The Blushing Death Series #9 – Infinite Azure – is coming in April of 2022. I’m excited to share the next installment of Dahlia Sabin’s journey with you. For now, however, you’ll have to be satisfied with this little nugget. Be kind. This has not been professionally edited.
“It’s fucking cold out here,” I hissed through chattering teeth. No matter how much I willed my jaw to remain motionless, it didn’t listen and the rattling inside my head was driving me insane.
The fire flickered in the pitch-darkness of the Outer Realm, casting an eerie glow across the snow. Beyond the miniscule light of the fire, as large as we dared make it here so we didn’t attract other, more dangerous beings, inky blackness stretched on forever. The oppressive nature of the dark and the fact that I knew it could literally stretch out for eternity, was some cruel realization that I was a very small being in a very large place with creatures that could eat me for the hell of it.
Shaking off my descent into bat-shit-crazy, I considered the first time I’d been here and each subsequent journey. Each time I crossed the divide into the Outer Realm, it got just a bit colder. This time there was a light dusting of snow on the ground with flurries brushing against my exposed skin. I’d dressed for cold, knowing full well how the wind had burned through my cloths the last time. But this was worse. The wind was bitter and piecing as it howled through the trees and my clothes. Beyond the minimal warmth and light of the fire lurked beasties and creatures of every shape and size, and the focus of their eyes on me was a weight I felt in my gut, a tight clench of fear that made me queasy but alert. I fought the urge to run, knowing that I couldn’t outrun any of them. I could fight but I would lose. The Outer Ream was a place where strength was valued, and weakness was devoured. Maybe they were just curious. Maybe they were hungry. I had no choice but to wait and hope they remained in the dark beyond the light of the fire.
“Make the fire warmer,” Adrik snorted, landing on my shoulder, and rubbing his hands together. The four-inch-high pixie stood close to my neck, soaking up my body heat. He knew I could use my magic to increase the heat of the fire, and I’d considered it, but I didn’t want to give too much away too soon. Bargaining with the fae was a delicate balance of knowledge and doing it from a position of strength was better.
“I don’t want to burn my eyebrows off,” I said, smirking at the pixie. He rolled his small silver eyes at my obvious lie. “When are they going to get here?” I asked, wanting desperately to be home and warm in my bed. The longer I stayed in the Outer Realm, the bigger the likelihood that someone would notice either on this side or my side of the veil that I was not where I was supposed to be.
Adrik and I had been making small trips to the Outer Realm for weeks without letting anyone know. I was pushing my luck before either Patrick or Dean noticed and gave me hell, at the very least a lecture. Let alone anyone else. After the mountain where I’d killed Rokap but lost Milagra and Konstantin, Dean and Patrick had been different. More protective. More confining. Dean especially. If they knew what I was doing, Dean would lose his shit. Right now, this was better. He didn’t worry and I didn’t have to face his anger. I was being a coward but right now, I was willing to be a coward to keep them safe just a bit longer.
“The representative should be here momentarily,” Adrik responded.
“You’d think I’d figure out how to dress properly to be here, but it always seems colder than the last time,” I said, unable to keep my teeth from chattering. The fleece lining wasn’t enough.
“It is not your imagination,” Adrik answered, his voice rough through the already guttural accent. His English was getting better, but I could still hear the centuries of Russian in the shape of his words.
“What would make the Outer Realm get colder? Does it have seasons?” I asked, my voice sharp with the unexpected dread filling my middle. I shouldn’t care if the temperature of the Outer Realm was changing, but I did.
“Magic is leaving or being drawn out,” Adrik responded, “I cannot be certain but the magic in the air seems thinner.”
“I don’t understand,” I said, rubbing my hands before the fire attempting to get the feeling back in my fingertips.
“The Serpent’s power is growing weaker here. Either by design or another reason, I canna say,” a voice answered, from beyond the fire and still hidden in shadow responded, his words resonated with a depth that rumbled the logs in the fire.