It was late morning when she got up, stalking across her flat with her claws tapping across the bare wood. Cleaning up and dressing for the day she set her glamours using the gold collar to anchor the spell against her skin. Golden eyes faded to unremarkable hazel while red grey hair brightened to auburn as a slight tan replaced her markings.
She hit the controls to uncover the large warehouse windows, flooding the space with light. Standing in a shaft of illumination, savoring the warmth, made her wish for her full form so she could spread her wings and bask for a few hours. Shaking off the need like an itch she couldn’t scratch she forced herself away from the warmth.
Jack’s desk was dark when she passed it, the monitors showing his scrolling “Trespassers will be fed to the Pooka” message. She hit their coffee maker to start a new pot with a small smirk, he might’ve been up until five in the morning but he always seemed to wander in when the coffee started perking for the day.
She woke up her own computer with a small flourish before heading to the kitchen for her cup. Lana must’ve been around to clean up, since the normal clutter of coffee cups and take out menus had been removed. She shoved a cup of instant oatmeal in the microwave with a sigh and started hunting for her mug.
Lana was a half blood brownie that Gryphon had taken in after finding her begging for change one morning. It’d taken several days of coffee and bagels before she’d convinced the young woman to come see the warehouse. She’d chosen a small room on the bottom level and taken over the basic upkeep of the common areas.
In exchange for her services, Gryphon helped her get back in contact with her clan in Germany. She was the first of her clan to immigrate to the states and had done so without the approval of the local High Court which meant she would be deported if she went to the Court for assistance or even any of the older families since they would be rule bound to report her.
Gryphon had helped her get a part time job with several of the less influential clans who were not honor bound to the courts. Lana sent every penny she could back to her family who hoped to use the money along with their savings to convince the High Court to allow their legal immigration. The process often took years unless the family or clan had enough money or status to push the issue forward.
“Good morning, Lana. Would you like some coffee?” she asked softly waiting for the shy fae to appear.
“Morning, Gryphon. Is there anything you need?” Lana asked, her voice low as she appeared suddenly seated on the counter top.
“That was my question, Lana.” Gryphon said with a small smile, watching the dark skinned fae gesture with one gnarled hand at the cabinets causing flour, bowls, and other baking implements to tumble down landing in neat piles.
“Would Jake object to scones?”
“He seems to like everything you make.” Gryphon said, stopping the microwave before it could beep. Lana made a face at the processed food and gestured with one hand causing the cinnamon shaker to dust the top while a handful of nuts and a squirt of maple syrup followed. Gather a spoon, Gryphon moved out of the way to eat her breakfast, watching as the small brownie orchestrated each item’s movements with a flick of a finger.
“Not everyone is a picky eater like some.” Lana said with a sniff. Gryphon finished off her oatmeal and the bowl and spoon were whisked from her fingers to dance their way to the sink to join the other dishes that seemed to be happily washing themselves.
“You didn’t answer my question, Lana. Do you need anything? I was planning to hit the markets later once the sun goes down a bit.”
“I’ll leave a list for you.” She said floating the other woman a cup of coffee in her favorite mug.
“One of these days I’m going to find where you’re hiding it and make my own cup of coffee.” Gryphon groused with a small grin belaying her tone, “This is wonderful.” she said with a nod.
Most fae still took offense if you thanked them outright, even if the younger generations were more used to letting Humans get away with it. Lana just gave a quick flash of a grin before vanishing from sight even as the parade of cooking continued. Gryphon wandered over to her computer and took a seat. There were a number of messages to review for work and a few from supportive half breeds and even a few humans who were aware of her situation. Pity none of the pure bloods in power felt the same way. Without their backing in the High Court there was no way to guarantee how the Court would rule.
Jack had included her on the email to Tatha about the Farris Clan. The house had been in an uproar about the announcement and an upset teenager had texted a friend on an unsecured phone letting Jack hack the carrier and see the message. The current favorite for heir to the clan had been taken out of the running and a distant cousin who was coming to the states has been announced as heir.
The Farris Clan were set to start a civil war within their house over the sudden change. Most of the lower ranked members were siding with the previous heir while the inner circle around the current head were firmly behind the mysterious soon to arrive cousin. Considering the family owned most of the docks in town and held fae shipping rights up and down the coast, a feud could seriously effect the status quo.
Dialing her grandmother’s number with one hand she hit speaker phone while waiting for it to connect. The files Tatha had sent sounded interesting but not something her small group had the manpower to accomplish. The incidents themselves might be small and effect few fae but the overall picture wasn’t one she liked. Someone was preying on the hidden fae.
“Good morning, dear. I take it you’ve checked your messages?”
“Yes.” She said taking a sip of coffee, “I’m just not sure why you think we need to look into this. Shouldn’t the Courts be involved?”
“The attacks have been reported and the Courts are looking into things but all the fae were low born with little status. You know how long these kinds of cases can drag out.”
“So you want us out hunting murderers while I need to keep a low profile until the Court’s decisions?”
“We greed you need to stay hidden but your relatives cannot touch you until the Court announces their decision. You should be safe looking into this.”
“The hidden fae are not going to come out and talk to a Gryphon.”
“Really, and just how did you track down Lana to help her?” Tatha asked with a sniff, “Just keep an ear out, child. I’m not asking you to hunt down a killer.”
“Is the High Court looking into it at all?”
“They have assigned Daven to investigate the crimes.”
“He’s high born. He won’t be talking to the hidden. He’d consider them nothing more then servants!”
“Which is why I want someone in the city keeping an eye on things. Something is praying on the hidden and we need to be ready to protect ourselves if need be.”
“Alright, I’ll get the word out. Did you get Jack’s message about the Farris Clan?”
“Yes.” Tatha said with a sigh, “The timing has me worried. The Courts only meet once a year for major decisions and now there are rumors of a member stepping down. With the next meeting in less then a month a new member will have to be announced soon.”
“Will they go the traditional route?”
“It depends on who is stepping down but it’s possible they will declare a hunt.”
“To the death?”
“If one of the pure blood clan heads is stepping down, definitely with the winner taking over the clan position as well. It could upset the current truce we have between the light and dark members of the Courts.”
“Balance? What balance? All the Courts do is try and get the upper hand in every decision they make. We might not have been at war with each other in centuries but we are certainly not at peace!”
“And yet you have both light and dark fae living and working with you.”
“They earned that right.” Gryphon said grimly, “They bled and starved for their families and were cast out for a dark orientation. They cannot help their nature.
“And the Courts are not at war. They simply have a very traditional view of things.”
“They hurt most of the people they claim to be protecting. The pure bloods ignore the plight of those they deem beneath then and there are no half bloods. Only a handful of the members come from families the even allow half blood members or interspecies marriages. Out dated laws and rulings that splinter clans and families and only breed more hate. Why are we doing their job for them?”
“I have been fighting with the Courts for most of my life child. I built my entire empire on using the laws against the Courts and working to find ways around their outdated decisions. Replacing the current members with more like minded individuals will take centuries. For now we must do what we can to protect those we can from the idiots in power.”
“And if they rule against me?”
“Then we will do what we must.” Tatha said fiercely. “I will not leave you in the hands of your Clan. They are not your family, child, not any more. Now, we both have better things to do then worry over things we cannot control. Go check in with you people and let me know if you find anything interesting.”
“Yes, Grandmere.” She said with a sigh. Digging out her phone she quickly set up a text message to everyone.
Family meeting, come to dinner tonight. -G
She ignored the soft pings of acknowledgment as she gathered up what she needed for the day. Pulling on her jacket a faint crinkle had her digging through the pockets with a frown. Ah, Lana’s list. She would go to the market first then.
“Lana, do you have anything you want made for dinner tonight?”
“No, you know everyone always brings too much food.” A soft voice pointed out from somewhere in the kitchen.
“True.” Gryphon said with a sigh, snagging a pen and adding a few items of her own to the list. Jake wandered out of his room as she stuffed the last few items in her bag.
“Leaving?” he asked around a yawn.
“Errands to run. What are you doing up?”
“Thought I smelled pancakes.” He mumbled scrubbing a hand through gel spiked bed head.
“Lana made them?”
“Who else would?” she asked with a snort, digging for her keys.
“You cook sometimes.” He slurred around another yawn, “You making dinner?”
“Of course, it’s a family meeting. Make sure you get cleaned up a bit by then unless you want Richard ragging you.”
“The man is an ass.” He said slowly making his way into the kitchen and rattling around getting himself a cup of coffee.
“You did look rather rumpled last time.”
“So you’re an ass too.” He said, head in the fridge.
“My sense of smell is almost as good as Richard’s, Jake. I’m just too polite to say anything.” she said trying not to wince as he drank straight from the orange juice bottle.
“Really that bad?”
“Yep, get cleaned up.”
“Damn, okay.” He said with a huff, “After breakfast.”
“More like lunch.” She said with a huff at the time, “I’m to the markets, I sent you a few messages, little things to keep an eye on.”
“Okay, have fun with traffic and all that.”
She flipped him off with a smirk, letting the door slam behind her. Her first stop was the human open air market for fresh vegetables, meats, and herbs. Filling a provided box she took it to the end stand and arranged for the lot to be delivered to her doorstop, one of the others would put everything in the kitchen.
Her next few stops were to back alley little known shops that catered to the fae for her harder to find ingredients and items. She exchanged greetings with several of the owners even as small packages and slips of paper were added to her order. Most would be requests for work that would need to be vetted by Tatha or rumors to be passed on. Along her way whenever she felt the eyes of the hidden on her she stopped to lean against the brick and would leave a note requesting a meeting or information along with a small gift of food.
By late afternoon she had dropped her things off at the warehouse and continued on her rounds. Her last two stops would have to wait until after dinner but she had one more place she had to check in with. Forcing the frown from her face she straightened her spine and forced her feet to step off the sidewalk and past the door. It wasn’t often the fae had to interact with the human police in the city but any place with a large population of fae in the area had a representative in at least one police station in town. Their contact here was a human who had married a fae and been brought into the secret world by the Courts.
She’d heard good things about the man but never had to approach him herself. Greg Sanders was a rare bird by the information she’d seen. A human man that had married a dark fae yet kept his morals intact. He was known for his gentleness in questioning the lesser fae and refusing to be bribed or brushed aside by the pure bloods. Gryphon stuttered to a stop outside his office, watching as the two men inside laughed easily with each other.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.” She said with a small smile when the men noticed her.
“Well, fancy seeing you here. Things taking a turn for the worse?” John asked, facing her with a frown.
“You’re actually saving me a trip. I was headed to the Lantern after dark.”
“Someone you know, John?” Greg asked, standing from behind his desk.
“Ah, yes. Let me get the door and I’ll fill you in.” He said moving to close the door.
“One of your’s then?”
“Yes, and no. Detective Greg Sanders, let me introduce Gryphon of the Versus Clan.”
“Pleasure to meet you.” Gryphon said, shaking Greg’s hand with a tight smile.
“Sorry, are Gryphon’s against shaking hands?” Greg asked with a small laugh.
“No, it’s nothing. Technically, I have no name or clan title until the Court’s decision at the end of the month. I can’t claim Versus as my Clan.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize.” John said trying to smooth things over.
“It’s fine. The real reason I came was a bit different anyway. There have been several murders and attacks against the hidden fae in the last two months. I wanted to make sure your office was aware of the situation.”
“Who did the Court appoint to investigate?”
“Daven of Goth.”
“Well, that’s going to be a lot of help.” John said with a groan. “The man had his badge of rank stuffed up his arse at birth. We won’t be getting any help from him.”
“Which is why I wanted to make sure you knew to keep an eye out. The hidden won’t come out to a human and now that they know they are being hunted they might not come out at all.”
“If they’re that shy why are you coming to us? The human police are probably not going to find much.”
“You might. Whoever is doing this displays the bodies, leaves them in the open to be found.” Gryphon said with a grimace. “So far they’ve been found by other fae but that could change.”
“What can you tell me about the fae attacked so far?”
“They are all lower class fae, hidden. Two brownies, one trow, and two different kinds of forest sprites have been killed and left in different parts of town. They were not found were they were attacked, had no reason to be in that area or it went against their very nature. Daven will have the official files but this is what we have access to.”
“And who is we?”
“My grandmother is Tatha, head of the Veritas Sphinx Clan. Her clan is known for giving sanctuary for any who ask it no matter the species or rank. She asked me to make sure the hidden are aware of the attacks and that our liaison with the human police was informed.”
“Is she offering sanctuary to any fae that might be targeted?”
“Officially, no. Unofficially, she would never turn anyone away who requested it.”
“Miss Gryphon, I’m sorry, do you have a name you prefer?”
“I can’t claim any names until the High Court’s decision.” She said with a huff, “You can call me Gryphon if you wish. It is all I can answer to right now.”
“Greg, names are a bit of a sore point with the fae. We don’t hand them out easily. If she doesn’t have a name to give you beyond Gryphon then that is what you need to call her.” John said, leaning around the desk a bit to see the file Greg was flipping through.
“Do you have a number you can reach you at if anything turns up?”
“Here, my numbers on the back.” She said handing over a card.
“And the number on the front?”
“The main number for my grandmother’s business in the human world. If it’s something urgent and you can’t get a hold of me, call that.”
“Very well. Thank you for bring this to my attention. We’ll call if there’s any progress on our end.”
“Let me walk you out, Gryphon. I’ll be back in a bit, Greg.”
Gryphon walked silently with the taller man trying to ignore the feeling that she should be dropping her glamors around him. It made her skin itch and left her stalking out of the brick and steel building faster then was really necessary. She let him open the door only because his longer stride reached it first.
“Are Gryphon’s normally against being within iron walls?” John asked once they were away from the Police Station and headed down the sidewalk hurrying to catch up with the woman.
“Sorry, no. Just jittery.” Gryphon said with a sigh, running one hand through her short hair and forcing herself to slow down.
“I thought your grandmother wanted you to lay low for a while?”
“She seems to think the murders are more then they seem. No upper fae care about the hidden and no hidden are going to step out of the shadows to complain about abuse. Who exactly is going to investigate, Detective Sanders?”
“Then what makes her think they’re going to talk to any of us?”
“I’m not a member of any clan right now. I’m not declared as light or dark and hold no allegiances beyond those to my Grandmother and her clan is staunchly neutral.”
“So they might talk to you.”
“Maybe. I can’t guarantee anything but I am kind of outside of normal ranks right now.”
“Until the High Court sides with either you or your clan. How is your clan aligned?”
“The Versus Clan is neutral dark, the Veritas Clan is neutral light.”
“And you never individually declared a side?”
“I never saw the point.” she said with a snort, “Even if I had declared light, while I was a member of the Versus clan all decisions would have been from a dark stance no matter what my personal opinions were. The head Gryphon rule the clan with complete control over every member. Individuals have no power or control of their own lives. All major decisions are made by the clan head.”
“Ouch. So, no teenage rebellions I take it.” He asked with a grin.
“Considering how slowly Gryphons age, not really. I would still be bound to the nest like an infant if it wasn’t for my grandmother.”
“Listen, here’s my card. Let me know if you need any help. I don’t like you being out in the open with fae already dropping dead around the city.”
“Thank you, but honestly I’m a good bit harder to kill then wood sprites.”
“Humor me. Send me a text.” he said sternly, settling his coat.
“My own person knight in shining armor.” She said with a laugh, “I’m afraid there’re no princesses here for you to rescue, good sir.”
“I’ll just have to tide myself over with rescuing the monster then.” He said giving her a courtly bow, “Will you be by the Lantern later?”
“Not tonight. I’ll text you if I’m headed that way.”
“You as well, Detective.” She said turning away and starting the long walk home.