Fair warning, this chapter is not for sensitive readers.
Coyote slowly opened his eyes to a bright room. This was not Avalon. Where was he? He turned over to the door as it opened.
"Oh, good morning," said the young woman in the doorway. She had chestnut hair that hung in ringlets at her shoulders, bright blue eyes, lightly tanned skin, and she was wearing a denim jumper, a green T-shirt, and a pair of black ballet flats.
Coyote managed to smile. "Good morning," he said. "Where am I?"
"The Eyrie Building," she replied. "Goliath, Angela, and Puck brought you back two evenings ago. You've been sleeping since."
"What about Liz? And Peter?" Coyote said, trying to get up.
"They're fine," she replied. "Liz is playing with Alexander in the playroom and Peter is going about his business."
"And you are?" asked Coyote.
"My name's Whitney," the young woman replied.
Coyote narrowed his eyes and smirked. "That's not your real name, is it? Or your true form?"
Whitney smiled. "You must be feeling better if you are catching me so quickly. No, I'm fey, just like you."
Whitney's body flashed and in her place was a short, pale fey with unruly black hair, small pointed ears, and blue-green eyes. She wore a sheath dress of many colors that seemed to fade together like a sunrise.
"Iris is my real name," she said, her voice soft and whispery.
Coyote arched an eyebrow. "My goodness, you are delicate."
Iris' cheeks turned red and her eyes deepened several shades of blue. "Would you like some breakfast?"
"Please," said Coyote. He pulled himself out of bed. "I better check on Liz."
"Are you sure you should be up?" asked Iris, concerned, her eyes turning to a green-gold hue.
"I've been in bed for two days," said Coyote. "I'm fine."
Iris led Coyote to the playroom before going to the kitchen. Liz was playing with Alexander, using magic to play a game of ring toss.
Alex looked up and giggled. He ran over to Coyote and wrapped his little arms around the trickster's leg. Liz smiled as Coyote lifted Alex into his arms.
"Hello, little one," said Coyote, tweaking Alex's nose gently.
"All better, Coyote?" Alex asked, though it came out sounding more like "Cody".
"Yeah, I'm all better," replied Coyote. He turned to Liz. "How are you?"
"Great," replied Liz. "A lot has changed since I was last here. Did you meet Iris yet?"
"Yes," replied Coyote.
"Puck told me that Iris used to be a ground's keeper on Avalon," said Liz.
"A garden fairy? Explains why I didn't recognize her," said Coyote. "They tend to keep to themselves. Why is she in the mortal world?"
"When the Gathering took place, Iris was imprisoned by mortals," said Liz. "She wasn't able to go back. Puck saved her after I got his powers back and she's been here ever since."
Fox came in. "I see you are all getting along," she said with a smile. "Alex, lunchtime."
Coyote handed Alex over to his mother. "Lunch? I'm only getting my breakfast."
"Well, he's been up since early," said Fox. "He got to say good night to Lexington and the others this morning."
Coyote and Liz walked to the dining room, Fox and Alex going on ahead.
"So what else is new?" asked Coyote.
"Puck's dating Iris," said Liz.
"What?" asked Coyote. "Puck and Iris? You couldn't possibly get two fey more different. And it's working?"
"Oh, yes," said Liz. "You should have seen them. Puck flirts with her nonstop and Iris' eyes keep changing color when he does it."
"Anything else?" asked Coyote.
"You had some visitors who were willing to help you out," said Liz. "But Puck said it would be better if you recovered on your own."
"Really?" asked Coyote. "Who were they?"
"Two girls about my age," replied Liz. "One's a sorceress and the other. . . Well, I'm not sure what she is. Ariana Caelum and Morgan Stormwell. They are dating Brooklyn and Lexington."
"Ariana Caelum?" repeated Coyote. "I've heard that name before. She has connections to Queen Titania. What about Morgan?"
"She has this super potent healing ability," said Liz. "And she can fly. She uses her own energy to create a pair of wings and a sword."
"Sounds like a psychic, though one of that caliber only comes about once a millennium, possibly longer," said Coyote.
Liz changed the subject. "Are we going back to Avalon tonight?" she asked.
"Yeah," said Coyote.
"Okay," said Liz. "Diane wants me to stop by before I leave."
The day went smoothly. Coyote ate some breakfast and felt a bit drowsy again. He slept in the guest bedchamber for most of the day. At sunset, they greeted the gargoyles and said their good-byes.
A strong gust of wind rattled the wind chime at the backdoor of the Maza residence. Peter smiled and opened the door.
"Good to see you're okay, Pete," said Coyote.
Peter smiled. "Good to see you back on your feet and blowing around."
Diane was just finishing dinner and the four of them sat down at the dining room table. Liz was quiet and grinning as Coyote recounted how she bested Oberon in a hunt and earned back Puck's powers.
"I don't believe a mortal has ever done anything like that," Coyote said. "They usually ask for something for themselves."
Peter laughed. "The selfless streak runs in the family."
"I did not think that Oberon would grant you your wish, Liz," said Coyote.
"Titania says he admires me or something," said Liz. "I can't see why!"
"Maybe because you remind him of Puck in a way," said Coyote with a shrug. "He always liked that trickster."
Dinner ended and Coyote and Peter went outside while Diane and Liz did the dishes.
"Liz is doing well," said Peter.
"Yeah," said Coyote. "She is a strange one. I don't think I can say much about it, given her childhood. She can take care of herself."
"She's a Maza," said Peter. "You have to watch us like a hawk."
Coyote snorted with amusement. "That's true. You never know what tricks you humans pull out of your sleeves."
Peter turned to Coyote in all seriousness. "Take care of her."
Coyote was a little stunned by this, but then smiled warmly. He placed his hand on Peter's shoulder. "I will. I promise."
Liz came out onto the back porch. "All done with the dishes."
"Ready to go?" asked Coyote. "I could use a magic boost."
Peter gave his granddaughter a hug. He looked at Liz and Coyote. "You two watch out for each other."
"I'll see you around," said Liz.
Coyote placed his hand on Liz's shoulder and the wind whirled around them, kicking up dust and leaves.
Coyote and Liz appeared in the orchard.
"Ah!" said Coyote, flopping onto the ground. "Home, sweet home."
Liz giggled. "Feeling better already?"
"Yes, much," said Coyote. "Not that two days of sleep didn't do me any good, but nothing clears up feeling drained like coming back home."
"Well, although he already knows, let's check in with Oberon," said Liz, holding her hand out to Coyote.
"Yeah," said Coyote, accepting the hand.
The two of them walked into the throne room. Oberon turned to them and smiled.
"Coyote, you look well," said the king of fey.
Coyote grinned. "Thank you, my lord. I feel much better than I did two days ago."
Oberon nodded and turned to Liz. "I trust the threat to Avalon is gone."
"He'll never bother anyone again," said Liz. The tone of her voice was enough to reveal what happened to said threat.
Oberon nodded in understanding. "I believe a celebration is in order," he said. "A feast will be prepared to celebrate the safe return of Coyote and to honor Liz for protecting Avalon from mortals."
Liz shook her head. "If you want to do something for Coyote, that's great, go ahead. Leave me out of it."
Coyote elbowed her in the side. "You're too modest," he joked.
Liz glared at him. Then she remembered something. "Oh, I almost forgot." Liz pulled her bag around and opened it up. She took out a paper bag with a store logo on the side. The top was folded over to keep its contents inside. "I went shopping with Fox and Alex and I saw this in the window and immediately thought of you, Titania."
Titania raised an eyebrow. "Really? What is it?"
Liz brought the bag up to her. "See for yourself," she said with a smile.
Titania accepted the paper bag. It wasn't very heavy, but whatever was inside had an odd shape. She opened the top and looked in. A smile broke out on her face and she looked at Liz. Liz was looking back with a smirk.
"You cheeky girl," said Titania, breaking into giggles.
Oberon peered over. "What is it?" he asked.
Titania pulled out a white Spy Vs. Spy plush doll.
"Squeeze its hand," said Liz.
Titania gave the doll's right hand a squeeze. It giggled in falsetto. Titania lost it. There was no containing her laughter.
"You're as bad as Puck," Titania said, wiping away a tear of mirth.
Coyote and Oberon were chuckling as well, mostly at the queen's reaction.
Liz beamed. "I can run back and get the black one so you can have a set."
"No," laughed Titania, tears still coming down her cheeks. "One's enough, thank you."
Oberon handed Titania a handkerchief to dry her eyes. "Liz Maza, you are a strange mortal," he said. "I am glad to have you around."
The warmth Liz was feeling coming off her mentor and the rulers of Avalon was about to end. Liz had to ask. After all, she had a bet riding on this.
"Oberon, may I ask something of you?" Liz said.
Oberon turned, those piercing blue eyes fixed on the half-blood. "Speak," he said.
Here goes something, Liz thought.
"Will you please remove Banshee's punishment?" asked Liz. "Hasn't she suffered enough?"
She heard Coyote whisper a curse of some sort. Titania's laughter instantly ceased. Oberon's face turned stern.
Oh, crap, thought Liz.
Raven strolled over to the waterfall. This was going to be great. There was no doubt in his mind that Liz had lost the bet. Now she had to pay the piper — skinny-dipping in the pool.
Liz was waiting for Raven. She looked depressed.
"Okay, Liz," said Raven, not trying to hide his sadistic grin. "Time for a dip. And that water's cold, too."
"I see you remember," said Liz, turning to him.
"Yeah, and let's go," said Raven. He clapped his hands together impatiently. "Or do you need assistance?"
Raven froze. That voice! No, it can't be!
Raven turned around. Banshee stood behind him with her hands on her hips, a smile on her face. Her metal plate was gone. On one side of her was Coyote and on the other was Anansi, having taken the form of a young African with a messy afro, eight tendrils of hair sticking straight out from it, four on each side, and wearing a dark kilt and a long mantle with webbing design.
Raven whipped around to see Liz's sadistic grin. He chuckled nervously. "Is there any way I can talk you out of this?" he asked.
"No," replied Liz.
"Liz, no, I am begging you," pleaded Raven.
"It's just your nipple," said Liz. "It's not like it's below the belt. Although, by the way you're acting, I don't think there's anything down there to attach it to."
Coyote and Anansi laughed.
"Oh, that's low," said Raven. "Liz, come on."
"You agreed to this, Raven," said Luna, appearing with her sisters.
"Now you pay the price," said Seline.
Liz grinned. "Now, get that shirt off," she said. "Or do you need assistance?"
Raven began to back away. "Liz," he said. "I'm warning you."
Liz pounced, knocking Raven to the ground. They rolled for a moment before Raven scrambled away. Liz reached out and grabbed his ankle, causing him to fall on his face.
"Ooh!" groaned Banshee. "That had to hurt!"
"Come here, you!" growled Liz.
Liz gripped the bottom of Raven's shirt and yanked it over his head. The Weird Sisters stepped in and grabbed him, holding him still.
Liz straightened her clothes and flipped some of her dark hair out of her face. "Chill out, Raven. It's not going to be that bad. Right, Anansi?"
Anansi stepped forward, taking the tarantula that was riding on his mantle from his shoulder. He held it out to Raven. "See?" the spider trickster asked, exposing the tarantula's fangs. "It won't be that bad."
Raven swore. "Are you kidding? The fangs are almost as big as its body!"
"Only the size of an eight-gauge needle," said Liz. "Now, the important question: right or left, Raven?"
Raven winced, knowing that he was not going to get out of this. "Right," he whimpered.
Anansi stepped forward and held the tarantula out to Raven's chest. Raven let out a piercing scream as the tarantula bit him. He tried to get his hands free to pull it off, but the Weird Sisters held him fast. The tarantula let go after a moment and scrambled up on Anansi's shoulder.
Banshee, Coyote, Anansi, and Liz were howling with laughter.
"I hate you!" yelled Raven.
The Weird Sisters released him and he hurried to get his shirt back on, the bitten skin beginning to redden and swell from the tarantula's venom.
They walked to the palace, the feast getting ready to start.
Banshee took one of Liz's hands. "Thank you," she said.
Liz smiled. "No problem."
Liz, Coyote, and Banshee sat together close to Oberon and Titania's table. Liz looked over at Oberon, wondering how angry he was with her. He was not in a good mood when she left the palace to get Anansi and it did not look like he was in a better mood. Oberon was scowling at her, but when Liz took a closer look, there was a smile in his eyes.
Okay, so he's not that mad at me, said Liz. Maybe Titania's right. Maybe he does like me.
Haven't they figured out not to make bets with Liz? So, tell me what you think. I love your reviews!