“Damn.” Aelfgar drained his glass and passed it back to Doug for a refill. The kid kept good whisky in stock, and he wasn’t stingy with it, either. “I fucked that one up pretty badly. And the damn thing got away from us.” Doug passed his glass back, and he took another long gulp. “I don’t blame the boy for going after his kid, though. Took balls, and he pulled it off, too.”
Another gulp. “I owe you, Luke, and I owe that boy, and those kids.” Luke, drinking his own rotgut, didn’t bother trying to deny it, or make noises about how it wasn’t his fault. They all knew it was.
“What are you going to do?”
“Track the fucker down.” He finished the glass and passed it back, unsurprised to see Doug glance at Luke, somewhat surprised to see the tiny nod the second man gave. “Exterminate him and any Nedetakaei that get in my way.”
“Nice, simple plan,” Luke commented dryly. “No pesky details to get in the way.”
“Do I tell you how to do your job?” he complained.
“Every chance you get, old man. You said it took you and a pack of so’jers to take out the last nest. How are you going to handle this one on your own?”
It was an entirely reasonable question. It didn’t make Aelfgar want to punch the smartmouthed full-blood any less. “With help, you blasted Mara,” he snarled into his whisky. “But I’m still going to do it.” He downed the glass. “Gotta.”
“Mmm,” Luke nodded. Doug just drank more.
“Talkative family, aintcha?”
“Yup,” the Mara smirked. Just as easy to piss off as they were talkative. Aelfgar had been trying for years to get a rise out of this one.
No use in it, he was just feeling cranky and putting off what he had to do. He pulled a knife from his boot, careful to make no sudden moves – they were all still on edge – and set it between him and Doug. It was a good blade, rowan with a bone hilt, the carvings worn smooth in places. “This is for your girls.” He enunciated carefully, tasting how the whisky was slowing him down and working around it. “For the thorn. They’re damn good warriors.”
Doug picked up the knife and turned it over, noting Aelfgar’s glyph in the carvings. “I’ll tell them you said that.”
“Do that.” He pulled five bone beads from his braids and pushed them across the table. “One for each of you. One for each of the kids. One for the boy who went and rescued them – for him, not his ice bitch of a mistress, and fuck tradition there. I owe you all.”
Luke pocketed four of the tokens and passed the other to his son without comment. Aelfgar shot a rueful look at his empty glass and lumbered to his feet. “I got one more errand to do here, then I’ll be outta your hair. I’ll let you know when I’ve killed the critter.”
“Errand?” Doug didn’t trust him. At the moment, Aelfgar didn’t really blame him, but it was still irritating.
“I gotta go talk to my son.”
One of his sons. He had several here, he was pretty sure, and an uncounted number scattered across the globe. But one in particular, he wanted to have a chat with. And he hoped the boy’s sister wasn’t there. That might get awkward. Aelfgar’s daughters rarely liked him.
Most of the buzz had burned off by the time he made it to the boy’s room. He thought about trying to clean himself up, but decided there was no point in being dishonest. He might produce the best-groomed sons on seven continents, but he was still a grizzled old biker, whether he tidied up or not.
The boy’s look when he answered the door almost made him regret his decision. Aelfgar had never met a more arrogant get, and he was looking him up and down with plenty of disdain and no fear at all.
“Yngvi.” Damned if he’d be sneered at by a whelp a fraction of his age, but he needed the kid to listen to him.
“Aelfgar, right? Come in, if you wish.” He sounded resigned about it rather than at all welcoming. Brat.
“Thank you.” He shut the door behind him and looked at the boy he and – what was her name again? So very stern and so very fiery under the sternness. Amanda. – The boy he and Amanda had made. There was a lot of strength there, as firm as his mother, and as good-looking. Probably caused him problems. “I need to talk to you.”
“It’s a bit late for the birds and the bees.” He gestured at one of the chairs, and the old warrior sank into it.
“Aye, and not my job, either.” The boy sat on the edge of his bed, straight-backed and prim.
“Then what?” There was no give to this boy – every inch his mother’s son. Aelfgar wondered if she’d ever married, or if carrying his bastard had shortened her chances too far. He wondered at the sudden pang of concern for a woman he could barely remember.
“I gotta talk to you about your friend.” What had they said she called herself? “Shahin, the little dark one.”
“I wouldn’t think she’s your type.”
“Damn it, boy, get over yourself long enough to listen to me!”
“Seems an inability to get over oneself is a family trait,” he snapped back. It was so prissy and so right on the mark that Aelfgar couldn’t help laughing.
“You got me,” he admitted. “But, seriously, boy… Yngvi, really, Yngvi, this is important. Your friend Shahin and her boy, they got in a lot of trouble.”
He sighed, put-out. “What did that hooligan talk her into now?”
Aelfgar shook his head warningly. “He may be a little punk, but this time he did something right. Tried at least. Poor kid.”
“Poor kid? The bully that’s been leading Shahin around on a leash for weeks now is a ‘poor kid?’”
“He’s also the kid that attacked a dragon to try to rescue her.” Aelfgar shook his head. “More balls than sense; if I didn’t know better, I’d think he was mine.”
“Thanks so much. Wait. A dragon, you said?”
“A monster,” he agreed. “An evil bastard of a monster, that snuck into the school and decided to take your friends as a trophy.”
“And you’re sitting here talking to me? Why aren’t you out there rescuing her?”
He couldn’t help grinning, but answered quickly, before the kid flipped out, “Emrys’ father already did.”
“Emrys’ father? And what about Sheen’s?”
“Ah, well, that’s a story for another day. But they’re back, and probably out of Dr. Caitrin’s by now. But I wanted to let you know, since you’re her friend, if not his.”
“Let me know what, exactly?”
Ah, and there was the awkward part. How much to tell was too much, and how much too little? He’d never been any good at the subtle shit.
Hell, and no-one expected him to be, either. “They’re going to be in bad shape. Caitrin’s a good healer. She can fix all the physical damage, probably has already.”
“Physical damage.” He looked a little shell-shocked. “She’s hurt?”
“They’ve been healed. But they went through a lot of shit. They were in really bad shape when Ambrus brought them back.”
It looked like he was getting through to him; the boy nodded slowly. “You’re saying she was tortured.”
“I’m saying they were both tortured. That they both nearly died. They’re going to need a lot of help to get through the next few months sane.” He frowned balefully. “And they’re going to need each other. So whatever problem you have with that boy…”
Yngvi held up a hand imperiously. “I understand.” He slumped and dropped the hand. “I don’t understand what they’ve been doing, or why, but Emrys has helped me out a couple times. I’ll do what I can for both of them. And if he really attacked a dragon to rescue her…”
“He did,” Aelfgar confirmed. “Whatever else you can say about him, he’s willing to walk through fire for her.”
“I’ll do what I can, then. And I’ll tell Ayla. She’s been a mess.” He frowned suspiciously at Aelfgar. “Why are you telling me this?”
“You need to understand. They’re tough kids, they deserve to have someone help them through this. And… you’re my son, for whatever that’s worth.”
“An unpronounceable name and some blonde hair, it seems like. And, apparently, ‘turning out queer.’ Thanks.”
“Don’t forget the temper,” Aelfgar added dryly. “I’m not real good in the parenting department.”
“Thanks. But…” He pulled off two more bone beads. Lucky he was gonna kill something soon; he was running out. “If you or Aelgifu ever need anything from me, just call. Regine has a number I can be reached at. So does Luke.”
Yngvi looked down at the beads uncertainly. “Thanks,” he muttered. “Thanks for telling me.”
“Yeah, well.” Aelfgar shrugged and shoved the chair back, standing abruptly. “I gotta go kill a dragon.”
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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