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       Emblaze, p.12

           Jessica Shirvington
 

  I still hadn"t seen him since the previous afternoon.

  Things were spiralling and I needed to take stock, refocus. I couldn"t function otherwise.

  Phoenix had outplayed me and I couldn"t let that happened again.

  I was relieved Steph was okay. And baffled.

  I just couldn"t work Phoenix out. I was almost certain at times that a part of him hated doing these things and despised the other exiles. And yet - he was about to resurrect uber-exile Lilith. It didn"t make sense. It was as it he wanted to force himself to become something he loathed.

  I wondered if it was all just to kill me. If that was his ultimate goal maybe it would be better if I just let him. I could end it all before he brought her back. But deep down I knew the time for self-sacrifice had passed. If it were just about killing me - he"d had plenty of chances.

  -

  I got back to the apartment with just enough time to shower and change before school.

  But when I went into the kitchen to grab a quick coffee before heading back out, Dad was there, waiting.

  Doesn"t he work any more?

  „Morning. I didn"t think you were … I just went for a run."

  „Hmm."

  He was dressed for work and had his drawing case in his hand. He was still raw with me.

  I just had to see through the speech and then he"d be gone.

  „Sorry about yesterday," I tried.

  „Violet, despite what you might think about me, I"m not completely ignorant. Whatever you have managed to mix yourself up in - it stops now."

  I froze at the coffee machine. „I"m not mixed up in anything."

  „Yes, you are. I don"t know what it is yet, but I will. And until you decide to be honest with me …" He took a deep breath, „You"re grounded."

  I almost dropped the milk jug. „ What? " I demanded, slamming the jug on the counter.

  Has he been drinking?

  „You … You can"t do that!" We just didn"t have that kind of relationship.

  „I just did. School and straight home every day. Study on the weekend can be here or at the library but home by six. That"s it. No more late nights. I"ll be arranging to do some work from home for the next little while so I should be here most days by the time you"re due home."

  I stood there, mouth open, stunned. I had a lot of things I wanted to say, but for some reasons nothing came out.

  Dad took my silence, inaccurately, for acceptance and gave a curt nod before heading for the door. Before he opened it he paused, shoulders slumped. „I"m sorry, Violet. But you left me no choice." He closed the door quietly behind him.

  -

  „I"ve been grounded," I said to Steph in history, after we"d finally made Lydia go away, swearing we would pass on her get-well wishes to Spence, who had decided not to turn up to school again. He was planning on stretching the glandular fever exercise right up to graduation next month.

  „It"s like we"ve entered some kind of alternate reality. Your Dad"s all fatherly and my parents are completely losing the plot." Steph shook her head. Neither of us could figure out what had happened.

  The bruise on Steph"s cheek was barely noticeable beneath a layer of foundation and she seemed back to her normal self in every other way, though I knew it didn"t mean there wasn"t residual damage lurking somewhere.

  „How was Jase last night?" I asked, wondering it we had yet another problem.

  „He doesn"t buy the story. Although Griffin did enough so that he"s not jumping up and down too much. I think he figures you and I got ourselves into some trouble we don"t want to admit to. The good thing is he got up to his fair share of stuff when he was younger and he talked to Mum, who"s now decided I"m just acting out." She drew spirals on her paper.

  „And when she saw my A in chemistry she switched back to not giving a damn."

  „Well, Jase is worried about you," I said.

  Steph raised her eyebrows. „Not just me. He asked after you a few times last night, too."

  „Oh. Well, I probably looked pretty freaked out."

  „Yeah, I don"t think that"s exactly what it was. I think big brother had a crush .." She looked like she was on the verge of bursting out laughing.

  A couple of years back, I"d had a bit of a thing for Jase. He"s two years older than us and I used to think he was seriously cute with the whole music thing he had going for him.

  Then I"d met Lincoln.

  „Steph, that"s not funny," I warned.

  „Is so!" she said, proceeding into a fit of giggles. Then she saw my face. „Oh, don"t panic.

  He"s into a different girl every week. It"ll pass - just give him a wide berth for a bit."

  I could definitely do that, now that I was grounded.

  „Did your Dad say I was banned from coming over?" Steph asked, a conspiratorial twinkle in her eye.

  „No. Not yet."

  „Well, research it is then. I know I"m close." She tapped her pen up and down on the desk. „We can go by Dapper"s on the way. I"m sure he"ll let me take that book I was suing to yours for the night. I can feel a breakthrough coming on."

  I smiled. What I really wanted to do was train or, even better, beat the crap out of something that really deserved it, but I guess I could make do with my makeshift studio gym and the rest could wait until tomorrow.

  „Research," I agreed. At least it was something.

  -

  Dad wasn"t happy when I walked into the apartment with Steph in tow, but he"d always had a soft spot for her and I accepted that he hadn"t stipulated that she wasn"t welcome. I think he was just relieved to see that I"d come home at all.

  Steph and I made a speedy stop at Dapper"s on the way. He"d reluctantly agreed to let her borrow a couple of books. It seemed their recent shared battlefield had earned her a little pull, which Steph didn"t have any qualms about cashing in out. So, after making coffee, we closed ourselves in my room as far away from Dad, and his new inquisitive ways, as possible.

  One good thing about the situation was that Dad was an amateur when it came to discipline. He had no idea how to implement, a true grounding. I still had my all-important mobile phone, so really he hadn"t succeeded in cutting off my contact with anyone. And given my recent … stirrings of tight-leashed feelings, there was at least one up side to imprisonment - I didn"t have to face Lincoln yet.

  I"d been trying hard to shut it down. The influx of the very real emotions he had ragged out of me last night had my blood running hot and out of control. It said a lot, that he knew my feelings for him were a key to pulling me out of Phoenix"s thrall.

  It"s too cruel.

  While Steph buried her head in books, I gave Griffin a call, followed by Spence, filling them both in on my homebound status. Griffin was already at Lincoln"s so I asked him to pass the update on to him. Spence promised to make himself available to train with me tomorrow after I agreed not to tell Griffin that he had been a no-show at school.

  Once that was done, I did a shot workout in my studio then, after a shower and a change of clothes, got comfy on the floor next to Steph and started to flip through the copes of the Scripture. Steph had made a number of them, using some to write on and others to be kept clean. Dapper, who seemed to be particularly erudite on all matters ancient, had a set too, along with Griffin and the Academy.

  I stared at the first part and a section of writing, or maybe they were symbols.

  „What language is it?"

  Steph shook her head. "It isn"t just a language. It"s like a combination of language and numerical code. It"s amazing and frustrating. The language is old Hebrew, which is difficult to translate at the best of times, especially since I don"t speak it so I have to research every word. The numbers, which are basically every second word, correlate to the Hebrew alphabet but …" her eyes lit up, „this is where we have the breakthrough. Every sixth word.

  It reverses, changes the flow and flips the alphabet. So the translation of one, for example, means the first letter of the alphabet for six numerical word
s but then means the last letter of the alphabet for the next six numerical words. It is actually quite simple but just confusing enough to throw someone off-track.

  „So what have you translate using this method?"

  Steph licked her lips. „Okay. So, there are two main text words. From what I can tell, they"re prophecies - kind of like guidelines to follow. So, far, I think I have one of them down."

  She handed me a sheet of paper. „Does this mean anything to you?" she asked, squirming.

  If it weren"t all pits-of-Hell information, I"d say Steph was in her element.

  I looked at the piece of paper.

  Awaken Tartarus and blanket day,

  to hide their eyes and Heaven"s ray.

  Ash will fall as fire will rain,

  Delivering to one, insufferable pain.

  Flames will roar and spear the skies,

  Igniting the view to the water"s rise.

  A swell of death to deliver just one,

  Resurrecting that, pardoned by none.

  It"s a poem," I said.

  Steph nodded. „Cheery, isn"t it? And rhymey."

  „Is that weird? I mean, should it rhyme like this if it"s translated from another language?"

  She looked at me strangely. „Yes, it"s weird. It"s all weird and I"m seriously concerned that this is your first question, but when did any of this stuff really make sense? I think from the way it"s designed it would translated to some kind of synchronicity and rhyme in any language. But, personally, I would have started with the “Fire will rain” and “insufferable pain" parts."

  „Is the other one the same?" I asked, the translated words now churning in my stomach.

  „Similar, I think. The code"s slightly different but I reckon I have it mostly figured out."

  Steph and I theorised unsuccessfully for hours, stopping only to make toasted sandwiches for dinner and to occasionally reach over for a scoop of melted mint-choc-chip ice cream. I was surprised that once she showed me how to work out the code, I wasn"t altogether useless and actually managed to decipher some of the words myself.

  By the end of the night we had translated the first line of the second text.

  At the southernmost point, the island hides a gate.

  Which could mean a number of things.

  After Steph had left, I went to kitchen to make another coffee. I wasn"t ready to sleep yet.

  Dad was in his room, probably still working, avoiding me. I went to my studio, closed the door and did another caffeine-charged workout, stopping only to open the window and push out my senses. There were no exiles nearby tonight.

  Unfortunately, it wasn"t consoling. Merely another reminder that Phoenix already had what he wanted. By not sending exiles after me, he was sending a smug message.

  Probably laughing, wherever he was.

  My only hope was that it might take him some time to translate the Scripture too and, knowing Phoenix, he wouldn"t trust the content to many, if anyone - so that could help as well.

  Yeah, that"s me - finding the bright side.

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  „You withered in the heart, no peace shall be to you!"

  Book of Enoch 6:5

  I didn"t sleep well. I couldn"t get everything out of my head long enough to unwind. The few times I drifted off, I"d woken with a start seemingly moment later. It was Saturday - girls my age were supposed to be at the mall, catching a movie, at worst studying. My life would never be like that again.

  Maybe … it never really has been.

  Despite the early hour, I didn"t expect to find Dad sitting at the breakfast bar. That is, until I remembered I seemed to be dealing with a whole new breed of parent. One I couldn"t predict at all.

  I could tell by the tie he wore that he was headed for the office. He probably had meetings planned. Dad didn"t see weekends as any different from weekends where work was concerned. I imagined two whole days in every week without work to concentrate on would be comparable to a death sentence for him.

  „Morning," I said, rubbing my eyes. I was angry with him, for choosing now, of all times, to start pushing into my life. I wanted to tell him to back off, outline that he couldn"t start playing the hands-on Dad role after relinquishing the position for the first seventeen years of my life, but … I needed out today, I couldn"t hack another day without proper training.

  „Morning, sweetheart," he said, taking a bite of his burnt toast.

  I decided to keep peace. „I .. um, I have a workout session planned today with my friend, Spence." I swallowed my stubbornness and kept my tone free of challenge. „If that"s okay with you?" I could barely look at him as I forced out the words.

  Dad"s mouth fell opened. Any other time it might have been comical. But I didn"t smile. I worried. There was a possibility that I was opening a door I might not easily close again.

  „Be home by six."

  I nodded, grabbing my bag. I had a lot to get done between now and then.

  „I mean it, Vi. I don"t want to have to review the grounding restrictions. But I will."

  Hell, he"s really getting the hang of this stuff. He"s already advanced into threat territory.

  -

  I jogged towards Lincoln"s place, stopping when my phone rang.

  „Hi, Griff," I said, seeing his caller ID. „it"s early for you. What"s wrong?"

  „Where are you?"

  „On my way to meet Spence," I said, sounding relieved as I felt to be out of the Eden Penitentiary, I picked up my pace again to a light jog, wanting to keep moving as well as stay warm.

  „Can you stop by the hospital on the way?"

  „Sure." It wasn"t much of a detour. „Why are you there?"

  „Checking in on Onyx."

  „Oh, of course. See you there."

  I"d planned on dropping in on Onyx today anyway. I hadn"t seen him since he was admitted and I knew I couldn"t put it off any longer. The problem was - I wasn"t sure what I was going to say to him.

  I called Spence, who sounded like he"d forgotten we were training this morning, and put him off for a couple of hours. I could hear him pressing buttons in the background. He"d probably still be on the PlayStation when I got there.

  I made it to the hospital quickly and as I headed for the recovery ward my anxiety intensified. I didn"t know what to expect when I saw Onyx. How bad he would look or what I would say.

  Will he remember what he said to me? Do I want him to?"

  Our relationship had changed and I had no idea what type of Onyx would be on the other side of the door.

  I backed up a step, and considered waiting for Griffin outside. But before I had chance to do an about-turn, the door swung open and Griffin stood there, phone in hand.

  „I was just about to call you again."

  I half smiled. „No need."

  Beyond him, I could see Onyx lying in a bed, watching us. The unsure look in his eye, as if deliberating whether he wanted me to come in or not, disappeared quickly.

  „Oh, superb," he said, sarcastically. „Here she is. It"s supposed to be meals-on-wheels not death-in-a-breath. You could"ve at least given me a chance to recover before you brought her in. Hell knows how many exiles are on her trail today!"

  He flung his head back on the pillow and I couldn"t help but smile. Apparently, some things didn"t change. Not completely, anyway. I took another step into the room.

  „If you insist on coming in at least have them increase the morphine - I"ll need to get through the visit," he said, lacking his customary bite and his voice catching on the last words as true pain flared.

  Onyx looked beaten up, his porcelain skin now antique yellow and his usually dark eyes appeared faded and rimmed in red instead of his signature kohl eyeliner. He had bruises covering most of his face and from his rigid position I guessed his torso was bandaged tightly.

  „I"m sorry you were hurt. I … I heard you fought them." I hadn"t meant to stumble on the words, but I was still struggling a bit with the concept of „Onyx the Protector".
r />
  He chuckled, sardonically. „Are you insane?"

  An insane comment, coming from him.

  „Of course I didn"t fight tem! I just got in their way for a moment and not by choice. If I could"ve run - I would"ve."

  I shrugged, unconvinced. „Either way, I"m glad you"re okay."

  He looked mast me, towards the bare wall.

  „Violet, we need to talk," Griffin said, glancing at the door.

  I nodded but had a thought.

  „Steph translated the first of the texts in the Scripture last night."

  I focused my attention on Onyx. He tried to hide his interest, but his head jerked up and then suddenly stilled.

  Like candy to a kid.

  Griffin shook his head. „That girl is incredible. She has done what every senior Grigori at the Academy has been trying to do since we first got hold of the text. Amazing," he marvelled.

  I pulled the piece of paper from my bag and gave it to Griffin, sharing a quick look with him I hoped he"d understand.

  „Onyx," I began, „do you think you might be able to help us figure it out?"

  I knew I was taking a chance. And from Griffin"s face I didn"t know if he was going to allow it anyway, but, despite what Onyx thought of us, I was pretty sure he"d know something that could help.

  Onyx harrumphed, but it did little to his intrigue.

  Griffin studied to paper and took a step towards Onyx"s bed, reciting the poem.

  „”Awaken Tartarus and blanket day, to hide their eyes and Heaven"s ray.”"

  „The sun," Onyx said.

  Griffin nodded in agreement. „”Ash will fall as fire will rain, delivering to one, insufferable pain.”"

  Onyx was silent.

  Griffin went on. „”Flames will roar and spear the skies, igniting the view to the water"s rise. A swell of death to deliver just one, resurrecting that, pardoned by none.”"

  „Well, the end is obvious," Griffin said. „”Pardoned by none” - is the damned."

  „Lilith," I said, her name sticking out like a splinter in my throat.

  Onyx nodded, then grimaced. „Not only her, though. It can mean anyone. There"ll have to be a way of selecting her."

 
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