Authors: Eric Asher
Tags: #vampires, #demon, #civil war, #fairy, #fairies, #necromancer, #vesik
“No,” I said, sliding out the chair beside her after
setting my backpack on the table. “Vicky … something’s
She sat up straighter. “What? What happened to the
I told her the story of the black scars and the
demon’s voice. It was the incantation I used that caused her to
cross her arms.
“You banished a demon? How? Where did you learn
I unzipped the backpack and slid out the Book that
“Nudd’s balls,” Nixie said. “How in the world did you
“You know what it is?”
She nodded. “The Book that Bleeds is a thing of old
stories. The kind of tales we use to terrorize our young.” Nixie
leaned forward and reached towards the book before pausing. “Do you
understand what could have happened if Ezekiel or Philip had ever
gotten their hands on this?”
“I’ve only read part of it, but yeah, I get the
She frowned slightly and met my gaze with her
crystalline blue eyes. “What do you intend to do in the Burning
“Find Mike. Find Vicky’s devil, and destroy
Prosperine utterly. It should break the bond.”
“It could kill the child.”
“Maybe not.” I pried the book open at the latest
manuscript I’d stuck between the pages. “Look at this. It says that
something bound to a demon can survive its destruction if it, in
turn, is bound to a Timewalker.” I went on, running through another
page of text. “I don’t know what a Devil’s Knot is, though.”
“It’s a ward,” Nixie said. “You are gambling with a
great many lives, Damian. You have to understand that you could
fail. Vicky could lose to Prosperine, and the Destroyer would be
reborn into this realm.”
“That’s …” I sighed and slouched into my chair.
“That’s why I wanted to see you. In case things went sideways and I
didn’t make it back.”
Nixie’s eyes flicked rapidly to the side. “What do
“In case something happens, I had to tell you I love
“Damian, I don’t like this. Don’t think like that.
You have to come back.”
I didn’t say anything more on it. I closed the Book
that Bleeds and slid it back into my pack. Nixie watched the trail
of blood as it ran from the table and then vanished into the
“How are the witches?”
She inhaled and exhaled through her nose. “It has
been quiet since we thwarted the tidal wave. The Queen is still
scheming, and we don’t know what she’ll do next. There have been
deaths, though, on both sides.”
“No one you know, but friends.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, reaching out and taking her
hand. She squeezed it before letting go.
“Did you hear of the witch that attacked Alan and the
blood mage yesterday?”
“What?” I snapped. “Alan? Is he okay? Hugh didn’t
mention it. And what blood mage?” My brain clicked over before
“Her name is Elizabeth. She is loyal to Ashley’s
coven, apprentice to Cornelius.”
“She … I met her yesterday.”
“Did you know she is a friend of Alexandra’s?”
“Alexandra trusts her, enough that she smuggled a
very dangerous weapon to the blood mage.”
“What kind of weapon?” I asked. “Is that the best
“One could ask the same of the book you brought into
Nixie smiled. “There is a rumor that the first of the
dark-touched has been sighted in the west.”
“The deserts of Arizona. That is not as important as
what I have to say. Use your connection with Ashley to ally
yourself with Elizabeth. The blood mages are not many, but they are
“How have the tensions been with Falias and the
“Well,” I said, “the government hasn’t tried bombing
it again, so I guess there’s that. We still have a military
presence in every major city. You know how it is. People fear what
they don’t understand.”
“They have a right to,” Nixie said. “They lost more
than a million souls to the rise of Falias. Those people died in a
heartbeat, making the war with the Fae already one of the most
costly in humanity’s memory.”
“The souls aren’t so lost.” The cacophony of voices
rose in the back of my mind at the mere mention of their
“You hear them now, don’t you?”
“Let me see the book, Damian.”
I tilted my head to the side, shrugged, and then
pulled it out again.
Nixie sighed and opened the pages. “Show me what
you’d read of the Timewalkers, and maybe we can find a way to save
We poured over the pages until the hour was almost
“I will find Ward,” Nixie said. “He may not like the
idea of helping to create a Timewalker, but it may be our only
chance to save Vicky.”
I nodded. “Thank you.”
“You understand she may die with the devil? You
cannot lose yourself if that happens, Damian. There is too much
left for you to do.”
I stood up and slid the backpack over my shoulders.
Nixie leaned forward and wrapped her arms around me, pressing her
soft lips to my own before releasing me.
“Be careful, Damian.”
“You too, Nix.”
I laced my fingers into Gaia’s and returned to the
Gaia’s aim was less accurate on the other side of my
journey. I materialized about five feet above the landing on the
stairs in Death’s Door and squealed before slamming into the
I looked up toward the top of the stairs. Sam stared
down at me, concern plain on her face.
“The boy is nothing if not graceful,” Zola said,
stepping up beside my sister.
“He’s almost as graceful as a drunk groomsman.”
“Hilarious,” I said, slowly marching up the steps.
“You’re both hilarious.” I paused at the top, surprised to see the
upstairs empty. “Where’s Vicky? And Happy, for that matter.”
I made my way down to the end of the books. Frank
snored in one of the leather chairs.
“Frank!” I shouted.
He startled awake and flailed, almost spilling
himself onto the floor. “Damian. Christ.”
I pulled the chest out and holstered the pepperbox
under my left arm before eyeing my staff. It would be unwieldy and,
considering it came from Glenn, I didn’t much trust it at the
moment. I left it leaning in the corner, in the gap between the
“You keep watch over my sister, yeah?”
He gave me a sleepy half-smile. “Sure, like she
needs that.” He started to doze off again and jerked awake. “Oh, I
heard back from Robert. He’ll definitely be by this week. Not sure
when exactly, but you know if he says he’ll be here …”
“He’ll be here,” I said. Robert was always punctual.
I was a little worried about the guy, considering how jumpy he’d
been since the military had shown up.
Foster glided over Frank’s head, and dove onto the
short table. “This may be the best time to go,” he said. “Glenn has
been seen in Falias, so we know he’s distracted.”
“Cara says the military is seeking a parlay of
sorts,” Zola said. “It could be a ruse, Ah suppose, but this is a
lull, Damian. You bring hell into the Burning Lands and leave your
“I will,” I said with a nod.
“And Ah don’t care what you need do, boy. You come
back alive.” She smacked my shoulder hard enough to make me
“Cara doesn’t have a reason to lie about this, does
she?” I whispered.
Foster shook his head. “Either way, it’s not like
there’s a choice. You either break the devil’s hold on Vicky, or we
have to battle the Destroyer. I’d rather fight Ezekiel again.”
“That’s the long and short of it,” Sam said, slipping
between Frank and me, taking a seat on his armrest.
“Are you taking the book?” Zola asked.
I turned around to face her and nodded. “I don’t know
how long I’ll be gone. I haven’t had enough time to study it.”
“Shouldn’t we go with you?” Sam asked. “It’s Vicky,
Demon. I’d do anything to help her.
I smiled at Sam’s somewhat awkward timing for my
nickname. “I know. That’s why I’m going. One way or another, her
suffering is going to come an end.”
“You’re taking me with you,” Sam said.
“No. Sam, I can’t. I need you and Zola and Frank
here. I need to know someone will protect Mom and Dad if this goes
She started to protest, and Zola laid a gnarled old
hand on Sam’s shoulder. “Stay with me, Samantha. Help me keep watch
while your brother does this thing.”
Sam hesitated, her eyes flashing from Zola to me.
“If anything happens …” I said. “If we don’t make it
back, I want to know you all have a fighting chance.”
Something crashed below us and one of the cu siths
barked loud enough to rattle my brain. Foster shot down the
“Nixie’s going to go looking for Ward.” I unzipped
the backpack and pulled out the Wasser-Münzen. It was my only
connection to Nixie when she was in Faerie, outside of Gaia, at
least. I held the disc out to Zola. “Help her, if you can.”
“Why is she looking for Ward?” Zola asked, gently
taking the blue obsidian disc from me and sliding it into her
Footsteps sounded below us, followed by the chaotic
scrambling of the cu siths’ claws on wood.
“The only way that we’ve found, so far, for Vicky to
survive is a Devil’s Knot.”
“Ah don’t know what that is.”
Boy, Ah hope you know what
you’re sticking your foot in.”
“Does he ever?” Sam muttered.
“Just, please, be safe,” I said. “I’ll be in touch as
soon as I’m able.”
Sam reached out and hugged me, threatening to crack
bones before she finally released me. “Go, save Vicky. Be the hero
“Did you just quote—”
“Just go, Demon,” Sam said with a small smile.
“Be careful,” Frank said. I gave him a nod.
Zola patted my arm. “We’ll meet again boy, be it in
this life or the next.”
I paused at Zola’s words before squeezing her
shoulder. I turned to leave, hurrying down the steps, half curious
what all the racket downstairs had been. Vicky and Happy waited
there with an overly excited Bubbles.
“We’ll meet you there,” Vicky said, ruffling Happy’s
“So be it,” I said.
She hopped onto the panda’s back, and they were gone,
sucked into a sickly red and yellow vortex.
Bubbles stopped hopping around and stared at the
space where her best panda friend had vanished. She chuffed and
flopped onto the floor.
I smiled and turned around. I’d almost reached the
back door when a voice spoke.
I paused and glanced behind me. Cara stood there
beside Bubbles, running her fingers through the cu sith’s fur.
“What is it?” I asked, keeping my voice as even as I
could. It was still hard not to bite off every word I spoke to
“Take Bubbles with you.”
“You’ll understand once you’re there,” she said.
“That sounds promising, or like a very terrible
Cara smiled slightly. “She will be of more use than
you may think. The cu siths thrive in different planes. They are
truly gifted in the Burning Lands. Peanut will still be here to
guard the Coven. Our friends can guard each other without
I hesitated, and then nodded. “Come on, Bubbles.
Let’s go get a tan.”
Bubbles hopped back up onto her paws before slamming
her hips against Cara. The fairy stumbled and the cu sith trotted
over to me and blinked.
“We’ll see you soon, Mom.” It slipped out. It was so
natural a thing, the nickname I’d used with her for years now.
She gave one small nod. It made me think of my own
mom, my real mom, and how I should be telling her and Dad goodbye.
That made the chance of not coming home seem too real. I couldn’t
do it. I glanced back at the shop, taking in the old Formica table
and the grandfather clock near the saloon-style doors, and then
slipped out the back door.
Foster waited there. I walked past him and Bubbles
followed. He sniffed at the air. “Do I smell Frank’s beef
“Yes, indeed,” I said, patting the backpack.
“You’re taking insanely spicy jerky … to the Burning
Lands?” he said, completely monotone.
“And a cu sith.”
Foster sighed. Bubbles snorted and started pacing
back to the door. I stood in the parking lot for a time, waiting
for Foster to say more. The cu sith had taken to staring at our
Faerie deadbolt. She growled, and he insulted her, and then she ran
her giant pink tongue over the little screaming face.
“Good dog,” I said before turning back to Foster. If
he wasn’t going to say anything, I was. “Something still bothers
“What?” He crossed his arms.
“Something still doesn’t sit right with Koda’s story.
‘The rewards outweigh the risk.’ ”
“Is that a question?” he asked, relaxing his posture.
Maybe he thought I was going to start in about Cara.
“I find it hard to believe Koda kept that book from
me for years and suddenly decides to take a risk to help
“Koda knows she means a lot to us.”
I gave him a half smile. Vicky meant a lot to him
too. I remembered what he’d done to that vampire at the mall. I
could still hear the sounds of the body being cut in two.
I took a deep breath. “He didn’t want the Watchers or
the Fae to find out he had the book. Why? What Fae wouldn’t want me
to have it?”
“All of them?” Foster said with a smirk.
I blew out a breath of laughter. “I guess you’re
“Be careful, Damian. I’ll do anything I can to
protect our friends while you’re gone. Don’t stay gone too
I looked across the gravel lot at my old car and
nodded. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”