Laura smiled at Adam’s sister. Coraline’s power appeared to be the ability to make plants grow, and she was walking around the house sprucing up the houseplants. And telling stories about what Adam was like as a kid. “…gigantic doofus. Instead of just telling me where it was, he climbed back over to the other side of the roof and tried to jump to the oak tree.” Coraline gave the spider plant a critical look before gesturing wildly. “Lost his grip and boom…” She slammed one hand into the other. “Went right through Mom’s brand-new picnic table. Dad comes tearing out of the house, totally panicked because he’s convinced Adam just broke every bone in his body. And then Adam just sort of stands up, dusts himself off, and you know what he went and did then?”
“What?” Laura grinned. It will be good, to reunite her and Adam. Especially for him. I agree.
“He had the nerve to point at me and say I started —” Coraline cut off as the front door opened to admit two men. “Grumpy and Doc!” She started for them.
She glanced up to see Magda already on her way down the stairs and followed Coraline. The bigger of the two men was shaking his head, while the smaller returned Coraline’s hug. “What say about Disney?” The bigger man raised an eyebrow at Coraline.
“Rodents should be squashed, not allowed to run movie studios.” Coraline gestured. “These are Laura and Magda. Laura and Magda, this is Grumpy —” She gestured at the older man.
“Lykos.” The younger man rolled his eyes.
“And Doc.” She gestured at the younger.
“Christophe.” The younger man held out a hand to her. Laura noted he was wearing a silver collar, marked with runes.
“Nice to meet you.” She accepted the handshake.
Coraline leaned toward Lykos. “There is a guy here named Khait and he’s scared of you.”
“Good.” Lykos picked up his bag. “Should be.”
“Maybe I should take you to Jormun before…” Magda gave a slight shake of her head, then she gave Christophe a second look. She leaned slightly forward to peer at the collar, then her eyes widened a little before she looked up at him. “I haven’t seen dwarven silver that potent in centuries. Where did you get it?”
“From…” Christophe glanced at Lykos.
Magda froze, and then slowly turned to look at Lykos. Oh. Lykos smirked. “Mine.” He gestured at Christophe before heading toward the stairs. Christophe followed. “Don’t touch.”
Wren glanced at where Adam sat. His eyes were closed, and his fingers were drumming against his legs as though he were listening to music. The talisman was warm against her skin, ensuring he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It was tempting to hold it over a candle flame, just to get some reaction from him. Unless she gave him a direct order or took control of him, he was ignoring her completely. “You are so immature.” He didn’t respond. Almost two days had passed since he’d last said a word to her.
There had been no response from the team she’d sent to collect Coraline, and the second team reported that neither the girl nor the first team could be found. And worse, Merlin hadn’t responded to her message either. The opportunity of a lifetime, and Adam had blown it for her. The powder she was mixing turned a pale yellow. At least her magic was still working properly. Carefully, she poured the powder into the waiting paper envelopes.
Her information was that Matthias’s group had left the dig site, but she couldn’t discount the possibility that they’d return. Getting one of her agents in, however, shouldn’t difficult. She sealed the envelopes, then rang the bell on the door. Sybille entered a few seconds later. “Take these to Colette and remind her to contact me immediately if they are sighted.”
“Of course.” Sybille took the tray and nodded before exiting.
She turned back toward Adam. His eyes were still closed, and his fingers were still moving, but she knew he was aware of everything going on around him. “We can’t work through our problems if you won’t talk to me.” She sighed as she went to sit down across from him. “Adam.” She put a hand on his knee, and he didn’t open his eyes. “Come on. Let’s go to that museum you like. The orange one, or whatever it’s called.” She sighed. “Look, I’m sorry. I should have sent a better team to get Coraline.” She rubbed his leg. “Don’t worry, they’ll find her.”
No response. She took her hand away, then sighed and stood. “I know you are disappointed you didn’t get to see your sister, but…” This was twice now she’d promised him he could take Coraline to Disneyland, and twice now she’d failed. No wonder he’d been angry enough to… “I’m going to make this right, Adam.” She brushed his hair from his face before going back to her workbench. “I promise.”
It would be nice, having Coraline here. If the girl could do magic, then she could be Wren’s apprentice. With the three of them, perhaps they could even run one of the strongholds. She smiled. She’d be back in Merlin’s good graces soon enough.
“Well?” Jormun raised an eyebrow at Lykos.
He looked up from where he was examining the ring. “Three hours.”
“Wait…” Bridget looked down at the ring before looking back at the man. “You’re saying you can duplicate this in three hours?”
“Duplicate?” Lykos shook his head. “No. Dismantle. Duplicating quality dragon work?” Lykos shrugged. “Five hours.” He frowned. “Will need supplies.”
“You can set me free…” Khait stared at him. “In three hours?”
“Could.” Lykos nodded.
“But you’re not going to.” Khait folded his arms.
“But not going to.” Lykos smiled, then patted Bridget’s hand. “All yours.”
“I hate you.” Khait glared. “So very, very much.”
“Let me get this straight…” Matthias tilted his head. “This guy is a dwarf.” He pointed at Lykos. Then he shook her head. “He’s almost as tall as I am.”
“Order the supplies you need.” Jormun nodded to Lykos. “We may have to transfer, then dismantle.”
“Need a witch.” Lykos shrugged.
“Laura will assist you.” Jormun stepped back to let Lykos pass before looking at Matthias. “Yes, he’s a dwarf.” He glanced at the door Lykos had gone through. “He also happens to be my grandson.”
Matthias sighed. “So, we’ve got a plan.”
“The sooner we locate Adam, the better.” Jormun folded his arms. “We have no way of knowing how much Gabriel weakened Merlin, but it would be best not to delay.”
“Could Merlin kill you?” Bridget looked up at Jormun. “I mean…”
“He could.” Jormun nodded. “If he were willing to take the risk.”
“Is it…” Khait frowned.
“Khait?” Bridget glanced at him.
Khait looked up at Jormun. “Did they give you a seal?”
“Given my feelings at the time, do you really think I could have been trusted with such a thing?” Jormun raised an eyebrow. “There are pacts in play. If Merlin violates them, the others will turn against him. Since killing Merlin is beyond my ability, those same pacts do not apply to me.” He twitched a shoulder. “If Merlin were going to kill me, he’d have done it after Rome.” He straightened, then glanced at Matthias. “If we don’t get a lead soon I’m going to have you walk through Paris and see who takes a swing.”
“I’m game.” Matthias grinned.
Christophe glanced at the young man who was looking at his collar. Ash wore a collar of his own, which apparently was reason enough for Ash to decide he and Christophe were friends. “It sparkles.” Ash smiled.
“Yeah.” He touched the collar.
“There is no lock.” Ash bent his head, peering at the collar. “Nobody can take it off you.”
He thought he heard a note of jealousy in the other man’s voice. “I like yours. The stamping on the leather is nice.”
Ash grinned. “Magda had it made special for me, when we went to Arizona.” He shifted a little. “Sima messed with my old one, and it wasn’t…” He caressed the collar. “Then Magda killed her and gave me this one.”
“My, uh…” Christophe swallowed. “Lykos had made me one before, out of iron. They cut it off me.” He shrugged. “Silver though, can hold a spell. I asked Lykos what would happen if anyone tried to cut this one off, and he uh…” Christophe shook his head. “Well he just sort of laughed, so yeah.” He looked Ash over. “Magda is a werewolf?”
“She saved me.” Ash nodded. “Her and Stephan.” He pointed over at where a man was frowning at a computer screen. “He’s a witch.” He tilted his head up at Christophe. “Do you have magic?”
“No.” Christophe looked over at Stephan. According to Adele’s notes, Stephan apparently canceled magic in vicinity. Laura could generate electricity, and Daniel was a healer. Abigail, Bridget, and Michaels had no magic. “You?”
Despite having been assured the young man did not, he was surprised to see Ash shift a little. “Almost.”
“It’s not mine.” Ash shook his head. “He just lets me borrow a little, so I can protect our friends while he’s away.” He twitched a shoulder. “Why don’t Khait and Lykos like each other?”
“I asked Lykos.” Christophe sighed. “Apparently Khait thinks he is funny.”
“Khait is funny.” Ash frowned. “Except when he sends Magda to the desert.”
“Where are you heading?” Michaels raised an eyebrow at Matthias.
“Just to check on the professor and the kids.” Matthias picked up the keys to the van. “I don’t think they are in danger, but uh…” He glanced at Daniel. “Worry-wort here…”
“Mind if we tag along?” Stephan glanced up from the computer, then stood.
“Aren’t you needed for…” Matthias jerked his head at the computer.
“I thought I was, but uh…” Stephan shrugged. “Whoever Tobias and Zeke are, they’ve definitely got the IT shit handled.”
“And I could use some time away from all this magic shit.” Michaels sighed.
“He said, to the witches and werewolf.” Daniel grinned.
“You know…” Michaels tossed Stephan his cane. “What I mean.”
Professor Kravitz smiled. “I appreciate you checking in, but…” He shrugged. “It’s been quite.” He glanced around to make sure no one was listening, then lowered his voice. “Was that fellow able to help?”
“You, uh…” Matthias sighed. “Yeah, that fellow.”
“Turns out we probably should have asked Lidia what Coraline was doing in Holland, cause uh…” Daniel shrugged. “Remember how Khait was telling us about the three remaining Nephilim?”
“Yes, he…” Professor Kravitz trailed off. “That was…” He gave Matthias a horrified look. “But you threatened him.”
“Fortunately for Matthias, Jormun decided to have a sense of humor about the whole situation.” Michaels chuckled. “I’m starting to actually like the guy.”
“I…” Professor Kravitz looked around the tent. “We don’t have enough booze for this conversation.” He gestured to one of the grad students. “Be a dear and bring me the black case from my tent?”
“Sure, Professor.” The woman smiled before heading off.
“I wish I could head back with you, just for…” Professor Kravitz rubbed his neck. “I mean, some of what Khait told me was fascinating, but to speak to an actual dragon would…”
“Don’t forget the dwarf.” Stephan snickered.
“The…” Professor Kravitz’s eyes widened.
“The guy is bigger than Michaels.” Daniel laughed. Then he shrugged. “Though from the sound of it, if we can get our hands on the talisman, Lykos can set Adam free.”
“That is…” The Professor trailed off as the student returned, carrying a black case. He waited for her to leave again before opening it. “Very good to know.” He started pouring caramel colored liquid into cups. “I’m fairly sure you are not twenty-one yet…” He smiled at Daniel. “But the drinking age in France is 18, so cheers.” He handed Daniel one of the cups before passing out the others. “Getting the talisman back would have been good enough, but I’m glad that young man will be truly free.” He took a sip. “I’m looking forward to having him as a student.”
“Kid deserves a shot at a normal life.” Michaels nodded.
“Got to say…” Matthias grinned. “Daniel and I were talking about taking a couple of your lectures, should we ever get some downtime.”
“You are?” Professor Kravitz raised an eyebrow.
“Ash left the book you wrote on the interactions of Viking and Celtic mythology out where Matthias could find it.” Daniel took a sip, then grinned. “Oh, this is good.” Then he coughed a little. “Anyway, his dad is in it.”
“Oh.” Professor Kravitze blinked. “Well, I…” He nodded to Matthias. “You are welcome to take a look at my primary sources if you’d like.”
“I would.” Matthias took a drink, then grinned. “This is good stuff.”
“I think Khait may have gotten it for me.” The Professor chuckled. “It was in my office about a year or so ago and I’m not entirely sure how it got there, but it was just after I gave Bridget a glowing recommendation.”
“You know…” Stephan held up the cup before taking another drink. “I think we are underutilizing him.”
Matthias frowned, then gave a small shake of his head. An itch crawled up his spine, making him feel slightly dizzy. He shook his head again, trying to dispel the sensation. “Matthias?” Michaels leaned forward. “You okay?”
He looked up and saw the woman who had brought the case standing off by herself, watching them. There was a small smile on her face. The cup fell out of his hand. “Run.”
“Matthias…” Daniel blinked.
His claws emerged as he shook his head again, trying to dispel the rage rising in him. Red haze surrounded the edges of his vision. A snarl tore from his throat. “Run.”