Once Broken Faith (October Daye #10)

by Seanan McGuire

ONE

June 5th, 2013

For trust not him that hath once broken faith.

—William Shakespeare, King Henry VI, Part III

QUENTIN AND RAJ were in the living room arguing about who got to pick the first movie of the night. Loudly. The walls and doors between us were thick enough to blunt their voices—mercifully—but I could still hear more than enough to know that I didn’t want to get involved. I crossed my arms and leaned against the counter, casting a wry look at the kitchen door.

“All right,” I said. “Somebody remind me again why we’re doing this, and why I’m not drowning them both in the bathtub.”

“Drowning Quentin would be an act of treason against the Westlands, and you’d probably be executed,” said May. “Also, you’d miss him.” She never took her eyes off the tray of cookies she was removing from the oven. My Fetch had been baking since she got out of bed. She hadn’t slept much since she’d been elf-shot during our visit to the Kingdom of Silences—she got better, thanks to alchemical intervention—and that meant we had a lot of cookies. We didn’t have anything near enough for the nightmare that was to come, but still. A lot of cookies.

The oncoming disaster didn’t keep Jazz from snatching a cookie from the tray and retreating to the kitchen table, juggling her purloined treat from one hand to another the whole time. “Drowning Raj would be an act of treason against the Court of Dreaming Cats, you’d miss him, and Tybalt would look all sad and noble right before he put you through a wall.”

“Actually, I think if Toby drowns Raj, she’s just proving he was unfit to rule, which means it’s not treason, it’s natural selection. Sort of like you burning your mouth on that cookie is your punishment for stealing it. Tybalt would still probably be pissed, though.” May began shifting the remaining cookies to the cooling rack. Jazz stuck her tongue out. May laughed.

I stayed where I was, avoiding the danger of molten chocolate chips, and grinned to myself. “Oh, right,” I said. “I remember why I agreed to this.” After months—after years—of chaos and life-threatening situations and people stabbing me for no good reason, we’d somehow managed to find a moment to breathe. That didn’t just deserve to be enjoyed. It deserved to be celebrated, held up as proof that the world was a good place and didn’t actually need to be destroyed in order for me to have a nap.

It used to be that I could have all the naps I wanted. Of course, back in those days, I had few friends, no prospects, and the life expectancy of a stray dog. These days, I have plenty of backup, and no time to sleep. As a knight errant and hero of the realm, any time something goes wrong, it’s likely to become my problem. I’m the go-to girl for terrible adventures, whether I like it or not. Usually not. But things had been pretty calm since my allies and I returned home from overthrowing the puppet government of the Kingdom of Silences. Sure, we’d only been back for six weeks, but I’d take it. It was a hell of a lot better than nothing. I was safe and healthy, my chosen family was safe and healthy, and it was time to stop and smell the flowers.

Just not the roses. I have a bad track record with roses.

The argument in the living room was starting to get really heated. I was considering the wisdom of intervention when the doorbell rang. There was a moment of startled silence before both boys shouted, “I’LL GET IT!” in perfect unison. Then they started sniping at each other again. I pushed myself away from the counter.

“Let’s see if I can answer the door before they finish deciding which one of them gets the honor,” I said.

May snorted. “The future leadership of the Westlands, ladies and gentlemen.”

I left the kitchen and walked down the hall, laughing all the way. Maybe most people don’t have dueling princes in their houses, but this is my life, and I’ve had time to get used to it. I’ve even had time to learn to appreciate it. After all, the princes in question were my squire—Quentin Sollys, who will one day be the High King of the Westlands, the fae Kingdom that encompasses North America—and my fiancé’s adopted nephew, Raj. Since I can’t imagine the world without both those boys in it, I can put up with a little shouting.

My name is October Daye. My father was a human; my mother was, and is, a Firstborn daughter of Oberon, making her one of the more powerful people among the fae, and a definite pain in my still-mortal changeling ass. I was born and raised in San Francisco, which explains my willingness to stay in a city that’s historically been full of people who insist on trying to kill me at the slightest provocation. Faeries are real. Magic is real. My tendency to greet dangerous situations by plunging in headfirst and seeing how long it takes to get myself covered head to toe in blood is also real.

I live an interesting life.

The front door was warded to the point of redundancy. Had whoever was on the porch been human, the warnings about their identity would have reverberated through the house, giving the rest of us time to get any necessary illusions in place. May was the most human looking of our weird little band, and she’d be the one answering the door when the pizzas showed up. In the meantime, since the warnings hadn’t sounded, I was able to unlock and open the door without messing around trying to spin a passable disguise.

My friend Stacy was on the porch with her middle daughter, Karen. At fourteen-going-on-fifteen, Karen no longer looked much like her mother; in fact, the resemblance seemed to decrease year on year. Her skin was milky pale, in contrast to Stacy’s healthy peach, and her hair was the color of birch-bark, save for the tips, which looked like they’d been dipped in ink. Her ears were dully pointed, more like a bobcat’s than a Daoine Sidhe’s, and tufted with fluffy puffs of hair that followed the same black into white pattern as the hair on her head. She was clutching a pillow to her chest. In the interests of expedience, she was already wearing her pajamas, thin cotton patterned in colorful dinosaurs and flaming comets. She was also wearing a bra. That was still relatively new, and hence relatively unsettling. For me, Karen would always be the eleven-year-old I’d saved from Blind Michael’s lands.

Stacy beamed. Karen glanced upward through the fringe of her hair, flashed a shy smile, and went back to looking at her feet.

“Do I smell cookies?” asked Stacy.

I laughed and leaned forward to steal a quick hug before ushering both of them inside. “May’s been baking like a mad thing for hours. I think she’s afraid we’ll be stripped to the bone by a mob of wild teenagers if she doesn’t generate enough unhealthy snacking material.”