Grace shoved the key card into the magnetic lock with an angry jerk. As soon as the light glowed green, she pushed her way in and flung her suitcase on the bed, opened it, and pulled out some of her work items. I slunk in behind her.
It had been a long day of playing tour guide, security and babysitter, but we were finally at the California Resort at Billy Beaver's Fantasylan, though what made this Florida hotel "Californian" was a mystery I'd probably never solve. The Faerie who had presentations were with the convention coordinators. The other Faerie were in their rooms. The Selkie were in the lagoon. And I was in the doghouse.
Shouldering past me, Grace stuck her various medallions, relics and potion ingredients in the room safe, locked it and placed her hands over it, muttering a spell to activate her "Karma shield." The wards mentally attacked any intruder in direct proportion to the evilness of intent. I hoped we wouldn't need to be looking up any psychiatrists this trip.
Finally, she whirled on me. "You know, we expected trouble on this trip, but I thought it'd come from the other Faerie!"
"It wasn't my fault!"
"First, you intimidate the front desk clerk--"
"All I said was a smoking room was fine!"
"No, you said, 'As long as I can smoke with it.' Then you gave him The Grin."
"It was a joke! It got us a nonsmoking room, didn't it?" I tried and failed to hide my smirk. Grace hates the smell of American tobacco.
"Uh-huh! He was so scared he couldn't do his job properly until you left. Five hours I spent alone trying to keep everyone under control and check them all in, while you took a nap by the Lagoon!"
"Who had the brilliant idea to put the water Magicals in the lagoon, huh? Besides, you're the one who told me to take Gozon. He just kept droning on and on about how misunderstood he's been among his clan of late--150 years 'of late.' It wasn’t a nap. It was hibernation defense! And it wasn't a picnic for me, either."
"Oh, right!" She flung up her arms. "The family! Couldn't have handled that better, could you?"
“The guy stuck a kid on my back! What was I supposed to do?”
“Ask him to take him off?”
“I did! Twice! The idiot just kept going on about animatronics and asking where Leno’s cameras were.”
“Fine, fine! But did you have to pick the poor child up with your tail?”
“You'd rather I’d bucked him off? I’m not double-jointed,” I snarled defensively. “Kid was having the time of his life ‘till his mom started screaming. In my ear. Where she’d been trying to stick the quarter. You want my opinion, I should be getting praised for my restraint.”
"Well, what'd you expect? We're at an amusement park resort."
"Who would put a dragon ride in a hotel with a Southwest theme?"
Grace gaped at me a moment, then burst out laughing. With a loud groan, she fell back on one of the beds. "This is going to be the toughest job we've not gotten paid for," she sighed.
I curled up on the king-sized bed. I wonder whom they'd displaced to get it for us. I hoped it was Gozon, though it was probably the Selkie, like they'd be interested in anything but the bathtub. "That's what you get for having a sidekick."
"Speaking of, 'Sidekick,' we're going to need to watch out for Siegfried. He's insisting on wearing 'traditional dress.'"
I sighed. Related to the Siegfried of Viking legend, "our" Siegfried believed he had been born out of his time. Although a scholar by trade and temperament, he nonetheless liked role-playing his ancestor as much as he did talking about him. On the airship here, he'd kept a low profile, wearing modern Faerie clothes and trying to learn a few phrases of English. His only nod toward his obsession had been to make cow's eyes at Brunhilde. Now, however, he seemed to have decided to come out of the ancestral closet--wearing their clothes. I wondered if there's a RenFest in town we could ship him to. "Well, he's got the muscles for it," I said.
"And the broadsword. I had to make him put it away before the desk clerk had apoplexy. Sped things up, though. It's not that. I heard a couple of bellhops snickering. 'What's in your wallet.'" She parodied their accent.
Great. Of all the bellhops in all the hotels, we had to get the ones who actually like credit card commercials. Next will be circus and tiger act jokes. "Let's be thankful he's not good at languages."
"And for this room," she said, spreading her hands across the double-sized bed. It was pretty ritzy by our standards. She sighed and pulled herself up. "And, since my order does not have any proscriptions against luxury, I am going to enjoy it, starting with a long hot bath. What're the chances everyone will stay quietly in their rooms tonight?"
"About the same as their all staying in the passenger areas on the flight over," I growled pessimistically. The airship, a half-blimp, half-plane, had been perfect for accommodating the various sizes and needs of the Magicals. Unfortunately, with folks free to move around--and even a private cabin or two--it was hard to keep track of everyone. So, naturally, someone took advantage of that to go through the stored luggage. He, she or it left no clues, so Grace and I concocted a story that turbulence had jumbled things and for folks to report to us if anything was missing. (And to make sure we weren't lying, Yours Truly went out and provided some turbulence. Most fun I'd had all day.) In the meantime, we knew we'd have to stay alert for trouble.
"Enjoy your bath. I'll take first watch." I put on a clean vest from my luggage and transferred into its pockets the tools of my trade: lock picks, "official" PI identification, and the stealth charm Grace made for me after watching a documentary on the B-2.
No way was someone putting a kid on my back again.
If you like the story, the book is even better!
More antics, more mystery, new ending. Order from Amazon.
(c) Karina Fabian. World Gathering first appeared in serial in The Prairie Dawg