“I was, as I can see you all are, surprised and honored by Shekinah’s rare and unannounced visit to ourHouse of Night.”I heard Damien’s sharp intake of breath and sent him a big question mark look. As per usual for Mr.Studious, he had paper and a well-sharpened number two pencil held at the ready position so he could,of course, take proper notes. He quickly wrote a few words and unobtrusively tilted the paper so I couldread:SHEKINAH = HIGH PRIESTESS OFALLVAMPS.Ohmygod. No wonder Neferet looked freaked.Shekinah continued to smile serenely while she motioned for Neferet to sit. Neferet bowed her head in agesture that I was sure was meant to look respectful, but to me the movement seemed wooden, therespectful action forced. She sat, still holding herself with that odd rigidity. Shekinah remained standing asshe began to speak.“Were this a normal visit, I would, of course, have made the proper announcements of my coming andallowed you to prepare for it. This is far from a normal visit, which is only right because this is far from anormal Council Meeting. It is unusual enough to admit the Sons of Erebus, but I understand theirpresence here is needed in such a time of turmoil and danger. But even more unusual, there are fledglingspresent.”“They’re here because—”Shekinah raised her hand, instantly cutting off Neferet’s explanation.
I couldn’t figure out which freaked me out more—Shekinah’s powerful, goddesslike presence, or thefact that she shut Neferet up so easily.Shekinah’s dark eyes went from the Twins to Damien, Aphrodite, and finally came to rest on me. “Youare Zoey Redbird,” she said.I cleared my throat and tried not to fidget under her direct gaze. “Yes, ma’am.”“Then these four with you must be the fledglings who have been gifted with affinities for air, fire, water,and earth.”“Yes, ma’am, they are,” I said.She nodded. “I understand now why you have been included here.” Shekinah tilted her head so that hereyes skewered Neferet. “You wish to use their power.”I stiffened at the same time Neferet did, although for a very different reason. Did Shekinah know what Ihad only begun to suspect—that Neferet was abusing her power and instigating a war between humansand vampyres?Neferet spoke sharply, dropping all pretense of cordiality. “I wish to use every advantage the Goddesshas given us to keep our people safe.” The other vampyres on the Council shifted in their seatsuncomfortably at her obvious lack of respect.“Ah, and this is exactly why I am here.” Completely unruffled by Neferet’s attitude, Shekinah turned hergaze to the Council Members. “It was fortuitous I was making a private, unannounced visit to the Houseof Night in Chicago when word of your tragedies reached me. Had I been home in Venice, the newswould have reached me too late to act upon, and these deaths could not have been prevented.”“Prevented, Priestess?” Lenobia spoke up. I glanced at her and saw the horse mistress looked muchmore relaxed than Neferet. Her tone was warm, though undeniably respectful.