Excerpt from Chapter One
Western Pennsylvania, December 21, 1983
Dàn found the clue just as a body fell past the window. Not just any body, but that of his adopted brother, Molach. Mo’s fall from the roof was accompanied by a surprised wail that cut off with a crash as his body demolished an innocent shrub.
Not the azalea... It would have such beautiful pink blooms in just a few months. He closed his eyes to focus on the damage outside Ella’s house. Mo was fine, of course, but the azalea was probably a lost cause.
Or would be without some help.
Leaving behind the Keeper’s ancient records, Dàn went to the rescue of the doomed perennial. He found both Mo and Mo’s twin brother, Romie, staring at it with the plant’s owner, Ella Turner.
“Oh, Dàn. Do you think it can be saved?” Ella asked as he walked up. Her ninety-year-old body belied the youth in her eyes. She cuffed Mo lightly on the shoulder. “Why couldn’t you fall three feet to the right?”
Mo chuckled. “Guess no one cares that I fell off the roof.”
“We care. But like all emergencies, we will take care of the critically injured first.” Dàn knelt and studied the dry, broken branches. The poor thing was busted all the way down the center.
“Dàn?” Ella asked from over his shoulder.
She might have only spoken his name, but what she was asking was for him to make it as it had been. To fix the problem like they knew he could.
The twins and Ella all stared at him expectantly. He leaned forward and carefully set the thickest of the broken pieces together then cupped his hands over the wound. Easy as that, he willed his healing power to mend the wood, and it did. He repeated the healing on each limb, straightening the breaks and building the shrub back up to its former size and shape.
The whole process took more than ten minutes and before he finished, both twins had left to finish the roof repairs he’d asked them to do. Ella sat quietly on the cold ground next to him.
“What do you think?” he asked as he materialized a blanket and draped it around her thin shoulders. She shouldn’t be out in the cold weather, even if he had kept it more temperate than was usual for late December.
Ella trembled and pulled the blanket tight. “It still looks sad.”
She was right. The shrub might have mended limbs, but it still lacked the thing that made it well. He wasn’t sure if he could restore that lost strength of life, but he was willing to try. He reached out with both hands and caught onto sturdy branches. Then he closed his eyes and poured his own energy into the plant, hoping it would make the difference.
“They’re beautiful.” Ella’s quiet gasp drew him back to his surroundings. The shrub had burst into thick leaves and an abundance of pale blue flowers. “Why, they’re the same exact shade as your eyes, Dàn. Stunning! The neighbors will all wonder what my secret is that I managed to get such beautiful blooms this time of year.”
“Will this cause you problems, Ella? I didn’t mean for it to bloom.”
“No, child. It’s beautiful and will at most make people wonder what garden tricks I’m not sharing.” Ella held out a hand and let him gently pull her to her feet. “How was the search going in the old records? Have you found anything?”
Dàn couldn’t help but smile. He was four hundred and twenty one years old, yet the sweet woman still called him child. “I think I might have. Come and look with me. Just before Mo fell, I found a description of a demon that sounded like the man who brought my mother back to the clan.”
“Really? Well, that could be interesting.” She led the way back toward her private rooms and into the library there. She went right up to the open book and started scanning down the page until her finger rested next to the passage.
James of the Fox Clan sends word of a stranger in Londontown.
There, walking calmly among the men was one who did not walk like others. His bearing and carriage was of nobility, as was his dress. But as darkness fell that night, he was transformed into a beastly vision of half man and half horse. In this form he raced along the streets, swearing that the end had come and that none would survive the rebirth of the world.
James followed the demon unto a quiet drinking hall where he was once more in the form of a tall and comely black-haired man. His clothing, previously torn by the transformation, was mended and neat. But when spoken to, he was found to be broken by some grief. He strove to such efforts to drown his grief with vast amounts of alcohol that any other would surely have been far beyond ill, but this one appeared barely affected.
James was driven off by the man when he took the form of a dark demon and drew the fire of the devil to his eyes. I believe this was an aberration, perhaps a soul demon set loose to walk on earth. James said the man was called by the name Grant.
Dàn stared at the words and knew they would change his life. Once more he was at the fulcrum. Where would he land next and would it be for good or ill? While Ella shuffled off to confirm the similar description of the man who’d carried his mother into the clan’s secret village bleeding and near to death, Dàn relaxed his mind and let his consciousness flow in the streams of fate. He sifted through his memories, and those that were not his own, feeling for a connection to the name Grant. To a demon named Grant.
Ella returned with a different tome. “You plan to find this man, Grant?”
“Yes.” Like wading into a raging river, the many currents rushed over him. The crushing power would sweep him away if it could, but he had been walking these waters for centuries and his footing was steady as he reached out in his search.
“Do you have any idea where to start?”
Of all his own memories, of the memories of others, of the endless stream of what had yet to be… There among the swirling waters, Dàn found what he was searching for. He found the one called Grant.
But more than that, he found a confusing mixture of unconnected extra currents tangled around the demon. Within the swirling waters, the only repeating strand was the echoing words—the companion and the watcher—and the image of a dark-haired man with flashing red eyes looking out over…
“Niagara Falls. The demon is at the Falls.”
* * * * *
Rath au Julf stared at his friend in shock. “Let me get this straight. We’re going to Niagara Falls to find a demon?”
“We need to go. I need to go.” Dàn settled his bags into to the open trunk then moved around and pulled open the passenger door to the car.
Rath tossed the small duffle into the trunk and slammed it shut before sliding into the driver’s seat. “And why is that again? Why exactly are we hunting down a sight-seeing demon when we could be heading back to the clan to celebrate Christmas?” His sister, Adhar, had planned a feast. They’d planned to fix Ella’s roof and hurry back. He started the smooth engine and steered the Mercedes toward the interstate that would lead them north.
If Dàn said they were heading for Niagara Falls, then they were heading for the falls. He probably shouldn’t push Dàn for reasons, since pushing never did any good anyhow. Sometimes, though, Dàn just needed a push and no one else seemed willing to do it. Long ago he’d given up trying to understand Dàn and all his mysterious ways. Dàn was just Dàn, and he kept everyone, even the clan, on a need-to-know basis. This time, Rath wanted to know more whether he needed to or not. When Dàn didn’t answer his question after more than a couple miles slid behind them, Rath eased back on the gas and tapped idly on his thigh.
Dàn sighed and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. “I need to meet the demon who I’ve seen at the Falls. I believe he will be at one of the clubs. His name is Grant, and he may be able to give me some answers I need.”
Ok, so he managed to answer without telling much. That was one of Dàn’s best skills. “Who is this Grant?” He figured he was more likely to learn about who was being asked about than what was being asked.
Dàn reached up to his shoulder and appeared to be scratching the air beside his ear. It wasn’t air of course, but actually his usually invisible pet, Deargh. The quiet hum that followed was her purr of pleasure. He’d seen Deargh once, just after she’d joined Dàn. Rath had to admit the little draconic creature was endearing.
Dàn’s hand dropped back to his lap. “I only know that Grant is a half demon and chooses to walk the earth. Ella’s words, not mine. I can’t see him clearly.”
That actually told Rath quite a bit. Grant could be a problem, but Dàn wouldn’t be able to see ahead of time to know what kind of problem he would pose. Dàn rarely foresaw events that were of the most personal importance, leaving blank spots in his powerful, precognitive sight. Were the questions that important then? Never hurt to ask.
“What will you be asking this Grant?”
After a long pause, Dàn surprised him again by answering, “Who my father was. Or possibly is.”
Well that was a big one! “And this demon might have that information?” Rath asked. Then he thought about how Dàn worried about his parentage. Dàn wondered about his father’s identity and about the strange powers that he may have inherited from him. Then another thought occurred to him. “Damn. You think the demon is your father?” he asked, maybe a little too bluntly.
“I don’t know.” Dàn used his telekinesis to turn on the radio, an obvious attempt to end the conversation.
Rath reached over and turned the soft rock channel off. “You don’t know much about Grant. What do you know about other demons?” The radio flicked back on with the volume significantly higher. The song “Who Will Stop the Rain” by Creedance Clearwater Revival roared from the speakers. Dàn loved this song, and Rath let it play, but as soon as the song faded out, he reached over once more and switched the radio to off.
Dàn sighed. “I know very little about demons.”
“I doubt they can be all bad. Especially if Ella is sending us to speak with this one.” But then how much would Ella know about demons?
Dàn didn’t add any comments, so Rath let the subject drop and concentrated on driving.
He never hesitated to help Dàn in any way he could, but he was beginning to wonder why he was along on this trip. Although Dàn didn’t drive often, he was capable. He had a license and a pretty ’62 Corvette that didn’t get much driving time. He had little need for a vehicle when it came to travel. Dàn could shift more than his shape. He could shift shape, location, and who knew what else. Rath wondered if even Dàn knew his own limits. No one else seemed able to figure them out.
Within a few miles the music came back on. The combination of the tunes and the soothing empathy Dàn constantly exuded made the miles fly by.
Rath was still thinking about all the things that could go wrong when dealing with an unknown demon when they reached Niagara Falls. The dazzling lights from the many businesses along the main street caught his attention. Many of the buildings were decorated in festive Christmas lights, making what could have been a drab and dreary street into a colorful wonderland.
Since they were continually counseled by their more adult family members on caution, their clan had been slow to integrate back into society. Some of their members had only left the family home a few times in the last couple of years. Even Rath had never been to a city of this size before, and he was surprised by the bright decorations and the many people still out at this time of the early morning.
Suddenly, a small girl darted out from a side alley and ran in front of the car. With a started yelp, Rath braked and steered to miss her. Before he could shout a warning, he watched the girl run into the next lane and into Dàn’s arms.
for a short excerpt that was cut from the book...
Coming December 8, 2006 with Cobblestone Press