Instead of a towering castle in the center of the forest, Artemis’ home is an extremely large open pavilion with squares of fabric in rich golds and rusts that portion off parts to make separate rooms. It’s not what I expected, but it fits her perfectly. Black smoke billows out from a large structure at one end of the pavilion.
“The forge of Artemis,” Wraith says, voice quiet with awe. “Nikki, thou wouldst not believe the amount and quality of the weapons forged here. I have heard many tales, but have never had the honor of wielding one myself.”
“So we’re back to first names now?” I ask, ignoring his excitement.
He ignores me and dismounts his horse. “Lady Artemis, may I have the privilege of seeing thy forge?”
She snorts in amusement and gestures forward. “Sure. But if you touch anything, Eidolon, your life is forfeit.”
Wraith nods and sprints across the pavilion to the forge.
“He’s like a kid at Christmas,” I say, shaking my head as Daemon helps me off my horse.
“Christmas?” Henki asks. “What is Christmas?”
“Human holiday,” Daemon answers. “They wrap up presents and put them under a tree and tell the human children that a fat man in a red suit put them there.”
“That is odd,” Henki says. “Did you celebrate this, Shadow Princess?”
I nod. “There were a few years when I thought I was only human.”
“The only holiday we celebrate is Samhein,” Henki says.
“Samhein?” I ask.
“All Soul’s Day. Halloween. Take your pick,” Daemon offers.
“How do you celebrate that? Humans just go around in costumes and get candy. What do ghosts do?” I bump Henki’s arm as I ask.
“The borders between the worlds are thinnest on that day. In some places, they do not exist at all,” he begins.
“Like graveyards, crossroads, and holy ground,” Daemon adds.
“But I thought spirits couldn’t manifest on holy ground,” I say.
“Only the pure spirits who choose to help humanity can manifest there,” Daemon explains.
“Exactly. Now as I was saying, it is the one day every human year that we can travel freely between worlds. That is when any ghost that has been trapped on the human side can return to the supernatural side, and when we can finish any business on the human side. The normal laws of nature do not apply to us on that day,” Henki finishes.
“So that’s why reports of hauntings are more prominent then,” I say. “So you like it because it’s a free pass to go do whatever you want with no repercussions?”
Daemon shakes his head. “No, it is about balance. The Hispanics have their ‘Day of the Dead’ celebrations, and this is when the spirits of their loved ones can return to bring comfort to their families. It is also when the leaders of a race of spirits can undo the damage that one of their charges has wrought over the year, to put things back to rights.”
“Think of a scale,” Artemis suggests. “During the year, some things will cause the scale to tip on way, and some things will cause the scale to favor the other. Because many humans do not believe that we or this world exist, there is nothing they can do to restore balance. It is up to us to do that.”
“So then what about séances and psychics and mediums?” I ask.
Daemon groans. “Nikki, dost thou really believe that simple humans can contact the supernatural side? While some humans have the sixth sense or can truly sense our presence more strongly than other humans, they do not possess special powers that allow their minds or bodies to pass through our borders. Even before Kendra, the borders were more like a stone wall than a sieve.”
I nod thoughtfully. “So our world is more about keeping balance than a love for chaos.”
“She finally understands!” Henki shouts, throwing his hands to the air. “With all due respect, Princess, you can be very thick-headed sometimes.”
I listen as Henki and Daemon continue laughing and joking. Artemis passes me and disappears into her forge, probably looking for Wraith. I slowly sink down into a dark red pillow and rest my forehead on my knees. Ryan would have loved this.