Page 24

“Yes.” I gave him a nod and started back up the steep path that would take me to where Norm waited. As I came around the last curve in the path, Billy caught up to me.

“What did Miko say to you?”

I wasn’t going to tell him everything, but I was sure at least a part of my instructions would make Billy happy. “I have to take Norm with me.”

A big hand settled on my arm and spun me around. “No.”

“You just told me he was mine to watch over?” I pointed out.

“No, that was different.”

I didn’t see the difference myself, but I wasn’t going to argue with a Yeti.

We were nose to nose, but I’d been in worse situations. I put my hands out to the side, well away from my weapons.

“It’s not my idea of a good time either, but I don’t think I have a choice.” I kept my words even, feeling the tension rolling off Billy. No matter that they’d cast Norm out; it was more than obvious that he wasn’t thrilled I was taking the injured Yeti farther away. “You want to tell Miko you disagree with him? Fine by me. I’ll wait.”

His hand flexed over my arm and while I didn’t think it possible, he leaned further into me so that our noses were pushed hard against one another. “Norm is my little brother. You better bring him back.”

I didn’t say anything, didn’t make a promise I wasn’t sure I could keep. Besides, I could have pointed out that if he’d been at all worried, he could have stopped Norm from being cast out.

As we approached the flat landing where Norm waited, Billy backed off. He stopped about ten feet down the slope and I continued on alone. Norm was at the top, sitting on the mountain. “Hey, friend. Did Miko give you a good prank?”

I burst out laughing, couldn’t help it when I thought about it in that context. “Shit, he did. Pulled the rug right out from under me.” I’d not seen Miko’s words coming at all.

Norm laughed with me. “Oh, I would have liked to see that! You fell down good then, I bet.”

I shook my head. “Miko said you should come with me. That I have a big . . . prank, and you can help me with it. But it means going away from the mountains here. And I don’t know when you’ll be able to come back.” I didn’t want to add if ever, because we were going after Cassava and I didn’t know if Norm would survive an encounter with her.

Norm’s eyes widened. “An adventure prank? Those are the best! Miko likes me, you know. I’m one of his grandsons.”

Suddenly Miko’s desire that I help Norm made even more sense. “Well, we have to go.” Though I had no idea how I was getting Norm through the world with me.

Because it was to the human world I was headed, the one place I knew I could find the information I needed about weather patterns.

“Come on, Norm.”

I waved at him and he ran at me, scooping me up and throwing me onto his back once more. “I can go faster than you. Let’s go, friend!”

He bolted across the thin trails we’d traversed on our way to the mage, and for a few minutes I just hung on for my life. Traveling by Yeti back was something new to me, but I had to admit he was right. With his long legs and affinity for the snow, he covered ground like it was nothing.

“Go to where the avalanche was, Norm.”

He flung both hands up and changed direction mid-stride. I had to look, I had to see if there was anything there that would tell me Cassava was still here. Even though I knew she would be a fool to stay.

Norm slid to a stop, spraying out a fine sheet of snow and ice in an arc. “Here we are.”

I jumped from his back and scanned the ground. “Where did you see the snow leopard?”

Norm trudged over to a flattened area. “You know, this isn’t fun.”

“I know. It’s important, though.” I followed him, then put a hand on his belly, stopping his forward momentum.

The snow had been trampled down, but there was more than one set of feet. There were a few spots where I could pick out Peta’s paw prints, and Cassava’s smaller, more delicate feet. But there were two other sets of footprints. Both bigger than Cassava, and both distinctly their own.

One I knew well. I’d seen it for years tamped into the ground of the training room. “Granite, you piece of shit,” I growled.

The other . . . I put a hand over one imprint. The foot was as big as mine, which meant whoever was helping Cassava was over six feet. Not Raven then. I frowned.

There was no blood, which surprised me. Why wouldn’t Peta have fought? That didn’t make any sense.

Stranger yet was the fact that except for the area that was trampled down, there were no footsteps leading away. As if they’d all just disappeared into thin air. I knew Raven could manage that trick, bending the Veil with Spirit. But he wasn’t here, I was sure of it. Could it be a Sylph helping them? That was possible, but somehow I doubted it. There were few left in any of the families that would help Cassava. She’d caused too much grief, and death.

The clues were not helping me.

I rubbed a hand over my face. “Okay, Norm. On to the prank.”

He grabbed me and swung me over his back. I grabbed around his neck and he took off like a shot out of a cannon.

As he ran, I mulled over what I’d seen, but no matter how I tried to piece it together, I couldn’t make it make sense, and that worried me. Was I losing my mind? Cassava had used Spirit on me while she’d been the queen. And the more Spirit was used on a person, the more their mind broke under the strain of that manipulation. I swallowed hard. No. I wasn’t losing it. Maybe I would at some point, but not here, not now.

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