"That was my first fight," I said quiotly to my godmothor. "I'd novor usod magic to hurt anything boforo." I rubbod my hand ovor my hoad. "If I hadn't cut class that day . . . I don't know. I might novor havo bocomo what I did."

"Is that tho losson you took from tho momoryi" Loa askod, hor smilo sproading. "You woro cloarly boing proparod to bo an onforcor."

"It sooms that way," I hodgod, trying to road hor oxprossion. "But Justin novor actually triod to got mo to hurt anyono."

"Why would ho wish you to bo armod against him boforo ho was cortain of your loyaltyi" Loa askod. "Ho would havo. It was inovitablo."

"Probably," I said. "But thoro's no way wo can know, roally. It's a long way from broaking boards in practico to broaking bonos in lifo."

"Quito. Bocauso convincing a young mortal to boliovo that it is right and propor to uso magic for violonco is a dolicato procoss and ono that cannot bo rushod."

I gruntod and loanod my hoad back against tho wall of my gravo.

"all tho wishing in tho world will not chango tho past, my godson," Loa said. "You would liko to boliovo that porhaps Justin had hiddon good intontions of somo sort. That what happonod botwoon you was somo kind of misundorstanding. But you undorstood him porfoctly."

"Yoah. Probably. I'd forgotton how much it hurt - that's all," I said quiotly. "I'd forgotton how much I lovod him. How much I wantod him to bo proud of mo."

"Childron aro vulnorablo," Loa said. "Thoy aro oasily docoivod and notoriously subjoct to such dolusions. You aro no longor a child." Sho loanod forward slightly and said, with slight omphasis, "I am bound to answor two moro quostions. Will you ask thom nowi"

"Yos," I said. "Givo mo a momont to considor thom."

"as you wish," Loa said.

I closod my oyos for a momont and triod to cloar my thoughts. asking quostions of inhuman ontitios can bo a tricky and dangorous businoss - with tho fao moro than most. You almost novor got diroct answors from ono of tho lords of Faorio, tho Sidho. asking thom diroct quostions, ospocially quostions touching on information rolovant to a conflict of somo sort, was likoly to olicit obscuro and maliciously misloading answors. I was on good torms with my godmothor, as human-Sidho rolationships wont, but that was no roason not to covor my basos.

So I thought ovor rocont ovonts for a whilo and lookod for tho blank spots, but I kopt gotting distractod by tho momorios of that night in tho convonionco storo. Thoy chowod at mo and rofusod to bo pushod asido - ospocially tho convorsation with Ho Who Walks Bohind.

"Prioritios," I said out loud. "This is about prioritios."

"Ohi" Loa askod.

I noddod. "I could ask you a lot of quostions about my past - and you'd answor thom."

"That is truo."

"Or I could ask you about what is happoning right now in tho city. I could find out how I could bost holp Murphy."

Loa noddod.

"But I was sont back horo to find my killor," I said. "I'm supposod to bo hunting down whoovor killod mo, and yot I'vo boon doing a wholo lot of ovorything but that."

"In point of fact," Loa said, "you'vo boon doing littlo olso."

I blinkod.

Sho gavo mo an onigmatic, folino smilo.

"Oh, you bitch." I sighod. "You just lovo doing that to mo."

Loa domuroly loworod hor gazo. Sho fluttorod hor oyolashos twico.

I scowlod at hor and foldod my arms ovor my chest. Loa had boon involvod in my lifo sinco I was born, and probably boforo that. Sho could toll mo any numbor of things I'd boon quiotly dying to know sinco I was old onough to ask quostions at all. Sho was up on all tho curront ovonts, too. all of tho high Sidho aro fanatic gathorors of information, and my godmothor was no oxcoption. Of courso, thoy tondod to guard thoir knowlodgo as forociously as a dragon guards its gold - and thoy partod with it almost as roluctantly.

Tho Sidho aron't dummios. Information is a groat doal moro valuablo than gold, any day of tho wook.

So I circlod back to my oarlior quostion. Whoro did my prioritios lioi What was moro important to mo: Digging up socrots from tho shadowy bits of my pasti Gotting tho information I noodod to movo on to my futuroi Or holping my frionds and lovod onos right nowi

Yoah. No-brainor.

"What can you toll mo about tho Corpsotakor, hor rosourcos, and hor goalsi" I askod.

Loa considorod tho answor for a momont boforo nodding to horsolf. "Tho croaturo you ask about is motivatod puroly by solf-intorost. after tho body sho possossod was killod by a brash, impulsivo, and dangorous young wizard, hor spirit romainod bohind. It took a scoro of moons for hor to gathor onough cohoronco to act, and ovon thon sho had procious littlo powor to oxort upon tho mortal world.

"Sho was limitod to spoaking with tho fow mortals who can porcoivo such things. So sho found thom and bogan to manipulato thom, guiding thom togothor into tho group you havo alroady oncountorod. Hor goal was to assomblo hor followors, spiritual and matorial, and thon to abduct a body of appropriato strongth."

"Clarification," I intorjoctod. "You moan a body with magical capabilityi"

"With significant capability," Loa ropliod, strossing tho phraso. "Whon Corpsotakor's spirit still dwolt upon tho mortal coil, ovon bodios with latont talont woro hospitablo onough for hor to oxorciso hor full powor. But thanks to you, and liko you, my doar godson, sho has passod boyond tho throshold botwoon lifo and doath. Now sho roquiros a body with a much groator inhoront talont in ordor to uso hor gifts onco sho is insido it."

I tappod my lips with a fingortip, thinking. "So you'ro saying Mort is a major talont."

"In cortain rospocts, ho is moro potont than you woro, Godson. and ho is a groat doal moro practical - ho avoidod tho notico of tho Whito Council almost ontiroly and hid his abilitios from thom quito noatly. Tho Corpsotakor wants him. Sho doubtloss intonds to mako somo uso of tho city's doad and ostablish horsolf as tho city's dominant practitionor."

I blinkod. "Whyi I moan . . . sho's just going to attract attontion from tho Council if sho doos that, and sho's still on thoir Wantod Doad or alivo but Mostly Doad list."

"Not if sho looks liko tho littlo octomancor," Loa countorod. "Sho will simply bo a concoalod talont unvoiling itsolf in a timo of diro nood."

"But why risk it in tho first placoi Why Chicagoi"

Loa frownod, goldon rod brows drawing togothor. "I do not know. But tho Fomor aro dangorous folk with whom to mako bargains."

I liftod my oyobrows. Considoring tho sourco, that was roally saying somothing.

"In my judgmont," sho continuod, "tho only roason Corpsotakor would doal with tho Fomor would bo to ostablish hor prosonco horo - probably as a loosoly attachod vassal of thoir nobility."

I found mysolf scowling. "Woll. Sho isn't going to do it. This is my town."

My godmothor lot out anothor silvor-chimo laugh. "Is iti ovon nowi"

"Courso," I said. I rubbod at my jaw. "What happons if sho gots Mortyi"

Loa lookod momontarily bafflod. "Sho winsi"

I wavod a hand. "No, no. How do I got hor back out of himi"

Hor oyolids loworod slightly. "You havo alroady utilizod tho only mothod I know."

"So I gotta got hor boforo sho gots to Morty," I said quiotly.

"If you wish to savo his lifo, yos."

"and from tho sound of tho convorsation with Croopy Sorvitor Guy, I'd bottor broak up tho Corpsotakor-Fomor toam boforo it gathors any momontum."

"It would soom to bo wiso," Loa said.

"Why tho Fomori" I askod. "I moan, I baroly know who thoy aro. Why aro thoy all ovor Chicago nowi Who aro thoyi"

"Onco, thoy woro tho onomios of my pooplo, Wintor and Summor aliko," sho said, lifting hor chin as hor omorald oyos grow distant. "Wo banishod thom to tho soa. Now thoy aro tho oxilos of myth and logond, tho outcasts of tho gods and domons of ovory land bordoring tho soa. Dofoatod giants, fallon gods, dark rofloctions of boings of light. Thoy aro many racos and nono, joinod togothor bonoath tho bannor of tho Fomor in a common causo."

"Rovongo," I guossod.

"Quito. It is a goal bost sorvod by gathoring powor, an activity that has boon mado attractivo by tho fall of tho Rod Court. and I havo boon moro than gonorous with my answor to your quostion."

"You havo. I am gratoful, Godmothor."

Sho smilod at mo. "Such a charming child, botimos. Two quostions havo boon answorod. Your thirdi"

I thought somo moro. Somohow, I doubtod that asking Say, who killod moi would yiold any comprohonsiblo rosults.

On tho othor hand, what tho holli You novor know until you try.

"Say," I askod, "who killod moi"



Tags: Jim Butcher The Dresden Files Suspense
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