Home > Storm Cursed (Mercy Thompson #11)(3)

Storm Cursed (Mercy Thompson #11)(3)
Author: Patricia Briggs

He stopped on his brisk journey to close the distance between us as he passed my car, an old Jetta that had been well-used before the twenty-first century dawned. It was my chosen replacement for my obliterated Rabbit and it had proved to be a challenging project, one I was nowhere near completing.

Larry examined the Jetta mutely for a moment, then said, “Are you sure this is legal to drive?”

“All the lights work,” I told him.

My Vanagon, which was otherwise in showroom condition despite its age, had a coolant leak somewhere. With a radiator in the front and the engine in the rear of the fifteen-foot-long van, finding a leak that was probably a pinhole was a long and frustrating process. Adam had taken the new SUV that had replaced the SUV the vampires had smooshed with a semi. That had left only the Jetta to take me goblin hunting.

I’d had to jury-rig the left rear turn signal with wires that ran out the trunk to the light, which was held on with zip ties. Then I’d crossed my fingers and headed out.

I was hopeful it would make it home as well. In case it didn’t, I’d thrown my mobile tool kit into the backseat—or rather into the space where the backseat would someday be.

“Princess,” said Larry doubtfully, “I think you have your work cut out for you. This car looks older than Zee.” But his eyes had released my car and traveled to the barn. When he moved, he didn’t hesitate, walking past me and the werewolves and into the doorway of the barn, where he stopped.

“Hey, you!” he called, standing on the edge between night-dark and lightless dark. The white toes of his New Balance tennis shoes were cut off from my vision as thoroughly as if they had been taken off with an axe.

Larry waited, his body intent, but no one answered him. He said something else—this time in a language with tongue clicks and a couple of odd sounds I’m not sure a human mouth could make. He wasn’t particularly loud, but whatever he said was effective.

“No!” shouted a squeaky male voice from inside the barn. “Sanctuary. I claim sanctuary from this wondrous and glorious city said to be safe for fae and foe alike. Grant this me, dear my lord. An it is granted, I will happily emerge into thy keeping, great one.”

I didn’t know how old goblins got. I didn’t know if they were one of the immortal or nearly immortal fae. I’d given back the only trustworthy book that recorded what the different kinds of fae were like before I’d known exactly how much I was going to need that knowledge.

I’d gotten the impression that the goblins were one of the shorter-lived races of the fae, but there was something about the way the voice in the darkness put together sentences and ideas that indicated that my memory or my interpretation might have been wrong. It was possible that “shorter-lived” meant something different to the fae woman who had written the book than it did to me. Or maybe our fugitive spent too much time at summer Shakespeare festivals.

Larry turned his body to me without taking his gaze away from the interior of the barn. “Do you know what he is running from?”

“Last week a goblin killed a police officer in California. The video of the incident was all over the news,” I began, but paused when Larry glanced my way for a hair’s breadth. Long enough for me to see the odd expression on his face.

“And people say humans don’t have magic,” he muttered, once again facing our fugitive. He made a circling gesture with one hand. “Never mind. Go on.”

“He has a pretty distinctive scar,” I told him, gesturing at the scar on my own right cheek. “His is a lot bigger. A goblin with that scar killed the police officer in LA who was trying to arrest him. The police have a manhunt”—I cleared my throat and corrected myself—“a goblinhunt aimed at him.”

Larry muttered something to himself in that other language. Then he called out, “Apparently you have an affinity for getting caught on camera. Careless of you to allow a mindless human device to record you doing murder. And you let it catch you murdering a knight of the human law, no less.”

He emphasized some of the words oddly, leading me to suspect that there were several deadly insults buried in Larry’s comments. I knew that getting caught was very poorly thought of in the goblin culture—but I hadn’t known that getting caught by technology was viewed as even worse. I found it reassuring that, apparently, even to the goblins, killing a police officer was a bad thing.

“No, no—I killed none,” our prey squeaked. “No child of humankind died at my causing, great one. No. No murderer I. I killed nary a one. Not knight nor even child. Not a wee boy with blinky shoes. Not me. I would never so defy the Gray Lords, great one. No more would I ever defy thy commands.”

That gave me pause.

As a matter of course, werewolves don’t lie because most werewolves can tell if someone is lying. I was raised by werewolves, and although I am not one, apparently a coyote can tell if someone is lying, too. I only lie when I think I can get away with it.

But the fae don’t lie because they cannot lie. They can twist the truth until it is a Gordian knot, but they cannot lie.

Still, that goblin’s words seemed oddly specific for someone who hadn’t killed a policeman or, apparently, a child with blinky shoes. But he wasn’t guilty because he said so. Maybe, I thought, he’d been a witness. But his words sounded like a lie to me. Not even a good lie.

Both the werewolves relaxed, a subtle softening of their stances. He wasn’t guilty because he said so. And unlike human criminals, that was actually a true thing, no matter how much it sounded like a lie.

Mary Jo turned to me. “Do we need to offer this goblin sanctuary? If the humans are going after him just because he is a goblin . . . isn’t that what our claiming dominion over the Tri-Cities is all about?”

“No, love,” Ben said in a mock-sorrowful tone designed—as Mary Jo’s had not been—to carry to the goblin hidden in the barn. “Not our thing at all. We keep people safe—but sanctuary is a whole different level of stupid.”

I was still trying to figure out how the goblin was being so specific if he had not killed the police officer and, apparently, a child. Goblins have glamour. Maybe another goblin—or one of the fae—had been trying to frame this one?

Larry’s mouth twisted in a grimace. “At least tell me that you didn’t get caught on camera killing the child,” he said in a resigned voice.

I frowned at Larry. First, because he sounded as if getting caught on camera had been worse than killing the child. But mostly I frowned at him because he sounded as if he knew that the goblin was guilty. But the goblin couldn’t lie.

“No, not I,” said the voice inside the barn earnestly. “I killed not the wee boy with his two sweet blue eyes. Eyes like a robin’s egg so round and innocent and tasty they were. Nor killed I the fierce-voiced police officer who came to stop me.”

Mary Jo and Ben looked as perplexed as I felt.

“I am innocent,” wailed the goblin in the barn. “Innocent and they will harm me if you do not protect me from the humans.”

“The fae are part of the bargain we made,” I said slowly. Did we owe the goblin sanctuary? I might have to go read the whole stupid document we’d signed again. At this rate, I’d have it memorized by Christmas.

“And goblins are fae,” said Mary Jo. Larry snorted. Mary Jo continued, “At least insomuch that they have glamour and they are forced to tell the truth.” But her voice was hesitant.

“We are a part of that ancient bargain, yes,” agreed Larry, frowning at the barn. “If the powers that be hear us lie, a terrible and mortal fate comes to us, as to all fae. Those greater in power may fight off their fate for a time, but for the lesser fae, like goblins, we die the moment a lie, knowingly spoken, leaves our lips.”

“That means we do need to protect him,” said Mary Jo without enthusiasm. She looked at me and then away, careful not to express in any other way that she held me responsible for the pickle the pack was in. But then she straightened her shoulders, lifted her chin, and said, firmly, with an undertone of satisfaction I don’t think she intended me to hear, “We protect the innocent.”

She wasn’t the only wolf who was finding . . . solace in their new role as heroes, which had replaced their old role of being monsters. The whole demeanor of our pack had been lightening up since my rash declaration on the Cable Bridge.

The old Cable Bridge. The new Cable Bridge was a year out, at least. Engineers were having trouble trusting the site after one of the Gray Lords of the fae had opened up the earth there and let it swallow the old bridge. The fae had offered to build another bridge, but so far the city planners were smart enough not to take them up on that offer. I think it was the no-steel part that bothered them, but I was pretty sure taking gifts from the fae would have been the bigger problem.

Ben sighed—he had obviously been looking forward to a fight. “It’s not what we signed on for—but I guess it’s what we have to do, since he’s innocent.”

Ben hadn’t noticed exactly what Larry had said, not the way I had. Maybe I was paranoid, or maybe I’d just been spending too much time with the fae lately.

“I be innocent,” said the fugitive goblin, sounding as though he was approaching the opening of the barn. His voice was fervent as he repeated, “I be innocent.”

Larry rubbed his face, looked at me, and sighed, a sound more heartfelt than Ben’s had been. “I am about to reveal something . . . Mercy, this cannot get back to the fae.”

“The not-goblin fae,” I clarified.

He nodded. “Yes, those folk.”

“Okay,” I told him. “We don’t owe it to the other fae to give them goblin secrets.”

“Swear to it,” he said seriously. “This goes beyond me. This is for the safety of me and mine. Swear you will tell no one what I do here.”

“No, great one,” said the voice in the barn, his voice low and solemn. “No. Betraying our secrets is not worth my unworthy death, no it isn’t. I should leave, a small and unimportant child, I. My fate is not worth betraying a great secret to such as these.”

   
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