It wasclose to midnight when the three finally arrived in Oslo. They hadn’t warned the scribe house there that three traveling scribes were coming. Rhys knew Lang, the Watcher of the house, and was certain they would be welcomed. Max said he would contact them the next night with more information.
They knocked on the door, knowing someone would answer even at midnight. Lights were on all over the house, and he could hear voices, even past the formidable old door. The cold wind whipped down the vacant street, and the air was bitter with snow. Malachi drew his jacket closer around him.
Rhys knocked on the door again, louder, and Malachi finally heard footsteps. The door was yanked open by a harried-looking man with shaggy blond hair and hard blue eyes. He frowned for a moment until his gaze settled on Rhys.
“Rhys,” he said, a smile cracking the hard planes of his face. “Thank heaven. I didn’t know if London would send anyone. Then… I didn’t know whether I should cancel the order for help. To see a trustworthy face is more than I could have asked.”
“Lang,” Rhys started, “what are you—”
“Your friends”—the sharp eyes grew cold again—“can I trust them?”
“Of course. These are my brothers from the Istanbul house. We’ve just come from—”
“Istanbul?” Lang stepped toward them, and Malachi realized how tall the scribe was. Standing next to him, Malachi almost felt like a boy. Lang had to have been at least six and a half feet, and though his build was lean, he was hard-muscled and quick. His eyes narrowed on Rhys. “That’s right… you’re not in London. Not anymore. You’ve been in Istanbul for years now.”
“You know this, Lang. I didn’t call before because—”
“What are you doing here?” The watcher crossed his arms, and Malachi could see a hint of old talesm at his wrists. All friendly welcome had dropped from the scribe’s face, and he reached back to bang his hand on the door in three sharp, rhythmic raps. Within seconds, two more scribes were there, one even paler than Lang, the other with skin dark as the night around them. They stood, two ominous counterpoints, behind Lang’s suddenly hostile stance.
“Lang?” Rhys’s normally pale face went even paler. “What is this?”
“I received no word that scribes from Istanbul would be coming to my city. What is the meaning of your presence here?”
Malachi tried to keep his voice low. “Has the hospitality of Oslo house fallen so far that three Irin brothers are not even given welcome on a freezing night?”
Lang’s attention shifted to Malachi. “The night may be frozen but my mind is not. You come here for some purpose. I can read it in the Englishman’s face. Who sent you?”
“Really? Then state your purpose. Or leave.”
“Really, Lang!” Rhys was indignant. “What kind of nonsense—”
“Perhaps before we state our purpose,” Malachi said, “you should tell us why you called for help from London.”
“That’s none of your concern. If you will not state your business, leave now.”
He turned and the two scribes behind him stepped forward. Both would be formidable adversaries. Malachi’s palms itched for his knives.
“We’re looking for my cousin.” Leo, who had been silent during the whole exchange, stepped out of the shadow. Lang turned toward his voice. “You know him. Everyone knows Maxim.”
Lang blinked in surprise, then said, “If you hadn’t said cousin, I would have thought twin. Yes, I know Max.”
“He called us. Told us to come to Oslo. We are searching for someone. A woman.”
Lang’s eyes narrowed. “What would a woman be doing in a scribe house?”
Far from allaying suspicion, the three Oslo scribes became even more hostile.
“We don’t know,” Leo said. “Max told us to come here, so we did.”
Rhys said, “Lang, our house in Istanbul was attacked. Our watcher left with an Irina who had taken shelter with us.”
Lang’s eyes narrowed. “There was an Irina in your house? In Turkey?”
“An Irina who Volund’s Grigori were targeting. It’s a complicated story, but we have been looking for them. Max called and told us to come here. I don’t know why, but—”
A flurry of Norwegian broke out between the three scribes. Malachi could follow only parts of it, but one word stood out.
“Sarih?fn,” Malachi said. “What does Sarih?fn mean?”
The argument stopped, and Lang’s eyes swung toward him. “Who was the watcher who took the woman?”
Rhys said, “Who is the watcher of Istanbul? The same scribe for the last two hundred years, Lang! Damien, of course.”
“Sarih?fn… Sari’s haven? Is that what you’re talking about?” Malachi asked, slowly stepping toward Lang. “Do you know where she is?”
“I don’t know what business you have with Sari, but—”
“For heaven’s sake, Lang!” Rhys broke in. “You know Damien. Think! You know I’ve been serving under him. I am looking for my watcher, and I don’t understand why the hell you’re being so…”
It was a little sound that stopped him. Such a little sound, Malachi thought, to stop six grown men from almost coming to blows. A delicate sound, drifting from the warmth of the open door.