Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(35) by Ilona Andrews
“And if I say Sharrim?” Saiman asked carefully.
I leaned back. “Then we can discuss why you failed to support me in my stand against my father. You have contacts all over the continent. You knew Hugh d’Ambray would be coming. You knew Roland would follow. You did nothing to warn me. Now you are in my city and you have the gall to wear my father’s face. Was that a joke or were you trying to make a statement, Saiman?”
I leaned forward and fixed him with my tough stare.
Saiman sat very still.
“I would very much like an explanation.”
Saiman opened his mouth. “And if I take Kate?”
I pulled out the plastic bag with the dirty glass in it. “I need this analyzed. I’m looking for a missing shapeshifter. You might remember him: tall, large, turns into a buffalo. His name is Eduardo Ortego and he came with us on our fun Black Sea vacation. I found his vehicle with a ring of this glass around it. The ring was about twelve feet in diameter and half a foot wide. The glass registers copper on an m-scanner. Anything you can tell me. What mythology, what brand of magic, anything. Our usual rate.”
Saiman blinked. “That’s it?”
He looked at the ziplock bag as if it were a scorpion about to sting him. A feverish calculation was taking place in his head. “And if I say no?”
“Then I will take it somewhere else.”
Saiman plaited the fingers of his hands into a single fist and leaned on it, looking off into the distance.
“Take your time.” I leaned back on the couch.
“Are you trying to communicate that you have no intention of influencing events within the city?” Saiman asked.
“Not unless I judge them to be in need of my influence.”
“It is not an evaluative but a factual question,” he said. “There can be only one of two answers: yes or no. Do you intend to rule?”
Saiman pondered me. “I can’t decide if you can’t comprehend the precarious nature of your situation or if you choose to deliberately hide from it like an ostrich thrusting its head into the sand.”
“You always come up with such flattering metaphors. The last time we had one of our little talks, you compared me to a cactus.”
Saiman frowned, wrinkling his forehead. “Kate, it is not just about who you are and the merits of your particular deeds. It’s about Nimrod. You are his daughter. You claimed a territory independent of him. Everyone who has an axe to grind against him will come here.”
They will be coming after me? You don’t say. “Thank you, Captain Recap. Your summary of the things we know was most impressive.”
“You will be tested. You will be challenged. You will need a base of support. If you simply walk away from it, the city will turn into a free-for-all as various powers try to tug it away from each other for the privilege of ousting Nimrod’s daughter.”
“I intend to protect the city. There will be no free-for-all.”
Saiman paused and stared at me again. Something I’d said had obviously broken his formidable brain.
“You will protect the city, but you don’t intend to rule it.”
“What is the point of protecting it? You gain nothing. You put yourself in physical danger for no actual benefit to you. Is it because you want your father’s approval?”
“He can take his approval and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine for all I care.”
“Because I claimed the city. It’s my responsibility to keep it safe.”
He didn’t say anything.
“I live here,” I said. “I like Atlanta. I don’t want this to be a terrible place where people are ruled by assholes and afraid. You live here, too. Don’t you want this place not to turn into a hellhole?”
The silence stretched.
“Everyone you come in contact with becomes temporarily insane.” Saiman slumped on the couch. “Your father, Nimrod, the Builder of Towers, has nearly godlike power. You’re a child of a woman who betrayed him and you clearly have no desire to serve him. Your power, your very existence, is a direct challenge to him. Instead of killing you, he’s allowing you to operate autonomously, presumably so you can mature into a real threat to him. That savage you decided to take into your bed built a Pack for seventeen years. His very identity was wrapped up in being the Beast Lord, yet he walks away from it all to live with you in the suburbs, even though his retirement was never part of the bargain you struck with your father. And the Pack allows it to happen.”
Where did he get his information? “Curran loves me. He walked away because he wants to be with me.”
“And your father?”
“He hasn’t had a child in a very long time. I’m his firstborn in this age.”
Saiman raised his eyebrows. “That tells me nothing.”
“He is intrigued by my existence.”
Saiman opened his mouth, then closed it. “I won’t be part of this insanity.”
He picked up the ziplock bag and pushed the glass back to me.
“It’s the wrong move,” I told him.
“Your father will kill you,” Saiman said. “Perhaps not today, but certainly soon. If he doesn’t kill you in the near future, then whatever power tries to overrun the city next will. When this happens, everyone who ever supported you will become a victim of a purge. You are a leper. Everyone you touch is tainted.”
“Being your ally is a death warrant. I gain nothing by supporting you. I run the risk of angering you by refusing service, but you left the Pack, so you are no longer in a position to wield it against me, and you won’t take any actions to punish me directly, because you are shackled by your own morals.”
Okay. At least we knew where we stood. I picked up the ziplock bag and walked out.
• • •
I WALKED THROUGH the doors of Kadam Arms at half past nine. The smithy occupied a sturdy building in the southeast part of the city. Seven years ago, when I came here for the first time to buy a blade, it was just Arnav and his son, Nitish, and daughter, Neha. Over the years, the business grew and the smithy grew with it. As I stepped inside today, I saw two journeymen, one showing a blade to a customer, the other restocking a shelf. An apprentice, barely fifteen, ran up to me to ask me what I wanted. I asked for Nitish and five minutes later was shown to the back, where Nitish was quietly examining several blocks of steel.
Nitish glanced at me. He was an average-size man, with thick dark hair, bright dark eyes, and a smile that lit up his whole face. Nitish’s family came from Udaipur city, in India, the district that had supplied Mughal rulers with weapons of war since the sixteenth century. Koftgari was in his blood. It was a precise art, especially when it came to lettering. Even the slightest change of a curve in the Arabic inscription or the wrong angle of a stroke in a Celtic rune on the blade could alter its meaning. Nitish was the best in the city.
I unwrapped the kindjal and put it on the table. The smile died. He reached over and quickly threw the cloth over the blade.
“This is one of yours,” I said.
Nitish shook his head.
“It is,” I told him. “That’s your koftgari on the blade. There is only one smithy that does work of this quality and I can tell by the pattern it’s not your father’s. Who was it for?”
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