All of us sat in the the salon, the sort of living room that led to the various other rooms assigned to the musicians. Kadri sat next to Larsa, Aubré, and Tobias, showing them her magic stones and talking about what they did. Backthorne had learned on our way upstairs that Erik had taken away Larsa’s bag for fear that the light stones could be used against the vampires, but he wasn’t worried that Kadri had her own; the hostility they had worried about before was gone, and even if it wasn’t, the magic light could not do that much damage, and Blackthorne’s shadow abilities could block it out.
Evander helped Lord Thorne’s staff bring in tea and cookies, along with an assortment of fruits and little sandwiches. Kadri was hungry after riding all morning and afternoon; she would usually forage for berries and whatever else she could find if she wasn’t near a tavern around lunchtime, but that day she’d kept riding a little longer than usual.
Killian struck up a conversation with Nikolai and Sir Maël as they had tea and biscuits, and they seemed to be getting along pretty well. Stefan sat right next to me on one of the loveseats, making sure I had plenty of sandwiches and whatnot; he didn’t seem all that hungry himself. Emory and Justin were nearby, as were Jean-Marc and Brom, and we were all talking about or experiences in Tierney Ríocht.
The wind picked up while we were all there. I could see through the windows that the sky was a dark gray, making it seem as though night was falling early. I got up from my seat and headed over to the balcony to get a better look. It took Emory a few moments to realize where I was headed, and he hopped up from his chair and followed me.
“Leila, hang on.”
Emory rushed past me onto the balcony and gazed all around. “See how fast the sky is darkening?” he asked when I caught up to him. I gave him a sidelong glance. “This isn’t like the storms back home. that’s–“
“A ghost wind,” Kadri finished for him. I looked down and realized that she was at my other side. “That’s why I was riding further and faster than I usually do.”
“How bad does it get?” I asked.
She looked up at me with big eyes. “There will be a huge thunderstorm,” she told me, “and the rain will come down really hard.”
“That’s not even the worst of it,” Emory added. “Some of the more malicious shadow creatures come out during these storms.”
“I see… So what do we do about it? Can they get into the castle?”
He shook his head. “They won’t bother the vampires… or the werewolves. Even if one of them wanted to, Grandfather’s castle is a safe place. it’s more a matter of staying indoors in order to avoid the temptations of the trickster types.”
I nodded. I was going to ask something, but Evander came to the doorway to speak to me.
“Lady Moss,” he said, Matthias has come to request a word with you.
“Matthias?” I asked. “Is he wanting me to visit Ingrid?”
“He wouldn’t say, milady.”
“All right… he can come in, if he wants.”
“Of course, milady. I’ll show him in.”
Evander nodded, and once he he went back inside, I realized that Kadri was gazing up at me in amazement.
“Oh, it’s okay,” I assured her. “Matthias is a vampire, but he’s very respectful. He won’t harm us.”
Her astonishment only grew after I said that.
“Ummmm… Is everything okay?”
“You…” she breathed, her wide eyes fixed on me. “You’re a Moss? Leila Moss?”
“Yeah.” Then I thought back to when we’d met, and our journey back to the castle. “We didn’t really say more than our first names earlier, did we?”
“All the Terrans who’ve taught our musicians have been descendants of Tiernan Moss…” Her words were breathy, laden with her reaction to that fact.
I nodded. “Morrigan Moss was my great uncle. I have to admit, I never really kept track of my older family history, but Jean-Marc has told me a thing or two. Oh, and Killian is my cousin.”
“Is he a Moss, too?” she asked.
“No; his mother was, but she changed her name when she married, so Killian’s last name is Riordan.”
“I see… The Moss family must be very big after so many centuries. What about the tall one?”
She glanced back into the main room, and I followed her gaze. “Oh, Stefan? No, he’s related to Larsa.”
“Oh! So he is Stefan Báltu?”
Emory did his best to hide a smirk, and Kadri gave him a confused look.
“I’m sorry,” he chuckled. “I just see Larsa and Stefan as far too different to have the same surname. Don’t let my sense of humor make you think I don’t respect both young men.”
I gave him as smile, then told Kadri, “Stefan’s last name is Nilsson.”
“I see, I see.” She was very focused on her thoughts for a couple minutes, and then she asked me, “Will you change your name to Nilsson some day?”
I felt the heat in my cheeks almost instantly. I covered my mouth with my hand and turned away. “Wh– Umm… wh-why would I do that?”
“It’s what Killian’s mother did,” she explained, so matter-of-factly that I could hardly contain myself.
I turned around, relieved to see Matthias in the doorway. As soon as I laid eyes on him, he knelt down.
“Prince Emory, you’re here too…”
“At ease, Matthias,” Emory told the vampire. “Your respect is appreciated but please, speak freely.”
He nodded, be seemed no less nervous. “I thank you both for how much you have done for Ingrid and Brielle so far.”
“You’re welcome, Matthias,” I told him with a smile. “How are they feeling?”
“They are a good deal better, Milady…”
“They still need quite a bit more, don’t they?” Emory asked him, getting right to the point.
“Ah– y-yes, my prince.”
Matthias’s timid reaction made me realize what he’d come for.
“I can pay them a visit in a little while,” I told him.
“After dinner,” Emory added. “It’d be best for us to have a large meal before we share again.”
“Of course, my prince. I am forever grateful for your generosity.”
Emory nodded. “Will you tell them for us? If they’re awake yet, that is. I’m sure they’re just as curious as you are.”
Matthias quickly agreed, and he took his leave just as quickly as he’d come. I turned my attenntion back to Kadri.
“Oh!” I exclaimed. She’d removed her gloves, and now I could see that her hands were glowing a soft, sage-like shade of green. “You’re…”
“Leila Moss,” she whispered, “you’re the one I’ve been– the one I was sent out to find. You’re the one meant to teach me your music so that I can help protect Tierney Ríocht. May I take your hands, Leila?”
And she held her hands– her tiny little hands– out towards me, wanting to touch me, but also very shy about doing so without permission.