Gretch rubbed her forehead with her sleeve as she stared out the kitchen window into the black night. The door to the living room swung open and tense adult voices exploded into the kitchen briefly. Gran—Nyssa—came in lugging a tray of coffee cups as heavy as the night was hot.
Nyssa turned on the light and jumped as she saw her. "You scared me half to death. Did anyone ever tell you that you humans are a little bit creepy."
Gretch blinked. Her eyes stung at the sudden brilliance. Not from tears she told herself. She wasn't going to cry until Jenny was found—alive and well. "Sorry. I didn't want to be upstairs, or in there."
"I can't blame you. All anyone wants to to around here is find someone to blame." Nyssa hefted her tray onto the counter opening the carafe and wincing at the smell of the coffee dregs. "Gods and land spirits! How do you drink stuff this foul—and hot! On a night like tonight I would prefer a crisp cool sip from Sequana's falls."
"It keeps you awake. I don't drink it." Mom never let her have coffee, though she'd snuck a Frappuccino from Starbucks on a trip to the Magnolia City once.
"Smart girl. This stuff probably boils and tans your insides." She picked up the canister of coffee grounds and stared at it. Then turned it upside down and shook it. "What kind of alchemy makes it turn liquid?"
Gretch laughed a little, but then stopped. She wasn't going to laugh either until this was over. She took the canister and started measuring spoonfuls of coffee into the basket of the coffee pot. "My mom says that it stunts your growth among other things. But none of its apparent evils stop her from starting her day with at least four cups."
Nyssa watched the preparations as though spying on Shakespeare's witches over their cauldron. One part horror, one part awe. "Good thing you were creeping about in the dark. I probably would have just brought them cups of that brown powder."
"Mom is always getting out of bed late and then scrambling to get ready for work. Easier to learn to make it than listen to her swear and throw things." Gretch leaned on the counter as the pot started to gurgle.
Nyssa hunkered down to stare the puffs of steam. "Does the crying one upstairs blame you like these full grown ones blame Pippa?"
Gretch shrugged. "Not really." She'd stayed with Raisen for a while after Rhianna left, letting her friend lay her head in her lap. Raisen clutched at her, blubbering that she was the only one left, and everyone else was lost. It was more than she could take, so she'd left on the pretense of asking if there was any news.
Nyssa squinted up at her. "But somebody blames you."
"What?" Gretch furrowed her brow. "Who?"
"You." Nyssa stood up and leaned against the counter next to her.
"Oh." Well, who else was to blame? Of course she blamed herself. She wished Raisen would blame her. "I was mad at Jenny and Raisen for something. Maybe if I hadn't been mad I would have waited for Jenny. Maybe—"
"Maybe if you had worn yellow instead of pink the Darklings would not have come." Nyssa tugged at her sleeve.
Gretch's mouth hung open in horror. "Wait. Are they attracted by the color—"
"No, no, no. Don't be silly." Nyssa bumped her with her hip. "I am trying to make a point, not teach you Fae lore."
Gretch grabbed the counter to keep from stumbling, and shot a frown at the Fetch. "No need to knock me over."
"Someone had to push you out of that rut." Nyssa winked. "Grayson is five hundred years old. He probably started hatching this plot before your great-great-great grandmother birth stork even had its flight feathers."
"Umm. That is not how humans are—"
"I am aware. Fertility is a Fae specialty." Nyssa's eyes narrowed, making her look even more like Gran, if that was possible. "Don't change the subject."
"I understand your logic. But there is a difference between knowing and feeling it."
"Pff. Humans. It's not about thinking or feeling, its about believing. You creatures are always making everything a million and one times more complicated than it needs to be."
"That we can agree on." Gretch sighed. Nothing was ever simple anymore. "Oh, look. Coffee's ready."
Suddenly Nyssa gasped, clutching her chest.
"What's wrong?" Gretch asked as the Fetch slid to the floor.
"Pippa is dead!"
Gretch felt the blood drain from her face. She froze. "How?" A hundred thoughts ran through her head at once. "Rhianna?"
Nyssa curled her arms around her knees, shivering all over. Her face was as pale as Gretch's felt. "I don't know. I am—was only connected to Pippa. Oh no, my sister, sweet and strong, what has that monster done."
Tears flowed down the Fetch's cheeks, as she rocked back and forth. A slow moan caught at the back of her throat.
Gretch got to her knees and hugged her, soothing her hair and shushing. She looked over Nyssa's shoulder to the living room door, trying to think of how she would explain it if someone walked in right then.
Thankfully, Nyssa's sobs remained silent, though they shook her body. Thankfully, she was not one of the ban-sidhe, whose piercing wails would be heard for miles when they mourned.
After a time, Gretch coaxed her up into one of the kitchen chairs. The first thing she thought to do was pour the Fetch a cup of coffee, but then she thought better of it and poured a cold glass of water instead.
Nyssa murmured thanks and held the cup in front of her, without taking a sip. "I can't believe.... I never thought...."
"Do you know what happened?"
She shook her head. "Only that she died. Poor dear Rhianna. Do you think—"
"I don't think anything, I believe she's alive. She is strong."
"You're right. Her spirit is fire-forged. I saw it as soon as I laid eyes on her." Nyssa sipped her water and then set it down. "Even as strong as she is, she will need help. The brùnaidh is barely fifty and no match for Grayson. Brùnaidh are helpers with chores, shoe-making and the like, not doing battle with Darklings."
"You have to go and save them," Gretch said, shaking off the bizarre news that their boyish brownie was fifty years old.
As if on cue, Raisen's mother poked her head in. "Coffee ready? Oh, hello Gretch. How is Rai doing? Tell her we have a plan and we are going to find Jenny, the entire town will be out here by morning. Jenny is tough and it's a warm night. She will be fine. Probably found a place to tuck in for the night. Here let me help with that." She poured the coffee into the carafe, restocked the sugar bowl and swooped through the door to the living room without even stopping her stream of chatter. She was the complete opposite of her daughter, who was usually the quiet one of their group.
"I can't leave." Nyssa had turned away to hide her tear stained cheeks. She took a tea towel from the table and dipped it into the cold water in her cup, dabbing it on her face to smooth out the red blotches. "The whole reason I am here is to keep these humans under control. If I go missing now, who knows what they will do."
"It's up to me then," Gretch said, squaring her shoulders.
"I don't think that you can help any more than Teasel."
"Thinking has nothing to do with it, right? Time to believe."
YOU ARE READING
Rhianna and the Magic HorseFantasy
**Updates every Sunday** Rhianna was a free spirit on the road with her mother, until something changed. Something that left her abandoned on a farm in the middle of nowhere, with a stranger she is supposed to call Grandmother. Grounded. Now Rhianna...