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|Jacob(Nightwalkers #1) by Jacquelyn Frank|
There was a long, soft, gurgling hiss and then, in a horrific voice Isabella had heard once before, it responded.
“It is… unprecedented, my master. But you have two. Two. Am I to be rewarded? Set me free, my master.”
“No, Demon. I’m not satisfied yet.” The speaker’s voice changed, becoming soft, hypnotic. “But I promise you that as soon as my experiments are complete, I’ll set you free.”
Bella blinked her eyes halfway open, blinding herself with the enormous amounts of light that shone around her. The room was full of that eerie blue light she’d first seen in the warehouse after meeting Jacob. She sat up slowly, expecting every bone in her body to shatter under the motion. But after a quick internal assessment, she realized she was little more than bruised. Squinting against the light, she looked around herself.
She was lying in the center of a huge pentagram that had been chalked onto wooden floorboards. The blue light was quickly fading, allowing her sight to improve, and she saw Legna’s crumpled form lying less than a foot away from her feet.
Everything suddenly rushed in on her and she remembered what had happened and understood exactly where she was. But how had this happened? She wasn’t a Demon. From what she’d been told, when a Demon was Summoned, it caused no danger to anyone in the immediate vicinity; a Summoning was quite specific and limited to the power source connected with the name used in the imprisoning act.
So then how had she been caught up in it?
She realized the how and why could wait to be answered later. She turned onto her hands and knees and slid over to Legna. When she touched the other woman’s cheek, it felt as though she were burning up with fever. What had Jacob said about a Summoning? Had he ever mentioned how much time it actually took for a transformation to take permanent hold? Oh, why didn’t I pay better attention? How is it she had never found a book on the subject of Summoning, what with all the books and scrolls and prophecies and laws she’d consumed?
“Look, that one is awake.”
“They’re females. I didn’t think there were females.”
“Have you never heard of a succubus? Of course these creatures of hell have both sexes. Look at how beautiful they make themselves. Who wouldn’t be tempted by that?”
Isabella finally looked up to see the faces of the people who were talking. There were two men standing relatively close to the pentagram in which she lay and a male and female seated on a table not too much farther away.
That was when she noticed the smell.
It was an awful stench, like burnt animal hair, gasoline, and rotten eggs combined. She felt her stomach turn over and her mouth water with nausea. She pressed her sleeve to her mouth and nose, hoping it would ease the disgusting odor.
“That one is a small one,” the female laughed. “I think you should throw it back.”
The men chuckled over her humor. The tallest one moved closer to the edge of the pentagram, crouching down on his haunches so he was eye level with Bella.
“What do you think, spawn? Should we throw you back?”
Isabella did not respond. Instead she moved to take Legna’s torso into her lap, trying to make her unconscious friend as comfortable as she could, cradling her head to her breast protectively.
“Aww. How sweet. I think it actually cares for its friend.”
“Give it up, Ingrid. In a few hours these two will look just as ugly and slobbery as the others. Then they will be spitting out names to save their own necks like this one does. These monsters don’t know a thing about loyalty.”
Isabella’s eyes followed the careless hand gesture the tall necromancer made, and for the first time she noticed there was a second pentagram in the room, and in its center sat a completely Transformed Demon, looking exactly as Saul had before his death.
“You know, Kyle, I think that little one is stronger than she looks. It took hours before the male woke up initially. The other female’s out cold, yet she’s already conscious.”
“You have a point,” Kyle remarked. He picked up something off the floor and threw it at Isabella’s head. She couldn’t do anything more than duck with Legna burdening her lap. The object glanced off her shoulder. She recovered and glared at her captors.
“You made it mad,” Ingrid chortled, grabbing her sides as she rocked with laughter.
“Aww, did I make you mad, little spawn?” Kyle taunted.
“I don’t think it talks,” remarked the more rotund necromancer who was seated next to the sorceress.
“I’m sure it does, it’s just being stubborn. Isn’t that right, spawn? Demon bitch?” Kyle grinned evilly at Isabella. “You want out, don’t you, little spawn? If you behave, I’ll let you go real soon. Come on. Say something. I know you want to.”
Isabella just turned her head away, fighting back the sting of angry tears. She was fairly certain she was in no immediate danger, but Legna’s life might hang on what she was able to accomplish in these next crucial minutes. She tried to calm her thoughts, tried to seek Jacob’s mind, but he was mute to her. She had no idea how far they’d been transported, and she imagined the room was blanketed with spells to prevent her from calling for help.
But then again, she mused, if her dampening ability worked as Gideon claimed it would, she should be able to neutralize any magic. Still, it was a hidden card and she kept quiet and still as she tried to figure out how best to bet on her particular ace. She glanced at the chalk drawings beneath and around her. They were meant to hold a Demon. Would they hold a Druid? Or maybe she had disarmed them by her mere presence.
Her four captors were too busy being cocky and self-righteous. They likely would have never considered the possibility of the captives breaking such a foolproof power symbol. She glanced at the other Demon, who was at present chewing off one of the claws on its foot. Why should they doubt the pentagram? It apparently had been working quite well with this other Demon.
Oh, Jacob, where are you? I don’t know if I’m ready to do this all by myself.
But she might have to, she realized as nothing but silence answered her. She couldn’t allow Legna to be their next victim. But it wasn’t just a matter of escape. She had to see to it that all of those who could possibly know Legna’s true name could never use it against her again. That would mean not only destroying the necromancers, but also destroying the perverted Demon who’d sacrificed Legna, revealing her name for the hope of freedom.
Isabella began to rock her burden softly, more for her own comfort than anything. She tried to think as clearly as she could, considering as many options and possibilities as she could. If indeed her dampening power was affecting her prison, it could just as easily affect her captors. However, she would be discovered if one came too close and became aware of something being amiss before she was ready to act.
Physically speaking, none of them presented an obvious challenge. In actuality, the group looked a lot like a collection of geeks. They sort of reminded her of the high school chess club. It was clear they were smart, probably extraordinarily so in order to become users of complex magics. Isabella realized she could sense other things about them, no doubt because she was still siphoning from Legna.
They were full of a strange false confidence. They knew they were powerful, knew they were smart, and knew they were doing incredible things, but in the end it didn’t change the deep-seated feelings of inadequacy they were trying to push aside. Isabella knew that feeling. She had been considered less than acceptable herself in her school days. But unlike the four before her, she had realized that none of that adolescent behavior counted out in the real world. She’d left those feelings behind the day she’d graduated into a world that praised intelligence and creativity and scrabbled to snap it up.
The four were trapped in their school mentality, although none of them could be a day less than thirty years old. It was no wonder they had turned to such a despicable crusade, with all its horrific consequences. It gave them a chance to be the bullies for a change, to set a group of creatures below themselves.
Isabella absorbed all this quietly, filing it away in an accessible place. She had a feeling it might come in handy.
The one called Kyle had finally moved away, having grown bored with her lack of rising to his bait. He was wearing a blue and gold cloak straight out of a Merlin fairy tale, and so were the others. Isabella had to keep herself from laughing at the theatrical absurdity of it.
“Why do you suppose we caught two?” the rotund necromancer asked.
“Maybe they have the same name. I don’t know, Rick. But you know what they say, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Santo is going to be very impressed. The more of these things we catch, the more magic he’ll share with us. I’m dying to learn that fire spell he was telling us about.”
“I want to learn the glamour spell,” the sorceress said. “I would kill to look like a supermodel and go teach some guys I know a lesson in humility.”
“You don’t need any of that. You got me now,” Rick reminded her, scooting closer to her to drape an arm over her shoulders.
Isabella turned her attention away from the exchange and looked down at Legna. She was a little pale, still out cold, but otherwise didn’t seem changed in any way. As much as it relieved Isabella, it perplexed her. Somehow she’d gotten the impression that transformation began immediately after a Summoning. But then again, she couldn’t tell if there were any internal troubles occurring in Legna. She bit her lip worriedly, closed her eyes, and once more tried to find Jacob in her thoughts.
Jacob sat crouched on the head of one of the many gargoyles decorating the old brick building. He turned his sense of smell into the brisk night breeze, trying to gather information, while at the same time he tried to ease the panic that caused his heart to race madly. He looked down to the pavement ten stories below him where Noah was leaning with seeming idleness against the brick exterior of the same building. In truth, Noah was tracking the ebb and flow of the energy around him. Every living thing in the universe had a unique energy signature.
What the necromancers didn’t realize was that a Summoning didn’t just pop a Demon out of one place and then drop it in another. Summoning converted the victim to a form of its purest energy, and then this energy was dragged through an extremely physical route over however many miles it took to get from the starting point to the end point. This could be tracked with a great deal of ease for those who were skilled.
The problem came at the end of the trail. The closer you got to a necromancer’s hiding place, the more confusing the search became. Jacob had learned during the last rash of Summonings that necromancers were very good at cloaking themselves. They used spells and tokens and several other methods to make themselves invisible to even the strongest of Demon hunters.
It was at that point that Jacob would be forced to rely on instincts and logic rather than senses, the point when he had to try to think through the most sensible place a necromancer might choose to hole up in. Unfortunately, as in the case of Saul, highly populated areas such as the Bronx made the possibilities endless. There had been dozens of warehouses in the area of Isabella’s apartment. If not for her premonition, it could’ve taken him far too long to search them all.
Necromancers, however, weren’t very good at remaining inconspicuous. On many occasions, Jacob had rooted them out just by asking the question he’d posed to Isabella that night when they first met. Very often a necromancer’s peculiar activities drew attention. And then there was the factor they couldn’t hide: their scent. If they’d recently walked the street, Jacob could find them in a heartbeat.
Jacob leapt off the gargoyle, lofting down to street level with fractional increases in his weight and manipulations of gravity. He landed soundlessly beside Noah.
“My trail is cold. Are you having any luck?”
“No,” Noah sighed, reaching to rub at the tension in his neck.
“They can’t be too far from here.”
“Can you sense Bella yet?”
“No, I cannot.” Jacob clenched his teeth together.
Jacob suddenly caught a familiar scent in the air.
“Elijah,” he and Noah said in unison.
Elijah swirled into form in front of them a moment later.
“Gideon thinks he can find them,” Elijah said. “He’s searching the area in astral form. He said something about Bella’s genetic code being a neon beacon. I have no idea what it means, but it sure as hell sounded good to me.”
Isabella was pacing a small arching path on the far side of the pentagram, having decided that putting some distance between her and Legna might help the female Demon regain consciousness.
Two of the necromancers had left the room. The third was busy in the makeshift kitchen a good distance away. The sorceress was still seated on her table, snapping a piece of gum incessantly as she read from a large book that looked as ancient as some of the books Isabella had read in the Demon library. It was clear, however, that the female’s attention was divided between the page opened before her and Isabella’s movements, which she watched with obvious curiosity.
After a few more minutes, the magic-user put her book down and hopped off the table. She shoved her hands in her pockets and strolled up to the pentagram.
“Hey, you,” she addressed Isabella. “What’s with the getup? The ribbons and the dress?”
Isabella stopped her pacing, tilting her head and contemplating the other woman.
“I was at a wedding,” she said quietly.
It was clear Ingrid hadn’t expected Isabella to actually respond, as her eyes went wide.