I left the table and slipped another glass of champagne from a waiter’s tray as it glided by.
I better slow up on these or I’ll be all over Dinlas later, I thought as I took a sip. Then I shrugged.
There’s worse things to do tonight.
Ahead of me, Chloris and Erebus were chatting and laughing together. I slid up behind them with a greeting.
“Good evening, Chloris, Erebus.”
Erebus nodded and smiled while Chloris turned and gave me a polite hug.
“Nyx, this is all so wonderful. Thank you so much for putting this together.”
“Well, you’re welcome, Chloris. I hope everything has been satisfactory? Your room as well?”
“Oh my, yes, everything is spectacular. They could do with a few more flowers, but North Pole and all. Still, I wonder if some crocus or snowdrops might make a go of it in the spring here.”
“Well good, I’m glad,” I replied. “We can talk to Noel before we leave about adding a little color in the spring. I am sure he wouldn’t be disagreeable to a few beds. However, I wanted to catch you because I have a small gift for you.”
Erebus shifted on the spot, looking highly uncomfortable. “I’m, uh, going to head over and talk to Nemesis.”
I laid my hand on his arm and said, “Please, just a moment. I have something for you as well.”
He fiddled with something imaginary in his hands for a moment, then looked up at me and nodded.
I nodded back to him, then turned to Chloris.
“Chloris, I wanted to get you something and I really struggled to come up with just the right thing, so I hope you like it.”
“Oh, Nyx,” she said, “I am sure that I will. Thank you very much. Very thoughtful of you.”
I pulled her hands up in front of her and made my now familiar magic work. In her hands appeared a cutting, rooted and planted in a small clay pot.
“Oh, what is this?” she exclaimed as she held it up.
“It is a cutting from Arbol del Tule, the largest girth tree in the world. It is well over 1,500 years old.”
“Oh yes, of course! Montezuma cypress, it is a beautiful tree, and from that tree, a magnificent specimen that grows in a deeply religious and mystical part of the world.”
“The cutting was done by something called ‘air-grafting’, I’m sure you understand the process. But it is now rooted and ready to be planted. I do hope you like it.”
Chloris’ face was aglow with delight as she turned the small plant this way and that. “Oh, Nyx, I do. I know just the place for this to flourish.”
“Well, I am glad.” I waved my hands over the small tree and it disappeared. “It will be waiting for you in your room when you get back upstairs.”
Chloris leaned in and hugged me again. This time less formal and more familial. “Thank you, I love it.” When she let me go she added, “Now it’s your turn, Erebus.”
I turned to look at Erebus and he looked positively ready to bolt, so I reached out and touched his arm.
“Erebus,” I started, but he cut me off, not quite meeting my eyes.
“Look, Nyx, I know you are starting your tradition, but I really don’t want any gifts.”
I sighed softly. “I know you don’t, but I got you something anyway.” He raised his arm to protest and I gently pushed it back down to his side.
“Erebus, this is neither the time nor place. Please, allow me to offer you a gift – a peace offering, if you will.”
Erebus stopped resisting and let me push his arm back down, then he nodded his head.
“Give me your hands.”
“Must we do this, Nyx?”
I gave him a look, and he gave a long sigh before holding out his hands. I waved my arms across his and a small box dropped into his hands. He opened the box and pulled out a set of DJ headphones.
“Headphones,” he said, somewhat unsure of how to take it.
“Headphones,” I confirmed. “As well as a spin table that is still up in your room.”
“Okay, well, thank you, Nyx.”
I rolled my eyes and replied, “Are you going to ask me about the headphones? Why they are special?”
“Okay,” he shrugged as he turned them over in his hands, “why are they special?”
I smiled ruefully at him. “I remember how you used to complain about the sound in different rooms and getting it just right. These headphones allow you to hear the sound from across the room so you can adjust the mix on your soundboard without ever leaving the DJ stand.”
Erebus looked at me peculiarly. “So you mean I don’t have to walk all around the room checking sound levels?”
“Nope, just look where you want to hear and it will come through the headphones just how it sounds there.”
“Wow Nyx, that is-is really great. I mean it. Thank you, that is very thoughtful.”
“I’m glad you like it…E.” I hadn’t used that term since we split up, but I called him that for a long time before. He smiled at it and gave me a hug. When we separated he said, “Thank you again, Nyx. I love them.”
We parted, and I felt better about the two of us than I had in a long time. Time to find the next members of the family.
I could feel Hekate before I ever saw her, and I followed her magic to the center of the hall where she was surrounded by enraptured staff and a fascinated Pan. A beautiful dagger rested in her hand, the handle fashioned in the shape of an ornate key. She twirled it around her finger, making some of the staff flinch horribly, until she tossed it in the air, high above their heads. A collective gasp came from the spectators, and it landed with a satisfying hiss into its sheath on her hip. Enthusiastic applause followed as Hekate took a swig of something dark, and the crowd thinned as I approached the goddess of witchcraft and the god of shepherds.
“Evening, Lady Nyx,” Pan said, bowing slightly. I returned the gesture, my back twinging slightly.
“Pan, it’s so good to see you! I wasn’t sure if you were going to be able to make it or not. It’s been some time since I’ve seen you home. Everything alright in your neck of the woods, so to speak?”
Pan nodded, rubbing his arm absently. “It’s been alright, nothing too exciting besides scaring a couple of farmers by accident. Talking goats, gets them every time,” he said, a rueful smile on his face. I snorted and shook my head, before turning to Hekate.
“I have missed you terribly, Kate. I hope you’ve stayed out of trouble?”
She grinned at me, a sharp thing. “You know me, Nyx. I keep to myself, quiet and all that.”
“You are the last person in this room that I would consider to be ‘quiet’, but I know better than to pry,” I replied, and her smirk grew. “That was quite a show you put on. Just because?”
Hekate thumbed the dagger on her thigh. “One of the staff saw me playing with it while Pan and I were chatting, and they thought it was just for decoration. So I decided to show off a little. You understand.”
“That I do, Kate, that I do.” I took us out of the middle of the hall, flagging down a waiter to snag a couple of mini quiches from them. I forgot I hadn’t eaten yet tonight – no wonder the champagne was getting to me. I leaned against a column as Hekate and Pan both took their own quiches from the tray and grabbed a chair at the table we stood by.
“I heard you and Dinlas were a thing now,” Kate commented, watching me closely. I smiled languorously at her.
“You heard correct, but I rarely kiss and tell, you know that. Besides, that’s not why I invited you here tonight. Other than missing you both, I have a little something for you.”
Thank Chaos that neither of them fussed about it – the first not to do so the entire night. With a wave of my hand, a neatly tied scroll appeared before Pan, a little silver key hanging from the ribbon, while two leather pouches landed in Hekate’s lap.
“That’s got some oomph to it, Night,” the witch commented, eyeing her lap. Pan had untied the scroll and was reading it over, vibrating with excitement the further down he got.
“The Bosco Sacro, Nyx? Truly?” Hekate gestured for Pan to hand over the papers, which he did only too quickly, bouncing in his seat. “How in the blazes -”
“I know a lad, who has connections, who knows a lass, and so on. The property will remain as it is – private, but open for tourists – but you are welcome to do as you see fit. It felt right that you should have it.” The little jig he did made me grin.
“I cannot wait to explore – you’re welcome to join me, of course,” Pan added, grinning sheepishly, but I waved his remark off.
“It is as you wish, but it’s not necessary. I had a walkthrough, it’s quite beautiful, in its own way. Kate, are you going to open yours or sit there and weigh it with your legs?”
She rolled her eyes and popped open the pouches, twisting out two katars. The H-shaped handles were a thick silver, leading up to an embellished blade of runes. Hekate raised an eyebrow at me, sliding them easily into her hands and testing the feel.
“These are gorgeous. Did you make them yourself?” The blades glinted in the chandelier light, razor sharp edges threateningly thin.
“With a little help, yes,” I replied, watching her run the blades against one another. The smooth sound of metal against metal made her grin and she nodded her thanks.
“These will come in handy at some point – a worthy gift, and one I appreciate.” Hekate tucked the blades back into their pouches and slung them on her hips.
“I am happy to have both your gifts waiting for you in your room, if you would prefer to keep them safe there,” I offered. Pan immediately handed the scroll back to me, and it was gone a moment later. Hekate, however, shrugged.
“I like my new things, I want to show them off.” I chuckled as she thumbed the tops of the pouches.
“As you were. I won’t begrudge you that.” My eyes strayed to the decorated clock that hung above the bar across the room. “I do need to leave you for the moment, however. I will see you both later tonight?” They nodded in unison, and I left them to their devices, wandering off to a secluded corner of the hall and nearly walking straight into Poseidon.
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