A girl child’s laughter.
Lang barked out, “Close the door!”
But before he did, Rhys and Leo had both stepped forward.
“Who are you guarding, Lang?” Rhys asked. “What is going on here?”
“Can I trust you?” he asked Rhys.
“I can’t believe you’re even asking that.”
“Yes,” Malachi said. “You can trust us. All of us. We’re looking for Damien. I need to find him.”
“Why? I don’t even know your name, scribe.”
Malachi took a deep breath and fought the roar of anger that burned in his chest. “My name is Malachi of Sakarya. I am a bound scribe of Istanbul. And I am looking for Damien, because he is guarding my mate.”
Rhys said, “They met in Istanbul. Were mated there. Volund’s Grigori overran the city, and Damien took Malachi’s woman to Sari to keep her safe. But we need to find her. We need to find them both. That is the only reason we are here.”
Leo said, “Though I’d like to know who exactly you’re guarding behind those doors, Lang. That was no scribe’s laughter.”
“It is none of your concern.”
Rhys asked, “What do you know of Sarih?fn?”
“What is Sarih?fn?” Lang asked with a blank look on his face.
Malachi forced himself not to assault the scribe. “Why do you refuse to help us? What are you afraid of?”
The dark scribe who guarded the door stepped forward, putting a hand on Lang’s shoulder before he could lunge at Malachi. He was just as tall as Lang, but with an even broader build. “My name is Jeremiah,” he said, his accent marking him as American. “You must forgive our caution, but we do have reason. Lang—all of us—received a shock a few days ago when my mate returned from Sari’s haven, saying it had been compromised. We don’t know more than that.”
“Sari’s home has been compromised?” Leo asked. “When? How?”
“The Irina are here?” Malachi asked, his heart racing.
“Only a few,” Jeremiah held up a hand. “My mate, along with a widowed Irina and her child. They are only passing through the city.”
“We don’t know the details,” Lang said. “We’ve known Sari’s haven was somewhere in the Nordfjord region for centuries. Jeremiah and one other scribe had mates who sheltered there while they worked in the city.”
“You’ve been there?” Rhys asked Jeremiah.
“No. Chelsea and I met in other locations when we could. Away from the city and the haven. It was the safest way for her and the others.”
Lang said, “None of us—not even me—knew the location. The younger scribes didn’t even know it existed.”
“Vienna had no idea?” Leo asked cautiously.
“No,” Jeremiah said. “The havens are secret for a reason. They are the last places the Irina feel safe.”
“Vienna didn’t need to know,” Lang said. “The council would have the remaining Irina forced back into retreats and breeding like livestock. I would guard Sari’s location with my life, were it necessary. Any of the havens.”
“We have no quarrel with you,” Leo said. “I only ask because we are avoiding the council’s attention, as well.”
Jeremiah and Lang exchanged looks, and Malachi felt some of the tension lessen between them.
Lang said, “We have had no word from Istanbul. Your house burned in a Grigori attack?”
“We have had little news of any kind from Vienna,” Jeremiah said. “When did this happen?”
“Months ago,” Rhys said. “We know it was reported to the council, but someone is keeping it quiet.”
Leo stepped forward and said, “Please, brother, does the fire still burn in this house?”
The ancient plea for hospitality must have moved the watcher and his scribes. Or perhaps they were as cold as Malachi. Lang exchanged a look with both the men at his side, but especially Jeremiah, who gave a small nod.
“Yes,” he finally said. “The fire still burns for our brothers. You may shelter here.”
Malachi and Rhys responded at once. “We offer our strength to defend this house.”
“Your offer is accepted.”
Lang opened the door and let them in.