I only vaguely remembered the previous night after Matt dropped me off. There hadn’t been much conversation - I quietly ate my way through Chinese takeout that was probably quite good, but it didn’t really register. It is unusual for me to do a single working in a week. Four in a day left me running on fumes, and I suspect I fell asleep for a bit, waking up only as the van slowed for the turnoff into the Wallingford district. The short trek from there to my loft was made through the pervasive fall mist that seemed to define October weather in the city. The specialty grocer that occupied the first floor was dark, pushing the time to well after ten, and thankfully Matt carried my medkit and laptop. I normally let no one handle Pixel, but I was so exhausted that I could barely get the key into the stairwell door, and the flight up to the second floor felt like climbing a mountain.
“You going to be all right?” Matt asked, gingerly dropping both bags inside the entryway of my room.
“Yeah, just a long day. I’ll analyse the results from the scan tomorrow, and give you a call if there’s something you and Lena may need to know about your house guest.”
He nodded and started to turn.
“Be careful about her - and with her. She might look human above the waist, but she’s not. Not really. I don’t think she’s malicious, but the fae, even halflings, don’t always follow human rules.”
“I will,” he replied. “G’night, Bree. And thanks for coming with me today.”
With that he trudged downstairs, not much more energetic than I was.
I locked the door, spoke the wards to seal the room, then stripped down to underwear before flopping onto the bed in the corner. As tired as I was, I should have dropped into a dreamless sleep, but Morpheus was apparently stuck in traffic on I5. The compulsion card from the coffee shop flared into smoke, the wisps of smoke writing like serpents, as a well-dressed businessman stormed past her, his Saville Row suit morphing into the red and black robes of an Unseelie lord. Mermaids sang out over the waves, yet are silenced one by one by a pirate with a high speed rifle, and I run as he turns his sights on me, heading away from the beach and into the dense Northwest woods, where the trees grow closer together to become scrolls and books on dusty shelves, though each book seems to speak to me in tones that I cannot quite understand, though I think I know I should. A kindly parish priest opens the door I didn’t know was there, yet even as I watch I see the light fade from his eyes and the skin flake away to expose the skull beneath. From the shadow the vampire lord laughs, cold as the crypt, his minions arrayed around him like an honor guard around a king.
“You are one of us, Branwen Stormcrow,” he whispers in my ear. “Come, join our dance!”
I jolted awake, breathing hard. Crap. It was still night, though even in the rainy gloom I can tell dawn’s not far away, but the prospect of trying to go back to sleep held absolutely no attraction to me whatsoever. I wasn’t sure the bad dreams were the results of too much stress and magic, prescience finally deciding to drop its unwelcome curse on me, or whether I should maybe have passed on the General Tso’s, but regardless there was no way I was about to go back to sleep.
Sighing, I stripped out of my underwear and into running clothes. Yes, it was still drizzling, but I’d learned long ago that if I didn’t get an early morning run every day I would feel out of sorts and lethargic the rest of the day, and after the series of nightmares, I’d even take a bit of Seattle rain to clear my head rather than jumping at shadows.
The street was just waking up. Even the earliest students wouldn’t be heading over to the University for another hour, and the cars of the suits were only now just beginning to trickle onto the main artery around the corner. That was a bit unfair - most of the people living in this area were junior- and mid-level techies and support people - the suits mostly lived on the Eastside or on Mercer Island, and they wouldn’t be converging on the city until 8:30 or 9 at the earliest. The sidewalks were a bit slick from rain, but the air also smelled clean and fresh, the pollution in the air washed out by the rains, and the fir and spruce trees hinted at the wildness of what the land would become if left unchecked - virgin temperate rain forest.
I often wondered what this area must have been like before the Europeans came, when it was just my mother’s people here. The Duwamish lived in small communities all up and down the Sound even now, but for the most part they had adapted to Western living - either the small single story houses that were typical of the dwellings of the canneries in the 30s and 40s, or increasingly the larger MacMansions that money from the casinos had brought (along with the associated organized crime). Grandmother had little use for the casino nouveau riche, but on the flipside the casinos had managed to do what years of broken treaties and unfair dealings by both the state and all too many businesses had failed to do - it gave the Duwamish enough clout to start turning around the rampant alcoholism and malnutrition that had affected the People before. Other tribes hadn’t fared as well, and even among the tribes that had casinos, there was still pockets where people lived in third world conditions, but it had helped.
Yet before then, the Duwamish were coastal fishers more than hunters, living in communal long huts with elaborate totem poles proclaiming the family origins and displaying the totemic protectors, creating elaborate clothing and blankets from cedar bark, worked and refined into a coarse thread, fishing for the salmon that ran the rivers and capturing ducks in nets made from the same material. They were a tiny people, especially when compared to the Mountain peoples to the East, and had far more in common with the early Chinese people that followed the whales in long boats, kayaks and canoes up the coast of Kamchatka and across the Bering Strait than they did with the typical “Indians” that Americans thought of as being Native American.
I jogged up and down the side streets, feeling the drain and the stiffness from yesterday before I got my second wind, and by the time I’d done my normal two mile circuit, I was definitely dragging more than I normally was. That the mist had turned into a steady rain didn’t help matters any - my jogging gear was water resistant but not waterproof, and the rain had penetrated to the extent that it felt I was carrying an extra twenty pounds of very cold water, and I fought unsuccessfully to control the shivers that has started even before I made my way down the street to the loft.
Perhaps that was why I was halfway through the door before I realized that it was both unlocked and the wards were down. As the door creaked open, the man inside looked up from my laptop, which had been taken out of its bag. His eyes were blood red around the black irises, with no whites showing. Crap. I glanced at the laptop, but he hadn’t yet got past the login page.
“Tueri Te!” I shouted at the laptop. The man raised one eyebrow, puzzled, then screamed as a blue electric nimbus formed around the computer, electric arcs jumping from the shell surround it up to the man’s hands and arms. As he was shouting in pain, I rushed in, grabbing the holster I’d stripped off last night, and pulled out the small Glock nestled in there.
“Step away from the computer, and keep your hands up in the air,” I said, keeping both hands firmly on the gun’s grip.
“You wouldn’t shoot me,” he replied, his eyes suddenly shrewd. “You’re bluffing.”
Fear was surging through me, but so was anger, and with it the hot, sour-sweet taste of magic that normally lay just below my threshold of awareness. I could feel the magic building around me, could feel it in my face and my chest and my back, could even see it coalescing around me.
“AM I?” I asked, and my voice was deeper, seductive and threatening, and filled with a resonance that extended well beyond normal human hearing. The room darkened around me, and I could see the magic boiling away from me in waves of blackness. He looked at me, his eyes widening around their black rims, and for just a second there was a stink of urine before he bolted to my window and jumped through the glass.
I ran to the window, but there was no one in sight. I extended my Sight, could make out the ripples of past time as I saw him flip, land on his feet, and run off, his shadow fading into the background noise.
I caught my own reflection in a shard of broken glass - my own eyes were black, not a hint of white anywhere, great big alien eyes in a face that looked … too beautiful to be real. I closed those eyes, breathed in deeply and exhaled, slowly shedding the magic I’d inadvertently pulled up from around me, letting it bleed back into the ley lines that girded Seattle. The tightness in my shoulders faded as well. When I could finally open them up again, I felt shaky, but my eyes had returned to their normal condition, and my face was just that of Bree McConnell, eccentric programmer and part time doctor.
“Bree, are you all right?”
I heard the voice from outside, and gingerly, avoiding the sharp edges of the glass, I looked out the window to look at the pretty red-headed woman looking concerned from below.
“I had a break-in, Cass.”
“Oh my god, I knew it! I’m sorry Bree - I was going to warn you, but you didn’t get back until after I’d closed up last night. I did leave a note for you yesterday at Sadie’s. You want me to call the police?”
No, it would raise more questions than it would answer, I thought.
“That;s all right. It was my fault - I was too tired last night, forgot to lock up.”
She was bound to know that was a lie, but I couldn’t guarantee that there weren’t other people around. “Let me clean up here and we can go get some coffee. I can tell you more then. You may want to check to make sure they didn’t get into the store.”
She nodded and I ducked back in.
I cursed briefly as my finger brushed against a piece of glass I hadn’t seen. I grimaced at the window, then decided that this I could fix without too much comment.
“Ut quid de te reverti” I said to the window, pouring the last of the power that I’d held within me into the spark of blood. Outside, pieces of glass started drifting up, one after another, setting into the place they’d been in before the whole had been so disastrously disrupted. “Ex multis, fit unum.”
The pieces shuddered once, then coalesced into a single pane. It wasn’t permanent - in effect, the magic was acting as a temporary glue - but the energy required had to be replaced regularly. In theory I could tap into the ley lines to create a shunt, but that would require a huge step down transformer, and if done wrong would cause the glass to likely decompose into its constituent sand - violently. It would hold long enough for me to call a glazier, however, assuming I didn’t let it slide.
I then turned my attention back to my laptop, which was still glowing dimly. “Stand down, precious Pixel.” I said in English, and the aura faded. I’d run diagnostics on it when I got the chance, but I was too shaky to do it now. I quickly changed - the whole incident had left me feeling violated and vulnerable, and being naked felt rather terrifying right then. Before putting the laptop away, I did a very close check to make sure that nothing had been done to the hardware, then slipped it into its case. I also put the Glock back into its holster and strapped that on. Grandmother’s connections included a few cops that were not quite as human as they appeared, and they had helped me to get a concealed weapons permit once it became clear that I both had the training and the need for it.
Finally, I raised the wards again and examined them carefully. I knew I had reactivated the wards the previous night, even as tired as I’d been, that had become habit for me, so I had to go on the working assumption that somehow my wards had been taken down by someone else. Wards weren’t perfect - they were essentially a mix of magical wall and alarm system in one package, and they usually made it much harder for someone to use magic within the warded space unless their signature was known. With enough energy, you could known out a ward, but that almost invariably caused physical damage to the space within. You could also cancel a ward if you created it … or if someone whom the magic thought was you created it. That was a stunning, and worrisome thought.
Anyone capable of using magic had a distinct signature, That signature was very much like a private key in an encryption algorithm - something known only to you. In essence, it was your true name. In addition, there was a public key, which was based, in some way, upon your DNA. Until comparatively recently, that usually involved getting something physical, such as hair, blood, spit, or sweat. Recently, though, there’d been some very disturbing papers in the Journal of Computational Metaphysics - a peer reviewed journal written by and for academic fae - that implied that what was key was the information content of the DNA retrieved from these - and that if you could simulate that information content, you had the key.
The paper had been by a Dr. Erasmus Bosch, which was as much a pseudonym as Dr. Ada Turing, who had written a followup to that paper published in the next issue of the Journal. I had spent a good two weeks writing that particular paper, countering some of his mathematics, partially in hopes of getting him to contact me online. A couple of days ago, I’d received a reply from “Eras”, with the rather cryptic body text of “Tag, you’re it”, but nothing else. Then in the space of two days I’m approached by a demonic headhunter and my loft is burgled by an incompetent ninja vampire.
I couldn’t recast all of the wards - they took me a couple of hours to set up, normally - but I could modify the existing set so that they would also require a subvocalized pass-phrase to come down - and they’d react defensively if the pass-phase wasn’t given within thirty seconds. It wasn’t perfect - I knew that I was going to have to recast the wards from scratch with better protection, but they’d serve to notify me and to potentially identify the invader for now.
For now … I grimaced at that. A lot of coders, especially less experienced ones, would encounter bugs, and rather than taking the time to track down the cause of the bug, would instead put in a patch of code that would smooth things over when the glitch occurred. It was faster, and when you were under a deadline, the temptation to do so was often irresistible. The danger with this was that the problems that occurred might be due to deeper issues, and might in fact be an indication that something serious was actually wrong. While intended to be very temporary, patches also tended to stay unfixed, eventually becoming part of the code base, especially as code was inherited to one person from the original coder. Lately, a great deal of her life had felt patchy, bandaids laid over deeper problems, and she couldn’t help but worry that one day, something was going to yank those bandages off, painfully, and expose the corruption beneath.
On that cheery note, I picked up my computer bag and reactivated the now patched wards. Ironically, beyond the computer and maybe my medical bag, there was very little that most thieves would want - which was why I was more than a little mystified by the break-in.
Cassie was waiting for me downstairs, trying hard not to fidget.
“Are you okay? I heard the vampire going through the glass upstairs, but he disappeared before I could track where he was going. He looked scared - that must have really pissed him off. Vampires don’t like losing their cool - we’re big bad demons of the night, hurrgh! Running away like a little baby. He didn’t bite you, did he? Hey, you cleaned up the gla-”
Cassie was the poster child for ADHD, but she was also one heck of a seer, and a friend when I can manage to break the non-stop stream of words coming out of her mouth.
“How’d you manage to do that so fast - oh, cool, you must have magicked it back up. Wish I could do that, it’d save a fortune on security windows. Are you …”
She took a deep breath. “Oh, right … talking too much. Sorry, I was just scared for you.”
“It’s okay. No, it’s not okay, I’m pissed as hell about it, but I don’t think he managed to take anything.”
“You want to get some coffee? I came in early because I had an uneasy feeling, but I don’t have to open the store for a couple of hours yet. Oh, by the way, this is on me.”
She handed me a plastic squirt bottle literally covered with writing, and it took me a second find the actual label.
“Dr. Bronner’s Holy Water?”
“Yeah. Cool, isn’t it. According to this, it’s effective against vampires, lesser demons, some breeds of werewolf, liches, magically raised zombies, redcaps and politicians. I use it to clean the counters with at the store - the vampires just hate that. It’s kinda like mace for the undead.”
“Doesn’t Dr. Bronner’s do soap and cleaning supplies?”
“They have a specialty line that they sell through the Wiccan Grimoire and Specialty Catalog. Candle wax remover, Spore-be-gone, temple resanctifier kits, it’s pretty amazing what they have.”
Cassie’s father, Isaac, owned one of the more unique grocery stores in a region that tends to specialize in specialty grocery stores. Kiki’s started as a bakery, taking its icon from a Japanese anime of the same name - a young witch with a black cat flying on a broom, but also selling a small selection of other groceries as well. Given the somewhat witchy character of the neighborhood, it soon became the go-to place for those fae and mageborn who had dietary requirements outside of the ordinary. Kosher and Halal meats, not only gluten free breads but breads made from grains that were prevalent a millennium ago but had disappeared from distribution, very specialized honeys and nectars, the essences of food for those who no longer physically consumed food but who nonetheless missed the flavors of their youth, as well as a collection of supplements for alien physiologies.
Isaac was a professor of linguistics at the University. He was also a rabbi and a kabbalist, and one of the more powerful magicians in the region, I didn’t know the latter for some years, but I did first met him as a very junior graduate student. He became one of my thesis advisors after I took a course with him on semiotic systems, and after I graduated he also let me know that he was letting the loft above his store if I’d be interested. I’d been sharing a house with three other girls, but given what I was, that was quickly heading towards a major breaking point, so the opportunity came at a critical time.
In some respects, Cassie was the exact opposite of her father. Isaac looked very much like what he was - a Jewish linguistics professor, the beard on his face, sans mustache, long since gone white, as had his temples, though last time I saw him his hair was only just beginning to go gray. He was somber with a wit so dry it could be used as a dessicant. Cassie, short for Cassiel (not Cassandra, as most people assumed), far more accurately fit the trope of Cloud Cuckoolander; a lively wit, a manic energy that occasionally flipped into a depression, a definitely tendency to be distracted by the latest shiny. It didn’t help that she not only received prophetic dreams, but would occasionally have visions during the day showing her spectrums of possibilities.
In addition to the bottle of holy water, she also had a couple of boxes full of pastries for Sadie’s. I just shook my head.
“What I don’t get,” I asked, stepping up beside her and taking one of the boxes from her to better distribute the load,” is why you ended up starting a bakery? Wouldn’t it make more sense with your skills to go into investing or business analysis?”
“My uncle Michael” -- she pronounced it “mee-kae-el’” with the accent on the last syllable -- “did that - went to New York and became an investment banker. He did very well for about fifteen years, but discovered that he was far from the first precogs there, and that when so many precogs are each seeing possibilities into the future, the interference made seeing unreliable. Besides that, there was so much fraud, so much greed, it destroyed his faith in humanity. He knew enough to get out of the markets before the big collapse a few years ago, gave my father about half of what he’d made, and used the rest to buy a quiet farm in British Columbia, in order to recover from the mess the experience had made of his brain.
“As it turns out, I have a pretty decent skill as a baker. Bread is uncomplicated - it requires attention, but you don’t have to worry with bread about frying your brain or gaining enemies who think you know too much about things they’d rather remain secret. I manage my bakery and the grocery store, and can generally see what my customers will be needing in the next couple of weeks or so, making ordering easier. I like that.”
We passed the couple of blocks to Sadie’s just as Karen opened the door. “Morning, Cass. And Bree? I never see you here this early. Everything all right?”
I started to say it was, but Cassie dropped the boxes of pastries on Karen’s counter. “A vampire got into her loft this morning.”
“What?!” Karen turned to me. “Did he bite you?”
“No! Dammit, I’m fine. I was out running, got back just in time to discover him trying to hack into my laptop, and frightened him off with my gun.”
Karen looked at me a little dubiously. “Must have been some gun. Most vamps could take several rounds without even slowing them down. Any idea who it was?”
“I don’t have much to do with the vampire community in Seattle. We had a nest of them up in the peninsula when I was growing up, and I had to treat some of their victims before Gran and the Elders decided to put an end to them. Nothing like having to behead the corpse of a girl not much younger than I was for me to decide that vampires truly suck.”
“Wait, describe him,” Karen asked. She started kicking espresso shops into two medium sized cups as she listened.
“Apparent age about twenty, could have passed for an undergrad. Brown hair, heavy eyebrows, eyes black with red corneas. Pointed incisors, but not radically so. Thin, kinda geeky looking, suspect the impression would have been stronger with glasses. He was dressed in black clothes. His voice, the little I heard, was nasally and snarky. He was also alert.”
The last point was important. When vampires were first turned, they were typically inarticulate, able to do little more than growl, and they were little more than animals that were under the control of their masters. It took months for the daemon inside to regain some semblance of intelligence, and even then higher order functioning was rare, though those usually who did became masters. The feral vampires were killing machines, but they lacked the capability to turn others into vampires. The intelligent ones were seldom as violent, but they could turn others, especially those who had the spark of psychotic sadism within them that took perverse joy in killing.
Sadie handed each one of us one of the cups she’d been preparing, then grabbed the third for herself.
“Jennifer, take the till for a bit,” Karen said to the young woman behind her as she pushed the sliding gate open and headed into the main room, to take our places at a table near the back.
“This have anything to do with the trip you took yesterday?” Karen finally asked as she settled into one of the seats.
“I … don’t think so,” I said, then launched into a description of our adventures rescuing Llorana from the pirates.
“Lord and Lady, girl, you have a positive gift for making enemies,” Karen said at last, sipping at her own coffee. Jennifer brought over three pastries, including an almond croissant for me that I tore into.
“I think you’re right. I may be mistaken, but that vampire could be Terence Nightseer.”
It was probably a good thing I’d just put down my own latte, or I would have choked on it. “The hacker?”
She nodded. Nightseer was a legend when I was an undergraduate - he had been responsible for a lot of early hacker tools, had managed to disgrace the arch-chancellor of the University into an early resignation, and had published the first online works of symbolic computational magic. Then one day he disappeared, though there were rumors that a number of banks, federal agencies and universities were hacked for years thereafter by someone who always left the message “Nightseer was here”.
“This goes no further than you two, but I worked with a group for a while to help identify the key vampires in this region. Nightseer was one of them, and fits the description you’ve given. He’s not that old for a vampire, and doesn’t have the technophobia that most of them do. Most vampires are very conservative - they tend to become frozen technologically to the era in which they were created, but Nightseer is still flexible enough to be dangerous.”
“Karen, you run a coffeeshop. How would you know …?”
“Listen, young lady. Do not judge people by their apparent professions. Do you think that Seattle has become filled with ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night just as you reached your majority? This city has been a magnet for the weird for a long, long time - it was this strange when Lita and I were chasing ne’re do well ghoulies back in the sixties.”
“Lita? That’s my grandmother’s nam- … just how old are you, Karen?”
“Old enough to be reticent about answering that question. When you get to be my age, running a coffee shop can be a quiet change of pace, but yes, I have my sources.”
That answered some questions I’d wondered about for years. Karen always seemed to have a weather eye out for trouble, and she had skills as an earth mage that were impressive.
“Is there some kind of secret council of witches and wizards?” Cassie asked, and Karen smiled, though I caught the brief flickering of annoyance in her eyes before she replied.
“Honey, most witches are far too busy to spend time puttering on some kind of secret councils, and most wizards are doing good to remember what they did with their metamucil in the morning.”
I noticed she didn’t answer the question. From the look on Cassie’s face, Karen had just confirmed exactly that.
“I need to get back before the rush, but Bree - please be careful. You have not inconsiderable skills in that area yourself and have come to the attention of some very powerful people, not all of whom mean you well. And Cassie, stay with her. I’ll talk to Isaac about maybe letting you have a break for a bit, hiring some more help. He always was a little too tight with his money, and you need to develop your own talents beyond baking really great cookies.”
With that, she was off, leaving Cassie and I both open-mouthed.
Cassie looked at me, and said, in grudging awe, “It’s like walking in on your parents having sex.”
“With that, I too have to get back to the bakery.”
I watched her walk to the counter and retrieve her boxes with long practice. I pulled out Pixel and did a second once over … and that’s when I noticed the three clear plastic dots placed on the backside of the laptop. I recognized these from reading I’d done recently - EM sensors, placed near the keyboard controller, the hard drive, the GPU., Muttering et sciret exitum invenire oculos, I found three more, one inside the battery case, the others placed near the USB and network connectors respectively.
Nightseer wasn’t trying to hack my password directly - he had just turned it on to make sure that I signed in myself to make sure if the computer was okay, then he could have come in over the network and read everything without me detecting a thing. I turned the computer on, typed in:
FUCK OFF AND DIE, NIGHTSEER
into the password prompt, then turned the computer off again, before softly saying “Curiosus oculus, et sciret exitum oculis, virus quod vermis, abite.”
One by one, the small dots peeled away, fell onto the table, and shrivelled into dust. With any luck, I had just sent a message.
I logged back onto my laptop, changed my password, then set my network monitoring software into paranoid mode, setting up a window to flag even the faintest hint of unusual activity, and ran a scrambler on my emissions that queried a random number generator that set up noise on both the wifi and the special ley-tap transmitters, setting it up as a background daemon. I then set my password to a different value, and logged out and back in again. It pissed me off that I had to do this; it took resources away from processing and played havoc with my own Internet connection, and mostly it forced me to spend time that I could have used elsewhere.
After monitoring things closely for ten minutes while typing and surfing meaningless fluff, I figured I’d locked out prying eyes. First thing I did after that was bring up Llorana’s scan. Mixing computers and magic was sometimes an iffy proposition - you could usually get what you were after, but with information spells you also were likely to get information you knew you hadn’t specifically asked for. The basics were pretty straightforward - she was about 190 lbs, but much of that was due to muscles in her tail. From head to the base of her flukes she was 7’ 9”, though again, taking her torso measurements as accurate she was proportional to a woman about 5’5”.
Musculature was about what I expected, with a few things I hadn’t. Her pelvic girdle was approximately human, she had femurs, tibulas and fibulars, though the knees were locked together, and from about the medial part of the femur on down, the bones weren’t - they were cartilege, more flexible by far than bone but not as strong. Llorana couldn’t quite curve her tail like a fish, but she could bend it considerably. The muscular supported this with layered longitudinal muscles overlaying bands of muscles that wrapped her legs together and gave her more lateral control. Her vascular and nervous system structure similarly seemed like how someone would adapt a human being to look like a mermaid - larger arteries and veins that ran like helical vines around the trunk of her tail.
Her “feet” were more evident in the skeletal scans, though these looked the most alien - the various metatarsals that would go towards forming a human foot had been elongated into tapering finger-like structures, the heel had transformed into a plate that looked more like the knee’s patella, and the toes formed long filaments that became the ribs of webbing. All of this was cartilege - flexible but not nearly as strong as human bone.
She had a lot of fat, but it was very dense, especially below her hips. Her skin below her hips wasn’t really scaled so much as pebbly, more typical of a snake skin, but more supple, made up of thumbnail sized pellets of hard fat, though with nerves running throughout. I thought about that for a bit, and the only conclusion that I could come up with was that many generations back, her ancestors had been human, but had been transformed by a mage, someone who’d spent some serious time thinking about how to build a mermaid that would breed true. Transformational magic was hard, but in most cases, if you transformed someone into an alien form, they would need a continuous supply of magic or they would transform back. Laws of conservation of mass and energy needed to be considered as well - you could transform a person into a frog, but that frog would be the size of a human, and unless the frog was kept in a magical pond (a pond sitting on top of a ley line), they would eventually revert. They would also be sterile until they did revert.
In Llorana’s case, however, someone worked their art at the genetic level. The indo-Aryans had the technology for a few generations, but they eventually fell to corruption. That was one reason why Hindu stories were so heavily filled with stories of hybrid beings. The Mycenaeans had also been capable of doing it, until Thera, the home of their R&D, exploded. Our current society is getting close - maybe another fifty years or so and technology will replace magic as the primary means of manipulating genetic code and gengineering new life forms, but the environmental degradation was setting up this society to go the way of the other two.
If my guess was right, Llorana should be generally receptive to most human-oriented drugs and foods. She’d have enzymes for breaking down wheat, milk and beef, even if her primary diet was fish.
I was looking at the scan of her uterus - very human shaped - when I inadvertently inhaled coffee in shock. After calming down the coughing and cleaning up the mess, I brought the scan up to higher magnification. Just barely visible, there was a bean shaped lump maybe three inches long in the uterus, with the magic field clearly bundling around it in a way it didn’t anywhere else.
Llorana was pregnant.