Page 52

The Singer Elizabeth Hunter 2022/7/22 11:38:31

“That’s not good,” Rhys said.

“No, but the bigger surprise is the West. England and Scandinavia are still relatively quiet, but there’s more activity in France and the Netherlands than there has been since the Rending. Some in Germany.”

Malachi said, “But not Vienna?”

“There’s a reason that Irin society is based in Vienna, Malachi. It’s in the very heart of Europe. Surrounded by scribe houses and strongholds in the East and the West. There have always been Grigori in Europe, but not nearly as many as other parts of the world.”

“It has been. That’s part of the reason the Irin living there are so complacent. They don’t see Grigori attacks every week. If they see one a year, it’s shocking.”

“That makes sense,” he said.

Tas asked, “Is it true Jaron is no longer controlling the Grigori in Istanbul? Not that there’s anything like a good Fallen, but he wasn’t as bad as Volund. And he didn’t breed Grigori like rabbits.”

Leo shook his head. “We don’t know what Jaron is doing. We’re fairly sure the attack that killed Malachi was from Volund’s people, not Jaron’s.”

Phillip mused, “If Volund is making a concentrated push to expand his territory, he’d go for the outlying territories first. Turkey doesn’t fit with that.”

Malachi said, “But if he’s reaching down from Russia and into the Ukraine, then Turkey isn’t that far off.”

Rhys said, “He’d run into Svarog.”

Phillip shook his head. “Volund doesn’t fear Svarog.”

“What does he want?” Malachi muttered, picturing a map of eastern Europe in his mind. He pulled back, looked at all the continent. Not as the humans did, with their constantly changing borders. He pictured the slowly shifting spheres of power, ebbing and flowing with the centuries. One Fallen rose, another slowly toppled. Where was Volund in that cycle? And why had Jaron ceded power of Istanbul when he had held it for centuries?

Irin presence shone through Europe, a bright glowing thread that wove through most of the major cities; its brightest star being Vienna.

“What does Volund want?” Malachi asked again.

Phillip shrugged. “Power. To control as much territory as possible. And wipe out the Irin, of course. It’s always been the theory that Volund was the primary force behind the Rending.”

Malachi’s eyes narrowed. “So…”

Rhys said, “But you said there’s more activity in the West, too. It’s not just coming from one direction. Volund has little influence in western Europe.”

“We all have allies,” Malachi said, more and more of the picture snapping into place. “Volund’s strongest area has always been Russia, correct?”

“Since he destroyed Barak.” Leo smiled. “How did you know that?”

“I just did. Concentrate.” He spread his hands over the table, using cups and silverware to mark his mental map. “Volund wants to expand his influence from his base in Russia, but he doesn’t want to be noticed. What does he do?” He grabbed a saltshaker near his right elbow. “He gets Jaron out of Istanbul.”

“Or Jaron leaves,” Rhys said. “Either way, he’s gone.”

“And with him, the strongest competition for dominance in the east. Svarog is cunning, but he does not hunger for power.”

“And how did you know that?” Rhys asked.

“I don’t know! It doesn’t matter.” Malachi’s left arm came up and rested on the table, across from his right and on the opposite side of the map. “Now Volund comes from the north and the east. He needs help from the west, but according to you, Phillip, he’s getting it.”

Phillip nodded. “There are more Grigori popping up in France and Germany. Spain is still relatively stable. Grigori leadership there is fractured. It used to be controlled by Barak, but Volund killed him. Now we don’t really know who controls it.”

“But we know something is happening there.” Malachi’s left and right arms began to move closer together, showing the direction of movement across the map. “Volund controls the Grigori in the north. He’s moving in the east”—he lifted his right arm—“and someone else is moving in the west.” He lifted his left. “Volund wants to wipe the Irin from the earth. And where is the center of the Irin world?”

“Vienna,” Leo said. “But—”

“Exactly. And why would Volund send an arrow to Vienna when he could give them…” His arms closed in on a mental point in the center of the table. “A nice, slow hug?”