Bob let out an awed whistle. "Uh. Wow, boss, yeah. That's exactly it. The energy in those ley lines . . . it's the body heat these things give off."
I felt a giggle coming up. "Man. Containment. Hell's bells, containment." I tried to stuff the giggles back down and addressed Demonreach. "This isn't a magical stronghold," I said. "It's a prison. It's a prison so hard that half a dozen freaking naagloshii are in minimum security."
"CORRECT," Demonreach answered, "WARDEN."
"I don't guess this job pays anything, does it?" I asked.
The spirit just regarded me.
"Didn't think so," I said. "So . . . when you call me Warden, you're speaking literally."
"And you are what? The guard?"
"THE GUARD. THE WALLS. THE BARS. I AM ORDER."
"You are not the first law-person I would want to be involved with," I said. I raked my fingers back through my hair. "Okay," I said, wincing. "The things in here. Are they dangerous where they are?"
"THEY ARE ALWAYS DANGEROUS. BUT THEY HAVE THE LEAST OPPORTUNITY TO EXPRESS IT HERE."
I blinked. Those were some of the longest, most nuanced, and most complex sentiments the spirit had expressed to me. Which meant that we were speaking about something important-which only made sense. Demonreach didn't care about friends or enemies or the price of tea in China. It cared about its inmates, period. Anything else, everything else, would be judged based upon its relevance to that subject.
"But can they get loose?"
"NOT WITHOUT OUTSIDE INTERVENTION," Demonreach said, "OR YOUR AUTHORIZATION."
"Meep," I breathed. "Uh. You mean I could turn these things loose?"
"YOU ARE THE WARDEN."
I swallowed. "Is it possible for me to communicate with them?"
"YOU ARE THE WARDEN."
"Oh, Hell's bells, this is bad."
I had just inherited myself a world of trouble.
Having experienced a naagloshii up close and personal, there wasn't any way I was letting one of those hideous things loose. I doubted I was going to like anything else that was being held prisoner here any better. In fact, I had no intention, for the time being, of even looking at them, much less finding out who and what the inmates were-and forget about actually talking to them. Not going to happen. Things that old and powerful could be deadly with only a few carefully chosen words dropped at the right place-and I'd learned that one the hard way, too.
But none of that really mattered.
I'd just been handed what amounted to a great big ugly weapon of mass destruction and potential havoc. To the various powers of the supernatural world, it wouldn't matter that I would never use it. All that would matter was that I had it to use. Really, Officer, I know that's a rocket launcher in my trunk, but I'm only holding it so that someone bad won't use it. Really. Honest.
The guys in the White Council who didn't like me were going to turn purple and start frothing at the mouth when they found out. And every foe the White Council ever had would start looking at me like a gift from Heaven-someone with knowledge of the inner workings of the Council, with enormously concentrated personal power, who was almost certain to frighten the Council enough to make them suspect, isolate, and eventually move against him. That guy would be an awesome asset in any struggle against the wizards of the world.
And boy, wouldn't the White Council know it?
Like I didn't have enough recruiters aiming for me already.
And hey, the very best part? I didn't actually have a real, usable superweapon. I just had the key to a great big box full of pain and trouble for a whole lot of people.
No wonder my grandfather had looked stunned when he'd seen what I had done with Demonreach. Or maybe less "stunned" than "horrified."
My head was starting to ache again. Dammit, this was all I needed. Over the past few years, my headaches had grown steadily worse, to the point where sometimes they all but knocked me unconscious. I could function through it, to some degree-you don't spend most of your life learning to manipulate the powers of the universe without racking up a considerable amount of self-discipline and tolerance for pain. But it was just one more freaking stone being added to the baggage I had to carry while I tried to get out of the tightest corner I had ever been in.
Demonreach growled. In all capital letters.
And the headache vanished.
One second, my scalp was tightening up as two separate ice picks dug into my skull in the same places they always did, and the next the pain was utterly gone. The endorphins my body had started pumping got to the scene to find no pain there and threw a party instead. I didn't fall over in a dazed stupor, because of my universe-manipulating chops, but it was close.
"Whoa," I breathed. "Uh . . . what did you just do?"
"I WARNED IT."
I blinked several times. "You . . . warned away my headache?"
"THE CREATURE CAUSING IT. THE PARASITE."
I stared stupidly for a second, and then sorted through my memories again. That's right. Right here in this chamber, the last time I'd been here, either Mab or Demonreach had said something about the division of labor keeping my body alive while the rest of me was elsewhere. They'd said that the parasite kept my heart running. I glowered at Demonreach and said, "Tell me about this parasite."
"I WILL NOT."
I made an exasperated sound. "Why not?"
"YOUR LIFE, WARDEN."
I thought about that one for a few seconds. "Wait. . . . You needed its help to save me? And its price was that you don't tell me about it?"
I exhaled slowly and ran my fingers over my head. Something was running around in there, giving me migraines. "Is it a danger to me?"
"What happens if it stays in there?" I asked.
"IT BURSTS FORTH FROM YOUR SKULL."
"Aglck!" I said. I couldn't help it. My skin was crawling. I'd seen those Alien movies at a formative age. "How do I get it out?"
Demonreach seemed to consider that for a moment. Then it said, "ASK GRASSHOPPER."
"Molly? Uh, seriously? You know she's new, right?"
It just looked at me.
"How long do I have to take care of it?" I asked.
"Soon? How soon is soon? What do you mean, soon?"
It just stared at me.
Right. Immortal, inhuman, wholly-focused-on-holding-evil-horde-still-forever sorts of creatures don't have a real solid grasp of the concept of time. From what I've seen and heard over the years, I've begun to understand that linear time is a uniquely mortal perspective. Other things aren't attached to it nearly as tightly as we are. There were bushes on the island older than me. There were trees there older than Chicago. Demonreach was not compatible with stopwatches or day planners.