Mercy Thompson

 
 

Mercy Thompson Book 6 - Page 54


"Close enough," he agreed. "I am the reality of all coyotes. The archetype. The epitome." He smiled out into the darkness. "You are just a reflection of me." "They should have called you Narcissus," I told him, trying not to flinch at the sounds that Adam made. "Too bad you aren't the enemy we need to defeat. We could just put out a mirror for you to admire yourself in."

"And then they wouldn't call you Mercy anymore," he said. "Your name would be She Who Traps Coyote." He reached over and took my hand, and said in a low voice, "It won't be much longer. But I'd wait until he invites you to look before you gaze into his eyes."

"Are your sisters really berries in your stomach?" I asked him.

"Ah," he said delightedly. "You need to find someone to teach you the rude versions of my stories. They are much more entertaining. Modesty prevents me from telling stories about myself."

I laughed, as he meant me to.

"My sisters aren't speaking to me right now," he finished with great--and I suspected entirely feigned--dignity, "so it does not matter what they are."

Beside me, Adam rose with a snarl. I lowered my head to show that I was no threat. After a bad change, it would be a few minutes before Adam had a leash on his wolf. To my surprise, Coyote bowed his head as well.

"I like this man, your husband," he told me. Maybe it was an explanation. "He would have attacked me for putting you in danger--even though the wolf knew exactly what I was. And yet, when you asked him to have patience, he did. It is proper that men listen to the counsel of women."

"Like you listen to your sisters?" I said, as the wolf put his nose just under my ear. I tilted my head to give him my throat. Sharp teeth brushed against my skin, and I shivered.

"Wise women," Coyote agreed. "But sometimes pushy and easy to rile. I think they need to develop their sense of fun. They do not agree with me, so maybe they are not so wise as all that, eh?"

Adam shook himself hard, his ears making a flapping sound--a signal.

I turned to look at him, and he jerked his nose up toward the monument. I changed into my coyote self--which did seem to take a little more effort than it normally did--and followed Adam up the hill, Coyote striding beside us.

At least he wasn't Baba Yaga or Yo-yo Girl, I thought. GORDON WAS TALKING QUIETLY WITH CALVIN AND JIM when we walked into the henge's circles. Jim was barefoot, dressed in new dark jeans and a long-sleeved shirt that looked to be blue in the light of the candles, though my coyote eyes are not always trustworthy with color at night. Gordon's boots, for instance, looked black, but I thought they were probably the same red boots he'd worn the rest of the times we'd seen him. He wore a flannel shirt over a plain T-shirt.

"I was beginning to think that it was time to leave," said Gordon coolly, as we approached.

"Earth magic isn't the best thing for a change when you're a werewolf," Coyote said. "Which is why I told Jim to make sure he was a wolf when he got here."

"You said to tell Mercy to bring the wolf," Jim said, sounding irritated. I was beginning to think that everyone sounded like that after a while of dealing with Coyote.

Calvin's eyes widened, and he looked as though he expected Jim to get hit by lightning.

Coyote just laughed. "Mercy, you go sit up on the altar, would you?" He looked up at the hawks. "You two go sit next to her."

Gordon didn't seem awed or surprised by Coyote, either. "Whatever you do in front of Hank, the river devil will see."

"Let her watch," Coyote said indifferently. "But if nothing else happens tonight, I think I can get Hank fixed. Hawk owes me a few favors."

I hopped up onto the altar next to the hawks a little hesitantly. There was a bronze plaque on top, but it was too worn to read in the dark. Adam hopped up beside me and curled around me protectively, keeping the bulk of his body between me and the other predators.

"Adam," said Coyote, "not being Aztec, we are not going to sacrifice your bride on the altar. She just can't be touching the ground when Jim performs the dance. However, should Wolf answer this call, it would be disastrous if your head were higher than his. Usually he shows up in human or humanlike form, but he is one who often prefers his wolfskin. Would you mind taking a position just in front of the altar, between it and the fire?"

Adam snarled soundlessly at the hawks, a clear warning, and slipped off the altar to sit where Coyote had asked him to.

Gordon's eyebrows had risen almost to his white hair. "A polite Coyote?"

Coyote growled something in a foreign language.

"I thought you were not her father," Gordon said placidly. "That makes him not your son by marriage."

"Say, then," said Coyote, "I respect him and don't fancy getting in the middle of a dogfight tonight if I can help it. Now let us get this done."

He changed. His shift was even faster than mine, I thought, though I couldn't be sure. Between one blink and the next, there was a huge coyote the size of a Saint Bernard. He stalked over to the monolith that was on one end of the horseshoe and hopped up on top of it.

Gordon looked sour, then he became the largest eagle I have ever seen in my life, and I've seen some huge golden eagles. As a bird, he stood taller than the man he'd been. I couldn't say what color his feathers were though they looked as if they were several shades darker than the hawks'. Then he spread his wings, and I realized Gordon wasn't an eagle after all. No eagle ever had a wingspan that large.

"Thunderbird," said Calvin reverently. "Grandfather said you were Thunderbird, but that was when he was calling me by my father's name more often than not."

Thunderbird.

The bird leaned forward and rubbed that wicked sharplooking beak against the side of Calvin's head. Since Calvin's head stayed on his shoulders, I had to assume it was a gesture of affection. With a movement that was half hop and half flight, he landed on the monolith opposite Coyote. He made the standing stone look a lot smaller. Gordon, who was Thunderbird, nudged the candle until it was situated where he wanted. The candlelight turned his feathers a warm dark chocolate. He rocked back and forth a bit, stretching his wings out, then settled into stillness.

Calvin brought out a rolled-up rug, a small drum, and a beaded parfleche bag. Parfleche-- untanned hide--was more commonly used by the plains Indians than the plateau Indians like the Yakama, I thought. However, I supposed a medicine man could use whatever implements he wanted to.

Calvin set the bag to one side of the prepared but as-yet-unlit fire. Then, with great formality, he unrolled the carpet, aligning it with the altar stone. He took the drum with him to sit next to Adam.