Trapped (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Five) (8 page)

BOOK: Trapped (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Five)
7.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“I’ll get ye a copy.”

“You are kind. Might you have a place in the castle where I could perform a divination in private?”

“What sort?” Manannan asked. Some of the old Druidic divination rituals could be messy, what with sacrificing animals and all. I had never favored those methods: Truth stained with blood is not so savory as truth arrived at without the forfeit of life.

“Just wands,” I reassured him.

“Oh, sure.” He waved a hand dismissively. “Not a problem.”

“There’s one other matter we should speak of. That hairy Russian god doesn’t have a home anymore, and he’s being pursued by Loki. Do you think the Tuatha Dé Danann might grant him asylum here for a time?”

Manannan grunted and smirked. “I feel certain Flidais will grant him nearly anything right now. It’s fine with me, if ye vouch for his character.”

“I do.”

“Then I can’t see too many objections if he has our support. I’ll send a faery to Brighid right away.” He dispelled the binding of the air around us, gathered up his cloak of mists, and we shifted back to birds before flying up to the tower. In our human skin again, we got dressed, I retrieved my pack, and Manannan showed me to a room where I could perform a divination. It was a spare chamber—a guest bedroom—decorated in burgundy and gold. I withdrew my wands from my pack and selected five at random while focusing on my question: Where and when could I best bind Granuaile to the earth? I cast the wands on the floor in front of me and interpreted the pattern they made; diplomatically, in
the company of others, I would call the result less than satisfactory. Since I was doing this in private, however, I winced and cursed as I might if someone were to pluck out my short ’n’ curlies with a pair of tweezers.

I performed several more castings, refining my question and eking out every wee drab of vague meaning from the wands. The depressing conclusion was that there was not going to be any better time or place than at the base of Olympus in the near future. Whatever it was that had disrupted all the tethers to Tír na nÓg in Europe would remain in effect for an unconscionably long time, and every minute wasted now was another minute Granuaile would spend unable to defend herself—at least from anyone stronger or faster than a human. The problem was that she and I were going to start running into plenty of such beings; Brighid’s gag order aside, I knew very well that word was spreading even now: That bloody Druid was still alive.

Chapter 6

Oddly enough, Manannan’s news about the dark elves relaxed me somewhat. I didn’t have to wonder anymore: Everyone really
was
out to get me. Still, after we bade our hosts farewell and shouldered our packs once more, with Flidais and Perun tagging along, I felt confident enough to show Granuaile a few highlights of Tír na nÓg before we shifted back to earth.

“The land of eternal summer is also the land of the dead, but fortunately the dead tend to keep to themselves.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, you know how you can attract senior citizens to certain communities by offering shuffleboard courts and bingo nights? Plop down an IHOP nearby for them to lounge in during the daytime?”

Granuaile looked lost. “What?”

“Have you ever been to an IHOP on a weekday morning, when everyone else is at work?”

“No,” Granuaile admitted.

“Well, that’s where all the senior citizens go. Or they go to a Village Inn or a Denny’s or whatever. It’s because, once you hit sixty or thereabouts, you don’t ever want to make your own pancakes again.”

“You’re over sixty,” Granuaile pointed out.

“And I never make pancakes. I go to IHOP with all the other old people.”


“But I don’t want to make my own pancakes
now
,” Granuaile said. “Does that mean I’ll start wanting to make them when I’m old?”

“I don’t know. The point I was trying to make is that part of Tír na nÓg is very attractive to dead people.”

“What’s so attractive about it?”

“Mostly the lack of living people. They don’t like being reminded that they’re all dead. And there might be a pancake buffet. Twenty-four-hour keno. Concerts featuring Elvis impersonators. That sort of thing.”


Always
.

“You’re making Tír na nÓg sound like Las Vegas,” Granuaile said.

“Well, it might be. Because what happens in the land of the dead stays in the land of the dead. I simply don’t know and I’m not anxious to find out. Manannan and the Morrigan won’t tell you anything if you ask them either. They won’t even say how they decide who comes here and who goes to Mag Mell or the other Irish planes. It might not be their decision. But the point is, there is plenty of real estate left over for the living. And for the Fae and other curiosities. Check this out. I mean, in a minute.” I gestured to an oak in front of us. “Put your hands here and get ready to go.”

“How do you know where you’re going?” Granuaile asked.

“Can’t really explain until you’re bound and you can see things in the magical spectrum,” I said. “But, basically, every destination has its own unique sequence of knots. Think of it like airport codes back on earth.”

“Do I have to memorize them all?”

“Not unless you want to hate your life. The ones
on earth are based on coordinates. Tír na nÓg is odd, though, as you might expect. You kind of need to know where you’re going or else you’ll appear in the middle of an ogre orgy or something horrific like that. We’re going to a popular destination here—there will be plenty of Fae around, but Flidais and Perun will follow.”


I cast a glance behind us and saw that Perun was now carrying Flidais, supporting her buttocks with his hands as she wrapped her legs around his waist and locked them behind his back. They were playing tonsil hockey already and making soft, muffled moans. Granuaile followed my gaze and flinched.

“Ew. How did she even find his mouth behind all that hair?” she wondered aloud.

“Honestly, I’m surprised at how much restraint they’ve shown so far. I expected them to slip off to a room in the castle somewhere. I don’t care at this point if we ditch them. Do you?”

My apprentice shook her head. “No, I think that would actually be good. I don’t want to listen to them.”


Foodgasms, yeah
.


We shifted to a well-traveled riverbank in Tír na nÓg, and I smiled as Granuaile gasped and dove for cover, while Oberon began to bark loudly.

Heh. Calm down, buddy, it won’t get us
.


“Oh, my God! Is that a
dragon
?” Granuaile said, peeking from behind the trunk of the ancient tree we’d used to shift.

“Yep.”

“Like, for reals? It’s not a wax replica or something like that?”

“No, it’s very much for reals.”

“Then how come it’s hanging in the air there and not moving?”

“It
is
moving. It’s just in a slower timestream. Welcome to the Time Islands, the source of all those stories about how time moves differently in Faerie than in the mortal world.”

We stood on the bank of a river not quite as wide as the Mississippi but doing very well for itself. In the middle, stretching both upriver and down, islands of various sizes displayed rather interesting vignettes. One of the more stunning was the huge golden dragon floating only thirty yards in front of us. Its wings were outspread and beating slowly downward against the air, its jaws open and presumably hissing. An egg warmed in the sand of the island beach beneath it.

“Can it see us?”

“Nope. We’re a blur to it—sort of like mist—since we’re in a faster timestream. See those islands there?” I pointed downriver to some nebulous shapes. “They’re moving even faster than we are. To anyone standing there looking at us right now, we’re either moving very slowly or as good as frozen, like that dragon seems to be frozen to us.”

“So that dragon thinks it’s flying in its normal timestream?”

“Yep. Eventually, if it keeps going in the same direction, it will bust out of there. That will be an exciting day for the Fae, if they let it happen. About a thousand years ago—the last time I checked—the claws of its hind legs were still touching the sand. She’s launching an attack, you see, defending her egg.”

“Defending it from what?”

“Whatever asshole faery decided to go bag it centuries
ago. Maybe it was one of the Tuatha Dé Danann who brought it here, I don’t know. Somebody wanted to show off.”

Granuaile cocked her head to one side. “Isn’t that what you’re doing right now, sensei?”

“What? Well, no,” I said. “This is definitely somebody else’s show. I just thought you might like it. Don’t you think it’s cool and neato-schmeato and stuff?”

“Oh, yes. I do.” She fluttered her eyelashes at me. “Is there anything else you’d like to show me?”

“There’s someone upriver you might recognize,” I said. “It’s not that far. Keep your eyes open as we go.” I pointed up into the canopy, where several pairs of eyes were already watching us. Pixies and other flying varieties of Fae hovered or perched in the tree above us.

“Right,” Granuaile said, her tone businesslike. She hefted her staff in her hand. At my suggestion, which she accepted readily at the time, she had affixed iron caps to either end. The Fae would see that and know that messing with her came with a certain amount of risk. “Ready.”

We hiked upriver along the bank by ourselves; as Oberon had predicted, Flidais and Perun had not followed us and were no doubt engaged in heated, hirsute carnality in Manannan’s field.

I asked Oberon to take point; Granuaile was next, and I brought up the rear. Oberon had my permission to treat anything that didn’t look human as hostile, provided they wouldn’t get out of our way first.

Give them a warning growl and a commanding bark, at least, before you destroy them
, I said.


Well, it is inevitable. You’re like a Terminator hound
.

enemy of Sarah Connor, and you’ve always had that thing for Linda Hamilton.>

Oh. Right. I take it back
.

Pulp Fiction
. He was Super Fly TNT! He was the Guns of the Navarone!>

Whoa, there. You’re forgetting something. Jules didn’t eat pork. That means no bacon or sausage
.


I think you’re a badass in your own right, buddy
.


Nah. They were all for show. I bet she never takes them hunting. And they weren’t very bright. Brighid hasn’t taught them to talk the way I taught you. I touched their minds briefly while we were at Court. All they know are a few basic commands and a few random words
.


Food. Potty. Bitches
.


Don’t you think that including bitches in the trinity is sexist? You need to think about it from their perspective, too, if you’re trying to come up with some sort of universal canine dogma, heh-heh
.


Are you setting yourself up as the prophet of a new religion?


What do you need money for? I give you everything you need
.


Sure. What’s this religion going to be called?


And the name of the holy writ I will be typing for you?


Granuaile’s voice interrupted our plans to revolutionize canine belief systems. “Is that an airplane?” she asked, pointing ahead to a long, narrow strip of an island. A twin-engine metal airplane hung suspended above it, a trail of smoke coming from the left engine, and it appeared to be headed for what might be charitably called a rough landing on the island.

“Yep. That’s a Lockheed Model 10 Electra.”

“No. Wait. There’s a pilot in there?”

“None other than the famous aviatrix herself.”

“Shut up. You’re telling me Amelia Earhart is in that plane? Alive?”

“Until she crashes, yeah. She might survive the crash; we don’t know. Hasn’t happened yet. But generally airplane crashes don’t leave many survivors.”

“You have Amelia Earhart alive and you’re casually speculating on whether she will survive a crash? Atticus, we have to save her!”

“How? Think about the problem. Once you enter that timestream, you’ll be moving as slowly as she is. You can’t prevent the crash. No one can.”

“But that’s horrible! Prolonging the moment of her death—”

“For her, nothing is prolonged. It’s still the last few seconds before she crashes.”

Granuaile clenched and unclenched her fist several
times before she spoke again. “Gah! What’s the point, then? Why is she here? Do the Fae enjoy watching people die in slow motion?”

BOOK: Trapped (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Five)
7.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads