NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.
Sangre Mesa ~ Coldwater, N.M.
Morgan was pretty sure Dr. Kavanaugh had been taken to the mesa, but whether she was on it, in it, or simply close to it was another question entirely. Morgan remembered that sense of being watched when she was tending her beehives and decided that was as good a starting point as any.
She knew she and Lenore could search more efficiently if they were apart, so she sent the raven to fly over the trail while she went to check the spring. It was unlikely that the monster would have traveled deiseal, especially if it had to drag a fully grown human with it. Doubly especially if the fully grown human in question is fighting like a tiger all the way up, Morgan thought.
Her wings gave her the advantage of height and the ability to canvass the area much faster than she could have done on foot, but her vision wasn’t as sharp as she’d have liked, and after the third time she dropped to a lower altitude to check out something that turned out to be a boulder, she decided she’d had enough. She closed her eyes and recalled a video she’d watched about peregrine falcons and their spectacular ability to spot prey from the air. When she opened her eyes, her vision had cleared. She was still struggling to distinguish shapes that were the same color as the mountain — twice, she caught herself overlooking wildlife until it moved — and she really hoped Dr. Kavanaugh hadn’t picked today to wear earth tones.
Morgan needn’t have worried. A flash of blue and white caught her attention. Below her, she could see water, but it wasn’t the spring she was familiar with. This was more of a pond, several feet from the trail. She’d been up the trail several times, but she’d never seen water there. How the hell could I have missed an entire pond? she thought. Next to the water, Dr. Kavanaugh — dressed in a Coldwater Roadrunners hoodie and faded bluejeans — was on the ground, pinned under the hoof of a big, black horse Morgan recognized as the creature she’d seen herself casting out of the Otherworld. The animal seemed to be holding her there, its head lowered so that its face was close to the bean sidhe’s.
Morgan didn’t want to call attention to herself, but she needed to get closer. She considered what form would be the least obtrusive. Something small, maybe, that it wouldn’t be able to see from the ground? Something native to the area? She tried to remember whether she’d ever seen any dragonflies around the spring.
The creature didn’t give her long to think about it. As Morgan watched in horror, the horselike figure grabbed Dr. Kavanaugh’s collar with its teeth and dragged her over the rocks and into the water. As the two of them disappeared under the surface, Morgan shut her eyes again, pulled her wings in tight, and dove, her feathers changing color and her body taking on a different shape as she plunged through the air. Any birdwatchers in the area would have been startled to see an osprey diving toward a mesa in the middle of New Mexico.
Morgan hit the icy pool with a splash, decelerating as her feathers met the resistance of the water. She opened her eyes again, searching for the horse and its hostage.
She saw it a split-second before it saw her. Its teeth were poised above Dr. Kavanaugh’s throat. Morgan had no idea whether her fog would work the same way here as it did on land, but she had to do something. She summoned it, relief washing over her as the blackness moved through the water like ink from a squid. Her line of vision narrowed to the shapeshifter’s face and Dr. Kavanaugh’s neck. Dr. Kavanaugh was still fighting, but her movements were slowing. Morgan had to do something. The shapeshifter was clearly comfortable in its each-uisge form, and neither a bird nor a squid stood much chance against it.
A squid? Oh.
Morgan had never tried shifting into an aquatic form before, but apparently she’d done it just now without thinking. If she could become one sea creature, she could probably become others.
The each-uisge was looking around with wild eyes, clearly torn between trying to pinpoint Morgan’s whereabouts in the impenetrable darkness and trying to finish the job it had started when she interrupted it.
Ph’nglui, bitch, Morgan thought, remembering the H.P. Lovecraft story a guest at the Tumbleweed had read aloud next to the fire last Halloween. Welcome to R’lyeh.
The each-uisge turned its attention toward Dr. Kavanaugh again. Morgan didn’t think it could see what it was doing, but she had no idea what other senses it possessed or how they worked in the water, and she wasn’t taking any chances.
Be damned if you steal anybody else from me, she thought, shifting again. As her body transformed into that of a six-foot-long knifefish, she gave free rein to the emotions she’d been suppressing ever since her strange sojourn inside the mesa. Rage and anguish coursed through her body, literally energizing her, and she shot forward, letting instinct drive as she wrapped her long, lithe body around the each-uisge and unleashed 400 years’ worth of pain and anger into the electric current that flowed through her, shocking both the monster and its prey into unconsciousness.