Chapter 20

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The air crackled. Power emanated from the mirror.

Lilith stood her ground. She shook with unrestrained anger. Her features, which until recently had at least been beautiful when she was at repose, had grown repugnant with her unfettered lust for power and retribution.

She swayed on her feet, concentrating on the pain Daeva inflicted, willing herself to rise above the mere physical. To her sides knelt Sally and Janine, both of whom had sworn their loyalty to Daeva at her bidding.

Sally rocked to and fro, as waves of heat pelted down upon her. Smoke rose from her clothing.

Janine clutched at her throat, agonizing over each breath, her eyes wide in terror.

"You'll kill them!" Lilith cried.

"They should be sssso lucky." Daeva's visage pulsed with power. "How could you have failed me again?" His voice caused the floor to shake and pictures on the wall to rattle.

Lilith stood firm. "There was nothing I could do. Daeva, stop."

"Why, you pompoussss little she-devil."

"Daeva," she pleaded, "I've done all you've asked. I'm bringing others to you. Look! I brought my sisters. They've sworn to serve you faithfully. And I'll find the infant. I will!"

He pulled back on his power as Lilith gasped for air. Clearly, he loved to see her squirm and whimper, to beg for his mercy—and he with no mercy to extend.

"But you allowed Dixon to esssscape. This is twicccce now you have had the child nearly within your grassssp, only to losssse your chance due to—ineptitude. Ah Lilith, my pet, what am I to do with you?" He shook his head. Red eyes punctuated his black skull. They seared into Lilith.

"Daeva," she cried, "I'll find her! I will. No one wants her more than I!"

"Well now, that is where you are wrong."

"I will find her," she repeated. She fell to her knees. She grasped her collar and pulled it loose in an attempt to get more air. She feared she would suffocate.

"How did Dixxxxon escape? I am beginning to think, my dear one, that you fanccccy him—that you never intended to do what you had to do to get the information from him that we require." He scowled. "Oh, you are sssso dissssappointing."

The room smelled of old smoke and sulfur. It made Lilith cough. "I don't know how he escaped," she said, "but I know he had outside help."

"Who?"

"I don't know. I'd never seen her before."

"Her?"

"Yes, 'her!'"

His eyes narrowed. "You're telling truth."

"Yes!"

"How did she get to him?"

Lilith shook her head. "I don't know."

"When did you last see Dixon?"

"Moments before he vanished."

"You ssssay this woman helped him. Was she with him when he—vanished—as you ssssay?"

"There were two people with him: Adele, a palace servant, and the woman I didn't recognize."

"Did you get a good look?"

"Fairly good."

Sally's dress burst into flames. Quickly, she grabbed a nearby shawl, wrapped it around herself, and then rolled, screaming all the while.

"So what, Lilith, my chossssen, do you intend to do about thissss?"

She glared at him. "Before or after I kill them all?"

He laughed. The eerie, grating sound made the hair on her arms rise. "That issss the sssspirit. Perhapssss I was wrong about you. You might go far, after all. But I think it is time to call in the reservessss." He pulled back on his power.

The three sisters all gasped for air. They panted and heaved.

"What are you talking about?" Sally asked after catching her breath.

His eyes pulsed with heat. "You know Zarek, do you not? The emperor of Chiran?"

The women stared at Daeva. Of course they knew Zarek. Lilith was particularly familiar, having spent time with him a few years back.

"What of him?" Janine asked, her voice trembling.

"Like you, Zarek serves me. Perhaps it issss time you worked with him more directly. With his help, the army you will need will be available to you immediately." He looked at Lilith. "I take it you have a plan," he badgered.

"Oh, I have a plan."

"Pray tell, Lilith, what issss this grand plan of yours?" His voice dripped with ridicule.

"I plan to kill her."

"Yessss, sssso you ssssay. Had you rid yourself of Rowena before she released her power, you would have cut her line off at that point. But now, you musssst get to her child. You must sever that line of descent—and you know how. Yet the infant continues to esssscape your grassssp. You must do better than merely dessssire to kill the child. Oh, I admit, desire is a good start. But, Lilith, how will you see this plan to fruition?"

She pulled herself back to her feet and stood tall, then stared Daeva in the eyes. "If I can't find the single child I seek, then I'll kill them all," she said.

Sally gasped. "Lilith!"

Daeva grinned. "Yessss, you really are a woman after my own heart after all. I like it. Zarek will be of great assssistancccce to you. I'll ssssee that he lendssss you aid assss quickly assss possssible. Sssso, Lilith, when do you hope to put this plan in placccce?"

She sneered. "Is yesterday soon enough?"

Slowly, Daeva's visage dissipated, leaving behind only the sound of his cackling laughter, bouncing and echoing off the walls.


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Oathtaker is an award-winner in the 2014 Readers' Favorite International Book Award contest. A completed work, it is currently available in print form at CreateSpace at createspace.com/4767727, in print and for your Kindle on Amazon (see the link) and from Barnes and Noble for your Nook.

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