Ted just shook his head as he watched Sister Margaret fussing over Felipa. Felipa and Pedro had stayed behind in case muscle was needed, though he was pretty sure Iggy was correct about Pedro’s motives having a lot more to do with Molly. He was in the music room even now, sitting next to her as she patiently showed him how to play chords on the piano. Felipa had a hobby of knitting little toys, which had been enough for Sister Margaret to practically adopt the girl.
And the phone was still failing to ring. He leaned back, and sighed, closing his eyes. Do you remember where I took you, the night you asked me to marry you? He opened his eyes and looked around. Gabriel wasn’t there. Ted, do you remember? He swallowed. It wasn’t exactly something he could forget. I need you to take Felipa and go there, now. “Gabriel?” There was no response. “Gabriel?”
“Mr. Mullins?” Sister Margaret gave him an odd look. “Is Gabriel back?”
“I…” Ted took a deep breath. “Maybe.” He looked past her at where the dark-haired werewolf girl was raising an eyebrow. “Felipa, I need a favor.”
“Of course.” She immediately stood, up, smiling. “What do you need?”
“I, uh…” He exhaled. “I think we are going to need a shovel.”
“Your boyfriend…” Abigail turned to look at Adele. “Just smashed a helicopter out of the air…” She looked back at Jim. “With another helicopter.”
“Yep.” Adele grinned.
“Woof?” Ash glanced at Stephan.
“Woof.” Stephan nodded.
“I swear.” Khait held up both hands in a gesture of surrender as he stared at Jim. “If I’d realized it was —”
“Khait, if I were angry…” Jim rolled his eyes at Khait. “You would know.” Then Jim laughed. “Haven’t seen you since the fire. How’s things?”
“I seduced a duchess and started an auto-de-fae, so Isis kind of buried me for five hundred years.” Khait waved a hand. “But things are definitely starting to look up.”
“Wait, that thing in…” Jim tilted his head, then shook his head and gave Khait a disappointed look. “Really not your best work.”
“She was one hell of a duchess.” Khait shrugged.
“Khait…” Matthias raised an eyebrow. “You want to reintroduce us to your friend here?”
“Uh…” Khait glanced at Matthias before looking back at Jim. “Do I?”
“Is he really Jarl’s kid?” Jim jerked a thumb at Matthias.
“Hard as it is to believe.” Khait rolled his eyes. Then his voice became serious. “They were telling the truth. It really is Gabriel.”
“That…” Jim took a deep breath. “Complicates matters.”
“You’re going to help Adam, right?” Coraline’s eyes went wide.
“Yes, Coraline.” Jim nodded to her. Then suddenly his form shifted. The slender young man vanished, replaced by a man the same size as Matthias. His hair remained red, but grew longer, shaggy despite the fact that he was now dressed in a nice suit. The suit fit him, and yet this man looked as though he would not be out of place on a battlefield, axe in hand. When he spoke, his voice was much deeper. “I am.”
Magda went pale, staggering back a couple steps. “Jörmungandr.”
“It’s just a theory.” Erilon was shaking her head from where she shimmered in the mirror. “I mean, there are a lot of other possibilities that —”
“Erilon…” Jormun clasped his hands behind his back. “His blood does not concern me. His nature does. From what I have been told…” He shrugged. “Let’s be frank here. You lot just punched Merlin in the nose. That’s reason enough for me to like you.” He took a deep breath. Then he nodded again before looking at Coraline. “Over the past few days I’ve come to observe that Coraline is an excellent judge of character. If she says her brother is a worthy man, that is good enough for me.”
Khait’s voice was quiet when he spoke. “Jormun, he really is Gabriel.”
“I know.” Jormun nodded.
“You…” Khait blinked. “You know?” He gave a small shake of his head, and then shifted his weight from foot to foot before frowning. “How do you know?”
“There have been various signs. Portents.” He brought his hands in front of him, then leaned on the van. “And about twenty-six years ago a unicorn told me the horn had blown. Thought then she was referencing something —”
“There aren’t any unicorns.” Matthias shook his head. “If they ever existed, they’ve been extinct for thousands of years.”
“Along with elves, dwarves, dryads, and honor.” Jormun straightened. “This world has become so…” He exhaled. “Small.” Then he glanced at the mirror. “If Gabriel went with Adam, then Adam will know where Gabriel is being held.” He glanced at where Adele was standing. “Would you mind getting hold of Christophe? Let him know what is going on and ask him to please get in touch with Zeke. Then I’d like him and Lykos —”
“Lykos is alive?” Khait’s head came up abruptly.
“Oh.” Jormun winced. “Yeah, that’s going to be awkward.” He glanced at Khait. “Does this whole djinn thing make you vulnerable to blunt force trauma?”
“Well…” Khait shook his head. “No, not really.”
“Right.” Jormun turned back to Adele. “Then I’d like him and Lykos on the next plane here.”
“No problem.” Adele nodded before taking her cell phone out of her pocket and stepping away.
“Who is Lykos?” Abigail glanced at Khait.
“Well, honestly…” Khait shrugged. “He’s kind of a dick.”
“He’s awesome.” Coraline glared at Khait. “You’re a dick.”
The big house should have been a little more comfortable than the tents. The nature of the man who owned it, however, was a concern. He had to take a few deep breaths before entering the room currently occupied by said owner. “Alright.” Michaels glanced at the other man. He had to admit, Jim Gordon was a little easier on the nerves than Jormun Wotan. Fortunately, the guy seemed aware of that, and had returned to the form of the slender young man. Erilon had noted that it also served to make it likely anyone spying on them would miss the dragon’s presence in their group. “Your man, Tobias, confirmed the upload of the files.”
“Zeke should have little difficulty with the encryptions.” Jormun glanced at him. “I looked at your military record. It’s exemplary.” He raised an eyebrow. “Yet you left.”
“Things were…” Michaels shook his head. “I prefer to know what I’m fighting for.” He folded his arms, then glanced over his shoulder. Erilon was probably listening in… Yep. But there was no one else around at the moment. “Khait told us a little about you. He said…” He exhaled. “A lot of things. You’re going up against your own kind here.”
Jormun chuckled. “I’m coming to the aid of one of my kind, assuming your theory about Adam is correct.”
“Yeah, he…” Michaels shrugged. “You’re one of these nephilim, right? The first one. You just inherited dragon power or…”
“Absorbed may be a better word that inherited.” Jormun shrugged. “I was standing twenty feet from my father when Gabriel killed him. Much of —”
“Wait a minute.” His head came up, and he stared. “Gabriel killed your father?” He swallowed.
It was a few moments before Jormun responded. “My mother was an elf. Elven children always come in twins…” Jim leaned against a column, folding his own arms. “But my father only needed one child to test his little theory.” He exhaled. “Five seconds after my sister took her first breath, he ate her.” Jormun met Michaels’ eyes. “I assure you, I have no hard feelings toward Gabriel. Quite the contrary, in fact.”
That was good to know. And he is telling the truth. That was also good to know, and definitely a relief. “How much more powerful is Merlin than you?” Michaels grabbed a chair, turned it around, then sat down, folding his arms on the chair back.
“To be blunt?” Jormun waved a hand. “About the same scale as the power difference between yourself and Matthias.”
“That…” Michaels closed his eyes, and took a couple deep breaths. “Really wasn’t the kind of answer I was hoping for.” Then he opened his eyes. “But you’re willing to take the guy on? Because Coraline asked for…?”
“Michaels…” Jormun shook his head, then went over to the cooler and took out two beers. “You’re fully human, with no special abilities save a demonic GPS system and whatever ordinance you can carry. Yet you are here, willing to take on the king of the dragons and his private army.” He opened the beers, then offered Michaels one. “Why?”
“Because…” Michaels laughed softly before taking the beer. “Because I’m just stupid that way.”
“Well, then…” Jormun raised his bottle. “Cheers.”
“Cheers.” Michaels clinked his bottle against Jim’s before taking a drink.
Adele looked up as Abigail sat down across from her. Jim has relocated them to a property he apparently owned in the area, a small manor house. A couple people had to double up on rooms but considering how many of them appeared to be in relationships there had been no complaining. “Can I…” She started to raise an eyebrow.
“You’re dating…” Abigail put her hands on the table. “A dragon.”
“You’re dating a demon.” She glanced over at where a couple of the others were visible. “That guy’s dating a werewolf, that guy —”
“Yeah, and that’s weird enough.” Abigail shook her head. “I mean…” She glanced over to see one of the others watching them, then gestured for him to join them. It took Adele a moment to remember the guy’s name. Ash something. He wore what looked to be a leather dog collar. “Did you know he was a dragon when you met him?”
“It was…” Adele leaned back. “Complicated.”
“Woof?” Ash raised an eyebrow.
“What?” Adele glanced at him.
Ash wrinkled his nose, then glanced at Abigail. “Ash has trouble talking sometimes. I think uh…” Abigail chewed her lip a moment as she looked at Ash again. “He wants to know how long you’ve been dating?” Ash nodded, and Abigail smiled.
“Little over a year now.” She looked Ash over again. “You’re with Magda, yes?”
“Woof.” Ash nodded. His hand slid up to touch the collar, then he put his hands on the table. His eyes widened a little when she frowned, then he shook his head and pointed at the collar. “Woof.” He smiled.
“He wears it because he likes it.” Abigail patted Ash’s shoulder. Ash nodded again.
“That’s good.” Adele glanced at her phone when it buzzed. Greg had convinced Yala to stand down. She smiled, feeling a bit relieved. Zeke had confirmed to Jim that the Cabal had been behind Xue, noting that apparently it had been this Adam fellow who’d been sent to wipe out Xue’s operation. Yala, however, was still holding a grudge over the matter. She started to move away, and then Ash put his hand on hers. “Ash?”
“Woof?” He looked up at her, his eyes huge. When she just gave him a questioning look, he glanced at Abigail. “Woof?”
Abigail frowned. “I don’t know what you’re asking.”
“Woof.” Ash took a deep breath. Then he took another before looking back at Adele. He gave her a frustrated look and made a slight whimpering sound.
She turned her hand over to grip his, then smiled at him. “He’s going to help your friends, Ash. He gave his word.”
“Woof?” Ash gave her a hopeful look.
“I…” Adele nodded. “Do you know about the Shepherds?”
A small chuffing sound came from Ash. Abigail gave a small nod. “Khait’s mentioned them, a little. He said they are the Fey.”
“He’s right…” Adele shrugged. “And wrong. They are the true fey, while things like pixies and stuff are apparently hybrids of some sort. The Shepherds are more primordial, sort of tied to the elements, only it’s a little more complicated than the whole air, fire, water, earth thing.” She squeezed Ash’s hand gently before releasing it. “A long time ago, they were humanity’s guides and protectors. They taught us magic, fire, everything that makes us different from animals. Dwarves taught humans how to build the first forges, dryads how to plant the first seeds, and…” She smiled. “His mother was one of them.”
“But he’s, I mean…” Abigail rubbed her neck. “Look, I’m a history major. I’ve read up on the whole Viking Norse Ragnarok thing. Jormungandr is the harbinger of the apocalypse.”
“I asked him about that.” She nodded. “Back when I was trying to decide if I was going to go on a second date with him. He said that story definitely had truth to it.”
“Woof?” Ash stared at her, slightly incredulous.
“And you went out with him again?” Abigail gave her a skeptical look.
“That particular apocalypse already happened, ending the time of the gods.” She looked down, then sighed. “The Shepherds were persuaded that it was time for humanity to walk on its own, and they began to withdraw. But there were the Nephilim, and most of those were half-human. They stayed, and began to amass power, growing stronger as humans started worshiping them. They…” She shrugged. “Became gods. A lot of the old myths began then, and…” She leaned back. “Anyway, at the encouragement of the Nephilim, humans began hunting the Shepherds so that the Nephilim could steal power from them. Jormun…” She’d found herself putting her arm around him when he’d told her he could still remember the sound of his siblings’ voices. “Some of the Shepherds came to him for protection, and uh…”
“Woof.” Ash’s voice sounded mournful.
“He couldn’t save them all.” Abigail swallowed.
“The ones he couldn’t save, he avenged. The World Serpent, tearing apart Valhalla and Olympus and…” She shrugged. “To destroy the abode of the gods.” She looked up. “He was fighting them when the Horsemen came, even fought alongside them, and so when they killed the rest of the Nephilim they left him alone. He was more powerful by then, powerful enough that many had forgotten he was Nephilim and considered him one of the dragons.” She met Ash’s eyes. “I believe they are wrong. I believe Jormun is a Shepherd.”