Home > Shattered (The Iron Druid Chronicles #7)(4)

Shattered (The Iron Druid Chronicles #7)(4)
Author: Kevin Hearne

The third bloke slowed down, deciding to search for a weakness, and the fourth chose to have a go at me, even though I had a sword plainly slung across my back. He came at me from my left side, fist cocked, and I waited for him to throw it at me. Once he did, I caught it in my left hand and took my cue from Owen: I head-butted him, using his own momentum against him. I smashed his nose and let him go down cradling his face.

The last guy rarely behaves as tough as he had with his mates still standing around him. Morale evaporates rapidly when you encounter something that’s able to take out your friends in a few seconds.

He held up his hands and backed off. “Hey, our mistake. Sorry.”

“What happened to all his piss, Siodhachan? He charged me and now he’s thinking better of it?” Owen said.

“Wouldn’t you, in his position?”

“I might think about fighting another day, sure. But only after I learned how to fight. These were hardly any fun.”

“Fun’s on its way,” I said, pointing past him at the approaching bouncer. He was the tall hulking sort who could take a lot of punishment and patiently pound you on the head until you dropped. “It’s that man’s job to throw you out of here.”

“Is he any good at his job?”

“You’re about to find out.” I pulled some money out of my pocket and switched to English to talk to the bartender. “Sorry about the mess. I’ll leave enough for our drinks and then some.” I didn’t have anything but American dollars, but they could exchange those easily enough. There wasn’t a lot of damage yet beyond some blood to mop up, but I figured that would change in a moment. Unlike the punks, the bouncer knew how to fight. He looked ex-military and at some point had been trained in Krav Maga. He introduced Owen to its finer points. The archdruid was down and under control, gasping for breath with his arm twisted behind him, in about twenty seconds. The bouncer was breathing heavily too, for Owen had gotten a couple of licks in, but both men were smiling bloody smiles.

“Grandpa’s got some moves,” he said, and spat blood on the floor before looking over at me. “You going to give me trouble too? You pull that sword on me and you’ll have an issue with the law, not just me.”

“Nah, I don’t need my attitude adjusted. Thanks very much for adjusting his.”

“Right. Out you go, then.” He jerked his head toward the door. “I’ll be right behind you with Grandpa.”

I passed by, keeping my distance, and preceded them toward the inn’s front door. Owen was laughing as the bouncer pulled him to his feet. “Siodhachan, tell this giant oaf I like him.”

“What did he just say?” the bouncer asked, pushing Owen along. “He’ll kick my arse later?”

“No, he said he likes you.”

“Oh. Well, that’s different.”

“I’ll kick his arse later, of course,” Owen said, and I laughed.

“There it was.”

The bouncer chuckled. “They always say that. Look, I’m kind of glad you came in here and laid those wankers out, because they’re tosspots, but don’t come back here again, guys, or I won’t be so nice.”

“No worries,” I said, walking outside. He pushed Owen out behind me and closed the door.

“What was with all the elbows in there?” I asked.

“Oh. That. Fecking aches in me knuckles.” He stretched, held his lower back, and winced. “Abuse my hands now and they won’t open in the morning. Getting old is about as much fun as swimming in shite.”

“I know; I tried it once.”

“That so? How old were ye before ye started aging backward?”

“I was seventy-five when I met Airmid and she taught me the trick. That ache you’re talking about, they call that arthritis now.”

“Did I ask ye what they called it? I don’t care, because I’m goin’ to call it an ache in me knuckles.”

“All right.”

“So what’s your secret to stayin’ so young and fresh, eh? Did you get one of Manannan’s hogs?”

“No, I drink a certain tea. I’m going to make some for you, in fact, before we arrange to get you a modern identity. How old would you like to be?”

“You’re asking me seriously?”

“Aye.”

“Well, I don’t want to look as young as you. I know you’re older than me now, but it doesn’t feel that way, if you know what I mean.”

“I do.” I liked appearing young, however. It made everyone underestimate me.

“I suppose I’d like to revisit me forties. Young enough to be strong and active again but old enough to command some respect.”

“Sounds good. Let’s head back to the trees and we’ll go get the necessary supplies. Your legs are better now, aren’t they?”

“Oh, aye. Feel as good as they ever have in me dotage. That bacon Fand gave me was wonderful.”

We began walking toward the grounds of Kilkenny Castle, and his stride was much more confident than during the trip in. I thought perhaps the drink and the fight had helped him as much as the healing powers of Manannan’s miracle bacon.

“Ready to start learning the new language?”

“Aye. But ease me into it and begin with the cussing.”

I began to teach him English, using my Irish accent, and he proved to have an excellent ear for it. His absorption of the language, of course, was Druidic. We shifted from Kilkenny to Flagstaff, Arizona, where it was just after noon and Winter Sun Trading Company was open for business on San Francisco Street. They had the necessary ingredients for Immortali-Tea, including teapots, and there was a forest nearby that Owen would appreciate.

Before walking in, however, I pulled out my cell phone and called my attorney, Hal Hauk, who was also the alpha of the Tempe Pack. Owen was so mesmerized by passersby and the sights of downtown Flagstaff that he didn’t even notice I was speaking to someone with a small rectangular device held up to my ear.

“Hal! Need some ID.”

“You’re kidding. I just gave you some!”

“It’s not for me.” Granuaile and I had ditched our previous aliases—terrible names given to us by Coyote: Sterling Silver and Betty Baker—and now lived under the names Sean Flanagan and Nessa Thornton, though we never used them in private. She was still Granuaile to me, and I was still Atticus to her. “It’s for someone else. Need a complete workup because he’s never been around until now.”

“Who’s this?”

“An extremely old friend named Owen Kennedy. Listen, we’re in Flagstaff and can’t get down there quickly. Is there someone up here who can take the picture and the info and send it down to you?”

“Yeah. Go see Sam Obrist. Swiss fellow in charge of the gang up there. Ready for his address?”

I memorized it and thanked him, promising to bring Owen down to meet the pack when his ID was ready.

After picking up the necessaries in Winter Sun and making a quick trip over to Peace Surplus on Route 66 for a propane stove, a small mirror, some modern clothes for Owen, and one of those backpack shovels, we hiked up to Mars Hill with six gallons of water and hid ourselves in the ponderosa pines a few hundred yards away from Lowell Observatory. I mixed the blend of herbs and then performed the all-important bindings Airmid had taught me long ago to make this particular tea a miraculous rejuvenator instead of a mildly effective blend of antioxidants and detoxifiers. Then, since building a fire would be not only illegal but inefficient, I brewed the Immortali-Tea on the propane stove and told my archdruid to start chugging.

He scowled at the cup after the first sip. “Tastes like shite, lad.”

“But it’s good for you. You’ll start to feel it soon.”

He shrugged and threw it back, then drank several more cups until the first pot was gone. I began to brew another, smiling as I did so, and he spied mischief in it.

“What are you so pleased about?”

“I only drink a little at a time, like half a cup every four or five months, to maintain my current age. Half a cup has a mild laxative effect.”

“What kind of effect?”

“Laxative. It means it loosens your bowels.”

“Half a cup has …? But you just had me drink a whole pot!”

“That’s why I brought the shovel. By the time you finish digging yourself a hole, I imagine you’ll be needing to use it. Here.” I picked up the shovel and tossed it to him.

“You worthless spawn of a she-goat!” he roared, snatching the shovel out of the air. He shook it at me. “I should cave your skull in with this!”

“You won’t be able to do that until you’ve drunk another few pots,” I said. “You’ll be flushing toxins out of your system until we’re through, but they’re nothing you’ll miss. You’ll be getting rid of that ache in your knuckles, for one thing.”

A torrent of profanity gushed forth from my archdruid’s mouth as he turned to choose a place to dig a makeshift latrine. He promised dire consequences for this humiliation.

“My, aren’t we feeling spry already,” I said. “Try to remember that I’m doing you a favor. Rapid cell regeneration and replacement and … Never mind, you don’t know what any of that means anyway.”

The shovel wasn’t strictly necessary; my archdruid could easily move a bit of earth as needed through Druidry, but if he did it that way, he’d have to stop cursing me to speak the bindings, and I knew very well he wouldn’t want to do that. I wouldn’t want him to stop either. He had taken great pleasure in giving me grief for twelve years during my training, so I allowed myself to enjoy a bit of schadenfreude now.

“Oh!” he blurted, interrupting his cussing as internal convulsions rocked him. I heard him throw down the shovel and tear frantically at his pants. “Damn you, Siodhachaaaaan!”

Heck yes, I laughed.

Though he complained bitterly, Owen had to admit that the Immortali-Tea was working. I took out the mirror for him each time he returned from his exertions and got ready to drink another pot. The wrinkles gradually disappeared and the age spots on his hands faded away. His posture improved and his muscles began to fill out. I remembered going through the same process when I first learned how to make Immortali-Tea, but I had erased fifty-plus years instead of the thirty he was shooting for. When he came back after the fourth pot, his hair and eyebrows, as well as his beard, had begun to grow in dark again. All were growing faster than normal as his body shed the markers of age.

“We’re going to have to visit a barber,” I said.

“What’s a barber?”

“Someone who cuts hair.”

“Doesn’t everyone cut hair?”

“No, a barber has been trained to do it, and he or she makes a living doing that. People have specialized their professions to a far greater extent than we used to in the old days. You’ll need to choose a profession at some point.”

“What are you saying? I’m a Druid. That’s it.”

“No, from now on you’re also a Druid. No one will pay you for that now, and you need some way to generate income.”

“Well, what have you been doing?”

“I’ve practiced many professions throughout the years. Most recently I was a silversmith. Before that I owned a bookstore that also sold herbs, like the one we visited in Flagstaff.”

“What’s a bookstore?”

“A merchant that sells books. Books are like bound scrolls, full of knowledge. It’s how people absorb information these days, if they’re still using paper.”

“They learn things from books instead of from Druids?”

“That’s right.”

“Then they must be pretty stupid, am I right?”

“Some of them are,” I admitted. “Mostly the ones who don’t read. But the advantage of books is that any knowledge is readily available to anyone. People who are currently ignorant of something can educate themselves at any time, on their own schedule, and the books never rap them on the head with an oak staff and tell them they’re cocking it up again.”

Owen frowned at the sudden turn to the personal. “Oh, I see,” he said. “I wasn’t delicate enough with your feelings during your training, is that it?”

“It wasn’t pleasant,” I said. “Nor was it necessary to use those methods.”

“Wait, now, lad. Are ye a Druid or aren’t ye?”

“Not only am I a Druid, I am the Druid, if you listen to the elementals of the earth.”

“And have ye outlived all the other Druids?”

“Obviously I have.”

He stabbed a finger at my face. “Then me fecking methods were brilliant. The fact that you’re sitting here feeling your mushy feelings instead of feeding worms is a testament to the value of knocking some sense into ye.”

I kept my eyes on the propane stove and the teapot and said nothing. Eventually he continued in a muted grumble that may have been his version of an apology. “I’m going to be your student for a while, it seems, and I’m sure it will be far more pleasant for me than it was when our roles were reversed. What’s next?”

“Next you drink one more pot and deal with the side effects. Then we’ll go into town, get you shaved and trimmed and fed, and I’ll take you to see a werewolf named Sam Obrist.”

“He’s a what?”

“Werewolves are shape-shifters, but they only have the wolf form. Immune to magic and vulnerable to silver.”

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