Home > Storm Cursed (Mercy Thompson #11)(4)

Storm Cursed (Mercy Thompson #11)(4)
Author: Patricia Briggs

“Silence!” roared Larry in a very un-Larry-like voice. “Thou hast caused enough trouble for our kind. Thou hast no voice in what I choose to do.”

“Everything I know,” I warned him, “Adam knows. Everything Adam knows Bran knows.”

Larry nodded. “Yes, yes, of course. Such is the way of mates. And Bran Cornick, too. The Marrok keeps secrets that make this seem small—unless, I suppose, you are a goblin.”

“I will tell no one else,” I told him. I looked at Ben and Mary Jo.

“I swear to keep this secret,” Mary Jo said.

Ben said, “If it’s not something that will harm people I care about, I will keep your secret.”

Larry looked at us, all three of us, and sighed. “There was a day when I’d have bound you to silence and you would not have been able to speak, you know.”

Yes, I thought, too much time with the fae. Or maybe just Larry. “There was a day when” didn’t really mean he’d lost that power, though I knew that many fae held a lot less power than they once had. I thought about keeping my observation to myself. But if we were to share secrets, it would be best to establish an honesty baseline.

“I suspect you could do that on this day, too,” I told him, and the look on his face told me that it was true—and that he was pleased I had caught him.

“So why don’t you?” I asked him.

He shook his head. “I am a romantic and an optimist, Mercy Hauptman. I think that my relationship with you and yours, right here and right now, might be the reason my people survive the next hundred years. If I betrayed your trust—the trust that led you to call me to deal with one of my own—if I betrayed that trust, then I would wipe away any chance of real friendship between us, yes?”

“Yes,” growled Ben, not waiting for me.

“Good enough,” Larry said. “So I will trust that you three will understand the gravity of what I show you—that you will understand the consequences to my people and to your people, as well as all the humans on this planet, if the fae know what a very few of my people can do. And I trust you will tell no one except for Adam, and that he will tell only Bran Cornick, who will tell no one.” He sighed again. “Unless he thinks it will benefit the werewolves. Ah, well.”

He turned to the barn and spat out magic in a series of vocalizations that had nothing to do with language—and everything to do with communicating with the ground I stood on and the air I breathed. The noise he made hurt my ears, pleased my eyes with flashes of brilliant lights that were somehow still sound, and made my muscles turn to water.

Magic and I have a complicated relationship, but this was a new reaction.

I sat down on the ground so that I didn’t fall. Ben—who was apparently not affected at all—knelt beside me. “Mercy?”

I shook my head, my attention on the barn where the unnatural shadows receded into normal darkness. Maybe a human would not have been able to tell the difference, but I could.

Larry dusted his hands together and said, in a voice I hardly recognized as his, because I’d never heard him sound so threatening, “Now, you rotting piece of putrid meat, now tell these good people how you didn’t kill that police officer, how you didn’t kill the wee boy with blinky shoes. Let the Powers take you and save us all some effort.”

I let Ben help me back to my feet.

“But they sparkled like stars,” said the voice in the barn, markedly smaller than it had been before. “How could I not dine upon that, great one? How could I let a human, a human, take me captive? How could I suffer that he touch me, who was once first of thirty?”

“He lied,” said Ben softly. “He is a goblin, is fae, is bound by your contract—and still he was able to lie.”

Larry nodded. “He hid behind a veil of magic so as not to trigger the curse of the bargain we made—that magic is a version of glamour that the other fae do not have. Yet. A secret that we have held . . .” He sighed and shook his head. “Forever. Until this driveling fool, so stupid he could not avoid a camera, tried to take advantage of my allies.”

I was silent because I was too busy putting this together with something I’d heard. There had been a fae who had betrayed a bargain she had made with Bran a few years ago. He had trusted her to keep the peace when representatives of the European werewolves had come to Seattle to be told that the Marrok intended to clue the humans in that there were werewolves in the world. She had lied to him. It had always bothered me that that fae could lie—even though Bran said she’d paid for those lies in the end.

I wondered if that fae, the one from Seattle, had known the goblin’s secrets or had invented her own. If one fae could lie . . .

“Much better that they, too, believe that they cannot,” murmured Larry to me, though I don’t think I said anything out loud.

“So why now?” asked Mary Jo suspiciously. “That . . .” She hastily changed the word she was going to use. “That goblin in there is right. He isn’t worth giving up a secret this big.”

Larry shook his head. “We are an odd bunch, we goblins,” he told her. “So little power compared to the rest of the fae. And yet some of us have gifts they would envy if they knew. I? I can sometimes sense important events in time.” He looked at me. “I think that it is going to be important that you know that this goblin could lie to you. I don’t know why or when. I don’t know that it will be important to me. But I do think that your trust in me, Mercy, in my people, might be the saving of us all. And if I give you my people’s most closely guarded secret, I believe you will remember that.”

I blinked at him.

He flashed me a smile full of teeth and then looked at the wolves. “Want to join me in the hunt?”

“Absolutely,” said Ben with an eager breath.

“That’s what we’re here for,” agreed Mary Jo. She sounded more resigned than excited, but I could feel her intensity.

Larry glanced at me.

“I know,” I said, resigned. “I’m not up to his weight. How about I guard the door in case you let him get by you.”

“We won’t let him get by us,” said Mary Jo, stung.

Ben grunted. “Now you’ve screwed the pooch,” he told her. “Never tempt fate.”

No one felt like waiting around for the ten or fifteen minutes it would take for the werewolves to change, so all of them were in human form when they entered the barn. I could see them moving in a cautious triangle until darkness obscured them from my sight.

I unsheathed my cutlass and listened to the doomed goblin scream my name. There were some downsides to being called Mercy. First, I was really tired of that Shakespeare monologue. Everyone I’d ever dated, not excepting Adam, quoted it to me at some point. Did they think I’d never heard it before? Second, it sometimes left me standing in the dark, listening to someone being killed while they cried out to me.

For Mercy.

This one deserved what was about to happen to him, but I still tried to tune out the noises in the barn.

“She said, she promised I could come here for safety,” cried the goblin frantically before it shrieked—a noise that ceased in the middle of a crescendo. “She promised.”

She who? I thought.

I didn’t have time to wonder about it because his words were followed by a wave of magic that weakened my knees. The ground rumbled and shook as chaff and dust billowed out of the barn. Four-foot-by-eight-foot bales of hay crowded out of the entrance to the barn like some giant child’s blocks knocked over by a careless blow. The ground vibrated under my feet as they continued to fall for a few seconds more.

I didn’t think even a thousand-pound bale would kill a werewolf—and I hadn’t felt the hit from the pack bonds that would tell me if someone was dead or (less reliably) badly injured. But those bales had been stacked pretty high.

I started toward the barn but stopped when the fugitive goblin emerged from the barn, crawling over a bale. He wasn’t running but moving silently, his attention behind him. He was taller than Larry, his build nearly human, but his bare feet were oddly formed—more like a dog’s feet than a human’s, with long toes unshielded by sock or shoe. If he was using glamour, he wasn’t using it to try to look human despite the sweatpants he wore.

I took the cutlass in my left hand and drew my Sig with my right. The practical part of me knew that I should just shoot, but shooting someone in the back who had not (yet) tried to hurt me seemed wrong.

I could hear Ben now, swearing a blue streak in between coughs. He didn’t sound hurt—just angry. A small part of me listened for Mary Jo or Larry, but the rest of me was focused on the goblin.

This goblin killed a child, I reminded myself grimly, raising my arm.

I don’t know if I would have shot him in the back or not because he turned his head and noticed me, spinning gracefully around to face me.

He hesitated and I shot him twice in the body and once in the head. The body shots made him flinch but there were no wounds in his chest where I shot him. Maybe I should have brought the .44 Magnum—but then I couldn’t have shot one-handed with any degree of accuracy. The third bullet, aimed at his forehead, bounced off some sort of invisible shield and zinged off on a different trajectory.

He dropped his head a little, like a bull getting ready to charge, and laughed. “Little coyote. I was the first of thirty. Do you think you and your toy can stop—”

I shot him again. Twice. The first hit him just left of the center of his chest instead of bouncing off, so whatever magic he’d worked required effort rather than being an impenetrable shield he could keep up forever. But the second shot that should have hit him in the same place missed him entirely.

He didn’t dodge the bullet. Bullets are very fast. He was just faster than I was. Between the time it took me to reacquire the target and pull the trigger, he’d moved out of the path of my aim and charged at me.

I dropped my gun—not by choice—rolled out of the way, and tried to nail him with the cutlass at the same time. I succeeded at the first two, but my left hand is not as quick as my right. He had no trouble sliding away from my blade, even putting in an unnecessary somersault in the air and landing on his feet like a performer in Cirque du Soleil.

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