This book should be available now, so this is the last snippet.
His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 41
“I am a runemyste,” Namid said, in a voice like a hard rain. “And you are a runecrafter. Or a weremyste, if you prefer. It is these others who should bear names of a different sort.”
I glanced his way. “So you admit that there are others.”
The myste frowned. “Would it not be foolish of me to do otherwise? I have said many times, have I not, that my kind guard against the use of dark magic in your world.”
“Yes, you’ve said that, but . . .” I shook my head, the frustration of the past few days spilling over. “But you say it in a way that makes it sound like dark magic is a random occurrence, that you’re here to guard against men like Cahors, who present a threat that’s real, but isolated.”
“And so I am.”
“But it’s more than that, isn’t it?”
“I do not understand what you are asking.”
I couldn’t tell if the myste was being purposefully obtuse, or if this was simply the hazard of communicating with a centuries-old being who saw the world in a fundamentally different way. On most occasions, this would have been when I threw up my hands and surrendered. Not today.
“I’m asking why you’ve concealed from me the fact that your war with dark weremystes is ongoing. I’m asking why you’ve effectively lied to me for more than seven years.”
“I do not believe I have,” he said, his waters riffling as from a scything wind.
“There’s a war going on.”
I looked at him again, though I didn’t dare take my eyes off the road for too long. I could imagine dark sorcerers coming after me in a whole fleet of those sleek silver sedans.
“Yes,” he said after a long pause.
“And it didn’t occur to you to mention this to me until now?”
“It occurred to me many times. I did not believe you were ready to know the entirety of this truth.”
“I’m not a kid, Namid. I know I’m not as skilled as you’d like me to be, and I know that I disappoint you more often than not. But I took down Cahors, and that should have earned me some modicum of consideration, of respect.”
“You have my respect, Ohanko, and have for longer than you know. Why would I expend so much time on your training if I did not respect your crafting and your mind?”
This was without a doubt the kindest thing he had ever said to me, and yet it served only to make me more angry.
“You’ve got a pretty twisted way of showing respect.”
“I am sorry you feel that way.”
We fell into a lengthy silence, until at last I said, “Well?”
“Bloody hell, ghost! Are you going to tell me what’s going on or not?”
“I still am not certain you are ready to hear all of it.”
“I don’t give a god-damn! Somebody’s trying to kill me. Someone came within a hair’s breadth of killing Billie. Someone is tormenting my Dad. And that doesn’t even begin to get at the stuff I’ve been hired to find out. Whether you think I’m ready or not, I’m in it now. And I want to understand it — the risks and the stakes.”
“I should have asked sooner. How is Billie?”
I felt much of the anger I’d directed at the myste sluice away. “She’s better, thank you. But I almost lost her. And I’m afraid I’m losing my father. I need your help, Namid.”
“And what do I get in exchange?”
He couldn’t have surprised me more if he had asked to borrow money from me. In spite of everything, a small laugh escaped me. “What do you want?”
He appeared to consider the question for a few moments. “I am not a ghost,” he said. “You know this, and yet you insist on referring to me as such again and again. I would prefer you did not.”
I laughed again, shook my head. “Wow. Okay. I’ll . . . I’ll try to stop calling you a ghost.”
“You will try?”
“Some habits are hard to break.”
Again he weighed this before nodding. “Very well.”
We lapsed once more into silence, until I wondered if he expected me to ask more questions. But eventually he began on his own.
“You know the history of the runemystes,” he said, his voice as deep as a mountain lake. “How we were sacrificed by the Runeclave so that we might forever be guardians of magic in your world. Often omitted from that history is the fact that some in the Runeclave saw a different path for those skilled in runecrafting. They wished to make war on the non-magical, to become dominant. When the Runeclave created the runemystes, these dissenting weremystes sought to do something similar.
“Theirs, though, was not an act of sacrifice or self-abnegation. They used blood magic to take immortality for themselves. They became immortal as well, and their powers are similar to ours. And so some might say that there is little difference between us. But there is an inherent darkness in what they are and in their crafting. They are corrupt in the truest sense of the word. I have heard it said that they rarely appear to humans or even to ordinary weremystes, because the stench of decay clings to them still, even after so many centuries.”
“So, you’re telling me that there’s a war between the runemystes and these other . . .”
“My kind call them necromancers: beings who have taken power from the realm of the dead. And yes that is what I am telling you. Surely you knew much of this already.”
I shook my head, blew out a long breath. “I thought there were weremystes who were dabbling in dark magic. It never occurred to me that they would have allies as powerful as you.” I tapped a finger on the steering wheel, thinking. “So then Cahors was one of them?”
“No. As I told you at the time, Etienne de Cahors was a runemyste, but he chafed at the limitations placed on my kind by the Runeclave.” Namid paused, appearing uncomfortable. “What I did not tell you then is that he was lured into disgrace by the necromancers. He was to be their prize. He could have told them much about our craftings and how they might be overcome.
“They gave him aid at the beginning, instructing him in the uses of blood magic. But he soon tired of their control. He wished to be beholden to none, to be free of the Runeclave and also of the dark ones. But he was important for other reasons.”
Something in the way Namid said this caught my ear. “What reasons?”
“They invested much in him: decades of wheedling, secrets of their evil magicking, their darkest aspirations. When he abandoned them, they were enraged. Their one consolation was that my kind were even more enraged. Their loss was great; ours was greater. We were thirty-nine. When we lost him we were thirty-eight. This pleased them, and more, it gave them a glimpse of a possible path forward from their failure. Equally important, they took note of how he died. And at whose hand.”
“Mine,” I said.
“This is why they’re so interested in me. Because I killed Cahors.”
“Because you are a weremyste who killed Cahors. The necromancers long were contemptuous of weremyste power. They had subordinates of your kind — weremancers we called them. But they never considered them more than servants to their cause. Your victory over Cahors has forced them to consider the weremancers anew, to imagine a new role for them in this war.”
“And what role is that?”
The myste shook his head. “This I do not know.”
I wanted to believe him, but I wasn’t sure that I did. He’d kept too much from me over the years.
“Do you know who was in the car that came after me right before you showed up?”
“I know it was a weremancer, but that it all.”
“So a weremyste was able to attack my heart that way?”
He shook his head. “No. I felt a second presence as well: a necromancer. It was she who attacked you. I believe the weremancer was here to . . . to finish you, as you would put it.”
I found this comforting in a strange way. I couldn’t have seized another person’s heart with magic the way the necromancer seized mine. I didn’t want to think there were other runecrafters like me out there who could. “I warded my heart from her attack. If her magic is comparable to yours, I shouldn’t have been able to do that.”
“You may have surprised her with your warding. Or she may still be familiarizing herself with your craft. Do not count on such spells working a second time.”
I nodded at that, my mind already turning in a new direction. “It’s necromancers who are hurting my father, right?”
“I do not know, Ohanko. I believe it is possible, assuming that Leander Fearsson’s suffering is not — forgive me — the product of delusion.”
“You know this?”
“I feel it,” I said. “I’m going to see him now. You’re welcome to stay with me and see him for yourself.”
“Thank you. Perhaps I will.”
We drove in silence for a minute or two. I had more questions for the myste, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to ask them, not because I thought he would refuse to respond, but because I didn’t think I’d like his answers. It didn’t take long for the cop in me to decide this was a piss-poor reason not to ask.
“Since the day I met you, you’ve been telling me that you and your fellow mystes are forbidden from interfering in our world.”
“And we still are.”
“Our laws have not changed.”
“But circumstances have. You can’t expect weremystes to fight off these necromancers without help.”
“Our expectations are irrelevant.” I started to argue, but he held up a translucent hand, stopping me. “We are what we are. Our laws help to define us. To ignore them out of expedience diminishes us, makes us little better than those you would have us fight on your behalf. We can help you, prepare you, guide you. But we cannot intervene. To do so would compromise too much.”
“You intervened with Cahors,” I said, knowing what he would say.
“This I have explained to you as well. Cahors was an anomaly, one of our own who escaped our notice. He acted on your world in large part because our vigilance slackened. We did what was necessary to undo some of the damage he wrought. This is different.”
Not the answer I had been hoping for, but I had to admit that there was a certain logic to what he said. That logic was likely to get me killed, but, hey, at least the runemystes were sticking to their principles.
“You’re putting a lot at risk,” I said. “They may be your laws, but it’s our lives you’re wagering.”
“Not yours alone.”
I frowned, looked over at him. “What do you mean?”
“Think, Ohanko. What is it the necromancers want?”
I shrugged. “Power?”
“Yes, of course. But what lies in their path to power?”
I thought about it for all of three seconds before the answer became obvious. The runemystes wouldn’t intervene directly, but what other beings would the necromancers fear? Weremystes could fight them; many of us would. We didn’t stand a chance, though, without the runemystes doing all that Namid had said they would: training us, preparing us, guiding us.
What did they want? They wanted to destroy Namid and his brethren.
“It’s you who are at risk,” I said. “I’m sorry I should have understood. The necromancers see the thirty-eight of you as the only obstacles they have to overcome.”
He nodded, solemn and slow. “That is our belief as well. You should know, however, that there are now but thirty-seven of us left.”