Page 30

The Singer Elizabeth Hunter 2022/7/22 11:38:26

Malachi woke slowly, keeping his eyes closed to hold on to the edges of the dream. He could still taste her skin. Still smell the jasmine in her hair. He rolled over, eyes slowly opening, and the bedclothes were damp, as if they’d been left out in the night air.

“Ava…,” he whispered.

A knock came at the door.

“Wake up.” It was Rhys. “We’ve got work to do in the library. Leo wants to start your talesm tonight.”

He glanced at the clock. It was just after six. Malachi took a deep breath and stretched up from the bed, his body refreshed and relaxed despite the hour. He stretched his neck to the side and reached over his left shoulder to stretch the muscle in his arm. As he did, his fingers brushed against something that made him wince. He frowned and stood, going to the mirror near the closet door.

Curved into the tan skin of his shoulder were three scratch marks.

He blinked at the memory of her voice. Was it a dream or a memory?

“It’s been too long. I need you. Harder.”

He could feel the bite of her nails. Hear her breath. There was a low rumble in his throat as he remembered her nails digging in. The tug of her hands in his hair.

Malachi looked at his reflection in the mirror as Rhys banged on the door again.

“I’m awake,” he called.

There was a pause, then the sound of shuffling feet. “Meet me in the library.”

He pulled on a pair of pants and, with one last glance at the nail marks, threw a T-shirt over his head. Then he looked at himself in the mirror.

“It was just a dream.”

He gave a last glance to the bed, then he shook his head and walked out, down the hall, and toward the library.

Dawn was breaking over Cappadocia, and the rocks of the cliff where the scribe house was built glowed pink in the morning sun. Birds called from the olive trees near the gate, and a lazy cat stretched on tiptoes atop the wall. Two young scribes were sitting near an outdoor fireplace, drinking tea and arguing quietly over a book. Both of the men looked to be in their twenties, though Malachi knew they were probably far older. Vivid black talesm crawled up their wrists and under the sleeves of their sweaters.

He’d been practicing his characters with Leo for almost a week. Like anything having to do with writing or reading, it came easily. Once he’d practiced a little, reading was no struggle, whether it was a blank wall that had once held Roman graffiti or an ancient Chaldean manuscript, which Rhys claimed was the human tongue most closely related to the Irin language. His writing had become almost rote. He could copy characters with ease except for a few that Leo had said he’d always had a problem with. Malachi already knew how his talesm prim would look.

So he supposed it was silly to be nervous about it. Still, the knowledge that he would unleash ancient magic solely by writing words on his skin was a bit intimidating.

The library door was open, and he could feel a cross breeze from the high windows in the back of the room. Even though it was November, the air was still dry, so the scribes were airing out the library, which could become stuffy with the fires burning in the hearths. The chill in the air nipped at his neck, and he shivered as he approached the table where Rhys sat.

“Hope your blood thickens up,” Rhys said. “Or you’re going to be miserable when we head north.”

Malachi sat down. “Is that where we’re going?”

“It appears so. I found surveillance footage of them on the ferry from Denmark. Once they reached Norway, we lost them again.”

“But they’re in Norway?” He felt his heart pick up.

Rhys didn’t look as optimistic as Malachi hoped.

“Norway is a big country. Huge. And with over twenty-five thousand kilometers of coastline and thousands—thousands—of islands, do you have any idea how easy it is to hide there? We can’t just go stomping off to the great north and expect to find them. We need to speak to Gabriel. If we don’t get some clue from him about where Sari’s home is, it could take forever.”

Malachi tried to look on the bright side. “But we know which country they’re in.”

“Or they could have gone to Sweden. It wouldn’t be unlikely for Damien to anticipate me finding the ferry footage and heading in a different direction, just to throw us off.”

“He is very distrustful, isn’t he?”

“You have no idea,” Rhys muttered. “He’s paranoid. But then, since he’s been alive longer than either of us, I suppose there’s something to be said for that.”

Rhys was still checking things on the computer.

“What are you doing?”

“Just checking e-mail.”

“Electronic mail?” He’d heard Leo and Max talking about it and wondered, “Do I have any of these e-mails you talk about?”

The other scribe’s mouth lifted in the corner. “I doubt it. You hate e-mail because you say it’s impersonal. Though you text on your phone like a madman.”

Malachi pulled out the mobile phone Rhys had given him. Apparently, it was an exact replica of his old phone, including all the information and contacts on it, though Malachi had no idea how the man had accomplished that. He pushed a few buttons and scrolled through the texting conversations like Rhys had taught him.

“Texting seems to be a very efficient way to communicate.”

“It is.” Rhys kept typing.