Bliss left the dessicated collection of animals and insects in front of the door of the small adobe house. They weren't required, and they weren't part of her current bargain, but they couldn't hurt either. There didn't appear to be anyone home but that was deceiving; it never looked like anyone was home.
"Grandmother?" she called out. It would have been rude to try the door and Bliss didn't particually want to touch the house if she didn't have to, so she just stood there in the cool evening.
There was no response and no movement in the little home except for the swaying of the grasses that grew right up to the walls. Sometimes Spider Woman was in the mood to talk to Bliss and some days she was not.
The old spirits, the ones that were written about in legend, were always a fickle bunch. Some were touchy about the fact that they'd mostly been supplanted in the modern world but some had learned to get along.
Some were dead. In fact, most were dead.
Ideas had power, swirling around in people's brains, and when enough people all had the same ideas, they could give birth to things that were not human but alive and powerful. If the people stopped believing though, the spirits would die. Humans were the special case: they would keep living if whether you believed in them or not.
Spider Woman was amazingly resilient. She'd not only lived long enough to set her foot in with the new agers, she'd managed to keep some of her powers. In this area of the world there weren't many spirits that could say that truthfully.
So Bliss used her when she could. There were some things the spirits could do that the "mortals" could not, and vice versa. What Bliss could arrange through a few telephone calls or an internet search was often enough for surprisingly complicated bits of knowledge or powerful magics. The price for this particular assistance had been unusually difficult.
After five minutes, Bliss pulled an envelope out of her purse, went over, and stuck it in the door frame. It wouldn't get lost, she was sure of that. Spider Woman would get the envelope even if she had to chase it across a hundred miles of Nevada desert. Bliss smiled at the image.
But this resolved her debt, finally.
She turned to walk back to the car where Iron Dog was waiting but before she took more than four steps she heard the door open and turned.
Spider Woman stood there, holding the envelope. Considering the trouble that Bliss had gone through to get what was inside Spider Woman looked unmoved.
"This is it?" The spirit woman asked.
Spider Woman slowly and carefully opened the top of the unsealed envelope and pulled out the paper inside. There was just one and she unfolded it carefully.
"You've fulfilled your end of the bargain, Bliss," she said at last, putting the paper away and holding the envelope gingerly. "And my lawyer?"
"I sent him a copy as well," Bliss said. "And the developers won't bother you again. My sisters and I have made absolutely sure of that."
"When do you want delivery? Now?"
Bliss shook her head. "We can arrange for tomorrow. No mistakes this time."
"Lia's run away again," said Annabelle to Miss. Chi-Wong.
Chi-Wong sighed. "Have you notified Michael?"
Annabelle nodded. "Mohan's not going to be happy."
"No, of course not. But he won't be surprised. What happened this time?"
"She'd been good all morning, I swear I'd been watching her like a hawk nearly since she'd woken up, but she seemed to be enjoying her lessons and she doesn't usually try to run when it's the middle of the day, you know that, so I went to the bathroom and left one of Michael's pack to watch her--."
"Is the guard hurt?"
"Moon be damned . . ."
"She didn't hit him. I don't know how she managed it this time."
"She's getting to be completely uncontrollable. True, the fact that were have her is an important continuing bargaining chip with the Ladies but we can't keep. . . ." Chi-Wong paused. "I will tell Mohan. You know some of the places that she goes, join the hunt. If we can find her before the markets close, he may be willing to overlook your negligence."
Annabelle nodded and excused herself. Chi-Wong arched her fingers and rubbed the bridge of her nose.
All the different shapeshifters were linked through their shared human side. Werewolf, Weretiger, Werellama, they all eventually fit into the hierarchy. You dominated them once, they stayed dominated. If you were at the top of a pack, those under you were nearly completely loyal.
Mohan seemed oddly reluctant to break the girl though, and Chi-Wong had absolutely no idea why. That was what you did with new wolves. You put them in their place and they became quietessent.
Wereravens were rare, and the gift used to create them was rarer. In Chi-Wong's opinion whatever insane shapeshifter had thought it was a good idea to infect a child with lycanthropy, especially wereravenism, should be slowly boiled to death over the course of years by the witches. The problem was that the only person that she knew that could offer the "pure gift" of species undifferentiated lycanthropy was William Mohan.
She'd seen him use it to create Weresnakes out of rattlers. It wasn't a particuarly pleasant experience, and Chi-Wong had only been an observer. For the participants it was extremely painful and sickening, even for the giver.
Considering that the girl had shown up at Mohan's doorstep, it was hard to believe that he hadn't had something to do with her creation, but he still maintained that he hadn't. He pointed out that of all things, why would he have created a wereraven? Even two months before they'd found her their relationship with the Ladies hadn't required the sudden addition of a threat. They'd even considered killing her in her sleep since then to try to win the support of Bliss back.
If the old witch hadn't been such a caniving bitch, they might have gone through with it even.
So now they were left with what amounted to an toxic waste covered wild animal caged in the house. Lia didn't want to be kept, couldn't be easily dominated, and was constantly trying to run away. The Wolves as a group couldn't just let her go because that would permanently fracture their relationship with the Ladies. And, despite their reputation for random violence and as much as Chi-Wong hated to admit it, none of the Wolves really wanted to murder another shapeshifter, especially a child.
So why didn't Mohan want to just dominate her and be done with it? At least then he could tell her to stay put and she wouldn't have a choice in the matter. It was if he thought that her usefullness in negotiations would go out the window if she was broken but how would the ladies even know that if he didn't tell him? Chi-Wong had no idea.