“Wait. We’re in the United States now?” Cerdic looked at the lift panel. All but one were now lit. He thought the one that wasn’t lit may have been the button Eric had pressed before, but he wasn’t sure. “Where else can this thing go?”
“Not now. I need to take you to the council chambers. They should be finishing up soon.” Eric motioned down the hallway. “This way, quickly.”
After a few different corridors they stopped in front of a large wooden door on the next floor up. There was heated discussion leaking through the cracks.
“I don’t care what your current stance is on this maniac! My son is out there somewhere in danger because the majority of this council won’t take action!”
“Neta Medakus! You will calm down…thank you. As chair of this meeting I propose we send Andali Windspeaker to track down Daren and the Ainsleys.”
“I will go. No need for a vote.”
“Very well. Is there anything else on the agenda?”
“One Cerdic McNiall should be here now with Eric Clark. You may enter!”
The doors swung open, as by their own accord. There were twelve people sitting at a round table. They appeared to be from all over the world. One in particular looked familiar to Cerdic. He glanced at Eric. “Do you have a brother?”
“Yeah. He’s my twin. Isaac.”
“Cerdic McNiall. I am Snerrir Ingjalsson. You may call me Sner. You are here because you have seen thi-” The icelandic man paused. “Is that a church grim? There’s no churches here.”
“Uh, yes. He followed us from the church in Rawtenstall. Eric was just as confused as you are.” Cerdic motioned at the dog. “I’m much more so.”
A woman with ruddy hair stood up and walked towards the church grim. “Here boy. Yu’re a bit of a strange one, aren’t yuh?” The church grim walked over to her.
“Molly, later. I’m supposed to talk to Cerdic here first.”
“Yeah yeah.” Molly picked up the church grim and took it back to her seat. “I’ll just hold onta him fer awhile.”
Sner let out an exasperated sigh. “Well, this meeting is going weird anyway.” He turned to face the rest of the council. You know what we usually do…oh, did Andali already leave? Nevermind. The church grim seems to be attached to him.” He turned back to face Eric. “Anything else?”
“He saw a gytrash. Not THE gytrash, just a similar black dog. I find it odd that he saw both an evil and a good black dog on the same night. Something bigger must be going on.”
There was a long pause in the room as eyes stared at Cerdic, then at the church grim in Molly’s lap then back at Cerdic. The room almost seemed to come to a decision without talking.
Finally Sner spoke. “All for adding Cerdic into the pool of normal human operatives?”
Cerdic was taken aback. “What? Operatives?”
Eric nudged him. “Don’t worry. You won’t be called on unless something really bad goes down. Warlockes are the first defense, then werewolves and vampires, then herbalists, then seekers, and then usual humans. You are a usual so you either won’t ever be called on, or you’ll be called on when we need someone who can’t be detected.”
“Anyway,” Sner continued, “all in favor say ‘aye’.” There were eight or nine ayes. “Well, that’s majority. If we need you we’ll let you know. It’s all volunteer on your end. If you can’t for whatever reason we’ll get someone else.”
“Uh, ok. I guess.”
Isaac stood up. “I nominate my brother to be Cerdic’s handler.”
“Any objections?” There was silence for a moment. “No? Okay. Eric will be your handler. You may head back to Rawtenstall now. And if there’s nothing else on the agenda the meeting is adjourned.”
Eric lead Cerdic back out of the room. “We’ll wait over here for Molly. I think she wants to check something about the church grim.”
The benches in the waiting area just outside the heavy doors were not the most comfortable seats, but they weren’t the worst either. “So, is Molly scottish then?”
“Accent gives it away, doesn’t it?” Eric leaned back against the wall. “Sorry about the gravekeeper at the church. I didn’t get there in time. If the church grim wasn’t there for you I wouldn’t have made it in time for you, either. First time I’ve lost someone on the job in a while. We thought things were calming down, but a gytrash showing up in the center of town like that? That is unprecedented. There must be something else going on.”
“Maybe it has something to do with that Daren fellow?”
Molly approached the benches, still carrying the church grim. “Ah, we can’t really talk about any o’ that. How much did yah hear?”
“I think we caught Mrs. Medakus convincing the council to do something. Nothing more.” Eric responded.
“Good, good.” Molly set the church grim down. “So, this wee lad’s got some sorta binding done to it. He’s bound to yah for some reason. Do yah have any idea why that may be?”
“Not a one. I was hoping you might know.”
“Sorry, lad, but I doon’t. Maybe Eric here can do some testin’ when he’s got the time?”
“Alright.” Eric stood up. “We better head back. It’s pretty late back home and Cerdic here probably has work in the morning.”
“Yeah. I do. I guess I’ll be drinking a lot of tea tomorrow.” Cerdic stood up and the church grim pawed his leg. “Yeah, I guess you’re coming with me. Let’s go home, boy.”
– – –
Cerdic and Grimm, the name he gave to the church grim, were going on a walk together in the countryside. Grimm looked a lot more corporeal and seemed to also be gaining mass. Eric thought it was because he was bound to someone living now instead of a church, but there was not precedence for the situation that he could find.
“So, are you liking walking out here in the hills?” Cerdic was holding the end of a leash.
Grimm hopped a little then stopped to smell some flowers, his tail wagging.
“Yeah, I bet that’s a lot better than where I found you.”
The tail wagging stopped abruptly and Grimm looked into the tall grass just off the path.
“What’s going on, boy?”
As Cerdic looked where Grimm was looking a small house cat emerged from the grass. Grimm growled at it, but it continued forward. Then, before Cerdic’s eyes the cat transformed into a woman, with tight-fitting clothes on. “Hello, Cerdic. I’ve been watching you and your church grim for the last month. I’m Amalia. I work with the local Guardians of Humanity team. Nice to meet you.” She held out her hand
“Uhh, nice to meet you too?” Cerdic shook the proffered hand, barely containing his surprise behind a layer of calm. “Umm…are you like a were-cat or something?”
“No, no. I’m a shapeshifter. No moon cycle or anything like that.” Amalia’s face turned slightly feline. “I have better control than werewolves that break the cycle, too. They’re either on or off. It makes things both easier and more difficult.”
“What, like the Animorphs?”
“Well, minus the alien influence, yes. I have only two transformations though. The cat you saw, and a falcon. Very different forms.” Amalia reached down to pet Grimm who growled slightly. “Yeah, most dogs don’t like me. I smell like a cat because I use that form more often.”
Cerdic patted Grimm on the head. “So, what do you want to talk to me about?”
“Eric is going to approach you with a mission. Accept it.”
“Uh, okay I guess.” Cerdic looked at Grimm for a moment. “So, Grimm and I can’t get very far apart without consequences. We’re bonded. So if he can’t go on the mission it may be difficult to for me.”
Amalia looked thoughtful for a moment. “Well, I think you can bring him. Eric will have more details. I just want you to go so I have an excuse to go along, really. I doubt the guardians told you, but you are under surveillance for the first few months after an encounter with the supernatural. I’ve been assigned to that duty.”
“Ah, here I was wondering what the catch would be.” Cerdic started walking back towards Rawtenstall. “I’m going home now. I’m sure Eric will have more details for me.”
– – –
Cerdic and Eric sat at a tea table. Grimm and Eric’s domesticated fox were laying in the sun from the window.
“So, am I under surveillance?”
Eric stopped pouring himself a cup of tea. “Why do you ask?” He added a sugar cube to the cup and sipped it.
Cerdic nodded at the cat on the windowsill. “Amalia approached me during the walk Grimm and I just returned from.”
“Amalia!” The cat jumped in the window and turned back into Amalia. “The bloody hell were you thinking?!”
“I was thinking he wouldn’t tell you I talked to him.” She glared at Cerdic. “Obviously that wasn’t the case.”
“You mentioned the mission, didn’t you.” Eric stood and pulled a book from a nearby shelf. “If you gave him any details I swear.”
“She didn’t tell me anything. She said you would tell me.” Cerdic sipped some more of his tea. “I figured that meant she couldn’t talk about it since she seemed eager for me to go on it.”
Eric dropped the book onto the tea table with a thud. “Well, at least she listens to some of the rules.” He started thumbing through the book. “Any idea what page it’s on?”
Cerdic waited for Amalia to answer, figuring that’s who he was asking. To his surprise the domesticated fox spoke. “Three thousand and forty five?”
Cerdic kept the same calm that he had exhibited when Amalia transformed in front of him for a few moments, then he broke. “What the bloody hell is this? Can someone please tell me what I can expect now that I am in on the supernatural loop?”
“Don’t get your knickers in a bunch. I’m Eric’s familiar. Nice to meet you for real, Cerdic.”
“Uhh…nice to meet you too, Rowan.” Cerdic looked at Grimm for a moment. “If you could talk you would’ve by now, right?”
Grimm barked back. It sounded like an affirmative.
“He says if he could he would.”
Cerdic smiled. “Thanks Rowan, I didn’t need a translation this time.”
“Ahem.” Eric cleared his throat. “If we can get to the matter at hand.”
Amalia pulled up a chair from another table. “Well, let’s talk.”
Eric started reading the entry he was open to in the book. “It says here that a Minotaur loves mazes…wait. Wrong page.” He shuffled back a few pages. “Ah, here we are. The Leprechauns are a race of small pranksters. They have spread the word that catching them forces them to give you their pot of gold, but do not be fooled. The leprechauns have no gold. They draw attention away from a danger of supernatural danger by drawing people away from that danger. If caught the leprechaun tells one where the gold is supposed to be but some trickery makes the lucky person unable to find the gold.”
“Well, I knew that leprechaun gold wasn’t real. What are you getting at?” Cerdic tried to look at the book and Eric shifted it away from him.
“Sorry, not supposed to let you read. Not yet anyway.” He closed the book and put it back on his shelf. “So, the mission is to catch the leprechaun and instead of asking for gold ask what he’s protecting. A warlocke and the other human supernaturals can’t get close to one because they sense us and pop away. The only known exception is shapeshifters and werewolves. Possibly because they have abilities centered around animals.”
Cerdic absorbed the last of the information. “So, why send me? A werewolf or a shapeshifter could do it, and probably better.”
“Leprechauns can be resentful when captured by werewolves and shapeshifters. They won’t stop you, but they also won’t tell you anything. That’s why I want to go. I caught one once and he told me nothing.”
Eric nodded. “Exactly. So, do you want to take this on? The council will trust you more if you do this.”
“Eh, why not?”
“It’s agreed, then. I’ll get your transportation set up and get you some vacation time.”
“You can get me vacation time?” Cerdic looked skeptical.
“Yes, my day job is working in the company you work for. I have some strings I can pull.” Eric paused to sip his tea. “Of course I’ll only do that when we need you for something.”
Cerdic nodded. “I wouldn’t expect any different.”