Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(51) by Ilona Andrews
Dali blinked and turned to the personal guard. “Rodney. Go and get Eduardo’s file for me.”
“I can’t.” The big shapeshifter arranged his face into an apologetic expression. “Jim won’t like—”
Dali leaned forward, her stare direct and heavy. “I don’t care what Jim likes. Do it.”
“What are you waiting for?” Dali asked. Her voice made it clear she wasn’t interested in an answer.
“He’s waiting for an ‘or,’” I told her.
“Usually there is an ‘or’ attached to this kind of threat. Do it or something bad happens.”
“He doesn’t get an ‘or.’” A faint green sheen rolled over Dali’s irises. “There is no ‘or.’ Do it. Because I said so.”
Rodney ducked his head. “Yes, Alpha.”
We watched him retreat down the hallway.
“You’re getting good at this,” I told her.
She shrugged. “I figured it out. Most people will do just about anything you tell them to do, if you act with authority, give them no choice, and accept the responsibility for their actions. That’s kind of scary, isn’t it?”
• • •
GETTING THE CLERK out of the Steel Horse proved to be ridiculously easy. Curran and I walked in there and sat at the bar. The Clerk was drying shot glasses with a towel. He was a trim middle-aged man with light brown hair. He would’ve been a good bartender. He liked to listen to people.
“Kate. Long time no see.” The Clerk eyed us. “What will it be?”
“You like being a bartender?” I asked.
“It has its moments,” he said. “It’s a complicated business. Have to keep track of suppliers. Have to deal with customers.” He didn’t sound especially enthusiastic.
“What did you make at the Mercenary Guild?” Curran asked.
“I’ll pay you sixty if you come back.”
The Clerk pulled the towel off his shoulder and called to the back. “Hey, Cash? I quit.”
As we walked out of the bar, the Clerk smiled. “I would’ve done it for less.”
“I don’t want you to do it for less,” Curran said. “You need to be paid what you’re worth. If you get the Guild running, we’ll talk about a raise.”
The Clerk smiled wider. “I’ll hold you to it.”
Now he was following our Jeep in his truck. One small victory at a time.
Curran drove. The magic was in full swing and the engine roared, but the soundproofing in the cabin dampened the noise enough so, even though we had to raise our voices, we could carry on a conversation.
“Here is what we know,” I said. “The ghouls originate in ancient Arabia. So do the wolf griffins and the wind scorpions. Before the griffin, the Oswalds were attacked by a giant tick, but ticks are universal. They’re on every continent, except probably Antarctica, and I wouldn’t rule that out completely either. So it could have been a tick from Arabia.”
“What about the lizards?” Julie asked.
“I can’t remember what they looked like, because of the head trauma, but it’s possible they are azdaha.”
“What are azdaha?” Derek asked.
“Azdaha. Persian dragons. The old Iranian mythos is full of dragon slayers.”
This line of reasoning was pointing me to a very troubling conclusion and I was trying to do my best to hold up denial as a shield.
“There is a pattern,” Curran said. “Everything is connected by the place of origin.”
“Yes. Also, reanimative metamorphosis is rare. To have two occurrences of it so close together is very rare. I would bet my right arm that whoever is behind the wolf griffin and ghouls is also behind the giant and the azdaha.”
“We need to get Julie to your friend the wizard,” Curran said.
“You mean Luther?”
He nodded. “You said they quarantine the bodies. Would he keep the wind scorpion on ice?”
Knowing Luther? Yes, he would keep it on ice and screw with it until someone higher up lost their patience, took it away from him, and set it on fire. I knew what Curran was thinking. If the wind scorpion also emitted bronze-colored magic, we would have confirmation that everything we’d encountered so far was connected.
“Luther promised me access to Mitchell.” I glanced at Julie over my shoulder. “Would you like to go to the PAD morgue with me to look at weird remains and then visit the PAD’s pet ghoul?”
Julie wrinkled her nose. “I could do that or spend the evening writing an essay for Contemporary English on an extremely boring book about people living in a pre-Shift small town, which has absolutely no bearing on my life and helps me not at all. I don’t know, both options are so enticing . . .”
“I think this new school made your sass even worse,” I said.
“You made me worse,” Julie said. “I’m your punishment.”
I shook my head. “Anyway, everything we’ve run across while trying to find Eduardo comes from Arabian mythology, which means it comes from the same geographical region as my magic. Same as my father’s magic.”
“You think Roland is behind this?” Curran asked.
“I don’t know. I do know that the giant was immune to my power words. My magic bounced off it and there was hell to pay. I can’t risk using a power word against this creature again or my head will explode.”
“We just lost one of our biggest guns,” Derek summed up.
“Not necessarily,” Curran said.
“I can’t attack it with power words directly, but I can attack the environment around it. My magic doesn’t work only against the creature itself. I used a power word on ghouls who were clearly answering this creature’s call, and it worked as intended.”
“Why?” Derek asked.
“Because there are some very key differences between the ghouls, the griffin, and the giant,” I said. “Let’s assume that some being, some Summoner, is behind all of this. He has some sort of agenda, but he is limited because he can only accomplish his goals during magic, so he somehow finds a way to control the ghouls and uses them to do his bidding. My power words work against them because while they are under the Summoner’s control, they still retain their own magic.”
“That makes sense,” Derek said.
“Good. Now, a griffin is a summoning, something the Summoner pulled out of thin air. It’s an expression of his magic, so my power words may or may not work on it. I don’t think the giant is a summoning, because he was clearly wearing an object of power. It was shiny. I saw it in his ear. I think it might have been a piece of jewelry of some sort.”
“How do you know it was an object of power?” Julie asked. “Maybe it was just some random earring.”
“Because the giant was naked except for it and it was clearly too small for him. That object most likely turned him into a giant, and he probably started out as a person, not a summoning. For that kind of transformation to take place, the Summoner would have to imbue the human body with his power completely.”
“I get it,” Julie said. “The Summoner possessed the person and turned him into a giant, which makes the giant an avatar. It’s almost as if the Summoner himself became the giant.”
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