“Enemy jinn!” She began yelling to her companions and pointing up toward the jinn standing and watching behind the glass. “Retreat!”
More vampires stopped in their tracks and gazed up at us, their faces filling with fear and dread. They scattered in all directions as they hurried toward doors and locked themselves inside apartments. All of these vampires were clearly well accustomed to the might of the jinn.
Even as the jinn flattened the doors leading down to the prison, neither Derek and I nor any of our other companions knew exactly how to reach the Nasiris’ home. Although we had been here before, we had been transported by the jinn’s magic—not by foot—so we’d never come to know of its exact location. Ben, however, had described the entrance to us briefly—deep in the network of cells, in a small storage room, hidden behind a cabinet. We described these details to Cyrus, and strangely, now that we were down here it was almost as though he didn’t need them. He began leading us all forward with a surprisingly strong sense of direction. As we moved, I couldn’t help but notice with a shudder the looks of hunger on the jinn’s faces as they eyed the humans we passed by.
The jinn’s speed picked up and the rest of us had to run to follow. After what felt like half an hour, Cyrus drew us all to a halt outside a narrow door. He pushed it open to reveal a small storage room. The jinni raised a hand for silence and sniffed the air.
Then he nodded. “This is the room your son spoke of. I can feel their closeness.”
There wasn’t enough room for all of us to step inside at once, so Cyrus and three other jinn moved in first. They shoved the cupboard to one side. Sure enough, behind it was the secret door Ben had spoken of. Cyrus forced it open.
We found ourselves at the top of a small staircase and, descending in single file, we made our way down to a beautiful kitchen. The aroma of exotic spices still lingered in the air from the family’s last meal.
We crossed to the other side of the kitchen and emerged in the magnificent atrium. Cyrus’s face was impassive as he took in the heavenly abode.
My grip around Derek’s hand tightened, the thought of reuniting with my son filling me with anticipation.
Cyrus looked around at his companions and nodded. They nodded back, and although no words were exchanged, they appeared to know what to do. They rushed forward at once, sweeping toward the nearest line of doors like a wave.
There were screams. Shouts. The crash of furniture and bang of doors. More jinn flooded into rooms. There were so many of the Drizan jinn present, soon every level was swarming with them. My daughter, father and the other vampires moved with the dragons to stand safely in the central gardens on our request, while Derek and I followed Cyrus in search of Queen Nuriya herself.
Cyrus’ instinct was that her apartment would be right at the top, and it appeared that he was right. We stopped in front of a door that was larger and more heavily ornamented than all the others. The jinni lost no time in breaking down the door.
Before entering, he whirled back round to face us. “Wait here,” he said. “I will handle this alone.”
And so Derek and I hung back. I peered anxiously down the shadowy corridor of Nuriya’s apartment as Cyrus disappeared down it. A few seconds later came a bloodcurdling scream.
The anguish in the queen’s cry chilled me to the bone.
“Please, Cyrus! Don’t do this to me! Not again!”
As much as I resented the jinni for what she’d done to my son, and needed the bond to be broken, her cries of fear and pleas were hard to swallow. I didn’t want to think about what he was doing to her as her screams intensified.
“You’ve already taken so much from me,” she sobbed. “Don’t take my family. Please! Don’t wreck me again! I’ve suffered enough.”
Cyrus hissed, “Not enough.”
“Freiyus is dead! You killed him along with our newborn! Take me, but spare my family this time. Please! They have done nothing to harm you!”
Her pleas clawed at my chest and I found myself slightly out of breath. “What is he doing to her?” I murmured, a sick feeling settling into the pit of my stomach.
Derek gave me a dark look.
As Nuriya’s voice broke from her pleading, I couldn’t handle it anymore. I left Derek’s side and ran into the apartment.
“Sofia!” Derek hissed, hurrying after me.
I sprinted down the corridor to a bedroom whose door was left open. Nuriya, draped in a midnight-blue nightgown, now torn and awry, was being pinned up against the wall by Cyrus. His hands were clamped around her neck. Part of me wondered why she didn’t vanish, but I guessed Cyrus’ powers ensured that she couldn’t.
I stood rooted to the spot, staring at the couple. Before I could have second thoughts about my intrusion, Nuriya spotted me over Cyrus’ shoulder.
“You’re Ben’s birth mother,” she gasped.
Cyrus twisted around to face us, a look of irritation in his eyes.
“Why are you here?” he asked. “I told you to wait outside.”
“Come on, Sofia,” Derek said, having arrived behind me.
Even as my husband gripped my arm and tugged at me, I couldn’t take my eyes off of Nuriya’s terrified face.
“Where is my son?” I asked her.
She appeared to have reached levels of hysteria too high for her answer to be coherent. “Please!” she called to me. “Don’t let him do this to me! I only want the best for Benjamin. I only ever wanted to protect him, to make him my own! I’ve nurtured and helped him like he was born of my own womb, in ways that you never could. P-Please, don’t let the Drizans destroy my family!”
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