Read Vesik 3 Winter's Demon Online
Authors: Eric Asher
Edgar watched the exchange briefly before walking closer to the cars. Mike dwarfed Sam, standing almost seven feet tall. His black hair was still closely cropped, and his hands were blackened, with trails of darkness leading up his arms like abstract tattoos.
“Damian, is this your father?”
“I have a gift for you, Dimitry,” Mike said as he pulled at a strap secured diagonally across his barrel chest. “It will aid you with the powers you face.”
Before my dad could even respond, I asked, “How did you know anything had happened? How did you know my dad was here? How did you know
Mike held up his index finger. “One, Nixie called me after Glenn told her and she couldn’t reach you with the Wasser-Münzen.”
My hand instantly moved to my back pocket. Nothing. I must have left the damn thing back at the shop. “Oh,” I said, annoyed with myself for forgetting to bring my best means of communication with Nixie.
Mike added his middle finger. “Two, Frank.”
Sam blushed. “He, uh, wasn’t supposed to say anything.”
“Samantha Vesik,” Zola snapped as her old New Orleans accent thickened. “Did you call Frank? Did you tell him where we were going even after Ah said not to?”
“I … maybe I mentioned something.” By the time she finished the sentence, I could barely hear her muttered words.
Mike extended his ring finger. “And before you ask the third, the gun is from your master, Zola.”
Zola’s mouth snapped shut and she glared at Mike.
Foster and Aideen snickered from their new resting spot on Sam’s shoulder.
“There is no taint on this weapon,” he said as he lifted the strap over his head. “It does not bind or obligate you to me in any way.” As he finished speaking, Mike turned his head toward Dad.
“Bind or obligate?” he said.
“He’s a demon,” Zola said flatly.
Dad’s eyes flashed wide and he took a hesitant step away from Mike.
The demon sighed and held out the cannon-sized gun in his arms. “I suppose I deserved that,” he said with a small smile.
“Take the gun, Dimitry,” Zola said. “He’s a friend.”
“Do not touch the fairies with this,” Mike said.
Dad’s about six feet tall, five inches shorter than me. When Mike placed the gun in his hands, it looked like it was going to pull him over. The stock was open. Where you expected wood it was a hollow and rounded triangle. A few inches up the stock, the trigger rested in a spacious guard with the hammer above. The barrel shot out from there, octagonal at first, but it broke into a cylinder in another six inches or so. The gun almost looked like a musket, but the entire weapon, even the ramrod, devoured light like cast iron, until the runes on the side began to glow. I recognized some. The sharp angles of Kaun looked like a mathematical less-than symbol, and Uruz bore a shape much like a sharp-angled lowercase n, runes of strength and fire.
“What is this thing?” Dad said, admiration obvious in his voice. “The barrel has to be two feet long. An elephant gun?”
“No, it’s twenty-one inches,” Mike said. “It’s based on a whaling gun. The runes are a little something extra. They’ll only activate in the hands of a mortal man.”
“Truly?” Zola asked.
“Brilliant,” she said as she leaned in a little. “Can a mage even fire it?”
“No, and neither can a necromancer, so don’t try it. These wards at the end,” he said as he pointed to a circular ring of squiggles, “will paralyze any magic user that pulls the trigger.”
“What kind of rounds does it fire?” Dad asked.
“These.” Mike reached behind him and unhooked a large leather pouch. He pulled out what looked like a small rocket. “It’s called a bomb lance. Load it into the front end of the gun and ram it down.” With one bomb lance still in-hand, Mike held out the leather satchel.
Dad reached for the pouch and grunted as he slung it over his shoulder. The weight was obvious. Mike held out the last lance and kept his grip as Dad started to pull it away.
“Don’t point these at anything
anything or anyone you don’t want dead.” He let the lance slide out of his hand as Dad nodded. It was then I noticed the hammer in Mike’s belt. It looked innocuous, with more substance at the front of the head than the back, and powerful as all hell—the Smith’s Hammer.
“You got it back?” I said.
Mike’s hand brushed the hammer and he smiled at Zola. “It was given back. I have been helping the Harrowers.”
“They grow strong,” said a small voice from the edge of the cavern. The little necromancer, ghost for almost two centuries, girlfriend to a demon for ages, sidled up beside Mike. He put his arm around her as easily as if she wore flesh and blood. Mike had grown attached to the girl when she was still alive. He’d watched her die in the Civil War, unable to save one of the very few people he cared about. She stared at my dad for a moment and then looked up at me. “You made them strong, Damian.”
“I hope it was the right thing to do,” I said. “I didn’t know what I was doing.”
“It was,” Mike said. “Hell flees before the Ghost Pack.”
“This is not the time to speak of it,” Zola said. “Call Frank and Ashley.” She paused and rubbed her chin. “If Philip’s necromancers are in Boonville, and the Piasa Bird is heading there … never mind. We’ll meet at the shop. Edgar, follow that damn bird and make sure it doesn’t try to devour Boonville.” If it was a request, there was no hint of it in her voice.
“I need to clean up the house,” Dad said to himself as he stared off toward the river. “Andi won’t be happy when she comes home to that mess.”
I didn’t miss Dad’s use of ‘when’ instead of ‘if.’ Sam didn’t either, if the small frown on her face had anything to say about it.
“Do not worry about your home,” Edgar said. “It is done.” He nodded when Dad thanked him, but Edgar didn’t elaborate on why or how he knew it was done. I don’t know if he didn’t feel the need to tell Dad about the lengths Watchers go to while hiding our world, or if he just assumed Dad already knew because of me and Sam. Edgar turned to the fairies. “Cassie, Cara, would you care for a ride?”
The two fairies nodded and started forward before flashing into their smaller sizes and fluttering to either of Edgar’s shoulders. The Watcher adjusted his bowler, cocked his arm at a ninety-degree angle in front of his stomach, and began to float into the sky.
“He’s flying,” Dad said, nowhere near as much shock in his voice as there should have been.
I heard a small chuckle as Cassie waved from Edgar’s shoulder.
Zola turned back toward the rest of us. “Let’s go.”
Sam and I glanced at each other before we both nodded.
“Alright, you still want to stop by the farmer’s market on the way out of town?” I asked Sam.
“I’m going to ride with Zola,” Dad said.
“I’ll join you if you have room, Damian,” Mike said.
“Sure thing. Zola, you want us to meet you back at the Double D?”
“No, boy,” Zola said as we reached the cars. “We’ll join you at the market.”
“Alright, see you there.”
“I can’t believe Cara went with Edgar,” I said. “Maybe the world really is ending.”
Mike laughed behind me, his gruff voice filling the car. “There are worse things in the land right now than tickets from the Watchers. Cara is a smart woman. She knows a powerful ally when she sees one.”
“If Philip is coming for all of us …” Sam said, her eyes on the road as we started back in to the city. “What about Frank, Ashley, the wolves?”
I smiled. “Frank has two badass cu siths trailing him everywhere he goes. Anything short of that damn bird would be a snack for Bubbles and Peanut.” Sam grinned at that. “Ashley is no helpless witch, sis. Have you seen what she can do with those runes now? She is rising, even Cara thinks so.”
“But what if it’s Philip, or Ezekiel?”
“Ezekiel?” Mike asked. “I don’t think I could defeat him at my best. His powers are too great.”
I shuddered at the thought of Ezekiel. Philip scared me, but Zola said Ezekiel was unfathomably more powerful than Philip. She still hadn’t figured out why he’s tagging along with a weaker necromancer. I dread the day we find out.
“Best not to think about that now,” I said. “As for the wolves?”
Sam gave me a sideways glance. “Yeah, never mind. Werewolves.”
“Stubborn creatures,” Mike said. “But they are valiant, even honorable, in the right situation.”
I nodded in agreement.
“How are you doing without Nixie?” Sam asked.
I blinked at the complete logic leap of the conversation. “Where did that come from?”
“The werewolves. I was thinking about Hugh, which made me think of Haka and how Nixie saved him, and then how she’s been gone for a few months now. Obviously.”
I blinked again.
She swatted at me with her right hand. “Well? Did she call lately?”
“Call?” I said. “That’s funny. I guess it’s kind of a call, but seriously? You’re going to bring this up in front of Mike?”
Mike laughed. “She is a good person, for a water witch. It is natural to pine for your lover.” Mike looked at Sam, and a slow smile crept over his face. “Besides, the water witch did call me when you did not answer her call.”
I groaned and rubbed my face while Sam laughed outright. “Yeah, anyhow, I’m due for a call today.”
Sam pulled in to park and turned off the engine. Zola’s Chevy stopped beside us. I stepped out and stretched for a moment, sending a flash of blackness and stars across my vision. Once my eyes started to clear I fumbled for the seat release and shifted it forward so Mike could climb out.
“A Scarborough Fair,” the demon said with a smile.
“Not exactly,” I said.
“A what?” Sam said. “Isn’t that a song?”
Mike began to explain what the fairs were like in his time: merchants and entertainers gathered from lands far and wide, when spices were valuable enough a pound of cloves could buy a small herd of sheep. I looked over the market. Four rows of white tents lined the parking lot, nestled between two fairly modern brick buildings. I took a deep breath. The scent of rosemary from an herb dealer mingled with hickory smoke, fresh popped kettle corn, and the distant smell of the river.
“I am seriously hungry,” I said.
“I am seriously shocked,” Sam said as she rabbit punched me lightly in the arm.
Mike chuckled and strolled over to a homemade sausage vendor. A huge black smoker built into the back of a trailer sent a steady billowing stream of smoke into the air. The wind shifted toward us and I picked up the pace.
“Afternoon,” the man beside the smoker said. A heavy flannel shirt hung down over his jeans, the collar obscured at the top by a long and neatly trimmed beard.
“Hi,” Sam said.
“Do I smell smoked bologna?” Mike asked.
The man’s eyes widened a bit before he nodded and smiled. He pulled the top of the smoker up and pointed to four huge links on the leftmost side. “Yes, but I’m surprised you could pick out the scent with all the cooking here today.”
“I’ll take a link,” Mike said.
“A whole one?”
“You going to eat all that?” I asked.
“I’ll let you try a bite. Of course, you’ll probably want one of your own. I tend to work up an appetite battling the forces of evil.”
Sam snickered and I heard Zola snort from the next stall over. She leaned over to Foster and Aideen, and I assume she relayed Mike’s comment because they both laughed.
“That looks like some very fresh jerky there too,” Dad said.
The vendor pulled a strip off and handed it to him. “Enjoy. If you boys, and girl,” he said with a nod to Sam, “are buying a whole link, I’ll pack some more up, no charge.”
Dad took a bite and nodded. “That’s fantastic. Thank you.”
We wandered around the market for a few minutes. Sam stopped and bought a set of hand-blown glass earrings and a stuffed toy ferret. I was pretty sure the ferret would end up taunting Vik in some dastardly manner.
Mike passed out some chunks of his bologna log. It took all of two bites for everyone to become converts to the glory of smoked bologna.
“Holy crap, that’s good,” I said around a mouthful of soft, smoky, deliciousness.
“Natural casing,” Dad said. “Adds an extra snap.”
Sam grimaced and took another bite. “Let’s just say it tastes good. I don’t want to think about the
“It is good,” Mike said. “There’s a butcher in Hermann.” He took another bite and swallowed. “He makes black pudding. I think you call it blood sausage. That takes me back,” he said with a smile.
“Nasty,” Sam said.
“Whatever, sis. I recall seeing you at a sushi bar one time.”
“Oh, not this again,” Sam said under her breath.
You’re scared of a little blood sausage? I’ve seen you take down raw octopus.”
“No,” Mike said,
We turned the corner and started back up the last row tents, bantering all the way. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one whose mind was stuck on Mom, but I trusted Zola. If she thought we needed to delay our arrival in Boonville, I wouldn’t question it, no matter how much I wanted to kick in the front door guns blazing. My hand instinctively moved to the pepperbox under my jacket.
“Here they are,” Foster said as he swooped back and landed on my shoulder.
Zola stepped up to the second booth from the end.
I slid in next to her, Foster leaning on my neck for a second as he caught his balance. The booth was full of tiles. Some baskets were filled with small white squares and rectangles, others black or red or any color you can think off. Some had holes drilled in them and sat beside a display of cords to make bracelets or necklaces.
“What did you need here?” I said, honestly curious.
“Dragon bones,” Zola said, reaching out for a basket in the back row. She picked up a few large scales, which looked like a cross between a fish and a crocodile.
“By the …” Mike’s words trailed off as he reached into the basket too, coming up with a handful of scales. “These aren’t just bones, Addanaya.”