Happy Thursday, readers!
There are now just 18 days until Fire in the Blood comes out! Tick tock! Just like with The Adversary, i’m pleased to present to you a series of excerpts to get you ready for the big show. This time, instead of introducing you to the characters, I’m going to introduce you to what’s happening. (If you missed last week’s, find it here.)
This one’s a peek into the troubles with Asmodeus. You might remember in The Adversary, Farideh discovers that she’s one of the Chosen of Asmodeus, which leads her to worry that Havilar might be too. If you guessed she was right, have a gold star! But their powers aren’t quite the same…
The air behind her popped. Havilar spun, dagger in hand, and there were the two imps, hanging in the air, watching her.
Glaive on the ground, she thought. She swiped at the nearer one with her dagger. Get it back before—
“No, no, no!” the little red devil said, flapping out of her reach. “None of that!”
“Broken planes, Lady,” the other said. “You’re going to clear the Hells out of imps if you keep this up.”
“I will!” Havilar snatched up her glaive. “Don’t think I can’t.”
The imps looked at each other. “You’re an odd one,” the second imp said. “Didn’t anyone tell you? Put the weapon down.” Havilar did not, but she didn’t swing as the imps landed on the forest floor, well out of her reach, their stinger-laden tails curled over them, as though they were curious cats.
“I’m Dembo,” the second imp said. “That’s Mot.”
“If you’re going to try and kill me like you killed Crake,” Havilar said, “you won’t find it easy.”
The imps traded glances again. Mot shrugged. “What’s a Crake?” he asked Havilar.
“The man who died when you came before,” Havilar said. “Did you put a spell on him or something?”
“We didn’t kill anyone,” Dembo said. “We weren’t even here until just now.”
“Those were other imps,” Mot said. “You sent them back. They won’t be coming around for a while.”
Havilar pulled her glaive nearer. “So what do you want?”
“No, no, no,” Dembo said. “The question is what do you want?”
“We’re here to do your bidding, Lady,” Mot said. It made a florid little bow. “By His Majesty’s grace.”
Havilar’s stomach twisted and her heart started to pound. “I don’t need anything you can help me with.”
Dembo folded his arms. “Contrary to what some people may have told you, we are excellent at helping.”
“And when we’re not,” Mot said, “we are excellent at finding someone who can.”
Dembo looked over at him. “Well, mostly. I mean, there’s limits.”
“But we know people,” Mot assured her. “We’re very important.”
Havilar looked from one to the other. “I’m not evil,” she almost shouted. “I don’t need help with devil things.”
Mot snorted. “Who said evil?”
“We don’t pick what you ask for,” Dembo said. “You order, we act. That’s the deal. You want us to pick mushrooms, we can pick mushrooms.”
“The sky’s the limit!” Mot declared.
“Well, no,” Dembo said. “You can’t have the sky. But what else do you need?” Havilar hesitated, thoughts whirling. She wanted to tell them there was nothing desperate enough to require a devil’s help, nothing she couldn’t fix on her own. She knew whatever she asked for might be twisted into something evil if she asked all wrong.
But then she thought of Brin’s drawn expression, the repeated assertions that she didn’t understand.
“I need to find someone,” she said. “Someone magic can’t even find.”
“Well, that’s no surprise,” Dembo said. “This place’s magic is more churned up than the rulership of the Sixth Layer.” Mot tittered, and it set Havilar’s teeth on edge.
“That’s what I need,” she said. “Can you do that?” The imps considered each other, murmuring in soft Infernal, which made Havilar’s skin crawl.
“Hang on.” Dembo vanished with a pop. Mot sat down on his haunches and grinned up at her.
“Are we doing all right,” he asked, “would you say?”
Havilar frowned. “You haven’t done anything yet.”