I woke up in June's cave.
At first I thought it was a mirage. A trick of the light. Hell, a trick of my sun-drenched dementia. I was pretty lucid while writing yesterday's entry, but I spent the night babbling. I have no idea when I fell asleep -
- but when I woke up, I was in the cave. Surrounded by slaves. Lying before June.
Still as physically young as before and floating in her magic circle, June shook her head when she noticed I was awake. "You are a bloody pain, Mr. Mayor. Right bloody pain. I've known three-year-olds who were less stubborn."
I sat up, grunting and rubbing my neck. The sunburn was gone. "Yeah, I bet Driscol was a pain in the ass to raise. Evangelina, too. Funny, I don't picture you a mother."
June cackled. "Oh, oh, oh! Did one of 'em finally tell you? Not that the secret matters much, now, but I thought it more polite to the brats to let 'em pretend they were noble born. You wouldn't BELIEVE how ashamed they are of me, Mr. Mayor, wouldn't believe."
"I would be, too, if I were them." I sneered. "You don't make a good case for yourself."
June stretched, caressing her legs. "With a body this good you don't need a good case. You need gullible males. No shortage of those, lemme tell ya."
She straightened. "Enough banter. It's pretty clear to me that you won't leave without an explanation, 'n if you don't leave you'll either die from exposure or I'll have to imprison you. Neither is preferable. So we'll see if a good reason will work."
I stood, eying the slaves warily. All of them were staring at the walls of the cave, particularly the giant white emblem on the back wall. It's still faded, though no more so than during my last visit. "Talk, then. Tell me where my wife is."
June rolled her head, exasperated. "I can't TELL you that, ya idiot. I still need her. But I can at least tell ya WHY I need her."
"This should be good." I crossed my arms and waited.
June mimicked the gesture, sticking out her tongue. "Simple enough. It's so that fuckin' brat of yours will stay outta my way."
"No, Eve. The one who's not bothering me at all." June rolled her eyes. "Of course Grayson. The kid adores his mother more than anything else. Take her out of the equation… especially now, when he's physically 'n mentally unstable… and he'll lose it. Go berserk. Cause trouble for me. It's the last one I care 'bout."
My sneer deepened. "So you're using Libby… a woman who considered you her friend… a woman whose child you helped deliver…"
"Blah, blah, blah." June dismissed the sentimentalism with a wave of her hand. "I've befriended 'n backstabbed a lotta people over the years. Shed tears the first few times. Won't bother here. I have things to do. Mother 'n child were helpful at first, but Grayson's become too powerful to trifle with, 'n he's only going to get stronger. If I can keep him out of the picture for at least another month, I'll be golden. I'm just glad he made as big a mistake as he did."
"Oh? What's that?"
June licked her lips in grotesque satisfaction. "He went into my hut. Now he's mine."
I wanted to say more, to do more, to at least chastise the witch for her actions. But she kept talking, and the power of her voice, as well as her words, entranced me into silence.
"You don't know what that boy is." June turned to look at the rat symbol at her back. "You should have been able to guess by now. You've had enough experience with his kind. But ya haven't, because you're too wilfully blind to the possibilities. Not because ya love Grayson - you gave up on that a while ago - but because you love your little girl."
"He's their general." June jabbed a wavering finger at the rat symbol. "He's their weapon. And he's beyond their control. You let 'im loose from my trap… you do that, and you'll have something worse than all the shadows the sun c'n cast."
The slaves escorted me out of June's cave. She wouldn't say anything else beyond warning me that if I tried to come to her again, she would break my arms and legs and ship me back to Pubton in a crate. I got the message.
Libby… Libby's beyond me. I don't have the power to get her right now. And as much as I now hate June, and what she's done, and what she's trying to do… I can see what she's saying. Grayson is a weapon. Of course he's a weapon. And he needs to be contained. Even if he could help save Pubton from the Non.
Even if containing him breaks my heart.
I'm headed back to Pubton. I've been supplied with a new horse and carriage. The horse's eyes are… well… y'know. I doubt we'll be making any side trips.
Dragomir the Co-Mayor