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The Singer Elizabeth Hunter 2022/7/22 11:38:39

The streets of Oslo later that afternoon were just as cold as Malachi expected. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to keep the Grigori inside.

“Another one,” Rhys grunted, turning down an alley behind a bar on the outskirts of town, following the scent of sandalwood.

Malachi and Lang slipped into the alley behind the other scribe, and Malachi pulled down his leather glove to trace the edges of his talesm prim. Within seconds, he could feel the surge of power. He’d slept fitfully that evening, and his dream walk with Ava was murky. He’d woken from a brief nap with a feeling of dread and loss that chased him out of the scribe house and on patrol with Rhys and Lang.

Urgency stalked him. Some instinct warned him that something very dark and very dangerous was heading toward the cold city on the edge of the fjord. The sky hung bitter and grey, and the clouds were low.

They reached the end of the alley to see two Grigori with human women wrapped around them. The women moaned with pleasure, but as the Grigori turned their heads, the twin expressions on their faces chilled him.

Dead. Malachi had never seen colder eyes. No smirk of pleasure. No vengeful gleam. They were animals, feeding from prey. They shoved off and stepped away from the women in unison, turning to the Irin scribes as they zipped up their pants and pulled out their knives.

“Rhys,” Lang called, “get the women inside somewhere. They’ll die of exposure with this wind.”

Rhys waited until the two soldiers were distracted by Malachi and Lang, then he bent down and tried to help both of the humans up with gloved hands, careful not to touch their skin for fear of harming them further.

The Grigori didn’t stop. They didn’t charge. They walked steadily toward Malachi and Lang, no expression on their pale faces, no caution in their steps. Their dead faces were eerie. Malachi and Lang spread to opposite sides of the alley and the two Grigori split to mirror them.

Malachi raised his dagger, feinting right before he lunged left, flipping the dagger to his left hand and trying to slip under his opponent’s arm, which had lifted to stab him. He felt a quick slice along his shoulder, but within seconds, the Grigori was shoved up against the wall of the alley, and Malachi’s blade was piercing his spine.

The soldier said nothing in his last breaths. Then his dust rose to heaven and the silent monster was gone.

Malachi turned to see Lang with the other soldier propped against a wall. The Grigori’s face was bloody and his hands hung limply at his sides.

“Who sent you?” Lang didn’t yell, and his voice was all the more frightening because of it. “Hmm? I understand what you need. Do you think I do not pity you? To have to touch these… humans, just to feel alive. No one pities you more than I. But tell me, who sent you to my city, eh?”

The Grigori soldier said nothing, perhaps sensing Lang’s false sincerity. He looked exactly like his brother. Pale and ethereally handsome, the two could have been runway models. Their light brown hair was close-cropped and their skin unlined. The two humans would have been entranced by the sight of them, Malachi was sure.

Undiluted by generations, Grigori were bred from the Fallen themselves. Direct descendants of the ancients, and their looks proved it. Not even the Irina were immune to their unnatural charm. But for Malachi, Grigori perfection prompted an instinctive revulsion.

“There are more of you this past week,” Lang continued to speak softly, but the Grigori still had no expression. “Is there a master in the city? Has Volund come for a visit?”

With any luck, Rhys would have both of the women at the hospital. Human medicine couldn’t do much for them if the Grigori had drained too much of their energy, but the doctors would provide a safe place for the women’s bodies to heal themselves if they were able.

“Tell me what is happening,” Lang said, “and I will let you go. You can chase after the human again. She probably didn’t go far.”

Finally, the Grigori’s expression changed. The corner of his mouth lifted. “Why run after the humans, scribe, when far more delectable flesh awaits those who please my father?”

The air might have been sucked from Malachi’s lungs.

“We know…” The soldier grinned, the smile of a predator assured of his prey. He sang, “They’re baaaack. We know—”

He broke off when Lang’s fist met his mouth. But the Grigori only spit out blood and smiled again.

“My brothers look forward to welcoming the Irina home.”

Lang did not hesitate. He pulled the soldier forward by the ear and smashed the monster’s nose into his knee. Then the silver knife plunged in, and the Grigori dust rose.

The watcher said nothing, staring at the grimy wall while music and voices from the bar filtered through the alley.

“It’s happening again,” he said. Spinning around, Lang walked quickly, his long legs eating up the length of the alley while Malachi hurried to keep up.

“Find Rhys. Keep hunting. I need to make calls. We’ll not be taken by surprise again. Look for Max and Renata. If anyone knows what the Grigori may be up to, it will be Max. And Renata will be able to contact Sari.”

“I’ll keep hunting,” Malachi assured him, halting near the car while Lang opened the door.

“This will not happen again,” Lang said. “Not in my city.”

Then he got in the car and shot out into the street. Rhys found Malachi only a few moments later.

“Hey.” Rhys’s breath froze in the night air. “Where did Lang go?”

“The Grigori know the Irina are back,” he said. “He went back to the house.”

“We need to find Max.”

Rhys shrugged. “No need. He keeps a flat downtown. He’s not nearly as secretive as he’d like to think.”

“Is it far?” It was cold, and Malachi didn’t relish trudging through the dark streets, though it was possible they would pick up a few more Grigori kills along the way. The two they’d just hunted had been their sixth and seventh of the night. The city truly was flooded with the creatures.