Twenty minutes after they had left the police station, Leah saw the small park in a suburban neighborhood coming up. One block away, and she stopped the car. The park was the location Ana had given her, at the opposite end of town. Where they were supposed to pick her up.
Except for the fact that it hadn’t been Ana who had sent her those messages. The thought still felt foreign and wrong. They got out of the car, and Marius wove an incantation of protection around them. It was a strong one, too. This was serious. This was real.
Leah swallowed, looking at the Warrior Mages of the Order, waiting for them to tell her how to proceed, waiting for a plan of attack. “We sure we don’t just kill her?” Dimitri asked. “Would be easier.”
“Josiah was clear,” Marius said gravely. “Only if we have to.”
Leah felt sick.
“Okay,” Dimitri said. “Leah is bait, yes?”
“She won’t be alone. It’s a trap. Herald probably with her,” Dimitri said without raising his voice or even showing any other form of concern. Marius looked at Leah, laying his hand upon her shoulder.
“She expects you to be coming alone. This is a blessing in disguise. We can catch her off guard. But if she sees the three of us before she’s close, we lose the moment of surprise.”
Leah shook her head. No! No! They couldn’t seriously expect her to—
“Leah,” Marius said gravely. “You have to do this. We are going to wait in hiding, until the Herald reveals herself. You need to—“
“They’ll kill me!” she screeched.
“We’ll be there in time.” Dimitri said.
“You don’t know that!” Leah said, incredulous. “What if you’re wrong?!”“
“Listen to me, Leah,” Marius said calmly. “We have to do this. This is our one chance to nip this in the bud. This was Josiah’s plan: We draw the demons from the sanctum while he destroys it. We can end this, now. But only if we’re strong and if we’re willing to risk our lives. You knew this. You always knew this. If we die doing this, we will still have won, and saved the world. Our lives mean nothing compared to that.”
Leah took a rasping breath. She looked around her. There were stately elm trees growing along the road, with their gold and red leaves softly whispering in the fall breeze. The air was chill, but not cold, and the sky had cleared. The world looked way too peaceful for these terrible things to be happening.
Ana sat leaned against the side of a park bench, her ass in the wet gravel. She could tell that her ankle hurt, but pain had lost all meaning now that she was glorious willing flesh. Looking down, she could see blood dripping from the gash in her heel. For a moment she worried that the darker tint of her corrupted blood would give her away, but then she realized that it wouldn’t matter. Even if Leah noticed it right away, it would be too late. Sam and Mina would already have pounced.
So she waited, alone with the never-ending thoughts of violence, revenge and sex that the Mother had awakened in her. She was badly tempted to stick her hand between her legs and push into the dark desire through the Ana-costume she was wearing. But her task was more important.
She glanced at the corners of the park, where autumnal trees and brambles cast shadows on the musty-smelling earth. Golden leaves coated the grass in wet clusters. She could perceive the Heralds as they waited, like shimmering mirages. The illusory cloaks she had cast on them would break the instant they moved. Her exhausted arcane power hadn’t been sufficient to do any more than that. But it would be enough. They were Heralds. The Mother’s Gift gave them speed and strength that surpassed those of mere mortals. The fact that Ana had been able to kill any flesh-servants had been owed to both luck and the moment of surprise.
The moment of surprise was on the Mother’s side now. On the correct side. Fuck, yes. It was so fucking good to be Her servant and Her willing flesh! Leah wouldn’t stand a chance. Ana couldn’t wait to see her die and be reborn.
As she looked at the almost imperceptible mirage of the Heralds, she felt a subtle shift in the resonance that owned her, and along with it, a movement. At the end of the path that crossed the park, entering through dense hedges, someone was approaching. It was Leah, jogging towards her. Sister Leah. The sight made Ana’s pussy itch with anticipation. She watched her approach, her lips suddenly dry. Yes. Come closer, little whore, she thought.
But suddenly, she could sense that something was wrong from the way Leah carried herself. But not just from that. Beyond the trees and the houses, where the sanctum lay, she could feel the Mother’s resonance surge and buckle like a spooked horse, and the shock of it rippled across her like an icy gust of wind. It was as if the balance of the world had suddenly shifted. The air seemed emptier and less rich, and her lungs felt tight and cold, and her blood seemed to curdle in her veins. Her head swam with the sudden disorientation and nausea. Something was wrong. Everything was wrong. The resonance... what was happening?
Something was shifting. Something had changed. Plans. Circumstances. Something that Ana was suddenly too dizzy and disoriented to feel the reason for. Her blood… it was… weakening. She glanced over where the Heralds had lain in waiting, and they were gone. A great surge of aimless anger and fear came over her, and she could feel her blood sloshing as the filthy Healer still approached her. The Heralds had been supposed to overwhelm her and hold her down so that she could be claimed! Leah had to become willing flesh! Leah had to serve, like Ana did! Leah had to… she had to...
What had just happened? Had something happened?
She couldn’t remember what she’d just been thinking. In fact, she couldn’t remember much since she had killed the last of the grotesque centipede-like demons that Lilith had vomited into this world.
What had happened? She had called for help so many times, and no one had answered her. Not until it had been too late. She’d been all alone, barely surviving, until she had finally overcome the last creature. She must have used the very last of her strength to get here. She could hardly even remember it. It was all just a painful blur. Her whole body was aching and cold.
She must have passed out in exhaustion.
She shuddered as the memories returned. All of this, and she had still failed. Josiah had told her. A Herald had been awakened. Suddenly, she felt cold and scared, and deeply, deeply helpless. She hated it.
Leah had come to help her, and she felt ashamed. Ashamed to have failed. Ashamed to need to be helped like this. She hated needing others like she hated the screaming pain in her foot. But here she was. She would have to just take it like the bitch they all seemed to think she was. Take it and put up a dignified little smile.
She was part of the Order, after all.
“Leah,” she said, and suddenly the pain in the back of her foot was overwhelming. She screamed in agony. Fucking help, me, goddammit! she thought, groaning. She wanted to scream and curse and spit at Leah.
“Thank God you’re here,” she said instead. Some part of her realized that she should be grateful and glad to see her friend, but inside she only felt distaste and humiliation.
She didn’t show it. She knew not to show it.
Leah finally reached her, and there was something odd about her. Ana had never been great at picking up on social cues, but the Healer definitely looked strangely concerned and antsy.
“Yeah,” Leah said, and Ana could see her glancing around the park, almost suspiciously. Ana rolled her eyes.
“I killed the demons, Leah, relax. We should be safe for now, even if I messed up the rest of my mission.”
Leah seemed to want to say something and then think better of it. Instead, she wordlessly inspected the torn ankle ligaments in Ana’s throbbing foot. “Just a cut,” Ana said flatly without making eye contact. “Shouldn’t be a problem for you.”
Ana sighed with frustration. “You know what happened! I killed the demons, but not before the last of them bit through my heel. This really hurts, can you please fix it?!”
But Leah still didn’t do anything. “What the Hell are you waiting for? It’s just a minor healing spell, isn’t it?” Suddenly, she felt her stomach drop with fear.“Oh God, is it the venom?! Oh God! I thought I was immune!”
To Ana’s surprise, Leah sprang to her feet. There were tears in her eyes. But even Ana could tell they weren’t tears of grief, but of rage. “What—”
“Oh cut the crap!” Leah said, voice quivering. “I can’t do this!”
Ana didn’t understand what was going on at all. “Leah, what—“
Ana was speechless for a moment, then she felt indignation and anger ignite in her chest like a puddle of gasoline that had been pooling and growing for hours and hours.
“A Demon?!” She shouted. The implication was just now beginning to sink in. “Is that what you think this is?! You think I’m one of them?! Why? Why would you ever fucking think that? I’ve killed them! I’ve killed them all!”
“Josiah said?! Oh, great! On what basis? Could he tell from a fucking phone call? Or was it because I didn’t meet his impossible expectations?!”
Leah stammered, looking caught off-guard. “What the fuck, Leah?!” Ana screamed. “How fucking dare you?! I’ve been here for hours, fighting, bleeding, almost dying for you, and I didn’t even know if or when the fuck you were finally going to arrive! I did my fucking best! I’m sooo fucking sorry that I didn’t save the world on my fucking own. Sooo sorry that I thought that being in a fucking Order would mean getting some fucking help!”
Leah looked at her like she was something nasty that she’d discovered on the sole of her slippers. In that Moment, Ana wanted to punch her, hurt her. A small part of her wondered where all that rage came from. She’d never had an outburst like this. She’d never felt this angry, especially not at Leah.
There was sudden movement behind her. Ana’s gaze darted around, and she could see Brother Marius and Brother Dimitri emerge from the bushes, cloaking charms dissipating. Ana’s throat tightened with more than anger. Were they going to fucking ambush me and stab me in the back?!
“There’s no one here,” Marius said. “She’s alone.”
“Of course I’m fucking alone!” Ana screamed. The three others looked at each other, looking indecisive. Ana wanted to scream some more, but instead she reached for the Amulet of Jordan around her neck. Dimitri and Marius took a half-step back and drew their blades, as if Ana had been about to draw her blade and attack them.
Oh, fuck you!
Ana carefully raised one hand in the air and used the other to slowly lift the amulet above her head. She couldn’t believe this. After all of this was done, she better get some sort of fucking apology. The amulet was almost completely dormant in her hand, but she could now feel the pull towards the east that she’d missed before. She swallowed down the burst of frustration, and instead tossed the amulet at the feet of her Brothers and Sister.
“Here, you take it. Obviously I’m no longer trusted with it. You can use it to confirm that I’m NOT A FUCKING DEMON!”
The Warriors eyed her suspiciously, then Brother Marius bowed down and palmed the amulet with his free hand.
“Maybe you want to strip me and check my body, too?!” Ana spat.
It took him five seconds to attune himself to the amulet and feel the resonance of the air; then his face deflated, and he sheathed his weapon. Dimitri followed his example.
“Oh my God,” Marius said. “I’m so sorry.”
Yeah, fuck you, she thought.
“Leah, heal her.”
Leah looked at Marius, and her face was a mess of tears. This time they seemed to be tears of joy, and regret. Ana still quietly hated her. But it probably would pass. She’d never been able to stay angry at Leah. But for now, she still was. Get on with it, she thought when Leah finally mended the cut. She definitely wasn’t feeling like herself. But then, she’d been through almost literal hell over the last day. It felt good to at least be rid of the pain. Brother Marius helped her up as Brother Dimitri stood watch.
When Ana was on her feet, Leah embraced her tightly, and Ana embraced her back out of a sense of obligation. She smelled faintly of airport coffee and her Curly hair was soft against Ana’s cheeks. Something warmed inside Ana. Something that she’d never really felt before, especially not around Leah.
She wanted to have her all to herself. To be all alone with her. To see her naked and vulnerable. She wanted to fuck her.
Somehow that didn’t seem strange at all.
“I’m so sorry,” Leah cried. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Ana said, placating her, but her mind was elsewhere. She’d spent her whole life chaste and abstinent, but now she couldn’t get the image of Leah’s naked flesh out of her head. She felt a hot quivering sensation between her own legs, and it felt unfamiliar and strangely foreign, far deeper and sharper than the suppressed whisper of an ache she might have felt in the past. It almost felt as if her whole lower body was saturated with the forbidden sensation of lust. It should feel strange and worrying. But it didn’t. It almost felt… familiar.
Ana ended the hug. Leah held onto her arms, looking at her as if Ana had returned from the dead. This was beginning to annoy Ana.
“This is relief,” Dimitri said. “You being Demon would have been bad. Good that Brother Josiah was wrong.”
Finally someone that got to the point.
“Shit!” Leah exclaimed suddenly, and they all looked at her. All color had drained from the Healer’s face.
“That means the Sanctum isn’t empty at all! And Brother Josiah is walking right into a trap!”
The corrupted blood in Sam’s veins was boiling at a thousand degrees, and the Mother’s resonance rang in her mind like out-of-tune bells. The sheer panic and rage was like nothing she had ever experienced before. The demonic power in her body tried to propel her forward, attempting to drag her out of her seat into the seatbelt. Her Anchors glowed red-hot.
The sanctum is too fucking far away! Why did we go so far, just to mask the resonance?! Fuck!!! It would take them at least a couple of minutes to get there. By then, anything could have happened!
Sam’s wild eyes glanced to her left, and she saw Mina grip the steering wheel with white knuckles, and her face was a twisted, malicious grimace of inhuman fury. At any other time, Sam would have marvelled at the wonderfully evil creature she’d become. But now, all her thoughts were falling into the gravity well of the Mother’s Call for help, and Sam’s heart was a flurry of hatred and fear. She could hear the angry screams of the Mother in her mind, and her very being was set on fire with the need to be there and kill and maim whoever and whatever had attacked them. The blood in her screamed with impotent fury.
They had been tricked. The Sanctum was under attack. The third Herald was vulnerable, and they had fucking abandoned her!
Jordan looked at nothing. Her mind was a wasteland of barren thought. The person she used to be lay scattered and strewn about in the endless void like the sand that had once been a mountain, which eons of erosion had carried off in the wind—all of it still there, but disconnected and formless and unrecognizable as what it once had been. She stood idly in the midst of the blood-smeared room, seeing nothing, feeling nothing, thinking nothing. The resonance in her blood was what ruled her, and it was a cyclone that had picked up and blown away her every thought, her every idea. When thoughts did cross her mind, they all followed the torrential winds of the tempest within her. Lust and purpose.
The Mother will rule all, she thought without understanding or questioning or remembering. My flesh is open. My body is hers. My soul is kindling. I must become one with the Mother. All must serve her. All must serve me. The thoughts spiralled through her empty mind without pause, without hesitation, and without recognition. She was utterly lost in the resonance of her Ancient Blood. She didn’t notice the walls, defiled with the blood of Heralds, marked with the unholy symbols of the Mother. She didn’t notice the dead body at her feet. She didn’t notice the wet patch in her panties nor did she notice that her nipple piercings had charred the fabric of her bra. And when the Mother had used her voice to speak to the Heralds and the flesh-servant that had been Ana, she hadn’t noticed that either.
The first thing she did notice was when there was a loud noise at the door, and heavy footsteps approaching. Her body turned around, possessed by her Ancient Blood, and she saw an old man, with short gray hair, wielding a long silver sword. Somehow his presence seemed to cut through the tempest in her mind. His aura was radiant and painful, like looking directly into the sun. She felt her blood welling and her mind turning red, and she was moving, attacking, trying to kill, trying to destroy.
There was blinding pain, and the eye of the storm collapsed, and the wind deafened her and the world imploded in an agonizing scream of noise and light—and she felt the resonance buck and rear and ripple out into the world, calling, screaming for help. The intruder laid his hand on her and she felt terrible coldness bite into her. For a moment it almost felt like she was being released, but the sensation was immediately swept aside by blinding pain. Suddenly, she was awake, and she screamed in agony.
“Quiet, harlot,” said the gruff voice of a man above her, but his words might as well have been silence. The pain was too much, and Jordan screamed until her breath ran out, and her voice trailed off into an exhausted groan. Somehow she managed not to scream again after she had drawn an agonizing breath. Instead, she tried to understand what the fuck was happening.
She was lying on the ground, flat on her back. The old man was standing above her, and in the first moment Jordan thought that he was dancing. But then she noticed the trails of light that followed his gesturing hands, and she could actually feel the magic in the air. It felt like nothing she’d ever felt. It was like she’d discovered a new axis in her sense of direction.
An intense spike in the constant pain made her groan. She felt like she’d been dropped from a ten-story building and had somehow survived. Everything hurt. What had even happened to her? Why was she hurting so bad?
She looked down at her body, and blinked at what she saw. There was a blissful moment of numb shock before the world flipped itself upside down, and vertigo almost made her throw up.
There was a sword embedded in her chest.
The panic inside of her exploded and went off-the-charts, then flipped over into terrible, horrible calmness. Nah. This can’t be what’s happening, she thought in a perfectly reasonable manner. That’s wrong. This can’t be right.
Of course not. Surely, she’d missed something. If this were actually true, that would mean that she was about to die—and that’s not something that was supposed to happen. Someone must have made a mistake. She closed her eyes to clear her head, because of course, she was seeing things that weren’t true. When she opened them again, everything would make sense.
She opened her eyes, and the sword was still there, sticking out of her chest in the same grotesque and completely impossible way. And suddenly, something inside her snapped back to its proper place—even if she knew that it meant nothing but pain and horror and despair. Her brain kicked into overdrive, and suddenly she remembered and realized everything that had happened.
“When I die, you’ll become corrupted!!!” she screamed, not even knowing if she was warning the man in order to help him or if she was bargaining for her life. A small part of her wondered just how she had instinctively managed to prioritize to say anything at all instead of descending into an overwhelmed mess of stuttering and screaming. With the million terrible things that she was beginning to understand, that would have seemed more likely. But somehow, in this terrible moment, her mind had instead snapped into some sort of cold, efficient survival mode.
“You won’t die until I will it,” said the man dismissively. “The sacred blades of the Order only kill if the wielder wants them to.” His gruff, laconic tone was like nails on chalkboard. Jordan’s heart raced with panicked urgency.
“That’s very convenient and all,” she said in a rush, biting through the pain and the fear and the panic, “But you need to listen to me right now—because the Heralds are on their way here!!!”
That seemed to give him pause. “They are close!” she said urgently. “I remember the mother inside my head. I felt them returning! They know you are here! We need to get out of here, right now!”
“The sanctum needs to be destroyed!” he said. Jordan shook her head, panic building in her chest. They had so little time! She needed to get as much information out as she could, as quickly she could! They had minutes.
“You know that you cleansed me—so you know that I’m not lying to you! They can just make another sanctum! But if we get away, we can make plans to stop them. I have been in the enemy’s head, let me help you! I want to end this!”
“You’re a Herald of the Enemy!”
“Against my will!!! Right now, I’m myself again, and I’m acting in my own interest! I don’t want my soul eaten!”
The man scoffed, lips twisting into a humorless smile. After a moment of hesitation, he took two steps towards her and ripped the sword out of her chest. Jordan screamed with blinding pain, then groaned as a sudden unnatural relief came over her. It was the strangest experience. She could feel the wound close as the sword withdrew—not healing, just clamping shut like a tight-lipped mouth. It felt raw and sore and itchy and deeply, deeply foreign, but the worst of the pain was gone in a heartbeat. The servant of the Order held out a hand, and she took it and let herself be pulled up off the floor. As she got to her feet, she felt a bout of dizziness, and for a short moment, she felt like she might slip and descend into blind panic. Things were happening too fast to take in. But she caught herself.
There was already another fucked-up thing that needed doing—and she did it before she could think about it and change her mind.
“Let’s go!!!” she said, and lifted her shirt and her bra above her tits, baring them. The fresh stab wound between them was red and smeared with blood. It was a grotesque sight that she had zero time to dwell on.
“What in the—“ the man said, but Jordan had already started running, and was well on her way out. She could hear him hurry after her as she paced for the exit, fidgeting with the tips of her naked tits. “I think my piercings are a marking of the Mother,” she said, as she hurriedly unscrewed the pins of the studs that went through her nipples. “Without them I will be less easy to control and to track.”
The man was following after her, brandishing his sword, eyes darting left and right. She had the first stud screwed open when they reached the door of the medical practice. She tossed it into the bushes, and undid the second one, throwing it after the first. Her nipples were aching, and it was quietly alarming just how wrong they felt without the mother’s anchors. It made her absolutely fucking certain that she’d just done the right thing. She put her bra and shirt back on.
The old man had caught up to her, giving her an unreadable look. Some tiny, ridiculous part of her still felt a pang of shame and anxiety about him having just seen her tits. But there were so much more important things that it was ridiculous to even think about that. The man opened his mouth to say something, but she was already continuing. “We need to be gone from here as quickly as possible—that way,” she said, pointing her outstretched Arm away from the direction she remembered the Herald’s presence resonating from. “Do you have a car? If not, we could steal some bikes maybe. Or just run as fast as we fucking can.”
“I have a car,” the man replied, wide-eyed. He looked equal parts harrowed and fascinated. He had a serious, hard face, like a strict teacher. His grey hair was cut very short, but his expansive widow’s peaks still showed clearly. He also wore half-moon glasses. The only thing about him that didn’t look academic was his sword. He hesitated, obviously weighing if he could trust Jordan, and if he should rather stay and fight.
“Come on!!!” she begged, and he blinked, and finally moved. He led Jordan toward a black sedan that looked like a rental car. The man didn’t say anything as they got in and buckled up. Jordan felt the blazing presence of the Mother’s Heralds throb at the back of her mind, like a branding iron inches from her face. She looked around herself, expecting to see the soulless eyes of Mina and Sam come crashing down on them. The old man pressed his foot down and the car lurched down the road, dangerously fast. Jordan looked over her shoulder, expecting to see the thing she dreaded. Another car—or the Heralds in the flesh, running with inhuman speed.
But she didn’t, and the man next to her was driving the car like he’d stolen it, having obviously taken Jordan’s words to heart. The medical practice shrunk away behind them, and the uncomfortable heat at the edge of Jordan’s perception waned and finally diminished into a quiet but noticeable background noise.
She let out a deep sigh of relief and looked to her left, at the man that had saved her—after he had stabbed her through the heart. He was focussed on the road. She took the opportunity to get more stuff off her chest.
“You should hold my hand whenever you can,” she said urgently. “That way you can feel it if I’m slipping back into the Mother’s thrall. It’s going to happen, sooner or later, unless you keep cleansing me over and over. I really don’t want it to happen.”
“Also—I’m trying to hold it together as best as I can, but I can’t promise I won’t crash and panic any second,” she said. “This is really fucked up. I had a normal life until yesterday. Shit! Right! More stuff you need to know: The two Heralds are Mina Park, police Detective and Samantha Collins, college roommate. There are no more demon-infestor-thingies alive, except for the ones that are growing inside of the two of them.”
It was so hard to remember these things. It was like picking up the conversation of your table-neighbors in a busy restaurant. But she was sure about the things she’d said. All the Mother’s Gifts were dead. She knew this.
“Who killed the demon-infested woman in the Sanctum?” the old man asked. He seemed to have gathered his wits, now that they had escaped from immediate danger, and now that Jordan had slowed down.
She took a deep breath. The next part was hard to get out.
“She was a sacrifice,” Jordan said, dimly remembering the disgusting ritual Mina and Sam had performed on the flesh-servant Katie.
“To establish the sanctum.”
“You said they could easily make a new one. But they have no more demonic servants to sacrifice.
“It doesn’t require demonic servants“, Jordan said, hating the fact that she had that kind of knowledge in her head. It felt wrong and tainted, and she wished she’d never felt the second-hand thrill of ending the sacrifice’s life. But she had.
“They can just... kill anyone. Using a servant was a means to remain hidden.”
There was a long pause.
“What’s your name?”, he asked after a while.
“Jordan,” she answered, “What’s yours?”
“Josiah,” he said, smiling a tense smile.
Suddenly, a phone rang, and he fished it out of the depths of his coat, putting it on speaker before laying it on the steering column between them. "Don't go to the sanctum!" a male voice immediately shouted from the other end of the line.
“I already left," Josiah said gruffly. "What happened? Is it done?” he asked, glancing at Jordan, putting a finger against his lips, motioning her to be silent. Jordan hadn’t been about to speak, but she understood that there were probably more urgent things than explaining who she was and why she was listening in.
There was a momentary pause at the other end, as if whoever Josiah was talking to was adjusting to new information. Then, he spoke, and his voice still sounded overwhelmend, but now also relieved. “We... I... She’s not corrupted, Brother! Lilith didn’t get her! She’s with us! She’s safe!”
Josiah blinked, and for a moment, his face showed a terrible pain and relief, both at the same time.
“Are you absolutely certain?! Have you used the Amulet?!”
“Of course, Brother. I am certain.”
The old man took a halting breath, and for a moment, his face turned into a deeply emotional grimace of relief. It wasn’t something Jordan had expected to see at all. I guess I’m not the only one who’s going through a lot today, she thought.
“...good,” Josiah said, visibly struggling with tears. Somehow he managed to make his voice sound steady as he continued. “We’ll meet at the library. Go there as quickly as possible.”
He ended the call, taking another deep shivering breath, pressing together his lips. He wiped his eyes, and when his hands had passed across his face, his expression had become pointedly stern and collected, as if he was trying to put on a show.
“Is Ana one of your Order?” Jordan asked.
Josiah nodded, jaws clenched. “Yes... But how do you know about the Order?”
“The Mother… I mean, Lilith knows about it. She could feel you coming.” She pointed at his chest. “You wear the Dead.” Again, she hated how she knew these things.
He glanced down at the small fragment of demon horn hanging from a chain around his neck. The Amulet of Jordan. Seeing it gave her a strange feeling of swelling heat, and she could feel a tiny wave of hatred sour the back of her throat.
She immediately took his hand.
“Feel this? This is how it feels when my Demonic resonance is building. You need to cleanse me again.”
He took a moment to sense what she was referring to—then there was a sharp disturbance in the universe, and with a feeling of jumping into cold water, her head cleared.
“You’re welcome,” he said through gritted teeth. She suspected that it wasn’t a pleasant experience for him, either.
Again, there was a moment of silence.
“Ana’s my student,” he said after a while. “The youngest of our Order. She lost her father when she was just a small child. Her grandfather took her in and inducted her into the order when she was ten. He died when she was twelve. I’ve been taking care of her ever since.”
More information than I needed, but okay, she thought.
He sighed. “She was the only one of our Order in the United States when the portents became clear. The rest of us were scattered across the world, so she was the first on the scene. It makes sense now; the ancient texts speak of this. Lilith is the mother of chaos. Happenstance is her ally.”
He paused briefly before continuing with a heavier voice than before. “I had—mistakenly, as it turns out — thought that she might have become corrupted.”
He looked at Jordan meaningfully, as if to gauge from her reaction if she knew something about that. She tried to remember. Maybe she did. Maybe she’d forgotten. It was really hard to recall it through the fog of arousal and mindless trance that she’d suffered.
“There was something... someone... hated and filthy, killing the Gifts... the... demonic corruption centipedes. The interloper bitch. That must have been her. Sorry—didn’t mean to call her that. That’s what Lilith felt. Ana’s the reason there aren’t any more flesh-servants.”
Josiah nodded grimly, but didn’t say anything else in reply. He seemed suddenly even deeper in thought. Jordan took in a deep breath. She was still half-expecting to crash any moment and become a panicked mess. But absurdly, she felt almost calm, despite all the fucked-up shit she’d been through. There were things she could feel her mind avoiding, but they were emotional things she’d have to deal with herself, not things that would help Josiah. She had told him everything she knew.
She just hoped that it would give them an edge against the terrible reality that had revealed itself to her when the Mother had been inside her head, doing God-knows-what with her mind.
Oh, God! What if—
For a moment, a worrying possibility occurred to her—but the notion dissolved just as fast as it had formed. She sighed quietly with relief. Yes. She was really glad to know with absolute certainty that her memories had not been messed with. She had worried for a moment that the Mother’s influence was able to alter her like that. But she didn’t have to worry. She knew that it wasn’t true, and she was so glad that she didn’t have to think about it any longer. She took a deep breath, letting it out in a voiceless sigh.
Maybe, just maybe, they might just get through this.
She only wished her nipples wouldn’t feel so incomplete without the Mother’s Anchors.
She decided not to think about that either.