The death spell that Rena and Adrienne had cast towards me probably would have killed me had they actually hit me, but it had been deflected by Sam while I had jumped towards them and did a bit of my own recreational therapy -- in the form of some well-placed strikes and a few love taps with my foot. Okay, I was pretty sure I snapped a few rib bones and damaged some things inside them before Eddie and Archie tried to take me out. Archie was still a big-ass sheep, while Eddie was unharmed other than his ego. It wasn't fun to have a mere female take down two of yours while avoiding death.
Matt and Bob volunteered to take the rest of the girls' punishment in some misaligned noble gesture once I'd stopped kicking the bullshit out of them. I noticed Sam weighing the possibilities while Archie was just looking in need of a shearing. He kept bleating out something that sounded like sheep swearing, but I couldn't be positive. His gaze caught mine, and just like that, I was more than sure he'd been cursing in sheep bleats. In my book, it couldn't have happened to a more deserving jerk. He definitely wasn't going to be forgetting my presence at his embarrassing wooly nature. Eddie seemed to have a peculiar affinity for animals, I must admit.
Sam sighed and said, "Well, Eddie, this will make Archie's handling your wayward charges a bit awkward now, won't it?"
He sighed again and looked at Eddie with an arched eyebrow and a really bitchy glare. It was Eddie's turn to sigh and reluctantly ask, "Must I hand them over to Archibald? Isn't there another worthy?"
Eddie was leaving unsaid the fact that he wanted to take the four with him for unknown purposes. Anything that he'd told me earlier was suspect at best, an outright lie more than likely. Sam shook his head and said, "The Committee must come together and weigh the pros and cons of keeping them here and warded, or allowing you to take them back to a world that has long forgotten them. The issue of balance comes into play, as does the fact they violated the treaty."
Eddie bit back whatever he was going to say at first and instead nodded. Looking at me Eddie asked, "What do you think should be done?"
Rarely did anyone so high up in various committees and symposiums ask me for advice, but I had a doozy of a notion. "Personally, I think you and Archie should accompany all four back after reporting in and agreeing to a new updated treaty. I am pretty sure the new age of information has a few loopholes available for you to exploit. They should make you sign in blood. Yours, theirs and old Archie's pumped out of your ugly hearts and used as ink on parchment. Then you keep him as a sheep or turn him back to whatever slimy creature he looks like to you. And all of you leave me the hell alone for the rest of your unnatural lives." It was not overly thought out but definitely something I would sign up for in a minute.
Archie bleated out more sheep swear words with a motion that it took me a minute to identify. He was stomping his little hooves or whatever it was Eddie had given him for feet. There were a few oddities in the sheep design that didn't measure up with what I'd seen around farms. I shrugged and side-stepped the large agitated creature.
I noticed that Matt and Bob's eyes had locked back on me and Matt asked, "Lord? Excuse me do we get a vote?"
Eddie did not look thrilled by the troll speaking, but knowing he was outnumbered and that Sam was still weighing out the options, he shrugged, copying my motion precisely. It gave me a bit of a chill knowing that he'd been watching me so closely. Sam nodded and Bob said, "We really meant no harm. I want to go home even if nobody alive remembers us."
Matt nodded and commented, "Yeah, and nobody there knows how to surf, so I am pretty sure we can have a successful business." Part of me was shocked that was his takeaway, but then he'd been living in Southern California for a long time. I didn't remember any of the oceans from his world, but I had known that there were pools of water and rivers so there probably was something comparable.
Rena stirred from the floor enough to say, "And let us bring coffee. Plants and all, I think we could start something like our café here."
Grinning with my head tipped down, covering my smile with my hair, I dearly wanted to ask if they'd be killing their guests there as they had here. Not really caring, I let my smile fall away and looked up to meet Rena's nasty eyes with a poison-filled gaze of my own. Pulling my tone deep from my chest I said, "First Rena and Adrienne must allow Archie to be in control of them. Completely. I want their bonds to be to Archie not Eddie."
Sam didn't bother to smother his grin but instead said, "That is a good plan. I am seriously thinking this should be the path for you all."
Eddie looked horrified, and if I could see Archie's face beneath the whirls of fur, thick and matted to his skin, I would probably see revulsion lining every inch. That alone made me ask, "Eddie, are you going to keep Archie in fur and hooves or are you going to stick him back in his old form?"
Eddie looked over and said, "Fine." He muttered his ancient Latin and Archie materialized naked on all fours, with his ass high since he'd been standing on his hands and feet. He grunted and fell down flat covering his shriveled bits and pieces. Rena laughed and tossed him a towel from the countertop. He snatched it and dropped it over his crotch while muttering a spell. Soon a dark brown robe materialized on his frame and he got up from the ground slowly.
I wondered why he didn't clothe himself fully when Sam gave me a grin. Just like that I knew that Sam was still damping down the power available to use for spells. The glance Rena had earned promised her that Archie wasn't going to forget her laughing at him and she'd pay for it. That suited me.
Sam cleared his throat, instantly gathering everyone's attention. His face was stern but I didn't see anything that made me think he was going to disapprove of my suggestion. That the four now seemed eager to flee worked in all of our favor, because if they were left unchecked things could go bad quickly. Archie still looked like he'd swallowed a whole lemon chased with a quart of rancid oil. I wondered if Eddie had added a bit extra to the body swap out from farm animal to whatever it was Archie claimed to be. From the quick smirk Adrienne hid, I gathered that Eddie had nothing to do with the sudden discomfort of Archie but rather she'd zapped him. They would bond to him if Sam commanded, but I didn't think that either of the girls would be getting off easily.
Meeting each of their eyes he said, "I will agree with the suggestion from Delilah. The rest of the committee will have some of their own ideas, but basically what has been sketched out seems reasonable. I do not wish for any of you to ever return to Earth. That will be a binding part of our contract with each of you. And all of you must sign in blood with a death curse tied to the agreement."
Horrified, Archie gasped out, "Sam Fortuna, you are commanding me off Earth forever? What right do you have to do this?"
Growling, Sam said, "My given right in the committee, and as punishment for your failure to rescue Delilah and your attempt to have me killed. I know damn well you didn't mean for me ever to see the light of day again much less find my way back home. I do not forgive and I will not forget."
Archie wasn't able to hide the guilt that flooded his face for a second and Sam nodded, acknowledging that Archie had been responsible for his disappearance. I was relieved Sam was sending Archie off world, but not exactly sure if I still had to give a report for my troll incident back in the San Diego jail -- in what now seemed like months ago. Looking around, I knew that with Sam back it wouldn't matter. Everything was going to be fine.
Once the decision was made by Sam, a swarm of Hunters arrived to take the six away. I'd miss Jeff the cat, but I was pretty sure he was part of Eddie's nature, and I'd always have to worry if the deity had left a bit of himself behind to cause problems for me. And I knew I was perfectly capable of getting into my own trouble.
Sam walked me out into the sunshine once they all had been detained and we wandered down towards the large pumpkins grown in the fields overlooking the surf point called Swamis, and the Self-Realization Center that sat poised over the cliffs, ready to fall into the ocean. The huge pumpkins were unreal to me as I felt the salt air blowing off the sea tangle through my hair. I felt a lightness of my soul at being back with my mentor. Sam stopped my walking with a touch of his hand.
"So what's this about Ruby being here? You care to fill me in on it?" Catching his eyes, I laughed and started to explain. I didn't think I would be leaving San Diego any time soon.