Edhem traced the edges of the mask with his fingers. The leather was firm, molded into the shape he needed, touched with paint to add emphasis and finalize the appearance. He'd never tried to become a corgi before, but this mask should do it.
Eighteen hours, he thought. Six to cut, soak and mold the leather, four more to let it dry; another two to scribe his best description of the breed onto the back of the mask in the First Tongue. Then two hours of careful painting, to reinforce the effect and confirm his intention, and another two hours of touch-ups and careful corrections. He'd set it aside to dry, and now it was ready: quivering and eager in his hand, ready to transform him into a dog. If he'd given it any capacity for mobility, it would have been nudging at his hand and trying to make its way into its place over his eyes. The power of the Old Blood hummed through it: his blood, that he'd used in scribing the runes.
He set the mask beside the collar; he needed them to know each other, to recognize each other and work together. The collar was a simple leather loop, set with a buckle; where an ordinary dog collar would hold a tag, this one displayed a wooden carving of the glyph for health. It, too, had been touched with his blood; it too had a description of its purpose written in blood in the First Tongue on the inside surface. Edhem couldn't mask up as a dog, so he'd made the collar to turn aside diseases. The wood would decay and crack as the charm worked, and when it shattered he would need to make another.
He left the weapons behind. Based on what Shannon had told him, he was walking more-or-less-willingly into unimaginable danger, but deceit and discretion would protect him far better than any weapons. And if he was somehow discovered and had to return to human form, he still had his book prepared; it probably wouldn't protect him, but it might provide a momentary distraction which he could use to escape.
There wasn't much else to do. He had the next business card, from his mysterious patron; he just needed to park the van someplace inconspicuous, and try to make his approach without attracting any suspicion.
Bianca Cavalieri lived in an enormous mansion with her... lover? husband? father? ...Lucien; they had recently acquired a number of servants. She was an opera singer, famous enough that even Edhem had heard of her, idolized and despised as a notorious diva. Ridiculously rich... he'd never have been able to pose as a servant. So he'd try approaching as a corgi, and see if she had a soft spot for outrageously cute dogs.
There were so many things that could go wrong. Shannon had advised him to walk away, and maybe he should have... but having caught the attention of Elder, that seemed dangerous as well. And while he couldn't match an actual vampire for sheer power -- not at night, anyway -- he might still be able to learn what he needed and slip away.
Idly, he wondered what Ciaran was doing right now. Hunting me, most likely. There were other possibilities, but between the murder of their master and the effort Ciaran had put into trying to kill him as well, Edhem didn't think any of them were likely. That could still be a problem; if Ciaran located him, he would not only be exposed but likely facing off against a sorcerous rival who was already more powerful than he was. He needed more counters and evasions, and his options in both cases were limited. The only thing in his favor was his geas: he couldn't die as a human.
It would have to be enough. Still... he could add more pages to the small, hand-scribed book that held his more active spells. And he'd learned enough of fire and darkness to at least try to counter the things he'd seen Ciarin do. It would take time to make those preparations, but Ciaran would need time to prepare his attacks too; it might balance out. And if Ciaran showed up in the middle of a bunch of vampires, he'd be in at least much danger as Edhem; that was mildly reassuring.
He touched the mask again, then called up a map of Seattle on his phone. Today would be a day of scouting. Tomorrow, he'd take the shape of a dog and go in.
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