Home > Torn (Demon Kissed #3)(21)

Torn (Demon Kissed #3)(21)
Author: H.M. Ward

Al finished his thought for him, "Like we're being deserted." Her sterling eyes looked sharply at me. "Yes, it would seem that way. And no, there aren't any angels here to ask. Unlike the demons that control your kind, the angels left us to do what's best and fulfill our common goals without them."

The corner of Collin's lip pulled up in disbelief as his eyebrows pulled together, "They didn't leave any of their kind here? How are you supposed to contact them if you need help?" His voice rose as he spoke. It was like he couldn't believe the good guys had such incompetent commanders.

Al's gaze darted back to Collin, "We don't. The system operates on trust. We trust them, they trust us." She took a sip of tea and clinked the old cup against the saucer when she put it back down. Her hands were shaking. I'd never seen her like this before. She was always so self-assure, always certain that things would end well. A knot formed in my stomach and twisted tighter and tighter as the conversation continued. 

"Al, that makes no sense. What does trust have to do with anything? The angels have more power. They could come here and end all this stuff, but they don't. Besides, the Martis have been screwing things up for years, and the angels didn't return. Will they really just leave things the way they are?" Collin turned to me, mouth hanging open at my outburst.

Al just looked at me with sympathetic eyes and smiled, "It worked well for several millennia. The entire system is based on trust; trust the angels to choose the right people, trust that we will transform them into equipped Martis to deal with the Valefar, and trust that we'll handle things here while they handle things there." She saw the look on my face and added, "I know you don't understand, dear girl. You've had so much taken from you unfairly, no doubt, that it's hindered you badly."

Bristling at her words my spine went straight. "I'm not broken. I'm not the monster they think I am. It's not going to happen." I said the words staccato, enunciating each one clearly.

Collin's hand slid over mine as he gently brushed a thought against my mind, That's not what she said. She believes in you. He smiled at me. Al watched the two of us closely before he added, "And so do I." Smiling at him softly, I nodded, apologized to Al, and slumped back in my seat folding my arms across my chest.

Al sipped her tea before saying, "Things are beyond comprehension now, Ivy. All we have is faith - faith that the person sitting next us will do the right thing - no matter what it is. No matter what it costs. We both know you're that girl; the one who does what's right no matter what. Don't forget who you are, and you have nothing to worry about. Anchor yourself to people who'll remind you of that, and ignore the words of others. They don't matter," Al said with utter certainty. I nodded. It was an easy thing to say, but much harder to actually do.

Collin cleared his throat, and tapped at the book on the table. "Althea, we found Eric's book, but the language predates my existence. We were hoping you could read it." He slid the book across the table to the nun. She'd looked at it when we first arrived but didn't pepper us with questions about it. She had patience that I lacked, because curiosity would have prompted me to ask what it was as soon as I saw it.

Al's withered old hands reached out for the old book. She turned it towards her and ran her fingers over the worn leather cover. When she opened it, it made the sound that old books with thick pages make - where it almost sounds as if the spine were cracking. Gently, she opened to a yellowed page and examined the contents.

In that moment, it felt like I stopped breathing. This was it. This is what would allow me to find out about the Satan Stone, so I could heal the sapphire serum in my chest. Collin's fingers gently intertwined with mine and he squeezed my hand under the table. He looked over at me, smiling softly. I returned the squeeze and smiled back before leaning forward. Collin was emitting a sense of foreboding, as if he knew what would happen long before I did. The old woman leaned over the book for what seemed like a lifetime, and then turned an ancient page, saying nothing.

Impatience got the better of me, "Well, what does it say?" Al knew everything. She was older than Eric, hell, she was there when Eric found out he was a Martis. She knew him nearly his entire life. She had to recognize his handwriting. He was her favorite. I remembered her smiling up at him with overwhelming pride. She trained him. She taught him everything he knew - how to be a Martis, how to fight, how to track, hunt, and win. If anyone could read Eric's scrawling handwriting, it would be her. I was so hopeful that she would know and be able to tell us what it said right then. I lowered my head to catch her gaze.

She saw me and looked up from the book and shook her head. "No idea. I can't read this at all. It's like it's Koine Greek," she looked up at me, "Greek spoken around the time Eric was born. Greek spoken by common folk back then. It's kinda like street talk in that it has no formality to it. But," she shook her head, "that's not what this is." She sounded surprised that she couldn't read it, but Collin wasn't.

He nodded, "I thought it was Greek as well, an earlier version, but still Greek. But it's not. The characters may be of Greek origin, or maybe they just look the same..." he reached over and slid the book towards him, turning to the page with the drawing of my necklace. "This is Ivy's pendant - the one hanging on her necklace. Eric mentioned that he knew the pendant had brimstone on it and that it was the Kreturic Pendant. We think these are his notes on the subject, but there is no commonality with either word. There were no matches for Kreturus or brimstone. He would have made a notation like that on the page, but there's nothing here." He pushed the book back to Al so she could see.

Her gnarled fingers trailed over the page as she nodded. "You're right," Al replied, shaking her head. "We could have used that as a benchmark to translate this thing, but there isn't anything that even resembles those words. Half the characters in here seem to be made up. They aren't Greek at all...and it's not an issue of bad penmanship." She bit her lips as she thought, staring at the paper.

My heart went from elation to plummeting into my toes. Things were about to get bad. I needed that translation. I needed to know about Satan's Stone and how to find it. Stealing a glance at Collin, I felt a lump grow in my throat. It can't come to a demon kiss. I won't let it. Desperation filled me. "We have to figure out what this says." My voice was faint, and low. Irritation shot through me. If Eric were here, if he were himself, this wouldn't be an issue. But, he wasn't. He was a lusty Valefar now. I pressed my eyes closed and shook my head. Collin put his hand on my shoulder to calm me. I smiled at him, but didn't want him experiencing my emotional hurricane with me, so I backed away from him and paced across the room. After a few walks around the tiny yellow kitchen with the faded floral wallpaper, I stopped and leaned against the sink.

"Ah, Ivy," Al said, not looking up from the book. "Things aren't always what they seem."

I suppressed the urge to roll my eyes. I wasn't in the mood for fortune cookie talk. "What do you mean," I asked point blank.

She looked up at me, smiling. "This is a code, that's all. He coded his notes so no one else could read them. Clever boy..." Al was delighted. "It prevents Valefar, or anyone else, from using the information for the wrong reason. He tracked you for nearly two millennia, Ivy. At one time, books were things only the wealthy owned. A poor boy like Eric with a thick book like this looked suspicious...But a book written in gibberish - who would want it?"

Collin stood and walked around the table to look over Al's shoulder, comprehension lighting up his face. "That sneaky bastard," he said softly with a smile spreading across his face.

I sighed and they looked up at me. "It still doesn't help if Eric was the only person who could read it." That was the plain cold hard truth. I couldn't get the information on Satan's Stone, sapphire serum, or anything unless we could read that book. And knowing Eric, the old Eric, he would have made the code unbreakable and not just gibberish at first sight.

Collin looked up at me, "We should at least try. It's not like we can trap Eric and have him read it for us anyway. He can't remember any of this." Collin tapped the page in front of him.

A thought occurred to me and I straightened, "But he remembers some things." They both looked up at me, with a slight glace at one another. "Well, he remembers how to speak English and it's not his first language - that old Greek was. So what's to say he doesn't remember it? Or how he coded this book? Maybe he still knows that information." The thought bounced around in my head more. Apryl had remembered things she should have forgotten. The thoughts pushed to the surface and she remembered me. She'd said it was because she thought of me when she was looking at Eric, but that was all we needed. Just a glimmer of a memory, and Eric could read what he wrote in this book. A smile started to spread across my face, but was quickly dashed by Al's words.

"We can't give this book to Eric, now." She looked alarmed that I even suggested it. "If he did have information in here about Satan's Stone, he could use it for himself. We can't risk giving it to him, even if he might remember how to read it."

Walking towards them, I put my hands on the table and leaned in, "But, we could just show him a page - the page with the pendant - and ask him to read it. If he could, that would give us enough information to decode the rest of it, right?" They both looked at each other and then back at me, too hesitant to nod.

Hesitation was clear on his face. Collin walked towards me and took my hands in his, "If we had to, we could trap Eric and force him to tell us how he coded it. But, I can't see him giving us that information even if he does know it. And I'm not sure it's worth the risk to try. Ivy, Al's right. We don't know what these pages say. If they contain things that could give him more power - anything at all, then we should never let him near this book. Any of it." I listened to what Collin was saying, and maybe he was right, but I didn't think so. It was worth the risk, because I knew something that they didn't. Eric faltered. He was afraid of me.

Certainty shot through me. I decided and there was no stopping me. I'd fix this mess and move on with tracking down Kreturus, the demonic bastard, and ending this. Last time I saw him, I faltered. He took Collin from me in a way I couldn't even imagine. It shocked me to my core. But next time, I would face Kreturus alone. Placing my hand on Collin's shoulder, I said, "We did things your way before. We're doing this my way this time. If you guys can't decode it by tomorrow night, I'm going to trap Eric and make him decode it for us."


Al completely disagreed with my plan. She let me know it too. "You don't know what's on this page," she said smacking a finger against the old parchment. We were still in the old kitchen. We had been at it for hours. Between spouts of nonstop silent frustration at trying to read the unreadable book, there were stints of rather loud frustration directed at me. Mostly by Al. "What if the page has the information you want on it?" Her silvery eyes were brilliant as she argued. "You'd be giving it straight to him! And the last two times you saw Eric, he bested you! Twice! Ivy, you can't possibly think this is a good idea, on any level." We'd been having this conversation for a while, and it was going in circles. Collin was ignoring us, knowing I would do what I thought was best and that the best thing for him to do was to try and decode Eric's writing before tonight.

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