A Caress of Twilight – Chapter 23: The princess drives an Acura?!


Chapter 23 begins with Merry sitting behind the wheel of her Acura, but she’s not able to remember where they’re supposed to be going. She turns to her men and asks “Where are we going?” Rhys reaches between the seats and takes the keys from Merry’s hand, telling them that he will drive and everyone exchanges seats. Rhys tells Merry to buckle up, and it takes Merry several moments to realize how to do that. She asks “What’s wrong with me?” and they all determine she’s in shock from seeing the bodies.
“You said it yourself to the policeman. You have never seen anything as awful as what you have just seen.”
“Have you seen worse?”
He [Frost] was quiet for a second, then said, “Yes.”
I glanced at Rhys, who had moved us onto the Pacific Highway with its beautiful views of the ocean. “How about you?”
“Yes. And, no, I’m not going to tell you about it.”
“Not even if I ask nicely?”
“Especially if you ask nicely. If I was angry enough, I might try to shock you with the horrors I’ve seen. But I’m not angry with you, and I don’t want to hurt you.”
“I am sure Rhys has seen worse than I. I was not alive during the very first battles when our people fought the Firbolgs.”
Wait, what? So Merry asks Frost if he’s seen worse than that scene, and he says yes. Then she asks Rhys, who also says yes. Then she ASKS FROST AGAIN? I think LKH forgot that Merry only had the 2 guards with her in this scene and instead of maybe editing out one of the responses she just added Frost’s name in the first bit to show who was saying what. Because NO ONE TALKS LIKE THIS. EVER.
And apparently “Firbolgs” are the first semidivine inhabitants of the British Isles and Ireland. One thing I will grant LKH about these stories is at least she did some research into Celtic and Gaelic mythology a bit. Every stupid sounding thing she mentions has some history behind it. She’s just really bad at working it into the story plausibly. Most of the time she mentions something pretty casually and then throws in her characters “explaining” what it actually is. Remember, she’s SHOWING us what those Firbolgs are by having her main character remember her history lessons. Or something.
Anyway, Frost mentioning that he wasn’t alive when the sidhe fought the Firbolgs makes Merry question their ages.
“Rhys is older than you are?”
I looked at Rhys.
He suddenly seemed very interested in driving.
“Yes,” he said, looking straight ahead. He maneuvered a curve a little too fast, so he’d have to play with the wheel.
“How much older are you than Frost?”
“I don’t remember.” His voice held a plaintive note.
“Yes, you do.”
He glanced at me. “No, I don’t. It’s been too long, Merry. I don’t remember what year Frost was born.” He sounded grumpy now.
“Do you remember what year you were born?” I asked Frost.
“He seemed to think about it, then shook his head. “Not really. Rhys is right on one thing. After a time it simply is too long to think about.”
“Are you saying you all begin to lose parts of your memories?”
“No,” Frost said, “but it no longer becomes important what year you were born. You know that we do not celebrate our birthdays.”
“Well, yes, but I never really thought about why.”
I turned back to Rhys. His face looked almost grim. “So you’ve seen worse than back there at the club, restaurant, whatever?”
“Yes.” The word was very short, clipped.
“If I asked you to tell me about it, would you?”
I really wonder if LKH simply “forgets” when she’s written things that she just had happen, or just said, not even a page prior.
Merry drops it, then, and tells him that she will respect his wishes. To which Rhys responds with a snippy “That’s big of you.”
“No need to be snide, Rhys.”
“He shrugged. “Sorry, Merry, I’m just not feeling particularly good right now.”
“I thought I was the only one having trouble handling this.”
“It’s not the bodies that bothered me,” Rhys said. “It’s the fact that the lieutenant is wrong. It wasn’t gas or poison, or anything like that.”
“What do you mean, Rhys? What did you see that I didn’t?” Frost leaned back away from my seat. “Okay, what did you both see that I didn’t see?”
Rhys kept staring at the road. There was silence from the backseat.
“Someone talk to me,” I said.
“You seem to be feeling better,” Frost said.
“I am. There’s nothing like getting a little angry to get you through things. Now what did you two see there that I missed?”
“You were shielding too hard to see anything mystical,” Rhys said.
“You bet I was. Do you know how much metaphysical crap there is in a place where you’ve had a recent murder, let along a mass execution? There are a lot of spirits that are attracted to sites like that. They flock like vultures to feed on the remaining living, feeding off their horror, their sorrow. You can go clean into a place like that and come out covered in riders.”
“We know what the spirits that fly the air can do,” Frost said.
“Probably better than I do,” I said, “but you’re sidhe and you don’t get riders.”
“We don’t get small ones,” Frost said, “but I have seen others of our kind nearly possessed by incorporeal beings. It does happen, especially if someone works with dark magic.”
Merry tells them that if she doesn’t shield hard enough, she could very easily pick up these “riders”, which are apparently parasitic spirits that latch onto emotions and feed on them. Rhys sort of chides her for keeping her shields up as tightly as she did, and Merry tells him that she’s merely a private detective, not a psychic or a witch. She said she had no business being at the scene.
Merry, but you’re a private detective at a FIRM THAT SPECIALIZES IN SUPERNATURAL stuff, you idiot. You were called in because YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS STUFF.
Anyway, Merry again asks what Frost and Rhys could see when they got on scene.
 Frost sighed loudly enough for me to hear him. “I could feel the remnants of a powerful spell, very powerful. It clung in stinging echoes to the place.”
“Could you sense it as soon as we got inside?”
“No, I did not wish to touch the dead, so I searched with other senses besides touch and vision. I, as you say, dropped my shields. It was then that I sensed the spell.”
“Do you know what spell it was?” I asked. I’d turned in my seat enough to see him shake his head.
“I do.” Rhys’s voice turned me back around to him.
“What did you say?”
“Anyone who concentrated could have sensed the remains of magic. Merry could have seen it, if she’d wanted to.”
“It would have told her nothing, as it told me nothing,” Frost said, “but it would have made it harder for her to endure what she saw.”
“I’m not arguing that,” Rhys said. “What I mean is that I got down and looked at the bodies. Nine of them dropped where they stood, but the rest had time to fight, to be afraid, to try to run. But they didn’t run like they’d run if, say, wild animals had attacked them. They didn’t go for the doors, or break a window, not as soon as they saw what was happening. It’s as if they couldn’t see anything.”
“You speak in riddles,” Frost said.
“Yeah, plain English, Rhys, please.”
“What if they didn’t run because they didn’t realize that anything was in the room?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Most humans can’t see spirits of any kind.”
“Yeah, but if you’re implying that spirits, noncorporeal beings killed everybody at the club, then I can’t agree. Noncorporeal beings, riders, whatever, don’t have the … physical oomph to take out that many people like that. They might be able to do one person who was very susceptible to their influence, but even that’s debatable.”
“Not noncorporeal beings, Merry, but a different kind of spirit.” I blinked at him. “You mean, what, ghosts?”
He nodded.
“Ghosts don’t do things like this, Rhys. They might be able to scare someone into a heart attack, if the person had a weak heart, but that’s it. Real ghosts don’t harm people. If you get true physical damage, then you’re dealing with something other than ghosts.”
“It depends on what kind of ghosts you’re talking about, Merry.”
“What do you mean by that? There is only one kind of ghost.”
Rhys turns and looks at Merry with a sort of “Oh Merry, you sweet girl” expression. Poor, dumb, naïve Merry. Merry had always assumed that Rhys was one of the younger sidhe, as he had always been more ‘modern’, what with being into Humphrey Bogart, knowing how to drive, and having his own house outside Faerie. He also had never seemed very powerful. Merry tells him to stop doing what he’s doing, and he plays innocent, “Who me?”
“I hate it when any of you give me that look, the look that says I’m so young and I couldn’t possibly understand what you’ve experienced. Well, fine, I’ll never be a thousand years old, but I’m over thirty, and by human standards, I’m not a child. Please don’t treat me like one.”
Uh, Merry. You’ve never once in the course of these two books even ACTED like an adult, so don’t try to pull that. Also, truth here, but I don’t think ANY adult ever actually feels like an adult. I’m over thirty too, and although I pay taxes and have bills and hold a “real job”, I still don’t even want to classify myself as an adult. Gimme toys and video games and playing in the park any day. Reading about my boring “adult” life would be even more exciting than these books.
“Then stop acting like one,” he said., and his voice was full of reproach, again like a disappointed teacher. I got enough of that from Doyle. I didn’t need it from Rhys.
“How did I act like a child? Because I wouldn’t drop shields and see all that horror?”
“No, because you say there is only one type of ghost, like it’s the only truth. Trust me, Merry, there are more than human shades running around.”
“Like what?” I asked.
He took a deep breath, flexing his hands on the steering wheel. “What happens to an immortal being when it dies?”
“They’re reincarnated like everybody else.”
He smiled. “No, Merry, if it can be killed, then by definition it’s not immortal. The sidhe say they’re immortal, but they aren’t. There are things that can kill us.”
“Not without magical help there isn’t,” I said.
“It doesn’t matter how it’s done, Merry. What matters is that it can be done. Which brings us back to the question, what happens to the immortals when they die?”
“They can’t die, they’re immortal,” I said.
“Exactly,” he said.
Exactly what? I hate that here, Rhys is trying to teach Merry something important, and she keeps blurting in like she’s such a know-all. She does it CONSTANTLY in these books too. Actually, BOTH, Anita and Merry do this, then they get schooled on why they’re wrong. Which again makes me think that LKH is just INSUFFERABLE in person.
“If something can’t die, but it does, what happens to it?”
“You mean the elder ones,” Frost said.
“Yes,” Rhys said.
“But they are not ghosts,” Frost said. “They are what remains of the first gods.”
“Come on guys,” Rhys said. “Think with me. A human ghost is what remains of a human after death, before it goes to the afterlife. Or in some cases, a piece gets left behind because it’s too hard to let go. But it is the spiritual remains of a human being, right?”
We both agreed.
“So aren’t the remnants of the first gods just ghosts of the gods themselves?”
“No,” Frost said, “because if someone could discover their name again and give them followers, they could, theoretically, rise to ‘life’ again. Human ghosts do not have such an option.”
“Does the fact that the humans don’t have the option make the elder ones less a ghost?” Rhys asked. I was beginning to get a headache.
THINKING TOO HARD, THERE, MERRY? I mean, this is the WORST way to explain something, but I get what Rhys is meaning here. Elder gods are true immortals, right? They cannot die or cannot be killed. But what happens to them when they’re forgotten? They become a shade of their former self, their former power, etc… No longer ‘living’, but they cannot  ‘die’, so they just exist. They have the potential to be  brought back to ‘life’ or ‘power’, but until then, they’re basically ghosts of their former beings. IT MAKES SENSE. LKH is just a poor storyteller and her characters are fucking stupid.
“Okay, fine, say that there are ghosts of elder gods running around. What has that got to do with anything?” [Merry asked]
“I said I knew the spell. I don’t, not exactly. But I have seen the shades of the elder let loose on fey. It was as if the very air turned deadly. Their lives were just sucked out of them.”
“Fey are immortal,” I said.
“Anything that ca be killed, even if it reincarnates, is mortal, Merry. Length of life doesn’t change that.”
“So you’re saying that these ghosts were let loose in the club?”
“Fey are harder to kill than humans. If the place had been full of fey, some might have survived, or been able to protect themselves, but, yes, I am saying that that’s what did it.”
Merry asks if, instead of the ghosts of elder gods, it could have been the Nameless that killed everyone in the club. Rhys tells her no, that the Nameless wouldn’t have left the building standing. Merry asks him when he first saw the elder ghosts attack, and he responds that he first saw it before Frost was born.
Merry asks if there is anyone alive today who could perform the spell that loosed the elder god ghosts, and Rhys responds that there likely is, but the spell is forbidden. If the person who performs the spell is caught, then they are executed immediately. There’s no trial, there’s no questions asked. They’re just killed for doing it. Merry wonders who would risk death to perform the spell, especially to perform it on a bunch of humans so far from Faerie, but they cannot think of anyone who would do such a thing.
“Theoretically, if they [the elder god ghosts] were allowed to feed each night unchecked, they could become … alive again, for lack of a better word. They need the aid of a mortal to do it, but some of the elder ones can be brought back to full strength if they get enough lives. Sometimes one of them will convince a cult somewhere that they’re the devil and get them to sacrifice themselves, and that could work, but it would take enormous amounts of lives to do it. Taking the lives from the mouths of the victims is quicker, no wasted energy, like trying to drink blood from an offering bowl.”
“Has one of them ever been brought back to full strength?” I asked.
“No, it’s always been stopped before it got that far. But to my knowledge they’ve never been let loose to feed directly – except for once, and that was in a controlled situation where they were contained as soon as the spell was finished. If they’ve gotten out without a leash on them, then …”
“What can stop them?” I asked.
“The spell needs to be reversed.”
“How do we do that?”
Rhys doesn’t know how they’d reverse the spell, but he wants to converse with the other guards to see if they might know more. Just then, Merry has an awful thought, wondering that if the person who performed the spell was a sidhe, what would the cops do when they discover this? Rhys says that is one of his fears, and that it may be ground for the sidhe and all of faerie to be expelled from America.
“That’s why you didn’t mention this in front of the police,” I said.
“One of the reasons,” he said.
“What’s the other?”
“Merry, they can’t do anything about this. They can’t stop these things. I’m not even sure that there are sidhe alive today who can stop them.”
“There has to be at least one sidhe who could stop them,” I said.
“How do you figure?” Rhys asked.
“A sidhe let them loose. He could put them back.”
“Maybe,” Rhys said,” or maybe the reason they slaughtered a hundred humans in a matter of minutes is that the sidhe lost control of them. They may have killed him when he couldn’t control them.”
“Fine, if a sidhe raised these things, why are they in California and not in Illinois where the sidhe are?” Rhys did another of those full-faced turns. “Merry, don’t you get it? What if they wanted a way to kill you that couldn’t be traced back to faerie?”
Oh. “But we did trace it back to faerie,” I said.
“Only because I’m here. Most of the court forgets who I was, and I don’t remind them, because thanks to the Nameless I don’t have the power to be that anymore.”
Rhys continues to rant a little about how all the sidhe forgot the power he once possessed, forgot who he once was. The chapter ends with Merry studying Rhys, feeling pity for him, because although Rhys was her friend and lover, she really never bothered to get to know him aside from the façade he put on. It also ends on this really, really stupid sentence:
            I wasn’t sure if I owed Rhys an apology, or if he owed me one.
Fuck you, Merry. You deserve NOTHING.

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