Home > Devilish Game (Shadow Guild: The Rebel #4)(15)

Devilish Game (Shadow Guild: The Rebel #4)(15)
Author: Linsey Hall

I watched him go, the strangest burn in my chest and behind my eyes.

Mac approached to stand at my side. “What was all that about?”

“Hard to explain.”

“I can imagine.” She studied me, then shook her head. “You’ll tell me when you’re ready.”

If I ever am.

I turned away from Grey, who was disappearing around a corner, and approached the library door.

“It’s not meant to open for another twenty minutes.” Mac pounded on the door so hard that the ancient wood shook. “Seraphia!”

I went to a small, mullioned glass window and peered inside, gasping at the sight.

Though the exterior of the building was a tiny Tudor shop—no bigger than the Kebab storefront, the interior was enormous. I could only catch shadowed glimpses of it, but the ceiling soared high overhead, and millions of books covered the walls.

Inside, a small, pale figure raced forward. I joined my friend just as Seraphia yanked open the door, looking tired and harried. Her dark hair was a mess around her head, and her eyes were sleepy.

“What the bloody hell are you doing, pounding at this ungodly hour?” Seraphia demanded.

“It’s eight forty-five in the morning.”

“Oh.” Seraphia grimaced. “Really?”

“Are you all right?” I asked.

Seraphia dragged a hand over her face, revealing the glowing tattoo of vines on her forearm. Her dress was well wrinkled and the shadows under her eyes dark. “Please excuse me.”

“What’s wrong?” Mac demanded.

“Nothing.” She opened the door wider to admit us. “Come in. What can I help you with?”

Mac and I shared a glance. That was a brush-off if I’d ever heard one, but we’d only recently become friends with Seraphia. We weren’t close enough to push, so we didn’t.

I followed Mac into the gorgeous space. Unlike the rest of Guild City, this building appeared to be more modern, though still relatively old.

The interior was grand, reminding me of Notre Dame or St. Paul's Cathedral. But instead of God, this place worshiped books. The enormous space was stuffed to the brim, each soaring wall containing thousands, maybe millions, of tomes on the many shelves. Ornate carvings covered the ceilings and decorated the space between the shelves, creamy marble transformed into scenes from various novels.

There were dragons and knights and queens and witches, heroes and heroines, war and joy. My breath left my body as I spun in a circle, taking it all in.

“Amazing, isn’t it?” Seraphia asked.

“Out of this world.” I craned my neck to look upward at the domed ceiling. Stars twinkled overhead, somehow visible against the ceiling. It didn’t make any sense, but I didn’t care.

“What are you here for?” Seraphia asked. “Is it about the kidnappings?”

“It is.” I stepped toward her and withdrew the slip of paper from my pocket. Quickly, I unfolded it and showed her the drawing within.

She frowned, studying it. “So you want more information about this image?”

Mac and I nodded.

“Is there anything else you can tell me about it?” she asked.

“No. I know it’s an almost impossible task, like finding a needle in a haystack.” I frowned, looking at all the books around us. “I don’t know how we’ll search every one.”

“We won’t need to.” Seraphia turned and gestured for us to follow. “Come, we need to find out where to look first.”

I followed her to the middle of the enormous space. Tables and chairs ringed the room, but the center was empty. Tiles had been laid in intricate patterns, their edges blackened by what appeared to be flame.

We were nearly to the center of the room, the shelves towering around us, when Seraphia held out a hand, indicating that we needed to stop. “Wait there.”

We did as she instructed, and she strode forward. Silently, she waved an arm over the tiles in front of her, and a green flame burst to life. It flickered and danced, rising twenty feet in the air.

I gasped and stepped back, the heat blasting me. Seraphia chucked the paper into the flame, then waited, her arms crossed.

I watched, awestruck, as the flames died down and smoke curled toward the ceiling. It rose to about fifty feet in the air—only half the way to the ceiling that soared overhead—then turned right, moving horizontally toward some shelves. It zipped down a darkened hallway that I hadn’t noticed before.

Seraphia’s gaze followed the smoke, and she strode toward it. “Come.”

We followed her toward the hallway, entering a space where the light dimmed to almost nothing and dark smoke curled along the ground.

“No matter what I do, I can’t keep this part lit,” Seraphia said. “The books just absorb all light.”

A chill filled the air, and I shivered. Dark vines grew over the bookcases, some studded with black lilies, and others with thorns.

“I hate this wing,” Seraphia muttered from up ahead.

“How is this place real?” I asked, my gaze traveling over the bookshelves that soared nearly fifty feed in the air. The sight gave me vertigo.

“Magic, of course,” Seraphia said. “It’s connected to libraries all over the world. Like one big library with many secret doors.”

“Have you explored it all?” I asked.

She laughed, dodging a spikey vine that reached out for her. “Not even close. There are parts I don’t even know exist, I’m sure of it. I can feel them, just out of reach—worlds I’ve never been to—but I don’t know how to get to them.”

It was wild. And terrifying.

Finally, she stopped in front of an enormous ladder that stretched all the way to the ceiling. She shoved it over until it was right next to the wispy column of smoke.

Quickly, she climbed the ladder, as graceful as a ballerina on the stage. This was her stage, the place she spent her days, surrounded by fabulous books. I liked reading as much as the next gal, but it was nothing compared to the love that Seraphia clearly had.

She retrieved a book and climbed back down, turning to us so that she could hand the book to me. “Your answers should be in there.”

The flame and smoke had fully dissipated, leaving no trace. I looked down at it, anticipation singing through me.

“Come.” Seraphia gestured for us to follow. “There’s a nice table and a good lamp over here.”

We left the creepy wing and returned to the main part of the library, which suddenly felt ten times as inviting. She helped us get set up at the table, turning on the lamp so it shone on the ancient book. None of us sat, instead preferring to lean over the book, our gazes rapt. Carefully, I opened the ancient text.

The words were a series of scribbles that I’d never seen before. “That is not English.”

“It doesn’t even look modern,” Mac said.

“It’s Cuneiform.” Surprise flickered in Seraphia’s voice and she leaned low over the book. “It’s a recording from one of the ancient tablets.”

“Cuneiform?” I asked.

“One of the oldest languages known,” Seraphia said. “Developed by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia, but it was used over much of the Middle East thousands of years ago.”

“Holy fates.” Mac frowned at the book. “Why are the kidnappers into Cuneiform? I thought only nerdy old scholars were into it?”

“For the most part, yes.” Seraphia leaned closer. “Actually, it looks like a slightly different version of Cuneiform. Perhaps Ugaritic.” She gestured to the book. “Keep turning the pages, let’s see what it says.”

“You can read it?” I asked, hopeful.

“Yes. Not every single word, but most.”

“That’s some skill,” Mac said.

“I’ve got some weird ones.” Seraphia pinned me with an expectant glance. “Now get turning. Let’s find that symbol and figure out what the hell is going on.”

I did as she asked, carefully turning the pages, and searching for the symbol.

A tiny wisp of smoke seemed to hover over one particular section, so I turned to it, almost immediately finding the same symbol that I’d seen when I’d touched the kidnapper. “Here it is.”

Seraphia nudged me aside, clearly excited. She bent over the text and began to read silently. I tapped my foot, anxious to hear what she was learning.

Finally, she looked up, a frown on her face. “The language is Ugaritic, like I thought. This discusses the Temple of Anat at Ugarit.”

“I only understood some of those words,” I said.

“Right. Of course. You are, in fact, not a nerdy old scholar.”

“Sadly, no.”

“Well, Ugarit was an ancient Canaanite city on the coast of what is now Syria, right near the Mediterranean. It’s really ancient—the first signs of habitation are nearly eight thousand years old. The heyday was about 3,500 years ago, though. Thousands of people lived there until the Sea Peoples destroyed the city in 1190 BCE.”

“BCE?” I asked.

“Before Common Era. Same as BC, but in science-speak,” she said.

Holy crap that was old. “And the city is still there?”

“It’s rubble now, but yes,” Seraphia said. “The ruins are still there.”

“Isn’t Syria in the middle of a civil war?” Mac asked.

“Yes, but I don’t think it’s active in Ugarit. The city itself wasn’t destroyed in the war like some of the other cultural heritage sites, fortunately.” Sadness flickered in Seraphia’s eyes. “It’s rubble only because it is so ancient. But you should be able to find the outlines of the old palaces, houses, libraries, and temples.”

“Including the Temple of Anat,” I said. “Who was she?”

“She was a goddess of war and peace. Birth and death. She was worshiped in quite a few countries, but Ugarit has a temple dedicated specifically to her. And another to her brother Baal.”

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