s check.’ Purposefully she strides off towards the building.
‘Maybe it’s closed for lunch? We should get some before going on another wild goose hunt, don’t you think so?’ Missy slams the door to the little car behind her, hurrying to catch up with her older sister.
Granny just huffs, trying the handle to the office.
‘So it’s open. OK. But what do you think about lunch first? Steini Sturluson mentioned a small café downtown that serves homemade pies and-’
The door is violently pushed open right in Granny’s face, sending her sprawling on the floor. A man wearing an alien mask and carrying a bag rushes past them. Missy reacts to the mask without thinking. After their encounter with aliens in Vulturu, she is both terrified and angry so it comes naturally to pull out her wand and yell, ‘FREEZE!’
Granny scrambles to her feet, looking in horror at the ice statue just a few feet away. ‘What did you do!?!’
‘Some basic magic.’ Missy shuffles her feet.
‘I thought we agreed on NO magic!!! At all!’
A car’s door slams and the sound of running feet on the gravel outside paired with her sister’s fury makes Missy totally stress out.
‘Oh, you’re right…’ Fast as lightning she points her wand towards the frozen thief.
Her wand erupts in a red hot beam, causing the poor statue of a man to melt on the spot.
Granny stares in chock at what is left of the man. A puddle.
‘Missy! What have you done?’
Her sister swirls on her feet, a faint trail of sparkles erupting from her wand.
Granny backs off a few feet, holding up her hands in an avoiding gesture. ‘Put that away! NOW!’
Missy is fed up with her bossy sister. ‘What if I don’t want to? We’ll never find Magnus using your methods anyway, so why not make the search easier? And more entertaining?’
Tires are screeching and a car door slams.
‘Dang! The police. What shall we do?’ Granny whispers.
‘Are you sure it’s the police?’
‘Sirens and flashing blue light on the dashboard should give even you a hint, Missy.’
Missy quickly hides her wand behind her back as the driver of the unmarked police car comes running towards them.
‘I could always freeze him – if it comes to that.’
‘Don’t you dare,’ Granny hisses through clenched teeth, a strained smile in place for the officer’s intention.
‘Arent Skallgrimursson, State police, district commissioner of Stadarfell.’ Panting, the man flips a badge. ‘There have been a break and entry, have you ladies seen anything unusual?’
Granny just points, not knowing how to explain.
‘Þakka þér! Thank you! Don’t leave the premises, we will need to take your statements.’
The policeman turns on his heel and rushes off again, but slips in the puddle. With flailing arms he regains his composure and continues in the direction Granny pointed. Except she pointed at the puddle.
Granny turns her head in her sister’s direction with blazing eyes. ‘I can’t see what’s so funny!’
‘Maybe because you don’t have any humor,’ Missy answers petulantly.
‘Humor? First you killed someone and now you made me lie to a policeman,’ Granny snaps back.
‘Well, you didn’t exactly lie, you just pointed. I’m sure it’s not considered lying.’ Missy gesticulates with her wand, shrugging.
Granny stares sternly at her sister. ‘Put. That. Away.’
Missy stares back, hesitating. Then she obeys, albeit grumpily and muttering to herself. The usual litany about her big sister always getting to decide, and do, what’s fun.
‘Was that really necessary?’ Granny can’t tear her eyes away from the puddle. It makes her nauseous, but her sister seems to take it in her stride.
‘I just wanted to defrost him a little… Basic magic. And one alien less to worry about.’
‘Yes, of course…’ Granny says absentmindedly. Then her attention snaps back to her sister. ‘It was a mask, Missy. Not an alien.’
‘Whatever. It was a thief. I bet the bag is full of money. We should put it in the trunk before the policeman comes back.’
‘We can’t do that. We have to give it back. If it is money.’
‘I’m sure he was also a murderer. It’s awfully quiet in there.’ She nods towards the office the thief had erupted from.
Granny looks at the door. It is still ajar, and Missy might be right about the man having killed the owner and his assistant. She swallows, not feeling ready to witness the brutal death of people she had talked to as late as yesterday.
‘If they’re all dead in there, we should keep it,’ Missy continues. ‘No one could claim it’s theirs. And a lot of it is actually ours. Or was. It’s just like taking back what already belongs to us – with a hefty interest rate.’
‘You know we can’t do that.’
‘Why? Banks do it all the time.’
‘They might need help in there.’ She pushes the door open and strides in, looking around her. She lets out a sigh of relief. The office is empty.
‘I guess they are out for lunch. Like normal people at this time of the day,’ Missy observes from the threshold. ‘We should go, too. Before the restaurants close.’
‘The police officer told us to stay put.’
‘Yes. To get a statement.’
Granny nods. She walks over to a bench and sits down. Might as well rest her aching legs.
‘I wonder how we will explain the puddle,’ Missy muses, taking a hearty bite out of an apple.
Granny jumps to her feet. ‘Hey, what’s that?’
‘Hey, what’s that?’
‘That.’ Granny stares accusingly at Missy’s hand.
‘Oh, that. An apple.’
‘I can see it’s an apple! It’s the way you got it in your hand…’
‘You know how I got it in my hand.’ Missy rolls her eyes. ‘It’s basic-
‘-magic, I know.’ Granny passes a hand in a tired gesture over her eyes.
‘Right. You can do it too. At least you could when we were younger.’ She takes another crunching bite.
‘But I’m starving!’
Granny takes a deep breath. Why did I ask her to come??? She’ll ruin everything even before it has started… Exhaling slowly, she counts to ten. ‘Let’s go find a restaurant, Missy. With real food.’
‘I guess you don’t have any ideas to explain the puddle, huh? Can I drive?’
‘But I drove here. At least part of the way.’
‘I was tired.’
‘Aren’t you now? A little?’
‘You don’t have a driver’s license.’
‘So what? The town’s only policeman is chasing a thief.’
Sighing, Granny hands over the car-keys and walks briskly towards the car.
Missy follows her sister a few steps, then she swears under her breath and walks back. She quickly zips open the bag, grabs some cash and stuffs it in her pockets. Then she jogs back towards the car where her sister is waiting, gaping like a goldfish. She beeps the doors open from a distance and they both jump in.
‘What on earth were you doing? I thought we had decided to leave it there.’ Granny sinks into her seat so low only her chignon is visible through the window.
‘For anybody to find?’ Missy fiddles with the keys. They fall on the floor, and she has to bend over in a really awkward position to pick them up. ‘I just took some pocket money, anyway.’
‘Pocket money?’ Granny looks at Missy’s deep pockets bulging with wads of money. ‘I don’t think we have the same definition of pocket money.’
Missy fumbles with the keys and starts the car, but it jumps forward and stalls.
‘Hurry! The police will be back any minute!’ Granny looks out the rear window over her shoulder at the unmarked sedan parked right behind them.
Missy finally gets the car going and she makes a U-turn with screeching tires.
‘Calm down! We don’t need the police to stop you for reckless driving.’ Granny holds on to the little handle over her door, propping herself against the seat with the other hand against the dashboard.
‘And no license,’ Missy giggles, but she slows down.
Missy lets Granny off outside Björn’s Café, insisting on parking the car on her own.
‘Just book a table and order something double for me.’ She rolls down the window, shouting after Granny, ‘With extra cheese!’
Granny stops at the sound of a bump followed by the grinding sound of metal. She can hear Missy swearing, another bump, then silence. Fighting the urge to turn around, she walks up the stairs to the café. Missy wanted to drive. She wanted to park. She’ll just have to take her responsibilities and explain the scratches on the bumper to the retailer. Or Granny could try to fix it later tonight, if she has got her strength back… Problem is, her magic is strong, but doesn’t last forever.
The screech of tires and what must be Icelandic swear words erupt behind her and she can see, in the reflection of the big window how her sister is crossing the street in front of a car. Geez. One day she’ll get run over. She pushes the door open and takes a step in to the welcoming warmth.
Absentmindedly she looks around the crowded room to get her bearings, but stops dead in her tracks. At the counter in the far corner, sits the object of their quest. Magnus Darkling, Taïga’s father and her first passionate love. Like a god in his golden splendor, women crane their necks to get a good look and males, unconsciously, steer clear of him. He sips at his beer, oblivious of the attention.
Granny draws her breath in a movement of sheer panic. Oh.My.God. Magnus! And he looks just the same… But I don’t.
She is not ready to meet him. Not yet. She has to fix her face. And her hair. Even her clothes are wrong.
He hasn’t seen me. Quick, I must get out of here!
But it’s too late. She backs right into Missy who sidesteps but stops like hit by lightning.
‘Oh My God! Do you see that? It’s Magnus. MAGNUS! MAGNUS!’ she hollers and waves frantically, drawing the attention of the whole room.
Granny smiles nervously, forced to step over the threshold.
Missy pushes her in front of herself like a shield and reluctantly Granny frays a passage through the crowd and stops behind Magnus’s back. She doesn’t know what to say, as he must have been the only person not to turn his head at Missy’s outburst. He surely won’t recognize them, anyway. Missy peeks over Granny’s shoulder, excitedly blubbering.
‘Magnus! We’ve been looking all over for you! You can’t imagine how happy I am we won’t have to ride all over the lava fields on those horrible, smelly little horses. Oh, my. That looks bizarre? Do you think they have cheese burgers?’ She watches a man pass with something fried on his plate that makes Granny think of haggis.
Magnus takes a deep sip of his beer. He dries his mouth on the back of his hand, and then he turns his head. Slowly. He looks up at Missy and Granny, frowning slightly. Granny stares into the familiar green eyes. Taïga’s eyes.
‘The Grey sisters’? Long time no see… A very long time it seems. When was it? In 1974?’
Granny swallows and corrects him with a raspy voice that she doesn’t recognize as her own. ‘73. It was in spring 1973.’
Magnus stands up with the catlike grace Granny remembers. With a pang in her stomach she realizes he moves just like Taïga. How come she didn’t make the connection earlier? Because it is supposed to be impossible, that’s why. You don’t search where there are no answers…
‘Can I buy you ladies a coffee?’
Granny tears her eyes away from the attractive vampire with difficulty. He’s just as handsome as she remembers. Even more so. She is suddenly terribly aware of her own age, and the ravages of time on her face and body. ‘A big Latte, please.’
The people queuing protest lamely when Missy pushes through and takes up position at the counter.
‘Me too! A big latte. No, wait. A Cappucino, please. With lots of cream! And I’ll also have one of those delicious looking chocolate muffins… Or two… Or maybe a cookie? Do you have hamburgers?’
The barista smiles. ‘No, I’m sorry, not today. But we do have pies and sandwiches. It’s a little late for today’s special, but I’m sure you’ll find something in your taste. There are menus on the tables.’
Magnus takes them to a table by the window overlooking the street.
The two men who were already sitting there pick up their glasses and move to the counter, where they continue their discussion as if nothing had happened.
‘Did you glamour them?’ Missy asks in a low voice and Magnus winks, taking her coat and pulling out her chair. Granny quickly sits before he has the time to do the same for her. But getting out of her coat in a sitting position is difficult. She shakes her head, shying away when he offers to help her.
‘Don’t be ridiculous. I’m taking your coat, not your virginity.’
A comment that makes her blush furiously and her sister splutter with mirth, quickly covering her mouth with a napkin.
Magnus waves a waitress over, placing their order. Granny avoids looking at him. She doesn’t want to be glamoured into doing something she might regret. Even though he can’t have those kind of thoughts about her anymore. She feels her eyes burn and wills away the sad thoughts before he has the opportunity to read her mind. Because vampires can read minds, she has read it somewhere. But they aren’t supposed to be able to walk during daytime or see their reflections in a mirror, nor thread into a church – things Magnus does regularly. Especially looking at himself in a mirror, vain as he is.
Their food arrives; an enormous mug of thick, creamy Latte for Granny who suspects she won’t be able to sleep for a week after finishing off such a huge amount of caffeine, and a frothy cappuccino and a half baguette with ham and salad for Missy. The waitress clears away Magnus’s glass of beer and puts a new one in front of him, lingering a little with an encouraging smile.
‘She’s definitely on my menu tonight,’ he mutters, watching her sashay across the floor towards another table. ‘So, what have you been up to the last, err… forty years?’
Missy lights up and throws herself into a colorful description of her life in Vulturu. Magnus perks up, Transylvania is after all the birthplace of legends like Count Dracula and has a special place in a vampire’s heart. Even though the count is younger than himself.
Granny watches them interact without looking into his eyes, of course. She fixes his full lips and remembers how they felt against her skin, her mouth. She burns herself on the hot beverage and decides to look at anything except Magnus himself. He slouches on his chair, and it would annoy her immensely if it was anybody else. Magnus has perfected slouching to an art. A very sexy art. Missy drones on. Then she decides she has to eat, so she stops talking and concentrates on her food.
‘What brings you to Staðarfell, Tara? I understand you’ve been looking for me?’ He passes a hand through his thick ash blond hair, looking intensely at her. A woman who is leaving with take-away almost walks into a parked car, busy staring at him through the window.
‘We’ve been visiting, mostly…’ Her sentence hang in the air. She glances quickly towards Missy who seems to have drowned in Magnus’s hypnotic eyes, staring at him with glazy eyes, munching on her sandwich. Her sister hasn’t uttered a word since she started eating… Is he doing something to her? Reading her mind?
‘Nothing very important, really…’
Granny finally adventures to meet his gaze. She can feel a warm wave of drowsiness wash over her. She really is tired. She shouldn’t have used so much energy to project the image of Magnus in her sister’s brain…
It is raining again. The smattering against the windows increases, drowning out the chatter in the restaurant until Granny feels like she is sitting in a car, listening to the raindrops on the metal roof. An old car. A Citroën 2CV. In France. In the spring of 1973. Magnus’s car…
She remembers herself modelling for Magnus in Paris, at the Ritz. She had never been undressed in front of a man before posing for Magnus, but he convinced her in the name of art, making her feel special and beautiful. His intense, concentrated gaze sent quivers of excitement down her spine, making it difficult to keep her pose…
The raindrops change their rhythm, to a fast polka.
Magnus’s fingers fly over the black and white keys, a cigarette dangling from his lips, its ash falling like tiny snowflakes on the polished surface. She puts down the bottle of champagne on the grand piano, holding out her hand.
‘Dance with me…’ she begs.
‘But I don’t wanna dance with you! I want Magnus to swirl me around!’ Her sister’s whining voice is cutting through her memories.
‘What are you doing in my dream, Missy?’
Her teenage sister looks sulkily at her through thick, horn-rimmed glasses. ‘But it’s my dream! Why do you always have to spoil everything? You don’t have dips on Magnus just because you’re older than me! Go away!’
‘No! It’s my dream! Mine… mine… mine…’
Cool lips find hers, igniting a fire in her body she thought had vanished forever. With a sigh, she loses herself in the memory of Magnus’s embrace.
But the terrifying vision of Magnus’s sharp teeth ready to bite her neck jerks Granny out of her glamoured state. She puts down the mug, sloshing tepid liquid over her hand and the empty table. How long has she been sitting here?
‘Missy!’ she gasps, holding her hands over her fast beating heart.
Bewildered, she looks around her. Where is her sister?
She stands up a little shakily and puts a hand on the arriving waitress’ arm. ‘My sister? I had coffee with an elder, rather plump, redhead. My sister. Do you know where she is?’
Holding out a small plate with a huge cake covered in green marzipan, the waitress nods towards the door behind her. ‘They just left. Magnus paid and told me to bring you our specialty, a Princess pastry that-’
Granny doesn’t listen, she has caught sight of her sister and Magnus through the window. They are walking away towards a large office building on the other side of the road. Grabbing her coat from the hanger beside the door, she runs out onto the sidewalk, buttoning the coat as she quickly starts crossing the street.
Granny hurries out onto the sidewalk and calls after them, ‘WAIT!’
Magnus stops, but doesn’t turn around at once.
Missy sighs. ‘Darn it! Here she comes again, putting an end to the fun. As usual.’
Panting, Granny catches up with them. ‘Where are you taking my sister?’
‘Nowhere. It’s actually she who’s taking me somewhere.’
‘Oh… Well.’ Granny lifts her chin. ‘She ain’t going nowhere with you.’
Missy tugs on granny’s arm. ‘But Granny, Tara…’
‘Granny?’ Magnus looks her over, trying to keep a straight face.
‘It’s not funny!’ Granny mumbles, blushing.
‘So you’re a grandmother? Shasta… err… So she finally married?’
‘She did! To a count, no less! In Italy.’ Missy announces proudly.
Granny is seething. How dare he? Just because he is a disgusting thousand year old vampire – an extremely good-looking thousand year old vampire, but disgusting nonetheless…
‘Magnus. We need to talk about Shasta.’
‘Boring, boring… I have an appointment for dinner, I’ll be in touch…’
In a blink he’s gone.
‘I hope you’re satisfied. Having spoilt my fun, as usual,’ Missy splutters.
‘It never occurred to you, you might have been on tonight’s menu?’ Granny asks, looking at her younger sister with an expression of concern.
‘It is not really your business, but he was helping me put things right again.’
‘Oh, for Christ’s sake. You know he can’t wake up the dead.’
‘Of course not. Do you think I’m stupid?’
Granny doesn’t answer.
‘We were going to the police station, to check if there were camera footage from the hot air balloon venue. He was just going to glamour them to give it up and to forget about us. But then you had to come barging, all uptight and- and- wearing your righteous expression.’
‘What? What righteous expression?’
Missy just snorts and heads towards their rented car followed by her sister, quarrelling all the way.
Irritated with her sister, worried about the video footage and frustrated from seeing Magnus again, Granny can’t sleep. She stays in the little living room, watching TV with unseeing eyes, even though she hates it and doesn’t understand a word they are saying. She doesn’t go to bed until she is absolutely sure that her sister is asleep.
Her sleep is deep but haunted by disturbing dreams. Very disturbing dreams. Memories she thought she had banned from her head are back tenfold…
The sunlight filtering through the birch trees wakes her early in the morning. Flustered, she stretches and yawns but does a double take at the sight of the smirking figure sitting in an armchair in the corner of her bedroom.
‘Slept well? Nice dreams?’ Magnus wiggles his eyebrows suggestively, unsuccessfully suppressing his glee.
‘MIIIISSSYYYY!’ Granny screams, pulling her blanket high under her chin.
‘Oh, c’mon. There’s nothing there I haven’t seen already. And that thing you’re wearing is the antithesis of see-through.’ He throws her robe at her and swings his right leg over the armrest, making a big show out of looking at the ceiling so she can get dressed.
Granny sits and grabs her robe, quickly pulling it on over her impenetrable, boring, but warm, nightgown. Her cheeks are burning with shame. What if it was Magnus who induced her inappropriate dreams? He is perfectly capable of taunting her like that.
Missy comes running from the kitchen, throwing up the door.
‘Oh my God! I was preparing a peace offering and-’ She stops and draws her robe tight around her voluptuous figure. She looks accusingly from Magnus to Granny. ‘Have you two…?’ She lets the question hang in the air, moving her index between them.
‘Don’t be silly. Of course not.’ Granny blushes. ‘Let’s have breakfast… And some explanations.’
‘Explanations will do fine. I’ve already had breakfast.’ Magnus doesn’t budge from the armchair, so the sisters sit on the edge of the bed, facing him, and Granny starts speaking.
He listens silently to her talking about Shasta, about her marriage to Leonardo, their son… Treading carefully, she avoids mentioning Taïga. Missy stays silent. She seems to be happy just sitting there, devouring Magnus with her eyes.
‘… in Italy, most of the time.’ Granny finishes with a nervous smile, waiting for Magnus’ reaction.
He looks intently at her. ‘You didn’t come all the way here just to talk about what a perfect life Shasta leads, did you?’
‘Of course we didn’t! It would have been stupid and we are not stupid.’ Missy looks pointedly at Granny. ‘I- We – came to make sure you’ll leave her, and her children, alone – forever.’ She underlines her word by folding her arms defiantly on her chest.
Magnus looks blankly at her and saunters over to the mirror on the other side of the bed, making the two old ladies uncomfortable by roaming around behind their backs.
‘Give me one good reason why I should?’ he says, pulling on his sleeves, and looking at them through the mirror.
Granny hesitates. He doesn’t seem to have noticed Missy’s slip of the tongue, concerning her plural use of children. So, should she offer her last piece of information? Here goes…
‘She’s not a witch anymore,’ she states flatly. ‘It annuls the oath.’
‘Are you sure?’ Missy asks.
‘Could you, please, be quiet,’ Granny hisses, making Magnus’s mouth twitch. They are still the same after so many years. Proof that nothing really changes.
He rubs his chin thoughtfully.
‘I’ll have to think about this. A vampire never break an oath, and what ties our families, witch and vampire, is a blood oath… Then again, if she’s not a witch anymore…’
‘I’ll have to think about this. Maybe we could come to an agreement of sorts. But I need proof of her state. And… Maybe you could do something for me – a kind of return of favors, huh.’
He walks towards the door.
‘I’ll give you my answer tonight. Meet me at Fjara beach after sunset. No wands, stakes… Oh, and I fixed the video issue. No, no, don’t thank me.’
And he’s gone.
The day drags past until it’s time to see Magnus again. Granny and Missy spends their time doing some shopping – sensible shoes, and down jackets without sleeves. They have decided to dress for the weather, not hoping for the other way around. Kited out like natives, they drive to the meeting place, parks the car at the old stave church and then walks down to the small beach on a little path winding through lava boulders and dry grass.
‘Are you sure that this is the place?’
‘He said Fjara beach, didn’t he?’
‘Shhh… Look over there. I can see light. Is it…?’
They stop, suddenly aware that it might be a trap.
‘Come and sit by the fire… it’s a cold night.’
Granny and Missy look at each other. It’s uncanny how he could hear them from so far away…
‘… and that’s why I’ll let her go… Unharmed. She’s of no value to me now, without her powers she’s just one of billions.’
‘So, do I have your word? You promise to leave her, and her family, alone?’ Granny asks hopefully.
‘That’s not what I said. This is about Shasta, and only about her. Not her family. But then again, I can extend my offer to the boy. As long as he doesn’t come after me or cross my path in any way.’
Granny lets out a sigh of relief. If he stays away from Shasta, he’ll never know about Taïga. As long as she lives and breathes, she will shroud her granddaughter, teaching her how to defend herself – even against vampires as powerful as her own father.
Magnus scrutinizes his perfect nails. ‘But… I told you I need a favor.’
‘Uh-oh…’ Missy leans forward as to not miss a word. This is getting more and more interesting.
Granny nods, bracing herself. Of course. It just couldn’t be easy…
‘It’s about the Council. A ban has been published, and I have to lay low – extremely low – to keep them from tracking me. But if you found me, so could they.’
Missy looks at her sister. The Council is on the lookout for them, too. Or, rather for Taïga. She sits on her hands to warm them a little, not daring to reach towards the fire pit.
‘The Council? But what do you want me to do?’ Granny rubs her hands anxiously against her knees.
‘I want you to do whatever is necessary to keep them away from me.’
‘It’s not in my power to do that.’
‘But I can’t do that! It would go against the witches’ law to help a fugitive.’
‘Oh, yes. You can.’ He smiles at her. ‘Would you change your mind if I kept your sister? As an insurance – and spare snack for when times get rough.’
Missy draws her breath. ‘I don’t mind. Not really. Except for the snack part…’
But neither Granny nor Magnus are acknowledging her. They are too busy staring at each other. A fight of willpower.
That Magnus wins. His little smile disappears as quickly as it had appeared and is replaced by a hint of cruelty in his cool eyes.
‘Then, I’ll come after your daughter – witch or not. And then, your granddaughter.’
He looks deadpan at Granny who feels the blood drain from her face. She should have thought about Magnus’s knowledge about the Grey’s. He must have known all the time that a Grey witch always has a first born daughter. But luckily he doesn’t know that she is also his. He is perfectly capable of claiming her, and raising her to become a monster. The Goddess forbid that should happen.
‘I’ll do what it takes,’ she whispers.
‘I thought so.’
‘Well… That’s it then.’ Granny stands up, dragging her sister to her feet with her. Better profit before he changes his mind, again. ‘Missy and I are leaving now.’
Missy has been unusually quiet, following the discussion without interrupting. Just as Granny had told her. But now she speaks up. ‘But what about Taïga? He has the right to know! He can’t kill his own-’
The blood drains from Granny’s face, and she almost wishes Magnus had put his threat in action and killed her sister.
‘Missy! We. Are. Leaving… Now.’
‘Sit.’ The words are spoken softly, but there is no mistake in the order.
Without a word they nervously sit down again. Seething, Granny throws a glance at her bigmouthed sister who apologetically shrugs and taps her lips with the tip of her finger, not daring to speak another word.
Magnus pokes the fire, but it cannot warm up the chill that’s suddenly in the air.
‘Now, tell me… everything.’
Granny swallows, but she knows there’s no avoiding telling Magnus about Taïga. Not after Missy’s voluntary slip of the tongue.
‘Shasta has a firstborn daughter.’
‘Tell me something I don’t know. She must have. And Missy talked about children, so I guess she survived a second born, the boy.’
‘She’s actually pregnant again,’ Missy squeals, unable to contain herself.
‘So what? Am I supposed to congratulate her? I’ll send her a card. She was always a wild one, always up for a challenge, but this… It’s a game of Russian roulette. She might pull it off, if it is true that she isn’t a witch anymore…’ He chuckles, rubbing his neck. ‘But I don’t think this is about her happy state of marriage to some count or other in Italy. Am I right?’
Granny draws her breath. Might as well get it over with. ‘Well. Her firstborn daughter will be twelve, this fall.’
So. She has dropped the bomb. Now they’ll just await his reaction, hoping he won’t snap and kill the messengers.
‘Mine?’ The words come out in a barely audible whisper. Shell-shocked, Magnus rubs his eyes.
Granny catches Missy’s eye. ‘Maybe we should leave now…’she mouths.
Missy makes a scared face, but she follows her sister’s lead and shuffles up from her chair, not leaving Magnus with her eyes.
Cautiously they start backing away. Magnus suddenly pokes the fire, making them start. But when he doesn’t even look at them, they stumble away and as soon as they’re out of range of the light they break into a run. Missy whips out her wand, and out of breath she conjures up her broom. Soon they are safely astride, high up in the air. Granny holds on tightly to Missy.
‘For once I’m glad you didn’t listen to me and brought your wand! And I don’t care who sees us! Now, let’s get our things and go home…’
Missy takes a last look down. ‘He cried, you know.’
‘No, he did not. Vampires never cry.’ But even as she tries to be convincing, her words have a hollow sound to them.
Missy could have sworn she had seen his eyes fill with tears. But her sister is probably right. Vampires don’t cry. How could they? No heart. No feelings…
The sound of distant voices draws him back to reality. He lifts his eyes towards the full moon just in time to see an unmistakable shadow fly past, faint voices echoing.
‘… never cry…’
Magnus had thought he’d seen it all, and heard it all, too. He had never expected to feel such utter bewilderment. A child… His child. But he’s a vampire – he can’t breed… Could Tara have been lying? No. She was sincere. But Shasta, on the other hand, could be rather devious. Is this all just a scam to make him leave her alone? He has to be sure…
His beautiful features are illuminated by a slow smile… He has to find where his daughter lives, and make sure she is really his.
‘MY daughter!’ he cries after the departing figures. ‘Mine!’
Part I – End of Chapter 57