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the power to be strong, cypress.
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Thoth tensed as the knock on the door reverberated around the room, his shoulders going stiff. His grip tightened on Poppy’s shirt as though she might protect him, which was a stupid idea even if not a fully conscious one. Poppy’s crazy magic couldn’t protect anyone. When they’d got in trouble with pirates, it had been Thoth who bailed her out with his manipulation of the ocean currents.

As Cypress rushed to the door, Thoth twisted slightly in Poppy’s arms so that he could eye her. She relaxed visibly at the unfamiliar voice on the other side – presumably someone she knew – but Thoth frowned, suspicion carving lines in his face. Was there someone else he didn’t know who knew about him? Had Cypress told people about his wolf-shifting? Had Jacopo? All it would take was an overheard rumour, a Chinese whisper to make it back to any royal guard with half a brain cell, and Thoth’s brilliant disguise would be finished. His wolf form would only be good for running really fast from all the flying arrows.

Cy’s moment of calm didn’t last long. As soon as the unknown voice finished its question, she snapped upright, staring at the clock on the far side of the room. She reached out to grab her left arm – the same action Thoth had seen her do before. His eyes narrowed. She dashed out of the room, throwing something about work over her shoulder.

Work… holding her arm…

It still took Poppy to clarify the situation before Thoth could add all the pieces together.

“She seemed anxious about something,” his sister noted, providing the key to unlock the mystery behind Cypress’s behaviour.

The fire reignited. Thoth’s lips curled back into a silent snarl and he pushed himself away from Poppy’s hug, making for the door Cypress had just vanished through. Fortunately, he stopped himself just in time. He might have turned into a wolf and followed her anyway, but Morveren came bouncing over with her over-long tail thumping on the ground, reminding him that she’d come haring after him too.

He spent the good part of twenty minutes trying to show his linguistically challenged familiar how to wolf-shift, but Morveren just kept flopping on the floor and making the huf-huf-huf sound which constituted laughter for her. Eventually he gave up and got Poppy to help smuggle the useless water-fox out in a suitcase. Once they were far enough away to not be spotted, Thoth left Poppy and bolted towards the closest seashore with his familiar hot on his heels. He left her at the water’s edge with strict instructions not to follow him before turning and running back towards the centre of the island. He was forced to slow pace the closer he got to the castle, partly to avoid attracting attention and partly to compensate for the additional weight which seemed to be settling on his shoulders with every step.

The castle was as he remembered it, looming over a garden which was entirely too pretty in the wake of its owner’s loss. Thoth had half-expected the castle to have been painted black and fallen into disrepair, like a villain’s lair from a book.

He slowed to a walk, dropping his nose to the ground to try and pick up Cypress’s scent. It wasn’t anywhere around here, so he headed towards the kennels until he fell on it. He followed it around the building to a side-entrance and spotted her entering a doorway. Thoth put a spurt on and managed to sneak in just after her, trotting up to her side while she punched her card in on the wall.

“Cypress?” A deep, masculine voice shouted from somewhere outside of Thoth’s line of vision. He snapped around, positioned himself between Cypress and the direction of the voice, and bared his teeth threateningly.


MASTER OF THE ORBIS . MASTER OF THE WATER ELEMENT . SON OF AURA
photo by Patrick Lewis at flickr.com


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