[I forgot about posting this lol, hence the lack of header. It’s actually being posted in March 22, 2023]
Personally, I think Anita should be allowed to kill Padma.
And she’s right about why she wants to do it too:
“He’s the son of a bitch that skinned Rafael alive as torture because he wouldn’t give the rest of you up,” I said. I’d have tugged on the door handle if I’d had a hand free, but I still had a knife in each hand, which raised the question of how I had planned to open the door in the first place. I realized I’d gone for the wrist knives. I sheathed the one in my left hand in the right wrist sheath, which was on top of the wrist; the left sheath carried the knife on the underside of the wrist so I could draw them simultaneously. I’d carried them almost longer than any other weapon I owned. They’d been the first silver I’d bought after bullets. I tried to feel bad about the fact that I’d gone for a killing weapon first thing, but all I could think was if we killed Hector, it might kill Padma and then we’d all be safer.
But because that would be too easy… she can’t just do that.
Because the rats will then turn against her and Rafael and challenge him endlessly until they do succeed in killing him.
So Anita is like “okay well no matter what, I’m going to kill Hector tonight” and you know what… I want that for her. I love it for her.
Also chapter 23 is maybe 1.5 pages long. Wow.
I think the best part of chapter 24 Is this moment Anita has where she sees a shifted rat-shifter and is like “I want to TOUCH HIM” because she’s riding her power as a rat shifter queen and gone a little loopy.
There was a ratman very close to me. His fur was soft gray and white, not like a spotted animal, but like a man’s hair had gone from dark to gray and now white. His black button eyes were almost as big as my palm. You don’t think about animals having bigger eyes for their head size until you see them in larger-than-normal-life form. It looked almost anime, like he was a special effect. The fur looked softer, maybe it was the color, but I wanted to reach out and pet him to see if it was as soft as it looked.
I moved back a fraction to touch my hip to Pierette’s, and even that helped shake me out of the urge. I hadn’t been that attracted to wererats the last time I’d seen people in their furry birthday suits, not even Rafael, but then wererat hadn’t been one of my animals to call until he and I made it happen.
First of all, I want to touch a rat shifter. Like I would absolutely destroy my own life for the chance to pet any of the shifters in this universe. So for once, Anita is a mood.
Then three female rat shifters show up because theywant to be Rafael’s queen instead of Anita. And Anita pulls up her power from Obsidian Butterfly and the one, Rosa, at first is scared and upset… but then she… sucks Rosa’s life out of her.
I drew her life out through her skin where it touched mine. Her glow faded first as if it had been erased.
“No!” she cried out.
“Tap out,” I said, but even as I gave her an out, I started to get that high from eating her life’s essence.
Claudia said, “Tell her you give up. Say you give up your right to fight for Rafael’s attentions tonight.”
Rosa’s skin was starting to cling to the bones of her body; her face looked skeletal, skin starting to dry out as I fed. She collapsed so suddenly to her knees that if I hadn’t moved my knife out of the way in time, she’d have driven it into herself. She didn’t try for her knife; it was too late for that. I kept my grip on her one wrist and held the knife out away from her so she wouldn’t hurt herself on it. “Say you give up, while you can still talk,” I said.
And because Rosa has an ounce of sense, she does tap out and then the witches show up:
Neva had two younger witches with her, both trailing on either side of her on the steps. One had short wavy black hair with pale tan skin, the other had long wavy black hair with deep brown skin; with Neva’s complexion in the middle it was like a color wheel showing possible variations.
a) mildly racist
b) I swear these people need to just like… chill out.
Oh but it gets worse oh my god like she then objectifies Rafael before going “yeah he’s hot but I actually don’t care because I want to go home to the men I love” and like… if she doesn’t love him… why is she here? Why go through this for people you don’t like??
And when I say “Anita doesn’t like Rafael” I actually mean it? Him not telling her that people would come for her throat or that Hector is blah blah blah actually damaged her trust in him because she realizes he’s not someone who can keep her safe? And I get it. I’m not actually mad about her realizing Rafael is not reliable and that he’s not actually an effective leader.
I’m mad at Hamilton for writing like this. Because nothing about Rafael was like this until she decided he’d be a chew toy for Anita and then he got a power boost but a common sense fail.
Anyway, Rafael and Anita take to their thrones at the start of chapter 25:
NEVA AND HER backup witches surprised all of us by saying they would stay. Rafael hadn’t been able to hide how unusual that was; the surprise and confusion of it ran through his body almost like fear. That was interesting and I filed it away to ask about later when the three witches couldn’t overhear us. They stood behind us bookended by Claudia and Benito on Rafael’s side and Pierette on mine.
The two of us sat in the carved wooden thrones, though Rafael’s truly looked like a throne with high carved spires on the back of it like something out of a European royal family except the carvings were rats, writhing in masses, crawling over flowers, chewing on human bones. There was even at least one plague doctor carved small, complete with the pointed mask, hat, and robes. The chair was beautiful and macabre. It was a chair for a movie wizard, or an evil king dressed all in black with jewels, not gym clothes. Of course, I didn’t match my chair either. It was much smaller, less impressive, dainty even, but the slender wooden rods were carved entirely of rats, and the headpiece had two carved rats holding a huge round cabochon of bloodred ruby. It was bigger than my thumb and that pigeon bloodred that almost doesn’t exist in modern rubies. It was only when the light hit it that I realized it was a six-pointed star sparkling in the depths of it. I’d seen star sapphires and rubies this big only in museum collections. Even knowing that rubies were a nine on the hardness scale, just down from diamonds, I worried about scratching it. Worrying about damaging the jewel and the carving was so mundane in the scale of things that it broke through the shock and made me more present looking down at the fighting pit. It looked like a small stadium had married a bullfighting ring, with the sand and some of the partial walls around the circle of it, as if sometimes there were things on the sand that people wanted to hide from. I had no idea why you’d needs walls for hiding from bulls in a fighting arena that was supposed to be for humans and wererats. They didn’t shift into anything that big, and they climbed well enough that the small barriers would be useless. I might have asked questions, but movement on the left-hand side of the arena drew my attention.
I would like a throne.
I want this throne.
And Hector is like “should Anita be on YOUR throne, she is a vampire’s human servant” which is pretty rich from him… someone who’s a vampire’s animal to call/pet rat. So all the rat shifters in the room go wild like shouting and basically saying Anita isn’t one of them, that she serves another master. Meanwhile, again, a vampire council member is controlling him.
Anita and the witches give Hector’s aura the ole eyeball and realize that it’s not just that Padma is pulling Hector’s strings… he’s using the remains of the original vampire Mother of Darkness to boost his power.
So Jean-Claude, Anita, and them come up with a plan to distract Padma and Hector… and it involves a bit of a partner swap.
[Rafael] smiled then and it was such a close echo of mine that I wasn’t sure if it was his smile, or mine. It usually took longer to intermingle than this, but maybe it was the shared hatred?
Pierette raised her face up toward his anger. I wondered if he saw that her eyes were the wrong color or if he just saw a pretty woman gazing up at him. He moved past her offered kiss to me, though, saying, “One should always dance first with the woman you brought to the ball.” He kissed me soft, and I leaned into it, my hands tightening around Pierette, so I didn’t accidentally dump her off my lap.
“What are you doing, Rafael?” Hector asked, and I realized that Rafael’s body might be blocking the view.
Rafael rose up from me to look deep into Pierette’s eyes. I couldn’t see their color as she rose up to meet his lips in their very first kiss.
Which of course then triggers Hector who proceeds to basically… threaten to rape everyone after he kills Rafael. It feels very… weird. Like this is really… bad??
“A king does not beg for what is already his by right.”
Rafael yelled, pulling the microphone back so the echoes were perfect, “Did you tell Claudia that you would rape her?”
The crowd started saying, “Answer him” and “Why won’t you answer?” and “Why won’t he answer?” A woman near us said, “If he’d rape Claudia, none of us are safe.” She was so right.
The crowd was chanting, “Answer, answer, answer, answer . . .”
Hector yelled, too, but he didn’t move his microphone and it whined through his answer, “Yes! I will kill you, and then I will fuck Claudia and Anita, and the cat you dragged in tonight!”
It was such an ambitious brag that I wasn’t even angry or afraid, because I absolutely knew Hector wasn’t up to all three of us in one night, especially if we were unwilling to cooperate.
Pierette sat up straighter in my lap. “Padma should know better than to threaten me, let alone both of you.”
So everyone is like dying laughing at Hector because this is weird and it’s clear he’s not fit to lead and it’s great. But unfortunately, Hector being a vampire’s meatpuppet isn’t enough to get Rafael out of the fight so… it’s a whole thing. Neva the old witch shows up to drop some knowledge.
“We have small magic outside here,” Rafael said.
“No, my king, not small, not tonight, not with her power inside you, and the power of a goddess similar to ours inside her.”
I started to open my mouth to argue that Obsidian Butterfly wasn’t a goddess, or that I was a monotheist, but honestly, I was more interested in her saying they had a goddess similar to Obsidian Butterfly. I knew they didn’t have a vampire as powerful as her hidden away in here, so what did Neva mean?
“What do you mean about a goddess power inside Anita?” he asked.
“All women have the power of the Goddess in them,” Neva said, as if she were telling him something he should already know.
“Of course, but you were not speaking in generalities,” he said.
“Get away from me, all of you!” Hector yelled.
“He is done talking to the rest of us,” Claudia said, and handed the microphone to Rafael.
The young bruja that Neva had called mija came forward and said, “Carlos texts that Hector smells like a stranger, and Abuela Flora says he smells like a tlahuelpuchi.”
“Isn’t that just another word for vampire?” I said.
“Young people think so,” Neva said.
“They are born, not made, and their desire for blood only arises at puberty,” the young bruja said.
“It is good to know you can listen as well as talk, mija,” Neva said.
“Gracias, abuela,” she said, and looked pleased with herself. I wondered if abuela, which I knew meant grandmother, was an honorary term or a familial one. I’d ask later; the last time I’d seen my own abuela I’d been fourteen.
Rafael said, “If all supernatural blood suckers are defined as vampires, then yes, a tlahuelpuchi is a type of vampire.”
And I don’t… I don’t think all supernatural blood suckers are actually vampires. Because vampires are a specific cultural phenomenon tied up in white Christian beliefs about sex, death, and desire. But anyway, what else stands out is like…”all women have the goddess in them”.
Talk about some 70s feminism in action with a supernatural bent.
Rafael raised his arm so that the brand on his arm showed clearly. “If you want my crown, little boy, come and take it.”
“You first, my king.”
Rafael gave a slight nod. Hector did a deep bow that swung his braid forward over his head, which meant he was doing it wrong. For a real bow you bent at the waist, not the neck; I’d been learning protocol for bows and curtsies for the wedding.
This… is such a weird nitpick. What is a “real” bow? But also Hamilton can’t write well enough to convey movement without using a ton of words so when she tries to be spare, it’s impossible to tell what’s happening? I’m just saying.
When we return next month… it’s fight time, binches.