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The Singer Elizabeth Hunter 2022/7/22 11:38:36

“You lost him during the Rending?”

Malachi looked at Leo. He was trusting that the story the scribe had told him was true, since he didn’t remember much about his parents. “They were in the conflict in Berlin. They were living in a retreat near there and both went into the city to fight.”

“And I suppose that is why the Grigori call you the Butcher of Berlin, eh?” Konrad sniffed. “Good work there. We need more soldiers like you.”

Malachi blinked, unaware of the nickname. Leo smiled nervously. Clearly, he’d forgotten to give Malachi all the details of his past life.

Ignoring it, Malachi steered the conversation in another direction. “It’s good to know that not all the elders are unaware of the escalating Grigori threat.”

“No, not all of us are unaware.”

Rhys muttered, “But enough to make it a concern.”

Konrad said, “Well, it doesn’t help convincing people when things like Grigori burning down scribe houses are left unreported.”

Rhys said, “That, I do not understand. I know Damien reported it. I heard him make the call.”

“Oh, we knew it had burned, but it was ruled accidental by the Turkish authorities.”

“No.” Rhys shook his head. “Damien was on the phone with someone in Vienna. He told them it was a Grigori attack. He told them that Volund’s soldiers were in the city. That Jaron has ceded control.”

Konrad said, “We never got that message. I only heard rumors and innuendo. Someone died. Someone found a mate. It was never clear what had happened to whom.” He nodded toward Malachi. “And now the story you tell me? If I hadn’t seen his talesm so depleted, I’d think you were liars. But no scribe reaches his age with so few spells. It’s unnatural.”

“Did Evren call you?”

“No, but he called an associate I trust. A genealogist from America.” Konrad raised an eyebrow. “This theory they have about your mate’s identity is… unorthodox.”

“Everything we know tells us that it should be impossible,” Rhys said. “But I agree with Evren, no other option makes sense.”

“Irina have taken human lovers over the centuries,” Konrad said. “This has always happened, because they are not bound by touch as we are. It’s not something a family would talk about. As far as I can tell, no children have ever come from those unions. Biologically, we’ve never understood why, but—”

“But Ava’s father is the only possibility at this point. If Jasper Reed’s mother was Irina—who somehow had a child by a human—it’s possible she could have hidden it.”

“And who is his mother? Your mate’s grandmother? Do we know? She must have been extraordinarily powerful for her granddaughter to control so much magic with only a fraction of Irin blood.”

Rhys said, “That’s the problem. We’re having trouble finding anything about her. We found Reed’s medical records from the American foster-care system. Her name had been erased, but that’s not a problem for us, of course.” Rhys glanced at Malachi. “Her first name was Ava, and that’s the only name listed. We have no other evidence of her. No paperwork. She disappeared from the system after she surrendered her son.”

Leo said, “Ava says she isn’t. That her father told her his mother died when he was a child.”

Konrad said to Malachi, “And your mate was named after her grandmother.”

“Ava is a very common Irina name,” Rhys added quietly.

Konrad sat back in his chair and looked between the three of them. He looked for a long while as a smile teased the corner of his lips. “You think this is bigger than one misplaced Irina,” he finally said, smiling at Malachi. “You think there are more.”

“If we didn’t know about Ava, maybe we don’t know about others,” Malachi said. “If one Irina had a child with a human lover and hid it, others could have as well. Maybe there are lost Irina out there. If there are, they need us to find them. They are not at home in the human world.”

Rhys added, “And if there are more Irina, if our race was not in danger of dying out, it would change the balance of the council, would it not? If there are lost Irina out there, Grigori would be drawn to them. Perhaps some unity of purpose could be sought. Contain the Grigori and find our lost sisters.”

“It would be a goal all would be able to support, even the most hesitant members of the council. An interesting theory,” Konrad acknowledged as he rose to his feet, coffee finished. “But it is only a theory right now. The more pressing issue is the Grigori problem. We don’t need our focus shifted from hunting Grigori to hunting Irina who may not want to be found. It’s foolish and useless. Find Damien. I need to speak to him. If he reported the details of the Grigori attack to someone in Vienna and the report was hidden, I need to know.”

“And you need to know whether whoever he spoke to has suppressed other reports of Grigori aggression,” Leo said. “Communication may have broken down. And if protocol isn’t being followed…”

“I will look into this,” Konrad said. “But now, I must go.”

Malachi, Leo, and Rhys stood to walk Konrad to the door.

“The scribe house in Budapest says that requests for funds are being ignored,” Malachi told him. “They feel they are fighting Grigori without support. Is he the only one?”

Konrad shook his head. “No. But I’m one of the lone voices in the wilderness on this issue.” He waved his arms around the room. “We are in Vienna! Jewel of the Irin crown. Grigori attacks are almost unheard of. They happen… elsewhere. More scribes are concerned about their empty houses and empty beds than the human population. They want mates and families, not war in far-off places.”

Leo snorted. “Budapest is not so far away.”

“Nor is Istanbul. Paris. London.” Rhys frowned. “Do Irin here really not know?”

“Some do. Some don’t. They ignore it if it’s convenient for them.”

Malachi shook his head. “Vienna is slowly being surrounded by increasingly aggressive Grigori. The Fallen are showing their face to us. Powers are shifting. Vienna will not be able to bury the truth for long.”

Konrad said, “Bring Ava and Damien to the city. Give me proof to show the council. Without proof, without testimony, I am speaking to deaf ears.”