Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(57) by Ilona Andrews
“John seventeen, the Prayer for Disciples,” Julie said. “But not the King James version.”
That’s right. The King James version would’ve had “thines” in it.
“New American Standard,” Luther said. “I’m a patriot and proud of it.”
“Is that the lizard that came out of the giant?” I asked before they decided to dazzle each other with their brilliance.
“It is, and I had to fight the military and the GBI for it. I just sprinkled mugwort on it.”
Nice. Whatever faults Luther had, stupid wasn’t one of them. I walked over and looked at the carcass.
“Why mugwort?” Julie asked. “I thought it was for warding off evil?”
“Because it is associated with Goddess Nu Wa,” Luther said.
“There is a reason why Nu Wa was depicted in ancient Chinese art as having the head of a human and the body of a serpent,” I told her.
Luther checked the clock “Three, two . . . one.”
The exposed muscle turned bright emerald green.
“A draconoid,” I said. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Luther stared at the ceiling and made a frustrated growl.
“Why is that bad?” Julie asked.
“There have been four documented sightings of a real dragon,” Luther said. “They are the UFOs of our age. We don’t know a lot about them . . . no, scratch that, we have a wealth of myths so we know a lot about what they might be, but we have almost no empirical evidence to justify any of the bullshit. We do know that they are beings of immense magic power. Three of the sightings have been during a flare.”
“A draconoid is a catch-all name for the proto-dragons,” I explained. “A proto-dragon is almost like a primitive dragon, not quite a dragon but definitely not just a lizard or a serpent. They pack a serious magic punch. If the Summoner can produce hundreds of these, what else can he summon?”
“But I thought you fought a dragon a long time ago?” Julie said.
“No, I fought an undead dragon, a pile of bones with a very faint memory of what it used to be. If the Summoner calls out a dragon, we’ll be in deep trouble.”
“It wouldn’t even have to be a dragon,” Luther said. “If he summons a drake, we’re in deep sewage. There are no protocols for fighting dragons. We have no idea what to expect. We would be fighting blind. This city isn’t ready for a dragon.”
I looked at Julie. “Color?”
“Same,” she said. “Bronze.”
That’s what I thought.
“Bronze?” Luther blinked. “What the hell registers bronze? Daniels, what are you not telling me?”
Denial only goes so far. I took a deep breath. “I think we have a djinn.”
• • •
LUTHER SANK INTO a chair. “How sure are you?”
“Sure enough to say it out loud.”
He dragged his hand across his face. “You know, if anyone else had told me, I would’ve smiled and nodded and after he left, I’d make calls to his emergency contacts and suggest they hospitalize him ASAP.”
“A djinn is problematic because it’s a higher being?” Julie asked.
I nodded. True gods couldn’t manifest except during the flares, times of uninterrupted magic. At other times, so-called gods were just constructions of the Summoner’s will or a creature inhabiting an avatar or an effigy. Their powers in these forms were severely limited. Most of the creatures we encountered post-Shift either started as human and transformed into their new shapes or had powers that were not significantly greater than that of an average human. Even so, these creatures clung to magic. Fomorian demons attacked during a flare, and rakshasas had made excursions into our reality through a portal, running to it any time the magic dropped.
The djinn and the dragons were on another level entirely.
“How did you arrive at a djinn?” Luther asked.
“It’s a long story.”
He got up off the chair and pulled a lever. A thick metal hood descended on the table, hiding the lizard’s body. Luther threaded a thick chain through the rungs in the hood and the table, wrapping it several times around the hood, secured it with a padlock, and disappeared into the side room. A moment later, he emerged with three mugs and a carafe of coffee.
I started with the encounter with the ghouls and laid it all out, glossing over details like Ghastek pointing me toward the ghouls in the first place, protecting the city, and having microscopic strokes. It didn’t take him long to connect the dots. We had a disgruntled neighbor who somehow got himself involved with a magical heavyweight from Arabian mythology. He made three wishes and then in turn the magic power possessed his body, turning him into a giant. The giant punished the Guild for interfering. All of this was consistent with a djinn. They granted wishes, they came from the Arabian mythos, and they held a grudge. It was a solid theory, but it was solid in the same way Swiss cheese was solid. We still didn’t know what the djinn wanted, why he was gathering ghouls, or why he’d kidnapped Eduardo.
When I finished, Luther exhaled.
“Unlimited power at this guy’s fingertips, and he wishes for his neighbor’s bike to be crushed, steals the kids’ decorations, and summons a monster to eat all of the cats.”
“Thank the Universe for small favors.” It could’ve gone much worse.
“That kind of show of power requires a higher being, so you are right. As freaky weird as it is, we might have a djinn. Why now? Why here?”
I had been asking myself that same question. If a djinn existed, he would be as much of a threat to Roland as he was to me. My magic was my father’s magic. Was this some sort of extra-special test? Did my loving father send me this lovely present to see if I could deal with it? Was it his way to undermine me without becoming involved? Was it completely unrelated? There was really no way to tell.
“If it’s a djinn, what kind?” Luther frowned. “Is it a marid, an ifrit, a shaytan?”
“It’s not a jann,” I thought out loud. “They don’t pack enough power. It could be a marid, but if the literature is to be believed, their power is elemental in nature.”
“But marids are described as giants,” Luther pointed out.
“True. I have something for you.” I reached into my backpack and pulled out my bag of dirty glass. “We found a ring of this around Eduardo’s car. I think it’s melted sand that was used as a teleportation anchor. We need to know where it’s from.”
Luther grabbed the bag and held it up so the light of the feylantern shone through it. He squinted. “What is that squirmy shiny thing inside the glass?”
The only thing inside that glass was dirt. I had looked at it through a magnifying glass. I sighed. “Luther, we don’t all have magic vision. We can’t see what you see.”
He pulled the ziplock bag open and passed his hand over the glass. “Ooo. This is something.”
“What is it?” Julie asked.
“I don’t know yet, but it’s not nothing.”
Mages. Clear as mud.
“You think there’s a three-wish cycle?” Luther asked. “He grants three wishes, then possesses the body? Why?”
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