To view earlier pieces of the round robin, here's the link: http://herebemagic.blogspot.com/p/round-robin-story.html
By Nicole Luiken, http://www.nicoleluiken.com
Six female djinn ran forward, swords held out.
Before they’d taken more than a step, Dash zipped across the room, using his superspeed again. Delphie lost sight of him for a second, then saw him rip away the sword of the leftmost djinn. He flitted off again before the guard could do more than cry out.
Delphie’s eyes crossed, trying to keep track of her new husband. The guards were having trouble too. Half lunged one way and crashed into the others when Dash switched directions yet again.
Delphie cheered. And then Dash was beside her, whispering in her ear, “Stride’s going to fly you out of here to safety.”
He was? Darn it, Delphie wanted to stay and watch the show. “Wait—“
Before she could say anymore, Dash was gone again, this time zipping behind the clump of guards. He disarmed another one. Delphie was impressed. Four more and the threat would be over.
Stride started toward Delphie, but was intercepted by one of the guards. Stride’s hand thrust forward, and a blue sword appeared in it. They began sparring. Stride seemed particularly acrobatic, lacking Dash’s speed but exceedingly careful not to let the guard—or her sword—get close to his body.
The female guard was also careful not to get close to Stride. Interesting.
Delphie looked around for Aurora and saw that she’d retreated to a corner. She had a grim
expression on her face, but she wasn’t doing anything useful like creating a sword or calling for less Dash-hating guards.
But wait—these guards were female. Were they not Aurora’s guards? If Aurora was the one who’d sent Dash on his mission, why were her own guards trying to capture him? From what little Delphie understood, the clans were completely gender segregated because of the no-touchie-no-wishie thing.
The thing Dash supposedly had cured.
Delphie suspected there was more at stake here than Dash’s freedom, but she didn’t have time to ask what.
“Grab the pixie!” a new voice called. Based on the livery she wore and the towels she held, the speaker was also one of Aurora’s clansmen. But instead of defending her mistress, she was pointing at Delphie. “She’s Dash’s new bride.”
Uh-oh. Did Aurora have any clansmen loyal to her? Had she known before now she had spies in her midst?
Fortunately, the guards were all occupied chasing Dash and didn’t hear.
Dash was busy—he’d grabbed the curtains off the window and was tangling up the guards–so Delphie would have to take care of the boss spy herself. She’d never like tattletales, not since that time in fourth grade when she accidentally turned the teacher’s hair into snakes.
Smiling, she sidled closer to the treacherous maid. “Good idea, staying out of the way against the wall.”
“Grab her!” the spy demanded again.
Abandoning guile, Delphie grabbed the ribbon from her hair and tossed it at the female djinn. “Hush!” she commanded. The pixie-cloth looped around the spy’s mouth, muzzling her.
Before Delphie could congratulate herself on a job well done, one of the djinn guards grabbed her from behind. Delphie yelped as a sword kissed her throat. Goblin balls! One of them had been listening after all.
“Surrender or your new bride dies!” the djinn holding her bellowed. She was at least a foot taller than Delphie and ridiculously muscular. Struggling would only get Delphie’s throat cut. Surreptitiously, she reached for the last of the fairy dust in her bra.
Dash, who’d been blurring across the room, slowed.
Fool. If he got caught, would they still execute him even though she’d married him? Hm, considering they had screeched something about him being a traitor, better safe than sorry.
“Escape!” she yelled at him. “Rescue me later.”
He was superfast, but he hesitated, eyes finding hers. Delphie’s chest warmed. He was worried about her. Her previous husbands would have cheerfully abandoned her. Dash held out his hands in surrender.
A glowing blue net, like the one that had captured the barghest, flew into the air, thrown by two of the guards. Dash ducked under it, but one arm got tangled. Stride shoved him out of the way as a second net fell. Dash yanked himself free, but the female guards moved in on Stride.
Stride couldn’t avoid contact any more. A green-haired one laid her hand on Stride’s shoulder through the net. Pain flashed over his features as the wish-compulsion set in. “I wish Dash were imprisoned.”
Expression tight, Stride nodded. “Granted.”
Delphie scooped out some flecks of fairy dust and flung it over her shoulder at her guard. “Rubber sword!”
The guard gave a startled squawk, but before Delphie could break free, the queen’s room disappeared.
Blinking, Delphie swayed on her feet. She was in a dim, stone tower—and Dash was there, too.
He instantly crossed the room to stand beside her. “Are you hurt?” His thumbs gently stroked her throat.
“I’m fine,” she said huskily.
He scowled. “I’m sorry you got dragged into this mess. I don’t know why Stride included you in the guard’s wish.”
Delphie smiled. She had an idea why, but right now she looped her arms around her husband’s very chivalrous neck and ran her fingers through his dark, silky hair. “Maybe he wanted to give us a honeymoon.”
By Veronica Scott, http://veronicascott.wordpress.com/
While Dash seemed happy to wrap his arms around her, that was as amorous as he got. “Wife, sexy as you may be, I don’t think we should start our marriage on a cold stone floor. One of us might get hurt.”
Delphie looked around the room. Nothing, no furniture, certainly no bed. Dash might be right. She pouted.
“Besides, we have bigger things to worry about.” Dash gave her one last squeeze and released her. “Like getting out of here so we can stop that wedding tomorrow.”
“Hmmph, that’s not a very loverlike answer. You care more about Aurora and Ainmire’s wedding than ours.” Delphie sat cross-legged on the floor, her bottom immediately growing icy right through her skirt. “Some wedding day this is turning out to be. Can’t I wish for a bed? Or even a futon? How about a furniture catalog? We have to pass the time somehow.”
“I don’t grant wishes anymore,” Dash reminded her regretfully. “There are downsides to being free.”
“So you were in a conspiracy with Queen Aurora?” she asked, feeling a little jealous. “Not that being cured of that wish compulsion is a bad thing, but why does she think it will end feuding between royals?”
“She was more worried about ending her wedding to Ainmire,” Dash said. “And her reasons for that are her own.”
“Fine,” Delphie said. “No wishes. So what can you do?”
“I retain my clan magics, except for flight, and I can shapeshift,” Dash said.
“Why don’t you turn yourself into the kind of djinn who can grant wishes so I can wish us out of here?” Or better yet, she could wish them back to the prime dimension, away from all this craziness. These djinn had thrown Dash out, named him a traitor, tried to execute him. Still seemed to be trying to execute him despite the fact she’d married him to keep him out of trouble. She and her new husband would be better off without them.
“It doesn’t work that way.” Dash walked to the wall and started running his hands over the stones, stopping every now and then to rap his knuckles on one.
Rising, dusting off her skirt, she joined him. “What are you doing?”
“Hoping for a secret passage. This old castle is full of them.” Dropping a quick kiss on her cheek, he moved to the next segment of wall. The stone had partially crumbled mortar—though not enough to work any stones free—and various grates along the floor, like drains or vents.
If he was trying to find a secret passage, he was going about it all wrong. But then, not everyone was a pixie with her species’ innate skills for finding secret doors and portals. Well, she’d let him fumble along a while and feel like a man, and then she’d show him how it was done.
“You’re upsetting the spiders,” Delphie pointed out as a whole family of dinner plate sized red and yellow striped ones crawled away from his questing hands. “Do they bite?”
Dash sighed, rolling his shoulders. “Could you try to take our situation seriously for five minutes? Do you know what’s going to happen to us tomorrow? To Stride?”
She threw her hands in the air. “How am I supposed to know anything? You djinn take this code of silence thing to an extreme! If you’d been honest with me from the beginning, I could have prevented all of this from happening.”
“Or you could have made it worse,” Dash said.
“I don’t make things worse, and on the rare instances I do…” She ignored him when he chuckled. “I fix it. Only I’m all out of fairy dust. I used the last of it on a rubber sword spell.”
“I would have saved you,” Dash said. “Didn’t you trust me?”
“No, I… Ooh, are we fighting? Does that mean makeup sex?” Furrowing her brow, she pondered for a moment. “But if we haven’t even had sex sex yet, can we do makeup sex?”
Dash left his explorations at the wall and took her in his arms for a thorough, long kiss. But just when Delphie’s toes started to tingle, he broke it off.
“You’re obsessed, my little pixie wife. Any other time I’d love it, but right now the fate of Aurora’s entire clan—and perhaps more—is in our hands.”
She tried not to pout. The fate of an entire clan and perhaps more was kind of a big deal, she supposed. “Looks like Aurora’s clan has already turned on her. All those female guards and that maid going after us?”
“Ainmire wrested control of the guards from her during the wish feud—the one she agreed to marry him to end. It’s…useful for a royal to have opposite gendered guards indebted to the crown.” Dash frowned. “I don’t know about the maid, though, and I don’t know how deep the spy network reaches. If Ainmire knows…”
“Knows what?” Delphie asked.
“It’s nothing.” She could tell by his expression it wasn’t nothing—it was a big something. “But it should make you appreciate the seriousness of our situation. No one is what he or she seems, and Ainmire isn’t going to allow our marriage to stop him from punishing me as a traitor.”
“I’ll touch him and use the wish compulsion to stop him,” Delphie said. “Easy as pie. I got wishes from Stride, didn’t I?”
He shook his head. “Royals are always protected in the presence of the opposite sex. You won’t get close to him.”
“Aurora wasn’t protected.”
“That’s because she’s under house arrest—from trying to escape the wedding. My finding the cure was her last hope.”
Delphie had always thought it would be a hoot to be a queen, but being a royal in the djinn realm didn’t sound like it was a lot of fun. It was all wish feuds and marrying people you didn’t like and traitors in your ranks. “Ainmire doesn’t sound like he’d be a good husband, so I guess I can appreciate her viewpoint.”
“Nor is he a good king. Wedding or no wedding, because you’re married to me, you and I will be tortured to death tomorrow, and Stride will be forced to do the torturing as Ainmire’s head enforcer.”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Delphie said. “You won’t have sex with me and now our wedding isn’t going to stop us from being killed? What was the point?”
“Please be serious.”
“I’m always serious about sex.”
“You don’t understand the danger you’re in. Ainmere has a very dark, twisted imagination, especially when it comes to other fairy species. Having your wings torn off by rabid griffins while a dragon nibbles your toes will be the least of what he orders…and he has enough indebted soldiers on staff to get anything he wishes for.”
Horrified, Delphie hugged herself and backed away from Dash. “Oh my, very bad. Very VERY bad. Enough talk. We have to escape. We have to rescue Stride and Aurora. If only I had more of my dust.”
“You know, I would almost wish for that dust right now. At least it introduces chaos.” Dash walked back to the wall. “You think you could help me here? Isn’t finding portals a pixie specialty? I know you can’t cook – “
“Hey, watch the insults.” Delphie started walking the perimeter of the room, too, using her pixie senses as he’d suggested. “Don’t believe every cliché about the pixies. I can cook. Some. I watch Top Chef. Just add bacon and any dish is improved.”
Dash smiled. “I do love bacon.”
“And you can’t just transform into a griffon and fly us out of here?” She nudged one of the vents with her toe, an idea beginning to take shape in her complicated mind.
He shook his head, examining his bruised knuckles for a moment. “They’ve locked the tower down. I can manage a few inherent magics, but nothing major. If I were to shape shift, even for you, my heart, the stones of the tower might siphon away all of my energy and prevent me from shifting back. Another reason not to have sex right now. I could die for lack of energy before we um finish the task.”
Much as she took offense at the idea of making love to her being labeled as a task, she magnanimously decided to rise above her sexy husband’s poor choice of words. He’ll learn.
Focusing on the main issue, she said, “If I get us out of here within the next five minutes, can we take a break for an hour or three and celebrate our marriage properly? It’s bad luck to go on a life or death mission without having consummated this union. It breaks about fifty pixie superstitions.”
“And we must respect those,” he said.
She poked him lightly in the ribs. “If you shifted into a griffon just the one time and then we went somewhere else, how long before you built up enough energy to shift back?” Griffons were beautiful, intelligent creatures, but no way was she having sex with her husband in griffon form.
“It depends on where we go.”
“Out.” Delphie picked up a loose stone, squinting in the dim light to gauge its heft and likelihood of crumbling. It seemed solid enough.
Dash cleared his throat. “And how do you propose we escape if there’s no door?”
“Who needs a door?” She arrowed her hand through the air, undulating it gracefully. “You can bash down the wall and we’ll fly out of here.”
“I don’t think even a griffon can bash through these walls. They may look old, but I assure you, they’re not.” He was frustratingly unimpressed by her brilliant idea.
“In case you haven’t noticed, those spiders were Florida wolf spiders. They only live in southern Florida, which means there’s a portal right behind…” Delphie poked a piece of mortar near the vent from which the spiders had escaped. “this set of stones. You turn into a big, strong monster and get rid of these pesky rocks, I’ll open the portal, and we’ll fly out of here. Southern Florida is nice this time of year. I know a deserted beach – “
“How?” Dash gritted out between clenched teeth.
“How what? How am I going to open the portal?” Delphie was confused. He’d seen her do portals before.
“How do you know about this deserted beach?” Dash took a few deep breaths. Blue sparkles of djinn power burned all along his limbs and his hair curled like the tentacles of a living being.
“Jealous much?” Delphie kicked the masonry a few more times and beckoned to him to have at the wall. They didn’t need to get through the wall itself…only as far as the portal.
“Why do we have to fly to use this portal?” Instead of an instant transformation like he’d managed when fighting the barghest, Dash continued to sparkle blue. His outline grew hazy. Perhaps the tower was sucking away his magic?
“Because we’re high up in a tower, silly.” Delphie concentrated on the portal and a faint outline of it darkened the stone wall like a shadow. “Are you going to shift or not?”
“Just warning you…it may be awhile before I can shift back,” he said, before his body morphed into a large, glowing blue griffon.
Delphie stood back as Dash’s powerful claws swiped at the stone wall above the vent. A few more spiders scuttled away from the falling stones. Once Dash bashed through the first layer of rock—how thick were these walls, anyway?—the black emptiness of the portal took shape.
She held out a hand for his claw. “Come along, husband. And don’t worry, we can hop another portal and get back to the djinn dimension in plenty of time to break up that wedding and rescue Stride!”
Will Delphie and Dash be forced to stop the wedding BEFORE they consummate their own? Find out in two weeks when we revisit the intrepid couple!
Author, Cat Person, Amigurumist