Mercy Thompson

 
 

Mercy Thompson Book 9 - Page 74


Zee hopped onto the hood of the nearest car, ran to the top, and launched himself into the air, his sword raised. He seemed to linger in the air—but that couldn’t have been true because his sword flashed down on the Fideal before Sherwood could pick up the ax.

The Fideal shifted to human shape, a sword in his left hand that met Zee’s black blade with a noise fit to wake the dead. Sparks flew like fireflies and disappeared into the darkness. It wasn’t magic, I don’t think, just a bit of physics.

I heard Jesse scream, and the distinctive crack of my .444 Marlin rifle as it fired four times in succession. A moment later, there was a flash of fire I could see clearly through the broken window. I left the Fideal for Zee and Sherwood and bolted up the porch stairs. The front door was unlocked, and I opened it with a bang.

Jesse was on the second floor, at the top of the stairway, the rifle ready to fire. Cookie was pressed against her leg, growling ferociously. Their attention was focused toward the living room.

“Stay down there,” she said. “I won’t let you have him.”

Something the size of a car boiled out of the living room. My eyes didn’t want to focus on it because it was so ugly or beautiful. It had a lot of insectoid legs and some sort of flowing, luminous, blue-green carapace that moved like silk blown in the wind. But when Jesse shot the fae again, the bullet ricocheted off the carapace, hitting the wall two feet from my head.

“Stop firing,” I shouted, and raised my Sig.

I dropped to one knee on the ground, aiming under the carapace at an angle that wouldn’t allow me to bounce a bullet up to the top of the stairs. I emptied the gun into the fae, and blue-green blood sprayed onto the white carpet. That was good, because some of the fae can’t be hurt with lead bullets.

The fae creature whirled on me in a snakelike motion. I got a confusing glimpse of a beautiful woman’s face with skin of amber and eyes of ruby. I surged to my feet, running toward her even though I was weaponless. Running away would only have caused her to charge me. As it was, she hesitated, doubtless reasoning that, if I was running toward her, I must have some sort of an attack in mind.

I tripped on the walking stick and rolled with the fall. I used the momentum to power my thrust, and the walking stick’s sharp spearhead slid into the amber fae’s mouth. It wasn’t exactly unexpected that the walking stick would show up—but I hadn’t counted on it. I’d been planning on running past the fae creature and luring it away from the kids to the backyard, where I could hear a battle raging.

The fae creature dropped to the ground, the light fading from its carapace. I held the walking stick at the ready, but the fae stayed where she was, not breathing.

Aiden, appearing beside Jesse at the top of the stairs, made a motion with his hand, and the amber fae’s body began to burn with a smoldering, angry blue flame. There was a cracking boom from the kitchen that sounded like a door being ripped from its hinges. Then the tibicena, a great gash opened on his hip from which molten rock dripped, bolted into the foyer and closed his great jaws on the amber fae’s face. This time the tibicena was built like a wolf rather than the foo dog of his last appearance. Upright ears topped a muzzle that was long and narrow. His body was finer-boned than a werewolf of his size would have been, more like a wolf’s gracile and narrow form. His tail was covered with molten hair, and it curled a little.

He jerked his head, and there was a snapping sound before the fae’s amber face melted like wax in his teeth. Between Aiden’s sullen blue fire and the tibicena’s red flame and black teeth, the fae was definitely dead. Aiden closed his fist and spoke a word of power that emitted a sharp magical smell that made me sneeze. His fire died to nothing as the last of the fae’s body turned to ash.

Aiden slipped past Jesse and trotted down the stairs. Joel snarled at him, then at me when I moved. I froze, but Aiden kept coming.

“It’s done, it is,” Aiden told Joel. “That was the last of them. Can you hear the silence? It’s the good kind of silence, not the silence that listens back. Hear the silence and feel the air. There is only death that visited our enemies and the blood of our wounded. No more battle, no more enemies to kill. Time to sleep, fire dog,” he said, and touched his hand to Joel’s forehead.

Joel took a deep breath and turned his head to lick Aiden’s hand twice before settling on the floor in the ashes of the amber fae. A few breaths later, Joel’s naked human form lay in the tibicena’s place. He sat up, and Cookie bounded down the stairs and licked his face anxiously.

Joel began laughing. He looked up at Aiden, and said, “Thanks, mijo. That was the first time I’ve ever let the tibicena free, because I knew you’d be there. That was fun.” His voice slurred a little, as if he were drunk.

Rapid footsteps from the direction of the kitchen had me gripping the walking stick, which was once more a stick. But it was only Mary Jo, armed with a pickax that was covered with various substances that might be fae blood; she skidded to a stop, her hand half-raised.

“Which one was that?” she asked, gesturing at the ashes.

“Glowed blue,” I told her. “With a face that looked like it’d been carved in amber.”

“Caterpillar Girl,” said Mary Jo. “That only leaves Water Horse.”

The front door opened, and Zee and Sherwood ran in, weapons in hand. “Water Horse was the Fideal,” I told her. I looked at Zee. “Did you kill him?”

Zee relaxed and made a quick movement that my eyes didn’t quite follow, but after which his sword was gone. “I warned him not to come back,” said Zee, and he glanced at Sherwood. “I’ve seen you fight before. What did you say your name was?”