Home > Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson #7)(10)

Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson #7)(10)
Author: Patricia Briggs

"Ariana," I said, "I thought ..."

"That I had retreated to the reservation with my kin?" she asked. "My mate is here. I am no follower, and my allegiance is no longer to the Gray Lords, if it ever was. They chose to allow me to stay here under the condition I do nothing to draw attention to myself." She grinned mischievously at me. "They required us to bring any artifacts or magical items we hold. I brought the Silver Borne with me - they were surprisingly eager to let me leave with it."

The Silver Borne was an artifact that she'd created long before Christopher Columbus was a glint in his father's eye. It ate the magic of any fae that went near it. Too powerful to be left where humans could get it - and too damaging to be brought to the reservation.

Her face lost its humor. "But I am chatting, and you are hurt. Come in out of the cold."

"Not my blood," I told her. "Is Samuel here? I have a warning and a patient for him. Otherwise, we should probably go."

"He's not here," Ariana said. "His father called him away a few days ago. He said it was something to do with a meeting about 'disturbances in the Force.'"

I gave her a look, and she grinned, again. "I swear to you that was what he told me. Bring in your wounded, though. I have a fair amount of barbering experience, and Samuel keeps a very well-stocked first-aid kit."

I hesitated, and the expression on her face changed. Ariana was ancient - older than Bran, I think - but she had this softness about her, a vulnerability that allowed her to be rather easily hurt.

"I'm not doubting you," I told her. "But my wounded is a wolf. He is in human form for the moment, but he is clinging to it by his fingertips."

Ariana had a deep-seated and totally justified terror of canids, which she'd only overcome with people she knew well - meaning Samuel. Most of the rest of us did our best not to be too wolf- or coyote-like around her.

She took a breath. "I knew the patient was likely one of your werewolves. Who else would it be? Bring him in."

I gathered my people from the car, human and otherwise. I wasn't sure it was the right thing to do. I'd seen Ariana in the grip of panic once, and that was scary enough I didn't want to do it again. I'd warned her, and she thought she could handle it. Fair enough.

Jesse shoved, and Gabriel and I pulled to get Ben out of the car. As soon as Ben was up, Gabriel slipped under his shoulder and took most of his weight. I glanced around, but all the windows surrounding us were dark. If anyone was watching, I couldn't tell.

Jesse got the door. Gabriel paused in the entryway because, though the walls were painted bright colors, the carpet was white, and Ben was still bleeding.

Ariana rolled her eyes at us. "Bring him in, children; I assure you that I am more than capable of pulling a little blood from fabric and carpet."

Reassured, I waved Gabriel and Ben forward. The condo was one of those open floor plans, where kitchen, dining room, and living room shared the same space. Gabriel supported Ben through the entry hall, past the kitchen area, and into the living room, where we laid him down on the dark brown leather couch. He looked worse, if that were possible, than he had in my office. As if, now that someone else was in charge, he'd quit struggling to stay alert.

Ariana looked at all of us and frowned. "Tell me what happened."

So I did, telling the story from my point of view until we hit the garage, then dropping back to Ben's tale. When I'd finished, she put her hand against Ben's forehead.

He muttered something crude, and her eyebrows raised.

"Not fair to hold him responsible for something he says in this state," said Jesse defensively.

Ariana's lips turned up. "I've heard worse." She pulled up Ben's pant leg. The bandages we'd put on were bloody already. "Was this a silver bullet?"

"It's not healing like it should if silver wasn't involved somehow," I told her. "They definitely shot him with a tranquilizer dart that contained a mixture that included silver. Same stuff was used to kill a friend of mine a few years back. That's why we wanted Samuel to take a look."

Ariana stepped back and half closed her eyes, holding her hands about six inches over Ben. "I have an affinity for silver," she said. "I can sense it but not call it to me."

Ariana is Welsh for silver. Ironic in a woman mated to a werewolf.

"There's some silver in him," she said after a moment. "But none near his wound, so it must be the dart they hit him with. If it was a silver bullet, it didn't leave anything behind. He'll have to wait until the silver works its way out - but I can at least treat the wound."

I kept my hand on Ben's while Ariana stripped his bandages off and coated the wounds, front and back, with some herb-and-salve concoction she kept in an old pottery jar. Ben lay on his side to allow her access. He kept his eyes closed, but every muscle in his body was tense. Ariana was the next best thing to a stranger, and he was wounded. Every once in a while he would growl quietly, and Ariana would jump like a rabbit - which made Ben tense even more.

By the time she was done, both of them were shivering like a pair of thoroughbreds before the Kentucky Derby.

"That's as much as I can do for him," she said, stepping away with a sigh of relief. She headed for the kitchen sink, regaining her self-possession with every step she took away from Ben. She washed her hands with soap and dried them on a white cloth.

When she spoke again, her voice was brisk and confident. "I don't have Samuel's expertise, but barring the threat of infection, which isn't an issue for werewolves, his leg should be fine."

If there wasn't too much silver, I thought. I couldn't tell if Ben was following the conversation or not. His eyes weren't totally shut, but now that I was the only one touching him, his body was unnaturally relaxed.

"In any case, there's nothing more we can do for him without Adam" - his Alpha, who could pour pack strength into him - "or Samuel," I said. I could borrow some abilities from Adam, but I hadn't been able to manipulate the pack bonds enough to effect healing yet.

"Let me try to call Samuel," Ariana offered, picking up the phone on the end table next to the couch. She stiffened, the phone to her ear, then dialed. "Phin. I am so sorry to wake you, but I had a dream - "

Phin was Phineas Brewster, her mostly human descendant who sold used and collectible books. Why she had decided to call him instead of Samuel was the same reason she had stiffened. I wondered what she had heard or felt that had changed her mind.

"Ari?" a sleepy voice on the other end of the phone said - I try not to eavesdrop when I can avoid it, but, like the wolves, my ears are sharp. "No," he continued foggily. Then he cleared his throat and sounded much more awake. "I mean, not a problem. Are you all right? Do you want me to come over?"

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