Shattered

Shattered by Kevin Hearne, now you can read online.

Chapter 1

Few things trigger old memories so quickly as authority figures from our youth. I’m not saying those memories are necessarily good ones; they’re simply old and tend to cast us back into roles we thought we grew out of long ago. Sometimes the memories are warm and blanket us like a mother’s love. More often, however, they have the sting of hoarfrost, which bites at first, then numbs and settles in the bones for a deep, extended chill.

The ancient man who was pushing himself up into a sitting position in front of me triggered very few memories of the warm sort. Apart from being brilliant and magically gifted, my archdruid had frequently been abusive and had made few friends during his life—a life that, until recently, I thought had ended millennia ago. After he bound me to the earth prior to the Common Era, I’d seen him only a couple more times before we drifted apart, and I’d always assumed he’d died, like almost everyone else I knew from my youth. But for reasons unknown, the Morrigan had frozen him in time in Tír na nÓg, and now he was about to confront the fact of his time travel—with, I might add, flecks of spittle and bacon around the edges of his wrinkled lips.

I hope that if I ever travel two thousand years into the future, there will still be bacon.

His voice, a sort of perpetually phlegmy growl, barked a question at me in Old Irish. He’d have to learn English quickly if he wanted to talk to anyone besides the Tuatha Dé Danann and me. “How long was I on that island, Siodhachan? You still look pretty young. By the looks of ye, it can’t have been more than three or four years.”

Oh, was he in for a surprise. “I will tell you in exchange for something I’d like to know: your name.”

“My name?”

“I’ve never called you anything but Archdruid.”

“Well, it was right that ye should, ye wee shite. But now that you’re grown a bit and a full Druid, I suppose I can tell ye. I’m Eoghan Ó Cinnéide.”

I grinned. “Ha! If you Anglicize that, it’s Owen Kennedy. That will work out just fine. I’ll call Hal and get you some ID with that name.”

“What are ye talking about?”

“That’s a question you’ll be asking a lot. Owen—I hope you don’t mind me calling you that, because I can’t walk around calling you Archdruid—you’ve been on that island for more than two thousand years.”

He scowled. “Don’t be tickling me ass with a feather, now; I’m asking seriously.”

“I’m answering seriously. The Morrigan put you on the slowest of the Time Islands.”

Owen studied my face and saw that I was in earnest. “Two thousand?”

“That’s right.”

He flailed about for something to hold on to; the number was too huge to register, and the stark fact that he had been uprooted and could never go back to his old earth was a deep, dark well into which he could fall forever. He opened his mouth twice and closed it again after uttering a half-formed vowel. I waited patiently as he worked through it, and finally he latched on to me, having nothing else in front of him. “Well, then, you were on one of those islands too. She must have set us there around the same time.”

“No, I didn’t get to skip all that time in an eyeblink. I lived through it. And I’ve learned a few things you never taught me.”

He grunted in disbelief. “Now I know you’re pulling me cock. You’re telling me that you’re more than two thousand years old?”

“That’s what I’m telling you. You might as well brace yourself. The world is far bigger and far different than it was when you left it. You’ve never even heard of Jesus Christ or Allah or Buddha or the New World or bloody buffalo wings. It’s going to be one shock after the other.”

“I don’t know what a shock is.”

Of course he didn’t. He’d never heard of electricity. I’d thrown in a modern Irish word with my Old Irish.

“But your lack of hair is certainly a surprise,” he said, gesturing at my close-cropped skull. It was starting to fill in from when I’d had to shave it all off—a consequence of a recent encounter with some Fae who’d tried to chew off my scalp—but to Owen’s eyes it must look like an unnatural cosmetic decision. “And what in nine worlds happened to the rest of your beard? Ye don’t look like a man. Ye look like a lad who had a rat die on his chin.”

“It works for me,” I said, dismissing it. “But look, Owen, I’m wondering if you can do me a favor.”

“Do I owe ye one?”

“You’d still be on that island if it weren’t for me, so I’d say so.”

My archdruid huffed and wiped at his mouth, finally dislodging the bacon bits that had rested there. “What is it?”

I raised my right sleeve over my shoulder, revealing the ravaged tattoo at the top of my biceps. “A manticore destroyed my ability to shape-shift back to human, so I can’t shift to any of my animal forms until it gets fixed. Would you mind touching it up?”

He scowled and flared up. “I fecking taught ye how to tame a manticore, didn’t I? Don’t try to tell me I didn’t! That isn’t my fault.”

“I didn’t say—”