The middle Yeti’s lips twitched. “Wisdom? From Miko?”
I frowned. “It is my understanding he is your mage, is he not?”
“Well, shit, yeah, but that doesn’t make him wise. He’s a bit of a dumb fuck if you ask me.” The Yeti frowned again. “Speaking of dumb fucks, we told you not to come back, Norm.”
Norm cringed. “I brought my new friend, Billy. He says he’s got a new prank I can help with. I like pranks, you know that.”
Billy’s head swiveled back to me. “A new prank?”
I scrunched up my face. “Something like that.”
Billy laughed. “You realize that by taking him on, you’ve taken him on?”
No, no, I was not keeping the Yeti. I shook my head. “I—”
“Too late, no backsies,” Billy said. “But I’ll introduce you to Miko if you really want. For what good he might do you, I don’t fucking know. He’s pretty useless to us. I mean, when he shows up, that is.”
His language was jarring, reminding me so much of the human world, I had to shake my head. But he was leading the way down a path I hadn’t seen that took us into the chasm and hopefully toward their mage, which was what I’d asked for. I followed, and the two other Yeti slid in behind me. Norm didn’t come down the path, but stayed up top and peered over the ledge. He waved a huge hand at me. “Bye! See you later, friend!”
I hoped his farewell wasn’t because I was about to get my ass handed to me. “What happened to Norm? That scar on his head isn’t an accident.”
Billy didn’t turn around. “He was a scrapper, one of our best fighters, and he got in a tussle with a pack of wandering ogres. It didn’t end well for them. He killed them all, but in the middle of it, he got a sword stuck in his skull.”
My jaw dropped. “Was there a healer nearby? Is that how he survived?”
“No, he walked through a snowstorm to get home,” the Yeti right behind me said. I glanced back.
I had no idea Yeti were so tough. Ogres tended to be the supernatural badass everyone feared, but I was beginning to think their “gentle cousins,” as the Yeti were so often referred to, were perhaps a deadlier breed.
“How many ogres?” I had to ask. The warrior in me wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t know.
I kept moving, but my brain stuttered over that number. Fifteen ogres? “Did he have weapons?”
There was more than a little pride in Billy’s answer. “Nope. Took their own weapons off those dirty fuckers, but mostly he used his hands.”
Again, my brain couldn’t quite wrap itself around that. A mob of fifteen ogres, taken out barehanded by a Yeti. The power and speed he would have had to display would have been nothing short of epic. I kind of wished I’d been there to see it. “And you still cast him out?”
Ahead of me, Billy shrugged. “That’s life. He’s no good to us now. Wouldn’t hurt a fly if you told him it had just bitten his own mema.”
He stopped in front of a random wooden door leaning against a chunk of the mountain. Like it had been placed there, ready to be thrown into a fire. “This is Miko’s place.”
Both my eyebrows shot up. The door wasn’t hinged on anything, and I could see the mountain behind it in places. Was this a prank maybe? I glanced at Billy and he shrugged.
“I haven’t seen him in years. Why Norm would think he could help is beyond my fucking ken.”
I reached past him and touched the door. It glowed softly, the wood warming under my hand. Heartwood of a cedar tree from deep in the redwoods. The connection was not lost on me.
I took a deep breath and pulled the door open.
he door in the mountain chasm the Yeti led me to opened slowly to reveal a glowing tunnel behind it and the sound of a fire crackling and two voices conversing. I glanced at Billy, but he backed away.
“If you’re going to go, I suggest you go quickly.”
Feeling like I was making a mistake, while at the same time realizing I didn’t know where else to start, I stepped through the archway. The door slammed shut behind me, locking if the metal click was any indication. I reached back and tried to open the door.
Locked indeed. Damn it.
There was a laugh from down the tunnel and then a male voice, husky with age, spoke. “Well, now that he’s here we can discuss this properly, Niah.”
Niah? That couldn’t be right. There was no way she could be here—she was in the Rim. Wasn’t she?
I hurried forward, not sure if I was hearing things right or not. Niah was our family’s bard and sometime magic woman from the Rim. A Terraling like me. What in the name of the mother goddess was she doing here deep in the Himalayan Mountains?
The end of the hall opened into a large circular room with a high ceiling and smooth polished walls.
But that wasn’t what kept my attention. In the center of the room, laden with food and drink, was a large, Yeti-sized table. On either side of the table were two people. One was a Yeti I assumed was Miko, and on the other sat Niah. She looked like a child at the adult’s table. Even her bear shifter, who sat quietly at her feet, looked small. She glanced at me and smiled. “Ash, good, I see Norm found you. That was rather tight timing, you know.”
Confusion rocked through me. “Wait, you sent him? How did you know I would be here? How did you know there would be an avalanche?”