By the time we got back to Norene’s—and my—house, I was just about ready to scream into a pillow. Who knew two people could talk so much about nothing at all? Well, in Meredith’s case, it wasn’t that much of a surprise, but Norene was, in theory, an adult. Come to think of it, though, I actually had no idea how old she was. She looked mid-twenties, but what did I really know about her? I’d known her less than a week.
I’d known her less than a week, and I’d already moved in with her. If the situation were any different, I’d be convinced I’d lost my mind. Then again, the caste mark on my face proved I was a zombie, so maybe I had.
“Hey, why are there so many people outside your house?” Meredith pointed as we drew up to the house
I blinked. “Wow.”
There were at least ten people loitering by the front door in what looked like tense silence. I recognised only three of the faces. One was the spriggan we’d met just this morning, and he appeared to be accompanied by five or so short-lived dead types. Another was Norene’s sister Maeve, flanked by a pair of incredibly grumpy looking banshees. The third was Sarai; she was the only one who didn’t seem to have come with an entourage.
“Hello—” Norene began.
It was Maeve who interrupted her. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Norene frowned. “Walking?”
Meredith snickered; Maeve glared at her.
“You’ve been sharing our secrets,” the banshee on Maeve’s left accused. “With one of the dead.”
A smirk played at the edges of Sarai’s mouth. “You say that as if you’re not surrounded by the dead.”
Maeve scowled in Sarai’s direction. “We have rules. You’ve been allowed to run about on your own for long enough, Norene. You’ll be coming home with us now.”
“And what are you going to do if she doesn’t want to go?” I crossed my arms, staring the banshees down.
“Yeah!” Meredith mimicked my posture. “Norene doesn’t live with you anymore because you’re mean!”
Sarai chuckled; she seemed to be the only one enjoying this standoff. “You tell them, Merry.”
“Norene.” Maeve chose to ignore the rest of us. “We’re going. Now.”
Norene took a sideways step closer to Meredith and I. “But I don’t want to go.”
“You’ve had your rebellion, you’ve made your point.” Maeve looked over her shoulder at the run-down house. “You can’t honestly want to stay in this dump when you could be in the compound with running water and heating.”
“Actually—” the spriggan interjected.
Maeve held up an imperious hand. “No one asked you.”
“I was just going to say there’ll be running water and electricity for this house by the end of the week,” the spriggan informed her.
“What?” Maeve turned her full attention on the spriggan. “There’s no way she has the resources for that.”
The spriggan shrugged. “I wasn’t privy to the details of the deal that was struck with Master Stenberg.”
Maeve gritted her teeth. “Norene, you need to come home to your sisters before you do anything else you regret.”
“Are there any boy banshees?” Meredith whispered, leaning towards Norene.
I swallowed a laugh, then turned to the spriggan. “Jowan, wasn’t it? Why don’t we step inside to discuss the details of the work to be done.”
He bowed to me with a flourish. “After you.”