Tamer of night
Blossom of hours unleashed”
— Vienna Teng, “Landsailor”
Nothing ever surprised Jody Ann Farewell.
She had walked out of her flat in Kingston, scanned the street, and found the red-plate taxi that would take her to the airport without risk to her person or her wallet. Then she had boarded the least ill-fated plane at the airport, which turned out to be bound for Istanbul. She now knew that the entire North Atlantic, most of the North American east coast, and a goodly portion of Europe meant her no harm.
Then to Dubai. Jody Ann, a fragile, elderly black woman in an expensive suit, had felt no fear at all. The worst she she had gotten were odd looks, and that was because of the eye patch. Jody Ann didn’t like wearing the uncomfortable thing either, but there was no safer way to travel with the Mirror.
The Mirror had shown her there was no danger for her in the Middle East, aside from Syria, which she needed no magical advice to avoid. The tangerine aurora that flared briefly over the Balkans had been explainable as a corrupt politician gathering power, or so Jody Ann had thought before the Bulgarian girl sat down next to her.
The plane was bound for Kabul, and while it rested on the tarmac, Jody Ann was concentrating on her laptop, updating her world map and reviewing her investments. Pale flames danced around the name of a ride-sharing app, and Jody Ann sold her shares.
She barely noticed the girl sitting next to her. Jody Ann had already checked the engines, wings, and landing gear, and had no reason to look up from her laptop or, once the plane was airborne, the earth below.
The Mirror of Amaterasu, nestled in its silken pocket in Jody Ann’s eye patch, showed her the fires of evil chance. Flickers of light danced across her vision, and Jody Ann’s hand moved on the track pad of her laptop, marking her world map with the dangers birthing and dying in the Iranian countryside below. None of the sparks caught. The chances were reassuringly minuscule that they would. But minuscule was not the same as zero, which was why Jody Ann had to keep the earth surveyed. A rocket ship would make things easier, but tickets to space weren’t easy to come by, even for someone who knew which stocks were doomed to crash. Besides, going to space would make Jody Ann a celebrity, which was dangerous.
“Excuse me,” said the girl sitting next to Jody Anne. A pause. “My name is Teddy and I know how to… no?” Another pause, as if she were reading about how to start a conversation from a manual. “I was wondering if you could help me.”
Help? Jody Anne couldn’t stop the smile that tucked in the corners of her mouth. She’d been about to politely brush the girl off. You couldn’t make friends with everyone on every transcontinental flight, and while most potential conversation partners weren’t physically dangerous, too many demanded time and energy or even money.
But, “help?” This girl wasn’t trying to sell Jody Anne a basket to carry water in, she just wanted advice. She could be Jody Anne’s daughter.
“Hello, there, darling,” said Jody Anne, turning her head to face the girl. “What would – ” She froze.
Danger glowed from the girl like the sullen heat of a forge.
Jody Anne had the urge to fling out her arms, kick out her feet, push back the air that was suddenly drowning her. She knew this feeling, remembered it from before she’d been given the Mirror.
A wave of anger passed through her, directed at the girl next to her. “Who are you?” Jody Anne demanded.
“I said I’m Teddy.” The girl spoke with an accent. Eastern European.
Teddy? Jody Anne was helpless in her seat, high above the Earth, with no weapons, no friends to help her, and this walking, talking, nuclear reactor sitting between her and the aisle called itsself Teddy? “I don’t care what your name is, girl. What sent you?”
“Nobody sent me,” said Teddy.
Jody Anne lowered her voice. “I’m not thinking of some body, bubu. Was it Vesht?” No, or she would have already attacked. “Marzh? No.” The girl seemed confident, but the High Stable would never get on a plane. The same with Low Extroversion. Damn that glow. Jody Anne had to close her right eye to a squint before she could see any of Teddy’s real features.
She was a little thing, too, with a squarish, high cheek-boned face and a sharply pointed nose. A pair glasses slid down that nose, and Teddy pushed them back into position as she glanced at the tablet in her lap…
No, not that kind of tablet.
“Reden,” Jody Anne choked. “You’re the Warrior of Reden. No. This is unacceptable. You cannot do this to me.”
“I don’t understand you.” Teddy looked from side to side, hands up as if she thought Jody Anne might attack her.
Jody Anne gritted her teeth. “I will not let you make me afraid again.” But it was no use. she could tell the girl didn’t understand her. How could she? Teddy was High Conscientious, not High Neurotic.
“What are you talking about?” Teddy peered down at the Tablet of Gilgamesh as if it might tell her the answer. She frowned, not finding one.
“Look at me, girl, not that thing,” snapped Jody Anne. “It won’t help you at all. The Weapons don’t work on other Warriors.”
Teddy shook her head, but she was smiling. “Yes! You are like me. A god gave you something – ”
“No god of mine.”
“Okay. No god,” said Teddy. “Please tell me more. I know there are ten g – things like Reden, but I don’t know their names or characteristics. I think that if we add up what we know, we will be able to make better plans.”
Plans. Bloody plans. Jody Ann breathed in though her nose for a count of four, then held it for a count of four, and let it out. The technique didn’t work as well as it should have. She had gone too long without practicing. Without needing to practice. Jesus Christ, she blasphemed silently, am I going to have to rebuild my whole life? No. That wasn’t helpful. She tried to focus on the girl, and couldn’t because of the red glow all around her.
“Useless thing.” Jody Anne poked into her eye patch and pulled the Mirror of Amaterasu out of its pocket.
“Is that your tablet?” asked Teddy.
“It’s called a Weapon,” Jody Anne sighed. “This one was given to me by a demon of hell that called itself Grizna. Curse my cowardice, but I kept the rotted thing.”
The Mirror was about the size and shape of an old Bustamante dollar coin, except with eight sides instead of seven. Jody Anne held it up for Teddy to examine, ready at any moment to snatch it back if the girl made a grab for it.
“The Mirror of Amaterasu.” Jody Ann aimed the Weapon at Teddy’s tablet and its heads-face flared with cherry-colored light. “It shows what’s likely to hurt me.”
“That would be useful,” said Teddy.
“Not to you,” said Jody Ann, closing her fist over the Mirror. “When this plane lands, you are to get off and never bother me again.” A dreadful thought struck her. “Nor the other Warriors. The ten of us have an agreement. A balance.”
Or they had, but if this girl had the Tablet of Gilgamesh, its previous owner must be dead. And who could have killed him but another Warrior? Might other Weapons have changed hands as well? Jody Ann’s blood went cold. What fresh chaos was about to be unleashed on this poor old world?
“Promise me,” she said. “Teddy, promise me you won’t try to take over the Earth.”
Teddy nodded, but said. “No! Of course not.” Then, and it was almost too much for Jody Ann’s heart to bear, “I’m planning to kill the gods.”
“Jeesum, girl, don’t say things like that.” Jody Anne brought the Mirror of Amaterasu up to her eye and scanned the plane. She didn’t see any danger, but that didn’t mean what it ought to mean.
It ought to me she was safe, but now she couldn’t be sure. Another Warrior had found her, and where there was more than one Warrior, there was a war.