32 | Witch Hunt

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On the morning after the attack on headquarters, Lu had never heard the Volkari camp so quiet. The night before, however, had featured a bacchanal worthy of the reveling god himself.

Despite the deaths of several comrades, the pack celebrated its victory with dedication. Lu had glimpsed only a few people weeping for their lost fathers, mothers, or partners, but the fact that these men and women had died in battle somehow gave them solace. It hadn't been in vain.

Though she'd been trapped inside the trailer, she'd received news from Tatiana about their success. Asteroth now hung from the demon-witch's neck as if it had returned home from a long and harrowing journey. Admittedly, Lu had doubted the wolves' ability to perform the task, until she learned that there had been another agenda as well.

A Minister had never been assassinated before. Attempts had been made, of course, but none were successful, thanks to keepers of the Vigil. Perhaps it was hubris that now made it possible. Whatever the reason, Lu hoped that the community would start taking the Volkari more seriously.

She'd wanted to speak to Dante about it, but he hadn't made an appearance since she healed his wounds. Had he known about the plan to assassinate Laguna? Could she trust him?

No, probably not, and she never would. Something about him just didn't sit right with her.

While the party raged, and then died, Lu endured more of Tatiana's magic lessons. Together, they sat on the floor inside the mobile home and practiced spells for the ritual. At some point during the exercise, the dark power flowing through the moonstone ring reached out and touched her, its steel claws grating against her bones.

With a jolt, she ripped the pale blue gem off her finger and exclaimed, "What was that?"

Tatiana chuckled and picked up the ring. "That meant it was working. You're almost ready."

"It felt...wrong." She tried and failed to conceal a shudder.

"Of course. It's dark magic. What did you expect?"

Lu shook her head. "I just want this to be over."

"You'll have your wish soon."

Unable to peel her eyes off the moonstone ring, she asked, "What's the purpose of talismans?"

"Magic is a living thing; it needs a place to reside," Tatiana said. "But not all physical objects are capable of containing it. Materials like hekatolith and kresolith are strong enough, and it naturally dwells within the elements and Daemonstri. Humans, however, are incompatible."

Lu frowned. "I thought Serafi were the only race that could wield magic."

"Yes, that's true. As witches, we can shape it, access it in ways others cannot. But Nefili, Volkari, and Inferni can sometimes act as...vessels. Even when they're dead."

Lu glanced at the pendant dangling from Tatiana's neck. "So that's how the magic inside Asteroth can possess people."

Tatiana cocked a brow, probably wondering how she knew about that. It was simple—the wolves gossiped, and Lu listened.

"Sort of," said the demon-witch. "Asteroth isn't made of pure magic."

"Then what is it?"

"He," she growled.

"It—he—is a...man?"

Tatiana got to her feet. "Keep working on the first spell. I'll be back soon to check on your progress."

"Wait—"

Before she could even stand up, Tatiana was speeding out of the trailer and slamming the door shut. Lu stared at it in silence, considering what she'd just learned.

During her time with the Volkari, something had troubled her to no end: What did Tatiana want?

She wasn't affected by the moon curse herself, and she had no admiration for the wolves. In fact, her sole concern was that damned necklace, as if she couldn't live without it.

Lu had come to the conclusion that Alpha Capello bargained with her—an exchange of services, perhaps. Which begged the question, what could the demon-witch possibly want from him? From any of this?

But maybe he hadn't offered anything. Maybe Tatiana had her own agenda. And Asteroth must have been a part of it.

Lu glanced at the leather-bound journal before her. From what Tatiana had revealed about her past, she knew Konstantin. He'd even fallen in love with her. If Lu would learn anything more about her, Konstantin the Keeper would provide the truth.

So she flipped through the loose pages of spells that Tatiana had provided her, finding one that would translate the journal's ancient Romanian. Then she lit a candle, chanted the words, and started reading.

An hour later, when she'd finished all of Konstantin's diary entries, she sucked in a breath and whispered, "I have to warn Nika."

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