Authors: Eric Asher
Tags: #vampires, #demon, #civil war, #fairy, #fairies, #necromancer, #vesik
It is a long-held belief that a
Seal can be created only by an immortal or an Old God, but that is
not entirely true. The truth is always fluid. A being or beings
can, with enough power, reforge a broken Seal or create one anew,
bringing to light a shield or a punishment against an entire
“Damian,” Aideen said, pulling my attention away from
the Book that Bleeds. She frowned. “What?”
I shook my head and closed the book on another
manuscript. “I don’t know, maybe nothing.”
She took a deep breath. “I understand why you don’t
trust us—though I hope one day you’ll understand we had no
choice—but please, go see Koda. This is beyond us all.”
“I don’t even know where to find him right now.”
Aideen looked away for a moment before she met my
gaze. “Go to the restored church off Main Street. He will find you
I crossed my arms and narrowed my eyes. “Were you
just talking to him?”
She nodded. “He has been away for his safety, and
yours. Please, talk to him, Damian. We may be able to trust Edgar,
but not the other Watchers. Koda can’t be seen here.”
Aideen had never steered me wrong. She may have
helped hold Cara’s ruses together, but she’d never lied to me
directly. At least not that I knew. No matter how angry I was with
her and Foster, I still trusted them with my life. Maybe that was a
I frowned and gave a sharp nod. “I’ll be there
tonight at ten o’clock.”
There was another call I needed to make before
visiting Koda. I stared at the page before me and waited. The phone
rang four times before the receiver clicked and an old New Orleans
accent sounded across the speaker.
“What is it, boy?”
“Zola, I have the Book that Bleeds.”
Silence greeted my words. What seemed like a minute
passed by before she asked, “How?”
“Koda. He gave me the key. I need your help. I’ve
already found information on the Burning Lands and Timewalkers.
This thing could have some of the answers we’ve been looking for.
There’s … there’s something you need to see.”
“And it may pose more questions than we’re prepared
for,” Zola said.
“Are you coming?”
“Yes, let me tell Vik what’s happening, and Ah will
see you shortly.”
The phone went dead. She was definitely still at the
Pit if she was talking to Vik. That meant she’d be up in twenty
minutes, maybe thirty at the most. It gave me more time to stare at
the monstrous tome.
“That is … disturbing,” Zola said, watching the blood
pool on the table only to run off and vanish. I ran my hand through
the stream and held it up.
“It doesn’t stick to anything. It’s like the blood on
Vicky’s hands. Do you remember that?”
“Yes, boy, Ah remember. Show me what you’ve
“I’m not even sure what I’ve found,” I said as I
turned the tome toward Zola. She settled onto the edge of one of
the leather chairs.
Zola spoke the words
and then leaned closer to the book. “It’s Latin, but Ah can read
this page as if Ah’ve spoken the language all my life. Be wary of
what you read aloud. Some of these phrases may be
“Will that allow us to banish a demon?” I asked,
pointing to the phrase
Zola’s eyes trailed down the page. She shook her
head. “Not in the way you hope. Ah don’t believe anything can
banish the Destroyer from Vicky’s body.”
“Only what Mike said? Burning the devil that holds
“Contract,” Zola snorted. “That makes it sound like
some ridiculous religious hokum. It means a devil has bonded her
aura to Vicky’s, allowing a piece of herself to cross into our
“I know, I just hoped …”
“We must always hope.”
We spent the next few hours shoulder to shoulder,
comparing manuscripts until it was time to meet Koda. Zola stayed
behind, though she expected to be gone by the time I returned. Her
finger traced the words in the book, her nose an inch away from the
pooling blood as I left.
It was fall again, and the chill in the air made me
wish I’d grabbed a jacket. It’d been warm earlier, but the weather
in Saint Charles was nothing if not inconsistent. I followed the
brick sidewalk along the cobblestone street.
A National Guard personnel carrier rumbled by. Somber
faces drifted past and I nodded to the only soldier who met my
eyes. The military presence in my hometown was an awful thing, even
if I understood why they were there. I wondered if they’d still be
there if the military understood how outmatched they were against
I slid my hands into my pockets, longing to feel the
weight of the pepperbox against my hip, but not crazy enough to
carry it with the Guardsmen around. There were a few drunks
wandering in the lamp-lit street, and a handful of tourists, but
nothing like it was before the rise of Falias. I hoped things would
get back to normal, but some part of me knew it would never be
quite the same.
A few steps off Main Street, a pale stone path led me
into the shadows. Stone benches sat to either side of the carefully
laid rocks and a low tree canopy hung over it all. What seemed at
first an old church—but was actually a more recently built
replica—waited at the far end of the walk, before the path reached
the next street.
I paused at the bronze historic marker laid in a
large stone beside the log church. Vertical timbers filled with
mortar formed the outer walls. It was far different from a
traditional log cabin. The angle of the steeple rested on
horizontal boards, and a bell waited by the wooden cross.
Ten pews—benches, really—I could scarcely make out in
the shadowed room lined the interior, roughly cut from a light
wood. I took six steps to the front of the small church and sat on
the edge of the right pew.
Lanterns hung from the exposed rafters at the front
of the church. They slowly came to life, emitting pale golden
flames. I studied the jagged stone floor in the blossoming
I glanced up. Koda’s pale form stood bathed in the
golden light of the lanterns. His hooded robe was the same as ever,
hiding part of his face in shadows above the large prayer beads
around his neck. I’d known the ghost since I was a kid, and seeing
him felt like coming home.
“It’s been too long,” I said.
“It was … necessary.” He gathered his robe and
lowered himself onto the pew across the narrow aisle.
“Are we safe here?” I asked, glancing back to the
He nodded. “I would not have come were it not so.
Edgar is aware of my ruse, and Aideen. I did not expect her to stay
silent so long. Foster is fortunate to have such an honorable soul
at his side.
“Was Zola able to read the book?”
I hesitated, and then said, “Yes.”
“I thought as much. The ritual that granted her long
life altered her being more than she may realize.”
Koda shrugged. “It is a hard thing to say, but she
can read a book meant for immortal eyes.”
“Should that surprise us?”
Koda tilted his head to one side. “I suppose not.
Those were dark times, and her magic was no different.”
“What should we expect to find in the book?”
“I do not know, Damian.”
I frowned and crossed my arms. “Then why call me here
“For another reason that is perhaps more sinister
than anything inside the Book that Bleeds. Tell me, what have you
learned from the Fae?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“What did they teach you? Did they ask you to perform
tricks or magics that even Zola cannot?”
“Are you certain?”
I paused and combed through every memory I could
think of: the deadbolt, the healings, all of it. “There was one
thing. A few years ago, Cara taught me to use a growth spell on a
“Indeed,” Koda said. “And what did you do with that
I told him about the pigeons in Forest Park, how I’d
vaporized them to stem the tide of my raging vampire sister.
“That is disgusting,” Koda said, leaning back.
“Oh, so I should have let Sam kill everyone? That’s a
Koda sighed and rubbed his prayer beads. “This is not
the time, and I did not mean to call your decision into question.
You twisted a magic that cannot harm living things, and used it to
His words stopped me cold.
Koda offered me a weak smile from the shadows of his
hood. He pushed the edge of it back far enough that I could make
out his bald head and soft features. “I heard about the revelation
of Cara’s husband, Glenn, and the fairies’ … lack of informing you.
They have been manipulating you, Damian. Testing you.”
“I know,” I said as one of the lanterns on the wall
flickered. “It makes me suspicious of everyone.”
“As well it should.”
I eyed the old ghost. “Why didn’t you tell me you had
the Book of Blood? Why didn’t you tell me what was in it?”
“I may be a ghost, but not all of us in the Society
of Flame are. I must protect my brothers and sisters above all,
even above you. I heard of your plans, your intent to journey into
the Burning Lands with the help of the Fallen Smith.”
I rubbed my chin and leaned forward. “What of it? If
there’s a chance to save Vicky, I’m taking it.”
“And what will happen while you are gone from this
realm, Damian? What moves will be cast because you are no longer
able to interfere?”
I ground my teeth because I knew he was right. What
if Hern struck out against my friends while I was in the Burning
Lands? What if Vassili came for my family? What if Nixie’s queen
began her war in earnest? I slammed my fist onto the seat of the
“That is why I gave you the book now,” Koda said.
“The risk of what it may unlock inside the Black Book is far
outweighed by the knowledge we may glean. As to your earlier
question—why I did not tell you what was in the Book of Blood—that
tome is merely a key to unbind the Book that Bleeds.”
“It’s a spell?”
Koda frowned and nodded. “In a manner, yes, but it is
a book of ghosts and dead things not meant for mortal eyes.”
His words drove home something the Old Man had said,
‘Welcome to godhood.’
I met Koda’s gaze and said, “I’m not
“Not in the traditional sense of the word, no. As you
are, you will live a million lifetimes.”
I almost flinched. “The voices …”
“The souls will fuel you, unless you find a method to
discard them or burn them away. It is not so unlike the souls that
sustain Adanaya. You can still die, of course. Ezekiel’s death has
shown you that.”
“Zola isn’t crippled by voices and visions.”
Koda smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “Was that
always true? Where did she learn the meditations that control the
things you sense with your necromancy and help silence those very
It made sense when Koda said it. I’d never really put
that much thought into it, which probably wouldn’t surprise Zola
one bit. “So why now?”
“The book?” Koda asked. “I told you, the risk is now
outweighed. No one has read the Book that Bleeds in millennia. You
are now privy to knowledge that I can only dream of, though I do
hope you will share.”
I nodded. “Of course.”
“Do you know the rumors around that tome,
“It is interesting, said to be the work of an Old
God, precursor to the bloodline of Anubis, and perhaps the first
Koda held up his hand when I started to speak. “You
may bear the title of necromancer, but you
else. No one would argue your skills in the darker arts, but you
are not consumed by them. You perform magics that most could not
without the sacrifice of a life.”
“Or someone else’s,” Koda said quietly. “Beware the
day you meet a true necromancer, for they are unlike anything that
walks this earth.”
“What about Zola? Or even Philip?”
“They are, or were, what necromancers became.” Koda
laced his fingers together and stared at his hands. “There are
darker things you have yet to face.”
I took a deep breath. “What now?”
“Research,” Koda said. “Find what you need to know to
free the child, or at least halt the rise of the Destroyer. The
demon must be stopped, at any cost.”
His words sent a chill down my spine.
“We will meet again, Damian, but I must take my
leave. If you need me, tell Aideen. She is our best spy, and her
only loyalty lies in Foster. Remember that well.” He stood up and
squeezed my shoulder.
The lanterns went dark, and Koda was gone.
No one waited in the shop when I returned from my
rendezvous with Koda. Other than a few moments of shrieking, the
voices in my head had been surprisingly quiet. Maybe the old ghost
was right, maybe I only needed time to adjust. It hadn’t been as
bad the past week, except for that morning.
The Book that Bleeds waited where I’d left it, a
steady trail of ghostly blood pooling on the table and dripping to
the floor, only to vanish. I threw myself into that tome. Page
after page of things waited, things that made Philip Pinkerton look
like a harmless child and spoke of creatures in the Abyss that
could devour a demon whole. If any of our enemies had had this
book, we might not have survived this long.
The second passage on Timewalkers caught me off
guard. It described how a vampire could bind itself to a demon,
each overriding the bonds of any master with something called a
Devil’s Knot. The knot could control hellfire and—