That yelp. That sound. It wasn’t human, wasn’t barely alive-sounding, but she knew it. She’d know her brother anywhere. Cúmhaí peeled off the last hand holding her, and, when it wouldn’t move, started breaking fingers, fast and nasty, until the hand vanished.
“Nobody touches my brother. Nobody. Touches. My. Brother.” She could feel everyone in the room and, what was more, she could feel how much of the creature fighting her was illusion and misdirection. She dove straight for his center of mass, right there, and below there was where the Beagle had already tenderized the bastard…
She was rewarded with a long screaming yowl. “No-one hurts my brother, damn you.” She snarled it at the whole room, at the bastard growling at her and pretending she hadn’t just added injury to injury, and at the three others she could feel, even if she couldn’t see. “And I’ll kill every goddamned one of you if I have to, to prove it.”
“Never let it be said there is not some honor among the wolves, miss Pup.” The voice was nearly part of the wall, and when she tried to look in that direction, it hurt her head. “Take your brother. Nobody will stop you, as long as you go directly to Dr. Caitrin’s.”
Begley. She felt for him with her power, and found him hidden in a pool of shadow, barely breathing, not moving at all. “Beagle.” People with back injuries shouldn’t be moved. Leaving him here was not an option.
“Gods who’ve come and gone blast it all, Beagle, why are you not moving?” She was going to have to pick him up. She was going to have to carry him. “Fuck it all, Begley John, wake up.”
But he wasn’t waking up, so she picked him up, as carefully as she could. “Invisible voice?”
“I am watching your passage, Miss Pup.”
When the voice spoke, she could feel where he was. She carefully didn’t look that way.
“Where’s Dr. Caitrin’s, from here?”
The voice chuckled. Another time, that might have irritated Cúmhaí. Right now, she would take it. She could feel the others, and she had a hunch the invisible voice was holding them off. “Walk straight forward until you reach a fork. Turn left there, and the continue until the stairs. Upstairs should be clearer and more obvious.”
She’d already started walking. Manners, a voice in her head whispered. Her brother? Maybe. Once upon a time, he’d been her big brother. “Thank you, invisible voice.”
“When your brother has been tended to, Miss Pup, then you and I may have a talk. But not before.”
“You little shit. All of you little shits. I’m going to…”
“She won, Sir Thing. Let her go.”
“She didn’t win, Begley-shit cheated.”
“Defending your crew is never cheating, or your Marthin would never win anything. Let. Her Go.”
In the echoes of that conversation, Cúmhaí followed Invisible’s directions. Forward, and keep going until she got to a fork. She showed teeth every time she felt someone get near, and growled if they came within touching distance. Nobody tried to stop her. Nobody got in her way.
She wasn’t sure if that was her, truly, or the shadow she could feel following them. There were times when she felt someone get yanked away, times when she heard a hiss of “do not touch them.”
She might have to pay the piper when they were done, but she’d worry about that then. Right now, she had a Beagle to take care of.
“Damnit, Midget.” It was like being home again. Begley opened his eyes to his sister’s frowning face. They were moving, he realized, no, she was moving and he was being carried in her arms.
“Nice to see you, too.” His voice was thinner than he meant it to be. “Where are we?”
“About twenty feet from the doctor’s office. You took your sweet time waking up.”
“Sorry, I had a case of /being thrown into a wall. How did you get away?”
“She broke every finger of Mr. Thing’s hand, and then broke some more important parts.”
He knew that voice, even if he couldn’t see it. He reached for his knife, hoping it wasn’t too late.”
“Easy.” Cúmhaí squeezed him against her chest. Begley tried not to think about that too closely. She was his sister. This might be Addergoole, but…
Bigger problems right now. “Coo, this isn’t the counter, this is the fire.”
“It looks like the doctor’s office to me. Look.” She dropped her voice to a whisper. “He might take it out of me later but he’s the only reason we got past the creeps in the halls, so I’m not going to look his gift horse in its invisible mouth right now, okay?”
Later. “Shit. Coo, you didn’t agree to anything, did you?”
“I extracted no promises for my service, because I offered it unasked-for. I do have some honor, young Beagle.”
“I’m not that much younger than you, you…”
“Keep the mystery, if you would. Your sister will come looking for me soon enough. I’d appreciate there being a bit of a challenge in the looking.”
“She’s my sister. I’m not going to let you hurt her.”
His sister, looking very amused, damn her, was opening the door to the doctor’s office with her foot. “Beagle..”
“Coo, don’t call me that. Look, this is important.”
“It is.” Their invisible stalker had followed them into the doctor’s office. “Begley cy’Akinobu, I promise you these two things. First, if you respect my wish, and allow your sister to discover who I am on her own, then I will consider any debt between us for my part in her escape today to be settled.”
“You bastard, you said it was free.”
“Well, it is. But I’d appreciate if it you let me play out this little game.”
Begley sighed. “All right. I won’t tell her. But…”
“And the second half of my promise. I will not extract, nor seek to extract, through torture nor through any Working or use of magic at all, any promises or other binding words, from your sister Cúmhaí during the rest of this calendar year.”
“…” That was, Begley thought, the best he was going to get. “Why?”
“Gift horses and invisible mouths,” the voice scolded. “Suffice it to say she impressed me.”
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