Swallowing Darkness – Chapter 26: Safety Through Paparazzi

Chapter 26 begins with Merry and co weaponing up. Mistral is concerned that Taranis will discover Mistral now carries his spear.

“I don’t think even Taranis will attack you for the spear today, in front of the humans,” I said.
“But there will be other days,” Mistral said. “He came to the Western Lands to find you, Meredith. I think for one of his items of power he might travel again.” He hefted the spear as he talked, as if judging the weight of it. It was a slender weapon, longer than Sholto’s spear of bone that I’d used to slay Cair. I realized that Mistral’s spear was almost too slender to stab or thrust with.
“Is it meant to be an actual spear, or is it like some huge lightning rod?”
Mistral gazed up at the shining spear, then smiled down at me. “You are correct. It is not meant to hack at men’s bodies. It is more a great magic wand, or staff. With this in my hand, and a little practice, I could call lightning from a clear sky miles away to strike down an enemy.”

Meredith starts to wonder if they could use the spear as a “tool of assassination”, but Sholto talks her out of it, saying it’s too much trouble. Now that all the sluagh know about it, there’s no way it could remain a secret.

Doyle came to me. “We need to go outside and welcome our human rescuers, but Merry, are you truly thinking of assassination as a cure for our problems?” There was no judgment on his face, just that patient waiting. That look that said he simply wanted to know.
“Let us just say that I am no longer ruling out any solution to our problems,” I said.
He cupped my chin in his fingers, and looked deeply into my eyes. “You mean that. What is it that has made you suddenly so much harder?” Then his fingers dropped away, and his face looked uncertain. “I am a fool. You watched your grandmother die.”

Or how about she’s pregnant? Or people keep trying to kill her and her men? Merry has been this ruthless and hard basically since book one forced it upon her.

Anyway Mistral starts whining about how he doesn’t understand why he was a target. He’s not a king, like Sholto, and he doesn’t command a guard, like Doyle.

“But much of the old power is returning. Perhaps the oldest among both courts feared what you would do if you were your old self again,” Doyle said.
I had a thought. “Mistral is also the only storm deity we have in the Unseelie Court. The others either stayed in Europe or are Seelie.”
“That is true,” Doyle said, “but that is not your point.”
“My point is,” I said, “what if Taranis feared exactly what has happened? He knew that if his spear came back to a Seelie Storm Lord, he could command and they would give it over. But he cannot command Mistral. He cannot demand anything from the Unseelie.”

Doyle has another thought – it is well known that hands of power follow bloodlines. Meredith inherited her father’s powers, and her powers are similar to her cousin, Cel’s. So if one of Merry’s babies carried any storm powers, Taranis could use that to prove one of the babies were his. It’s easier for Taranis to do so if Mistral is dead.

There’s a lot more discussion about why each of Merry’s guards and the fathers of her children were targeted, but it’s all mostly just a rehash of events that have already occurred in the story. I think that’s one of the main reasons I have such a difficult time recapping chapters like this where it’s 100% dialogue and no action. The characters are almost always discussing something that already happened and introducing no new plot threads.

The phone eventually rings, and it’s Major Walters calling to let them know they’ve arrived and the Seelie are heading home. They’ve even already picked up Galen and Rhys. Great! So you’d think the chapter would end there, but nope. More dialogue!

Doyle came to me, smiling. “I will give my life to keep you safe.”
I shook my head and didn’t smile back, I took his hand in mine. “Silly man. I want you alive and at my side, not dead and heroic. Bear that in mind when you’re making choices, all right?”
His smile faded, and he was studying my face, as if he could read things in the back of my mind that even I didn’t know. Once that look would have made me squirm, or be afraid, but not now. Now I didn’t want secrets from Doyle. He could have them all, even the ones I kept from myself.
“I will do my best never to disappoint you, Merry.”
It was the best I was going to get from him. He would never promise not to lay down his life to protect me, because that was exactly what he would do, if it came to it. I’d made the choice for him, in a way. I’d decided to give up all of faerie, any throne offered, to keep us all safe. I wanted the fathers of my children alive by the time they were born.
He touched my face. “You look sad. I do not want to make you sad.”
I leaned my cheek against his hand, feeling the warmth and reality of him. “It makes me nervous that all our enemies seem so determined to kill you first, my Darkness.”
“He’s hard to kill,” Mistral said.

He isn’t, though! He almost died because they left him in a hospital to be healed by human doctors!

The chapter finally ends with them deciding that they need to return to L.A. for safety, because the paparazzi would keep them safe. The Seelie are so concerned with always being seen as the “good” faeries that they wouldn’t dare doing anything bad while photographers are constantly around. The whole concept of paparazzi seems to confuse Mistral, and as always, he seems to be the butt of a joke no one actually made.

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