Authors: Eric Asher
Tags: #vampires, #demon, #civil war, #fairy, #fairies, #necromancer, #vesik
“Better?” Alan asked
“Yes, thanks.” I turned my focus back books. “No
Before Beth or Alan could say anything else, I
grabbed the Book of Blood and slammed it onto the Black Book. It
slowly sank into the Black Book, and instead of the rough leather
and terrible sense of foreboding, a nightmare sat in its place.
“By the ...” Alan's voice trailed off. We all stared
at the leather tome. It wasn’t black. It wasn’t golden. It was a
mottled, scaled mess that dripped a constant thread of blood.
I picked it up carefully, half expecting it to kill
me on the spot. Horror warred with fascination and I cracked the
book open. Pages turned, and nothing came to kill us. I suppose
Koda would have warned us if it was deadly simply to utilize it,
but then again he hadn’t told me he had the Book of Blood.
“The Book that Bleeds ... bleeds?” I asked, watching
a trail of blood drip from the book’s spine. It didn’t leave a mark
or a stain where it fell.
“That’s the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen,” Beth
I watched the blood and ground my teeth together.
“I’ve seen it before.” I looked at Alan and then back to the book.
“It’s like Vicky in Cromlech Glen, when she was first ... when she
I didn’t have to say it. Alan and I knew Vicky’s
story, and I was willing to bet Beth did too.
I flipped through the pages. “There’s more text than
there was before.” I flipped through another chunk of the book,
finding one of the last pages I knew had been marked before.
“Timewalkers?” I skimmed through it faster. “There's a chapter on
the Burning Lands. This isn’t even the same book anymore.” I turned
the pages more and more frantically. “I need to find Koda.” I
slumped into the chair and stared. Devils. The Abyss. The Wandering
War. Page after page with new words and twisted things. I let the
book bleed all over my leg as I reached for the pile of aged
manuscripts on the shelf. I had to compare the notes. This is where
“Come,” Alan said. “He will be busy for a great deal
Some part of me acknowledged their departure, but
this … this was everything.
A voice registered somewhere in the back of my mind,
but I could only stare at one of the unlocked pages of the Book
that Bleeds. A detailed accounting for a Key of the Dead, a dagger
like the one hidden in the chest at my feet.
I glanced up. Aideen hovered above the table for a
moment and then landed with a tiny whumpf. “Edgar is here. He would
like to speak with you.”
I nodded slowly. “Okay. I wouldn’t mind speaking to
him about a few things either.”
Aideen glided back down the stairs.
“What do you think he wants?” Foster asked from his
perch on the shelf behind me.
“I didn’t know you were there.”
“Yeah, well, someone has to stab you if you go crazy
from whatever’s in that book.”
I smiled and turned my gaze back to the Key of the
Dead incantations before closing the book and covering it in a
sloppy pile of manuscripts. “Foster, it says a Key of the Dead can
open a Hellgate or let you step into a bloodstone.”
“Why would you ever want to step into a bloodstone?”
Foster muttered. “Cozy up to a trapped demon? Sounds
“You’re speaking to each other again?”
Neither of us gave Edgar a response. Foster hopped
down onto the table and we both watched the man walking toward us.
His normally immaculate suit looked worn, but he still carried
himself with authority. Edgar’s face was drawn beneath the bowler
that perched at a low angle on his head. I guessed he’d lost a good
fifteen pounds, and the man hadn’t had it to lose.
“How is Falias?” I asked.
Edgar let himself collapse into one of the deep
leather chairs before pulling off his bowler with a sigh. Without
the shadow of the hat, his sandy face was disturbingly close to
“It is … it is chaos.”
“Hern?” I asked.
Edgar shook his head. “He’s been underground since
Gettysburg. I don’t know when we’ll see him again. I’m more
concerned with Gwynn Ap Nudd.”
Edgar eyed Foster. “Where are your loyalties, on your
“I suppose I deserved that,” Foster muttered before
sitting down and folding his legs beneath him. “To my family first,
my friends second, and my people third. Thank you for not
questioning me in front of another Fae.”
I stared at the fairy. “That’s it? We just had to ask
him a question on his honor?”
Edgar nodded. “Though an honor-bound fairy could
still lie if he had no honor.” Foster scowled and Edgar continued.
“It does make me wonder why you didn’t tell Damian about Gwynn Ap
Nudd and your mother. Did she explicitly tell you to keep
“No,” Foster said, “but I do not wish to continue
“Tell me why,” I said as I leaned forward. “I have to
He glanced up at me and then looked away. “I thought
you and Sam would be safer not knowing.”
I flopped back into my chair. Did he say that,
knowing it was the only answer I wanted to hear? Or was I getting
too paranoid for my own good? Maybe the voices in my head were
wreaking more havoc than I realized. The mere thought of them
brought a cacophony to my ears like that of a screaming stadium
filled with people.
I watched Foster while he flexed his black and white
Atlas moth wings. “Thank you.”
He froze, and then gave me a nod.
“What of Falias?” I said, turning my attention back
Edgar stared at me for a moment before releasing a
sigh. “Gwynn Ap Nudd, Glenn, has appeared there almost daily. He’s
been helping to rebuild Falias on this plane. You’ve seen the
pictures on the news, I’m sure.”
I had. The city seemed to grow. Buildings rose in
sections, almost like a living thing. “The builders don’t show up
“Only because they don’t want to,” Foster said.
Edgar nodded at the fairy and crossed his legs.
“Foster is correct. The government is still flying drones over the
area, but the Fae are invisible to them unless they choose not to
“Why do the buildings show up, then?” I asked. “Cara
said they’re built with Fae magic.”
“They are,” Foster said quietly. “It means Glenn
wants the buildings to be seen, and he wants humanity to understand
the power they have.”
“Indeed,” Edgar said. “Enough power to grow buildings
back before their very eyes. On one hand, I can’t blame him. The
decision to drop bombs on Falias when it appeared was poor and
I’d heard about that too. The bombs had vanished
before they could detonate. Who the hell knows where they ended up?
“Glenn could have considered that an act of war.”
Edgar blew out a short breath. “Considering his
posturing, I’m sure he does.”
“What do you mean?” Foster asked. “They haven’t been
showing themselves on video.”
Edgar grimaced. “No, they haven’t, but they’ve been
threatening any military presence that comes within a mile of the
city’s borders. Not aggressively, mind you, but when men with guns
see a twenty-foot-tall Green Man rise from the earth, well, it
leaves an impression.”
“Glenn brought the Green Men here?”
“No …” a small voice whispered from above us.
I glanced up to find Aideen perched on the highest
bookshelf. She hopped off and glided down to the table. At first, I
was irritated she’d been spying on our conversation, but I
remembered Foster’s words and suspected her loyalties were much the
“Aideen,” Edgar said. “You did not need to hide from
“I have no desire to upset Damian further.”
“You haven’t told him?” Edgar said with a half
“Told me what?”
“Is it safe to speak here?” he asked, looking at
“Yes, it is only us.”
Edgar inclined his head and turned to me. “Aideen has
been an agent of the Watchers for decades.”
I sank into my chair, appalled at the idea, and
somehow not surprised.
“I have a long history with necromancers,” Edgar
said, his gaze studying my face. “My experience is perhaps deeper
than any other member of the Watchers. I am sorry for the
accusations and hostilities I brought upon you as a Watcher,
especially those that weren’t deserved.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Explain what that means.”
Edgar frowned slightly, but he didn’t comment on my
tone. “Aideen told me many years ago that you were a noble soul.
Zola did too, but I had long assumed she was the only exception to
the rule. I trusted her and Philip in the Civil War, only to see
Philip follow a path from which there was no return.”
Things began clicking together in my mind, and my
eyes snapped to Aideen. “You’ve been spying on Cara. Fucking hell,
you’ve been spying on Glenn!”
“Quiet,” Edgar hissed. “We may be alone, but his ears
“No one will hear,” Aideen said. Her hands glowed
with a dim white light. “I have silenced this space.”
Edgar met my gaze and held it, his black eyes boring
into my own. “And now you hold the darkest necromantic text known
to this world. Damian, with the knowledge inside the Book that
Bleeds, you will be perceived as a threat to everyone.”
I glanced at Aideen.
“I had to tell him,” she said. “Edgar is no threat to
Koda. He won’t tell anyone else.”
“You shouldn’t have,” Foster said.
Aideen’s posture stiffened at his words.
“Koda is an old friend,” Edgar said. “I would never
harm him, or any member of the Society of Flame. They are
invaluable, and impartial. I understand his concern.”
I didn’t say a word. If I was a threat to Glenn, that
meant I was a threat to Hern, and maybe it meant I could harness
enough power to free Vicky.
Edgar crossed his arms. “Tread lightly. Your
alliances with the Old God, Aeros, the Ghost Pack, and Gaia are
well known. You felled Prosperine and Azzazoth, and the dispatching
of Ezekiel has created a backlash among the immortals. That says
nothing of Mike and his ghost, or Ashley’s mastery of the Blade of
the Stone. And Samantha? Frank? The Piasa Bird? With Nixie’s allies
behind you, the River Pack, and the Demon Sword, there isn’t a
being on this plane who won’t see you as a threat.”
“What are the Green Men?” I asked, letting Edgar’s
words pass unchallenged.
“Enforcers,” Aideen said.
“Yeah,” Foster said. “Like the trolls from the
Burning Lands we faced in Gettysburg.”
I remembered the fiery, lumbering creatures. I
remembered skewering them with an art so powerful it still made me
cringe to think of it. Despite that aversion, I longed to do it
again. “Are they like the legends? Leaves and vines and bark given
“I don’t believe that is the legend, exactly,” Aideen
said. “But yes, they are all of those things.”
“May I see it?” Edgar asked.
His question confused me at first, but I realized he
could only mean the Book that Bleeds. I lifted the pile of
manuscripts to reveal the tome. Edgar stared at it for a
“A very long time ago, that was known as the Book of
the Dead. It still brings dread to my heart.”
I frowned and looked at Edgar. “I would have thought
that would be all hieroglyphs, no?”
“It is much older than ancient Egypt, Damian. It is a
living thing in its own right, evolving as the magics recorded
within its pages evolve. A practitioner who speaks only Mayan would
see the entire text in his native tongue. You see only the
incantations and words with no meaning to your language in their
native form because that is how they function.”
The scope and precision it would take to create so
complex a magic gave me chills.
“Tread lightly, Damian. Your allies have the power to
shape the world, or destroy it.”
I stayed upstairs after Edgar left. Aideen and Foster
returned to the shop when the bells chimed, signaling the late
arrival of a customer. Bubbles settled onto my feet, her massive
form threatening to cut off the circulation in my toes, but I
didn’t make the cu sith move.
I was flipping through the Book that Bleeds, hunting
for more information on the devils of the Burning Lands, when I
found the end of the Wandering War. The Nameless King, slain by
Gwynn Ap Nudd. An etching sat on the page, dripping and red with
the same blood that seeped from the book itself.
Hern kneeled before Gwynn Ap Nudd, a severed head
held high in the victor’s hand. Beneath the etching, the story
It was then the hand of Gaia was
lost to the Fae, but not lost to the world. It sought a new master,
a descendent of its owner, the beginning of the Anubis bloodline.
Her power remained inside the realm, trapped within the hand and
scattered across the Abyss, but her body would forever rest in the
New World. A man would build his house upon her bones, never truly
understanding why he
build upon the riverbanks. For all
time, an immortal stands guard over Gaia, for when she awakens, the
world of men will be forever changed.
“That can’t be …” I stared at the passage and read it
again and again. I slid the page of a manuscript into the book and
refocused on my search for the devils. I would ask Gaia about her
resting place when I stepped into the Abyss again.
Two chapters later, I found a short passage about the
Burning Lands. It was one of several realms that sat beside the
reality I took for granted. Each was blocked by a Seal, except for
those that weren’t. The book didn’t define Seals very clearly. One
passage described them as physical barriers, while others were
wholly focused on ley line energy. What followed caught my