28. The Site of Our Brotherly Implosion

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"It's the girl with Xerxes from before. She completely lost it."

"She went for Alikhan?" I pressed.

Zoltán shook his head. "She went for the palace. I think she's trying to set the whole thing on fire."

She was bringing us all into the fire and seeing which one Ihirtoii chose, completely absolving herself of responsibility. Plain and fragile. That had been my first impression of Effat, back before I knew who she was. And maybe she was those things. But she was also mad and brilliant. I'd created a monster. If the palace collapsed to the ground in flames, it would be my fault.

"Where is she now?" I couldn't pinpoint her energy among all the chaos.

"She's protected by a wave of green fire everywhere she goes."

"And Xerxes?"

"Xerxes is trying to find her."

Assadt.

I doubted that Hakan had ever met Effat and that Alikhan even cared, meaning that we were the only ones who could sense her. Meaning that I was really the only one who could sense her.

Malik walked on, leaving Zoltán and I grasping for something behind him. It would not be Effat he was looking for.

"Kiot!" Zoltán cursed next to me, squeezing his hand as tightly as he shut his eyes.

It was as good of a time as any.

"Hakan." Zoltán's eyes darted up at my voice. "Takehiko won't go with Alikhan anymore, and I doubt Xerxes will either."

"Why?"

"Does it matter? For now, take Kağan and get some servants to put this thing out."

Zoltán huffed and opened his mouth to argue, but I cut him off. "Unless you can find her?" Zoltán closed his mouth. "It needs to be done."

I walked on to find Effat.

Inside, it didn't seem nearly as bad as Zoltán had led me to believe, at least, not immediately. Malik and Mila were nowhere to be seen, headed for the upper level of the palace where both Hakan and Alikhan's energies resonated. I doubted any one of their concerns were even remotely centered of Effat or that Malik had concerns at all.

Aside from the hectic evacuation, the palace felt still. No smoke. No vibrations from falling stone. Just the eerie, ghostly quietness of a once-crowded place that was nearly empty. The sensation reminded me all too much of Ashbah.

What had I done?

The increasing quiet as people fled out and I wandered deeper into the palace, at least, gave me the head space to search for Effat's energy. According to the servant man, the North Wing - where she'd been housed - had collapsed first, so she'd probably started there. Still, 'collapsed' was a vague term. The North Wing had several levels, several levels that were well reinforced, that had stood for centuries. I couldn't imagine that, after all this time, they would collapse for her. At most, the ceilings of the servant's quarters caved in, which alarmed the other quarters. Collapsed or not, Effat's energy was not in the North Wing.

Assadt! I forgot! If the servant's quarters had collapsed, where were Yasmin and Hakan's daughters?!

I found Yasmin's biting sting of an energy quickly, before my heart rate even had a chance to accelerate. She was in the West Wing, in Hakan's chambers, surrounded by two other faint energies - Hakan's daughters. Whoever the old servant woman had been, she was gone, along with both of Hakan's wives. Mirza had told me they were in Hakan's chambers. Perhaps he'd been mistaken.

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