River Marked Chapter 10

UNLIKE THE MARYHILL MUSEUM OR SHE WHO WATCHES, Stonehenge was a place I had been to many times over the years. It's right on the way to my mom's house in Portland. Sam Hill had been told that the henge at Salisbury had been used for human sacrifice and decided that it was a fitting memorial for the men who were sacrificed in World War I.

Adam and I parked the truck next to a deserted orchard down by the river and walked over hill and dale to the high place where Sam Hill's conceit looked out over the gorge.

I never could decide if Stonehenge was beautiful, spiritual, or merely a roadside oddity. Certainly it was impressive--a massive exact- sized replica cast in concrete of a place half a world away.

The original Stonehenge took about sixteen hundred years to build. The one at Maryhill took a little more than ten years to complete. It is a monument to commemorate thirteen young men of Klickitat County who died in a war nearly a hundred years ago, a silent testament of a man who knew how to dream big, and, I'd been told, a magical collection site of great power to those who knew how to access it.

I'd always taken that last bit with a grain of salt. After all, I'd have thought a powerful place would have attracted witches or something nastier (and there is not a whole lot nastier than a black witch), and in all the years I'd been visiting, I'd never seen anything dangerous. The other reason I'd doubted was because I am pretty good at sensing magic--and it had never felt any more magical than my garage.

In the night, it was different.

The minute my foot landed on the flattened area around the monument, I could feel the pulse of magic under my feet. Adam sensed it, too-- though werewolves don't usually feel magic other than their own. He lifted his head and took a deep breath.

"I thought this was an awfully public place to be meeting," I told Adam. "You can see up here from all the way over the river on the main highway. Suddenly, though, Coyote's desire to meet here makes better sense. I've heard talk of ley lines since before I could walk--Bran might be a werewolf, but he understands the working of magic even if he doesn't do witchcraft or wizardry himself."

I paused, frowning. "I don't think he does, anyway. I've been here a lot over the years, and this is the first time I've ever felt magic."

"Ley lines?" said Adam. "I can feel something." He closed his eyes and breathed in, as if trying to pick up that little bit more that isolating his senses might give him. "Ley lines, huh? Feels like someone stroking my hair in the wrong direction."

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" I asked.

He snorted. "No flirting. We're here on business."

We'd come early; my husband, the eternal tactician, had determined that would be the better course. I liked those two words together. "My" and "husband."

"What are you grinning about?" he asked.

I told him, and he grinned, too. "Hopeless," he said. "You are hopeless. We are supposed to be getting the lay of the land, not making goo-goo eyes at each other. I suppose it won't do much harm, though, since it has already been scouted." He tucked his arm around me and nodded toward the tall stone outer ring of Stonehenge, where a pair of hawks perched, watching us.

"Ah," I said. "But are they enemy scouts or friendly ones?"

"Friendly," said Jim Alvin, coming out of the shadows like . . . well, like a good Indian scout. "Hank found that as a hawk he can better resist the river devil, so we thought it would be safer for everyone if he stayed in his feathered form."

It takes a lot to sneak up on a coyote--upwind, silent, and cloaked by darkness and stillness. From Adam's expressionless face, I knew he hadn't sensed Jim, either. I reached up and tipped an imaginary hat to him. "Are all medicine men as adept at sneaking around as you are?" I asked.

In one of those coincidences that happen only once in a while, Calvin came tromping down the gravel driveway, making as much noise as any human possibly could. "Uncle Jim? Are you around here somewhere? I parked the car where you told me--" He stumbled over an uneven spot in the road. "And why can't we use flashlights again? Because we want to break our necks?" That last was said quietly; I'm not sure he intended anyone else to hear.

"Not all of us," said Jim unnecessarily.

"Where are you?" Calvin asked.

He couldn't see us though we were no more than forty feet away, and the half-gone moon lit the night. I tried to imagine what it would be like to wander around the night half-blind to everything around you.


No wonder people look for monsters in the dark.

"We're over here," Jim said, and Calvin changed his trajectory. About half the way over, he saw us. I could see it in his body. Evidently his uncle could, too. "The Hauptmans are already here. Hank and Fred are waiting in the monument."

Calvin increased his pace. "Everyone is early. Do we have to wait until midnight?"

"We'll see. The earth is rich tonight," Jim said. "Waiting for us."

"Nature abhors a vacuum," I said. "Why aren't there nasty things out here sucking up this magic?"

"Because it is ours," said Calvin.

"Shamanistic--not accessible to witch, wizard, or fae?" asked Adam in fascinated tones. "I've heard about this kind of place, but never with any detail. I assumed they'd be hidden places."

"Not accessible to other kinds of magic users without a lot of work," said Jim. "And more time than they are allowed--this is a pretty public place. My grandfather cleaned out a coven. Burned the whole town to do it, and Maryhill never recovered--but they haven't tried again. I'm not sure that the fae can't access it; but if they do, they probably can find a place nearby that is more private and almost as powerful. Ley lines are lines --they don't just stop in one place. From what I've heard, a wizard wouldn't hurt anything, but I've not seen one here."

"The power was here before Stonehenge," said Calvin, "but the construct seems to make it more accessible. There are a couple of places near here that were more traditional places of power and probably were better before Sam Hill built this here."

"Did Coyote tell you what he wanted you to do with all this magic?" I asked.

"Coyote?" asked Calvin, "Who is Coyote?"

"Coyote," said Jim dryly.

Calvin smiled uncertainly, blinked a couple of times, then seemed to get it. "Coyote?"

Then he looked at me. "She knows Coy--" He broke off mid-word, staring at me.

"Damn," he said in awe. "Oh, hot damn."

"Watch your mouth, boy," Jim said.

"Freak'n sh--" Calvin bit off the last word. "That's why. That's why you are a walker when your mother is white. Coyote is your freakin' father."

I don't know why his reaction offended me. "No. I have it on the best of authority that Coyote is not my father. My father was a Blackfeet bull rider who died in a car wreck before I was born." I wasn't completely sure that Coyote wasn't my father-- but I knew that he didn't think so--and I wasn't claiming him if he wasn't claiming me. Calvin frowned at me.

"I am not," I said clearly if through my clenched teeth, "Coyote's daughter."

Jim took a deep breath. "Glad that's cleared up. Yes, Coyote told me what he wanted me to do. It's all set up inside the circle."

"Let's go see it, then," Adam said. He took Calvin by the arm, and said, "Follow me. I'll keep you on your feet."

We walked past the heel stone, a sixteen-foot- tall monolith just a little northeast of the rest of the monument and under the continuous ring of cement-formed stone that was the outer edge of the henge. I looked up warily when we walked underneath the cement slab where both hawks were perched.

They were about fifteen feet over our heads, and my inner coyote was sure that wasn't far enough away. We were loud, too; the fine- textured gravel wasn't conducive to quietness.

"Hawks hunt by day." Adam's grip on Calvin had shifted upward until he just rested a hand on his shoulder--but he was talking to me. "As long as Hank doesn't have a gun, wolf trumps hawk at night."

One of the hawks screamed an insult back, and Adam smiled, an expression that was as full of challenge as the hawk's cry.

"Anytime, hawk," he said. "Anytime." He was still ticked off about being shot, I thought. Come to think of it, I wasn't too happy about that, either.

"Calvin and I came about an hour ago," Jim was saying, ignoring the prefight exchange, "and set up what we needed with flashlights. Coyote was pretty firm about no visible modern technology for the ceremony." He looked at Calvin, and I was sure he could see in the dark a lot better than his nephew. "Flashlights were mentioned particularly. But I'm an old man and a big believer in `work smarter, not harder,' so we came up with the truck."

Stonehenge consisted of the heel stone, a pair of concentric circles--the first the ring of lintel stones held up by standing stones, the second a ring of monoliths--maybe eight or nine feet tall-- and an inner court.

The inner court was shaped somewhat like a horseshoe with the open end pointed northeast-- at the heel stone, in fact. The outer rim of the horseshoe was delineated by five huge sets of stones, each made of two standing stones holding up a lintel stone. They always reminded me of those staples used in furniture building with a small band and tall legs. There were two on each side of the horseshoe and one in the center; all of them are taller than the outer ring, and the center one was taller still. Inside these massive rock sculptures was another set of the monoliths, following the horseshoe pattern.

On top of all of the monoliths, both in the inner court and the outer, were fat, clear glass containers that protected the fat, white, unlit candles inside of them. The candle wicks were mostly blackened, indicating that they'd been used before.

In front of the tallest of the massive cement- pretending-to-be-rock staplelike things, there was an altar--eight or ten feet long by three feet wide and two feet high.

A few feet in front of the altar, the wood for a small fire had been set on top of what looked like a circle of two-inch-thick coarse gravel, much darker and coarser than the gravel already there. I bent down to touch it, and Jim spoke.

"Tomorrow morning, when we can see, we'll come clean up," he told me. "The gravel will make it easy to erase any sign of fire. We don't want to give anyone ideas and have a bunch of teenagers lighting fires up here at night. It will also make sure that the fire doesn't spread. Grass fires happen this time of year, but I don't want to be the one who is responsible for one."

Adam had climbed up on a monolith to take a closer look at the candles, a casual pull-up that hinted at the strength he kept in check. He dropped to the ground and dusted his hands. "Hard to light from down here."

"We kept the stool I used to put them all up there." Calvin had stayed near Adam but kept taking surreptitious glances at me. Then he frowned. "Mercy? Is that a black eye?"

I reached up to touch it.

"She got into a fight in Wal-Mart," Adam said. Someone who didn't know him probably wouldn't hear the amusement in his voice.


"She was attacked in Wal-Mart."

"You should see the other woman," I said. I noticed we were missing someone. "Where's Jim?" He'd been talking to me just a minute ago. I'd have thought that the noisy gravel would keep him from sneaking around. Apparently, I'd been wrong.

"He's gone to wash and change." Calvin said. "There's a little building over there, used to be a tourist shop, but it's been closed for a few years now. Jim has a key. I'd better start lighting the candles. It takes a while."

"We can help." Adam took a cigarette lighter out of his pocket. Adam didn't smoke, but he took being prepared to a whole new level.

"I only have one stool," Calvin apologized.

"That's okay." Adam moved behind me, grabbed my hips, and lifted me up over his head and onto his shoulders. "Hey," I said indignantly.

It would have gone a little smoother if he warned me first. As it was, I had to scramble a bit for balance. He waited until I was steady, then patted me on the hip.

"I don't need a step stool," Adam said, walking over to one of the monoliths and handing up a lighter. "I have a Mercy."

Even with the three of us working on it, lighting the candles took a long time. I'd never noticed how many of them there were before. More than thirty, I thought, maybe even fifty of them.

When we were through, there was a Christmasy air provided by dozens of white candles. By happenstance or design, we met Calvin at the last standing stone, right next to the altar. Adam set me on the ground while Calvin finished the last light. In the short time, the magic in the ground had grown, and it jumped at me like an eager flame when my feet hit the gravel. I staggered a bit, and Adam, probably thinking I was still off balance, put a hand on my shoulder to steady me.

Calvin climbed off his step stool, put his lighter in his pocket, and folded up the stool. "I'm going to take this over to the parking lot. Meanwhile, Uncle Jim asked me to tell you that you need to take the shape of your beasts."

"Do you know what Coyote has us doing?" I asked. Calvin dropped his eyes. "No."

I snorted before he could say anything. "Don't bother. You are without a doubt the worst liar I have ever met. Good for you. But you might keep it in mind and compensate for it. Cultivate a mysterious air and don't answer the things that might tempt you to lie." That was what Bran did. Even Bran couldn't lie to a werewolf. I didn't think he could anyway.

"How long do we have?" Adam asked. "Walkers may be able to flash between shapes, but I take more time."

"I didn't know. Sorry. I should have told you before I started on the lights."

"If they want us here, they'll wait for us," I told Adam.

"Yeah," Calvin agreed. "I'm pretty sure that this ceremony needs both of you." He took a step away from us, then stopped. "Hey, Fred told me you were asking about deaths on the Columbia. He asked me to check into it, so I asked a friend of mine who's a cop on the river. He told me that in the past three weeks there have been twenty-six people who are presumed drowned between the John Day Dam and the one at The Dalles, not including the family of four that was reported missing late this afternoon when their car was found at a state park on the Oregon side of the Columbia. That's more people than we've lost on the river in the last five years combined."

"What family?" I asked.

"A stockbroker and his elementary-teacher wife and their two young children," he told me.

"Lee and Janice Morrison." The dream had been real. I could have done something about it. Surely I could have done something.

"That's right. Did you see today's paper?"

Adam's hand was on my shoulder. "How long had they been missing?" he asked.

"Two days."

Before my dream. I'd seen something that had happened in the past. No chance of doing anything. It should have made me feel better, but it didn't.

"I think," said Adam softly, "it is safe to say that this is something that needs to be hunted down and killed."

Calvin nodded. "Word is that there is an FBI team working on the idea that we have some sort of serial killer on the loose. They're being quiet so far; they don't want to encourage the killer or panic anyone. My buddy was pretty interested in why I was asking. I told him it was because of Benny and Faith." He looked at me. "That way I wasn't lying to him."

"Let's go change," I said. I didn't want to think about Janice and her family anymore. They were gone, and there was nothing I could do for them. HAD WE BEEN HOME WITH THE WOLF PACK AROUND, we'd just have stripped and changed, but I wasn't comfortable stripping in front of strangers anymore. Even if I'd been willing to, Adam would not change in public.

Bran had requested the wolves refrain from changing where others could see. The werewolves were beautiful--but the change is horrific. No sense in scaring people with what they were, Bran said, not when the wolves were still trying to be tame for the news cameras.

So we left Stonehenge and climbed over the drop-off just beyond, which hid us effectively from Calvin, Hank, and Fred--as long as the hawks stayed on the far side of the henge.

Still, we were exposed. There were no trees nearby, and we could see all the way down to the river and beyond to the highway--miles and miles. Darkness ensured that no one down there could actually see us, but it felt like they could.

Beside Adam, who was doing the same thing, I took off my clothes, folding them tightly to discourage any bugs attracted by the leftover warmth. I stuffed my socks in my shoes. "I'll stay human until you've shifted," I told him. So I could guard his back or run interference if I had to.

Shifting to coyote wasn't without its cost. I could do it several times a day, but eventually I wore out. I could also stay human for a long time --months if I had to. Wolves are different.

Werewolves are moon called. They have to change during the full moon, and it is harder for them to control the wolf during that time, too. However, a lot of werewolves only shift during the full moon--two or three days a month. The shift is painful and takes a lot of energy. Shifting more than a couple of times a week was beyond a lot of wolves' abilities. Adam had been changing much more than that lately.

His shift was a lot slower than usual--and it looked as though it was a lot more painful, too. I sat beside him on the pad my folded-up clothes made. Maybe I should have left my clothes on, but since, tonight, at least, I wasn't wet, it wasn't cold. I stayed close to him, but not so close I'd touch him inadvertently and hurt him.

The pulse of Stonehenge's magic was growing more regular, like a beating heart. I thought it was getting even stronger, too, but that might have been because I was sitting on the ground. My own heart sped up a little until it kept beat with the magic. It wasn't unpleasant, just disconcerting. "Mercy?" Calvin called.

"Not yet," I told him.

"How long?"

"As long as it takes," growled Adam, his voice hoarse and deep as he was caught halfway between wolf and man.

The flow of magic paused, as if it had heard him, then took up its beat again. I didn't like it.

"Are you all right?" I asked, very quietly.

He didn't say anything, which I took as answer enough.

His breathing grew labored until I started to be seriously worried for him.

"It's the earth's magic," Coyote said, sitting down beside me on the side opposite Adam's struggle.

Adam growled, a hoarse and pained sound that was nonetheless a threat.

"No harm to you or yours," Coyote told him. "I stand guard for you. They were supposed to tell you to change before you came here. I suppose the instructions got garbled in the translation from Jim to Calvin. Mother Earth does not change easily--that is an aspect of water or flame. Earth magic is interfering with his change, but it shouldn't make it impossible."

Impossible wasn't good--but I buttoned my lips because even I knew that intent and will played a part in any kind of magic. No sense putting doubts into Adam's head until he really failed to shift.

"What are we doing tonight?" I asked Coyote to give myself something else to think about.

"Probably wasting our time." He didn't look at me but stared out over the world spread beneath our feet. I noticed that he seldom spoke directly to me. Half the time it felt as though he addressed the open air instead.

"And if we aren't wasting our time?" I waited a minute, trying not to listen to Adam's struggles because he wouldn't want me to hear him. I could feel the claustrophobic panic that he was repressing. He couldn't afford for me to panic, too. "Come on, Coyote. It isn't a secret because even Calvin knows."

He laughed, slapping his leg. "Point to you. Fine. Fine. I'm hoping to call a little help. We aren't what we once were, and some of us never were much for interfering with people. But Raven is curious, and Otter should feel he has something at stake." He paused, glanced at me, and continued, "Nice black eye, Mercy. Upon reflection, Otter might be on the wrong side. That would be unfortunate."

"You're calling the others like you?" I asked.

"There are no others like me," he returned. "None as handsome or strong. None as clever or skilled. None with so many stories told about them. Who was it brought fire down so people could roast their food and keep warm in the winter? But I'm hoping to call the others, yes."

"Other what, exactly?" I asked. "Just what kind of creature are you?" The fae, some of them, had set themselves over the early residents of Europe as deities. The Coyote stories never had that feel to them. Coyote was a power but not one who asked to be worshipped.

"Have you read Plato?" he asked.

"Have you?" I returned because the idea of Coyote reading The Republic or Apology was absurd and somehow totally believable because of its very absurdity.

"You are familiar with his theory of forms," Coyote continued without answering my question.

"That our world isn't real but a reflection of reality. And in the real world there are archetypes of things that exist in our world, which is how we can look at a chair we've never seen before, and say, `Hey, look. It's a chair.' Because in the real world, there is an object that is the epitome of chairness." I used my history degree about twice a year whether I needed to or not.

"Close enough," he agreed. "I am the reality of all coyotes. The archetype. The epitome." He smiled out into the darkness. "You are just a reflection of me." "They should have called you Narcissus," I told him, trying not to flinch at the sounds that Adam made. "Too bad you aren't the enemy we need to defeat. We could just put out a mirror for you to admire yourself in."

"And then they wouldn't call you Mercy anymore," he said. "Your name would be She Who Traps Coyote." He reached over and took my hand, and said in a low voice, "It won't be much longer. But I'd wait until he invites you to look before you gaze into his eyes."

"Are your sisters really berries in your stomach?" I asked him.

"Ah," he said delightedly. "You need to find someone to teach you the rude versions of my stories. They are much more entertaining. Modesty prevents me from telling stories about myself."

I laughed, as he meant me to.

"My sisters aren't speaking to me right now," he finished with great--and I suspected entirely feigned--dignity, "so it does not matter what they are."

Beside me, Adam rose with a snarl. I lowered my head to show that I was no threat. After a bad change, it would be a few minutes before Adam had a leash on his wolf. To my surprise, Coyote bowed his head as well.

"I like this man, your husband," he told me. Maybe it was an explanation. "He would have attacked me for putting you in danger--even though the wolf knew exactly what I was. And yet, when you asked him to have patience, he did. It is proper that men listen to the counsel of women."

"Like you listen to your sisters?" I said, as the wolf put his nose just under my ear. I tilted my head to give him my throat. Sharp teeth brushed against my skin, and I shivered.

"Wise women," Coyote agreed. "But sometimes pushy and easy to rile. I think they need to develop their sense of fun. They do not agree with me, so maybe they are not so wise as all that, eh?"

Adam shook himself hard, his ears making a flapping sound--a signal.

I turned to look at him, and he jerked his nose up toward the monument. I changed into my coyote self--which did seem to take a little more effort than it normally did--and followed Adam up the hill, Coyote striding beside us.

At least he wasn't Baba Yaga or Yo-yo Girl, I thought. GORDON WAS TALKING QUIETLY WITH CALVIN AND JIM when we walked into the henge's circles. Jim was barefoot, dressed in new dark jeans and a long-sleeved shirt that looked to be blue in the light of the candles, though my coyote eyes are not always trustworthy with color at night. Gordon's boots, for instance, looked black, but I thought they were probably the same red boots he'd worn the rest of the times we'd seen him. He wore a flannel shirt over a plain T-shirt.

"I was beginning to think that it was time to leave," said Gordon coolly, as we approached.

"Earth magic isn't the best thing for a change when you're a werewolf," Coyote said. "Which is why I told Jim to make sure he was a wolf when he got here."

"You said to tell Mercy to bring the wolf," Jim said, sounding irritated. I was beginning to think that everyone sounded like that after a while of dealing with Coyote.

Calvin's eyes widened, and he looked as though he expected Jim to get hit by lightning.

Coyote just laughed. "Mercy, you go sit up on the altar, would you?" He looked up at the hawks. "You two go sit next to her."

Gordon didn't seem awed or surprised by Coyote, either. "Whatever you do in front of Hank, the river devil will see."

"Let her watch," Coyote said indifferently. "But if nothing else happens tonight, I think I can get Hank fixed. Hawk owes me a few favors."

I hopped up onto the altar next to the hawks a little hesitantly. There was a bronze plaque on top, but it was too worn to read in the dark. Adam hopped up beside me and curled around me protectively, keeping the bulk of his body between me and the other predators.

"Adam," said Coyote, "not being Aztec, we are not going to sacrifice your bride on the altar. She just can't be touching the ground when Jim performs the dance. However, should Wolf answer this call, it would be disastrous if your head were higher than his. Usually he shows up in human or humanlike form, but he is one who often prefers his wolfskin. Would you mind taking a position just in front of the altar, between it and the fire?"

Adam snarled soundlessly at the hawks, a clear warning, and slipped off the altar to sit where Coyote had asked him to.

Gordon's eyebrows had risen almost to his white hair. "A polite Coyote?"

Coyote growled something in a foreign language.

"I thought you were not her father," Gordon said placidly. "That makes him not your son by marriage."

"Say, then," said Coyote, "I respect him and don't fancy getting in the middle of a dogfight tonight if I can help it. Now let us get this done."

He changed. His shift was even faster than mine, I thought, though I couldn't be sure. Between one blink and the next, there was a huge coyote the size of a Saint Bernard. He stalked over to the monolith that was on one end of the horseshoe and hopped up on top of it.

Gordon looked sour, then he became the largest eagle I have ever seen in my life, and I've seen some huge golden eagles. As a bird, he stood taller than the man he'd been. I couldn't say what color his feathers were though they looked as if they were several shades darker than the hawks'. Then he spread his wings, and I realized Gordon wasn't an eagle after all. No eagle ever had a wingspan that large.

"Thunderbird," said Calvin reverently. "Grandfather said you were Thunderbird, but that was when he was calling me by my father's name more often than not."


The bird leaned forward and rubbed that wicked sharplooking beak against the side of Calvin's head. Since Calvin's head stayed on his shoulders, I had to assume it was a gesture of affection. With a movement that was half hop and half flight, he landed on the monolith opposite Coyote. He made the standing stone look a lot smaller. Gordon, who was Thunderbird, nudged the candle until it was situated where he wanted. The candlelight turned his feathers a warm dark chocolate. He rocked back and forth a bit, stretching his wings out, then settled into stillness.

Calvin brought out a rolled-up rug, a small drum, and a beaded parfleche bag. Parfleche-- untanned hide--was more commonly used by the plains Indians than the plateau Indians like the Yakama, I thought. However, I supposed a medicine man could use whatever implements he wanted to.

Calvin set the bag to one side of the prepared but as-yet-unlit fire. Then, with great formality, he unrolled the carpet, aligning it with the altar stone. He took the drum with him to sit next to Adam.

Jim stood in front of the carpet and closed his eyes. It looked like a prayer, but whatever he did caused the magic to sit up and take notice--I could feel it even through the cement I perched upon.

He stepped onto the carpet and held a hand over the stacked wood. "Wood," he said, "who swallowed the flame of the Fire Beings, it is time to burn."

When the little fire burst into flame, Adam flinched a bit, but it didn't seem to surprise Calvin or Jim. Jim gave a small nod to Calvin, who began to play the drum. At first he played with a simple, one-handed beat. It wasn't a steady sound but tentative and irregular--until he caught the beat of the magic that ran beneath us. He stayed with that for a while, then began to speed up, accenting the simple beat with grace notes. When the magic followed his additions, he switched up the cadence to a driving, syncopated rhythm. And the magic followed his lead.

The wind chose that moment to pick up and throw smoke from the fire into my eyes. I blinked but I must have gotten some ash in with the smoke. Putting my muzzle down on top of the stone, I scrubbed at my face with my paws. It helped. I lifted my head as soon as I could see-- and I was alone.

Prev Next