Trapped (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Five) (34 page)

BOOK: Trapped (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Five)
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They ignored my question completely and Mercury said, “Choose, mortal. Will you return Bacchus or no?”

Fuck these guys. “No,” I said. “He’s a dick.”

“Then so be it.” They flew straight up and away, revealing two floating chariots behind them in the distance, almost hidden against the hillside. Two helmeted figures with bows released arrows at us—Artemis and Diana. They knew I would say no. They’d planned for it.

The Morrigan crunched down in front of us in her human form, now fully armored, and took the arrows in a massive ebony shield. I had never seen her bother with armor before.

“I am here to fulfill my oath to you, Siodhachan Ó Suileabháin. Run now,” she said, “for England. You have two immortal goddesses of the hunt on your trail. I shall hold them as long as I can, but it won’t be forever.” She drew a sword from a scabbard at her waist.

“Morrigan?”

Artemis and Diana goaded their chariots forward. The Morrigan turned and pointed west, her red eyes
blazing through an ebony helmet. “Go, Siodhachan! They come!”

I grabbed Granuaile’s arm to pull her away and we ran, Oberon at our side, into a forest we suddenly found foreboding rather than friendly.

To those who have glimpsed divinity in beauty
or
to anyone who’s ever had to think about baseball

Acknowledgments

To my family, friends, and all my wonderful readers: Much love and a raised flagon to you!

As always, the keen insights of my alpha reader, Alan O’Bryan, helped me tremendously in the process of writing. He also got me playing Magic: The Gathering again and smooshed me with a Boneyard Wurm. Friends are rad like that.

I am so blessed to have editors at Del Rey who are capable of both geeking out and rocking out—often at the same time. Thanks to Tricia Narwani and Mike Braff for throwin’ up the horns and encouraging all the world-building.

I recently discovered that my agent, Evan Goldfried, knows more about beer than I do. In my eyes, this makes him An Authority on Just About Everything. I respect his authori-tah!

Amalia Dillin (
@AmaliaTD
) knows more about Norse mythology than most humans. I’ve enjoyed chatting with her, bouncing ideas off her, and occasionally pleading for her help. If you find my representation of Norse mythology heinous, please don’t blame her; I’m the guy who wrote the heinous stuff.

For those who may be interested, the
Poetic Edda
in its entirety can be found online for free. You’ll see where all the dwarf names come from, discover the circumstances of Loki’s binding, and so much more. If you keep reading different sources of Norse mythology, you’ll also discover that they contradict one another in myriad ways. (And
that is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s an endearing feature of most belief systems.) One point of confusion is naming the Nine Realms of Yggdrasil and deciding where they’re located. The map I’ve included at the front of the book (drawn by Priscilla Spencer) is organized according to various sources and a few core beliefs o’ mine regarding Norse mythology: 1) Three is a magic number, so there are three realms on each of three levels; 2) dwarfs and elves are not the same thing. No, they are not the same thing at all, and as for all those sources that say they are, well, I think the dark elves must have gotten to them; and 3) given number 2, the dwarfs live in Nidavellir, and the Svartálfs live in Svartálfheim, and they’re not the same place either.

Thanks again for reading! You can find me on Twitter
@kevinhearne
or on Facebook if you’d like to say hello.

Don’t miss the first four and a half books of
The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

Hounded
Hexed
Hammered
Tricked
Two Ravens and One Crow: An Iron Druid Novella

Read on for a preview of the next book
in the thrilling Iron Druid Chronicles,
Hunted
.

Coming soon from Del Rey Books!

I don’t think people today fully understand the genius of
The X-Files
, a sci-fi show that dominated much of the nineties. It had a way of getting into your head. At least, it got into mine in ways that I didn’t realize until later. Smoking men in suits now fill me with existential dread, for example. Whatever I’m doing when I see one calmly sucking hundreds of toxins into his lungs, I feel somehow that the smoking man manipulated me into doing it. I then have to flee and do something random in order to feel that I am not a pawn in his master plan. And let’s just not talk about bees, okay?

Mostly the series taught me to fear silhouettes in open spaces backlit by strange lights. That’s why a thrill of fear shot down my spine when I saw thirteen figures waiting in an onion field outside of Jaslo. Maybe they had Mulder’s sister. Maybe we wouldn’t be able to kill them unless we slipped a shiv into the base of their skulls. Maybe they were dark elves.

The light providing the silhouettes wasn’t coming from behind them, I saw as I drew closer, but rather surrounded them in various shades of purple. They seemed like silhouettes because they wore black, but the lights swirling around them were familiar and lit up some faces I knew. They were wards I recognized; these were
the Sisters of the Three Auroras, the Polish coven of Malina Sokolowski, with whom I had signed a nonaggression treaty years ago.

Malina was in front, her wards the most colorful and undoubtedly the strongest, and her long blond hair was still breathtakingly beautiful. She hadn’t aged a day in twelve years, and neither had I. But circumstances had certainly changed. The other members of her coven that I recognized—Roksana, Klaudia, Kazimiera, and Berta—were grouped close to Malina.

She had eight new members of the coven who had never signed the treaty, and I had Granuaile, who hadn’t signed it either. If Malina wanted to get nasty, she technically could, via her proxies. Granuaile wasn’t protected from spells, as I was, but she could get nasty too.

Through Oberon I communicated to Granuaile that we should shift back to human and slow down. She shifted simultaneously with me, and we approached at a slow jog, weapons now in hand. “They fight with silver knives,” I muttered to her before we came into hailing distance. “Faster than human.”

“Got it.”

“And don’t stare at their parts. They use alluring charms to control people.”

“How lovely.”


Malina sounded surprised when she addressed me, though it might have been an affectation. “Mr. O’Sullivan? What are you doing here?” She did not add, “naked, in an onion field,” but it was in her expression.

“Miss Sokolowski. I could ask you the same.”

“It’s Sokolowská in Poland. There are genitive endings on names here that I didn’t bother with in America.”

“Ah. Thank you. I do need to learn Polish. It seems
congratulations are in order. Your coven is strong again.”

“Yes, we are. And it appears there is another Druid in the world.”

“Indeed. Malina, this is Granuaile.”

The two of them exchanged pleasantries, and then Malina, as was her habit, got straight to business, ignoring our nudity.

“We divined some great cataclysm to come. Might you know anything about that?”

“Well, yeah. It’s Ragnarok.”

She thought I was being flippant. “I’m serious, Mr. O’Sullivan.”

“So am I. The last time we met, at Four Peaks Brewery in Tempe, I was about to screw everything up for everybody. I’m fairly certain I succeeded. Now I’m trying to do what I can to delay its coming or soften the blow if I can’t stop it. I think we have a year left before it all goes pear-shaped.”

“Why a year?”

“Well, Loki is free from his long imprisonment, and Hel has a massive army to deploy against the nine realms. They could have started it already, you see, but they haven’t because we’ve distracted them and wounded their confidence. And I’m counting on a prophecy, which pointed to next year.”

Malina scoffed. “Whose prophecy?”

“The sirens who tempted Odysseus.”

Malina exchanged a look with Klaudia, the waifish witch who always looked as if she’d just completed erotic exercises. She managed to wear her clothes in such a way that you knew she hadn’t been wearing them a minute ago. “The sirens told Odysseus that Ragnarok would begin next year?”

I shrugged. “Not in so many words, but the evidence points that way. They said the world would burn. Loki
is quite the pyromaniac, and I have no doubt that, once Surtr leaves Muspellheim, there will be much aflame. But, honestly, I don’t know what the prophecy truly means. Maybe they’re talking about lots of forest fires during an especially hot summer.”

“I doubt that. The sirens did not speak idly to heroes of insignificant events.”

“Ah, so you’ve heard about their accuracy?”

“Indeed. Is there something we can do? Because our divination suggested some sort of fire would be started here.”

“It did?”

“Yes. You know I do not joke about such things.”

“Well, yeah, but I don’t know why a fire would start— what?” Granuaile had tapped me on the shoulder to get my attention. Once she had it, she pointed up. “Oh,” I said. “Now it makes sense. Incoming!”

A large ball of fire was headed straight for us, arcing out of the western sky. We gave ground, and a palpable shock wave buffeted us when the fireball hit the earth. A twelve-foot-tall madman cackled in the midst of it while clasping his hands together in glee.

“There!” Loki said, his face intensely pleased. “Fff-fff-fffound you!”

BOOK: Trapped (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Five)
12.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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