Authors: Kevin Hearne
Don’t miss the first three books of T
by Kevin Hearne
Two Ravens and One Crow
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
A Del Rey eBook Original
Copyright © 2012 by Kevin Hearne
by Kevin Hearne copyright © 2012 by Kevin Hearne
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Del Rey, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
and the Del Rey colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
by Kevin Hearne. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.
Cover design: Gene Mollica
What would it be like, I wonder, if humans could slobber as freely as dogs? There’s no social stigma for dogs when they slobber and it looks like a lot of fun, so I envy them that freedom. I’ve certainly wanted to slobber at various times—there are situations where nothing else makes sense—but despite having lived for 2,100 years and in many countries around the world, I have yet to find a culture where it’s even mildly acceptable, much less looked upon with approval.
I guess some things will never change.
Despite the universe’s refusal to change enduring truths according to my will, lately I’ve been wishing I could train a Druid in a five-minute karate-movie montage rather than the necessary twelve years. After ten seconds of futile effort trying to solve a problem, the initiate would abruptly improve or learn the lesson and her expression would fill with wonder, and I would award said initiate a cookie or a tight nod of approval. The initiate would bask in the glory of an achievement and then move on to the next difficult challenge for another ten seconds, and so on, until a triumphant swell of music and a slow-motion high-five signaled victory and completion. We would smile the radiant smiles of actors in fast-food commercials, merrily chuckling as we ate enough grease to make our hearts explode like meat grenades.
But training my apprentice, Granuaile, wasn’t like that at all. Shaping her mind for Druidry was rough and monotonous for both of us, yet shaping her body was fraught with peril. The peril was the sort Sir Galahad had faced at Castle Anthrax: stupefying sexual tension.
Every winter solstice, I gave my apprentice an entire wardrobe of loose, shapeless sweats, and she kept buying herself tight, form-fitting outfits to wear in the summer months. I had trained my Irish wolfhound, Oberon, to help me through it and be my Lancelot whenever Granuaile made my jaw drop, which was more often than I would care to admit. She’d go through her kicks and lunges and various stances and build up a sweat, then I’d start thinking about other ways to get sweaty, and shortly thereafter I’d need to be rescued.
Can’t I have just a little bit of peril?
I would ask Oberon through our mental link.
Granuaile picked up on the pattern after a while, unfortunately.
“Sensei?” she asked.
“Why are you always leaving about halfway through a workout to give Oberon a snack?”
“What? Well, he’s a good dog.”
“Granted, but he’s a good dog all the time, and the only times you interrupt what you’re doing to give him a snack are during workouts.”
“I reward him sometimes for using big words. And sometimes I reward him for shutting up.”
Now would be a good time to shut up
“So what did he say just now?” Granuaile asked.
“I’m sorry, but that’s classified information.”
Oberon chuffed, and Granuaile’s eyes narrowed. She knew the dog was laughing, blast him, and now she’d be determined to find out what he thought was so funny.
I was saved by the arrival of an extremely large crow. It spat out “Caw!” at Klaxon-level volume, landing on top of our trailer. It startled us all, including Oberon, who barked at it a couple of times. The bird’s eyes glowed red and he stopped, tucking his head down and retracting his tail between his legs.
“Morrigan?” I said.
The red glow faded from the crow’s eyes as she tilted her head and spoke in a throaty rasp, “Surprise, Siodhachan.” The Celtic Chooser of the Slain would never call me Atticus. The head bobbed once at my apprentice. “Granuaile.”
“What’s wrong?” I asked, because the Morrigan did not make social calls. I belatedly realized that I should have offered her refreshment or adhered to some standard of hospitality, but thankfully the Morrigan was too focused on her mission to notice my awful manners.
The crow rustled her wings and announced, “We have business to attend to. You will be gone for at least a week but perhaps two. You won’t need to bring anything, not even a weapon. Shift to your bird form and let us be gone.”
“Wait, wait. I’m going to need more of an explanation than that. Can’t my apprentice come, or my hound?”
“No. Definitely not. Our business does not concern them.”
I glanced uncertainly at Granuaile, and she shrugged.
“You say we’ll be gone two weeks?”
“At the most. But we must begin immediately. Make haste.”
Arguing with the Morrigan would be unwise. Spending at least a week with her—maybe two—would not be any wiser.
I’m doomed, aren’t I?
“You’re not doomed,” the Morrigan said, and I belatedly remembered that she could read my mind now—or at least hear thoughts that I projected. “But you will be if you don’t hurry up.”
I turned to Granuaile. “Take a few days off if you wish. You’ve earned it. But continue to practice your languages and work out every day.”
“Okay, sensei. Maybe Oberon and I will head up to Durango.” Our place in Many Farms was just over a hundred miles southwest of there. She fingered her hair, dyed a brown so dark it might as well be black. “I can get this mess fixed up. It’s time.”
Her roots were beginning to show again, which meant mine were too. Our ridiculous fake identities had served us well in this remote location; we kept to ourselves and no one really gave a damn about us. Aside from the embarrassment of our assumed names—the trickster, Coyote, had fixed it so we had to call ourselves Sterling Silver and Betty Baker in public—we liked living and training in Many Farms. Taken all around, Coyote had done us a solid, and he in turn was mighty pleased about the way his renewable-energy projects were coming along, thanks to my help. Six years had done him and the tribe a world of good; the coal mine was shut down forever now that Coyote’s ventures were creating lots of jobs.
“All right. You know the drill, right? If I don’t come back—”
“I’m supposed to call Hal Hauk, I know,” Granuaile said. “He’s got your will. But you won’t make me do that.”
“I sure hope not. See you later.” I ducked into the trailer to undress before I shifted, and the Morrigan squawked impatiently.
Where do you think I’m going?
I said as I threw my shirt into the hamper.
We’re going to have a feast. A feast! On some wonderfully succulent wildebeest.
If you wanted to go hunting for wildebeest, you should have said so. Listen, watch Granuaile for
me, will you?
Divested of my clothes, I triggered the charm on my necklace that bound my form to a great horned owl and hopped over to the door.
Thanks, buddy. I’ll have to owe you that snack. Though I’m sure Granuaile will completely spoil you while I’m gone
I hopped down from the trailer doorway and hooted a good-bye to Granuaile. The Morrigan flapped her wings noisily and launched herself to the southeast.
, her voice said in my mind. I shuddered and took wing after her. I didn’t like having her in my head, though at the moment I had to admit it was convenient. Unlike the Morrigan, I couldn’t speak like a human while in bird form.
You need to repair your tattoo
, the Morrigan replied.
You have procrastinated long enough
I stopped flapping my wings out of shock and dropped like a stone for a second before I recovered. The Morrigan was not a type A personality who worried about procrastination—hers or anyone else’s.
One thing at a time, Siodhachan
She didn’t answer. She kept flying as if I hadn’t said anything and allowed me time to realize that she wasn’t going to answer any more questions, whether I asked them one at a time or not. This was highly unusual behavior for the Morrigan. Usually she couldn’t wait to tell me about all the dire shit that was
about to befall me. Pronouncing my imminent doom held a certain relish for her. I couldn’t understand why she was being so closemouthed now, but my curiosity was piqued.
We shifted from Canyon de Chelly to a deserted patch of Tír na nÓg, where no Fae would see us, and then from there to a damp gray fen in Ireland, surrounded by yew trees, that the Morrigan called her own. She led me to a barrow that I suppose I should call her
or perhaps a simple
, but those words don’t really fit the feel of the place so much as the word
. The Morrigan was a bit too savage to live in a
; she could rock a
like nobody else, though. Bones, I noticed, were a strong decorative motif. Skulls too. Perhaps that subconsciously tilted me toward the word
; few homes are so abundantly adorned with bones—especially ones that the owner has quite probably gnawed on.