“Are you, now? How sweet!” The lady widened her smile, but narrowed her eyes. All eight of them. “You do realize this is my nephew, who speaks for you.” She took another step forward. “I’m not only the Ashelocke matron, but his aunt. Damian belongs to me.” Duessa stretched out several hands. One touched Damian’s cheek. Another touched his neck. I could feel him flinch, even though he was perfectly still. “This means you belong to me as well.”
She reached out a third hand towards my own cheek. I tensed, unsure what I should do next. I had to stop her, but how? I wasn’t sure what I could do in this world.
“Not outside the Ashelocke estate, Duessa. Not within my Place of Power,” a deep, yet feminine voice replied. It filled the room, commanding attention, drawing it a curtain behind the counter. A slender hand was pulling it back, revealing the tall, golden haired woman who stood behind it. “Everyone speaks for himself, as well as herself in the Navel.”
The ground beneath my feet quivered, while the air tingled with warmth and the thick perfume of power. I could sense it, smell it, when the woman moved away from the counter.
Damian took a deep breath of that heady odor. His eyes brightened at its scent. He bowed his head and lowered his eyes. I half expected him to kneel.
Duessa turned to face this rival to her own power and presence. She closed her red, golden, and rose purple eyes, withdrawing six of her arms. Indeed, it was as if they disappeared into the shadows. She now looked entirely human, when she turned towards the lady.
This had to be Gabrielle. Damian’s boss. My alleged ‘mother’, whom Duessa knew better than she knew herself. I wasn’t sure if I was pleased or terrified to meet her.
“That statement would have been a lot more impressive, ‘Brie, if you weren’t wearing that hat,” Duessa said, shaking her head. There was an almost fond exasperation to her words.
I realized there was something on the lady’s head, a something that didn’t go with her golden hair, wide blue eyes, or the presence that filled the room. I realized it was a chicken, or some sort of hat with a chicken emerging from it. The chicken had its beak open, as if it was about to attack, or sing.