My head is spinning. So much to take in and remember. So much stuff to learn about otherbeings. So many rules. Who makes up all these rules anyway?
“Depends on what you believe in,” Jake answers my thoughts. “Where matters of Heaven and Hell are concerned, well, I’m sure you know who makes those rules up.”
“And how do the Fallen manage to get willing participants to just give up their souls?” asks Noah. He leans forward, muscular forearms resting on his knees. “Do they have mind control?”
Darius answers. “Yes. But they have to use a medium to lure their victims.”
“And what is that?” asks Lucian.
“The Jodís,” replies Darius. His amber gaze scans the team. “Jodís are demonlike beings created by the Fallen. A concocted being pulled straight from the pages of the Seiagh itself. They’re made to appear human, but they’re anything but. They are . . .”
“Hideous,” I answer.
All eyes turn to me.
Eli’s hand slides over my lap and his fingers lace through mine. He squeezes. “Riley experienced a vision through Sydney’s eyes once before,” he clarifies.
“It can be overwhelming,” Jake says, as if reading my mind. Then he looks pointedly at me. “But I wouldna have chosen you, or the others, had you not been capable of comprehending. As for the souls . . . the Jodís take the victim’s heart. Literally. Take it straight to the Fallen.”
“Damn,” I say, and I say it again to myself. Damn. “That’s brutal.”
“Aye. It is.”
I meet Jake’s gaze. “I can handle it.”
His eyes smile. “I know that.”
“The only way to kill a Jodís or a Black Fallen is by beheading them,” Gabriel announces.
I groan out loud.
Several chuckles fill the room.
“Not to worry,” Gabriel adds. “Part of your training will be on the handling of a broadsword.”
“What’s the other part of training?” Noah asks, all too excitedly.
“How to keep it concealed,” Sydney finishes. “Not as easy as you might think.”
“Back to the tome,” Darius continues. “In order to find the Seiagh and vanquish it forever, there are three ancient relics that must be found. Before the Celtae were killed we . . . extracted some information from them. Not everything, but enough.”
I shudder to think of what that extraction consisted of. Torture. The Celtae must’ve been some hard asses.
Darius gives me a slight nod, proving my assumption. “Each is encrypted with a verse that, when all three are combined, will lead to the physical location of the dark tome. Once the tome is found, only Sydney—and the Black Fallen—can read the incantations. There is only one that will disintegrate the Seiagh.”
“So, basically, it’s a race to get the book first,” Victorian says. “Why don’t we simply kill the Fallen?”
“As long as the Seiagh exists, mankind is in danger. It has to be destroyed, as well as the Fallen,” Gabriel says. “Unfortunately, we will have to lure them. And they want Ms. Maspeth almost as badly as they want the Seiagh.”
Jake crosses his arms over his chest. “We’ve become more than just slayers of otherworldly beings.” He sweeps us all with a stealthy glance. “We have to keep as many innocents alive as possible. And Ms. Poe has certain . . . gifts no one else possesses.”
“Yeah,” Noah says. “Like she can fight like unholy Hell? And she’s mean as shit?”
I grab a piece of thigh muscle through Noah’s jeans and pinch. Hard.
His face actually turns red.
“She does have dominant mind control now,” Eli says. His voice is low, tinged with unease. “Let me guess. She’s going to be used as bait.” He glances down at me. “She’ll be more than up for it, unfortunately.”
Jake rubs his jaw. “Her skills, aye, they’ll certainly come in handy. Her mind control is indeed a major factor, as well. We do have one small advantage,” he continues. “Whatever spell they use to create the Jodís exhausts them. It takes three to four consecutive days for the Fallen to regenerate. We know this to be accurate, as the last two batches of Jodís Gabriel and Sydney have vanquished did not regenerate until the appropriate amount of time had passed.”
Sydney nods. “The spell drains the Black Fallen, so it must be a pretty potent one.”
“Indeed,” Jake continues. “The Fallen have names.” He looks at me. “Canthor. Danu. And the youngest, Athios. Two have been condemned for some time. But we know very little about the youngest one, Athios.”
I have to wonder which of the three appeared in my dream earlier.
“So, how are we to find them?” Ginger asks. “They’re undetectable, right?”
Jake, Gabriel, and Darius share a look, then turn their stares to me. “That’s where Ms. Poe comes in,” Gabriel says.
“We have to infiltrate their circle,” Jake continues. “They might be undetectable to look upon and pick out of a crowd,” he says. “At first. But then, so are we.”
“Their desires and mannerisms are predictable,” Darius states. “They are not unlike other fallen angels. They crave power. Sex. They’re posh. And they like . . . flashy things. Plus there’s a chance Riley may be able to actually hear them, if she concentrates, as she has remarkable hearing and a sense of smell that far exceeds even her vampire benefactors.”
I glance at Noah. “It’s true. I do.”
“And they don’t like to get their hands dirty,” Jake clarifies. “It’s one reason why they’ve created the Jodís.” He looks at me. “To bring the souls to them.”
I draw a deep breath, push it out slowly between my teeth. “Are the Jodís detectable?”
Darius nods. “Aye. Their pupils aren’t normal. They’re vertical.”
I stare back. “So we have to be close enough to see their pupils before taking them out?”
“No,” Sydney says. “They cannot tolerate the daylight. And they have a certain scent only another otherbeing can detect. They stink to high Heaven.”
My brain twists at all that’s been said. So much to know, so much to understand.
“Taking out newlings is much easier,” I say under my breath. Just months ago the extent of my dealings with the paranormal extended to slaying newly created vampires. I could tell this would be a lot more challenging.
“That’s why we’ll begin training right away,” Jake says. “You’ll break into groups. Darius, Gabriel, and I will enlighten you on the use of a broadsword. We’ve a couple of specialists paying us a visit later on. Quite proficient in the use of a sword, these two. You’ll appreciate their expertise.”
Beside me, Noah rubs his hands together in anticipation. “I love swords.”
“Well,” I say, standing. My insides are already taut with anticipation. “Let’s get at it, then.”
“Let me emphasize one thing. For all we know, the Fallen have found a way to overcome their regeneration time. I don’t trust their window, or them,” Jake adds. “It’s safer to assume they’re strengthened now, creating more Jodís.”
“Which means more innocent kills,” I say.
“Unfortunately, yes. Sydney and Gabriel just disposed of the last of them two days ago. But they’re fast and difficult to spot, especially after they’ve been newly created. Perhaps with more of us we can eliminate the number of innocent victims. We’ll spend what free time we have now to familiarize you with Edinburgh and her fishbone streets, closes and wynds, as well as honing your skills. We’ll break to eat first,” Jake says, then scans the group. “For those who eat food, the kitchen is fully stocked, or there’s a chippy just out the gates of the Crescent on Canongate, across the street. Bene’s Fish and Chips. Great takeaway. Plus numerous other establishments along the Mile. For those who prefer to drink,” he says with a grin, “yours will be in the red refrigerator. Courtesy of Preacher. There is a month’s supply. Let’s meet upstairs in thirty minutes. And if you go out, watch your backs.”
As I fix my gaze on Darius, Jake, and Gabriel, I have a feeling training with three ancient Celtic immortals will be slightly different than hand-to-hand fighting with the Dupré family.
In London there is a man who screams when the church bells ring.
—H. P. Lovecraft, “The Descendant”
I already can see a sisterhood forming with Riley, and I’m glad. Grateful. I’ve been feeling so alone in all this, like the only female thrown into a world of evil chaotic males. Well, Darius and Gabriel are far from evil, but you get my drift. It’s nice to have another female in the mix. Ginger, too, although she’s relatively new to the team. I’m not sure they’re entirely aware of what’s coming, the black storm of evil that’s descending upon Edinburgh. But they will. And I can tell we are all better off having Riley on our team.
Bene’s proves to be a potential favorite place to eat in Edinburgh. Just enough room in the small take-out spot to step inside, drool over the selection of foods (excluding haggis—um, no, thank you), give your order, and either step back outside or hug the wall and wait. The guys behind the counter were superfriendly and fast. Both only briefly glimpsed at my inked wings and then continued on with their cheerful, brogue-tinged conversation. I like that, and it makes me think Edinburgh is as diverse as any other city; even the folks at Bene’s aren’t surprised by a girl with tattooed black wings on her face. I haven’t explored other eateries yet, but, man—Bene’s big batter-fried slabs of haddock, and mountain of chips dowsed in malt vinegar and some weird-looking but delicious brown sauce? Let’s just say the voracious appetite that is now part of my Frankenstein-like genetic makeup overdid itself. I ate like a freaking hog. And I’m feeling it. I almost want to let out the top two buttons on my jeans.