Home > The Grimoire of the Lamb (The Iron Druid Chronicles 0.4)(2)

The Grimoire of the Lamb (The Iron Druid Chronicles 0.4)(2)
Author: Kevin Hearne

It was Fragarach—absolutely no relation to Fraggle Rock—an ancient Fae sword that I had come by about as honestly as I’d come by the Grimoire of the Lamb. Since there were a couple of Irish gods who’d dearly like to have it back, I tended to shield it in iron from divination and not play with it too much. For this occasion, it was worth the risk of revealing my hiding place. Fragarach’s name in Irish means the Answerer, due to an enchantment on it that forces targeted dastardly types to answer questions truthfully. It would help me solve a mystery that had perplexed me for centuries.

I had the grimoire waiting on the counter for Mr. Elkhashab when he returned to the store. While the light of avarice blazed in his eyes as he flipped greedily through the pages “for appraisal,” I brought out Fragrach from under the counter and spoke the words that would ensnare him.

“Freagroidh tu,” I said, and the Egyptian wizard was abruptly caught in a hazy blue aura that would not let him move or speak untruths in answer to my questions.

“What is your name?” I asked.

“Nkosi Elkhashab.” So he hadn’t been lying about that.

“What is your quest?”

“To find the lost book of Amun.”

I would ask him more about that in a moment, but I couldn’t resist completing the Monty Python line first: “What … is your favorite color?”

“Red.”

“Why do you wish to find this lost book?”

“The thirteen spells will restore Egypt to its rightful place as supreme among the world.”

So it wasn’t an ordinary cookbook after all. “You told me they were lamb recipes before. What are they really?”

“They are recipes to alter fate. Six recipes alter your destiny in different ways; seven alter the destinies of your enemies.”

“Let me guess. The thirteenth recipe slays your enemy.”

“Correct.”

Well, I no longer had to wonder why this book was in the restricted section. “Why do all the recipes involve lamb?”

“None of them involve lamb.”

That slowed me down. “Lamb is listed as the first ingredient in every recipe.”

“No. The lamb is supposed to be sacrificed to Amun before you begin the recipe.”

Gods below! Blood sacrifice to kill your enemies or make yourself rich or whatever definitely classified the grimoire as a book from the dark side. And this guy couldn’t wait to get his hands on it.

“Where did you hear about this book?” I asked him.

“I used to work in the Ministry of Antiquities. We discovered some records at the Alexandria site some years ago, and I came across a reference to the work there. It made clear that the book had been removed before Aurelian. Its existence was confirmed in other work I recently discovered.”

“How did you find out about the sacrificing of the lambs and everything?”

“It is described in the writings of Nebwenenef, Egypt’s greatest sorcerer. He is the author of this grimoire.”

I blinked, then swallowed. In the origin story of Druids that every archdruid taught his apprentices, Nebwenenef was the name of the sorcerer who’d killed the Saharan elemental five thousand years ago. But the grimoire was a first- or second-century work. How did he write it if he’d already been dead for three thousand years? “Where did you find these writings?”

“Underneath my home.”

“It was buried?”

“Yes.”

“Who else has seen these writings?”

“No one.”

That was a small blessing, at least. “Do you know who I am?” I asked. This was a rather important question and not intended as a threat to him in any way. If he knew too much, I’d have to leave the area.

“You are Atticus O’Sullivan, rare-book dealer.”

“That’s all you know about me?”

“You clearly have some magical talent. I am not sure how much or of what kind.”

Maybe not all was lost, then.

“How did you discover I might have a copy of this book?”

“I summoned an imp of the Fourth Circle of Hell. He told me.”

Well, that would do it. And it also meant I was probably still safe here; the imp would have already traveled back to hell without telling anybody else where or who I was, or this guy wouldn’t be standing in front of me now. “So you dabble in all sorts of black magic, not simply the Egyptian sort?”

“Yes.”

“And the imp told you what about me, exactly?”

“He said you possessed the lost book of Amun and thought it was a cookbook. He said your magic was probably earth-based.”

Clever imp, leaving out the fact that I was a Druid. “What else did the imp say?”

“He said you have excellent defenses but cast few offensive spells, if any.”

That was true enough. When I wished to give offense, I usually gave it with the blade of Fragarach.

“Hypothetical question. If we were in a galaxy far, far away, would you try to become a Sith lord?”

“I do not know what that is.”

“Sith lords can shoot lightning out of their hands, and they cackle maniacally as their enemies turn crispy before their eyes.”

The Egyptian smiled. “That sounds very good. Yes.”

I’d heard more than enough. I neatly snatched the grimoire from his fingers and placed a protective hand over it, then dispelled Fragarach’s binding and lowered it.

“I’m very sorry for the inconvenience, Mr. Elkhashab, but this grimoire is not for sale.”

His eyes blinked rapidly. “Not for sale? But you told me to come here to negotiate.”

“Negotiation does not guarantee that you will be able to purchase the goods.”

I began to pull the grimoire closer to me, and that’s when everything went pear-shaped. Without a single telltale warning in his facial expression, Elkhashab’s left arm snaked forward and he punched me. Not hard enough to break my nose or anything—it was more of a jab than a determined attempt to destroy my face—but it was enough to make me rock backward and take my hand off the grimoire. That was all he wanted. He grabbed the book and bolted for the door, figuring that if he couldn’t buy it, he’d simply steal it.

He plainly did not know much about my magic. Before he was out the door, I began to construct a binding between the leather of the cover and the wool carpet I kept as a doormat. Since both were of natural materials, once I energized the binding the book would fly out of his hands and I’d be laughing at him.

It didn’t work out that way.

I energized the binding and the book tried to escape, but he held on with one hand and made a gesture with the other like flicking water from his fingers, and the binding broke.

I was so shocked that he was halfway across Ash Avenue before I could think to try again. But now he had the grimoire held close to his chest, and my line of sight was ruined. I watched him scramble into a rental car across the street and thought a different binding would serve me well. Though pure synthetics shut me down, nature is present in even some of our most refined products: I bound the rubber of his tires to the bitumen in the asphalt concrete as I strode forward to reclaim my property. South of University Drive, Ash Avenue doesn’t have a lot of traffic, so I didn’t need to worry much about getting plowed into the pavement.

He started the car and shoved it into gear. When it didn’t move, he rolled down the window and looked at the front tire. I activated my faerie specs—a charm that allows me to see in the magical spectrum—to see what he would do. I wanted to know how he destroyed my bindings.

His aura was strange. Next to his skin, he was limned in white, like any magic user, but beyond that it was muddy, as if somebody’s kid had decided to mix all the finger paints together to see what magical hue would result. Tiny flashes and hints of color winked here and there, but mostly it was monkey-shit brown.

Elkhashab flicked his fingers at the front tire with the same motion he’d used before, and I saw what appeared to be a spout of water gush forth and blanket my bindings. It was odd, undisciplined magic; bindings have definite structure and appear as Celtic knotwork, and even the magic of other systems, like Wicca or Vodoun, have an orderly look to them as they execute. His magic looked like a particularly splody ejaculation.

He tried to accelerate, but the back tire held him fast. The bindings on the front tire had already melted—or perhaps dissolved—away. He flicked his fingers toward the rear, the bizarre miniature flood gushed forth in my magical sight, and my binding ceased to exist.

Elkhashab stomped on the gas and squealed away with the Grimoire of the Lamb. I let him go because I was fighting ignorance as much as the man himself. His magic was a little frightening. The tattoos that bound me to the earth and allowed me to draw on its power were bindings as well. Could he toss some of his magic spooge at me and unbind me from the earth? I needed to find out, but not by trial and error. The error could well be fatal. Instead, I’d see what Hal had turned up and shift myself to Egypt before Elkhashab could fly out there. When he got home, eager to sacrifice a lamb and start some evil shit, he’d find me waiting for him.

He’d also be extremely paranoid. If I were Elkhashab, there would be no way I’d ever believe that someone like me would simply let him go. And he’d be right.

I called Hal on my cell phone. “Hal, have you got anything on that Egyptian character yet?”

“You haven’t even given me two hours, Atticus,” Hal growled.

“He just stole one of my rare books. One of the really evil ones.”

“Not one of those summoning ones where you can call up something to eat Utah for breakfast?”

“No, it’s the kind where you can kill anyone you want. Ideal for political assassinations.”

“Shit. He swiped it from under your nose?”

“He’s a serious magic user. He’s got something that can dissolve my bindings. I need to go after him in Egypt, and I need some help tracking him down.”

“You want me to contact a pack there?”

“Is there a pack in Cairo?”

“Sure is. Guy named Yusuf is the alpha.”

“That would be wonderful. I only need their tracking services. You know I’m good for whatever they charge. And please email to me whatever info you dig up and I’ll check it when I get to Egypt.”

“What are you going to do when you find him?”

“He wasted his chance at mercy when he stole the book. And he told me what he’s going to do with it.” He’d also told me who had written it, and that made the grimoire itself something I should have burned long ago. “So I think I’ll be applying Druidic law.”

“Going to kill him, eh?”

“Old school.”

 

About five thousand years ago, the Sahara Desert was a lot more lush than it is today. It was still a desert, but more like the Sonoran Desert—plenty of plants and animals around, instead of miles of sand dunes and a few weak clumps of sharply bladed grass. It wasn’t all that bad a place, until the sorcerer Nebwenenef bound the Saharan elemental and tried to take its power for his own. He died trying to contain it, and the elemental died as well, its magic spreading up the Nile river valley, lying around for other wizards and Egyptian gods to feast on. The desert became an überdesert, and Gaia decided that sort of thing should never happen again. That’s why she created Druids.

The primary responsibility of Druids is to protect the earth’s elementals from any sort of magical attack. Mundane attacks—like stopping industries from polluting the environment—are not really our business, but people tend to think that’s the sort of thing Druids would be worried about. I do worry about it, of course, but those attacks happen on such a vast scale that there’s very little I can do—and those sorts of threats to the earth didn’t exist when Druids were first conceived.

Guys like Elkhashab, who desire power over men, sometimes try to harness the power of the earth to do it, however, and in those rare cases there’s quite a lot I can do. Elkhashab’s counter to my bindings indicated that he had a trump card for the earth’s magic, and as such I was quite literally bound to destroy him. Plus, you know, anyone following in the footsteps of Nebwenenef demanded all my attention. And he’d also punched me.

I wouldn’t underestimate him again; this might go quickly, or it might not. If the latter were to be the case, I needed to make arrangements.

The current girlfriend was first: Since I couldn’t tell her that she was dating a man who was thirty times as old as her grandfather and who sometimes had to deal with shady warlocks, a text message that I had a family emergency and I’d be gone for a week would have to suffice. We traded texts for a bit; she offered condolences, wondered if she could help, hoped it would work out for the best, and that was that.

Oberon was a little harder to convince.

"I want to go with you! I’m supposed to protect you and wag my tail in an encouraging manner when you are afflicted with self-doubt!" he said.

It’s going to be extremely dangerous, Oberon.

"All the more reason I should go! My teeth are sharper than yours, and once I take something down to the ground, it doesn’t get up."

How many cats do you think you could handle at once, Oberon?

"What does that have to do with the price of beef in Boise?"

There’s a cat goddess there named Bast. She doesn’t like me at all and has forbidden me to return to Egypt.

"So? You’ve been to Egypt anyway, haven’t you?"

Yes, but only in the deserts, where there were no cats. This time I’ll be going to Cairo, where there will be plenty of them.

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