River Marked by Patricia Briggs
March 1, 2011
He made a rude sound. “I can tell you she’s not a poor misunderstood creature. Gordon is right. She’s Hunger, and she won’t be satisfied until she consumes the world.”
She. That answered several things. There was only one. That seemed more manageable than a swarm of monsters that could bite a woman in half and make a man shoot Adam.
“How big is it?” I asked.
He looked at me and poked his tongue into his cheek. “You know? That’s a good question. I think we ought to find out.”
And he knocked me into the river.
The water was icy and closed over my head, encasing me in silence and darkness. For a moment the shock of the fall, of the cold, and of sheer surprise froze my muscles, and I couldn’t move. Then my feet hit the riverbed, and the motion somehow woke up every nerve into screaming urgency. I pushed off and up, coming to the surface and sucking in air.
I could hear him laughing.
Son of a bitch. I would kill him. I didn’t care if he was Coyote or the son of Satan. He was a dead man walking.
I struck out for the swimming hole even though it meant fighting the river. But for the next mile downstream or so, the riverbank was cliff face, and I didn’t want to stay in the river that long; there was a monster out here somewhere.
A toddler walking along the bank could have beat me, for all the forward progress I made. I was only a fair swimmer, strength without technique. It was enough to beat the slow flow of the Columbia, but not by much.
Two otter heads poked up beside me, and I growled at them. Somehow knowing they were fae made them less of a threat than real river otters though I expect the opposite was actually true. I was too busy fighting the river to worry about adjusting my beliefs in accordance to reality.
They disappeared under the water for a few minutes before one popped up again, watching my slow progress with cool appraisal.
“I’d swim faster if I were you,” observed Coyote.
Rage fueled my strokes, and I finally made it around the bend and into the shallower, slower water. I swam until the water was waist-deep and staggered toward shore on my feet. Coyote waded in knee-deep and stopped to watch me.
“What did you find out?” he asked.
“That you are a jerk,” I told him, my voice vibrating involuntarily with the chill. “What in-“
Something wrapped around my waist and jerked me off my feet, and my head was underwater again.