Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(83) by Ilona Andrews
“Werebison are herd creatures,” Curran said. “And they have a chip on their shoulder. Once she joined them, they would protect her against all predators.”
Bahir nodded. “Yes. It became clear that I would have to murder all of them to get to her or Eduardo. I loved my wife and son, but I couldn’t bring myself to commit more violence and even if I had, what would it resolve? I left and went about my life, training and hoping that growing up among shapeshifters, my son would learn enough to protect himself when the time came. Meanwhile my wife remarried. Her husband adopted my son. She sent me Eduardo’s report cards, and he was listed only as Eduardo Ortego. It gave me hope that he would be difficult to find. It was a false hope, but I held on to it.”
“What is his full name?” George asked.
“Eduardo Bassam Amir-Moez. He was named after his grandfathers.” Bahir sighed. “The visions had died down, and for almost a decade I had barely seen any dreams. Then, a year ago, they started again, more vivid than before. Shakush was growing in power with each new victim and coming closer. He had followed the footsteps of my family.
“Over the years, as I watched the atrocities he committed, I understood that this is bigger than me or my son. Allah doesn’t charge a soul with more than a person can bear. I’m meant to do this. This is the purpose of my life. If Shakush continues unchecked, he will become a plague on this world, and I won’t let it happen. But the smith who had helped me died, so I had to turn to Nitish to have the box finished. I was preparing myself for the final battle. And then I saw my son and I realized that it all had come full circle. I tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen to me, so I watched him, hoping to be there when Shakush struck. I tried to give him a weapon that would offer at least some slight advantage. I missed the attack.”
He had dragged this weight forward for decades alone. It was a miracle it hadn’t broken him.
“Why didn’t you come to the Order?” Nick asked, his face dark.
“What would I tell you? That I had visions of distant people murdered? That I was part ifrit? Your Order isn’t known for its kindness toward anyone they deem an aberration.”
“The Order is people,” Nick said. “People change.”
“Perhaps,” Bahir said.
“What about the draconoid corpse?” Julie asked from the couch.
“It was one of Shakush’s creatures. I had a fear that my sword would pass through it just like the dagger had passed through me when my people tested me for the first time. I wanted to make sure that my blade worked so I could use it on Shakush next.”
“Talk to me about the box,” Luther said. “It is clearly some sort of transdimensional containment unit.”
“What does that mean?” Mahon asked.
“It is an object that exists as one thing in our reality and something else in a different realm. It leads to a place that is attached to our plane of existence but is also outside it.”
“Like the mists of the Celtic gods,” I said.
“Yes. That means that someone has to activate a portal to that other place, hold it open, and then close it once the djinn is deposited into the box.” Luther turned to Bahir.
Bahir nodded. “There is a ritual. I memorized it. The box must rest on the ground—it won’t work on the second floor, for example—and I must draw a complex circle and write sacred verses around it. Then I will open the portal with my blood and hold it open. Once the earring is placed into the box, if everything is done correctly, I will become a conduit and banish it. The problem is getting the earring into the box. Someone must murder the human host and physically take the earring and carry it to me. The box cannot be moved once it’s positioned.”
“That will be really difficult,” Luther said.
Thank you, Captain Obvious. Shakush would do everything in his power to keep from being put into the box. Even if we brought the entire chapter of the Order and managed to pry the earring from the current host, whoever touched it would become Shakush’s target. He could go through the knights one by one. Ugh.
“We will help,” Mahon said into the sudden silence.
George startled. “Dad?”
He put his arm around her shoulders. “I don’t care how powerful he is. Nobody touches my future son-in-law.”
“As long as you stay away from the earring,” Curran said.
Mahon looked at him.
“He’s worried about the wishes you would make,” I told him. “Wish one, Curran is the Beast Lord. Wish two, George is his Consort. Wish three, you turn into an even bigger bear.”
George stared at me, horrified.
“You think so little of me?” Mahon said. “That really hurts.”
He sounded genuinely upset. Oh no. I had hurt my stepfather-in-law’s feelings.
“We still don’t know where Shakush is,” Nick said. “Can you sense him?”
Bahir shook his head.
“I know someone who can,” I said. I would probably go straight to hell for this, but there was no choice. We had to save Eduardo and the city.
“You can’t use Mitchell,” Luther said. “First, it’s unethical. Second, it’s cruel. Third, he was my colleague and it’s a matter of basic human decency. He’s a ghoul, for crying out loud.”
“What if he were no longer a ghoul?” I asked.
Luther opened his mouth and paused. “Are you thinking of setting him on fire again?”
“Was that what it looked like?”
“Yes. I was concerned, actually.”
“Then yes. Something like that.”
“I have a moral obligation to safeguard him,” Luther said. “The answer is no.”
“Why don’t we ask Mitchell what he wants to do?” I said. “If he says no, I’ll walk away. If he volunteers, you’ll help me.”
“Help you do what exactly?” Nick asked.
Explaining it was too long and complicated. “You will see. Bahir?”
“Why haven’t you turned into a ghoul?”
Bahir blinked. “Was I supposed to?”
Ghouls were djinn without enough magic to assume their true forms. He must’ve had enough magic.
“Can you transform into an ifrit?”
Bahir smiled. “Not all the way.”
That explained it. He already had enough magic, so he bypassed the ghoul stage.
“Okay.” Curran leaned forward, an unmistakable note of command in his voice. Suddenly all of the attention focused on him. “We need to limit this. The more people, the more potential possession targets for the djinn. It will be me, Kate, Bahir, Mahon, George.” He glanced at Mahon. “Anybody else?”
“I’ll talk to the family,” Mahon said.
“Me!” Julie volunteered.
“No,” Curran and I said at the same time.
“But . . .”
“You just got a united parental no,” Luther said. “Stay down, you’ve lost the fight.”
“I will go.” Derek stepped out of the shadows in the hallway.
Curran thought about it.
“Okay,” Curran said finally. “Who else?”
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