Dragon Fall
Page 30

 Katie MacAlister

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“Hello, Aoife. As you guessed, I’m Aisling,” she said, giving me a friendly smile before squealing softly, “Jim! I’m so happy to see you! Where have you been? Why are you in Sweden? Why aren’t you with Magoth?”
The demon allowed her to hug him, snuffling her hair and her chest before answering. “Hiya. The Eefs says I used to hang with you. I don’t know who Magoth is, but you seem nice enough. You wouldn’t happen to have any food on you, would you? My current demon lord says she loves me, but the sad truth is that she’s trying to starve me to death.”
Aisling looked startled. “She is?”
“Yeah, she only let me have one hamburger for lunch. One! Like that is enough to sustain what is clearly an outstanding example of Newfiness.”
“The vet said he could stand to lose a couple of pounds,” I told Aisling, worried that she might think I was mistreating her dog. Demon. Whichever.
“Oh, that. Yes, my vet said the same thing. And Jim is the master of bitching about lack of food. Pay it no mind.” A look of confusion crossed her face. “Wait—what do you mean you don’t remember Magoth?”
Jim shrugged. “Memory’s gone. Don’t remember anything except Aoife mowing me down and then hauling me in to the vet.”
“It was an accident!” I said quickly, panic filling me at the look that Aisling gave me when she stood up. “It was night, and he was standing in the middle of the road, just standing there, and of course, I took him to the vet, and she said he was fine, absolutely fine, not hurt at all, and I took him home, because I had no idea who he belonged to, but I assure you, I did not deliberately run him down.”
“I see.” Her voice was cold, but after a few seconds of giving me a tight-lipped look, she shook her head. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be angry. I’m sure you didn’t run Jim over on purpose.” She stopped to run her hands along his body, obviously checking for signs of injury. Jim moaned happily and leaned into her. “But it’s come as a shock to me that Jim doesn’t even recognize me. I don’t… I just don’t have any idea what could have happened. I bound it to Magoth.”
“Who’s that?” I asked.
“A demon lord. Former demon lord, that is. He’s by way of an acquaintance.” She gave a wry smile. “In a nutshell, he has the hots for Drake and Kostya’s mom, but she dumped him. Anyway, he was helping us smuggle Jim into Abaddon—that’s hell to the common man—to find out what Asmodeus was doing and, if possible, to locate his ring.”
I rubbed my forehead. “I feel like I should have a scorecard with everyone’s name and stats. Is this the same Asmodeus of the curse?”
“One in the same, Mr. Head of Abaddon, the villain of the dragon and immortal worlds, what with this curse that’s making a mess of all our lives.” Aisling suddenly looked worried. “We’ve got to break the curse, Aoife. The war isn’t just affecting the dragons; it’s threatening to spill over to the mortal world, too.”
“Now there’s a war in addition to demon lords and a curse?”
I must have looked a bit wild-eyed because Aisling suddenly took my arm and called over her shoulder to her husband.
“We’re taking a little walk. No, you do not need to accompany us. Don’t kill your brother. We’ll be right back.”
“Where are you going?” Kostya asked, clearly torn between posturing at his brother and following us.
“Aisling’s going to explain to me why there’s a war and a demon lord curse.”
“I could explain that to you,” he yelled after me, his voice tinged with outrage.
“Yeah, but you never do, do you?” I turned my back to him and strolled with Aisling toward the main building, which was strangely unpopulated. “Getting a straight answer out of him is like finding a pearl in a clam.”
“I thought pearls grew in oysters?” Aisling asked with a frown.
“That’s my point. First things first—why is Kostya attacking his brother, and vice versa?”
She sighed. “It’s part of the curse. Not only can the septs not talk to one another, which really makes it difficult to conduct any weyr business, but the curse also causes them to be overly antagonistic to dragons outside of their sept. And in this case—”
A roar of anger behind us had us both spinning. Drake and Kostya had evidently not been able to stand the strain any longer and were rolling around on the ground pummeling each other.
It was my turn to sigh, and I did, a long, martyred sigh. “Sweet salivating salamanders, that man does like to fight.”
“Dragon,” Aisling said, and to my complete surprise, turned her back on them.
“Um… shouldn’t we stop them?” I asked when she took a few steps forward.
“I don’t think it would do much good. They’d just interrupt us again. We might as well let them work off the worst of the curse while we get a few things straight. Where were we?”
I cast a glance back over my shoulder, part of me wanting to keep Kostya whole and unharmed, but the other part in agreement with Aisling. “They won’t do any permanent damage, will they?”
“Not so long as they don’t go into dragon form, no. Human form is much less effective, you see.” She gave me a bright smile and paused in front of a cement bench next to a tiny control tower. The ground was littered with cigarette butts, indicating this was a favorite break spot of employees.
“I wonder where everyone is?” I asked, glancing around.
“Drake arranged for the airport crew to leave for an hour after we landed. He thought it was best that no one see us together. So, that’s where we are: Jim was supposed to be with Magoth undercover in Abaddon, but it’s here with you and Kostya. And we’re no closer to bringing an end to the curse.” She sat down, her shoulders slumping in defeat. “I wish Jim hadn’t lost its memory. I’d like to know what it found out while it was skulking around Asmodeus’s palace.”
I let the idea of demon lords living in palaces slide by and focused on the important things. I sat down next to her and said, “I can’t help you there, but I’m sure you’d like Jim back, yes? I’ll just hand him over.”
Aisling bit her bottom lip as she looked from Jim to me. “It may not be that easy. Jim, who are you bound to?”