Home > House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)(2)

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)(2)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

Danika scowled, the angular planes of her face scrunching. “I had to break up a fight between a satyr and a nightstalker.” She bared her white teeth at the black substance crusting her hands. “Guess which one spewed its juices onto me.”

Bryce snorted and gestured to the archives door. “Shower’s yours. There are some clean clothes in the bottom drawer of the desk down there.”

Danika’s filthy fingers began pulling the handle of the archives door. Her jaw tightened, the older tattoo on her neck—the horned, grinning wolf that served as the sigil for the Pack of Devils—rippling with tension.

Not from the effort, Bryce realized as she noted Danika’s stiff back. Bryce glanced to the supply closet, which Danika had not bothered to shut. The sword, famed both in this city and far beyond it, leaned against the push broom and mop, its ancient leather scabbard nearly obscured by the full container of gasoline used to fuel the electric generator out back.

Bryce had always wondered why Jesiba bothered with an old-fashioned generator—until the citywide firstlight outage last week. When the power had failed, only the generator had kept the mechanical locks in place during the looting that followed, when creeps had rushed in from the Meat Market, bombarding the gallery’s front door with counterspells to break through the enchantments.

But—Danika ditching the sword in the office. Danika needing to take a shower. Her stiff back.

Bryce asked, “You’ve got a meeting with the City Heads?”

In the five years since they’d met as freshmen at Crescent City University, Bryce could count on one hand the number of times Danika had been called in for a meeting with the seven people important enough to merit a shower and change of clothes. Even while delivering reports to Danika’s grandfather, the Prime of the Valbaran wolves, and to Sabine, her mother, Danika usually wore that leather jacket, jeans, and whatever vintage band T-shirt wasn’t dirty.

Of course, it pissed off Sabine to no end, but everything about Danika—and Bryce—pissed off the Alpha of the Scythe Moon Pack, chief among the shifter units in the city’s Auxiliary.

It didn’t matter that Sabine was the Prime Apparent of the Valbaran wolves and had been her aging father’s heir for centuries, or that Danika was officially second in line to the title. Not when whispers had swirled for years that Danika should be tapped to be the Prime Apparent, bypassing her mother. Not when the old wolf had given his granddaughter their family’s heirloom sword after centuries of promising it to Sabine only upon his death. The blade had called to Danika on her eighteenth birthday like a howl on a moonlit night, the Prime had said to explain his unexpected decision.

Sabine had never forgotten that humiliation. Especially when Danika carried the blade nearly everywhere—especially in front of her mother.

Danika paused in the gaping archway, atop the green carpeted steps that led down to the archives beneath the gallery—where the true treasure in this place lay, guarded by Lehabah day and night. It was the real reason why Danika, who’d been a history major at CCU, liked to drop by so often, just to browse the ancient art and books, despite Bryce’s teasing about her reading habits.

Danika turned, her caramel eyes shuttered. “Philip Briggs is being released today.”

Bryce started. “What?”

“They’re letting him go on some gods-damned technicality. Someone fucked up the paperwork. We’re getting the full update in the meeting.” She clenched her slim jaw, the glow from the firstlights in the glass sconces along the stairwell bouncing off her dirty hair. “It’s so fucked up.”

Bryce’s stomach churned. The human rebellion remained confined to the northern reaches of Pangera, the sprawling territory across the Haldren Sea, but Philip Briggs had done his best to bring it over to Valbara. “You and the pack busted him right in his little rebel bomb lab, though.”

Danika tapped her booted foot on the green carpet. “Bureaucratic fucking nonsense.”

“He was going to blow up a club. You literally found his blueprints for blowing up the White Raven.” As one of the most popular nightclubs in the city, the loss of life would have been catastrophic. Briggs’s previous bombings had been smaller, but no less deadly, all designed to trigger a war between the humans and Vanir to match the one raging in Pangera’s colder climes. Briggs made no secret of his goal: a global conflict that would cost the lives of millions on either side. Lives that were expendable if it meant a possibility for humans to overthrow those who oppressed them—the magically gifted and long-lived Vanir and, above them, the Asteri, who ruled the planet Midgard from the Eternal City in Pangera.

But Danika and the Pack of Devils had stopped the plot. She’d busted Briggs and his top supporters, all part of the Keres rebels, and spared innocents from their brand of fanaticism.

As one of the most elite shifter units in Crescent City’s Auxiliary, the Pack of Devils patrolled the Old Square, making sure drunken, handsy tourists didn’t become drunken, dead tourists when they approached the wrong person. Making sure the bars and cafés and music halls and shops stayed safe from whatever lowlife had crawled into town that day. And making sure people like Briggs were in prison.

The 33rd Imperial Legion claimed to do the same, but the angels who made up the fabled ranks of the Governor’s personal army just glowered and promised Hel if challenged.

“Believe me,” Danika said, stomping down the stairs, “I’m going to make it perfectly fucking clear in this meeting that Briggs’s release is unacceptable.”

She would. Even if Danika had to snarl in Micah Domitus’s face, she’d get her point across. There weren’t many who’d dare piss off the Archangel of Crescent City, but Danika wouldn’t hesitate. And given that all seven Heads of the City would be at this meeting, the odds of that happening were high. Things tended to escalate swiftly when they were in one room. There was little love lost between the six lower Heads in Crescent City, the metropolis formally known as Lunathion. Each Head controlled a specific part of the city: the Prime of the wolves in Moonwood, the Fae Autumn King in Five Roses, the Under-King in the Bone Quarter, the Viper Queen in the Meat Market, the Oracle in the Old Square, and the River Queen—who very rarely made an appearance—representing the House of Many Waters and her Blue Court far beneath the Istros River’s turquoise surface. She seldom deigned to leave it.

The humans in Asphodel Meadows had no Head. No seat at the table. Philip Briggs had found more than a few sympathizers because of it.

But Micah, Head of the Central Business District, ruled over them all. Beyond his city titles, he was Archangel of Valbara. Ruler of this entire fucking territory, and answerable only to the six Asteri in the Eternal City, the capital and beating heart of Pangera. Of the entire planet of Midgard. If anyone could keep Briggs in prison, it would be him.

Danika reached the bottom of the stairs, so far below that she was cut off from sight by the slope of the ceiling. Bryce lingered in the archway, listening as Danika said, “Hey, Syrinx.” A little yip of delight from the thirty-pound chimera rose up the stairs.

Jesiba had purchased the Lower creature two months ago, to Bryce’s delight. He is not a pet, Jesiba had warned her. He’s an expensive, rare creature bought for the sole purpose of assisting Lehabah in guarding these books. Do not interfere with his duties.

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