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  • Home > Samantha Young > Fire Spirits > Borrowed Ember (Page 36)     
  • Borrowed Ember(Fire Spirits #3)(36) by Samantha Young
  • Asmodeus gave her a mocking smile of congratulations.

    “I don’t understand.” Her chest felt too tight again.

    Azazil lifted a bejeweled hand to draw her attention. “When Lilif dared to take the essence of Asmodeus from him—the one being she loved above al others—I

    knew I could no longer sit idly by. The problem, my dear Seal, is that Lilif—like myself, my sons and Asmodeus—is part of the balance. I feared kiling her would tear too deeply at the seams, so I separated her essence from her body and hid them where no one could find them. It meant she was gone without realy being gone. The only son who realized I hadn’t destroyed her essence was White. I am grateful for the distrust between him and his brothers. It has kept it a secret from al else. It has kept White silent. Silent but persistent.

    Centuries passed. I grew weary. A little bored, I suppose.” He shrugged carelessly. “And along came King Solomon, whom I knew was destined to have his place in religious history. Something about him reminded me of Lilif in her youth. She had been so eager for more, so eager for power. So eager to be extraordinary.

    Sometimes I would return to the place I had kept her essence just to feel her around me, and one day I had a thought. Jinn can take another Jinn’s essence and trap them within a Jinn body, but the essence is never truly gone unless it is in another body. I didn’t want that then. Someone having her power inside of them. But it was a shame to waste the power so I took her essence and I trapped it in the Seal. The ring was cast with my own magic, the only thing powerful enough to trap her essence in metals and I divided that essence into light and dark so that Solomon could command good Jinn with the brass part of the Seal and command the evil with the iron part of it. It was so beautifuly poetic, Ari. My Lilif’s power out in the world again, but reined in by me as I had always wanted. The brass and iron stamps were merely for my own enjoyment. I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of good and evil.

    But Solomon failed just as Lilif had done. He could not live up to my ideal of the ring. He abused it.” His features hardened. “So I sent him into the desert to die and replaced him with Asmodeus, who fulfiled his destiny for him. After that, I asked Asmodeus whether he would like me to return her essence to its hiding place or whether he would like to guard it as it was.”

    “You already know what I chose,” Asmodeus interrupted quietly.

    “Why?” Ari felt like crying at the knowledge of what had been placed inside of her by her father. “And does The White King know what it is he has done to me?”

    “No,” Asmodeus replied. “He doesn’t realize that what he’s looking for is the actual Seal. He thinks the Seal wil procure what he’s looking for. As for your former question… my reasons are my own.”

    “No one knows that Lilif’s essence existed within the Seal. Although, I expect my clever sleuth of a son, Red, has surmised the truth by now after learning of your dreams and paying a visit to an old friend of mine.” Azazil seemed to take in Ari’s searching, burning eyes with little feeling as he continued his story, “I admit to being intrigued when I discovered White’s plans to steal the Seal and use it to conceive a child who would carry its properties within her or him. He thought he was merely creating a conduit for his scheme to find Lilif’s body and essence, whereas I was curious if Lilif’s essence, so naturaly placed within a Jinn, would bring her back into the balance without the danger of her madness. So I ordered Asmodeus to let your mother seduce him for the Seal.”

    “Oh my God.” Ari felt like she’d been kicked in the stomach. “It was al you. Al this time, it was al you.”

    “I wanted you for myself. I wanted to see if, through you, I could have a Lilif the way my Sultana was always meant to be. She was supposed to be light and dark.

    True, she was always heavier on the dark and Asmodeus always heavier on the light, but there was always a balance. Until she let the darkness destroy her. But through you there was hope that at least her power could exist as it should have.” He dropped his head, seeming almost sad. “But Asmodeus, unaware of my true hopes, grew suspicious of what the Seal was realy doing to you. When you argued, your eyes changed to black like Lilif’s and your whole being reminded him so greatly of her, that he decided today to trigger the Seal and see once and for al if his suspicions were correct.”

    “What suspicions?” she asked, taking a step back, but the fear in her gut was teling her she already knew what he was about to say.

    “That Lilif’s essence is escaping the Seal and fighting to take control of you.”

    “How is that even possible?” Ari whispered. “I thought the essence was just the power?”

    “Lilif is no ordinary Jinn, Ari. She is almost as old as I. No Jinn was ever meant to carry her essence within them. I see that now.”

    “So I’m what? An experiment gone wrong?” she spat.

    He shrugged. “Succinctly put. Now I think we should take the Seal back before Lilif causes any more damage.”

    Back? Back… back would mean kiling her. Right? Oh God, she despised them! Ari wanted to destroy Azazil, she wanted to command the damn son-of-a-bitch to

    his knees… and Lilif was in there ready to help her to do it…

    As if sensing the danger within her, Asmodeus began to move a hand and Ari felt the gathering of his power in the air. She blew back from him using her newly found speed and held up a hand. “Stop!” she commanded and both Azazil and Amosdeus’ expressions darkened, like thunder clouds roling over a sky that had only moments ago been calm.

    To al of their surprise Asmodeus took a menacing step forward, the Seal’s command seeming to have no effect on him.

    “Stop, Asmodeus!” she cried out in desperation, her hand flying up as if to pulse the power of the Seal out of him.

    He kept coming.

    “Stop,” Azazil commanded quietly and Asmodeus immediately turned to give him a quizzical look of frustration. “The Seal does not work against you. Did you know this?”

    Asmodeus shook his head, a bewildered, feral look in his eyes. “No, Your Majesty, I did not.”

    Smiling now, Azazil stood up, his smug expression terrorizing Ari. “Wel, this changes things slightly. Not for you.” He flicked Ari a careless look. “But for Asmodeus. I was going to destroy the Seal and place Lilif’s essence back in hiding. But…” he smiled as if amused, “The Seal is almost mythical in its existence. It excites my people. It chalenged my son to draw up a quite briliant plan, even though it backfired on us al. And here is Asmodeus, immune to the Seal. The perfect protector. Why not alow it to remain here, with you, Asmodeus? It’s only fitting since it is your sister’s being. The Seal was safe with you my friend for centuries, and clearly for a reason. So… what wil it be? Ari as a pet? Or the ring back around your neck?”

    Considering his options with a penetrating run of his eyes over Ari’s body, the Lieutenant finaly shook his head and Ari wasn’t sure if that was regret she read in his eyes, or only her own wishful thinking. “I think I’d prefer the ring around my neck. This one is too dangerous to have around.”

    Azazil nodded, seeming to understand Asmodeus’ enigmatic comment. “Oh don’t worry, Ari.” Azazil’s expression was bland again. “Recovering the Seal may or

    may not kil you. We have no way of knowing. Your destiny is very—for lack of a better word —blurry, at the moment.”

    Ari took a step back, her thoughts whirring around inside her head. Okay. She couldn’t live with Lilif inside her. She knew that. She did.

    A momentary shot of terror gripped her heart as she realized she might die either way. But as she fought to control her breathing and relax the way Jai had taught her, Ari let herself think about it. Sacrificing herself meant Lilif would be kept imprisoned. Surely that was worth the sacrifice?

    But if she offered to sacrifice herself and there was a chance that she actualy made it out on the other side, she was getting something of worth out of it.

    “Come any closer and I’l command Azazil to kil you before you even make a move,” Ari told Asmodeus softly.

    The room darkened as Azazil’s energy thickened with what Ari assumed was his anger. “What do you want?” he asked shrewdly.

    Ari drew in a shuddering breath. “If I die, you save Jai and let him return unharmed to his tribe.”

    “Done.” He nodded, his expression one of utter boredom.

    Ari narrowed her eyes. “And-”

    “And?” Azazil sat forward now, his eyebrow raised in haughty enquiry.

    “If I do this wilingly, and I live, then I get to cal in a favor.”

    “I thought that was your favor.”

    “No, that was just a gesture of good wil.”

    He smirked at that. “If your favor then is for the sorcerer, I cannot save him if he kils the Labartu. I am sorry. That is out of my hands.”

    Dammit. Ari forced down her helpless tears. They were of no use to her here. “Fine. But I stil want a favor if I survive. And I want your oath that you’l give me whatever it is I ask of you.”

    She flicked a gaze at Asmodeus to see his eyes gleaming at her again, as if he almost respected her in that moment. As she turned to find Azazil’s answer, she saw he was smiling, as if enjoying himself immensely. “You have my oath that if you survive, I wil grant you a favor—if it is within my power to do so.”

    “Done.”

    Asmodeus was a blur, his glowing fist crashing down into her chest before Ari had even blinked. Shocked agony tore through Ari as his dark eyes bored into her pleading ones. I am sorry, his voice whispered inside her head. Or had she just imagined it?

    It was with relief that his fist withdrew from her, light pulsing between the cracks in his fingers. They uncurled slowly, and the throbbing bal of ember in his palm was the last thing Ari saw before the sweet relief of dying pain swept her away on its tides.

    23 - At Least Take My Shield When You Go Into Battle

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