Home > Scourged (The Iron Druid Chronicles #9)(4)

Scourged (The Iron Druid Chronicles #9)(4)
Author: Kevin Hearne

“Are you from Eritrea?” she asked in French.

“Oui,” Mekera said. “Vous?”

The newcomer responded affirmatively and flashed a brilliant smile, then they promptly switched to their native language, which I did not speak. I stepped away out of Mekera’s sight so that she would not feel she had to introduce me. That worked perfectly; she forgot all about me, so excited to meet someone from Eritrea this far from home.

As the conversation extended and I pretended to read the ingredients of some crackers nearby, I thought I detected something in their voices and risked a peek at their auras. Yep: A touch of arousal there. They were into each other. Cool.

The other woman asked a question that startled Mekera into remembering that she hadn’t come alone. She looked around for me and I gave her a tiny wave. Somewhat abashed, she introduced me as her friend Connor Molloy. Her new acquaintance introduced herself as Fiyori.

“Pleasure to meet you,” I said in French. “Please take your time chatting. I am in no hurry.” I backed away again and chose to make a more thorough examination of the crackers.

Some while later Mekera found me, her face shining with joy. “Fiyori gave me her phone number! You know what this means?”

“She likes you.”

“No! I mean yes, but it means I need to get a phone!”

“I agree. Let’s do that and get you set up.”

We took our purchases to an extended-stay hotel with a kitchenette and rented it for a month. The unspoken, understood agreement we had was that I’d get Mekera started here—or anywhere—in exchange for her tyromancy. That would give her time to get her assets transferred and find something a bit more permanent.

I did my best not to pace or look impatient as Mekera set about making a soft goat cheese. As the world’s finest tyromancer, she would be able to see details of the future in the patterns of its curdling and coagulation, far more accurately than any divination I could practice. I wrote down a single question for her, though it was composed of many parts. When she was ready for it, she read it aloud: “When and where will Loki, Hel, and Jörmungandr appear to begin Ragnarok?” She gave a tiny shake of her head and sighed. “All right. Here we go.” She squinted at the goat milk in her stainless steel pot as she added rennet and it began to posset and curd.

I had a hotel pad and pen ready to go.

“Jörmungandr first. Off a small peninsula south of Skibbereen. Near one of those fort hills.”

“When?”

“Thursday morning is the best I can do.”

Thursday. Thor’s Day. Of course Loki would choose to begin then. That was only three days away.

“And the others?”

“Loki and Hel will appear together the same day, in midafternoon. But up in Sweden. The northern edge of a lake?”

“I know the place. Yggdrasil’s root is bound there. Damn. I need to make some calls.”

“And I need a phone,” Mekera reminded me, “so I can make a call myself.”

“Right. I’ll go get you a burner phone. Be right back.”

It didn’t take long to find a convenience store that sold burner phones. Once I got one and activated it for her, I gave it to Mekera with my thanks and best wishes.

“Call Fiyori soon,” I said.

“Why?”

“Because she likes you. And because of Thursday. I’m going to do my best, Mekera, but it might not work out well. Don’t start any cheeses that need to age.”

“That’s not funny, my friend.”

“No. No, it’s not.”

if ye give the world half a chance it’ll turn to shite. We knew that thousands of years ago, but Siodhachan tells me there’s a fancy law about it now. Kind of like if ye have a basic cracker and ye feel okay about it, but put some fecking nasty fish eggs on top and call it caviar, now it’s fancy.

The fancy law is the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and it says if ye have an isolated system, then entropy will increase and—gods damn it, let’s just say things turn to shite and be done with it, all right? We can call it the First Law of Owen.

Except that ye can clean up the shite if ye have the heart and mind for it—call that the Second Law of Owen—and I’m proud of me apprentices right now for the work they’re doing.

We’re in Tasmania, saving some marsupial doglike creatures called devils. They got a strange transmissible face cancer back in the nineties and it was wiping them out, but now our job is to wipe out that cancer, finding every devil on the island and curing them, one by one. The apprentices have tasmanite spheres from Tasmania in the lockets I made them, and the elemental uses that to channel energy through them, which allows them to heal the devils even though they’re far from being proper Druids yet.

Tasmania doesn’t think we can wait, and I’m on board with the idea. I’m thinking these new Druids will be Gaia’s healers above all else, fighting centuries of humans turning everything to shite. I wonder if they have a fancy law or name for the principle that Humans Ruin Everything for Profit. Maybe that’s just capitalism. Regardless, it’s going to take generations of Druids to undo all this damage.

Greta is with me and so are most of the kids’ parents and we are all feeling pretty good about what we’re doing to help. Watching the wee ones heal Tasmanian devils makes me think everything can be healed somehow. Perhaps there’s a way to heal the breach between Fand and Brighid so we don’t have to have any more war among the Fae. And maybe we can smooth things over between the Fae and Siodhachan—less likely, I figure, since he’s still the fecking Iron Druid. But I’d settle for healing the breach between him and Greta.

Siodhachan is here in Tasmania too, on the same mission as we are, but somewhere else at the moment. At least Greta didn’t try to kill him when we met up for a brief while. She’s got more acid for him than spent coffee grounds have for me garden soil, but maybe in a season or three she will mellow out like a teacher lapping up medicinal bourbon after school. I’m going to give it time.

We’ve found a den with five afflicted devils in it, one of them as near death as ye can be without stepping over the line. I take care of that one, and the apprentices work on the others. We’re almost finished when Greta tells me someone’s coming; there is a whisper among the ferns underneath the eucalyptus. Since we’re away from any settlement, I’m thinking it must be a hiker or hunter, but it’s neither. It’s Brighid, First among the Fae, come to find me.

She’s all armored up for some reason, red hair spilling over the pauldrons, and it sets me on edge. Where’s the fight she’s dressed for? I hope it’s not with me.

There’s a faery with her, the tall, slim sort ye see in underwear advertisements, who always look bored with being so handsome and desirable and minimally dressed. Except he is dressed, all spiffy in his silver-and-green Court livery with high thread count and a powdered wig with curls on the sides of his head. Without even turning on me true vision, I can feel he’s covered in magical wards, even more powerful than Brighid’s.

“Well met, Eoghan Ó Cinnéide,” she says, nodding once to me.

“Well met, Brighid.”

The First among the Fae gestures to her right. “This is Coriander, Herald Extraordinary of the Nine Fae Planes.” I’m not sure why she puts the adjective after the noun in his title; maybe it’s to make him sound as fancy as he looks.

I nod at him. “How are ye, Cory? I’m Owen.”

He gives me a bow dripping with excess manners and says in a mild musical lilt, “So pleased to meet ye, sir. I prefer to be called Coriander, if ye please.”

If that’s his preference, then I’m already suspicious we may not be the best of friends. I introduce Greta and me apprentices to Brighid and sort of wave at the parents as a group. She takes note of the apprentices and says they’ll need to undergo the Baolach Cruatan soon.

“But I’ve come here on urgent business,” she says. “May we draw aside and speak in private?”

“Of course.” I ask Tuya, me youngest apprentice, to finish up healing the devil I’d been working on and tell them all I’ll return soon. Brighid and I step into the undergrowth and the Herald Extraordinary floats about three steps behind.

   
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