"On the fourth day, the man and wolf climbed to the top of the mountain. The man chained the wolf to a rock with chains of silver and iron. Then the man cut open his arm and let his blood run free while a rain of needles fell upon the mountain. Seeing the blood, the wolf had become mad with rage and struggled to break his chains, but they held him fast. The man sliced the wolf's throat and pulled the living blood from the wolf's body into his hand. As the wolf lay dying, the man mixed his own blood with the fiery core of the wolf's soul. Then the man thrust the mingled blood back into the wound, spoke the words that bound the wolf to obey him forever, and fell to the ground, weakened. The man's blood purged the rage from the wolf. He sat by his master, guarding him while he rested, and when the man awoke, he found that the wolf had become a dog. That's the end of the fable."
The rabbi sipped his coffee. "The fable's philosophical value can't be denied; however, in recent years some scholars, myself included, have speculated that the fable is based on actual events. A large percentage of Elijah's teachings, first taken as allegories, proved to be fact. The fable has all the characteristics of such a teaching. It offers specific if somewhat cryptic details: the rain of needles, the mixing of the blood, the chains of silver and iron, where fables conceived as fiction typically speak in general terms. But of course, daring radicals such as myself have to resign ourselves to scorn from our colleagues." He smiled.
My aunt made flesh golems by pulling the blood out of her victims, infusing it with her magic, and somehow inserting the mixture into new flesh, creating monstrously powerful automatons completely under her control. Roland had done almost the same thing. He'd pulled the blood out of the shapeshifter's body, seared it with his magic, and put it back. And somehow both he and the shapeshifter had survived.
I didn't even know where to start. Roland had a hell of a lot more power than I did and it wiped him out, which meant I'd need a power boost. Just like the volhv who teleported Adam out of his workshop. I would not resort to sacrifice. Even for Julie. It was out of the question. "Was it something I said?" Rabbi Peter murmured. "You look shocked."
"No," Curran said. "Everything is fine. Thank you for your assistance."
I forced the words out of my mouth. "We appreciate it."
The rabbi took off his glasses, cleaned the lenses with a soft cloth, and put them back on his nose. "Since I have shared my knowledge with you, perhaps you'd share yours with me. Why do you need the fable?"
I rose. "I'm sorry, I can't tell you that. But I could tell you the name of the wolf."
Rabbi Peter rose from his chair. "This is beyond intriguing. Yes, I would be most interested in learning the name."
"He is called Arez. The Sumerians knew him as Enkidu. He was the first preceptor of the Order of Iron Dogs, and he conquered most of Africa and a third of Eurasia for his master. He lived for four hundred years and would've conquered more, but the ancient Greeks began praying to him, and their prayers turned him into their god of war. Does that help?"
The rabbi nodded slowly.
"Thank you for your help." Curran and I headed for the door.
"What about his master?" the rabbi asked.
"That's a conversation for another time," I told him.
"I look forward to it," the rabbi called out as we stepped out into the hallway. "Enjoy the cookbook!"
"NO." CURRAN STRODE TO THE CAR, HEADING DOWN the street away from the temple.
"No what?" I knew what, but I wanted him to spell it out. That way I could shut him down better.
"I know what you're thinking and the answer is no. You're not pulling that stunt."
"It's not up to you."
He spun around. "Roland did it during full magic. He passed out. The magic is weak, and you're not him. What the hell do you think it will do to you?"
"I thought about that. I'd need a power boost. My own miniflare."
"The device contains concentrated magic. When you open it--"
"When you open it, it fucking explodes, Kate. It would be like standing in the middle of an atomic blast."
Curran treated me to a full-blown alpha stare. His eyes glowed with primal power. Like looking into the eyes of a hungry beast emerging from the darkness. My muscles locked. I held his gaze.
"No," he said, pronouncing the word slowly.
"You can't tell me what to do."
Curran roared. The blast of noise erupting from his mouth was like thunder. I clenched up, fighting the urge to step back.
"Yes I can," he snarled. "Listen: this is me telling you what you will not do."
I raised the cookbook and tapped him on the nose. Bad cat.
He jerked the book out of my hands, ripped it in half, flipped the two halves, ripped them again, and raised his hand. The pieces of the cookbook fluttered to the ground. "No."
Fine. I turned and walked away, to the ruined houses. Behind me Curran's foot scraped over the ground. He leaped over me and landed in my path. He looked completely feral.
I halted. "Move." "No."
I kicked him in the head. The pressure of the past forty-eight hours rampaged inside me like a storm, and I'd sunk all of it into the kick. The impact hit his jaw at an angle. Curran staggered back. I spun and snapped another kick. He dodged. Another. Curran moved forward and right. My kick missed by a hair. He grabbed my shin with his left hand, clamping it between his arm and his side, and swept my other leg from under me. Nice. A kung fu takedown.
I fell back. The pavement slapped my back. I rolled back up and hammered an uppercut to his chin. Hitting him in the body was useless. Might as well pummel a tank. The head was my only chance.
Curran snarled. Blood dripped from a cut on his cheek. I'd opened a gash with my kick.
I threw a left hook. He knocked my arm out of the way and shoved me back. I twisted out of the way on pure instinct--damn it, he was fast--dropped into a crouch, and swiped his legs from under him. He jumped up, avoiding the kick, and I took a knee to the head.
The world shattered into tiny painful sparks. I tasted blood--my nose was dripping. I rolled back, coming to my feet, blocked his punch, and jammed my knuckles into his throat, interrupting his growl in midnote. Felt that, did you, baby?
Curran charged. His hand locked on my shoulders. He swept me off my feet and slammed me into the wall, back to the bricks, pinning me. His teeth snapped a hair from my cheek. I kneed him. He blocked and clamped me in place.