“This is bullshit,” I growled. I’d had it. Enough was enough. Chester’s nightclub at 939 Rêvemal Street had gone dark two years, one month, four days, and seventeen hours ago, not that I was keeping track or anything; the Fae-run club Elyreum on Rinot Avenue had taken its place, the Nine were gone, and the last I’d heard Christian was somewhere in Scotland, holed up in an ancient crumbling castle (shades of Unseelie King anyone?) with powerful wards placed at a seventy-five-mile perimeter around him to keep everyone out. Or him in. No one seemed sure.
Now someone or something had taken my bookstore. The universe continued erasing the best parts of my life.
Squaring my shoulders, I stalked to the empty lot where the garage should have been and studied the concrete, looking for wards, spells, any hint of illusion or glamour.
Nothing. Both buildings were simply gone.
As was my promise.
I knew nothing about what was going on with Mac, and had no way of contacting her. Had she established control over the Fae court? Taken them away and tidied up after herself? The bookstore was a site of immense power that she and Barrons would never leave lying around for someone else to exploit or claim.
Feeling oddly lost without my Mecca—Dublin just wasn’t Dublin without BB&B—I spun away and was nearly back to the street when I felt a rumble beneath my feet, paused and cocked my head, listening intently. There it was again faintly, so faintly I’d almost missed it, even with my superb hearing. The baying of an animal. A wounded animal from the sound of it. Badly wounded. Not a wolf. Something…Fae? Terrible sound. Pain, so much pain.
I’ll never let you be lost again.
Out of the blue, Ryodan’s voice exploded in my head, deep and faintly mocking. I had no idea how that memory escaped incarceration from the high security ward of my disciplined brain. All my “that man” memories were under strict house arrest, locked down tight. I didn’t think about Ryodan anymore.
There’d been a time the sheer number of superheroes in Dublin had annoyed me. Now I was a wolf without a pack. There’d been a time everyone had wanted me to open up, let them in. I’d complied; a word I can barely think inside my head even when it’s the right thing to do, without hackles sprouting like poison ivy all over my body. And what did they do?
I was feeling as volatile as my Hel-Cat but the bookstore’s disappearance was the last straw.
It began to rain, further dampening my mood. Rain is just what Ireland does. You’d think I’d be used to it. I hold a deep, personal grudge against rain: it makes my hair go curly and wild, completely undermining the cool, composed look I like to project to the world.
Breathing deep, I kicked up into the slipstream where I could avoid the raindrops. Unless animals began attacking Dublin, whatever was baying wasn’t my problem. It sounded like it was dying anyway. And if such an attack did come, I knew one very hungry Hel-Cat that would relish the job.
I turned my focus back to what I excelled at: the hunt.
Dublin, or dubh-linn, “the black pool,” with its many colorful inhabitants, was my city now, more so than it had ever been, given every bloody damned one of my fellow warriors had bloody well decamped.
I would protect it.
* * *
I lost my prey at the mirror.
Or rather, I let them go, unwilling to leap blindly into a Silver with an unknown destination.
I’d been closing in fast when the three men ducked into the entrance of an abandoned, crumbling brewery on the north bank of the River Liffey. I’d shadowed them through the gloomy industrial interior and was about to ease up into the slipstream to nab them when they abruptly vanished into a wall.
I approached with caution. When the Song of Making was sung, repairing the fabric of our world, I’d thought reality would return to a semblance of normal; the Fae-induced changes to our planet would reverse; the Light Court would retreat to their own realm despite the lack of a wall between our worlds, and society would resume its usual bleating, morally ambiguous course.
In retrospect, I don’t know why I thought any of those things. Perhaps I’d just wanted a happy ending.
None of it happened. Post-Song reality was one in which the rules only became clear by interacting with them, often with unpleasant consequences. Children were being born with unusual gifts—although I’d call some of them curses; objects didn’t always function quite like one had every rational reason to expect; doors didn’t consistently go where you thought they would; and mirrors were the most unreliable of all—even human ones.
Magic burned in the planet, more potent than ever, as if the ancient melody had penetrated deep into the Earth, crooning in dangerously random fashion “Awaken.” Everything had gotten more juice, even us sidhe-seers.
The many new elements of unpredictability had changed my behavior. I traveled in the slipstream only for short distances now, under calculated circumstances. There was too much I needed to see, less I could take for granted, and I absorbed few details moving in a higher dimension.
I skirted a large vat to get a closer look at the Silver. Embedded in stained and crumbling brick, a narrow black opening rippled in the wall, three inches from the floor, stretching all the way up to decaying rafters. Something about the slender, dark aperture made my blood run a little colder.
A gust of stifling air belched from the shivering surface, reeking of wood smoke and—I cocked my head, sniffing—old copper, perhaps blood. Distantly, I heard a rhythmic chant, thousands of voices—perhaps tens of thousands—repeating something over and over in a nearly hypnotic cadence.
It wasn’t English. I didn’t recognize the language.
I eased warily closer, kicking through several inches of litter and broken bottles, sending a small horde of roaches skittering into shadowy corners of the room. All mirrors debut on my dangerous list; few of them work their way off it. I wasn’t even willing to put one in my bathroom until it underwent rigorous testing.
A person with normal hearing would have heard nothing coming from the dark glass, but I’m not normal. I catch the gentle whoosh of air displacement as people move; if I lay my ear to the earth, I hear countless insects wriggling and tunneling in the top layer of soil. I still couldn’t decipher the words but the indistinct chant was now threaded by thin, distant, bloodcurdling screams.
I narrowed my eyes, focusing my sidhe-seer gifts on the inky darkness as if I might penetrate the veil. Still, I saw nothing but a narrow stream of roaches, climbing the few inches of wall and vanishing into the glass. Too bad I didn’t have one of Dancer’s handy little wireless cameras to attach to one, see if I could get a glimpse at the other side. I wondered if they were normal Earth roaches, or part of the disgusting Papa Roach that used to hang at Chester’s. Unfortunately, they’re indistinguishable to me.
I backpedaled from the wall and squirted up into the slipstream a half a second before the mirror exploded, spraying razor-sharp splinters of dark glass across the floor.
I’d felt it coming. A vibration on the other side, as if the blow of whatever implement or spell had struck it required a second or more to reach my side of the portal.
By the time I dropped down again and crunched across broken glass and still more roaches, the wall was just a wall, access to my prey gone.
It changed nothing. Four children had been driven into the streets to their certain death. For amusement. There aren’t many things I hold sacred. Kids are one of them.
I never forget. Never stop until I finish my job. The men’s faces were etched into my memory. Their time would come.
I stalked through the brewery, restless, unsatisfied. It was nearly dawn, that liminal time when night became day, villains vanished, and vengeance got shelved. I spend my day doing normal things like laundry, cleaning, checking in at the orphanage, modifying and monitoring my many obligations, dropping by the abbey to train Initiates and catch some time to read the latest translations. I derive a great deal of satisfaction from doing my part to make our world safer. Tonight I’d failed and it would be twelve long hours before I got to try again. As dangerous as night in Dublin was, day ran fairly smoothly, as if darkness and light had struck a compact of their own, apportioning order to the day and chaos to the night.
I like the nights better. Carpe noctem not diem. My days drag. Night’s when I feel most alive.
I banged out the door and exploded into the wet, foggy morning, tucking my head against a hard drizzle.