My name is Sara Elizabeth Corbeau, and I’m an Elemental.
I’m also a fugitive.
For most of my life, I did everything I could to appear ordinary. I avoided magic like I avoided large spiders and stepping on cracks, and not just so I wouldn’t break my m other’s back. After the Magic Wars had ended, in which magic had been the definitive loser, it was just too dangerous to be caught using. That was how my brother, Max, got arrested and turned into a science[JC1] experiment at the Institute for Elemental Research. That, coupled with the fact that my father had gone missing during the wars, meant that I went through life claiming a total and complete ignorance of magic.
Then Micah appeared in my life (technically, he first appeared in my car, even though I was dreaming at the time), and everything changed. And I mean everything. Micah is a metal Elemental like me, although he’s of silver whereas I’m a copper girl. Together, we rescued Max, destroyed the Iron Queen, and put a serious dent in the military branch of the Mundane government’s (the inappropriately-named Peacekeepers) operation. So, yeah, that would be how I became a fugitive, along with the rest of the Corbeaus.
All of that had happened about three months ago. Micah, kind soul that he is, had offered my entire remaining family—Mom, Sadie, Max, and even the Raven—sanctuary at his home in the Whispering Dell. So far, no one had died, though a few of the silverkin had come perilously close. Officially, we all understand that the silverkin are manifestations of the massive vein of silver that runs below the Whispering Dell, and only exist to serve Micah, the reigning Lord of Silver; I had called Micah a king once, and had been rewarded with one of his rare frowns.
While not truly sentient, the silverkin are the most well-meaning of creatures. However, the critters do come up short in the common sense department. A prime example of their lack of self-preservation skills was when they had insisted upon bringing Mom a few snacks and a cushion while she was meditating in the garden, despite her many refusals.
Luckily, Micah was able to mend the dented ‘kin, and after a stern lecture the silverkin agreed to only speak to Mom when spoken to, and Mom—amazingly—agreed to not damage any more of the servants. For now.
Destruction of the help notwithstanding, Mom was having a far easier time adjusting to our new life in the Otherworld than Sadie or Max were. Now, I could understand Sadie’s issues, being that she had been ripped from her safe, boring life as a college student (studying to be a librarian, of all things), informed that she was the Inheritor of Metal, and thrust headlong into the magical reality that was now our lives. Yep, I understood how that could be a bit disconcerting.
Max, on the other hand, had no such excuses. He’d lived in the Otherworld for over ten years now, and all of this strangeness should have been old hat to him. Yeah, so what if most of his time here had been spent in the Institute? He was still here. He should know something.
I wish I could say that I was gracefully taking on my new role as Micah’s consort, but that would be a lie. And fey don’t lie, you know? Not that I’m a fairy. Well, not completely, and only on my mother’s side.
Anyway, it turned out that politics in the Otherworld were just as maddening as politics in the Mundane realm; if anything, the addition of magic and factions of perpetually bickering Elementals made it more so. Not that anyone cared what I had to say, mind you. I was expected to appear on Micah’s arm at these varied events, perfectly coiffed and perfectly silent, since, as a mere consort, I was viewed as little more than a decoration. A mute, compliant decoration.
Yeah. I’m about as mute and compliant as a howler monkey.
I didn’t blame any of those misconceptions on Micah. He had never treated me as anything other than his lover and his equal, but the fact remained that I was not Lady Silverstrand, nor would I be until I bore him a child. Which I hoped wouldn’t happen for a long, long time.
What’s worse, these events that demanded our presence were becoming all too frequent, since the sudden death of the Iron Queen had left a gaping void in the Elemental power structure. Being that we were responsible for said royal demise (technically, I’d cashed in a favor owed to me by the Bright Lady of the Clear Pool), Micah’s attendance was required at each and every Gathering of the Heavies, as Sadie had so eloquently termed these functions. His opinion was sought out in all matters, while I was only expected to stand there and nod. Couple that with the strange and varied formalities that I was required to commit to memory, and it was enough to drive one mad.
“How was I supposed to know that Old Stoney couldn’t drink wine?” I grumbled after one such gathering. Old Stoney was the de facto ruler of the earth Elementals, at least until the as yet unknown Inheritor of Earth surfaced. Speaking of surfaces, Old Stoney was of granite, specifically. Apparently, those of earth—or granite, at least—do not ingest liquid refreshment, since it rolls right on out of them like so much rain on asphalt. Little things like these were what I was expected to know, and I managed to come up short more often than not. Exasperated, I flopped down on Micah’s bed. I was still a little weirded out calling it our bed.
“Old Stoney?” Micah repeated, quirking a silver brow.
“I can’t remember all these foolish names,” I muttered. Old Stoney’s actual name was Something Greymalkin, or maybe it was Something Greymountain. “Why isn’t anyone named Todd, or Jim?”
“Because we are not denizens of the Mundane World.” Micah crawled onto the bed beside me, and smoothed the hair back from my face. It had been done up in one of those elaborate confections that were a silverkin specialty, but by now it looked less like sleek waves and more like a bird’s nest. A ratty, lopsided bird’s nest. “You think those of the Otherworld do not have trouble with Mundane names?”
“There are no Mundanes here, besides me and my family.” I snuggled up to Micah, enjoying a moment’s peace. “I really screwed things up, didn’t I?”
“Between me and Old Stoney?” Micah asked. I laughed, hiding my face against his throat. “Not likely. Remember, we of metal still have the upper hand.” Micah wrapped his arms around me; as I moved to encircle his waist, my hand bumped his sword belt.
“Can you really use a sword?” I asked. I’d seen Micah perform a few incredible feats—such as ripping the head off an iron warrior with his bare hands—but I’d never seen him in a swordfight.
“I can,” he replied.
“I bet you’d look pretty hot chopping someone’s head off,” I murmured. Micah, who struggled with Mundane idioms as much as I struggled with Elemental names, rolled me onto my back.
“Hot is good?”
“Very good,” I affirmed. Micah laughed, the gentle rumbles in his chest once again making everything right in the world. After a fair bit of snuggling, I asked, “Have you heard anything new about the queen?”
Oriana, the Gold Queen, had been captured by Ferra, the Iron Queen (the one we had, um, rusted), and had spent the past few years as a prisoner in the Iron Court. After Ferra’s demise, Oriana had been promptly rescued, but her health was hanging on by a thread.
“She is convalescing,” Micah said, to my relief. If Oriana died, my life would become immensely more complicated. You see, next in line for the metal throne is Micah Silverstrand, the man whose bed I sleep in. And I do not want to be a queen.
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