Changeling

Changeling by Yasmine Galenorn (book 2 of the New York Times Bestselling Otherworld Series)

Berkley (Mass Market); June 2007
Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 978-0-425-21629-3

We're the D'Artigo Sisters: Half-human, half-Faerie, we're savvy--and sexy--operatives for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. But our mixed-blood heritage short-circuits our talents at all the wrong times.  My sister Camille is a wicked-good witch whose magic is as unpredictable as the weather.  My sister Menolly is a vampire trying to get the hang of being undead.  And me?  I'm Delilah.  When I'm under stress, I transform into a tabby cat--and a series of violent murders is really getting me bent out of shape...

"Someone's been slaughtering the Weres of the Rainier Puma Pride, and my sisters and I have been enlisted to investigate by Zachary Lyonnesse, golden boy of the werepumas. Right away we smelled demon trouble, and we tracked it directly into the snare of the Hunters Moon Clan, sworn enemies of Puma Pride. But there's more than Were rivalry at work. It's that old demon Shadow Wing who is setting a deadly snare for the pumas. We have to find out why, which means a visit one to of the Immortals. Unfortunately, for my sisters and me, our half-human blood is just enough to put us in mortal danger." "At the Wayfarer Inn, a portal to Otherworld and the local hangout for humans and beasties alike, our fellow operative Jocko's been murdered. Every clue points to Shadow Wing, the soul-munching, bad-ass leader of the Subterranean Realms. He's made it clear that he aims to raze humankind to the ground, turning both Earth and Otherworld into his private playground. Our assignment: keep Shadow Wing and his minions from creeping into Earth via the Wayfarer. The demons figure they're in like Flynn. After all, with only my 'bumbling' sisters and me standing in the way, how can they miss? But we've got a secret for them: faulty wiring or not, nobody kicks ass like the D'Artigo girls."

Published: 06/01/2007
Excerpt:

Chapter 1

The moon was high overhead, rounded and full like one of those snow globes human children like to play with at Christmas time.  I could barely see her up there watching over me as I slipped through the thick grass, padding lightly on the frost-shrouded ground.  The night was clear but bitterly cold, and my breath formed little puffs of air as it spiraled out of my mouth.

I was freezing, but it was better than staying inside where Maggie could get hold of me and slobber her kisses all over my fur, or where Iris could trap me into that stupid cat bag and forcibly clip my claws.  Her manicures always left me with stubby nails the next day.  And nobody but nobody was going to ruin the French manicure that I'd just paid fifty bucks for down at the local salon.

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As I rounded the gazebo near the path leading to Birchwater Pond, a movement from within the trees alerted me and I paused mid-step, listening.  The noise repeated itself: a ruffling of leaves, the snapping of brittle twigs on the forest floor.  Oh great Bast...please don't let it be Speedo, the neighbor's dog.  That little pisser was the most tenacious basset hound I'd ever met.  The only basset hound I'd ever met, to be honest.  He delighted in chasing me whenever I showed up on all fours, baying like a drunken troglodyte.  While I could easily outrun the mutt, I didn't trust him.  Of course, to be fair, he wasn't a Were, just a regular old dog.  Probably a good thing, now that I thought about it, considering that he was shy a few bolts in the bucket, but still....I glanced around, looking for the nearest tall tree.  It never hurt to be prepared.

When Speedo didn't break through the undergrowth but the noises continued, I reconsidered.  Possum, maybe.  Or skunk.  Skunk would be bad, but this time I'd fight my instincts and leave it alone.  Skunk me once, shame on the skunk.  Skunk me twice, and I'd be the butt of my sisters' jokes for weeks.

As I searched my gut, something told me that my stalker wasn't an animal.  At least not your everyday furble running through the woods.  I might not be a witch like my sister Camille, but I had my own set of instincts and they were whispering loud and clear that somebody was out there.  I raised my head and sniffed, inhaling deeply.  There.  The faint scent of big cat, but behind that, something stronger.  And then I knew what it was that I sensed.  Cat magic.

Cautiously, I made my way to the gazebo and loped up the stairs.  I didn't want to be caught in the grass unarmed.  There wasn't much I could do in this state if a demon happened to pop out of the woods to attack me.  Turn into a ball of fur and razorblades, maybe, but considering my size, fighting back promised a quick and painful end to my existence.  Once I was in the gazebo I'd be able to scramble up on the railing, which would give me a better vantage point from which to observe.

I lowered myself into a pouncing position and wiggled my butt, preparing for the pounce-and-leap but as I sailed into the air toward the third step, my big old fluffy tail decided to play tease-and-tickle with a patch of spiny cockleburs that were growing near the edge of the gazebo.  Oh shit! I thought, as I went thudding to the ground, belly first, feet splayed out like some cartoon cat from Tweety and Sylvester.

I blinked as my dignity took a direct hit.  As I shook my head and pushed myself to all four feet, I found-much to my dismay-that the tufts of my tail fur were knotted up in the prickly plants.  I let out a little growl of frustration.  Why did I have to have such long fur?  Granted, I was the prettiest golden tabby around, but sometimes looks were overrated.  I tugged, trying to free myself but no luck.  The fur was stuck and not coming loose.

An insect that hadn't bit the dust during the cold snap buzzed around my head and I twitched my ears, resisting the urge to bat at it.  Nope, leave it alone, I thought.  I've got bigger concerns than a flutterbug.  Like getting loose from this fucking plant.  When I was in cat form, it was always harder to control my urges.  Beetles distracted me, and spiders...leaves flying in the wind, a dandelion going to seed...oh yeah, I was a sucker for anything that promised to put up a good chase.

I tugged again but a sharp pain at the base of my tail told me that maybe that wasn't the best idea in the world.  Now what?  I couldn't transform back while the moon was full, not until morning.  And with Camille off racing with the Hunt as it streaked through the night woods, and Menolly in town at a Vamps Anonymous meeting, my family sure wasn't going to come to my rescue.

With a little huff, I tried again and almost ripped out a wad of fur.  Well, shit.  Frustrated, I crouched, trying to avoid getting any more entangled than I already was.  This night was just getting better and better.

First, I had to miss my late night fix of trash TV, and a night without Jerry Springer, was a night without a chance to force Menolly to sit and visit with me.  We did our nails, I ate tons of popcorn, and we gossiped about Camille and her lovers until it was time for Menolly to go to work.

And then I'd been all set to take out a mouse that was gnawing at Camille's comfrey plant.  I had the rodent down, under my paw, when she began spieling out a sob story about a litter of munchkins at home.  Camille always said I was too soft-hearted and I guess she was right.  I let the mouse go, albeit with a grumpy "Get out of here before you're toast."

My sisters didn't know that I could talk to animals when I was in my Were form.  This was my own special world, one they couldn't enter.  Camille had her connection with the Moon Mother, and Menolly had her blood lusts...although that was a rather recent addition to her life-the Elwing Clan had turned her into a vampire against her will.  It wasn't like she'd asked to be turned into a bloodsucker.  But all my life, I'd kept my ability a secret.  It was all mine, and I didn't feel like sharing.

After the mouse ran off, I stopped to groom and damned if I didn't find that I'd picked up a thriving patch of fleas.  Now I'd need a flea dip or some Advantage, and both clashed with my tea rose perfume and left me with dry skin and a mild rash.

Which brought me to the present: host to a flea circus, stuck to a cocklebur plant, with an unknown intruder watching me from the woods who was packing a butt load of cat magic.  We were having some big fun now!  Big whoop.  It pissed me off that a lot of people assumed that all of us Weres spent the nights of the full moon partying hearty and getting down with our bad selves.  If this was party central, give me a good book and a mug of hot milk any day.

Another crackle from the woods caught my attention.  Whatever I was going to do, I'd better get on with it.  I gingerly tested the burs again.  Nope, the prickly heads were holding me prisoner.  It would hurt like a son-of-a-bitch but I'd have to yank myself free.  I couldn't risk hoping whoever was lurking in the woods was friendly.  I closed my eyes, steeling myself for the rip, when a noise, to my left startled me.  Nerves jangled, I whipped around.

There, illuminated in the light of the moon, sat the mouse that I'd released.  She rose up on her hindquarters, her nose and whiskers twitching as she stared at me.  I swallowed every instinct in the world urging me to bat her a good one and tried to exert a pleasant, how-you-doin' smile.

"You need help?" she squeaked.

"What do you think?  Do I look like I need help?" I said.

She gave me a pained look.  "I don't have time for this.  My children are hungry.  Do you need help, or don't you?"

Oh Great Mother, the gods save me now.  It was bad enough I'd been soft hearted enough to let her go, but to be forced into accepting a favor from an entrée?  "Beggars can't be choosers, I guess," I muttered, ego shot to hell.

A twinkle raced through her eyes and she tittered and puffed up her chest.  "Say it, then."

"Say what?"

"Mice rule, cats drool."

I huffed.  "What?  You expect me to-wait!"

She turned tail at my outburst and was sauntering off.

"Come back.  Please!"

"You going to say it?" she asked over her shoulder.

I squirmed.  With no choice, I hung my head and hoped to hell nobody ever caught wind of this.  "Mice rule, cats drool."  That was it.  Utter humiliation.  My night was complete.

She sniffed, satisfied, then slowly examined my tail.  A nibble here, a nibble there, and she broke through the twigs attached to the cockleburs entangled in my fur.  I swished my tail back and forth.  The weight of the burs threw off my balance a little, but I was free and that's all that mattered.  I grudgingly thanked the mouse as she skittered away.

Another shuffle from the woods and I made tracks, too.  I had the suspicion there might be a Were hiding in the forest, but I also knew some demons had the ability to use cat magic so I wasn't about to count on whatever was stalking me to be feline-friendly.  Taking a deep breath, I loped across the lawn toward the house.

The backdoor on the porch was locked but I'd installed a cat door.  Camille had warded it to match my aura so the alarms would be set off by anybody who crept through except me.

Once inside the enclosed back porch, I scratched at the kitchen door until Iris opened it.  She picked me up and chucked me under the chin and I gave in without a fight.  Iris loved cats and treated me like her personal puss.  The Talon-haltija was short and stocky, milk-maid pretty with a smile that would melt a glacier.  She'd been bound to a family in Finland until they all died out, and then the house sprite joined the OIA-the Otherworld Intelligence Agency-for which my sisters and I worked.  They assigned her to remain Earthside as our assistant.

At first, she just worked in Camille's store, but after a nasty encounter with the demon Bad Ass Luke, Iris moved in with us.  She took care of the house and helped us out when we needed it.  It was kind of like having our favorite aunt around.

"Poor puss.  You have a rough night?" she asked, examining my fur.  "What do we have here?  A tail full of stickers?  And fleas?"  She wrinkled her nose.  "What have you been doing, girl?  Come on, Delilah, we'll better get you cleaned up.  I'll have to cut these burs out before you shift back, but I think you'll still end up with one seriously sore ass."

I squirmed, wanting to tell her about the presence I'd felt, but she couldn't understand me.  I could hear and understand both the Fae and humans while in Were-form, but we hadn't been able to figure out a way to make the communication a two-way street.

As she carried me over to the counter and held up the scissors, I quieted down.  As long as she didn't try to clip my claws she could pamper me all she wanted.  When Camille or Menolly returned, they might be able to pick up a bead on whatever it was I'd been sensing, and do something about it before the magical signature faded away.

#

By the time the moon went to bed, I was curled up by the fire, purring heavily as I drifted in and out of my nap.  I'd tried to wait up for Camille and Menolly, but the pull from the flames was too strong.  The minute I snuggled up in my cushioned slumber ball Camille had bought for my birthday, I slid right into the arms of Morpheus.  Which is why I woke up with one paw still furry, and the other rapidly shifting into a hand.

Nobody ever believed me when I told them it wasn't painful.  Oh, it might be if you weren't a Were but had a shape-shifting spell cast on you, but for us, it was as simple as changing clothes.  Speaking of clothes, my collar had disappeared and was just as quickly transforming back into my sweat pants and tank top.  And Iris had been right.  My butt hurt.

"Seems my Kitten is back from her journey."  Menolly's voice echoed in my ears as I rolled off the slumber ball and thudded to the floor, fully transformed as the last whisker vanished.

I blinked, squinting at the window.  First light was about an hour away.  "Cutting it thin, aren't you?" I said, my throat a little raw.  My stomach rumbled and I discovered that I was a little queasy.  What had I eaten during the night?  Definitely not Miss House Mouse.  A little less engaged in the feline mindset, I decided to drop off some cheese nips where I knew the mouse and her family lived.  Poor thing.  I must have given her a good scare, even if she had taken advantage of my situation.

"You don't look so hot," Menolly said.  She was sitting on the sofa with Maggie in her lap.  The baby Crypto was slurping away at the contents of the bowl of cream, cinnamon, sugar, and sage that Menolly held.

The pair had become inseparable since Camille had first rescued the calico gargoyle from a demon's lunch box, and had bonded in one of the strangest friendships I'd ever seen.  It would be years before we knew whether Maggie would develop past the stage of a smart cat or a slow dolphin, but that didn't matter to us.  She was a rambunctious little sweetheart and we all adored her.

"I've got a good excuse," I said, rubbing my backside.  "I ended up with a butt full of thorns last night."

"Delightful.  I didn't fare much better. No bellyful of blood here, and I'm hungry."  I grimaced, but she waved away my protest.  "At least I'm always beautiful," she said, looking over my bedraggled state.  "Even after a hunt.  But you look like something the cat dragged in."

I shot her a nasty glare.

"What's the matter?  Your sense of humor vanish overnight?"

"Give me a break."  My stomach rumbled.  Yeah, I needed food, all right.  "I'm hungry, I stink to high heaven, and Iris had to cut off a pile of fur when I came home."  I was never a pretty sight the morning after the full moon, and usually I just wanted to head upstairs for a shower and spend the day in my Hello Kitty pajamas.  "I'll bet you aren't all that pretty to your victims," I added, feeling snarky.

Giving me a wicked grin, Menolly said, "Most of my meals are so enthralled, they come on demand.  Trust me, they love it."  Even though Camille had convinced her to join Vampires Anonymous, Menolly's cutting sarcasm had remained intact.  Sister or not, Menolly was one scary bad-ass chick.  Gorgeous, but she could be a real freakshow when she wanted to.

"Yeah, they love it till they realize you sucked them dry."  I shook my head, reaching for doughnut box sitting on the coffee table.  Chase, who fancied himself my boyfriend because we had sex once a week, had sent them to me.  When the box of thirty-two gourmet doughnuts had been delivered along with a dozen red roses and a catnip toy, a little thrill ran through my heart.  He really did understand me.

So what happened?  No pervs out last night?"  I winced as I stretched.  My muscles needed a good workout.  I'd head down to the gym toward evening.  They loved me there and had given me a free lifetime membership because men signed up just to watch me work out.  Being half-Faerie in a world enchanted with our presence had its perks.

"Not that I could find.  I drank a little, then wiped the guy's memory and sent him on his way.  I only took enough to stave off the worst of my thirst, but I'm going to need a real hunt in a few nights."  Her frost blue eyes flashed against the copper of her Bo Derek braids.  As she shook her head, the ivory beads she'd had woven into the braids clattered like the bones of a dancing skeleton.  Menolly made no noise, except when she chose to.  The beads reminded her that she had once been alive.  That she hadn't always been a vampire.

"You mean a full kill," I said.  The phone rang, but stopped after one ring.  Iris must have picked up.

"You nailed it."  Menolly shrugged, but I could hear the craving in her voice.  A young vampire, she still needed to drink deep and often.

Looking at her, it was hard to believe my sister was a vamp, except for that Butoh dancer complexion.  Petite, she barely made five-three, if that, but she could toss a dead demon over one shoulder and carry him like a child, and she could drain a person of blood without blinking.  She was the youngest, but sometimes she felt old as the hills to me.

Camille, the oldest, was a buxom and curvy five-foot-seven witch.  Long waves of curly black hair cascaded down her back and her eyes were violet with silver flecks.  She was the practical one, although you wouldn't know it by the way she dressed, which was one step shy of a fetish bar.

And me?  I was the middle child, though both Camille and Menolly annoyed the hell out of me by treating me like the baby.  At least I had them both beat in the height department.  I topped six-one, and my body was muscled and lean.  No couch potato kitty for me, except during my late-night TV binges.  My hair would have been called flaxen by a poet, and until recently had fallen almost to my waist.  Tired of the constant upkeep, I'd marched into a salon and asked for a layered shag that barely skimmed my shoulders.

The three of us looked about as much like sisters as we did like goblins.  Our mother had been human, and our father was one of the Sidhe.  We fell at odd points along the spectrum.  Unfortunately, our half-breed status upset the status quo with Father's relatives.  Worse, it upset our internal balance.

Camille's magic proved chaotic and was as erratic as her choice in men.  Menolly could climb a hundred foot tree, but she fell off a simple perch when spying on a rogue clan of vampires.  They, in turn, tortured and turned her into one of them.

As for me...my shape-shifting was unpredictable and I couldn't always control it.  And even though I was a Were, no gorgeous lioness appeared when I transformed.  Just a golden long-haired tabby, whose tail occasionally got stuck in the briar bush and who ended up with...fleas.  Damn it.  I smelled like Advantage and the beginnings of a rash was climbing up my back.  It seemed Iris had dosed me a good one.  I needed to take a shower before I broke out in hives.

"Where's Camille?  I have to talk to her about something I felt out in the woods last night."  I glanced around, looking for signs that she might be home.  No stilettos, no corsets lying around, no stench of sulfur from misfired magic.

"She said she was stopping off at Trillian's before coming home," Menolly said.

Just then Iris appeared in the doorway.  "Camille just called.  She's on her way home.  I'm going to take off for the store.  She should rest for awhile before coming in," the house sprite said.  "Tell her I'll expect her in around one?"

I nodded, watching as Iris bustled off.  Camille ostensibly owned the Indigo Crescent, a bookstore in downtown Belles-Faire, a grimy suburb of Seattle.  In truth, it was a front for the OIA-the Otherworld Intelligence Agency for which we worked.  They'd sent us Earthside because, bluntly, they thought we were a bunch of bumbling bimbos.  Klutzes we might be, but a pack of vacuous T&A?  Never.  We had brains!  We had looks!  We had...the worst record in the service.  However, thanks to the bureaucracy, instead of getting us out of the way the OIA had put us right on the fast-track to Hell.

#

A few months ago, we'd had a nasty bit of business with a Degath Squad, a trio of demons from the Subterranean Realms who were on a scouting mission.  They were looking for the spirit seals-ancient artifacts that, when joined together, would open the portals and allow Shadow Wing and his minions to take over both Earth and Otherworld.

We'd barely managed to squeak through the assault alive.

When we returned to Otherworld to prove that things weren't so hunky-dory back on Earth, we found our home city in an uproar with a full-scale civil war going on.  We reconsidered our options and showed up on the doorstep of the Elfin Queen.

When we dropped the dead demons and other assorted goodies at her feet, Queen Asteria promptly proclaimed that, like it or not, as of that moment we were now working for her.  Oh, and one other thing, a little thing really-just don't tell the OIA about this arrangement.  And when a millenniums-old magic-wielding queen tells you to do something, you don't argue.

One thing we knew for sure: Where there was one demon, there were bound to be more.  Where there was one Degath Squad, other Hell Scouts would follow, and eventually, with an army to back them up.  And even with the help of Camille's boyfriends-Trillian and Morio, a gorgeous hunk of dragon flesh we knew only by the name of Smoky, and my boyfriend Chase Johnson, we were a pale wall of defense.

#

The door opened and Camille blew through.  She was in full getup-flowing plum chiffon skirt, black lace bustier, black PVC boots that laced up her calves, their heels a mile high.  Her eyes sparkled with silver.  She'd been running magic, all right.  Her glamour was so strong that I was amazed she didn't have a pack of men following her home.

Of the three of us, she had the most appeal to full humans.  Her very scent invited them to come play, and her voluptuous curves left little to the imagination.

Camille had another side, though.  She'd taken care of me after our mother died.  Menolly was off in her own little world by then, though not yet a vampire, but Camille held it together for our father and for the three of us.

"Something tripped the wards," she said.  "I can feel it.  Anything happen tonight I should know about?"

I jumped up.  "I've been waiting for you to get home."  I glanced out the window.  First light was only moments away.  "I want you to come out back with me.  I smelled cat magic last night and I think we might have a Were prowling around, but I'm not positive.  I was in cat form and the full moon can cloud my senses."

She ruffled my hair, a habit that I both loved and hated.  "Let's go check it out, sweetie."  With a glance at Menolly, she added, "You need to get downstairs.  The sky's clear and the sun will be up soon.  I'm surprised you aren't already feeling the pull."

Menolly brushed her eyes.  "I am, actually.  I'll put Maggie in her box and go to bed."  Unlike most vampires, Menolly slept in an actual bed, and her nest-very Martha Stewart-was hidden in the basement behind a secret entrance we'd fashioned to keep out intruders.  No one else but Iris knew that the bookshelves in the kitchen actually opened up to reveal the staircase leading to Menolly's apartment.

Camille followed me out to the backyard.  I grabbed a trowel on the way.  Everything looked so different from this height, but the minute I saw the cockleburs, I felt my dander rise.  I stopped, kneeling down to root them out.

"What are you doing?" Camille asked.

I grunted.  "These suckers got stuck in my tail last night.  I'm going to hire a gardener to come in and clear the yard of thistles and thorns and other nasty crap like this."  Managing to get the point of the trowel under the root, I levered the plant out and tossed it in the compost pile.

"Oh yes, that's going to do the trick.  The seeds will just spring up again, you goober.  Just make sure you don't get rid of my belladonna or wolfs bane," she said, choking back a snort as I led her to the path where I'd sensed the intruder.  "I take it your butt's sore?"

"Worse than diaper rash," I said.  "So are the wards sounding an alarm, or were they just tripped by accident?"  They were Camille's spell and she was the only one who'd be able to sort through the variances of disruption that happened when they'd been detonated.

She closed her eyes.  "No demons at play, but that doesn't mean much considering how Bad Ass Luke conned Wisteria into working with them."  Stopping suddenly, she blinked and said, "Did you know that Trillian is going to be staying with Chase until he can find an apartment?  He moved in with him last night."

I blinked.  Chase hadn't mentioned anything of the sort the last time I'd talked to him.  "No.  And just how long do you think that arrangement will last?"

Trillian was a Svartan, one of the elves' darker-souled cousins, and he'd been stringing Camille along for years.  They were lovers, though at times she wasn't sure if she even liked him.

"I don't know, but it's better than what Menolly suggested," Camille said, shuddering.  Our lovely trouble-maker of a sister had put forth the idea that Trillian might want to room with Morio, which would have been the mother of all disasters.  Of course, she'd been sporting a smirk when she made the suggestion, but both Camille and I knew that Menolly had a hankering for havoc.  Her idea of fun was a rousing fight down at the Wayfarer.

"I think I've been forcing her to watch too much Jerry Springer with me," I said, rolling my eyes.

Morio, a youkai-kitsune from Japan-a fox demon-slash-nature spirit-was Camille's other lover.  They had hooked up when they accidentally tripped a lust spell out near Mount Rainier and that was all it took for the two of them to start hitting the sheets.  Camille had a weakness for bad boys.

Trillian and Morio kept a cautious truce because of their shared interest in Camille, but they were clear rivals for her affection.  It was a good thing that the Fae weren't monogamous by nature or there would have been bloodshed by now, considering the amount of testosterone involved.

"Well, he isn't likely to kill Chase since Chase is my boyfriend, but still...I hope for both their sakes-and ours-that Trillian finds an apartment soon."  With a wicked grin, I added, "Bet you the arrangement lasts less than two weeks," I said, fishing a twenty out of my pocket and waving it at her.

"You're on."  Camille snorted.  "I'll give it three at the most."  She suddenly stopped and raised her head.

"Hold on, there's something here.  It's faint...but definite..."

She plunged into the bushes and knelt near the base of a large oak that watched over the wooded acreage that spread out next to our land.  As she examined the tree, I scouted around the path, finding a line of footprints.  The night had been clear with no rain to wash them away.  They led up to the tree, then away from it again and disappeared in the middle of the tangle of huckleberry, brambles, Oregon grape, and fern.

Just then, a Steller's Jay dive-bombed me from the branches of a fir, scolding at the top of its lungs.  Little bugger, I thought as I waved it away.  It could smell the cat on me.  I wrinkled my nose and let out a little hiss and it screeched even louder.  Another jay joined it on the branch, and both perched there, eyeballing me.

"Don't you dare unless you want to become my breakfast," I muttered.

"Delilah!"  Camille's voice brought me out of my sparring match.  Her face was a mixture of disbelief and wariness.  "I know what was here."

"What?  What was it?"  I leaned against the oak, waiting.  Not a demon.  Please don't let it be a demon, I thought.  I was tired of demons.  While I could kick ass with the best, I didn't like conflict.  When my sisters got into arguments, the stress turned me into a pussycat.

"You were right, there was a Were around here," she said, her eyes flashing with silver.  "And unless I'm off my game, I think he's a werepuma."  She looked up at me.

"He's marked the tree."

"Eww..."  I wrinkled my nose, hoping he'd been in Were form when he'd taken his territorial piss.

A werepuma?  I stared at the trunk, then at our house which you could just barely see from this vantage point.  Why had he marked the tree?  He didn't own this land-we did.  Was he in league with Shadow Wing and the demons?  Or was he a free agent?  And if he wasn't aligned with our hellion friends, just what did he want?

COLLAPSE

Playlist

AC-DC:
Back in Black
Hells Bells

Tori Amos:
Horses
Blood Roses
Talula

Black Sabbath: Lady Evil

Eric Clapton: Cocaine

Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare

Creedance Clearwater Revival:
Born on the Bayou
Run through the Jungle
Bad Moon on the Rise

Dead Can Dance:
Yulunga
Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove
Indus

Dire Straits:
Money For Nothing
Down to the Waterline

Donovan: Sunshine Superman

Everlast:
I Can't Move
What It's Like
Ends

Fleetwood Mac:
The Chain
Gold Dust Woman

Don Henley:The Garden of Allah

Gary Numan:
Bombers
Remember I was Vapour
Engineers

Godsmack:
Moon Baby
Voodoo

Gorillaz:
Every Planet We Reach Is Dead
Demon Days
Feel Good, Inc
Kids With Guns
Last Living Souls
Dare
Clint Eastwood

Jethro Tull:
Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow
I'm Your Gun
Down at the End of Your Road
Overhang
The Witch's Promise
The Clasp
Cross Eyed Mary
Locomotive Breath
Mountain Men
Raising Steam
No Lullaby
Moths
Journeyman
Weathercock

Led Zeppelin:
Battle of Evermore
When the Levee Breaks
Ramble On
Immigrant Song
Kasmir

Loreena McKennitt:
Mystic's Dream
Mummer's Dance
All Souls Night
Marco Polo

Nirvana:
Lake of Fire
Come As You Are
About A Girl
Smells Like Teen Spirit

Pearl Jam: Jeremy

Police, The: King of Pain

Rolling Stones:
Play With Fire
19th Nervous Breakdown
Mother's Little Helper
Paint It Black

Gabrielle Roth:
Oceana
Crystal Cavern
Black Mesa
Stone Circle
Mother Night
Persephone's Song
Seducing Hades
Luna

Simple Minds: Don't You (Forget About Me)

Ringo Starr: It Don't Come Easy

Steppenwolf: Magic Carpet Ride

Suzanne Vega:
Solitude Standing
Bad Wisdom
Straight Lines
The Queen and the Soldier

Talking Heads:
I Zimbra
Life During Wartime
Take Me To the River
Psycho Killer

Toadies: Possum Kingdom

Zero 7: In The Waiting Line

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