Corrigan Fire:Bloodfire(9)By: Helen Harper
‘What kind of traveller would be out here?’
The will-o’-the-wisp flickered. ‘It is not easy for our kind. They take the land and build on it and we have to move. They use,’ his face distorted, ‘caravans. Now there is glamping. I want the sole traveller. The lonely peasant who walks with his eyes on the ground. I come in the darkness and…’
‘Enough,’ I interrupted. ‘I am sure that your life is very hard in these tragic modern times. Tell me about the mistake.’
An odd purring sound came from its chest. I stared, thoroughly flummoxed.
‘Meow,’ the will-o’-the-wisp said.
I sighed. ‘This is pointless. We need to get a move on. The Cornish pack is expecting us within the hour.’
Before I could turn away, it spoke again. ‘It was a cat.’
‘What was a cat?’
‘The traveller. It wasn’t human. It was feline.’
‘You mistook a cat for a person?’ The incredulity in Staines’ voice mirrored my own thoughts.
‘I sensed the life. It has been many weeks since I have found life to mislead and I did not look at it to check. I only knew it was not Otherworld.’
I exchanged looks with the others. ‘What happens with insects? Do you try to lead them away too?’
The will-o’-the-wisp smiled. ‘Moths are fun. They like the light.’
I took a very deep breath. ‘So you made a cat on a night prowl go somewhat astray. So what?’
‘It is very small,’ it mourned. ‘It is trapped now on the quarry wall. It cannot get out.’
‘Let me get this straight. You forced us off the road because you want us to rescue a damn cat?’
It swayed. ‘Maybe kitten.’
‘Fetch it yourself.’
‘I cannot.’ The will-o’-the-wisp raised up its palms. ‘I am not corporeal enough.’
I closed my eyes and counted to ten very slowly in my head. When I was done, I looked out across the fields. ‘Fine. Where’s the sodding quarry?’
I took three shifters with me: Lucy, Boran and a werecougar named Thomson who I didn’t really know. Staines and the others stayed behind to move the vehicles out of the path of any oncoming traffic. Thomson appeared extraordinarily unhappy at the turn of events and grumbled a complaint in the direction of the will-o’-the-wisp as we trudged out across the field towards a row of trees screening the quarry from sight at the far end.
‘I would understand if you were to feel disgruntled at breaking our journey in favour of a mere cat, even though all life is to be considered sacred,’ I commented. ‘You, however, appear more upset at our flickering friend than anything else.’
He scowled. ‘I’m sorry, my Lord Alpha. I do not wish to speak out of turn.’
‘But?’ I prodded.
‘But we’re following a fucking sprite. We’re shifters. We’re better than the rest of the Otherworlders. Not only that but we’re the Brethren! To be dangling after a freak like that…’
I eyed him carefully. He was one of Brady’s recent acquisitions. Unfortunately it showed. ‘We are not better than anyone else,’ I said, keeping my voice calm and even. ‘There is no such thing. Feeling superiority over others will only lead to downfall.’
He hung his head. ‘Yes, my Lord Alpha.’
I had the distinct feeling he was only saying what I wanted to hear. I wondered how many others in the Brethren were of this ilk. It was a distasteful thought.
‘This way, this way!’ the will-o’-the-wisp crooned, dodging through the trees.
The cat’s plaintive meow was already audible. I quickened my step, following the noise through the small copse until we emerged on the side of an old, disused quarry.
‘This should be fenced off,’ I frowned.
The will-o’-the-wisp danced on the edge. ‘Fences are no fun.’ It pointed a wavering arm downwards. ‘The cat is down there.’
I peered over. On a narrow shelf, curled up into a small ball of fur, was a very small kitten.
‘How on earth did you mistake that for a human?’ Lucy asked.
There was no answer. The will-o’-the-wisp had vanished. I sighed and shook my head. ‘Let’s get the kitten and get out of here.’