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|Jacob(Nightwalkers #1) by Jacquelyn Frank|
the tip of his fingers, her sweet compassion for his people, especially after the way the so-called best of them had just treated her, touching him deeply. Noah’s presence in the room completely faded from his awareness and he reached to kiss her supple lips with aching tenderness, ignoring any pain it caused him to do so.
“I am sorry, little flower. The Elders should never have treated you so poorly when you have been laboring so hard to help us.”
“They didn’t know,” she whispered forgivingly, causing his heart to tighten at her benevolence. “They are afraid, and rightly so.” She reached up and slid a strand of his hair between two of her fingers, caringly tucking it behind his ear in a slow, silky movement. “Fear makes the best of us behave terribly.”
Noah cleared his throat, an effort to remind the couple that he was in the room. They jumped apart, and he watched in amazement as the electricity only he could see sparking between them crackled in petulant blue arcs before thinning out and breaking the connection. Noah had never seen such a thing between a Demon and a human before, and rarely between Demons. It fascinated while it disturbed him. The lightning was the fire of complementary souls joining. A female Fire Demon like his sister Hannah would know more about this aspect of such elemental connection, for she understood the fire between two beings and saw it far more clearly than he could. But he knew enough to know it was significant, and exceedingly unusual.
“Isabella, you have something to tell us?” he reminded everyone.
Noah once again took note of her hesitation, her struggle so very clear in her tattletale face. It was refreshing to the King to see that such guilelessness could still exist in the world.
She grabbed Jacob’s hand and hustled him over to the nearest table, dropping her bagful of scrolls onto it. Noah followed, watching closely as she slid the first out of its protective container and unwound it, using objects from the table to hold it open. She treated the scroll gingerly, with great care and respect, and Noah was once more impressed. This woman was a true scholar, perhaps more so than he would ever be.
Both men realized after a moment that the text she was displaying was in their ancient language. They exchanged perplexed looks over her dark head as she bent to her task of situating the scroll. This was the very type of writing Noah had been having difficulty translating on the night Jacob had first encountered Isabella.
“Okay, look here,” she said, warming to her impending lecture as she indicated the middle body of writing. “This is the original Scroll of Destruction. Great name, by the way. Anyway, it was written centuries before the book I found with the same name. That book was a translation of this scroll. Look, see, ‘Whosoever wishes to know the fate of Demonkind must consult these prophecies… ’ Yadda, yadda, yadda, right? It’s kind of like your version of Revelation. Correct?”
Noah nodded slowly. It was one of their most sacred documents. It was the list of Special Destinies and the Original Laws. He watched as she gently peeled back the first pages of the scroll.
“You are familiar with these passages, no doubt. The ones that refer to the way the birth of Christianity among humans would affect the destiny of Demons for all time. See? This tells how Christianity will become a majority religion amongst humans, how magic will be shunned as a result, lessening the threat of the ‘evil intenders,’ which I assume means necromancers. It isn’t all that specific, so I took an educated guess.”
“Good guess, little flower,” Jacob praised. “You are exactly right.”
She seemed to accept this with a nod as she reached to peel back more pages. “Well, then follows pages of various prophecies. Now, in the modern book version of this scroll, the translation is only slightly flawed up to this point. But then you come to here… ” She indicated a passage far into the scroll. “Here is where it goes completely haywire. Now, at first I couldn’t understand why the translation would be so in error. I thought perhaps a change in translators. But then I remembered that with many great religious doctrines, the influences of those who ordered translations often dictated what was considered acceptable and uniform to general belief. Significant works, to this day, are not accepted in their true translated states because it would make too many waves in the foundations of those belief systems. When this is translated properly, I can see why they were reluctant to remain true to the form of the scroll. Here, I will read the passage:
‘And so it will come to pass that in this great age things will return to the focus of purity that Demonkind must always strive for. Here will come the meaning and purpose of our strictest laws, that no uncorrupted human shall be harmed, that peaceful coexistence between races shall become paramount… ’”
“There is nothing different about that than what is commonly known,” Noah remarked, struggling to follow her swift translation.
“Wait, I am getting to that.” She turned the page. “Listen:
‘We must enforce ourselves more strictly as the time approaches. In the age of the rebellion of the Earth and Sky, when Fire and Water break like havoc upon all the lands, the Eldest of the old will return, will take his mate, and the first child of the element of Space will be born, playmate to the first child of Time, born to the Enforcers. The Demon. The Druid. And all will be returned to the state in which it all began. Purity restored.’
“Now,” Isabella went on, unaware of the men who were so still beside her, “I couldn’t figure out why this would be left out. It seems pretty simple a prophecy. Why would it be so frightening? That was when I read through all of your laws and realized—”
“All of them?” Noah spoke up suddenly, his astonishment ringing clear. “You were only down there a few days.”
“I read fast,” she shrugged.
Noah gripped the back of a chair until his knuckles turned white, seeking solace in the Enforcer’s dark eyes, only to find them equally troubled. He had no choice but to watch as the little woman plowed through her information like a freight train.
“Anyway,” she continued, “this is where your laws of crossbreeding come into play. Now, all along I thought maybe it was chemical incompatibility or because of your more animalistic natures that you would cause harm to a partner not of your race. You even have books supporting those theories. Purity. That word is key. It’s used very often in this scroll and I can’t tell you how many laws. Okay, listen, further in the Scroll of Destruction. It says right here:
‘An Enforcer will be born and reach maturity as magic once more threatens the time, as the peace of the Demon yaws toward insanity. The Enforcer will be born to hunt the Transformed, will have the power to destroy, to walk unscented, to track, to see the unseen, to fight with courage and instinct the most powerful and most corrupted. This Enforcer’s thoughts will be sealed except to Kin and Mate, will walk the Demon path in body and soul, though never born to it.’
“So there, you see? How can there be so-called ‘purity’ if an Enforcer will be appointed who is not a Demon? Hmm? But that isn’t all.” She went on eagerly, whipping a second scroll from its casing, “This scroll, and my calculations make it to be even older than the other, is going to blow your mind. Check this out. It says here that:
‘Demon and Druid walk as one, mated, fused, completed souls. One without the other lost and bereft, one race without the other doomed to madness and despondency, impurity and destruction.’
“Do you know what that means? Your so-called pure-blooded race used to be only half of another race, the combined race that was once Druids and Demons! If that’s true, then all this nonsense about racial purity is something some fanatic made up a zillion years ago. It’s propaganda, gentlemen! With your historically fanatical views toward purity of race, the very idea of outsiders as saviors must have been appalling to the translators. Therefore, they omitted this from the newer translations. This means you need outsiders in order to survive. You were looking for your cure? Well, here it is! Written in black and white in your very own vaults! Druids are the cure for Hallowed madness!”
“Then our race is doomed,” Noah said softly.
Isabella raised startled eyes to the King. Her heart jumped when she saw his drawn, whitened features and his eerie stillness.
“Why do you say that?” she protested. “I mean, you just have to find… but you said there were other Nightwalker species in the world. I have read about so many of them in your archives. I admit I only started to find out about Druids when I went into the east vault… ”
“Because the east vault is the Druid archive, Bella,” Jacob said roughly.
Isabella blinked in confusion, turning to look over her shoulder at Jacob.
“I don’t understand.”
“Isabella, almost a millennium ago, the ruler of the Druid race went mad and murdered the ruler of the Demon race,” Noah explained grimly. “We went to war. There aren’t any more Druids, Bella. The Demons destroyed them all. All that is left of them is in that vault. We destroyed an entire culture, murdered every last breath that could ever speak on Druidic behalf, save those ancient recorded scraps.”
“If what you say is true, then we destroyed ourselves in the process.” Jacob ran a weary hand over his face and through his hair, meeting Noah’s eyes. “All these centuries, we have been told only that the Druids were our enemies once upon a time because of the deed of their King. We were never told that we once walked together, lived together… made a common history together.”
“Revisionist history,” Noah interjected. “A history that the leaders of the time obviously rewrote for their own ends during and after the war. How arrogant I was to think our dedicated historians were above such things.”
“No… no, I think you’re wrong,” Bella burst out, fear filling her voice as she struggled with the implications her innocent findings could mean for their kind. “What about the prophecy? How can a doomed race suddenly give birth to new elements? Children with power over Space and Time will change the world forever! Surely when you see this happening right under your nose you won’t be able to deny that!”
“You assume that the time prophesied is now,” Noah remarked.
“Well, of course it is. I mean, look at what is happening all around you! ‘The age of the rebellion of the Earth and Sky, when Fire and Water break like havoc upon all the lands.’ Your people are the elements, you said so yourself. Fire, Earth and the rest. ‘Rebellion… breaking like havoc on all the lands.’ You see, in many historical texts, ‘lands’ does not mean ‘land’ as continents. It means cultures. This is saying that Demons will cause havoc in other cultures. The Enforcer mentioned above is to exist as ‘peace yaws toward insanity.’ It’s a marker linking the two prophesies to the same time. You told me yourselves that every year the madness becomes worse for your people. And with the necromancer’s sudden appearance, wouldn’t you say magic has returned?
“That’s it!” she exclaimed suddenly. “You didn’t kill all the Druids! Just, maybe, forced them into dormancy. Maybe some escaped. Maybe, over time, under the sweep of science and civilization, their heritage and knowledge was lost to their descendents just as some of yours was lost to you. And maybe, sometime in the future, when you start to accept other races into the circle of your culture, it will allow for the arrival of a Druid that, in the near future… when Jacob is succeeded… ” She paused, thinking as quickly as she could while twisting her hands together in her abrupt despair.
Noah understood. If she was right, and the time prophesied was near, it would mean Jacob’s death and replacement was an imminent event. She had to explain away her own logic now in order to prevent that inevitability from happening too soon for her to bear. “Those are very extreme maybes,” Noah consoled.
“Sweet, merciful Destiny.”
Isabella and Noah both snapped their attention to Jacob, who wore an expression of total shock.
“What? What is it?” Noah asked.
“She said it, and I almost missed it. Noah, in the prophecy, just after the lead-in, she said: ‘… the first child of the element of Space will be born, playmate to the first child of Time, born to the Enforcers.’”
“So?” Bella asked.
“Are you sure it said Enforcers? Are you certain it is plural?” he demanded.
“Of course I am sure. See, right there.” She pointed to the passage.
“Bella, there has never been two Enforcers at once. There has only been one. Never two. It is not me this is talking about, nor some unknown Druid of the distant future, it is… ” He blinked, shock washing over him. “It is you. Noah, it is her!”
“Can it be?” Noah whispered, looking over the tiny human woman with awe, following Jacob’s thinking rapidly. “A human Enforcer?”
“Whoa! Hang on there, guys. Let’s not go off the deep end,” Isabella cried hastily, raising her hands defensively and backing up several steps out of their reach as if they were trying to attack her. Not that she would ever beat them in a foot race, but it gave her a minor comfort just the same. “I am not an Enforcer. I’m too tiny, too… I’m a bookworm! I’m weak! I’m human. Stop looking at me like that! You’re out of your freaking skulls!”
“‘The Enforcer will be born to hunt the Transformed, will have the power to destroy.’ Saul, little flower. Remember? ‘… to track, to see the unseen, to fight with courage and instinct the most powerful and most corrupted.’ You killed him.”