Home > Shattered (The Iron Druid Chronicles #7)(9)

Shattered (The Iron Druid Chronicles #7)(9)
Author: Kevin Hearne

“Siodhachan. Well met, I hope.”

“Well met, Manannan Mac Lir. I must speak with you in private. Could you shroud us from ears and eyes?”

The mild look of concern deepened into worry, but he spoke the binding that provided us with a small bubble of soundproof air and shook out his Cloak of Mists to hide us from lip-readers. His estate was infested with faeries who lacked discretion at best and were outright spies at worst.

“I come to ask you to grant an exception to my oath. I need to tell Granuaile the true story of the yeti.” He listened in silence as I explained why Granuaile needed a yeti ice knife, and he gave me permission to tell her and Laksha, provided they took the same oath of secrecy.

“You’re going to need something. Come with me.” He led us back behind his hog pens, where there was a butcher shop, and on the way told me the quickest way to get to the yeti. He wrapped up a few pounds of the miraculous bacon of youth in brown paper and handed it to me. “They’ll be expecting that.” He gave Oberon a ham bone with plenty of meat on it and another for Orlaith. My hound could barely contain his excitement.

"Oh, she’s going to be so surprised! No soy burgers for her, no way!"

When we shifted back to India after saying our farewells, I listened to my paranoia and paused by the tree, waiting to see if anyone had followed us. A flying pixie with yellow wings shifted in after a minute and flew right into my chest. She rebounded, and her face had time to register her death before she crumbled to ash, destroyed by my cold iron aura.

“Damn. I wanted to question her first.”

"Works for me. I can give the gift of ham that much sooner. Come on, let’s go!"

I smiled at my hound. All right, off we go. Kaveri directed us to a modest house in the city, with a vegetable garden in the front yard, and I did my best to quash my worries on the jog there. It was a gorgeous morning, and Oberon quite properly observed that it would be a shame not to notice how good we had it right then.

"Look, Atticus, we have food and sun and each other, and soon we will be with pretty girls who like us. I hope you’re paying attention. You shouldn’t be missing this."

You’re right, Oberon, I shouldn’t.

"I think life is like a ham bone if you live it right. You enjoy it and then you bury it when you’re finished. If you don’t enjoy it and you let it go to waste, you still have to bury it, so you might as well savor everything you can."

That’s truth.

Laksha answered the door when I knocked, and she invited us in.

"Will you have Clever Girl tell Orlaith I brought her this food?" He had both ham bones in his mouth, with the meaty parts hanging out to the sides.

Of course. I relayed the message and Orlaith came over, tail wagging, and barked a greeting. She opened her mouth and grabbed on to the one on Oberon’s left. He let it go and she set it down on the floor briefly, then delivered a couple of licks to the side of his muzzle. He was so excited about this that he dropped his bone and barked.

"Atticus, she kissed me! Did you see that? She loves me!"

Yeah, I saw it, buddy, but I’m not sure you can conclude—

"Hail Oberon, Lord of All Meats! I am the sausage in the morning and the bone at night! I am the bringer of beef and the singer of sweet suppertime! Mine is the chicken and the gravy forever, nom nom!"

Oberon, I think your ego is getting the best of you here.

"Don’t hate the Meat Lord, Atticus. Just offer him steak sauce and words of praise."

The two of them lay down side by side on the floor, blocking the door, and began to gnaw away, their tails wagging and slapping against each other in a joyous duel. I left the hounds to their meal and joined Laksha and Granuaile at the round kitchen table. Laksha announced that we were having fruit for breakfast. There were three lit candles in the center of a flat round platter, flickering and offering whiffs of vanilla and spice, and arranged around them were small bowls of sliced melons, bananas, and berries, each with its own set of tiny tongs. A pitcher of cream, presumably representing the fruit of a cow, waited to be poured on top of whatever medley we chose to assemble for ourselves. I went for blackberries and honeydew and thanked Laksha for her hospitality, then had them swear not to repeat the secret origin of the yeti to anyone. That chore completed, I began.

“I’ll try to keep it short, since time is probably a factor here. Granuaile, I think you know that Manannan Mac Lir has had some commerce with the Norse pantheon in the past. You remember that map of the nine realms I showed you, given to him by the Álfar?”

She nodded but said nothing, her mouth full of strawberries and cream.

“Good. I bring it up because, about twelve hundred years ago, while I was still roaming the world and tethering it to Tír na nÓg, Manannan was going well beyond commerce and was enjoying sexcapades in Jötunheim.”

Granuaile spoke out of the side of her mouth. “He cheated on Fand?”

“He did and continues to do so. And the same holds true for Fand. She had a rather famous dalliance with Cu Chúlainn once.”

She held up a finger while she swallowed, then said, “They have an open marriage, then?”

“Not really. They try to keep their liaisons secret for as long as possible and likewise try to discover what the other one is up to. Both of them are now excellent at hiding things and finding them out.”

“Ah, but Fand never found out about this thing in Jötunheim, right?”

“Right. And Manannan wants to keep it that way.”

“Wait—I’m just catching on to the implications here. Does that mean Manannan Mac Lir did it with a frost giant?”

“It does. Somebody probably said graah.” I shuddered, remembering a horrific tableau I had the misfortune to witness in Jötunheim. “And the giantess in question became pregnant.”

Granuaile froze, a spoonful of blueberries halfway to her mouth. “No way!”

“Way. She had to leave Jötunheim, because the frost giants would kill anything that wasn’t strictly a frost giant. And she couldn’t stay in Tír na nÓg, because Fand would eventually find out. So they had the giantess come to term in the Himalayas, far away from the Norse and the Irish, and you can probably guess the rest.”

“I can’t believe this. You’re saying the yeti are essentially Fae?”

“They’re Fae in the sense that they’re magically gifted and represent a hybrid of human and something else, but they’re not vulnerable to iron. And the rest of the Fae don’t know about them. She had quintuplets, and they were born with white fur and pale blue skin. When they grew up, they could do any damn thing they wanted with snow and ice.”

“What happened to her?”

“At first she remained in the Himalayas with the yeti. Manannan visited as often as he could, and he had a trusted faery visit in his stead when he could not. Eventually, however, the faery turned out to be not so trustworthy. Once the yeti were fully grown, the frost giantess wanted out of the Himalayas. Returning to Jötunheim was out of the question. But the faery, who had become smitten and was quite eager to please her, pointed out that there were other cold places on the earth. She ran away with the faery to Manitoba, near the northern shores of Lake Winnipeg, using a tether I had made there.”

“How do you know this?”

“They appeared in front of me almost as soon as I had completed it! The faery had shifted her from the Himalayas to the newest of the New World. Since Manannan had been the one to start me on the tethering project in the first place, I reported it to him.”

“Oh, my gods, deity drama! What did he do?”

“He let them go, since they clearly had no plans to speak to Fand and he figured the giantess deserved what happiness she could find. He told me who they were, told me about the yeti, and swore me to the oath of silence. And my guess is that the runaway couple eventually had some Fae spawn of their own up there in the frozen north. Bit scarier than the yeti, though. I’ll give you one guess.”

Her eyes widened. “No—not the wendigo?”

“Aye.”

Granuaile finally remembered that she had at one point been eating, but now she was too excited to continue. She dropped the spoonful of blueberries that she’d been holding in midair back into her bowl. “Holy shit. What happened to the yeti?”

“They’re still there. Manannan has kept them eternally youthful with periodic shipments of his fine swine products—and they’re due for another. You’re going to deliver this bacon to them and get their attention that way.”

“There are still five of them?”

“Yes. Aside from the fact that they’re siblings and wouldn’t want to go there, they can’t reproduce. They’re like mules. Luckily, their low numbers are keeping them safe. Scientists all say there can’t possibly be a reproducing population of yeti in the Himalayas, and of course they’re right about that. But the yeti are still there.”

“So the frost giants don’t know about them, and the Fae don’t know either.”

“Both groups may have heard of the yeti by now, but if so, they probably think they’re just legends and don’t know their origins.”

“And the yeti speak Old Irish.”

“Manannan taught them. Their mother taught them Old Norse when they were young, but they’ve had only Manannan to speak to since then, and it’s been a long time.”

Granuaile put her hands up to the sides of her head and then popped them away as she made an explosive puffing sound. “Pfff! Mind. Blown.” She leaned forward and crossed her arms in front of her, flat on the table. “Have you been keeping other secrets like this?”

“Yes. But I can’t tell you or they won’t be secret.”

“Sharing is caring.”

“Unlike most American voters, I have built up an immunity to rhyming slogans.”

She smiled. “Fine. We will table the secrets for later. What I want to know is why you aren’t coming with me. Because I’ve inferred from your speech that you aren’t.”

“Oh. Well, remember the old man from the island?”

“Yeah, I meant to ask. Is he all right?”

“Yes. He’s a Druid and he can fix my tattoos.”

“A Druid, eh? The plot thickens. You didn’t want me to meet him earlier.”

“I still don’t. He’d pick a fight with you inside five minutes.”

“How do you know that?”

I’d kept the secret of his identity from her up till then but figured there was no use keeping it any longer. “Because he’s my archdruid.”

“Seriously?”

“Yep. Ornery through and through. His name’s Owen Kennedy. I promise I’ll introduce you later. The thing is, I feel responsible for him right now and I also feel kind of disabled without the ability to shape-shift. I thought that he could fix me up, since you’re busy now, and I could also maybe smooth away some of his rough edges before you two meet. Would that be okay?”

“Oh. Well.” Granuaile leaned back and considered. “I suppose it would, because I’m not sure what else you could do that I’m not already doing. But I don’t know how to find the yeti.”

“Take the bacon. They’ll smell it. And look around in the magical spectrum. They use snow and ice to hide everything, including themselves, but it’s magic and you’ll spot it. Make sure to tell ’em their dad says hi.” I gave her the directions Manannan had given me and wished her luck. “I’ll check back at the cabin when I’ve finished.”

“Okay, I’ll leave messages there if I need to.”

We turned as one to look at Laksha, who had remained silent through all this—and who also hadn’t eaten anything. “I will do what good I can while you are gone and try to minimize the damage,” she said. “And perhaps I will find your father. I will give you a key to this house and leave notes here for you when I am out.”

Granuaile said, “Thanks.” Her eyes flicked down and noticed the blank space in front of Laksha. “You’re not eating because this is part of summoning Durga?”

“Yes. Austerities, ritual, and prayer will help to draw her attention.”

We had little else to say once the decision was made. Oberon was reluctant to leave Orlaith and I didn’t want to leave Granuaile, but in truth I was much relieved regarding Laksha’s current intentions, and Owen needed a shepherd at the moment. Even though I hadn’t yet been gone two hours, it was still more than the quick trip I’d promised him, and I hoped I hadn’t already drained my well of goodwill with Sam and Ty by saddling them with a man who put the tank in cantankerous.

Granuaile and I parted, both worried but hopeful about the challenges ahead of us. My concerns about my archdruid proved to be well founded, unfortunately. Once I’d shifted from early-morning Thanjavur to early-evening Flagstaff, I heard growls and bellows and cheers a bit deeper in the woods north of Sam Obrist’s house. Casting night vision and following the noise, I discovered a ring of men and women in a circle, egging on two combatants in the middle. One was a werewolf, and the other was Owen in his bear form. Both of them were bloody.

Sam Obrist was in the ring of onlookers, and my guess was that this was the entirety of the Flagstaff Pack. I didn’t know what Owen had done or said to incur their wrath, but I couldn’t let him get torn apart without an explanation.

Oberon, we need to break this up. We can’t let the bear get killed.

"I’m on the bear’s side? That’s a new one."

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