Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(78) by Ilona Andrews
“As agreed. You may ask one question. Think carefully. Most of the battle to get the right answer depends on asking the right question.”
There was so much I needed to ask. One question didn’t even begin to cover it. I had to ask the most important one.
“If an ifrit is trapped in an ancient earring, what would he hope to achieve by granting three wishes to the owner of the earring, turning said owner into a giant and rampaging through Atlanta, and then repeating this process?”
“How do you know it’s an ifrit?”
“I saw him in a vision.”
“Did he wear jewelry?”
“Yes. Gold with large green stones.”
“Emerald or peridot. So we have a sultan, then.”
Don’t ask a question. He only said one question and there had to be a price for failing to follow the rules. “One would think that an ifrit sultan would wear a ruby, because it’s the color of fire. Humans living in the Arabian Peninsula prize emerald above all stones because it’s green and Arabia is mostly arid. But djinn are not human.”
Roland leaned forward, a sly look in his eyes. “One would think that. Then one would brush up on her geology and learn that the purest peridot is found in harraat, the lava fields in the west of Saudi Arabia. When the volcanoes in the west erupted, they brought peridots with them from the depths of the magma chambers. The djinn treasure these stones because they were bathed in the fiery lifeblood of the planet. Only the highest ranks of the ifrits wear them.”
A waiter came to refill his coffee.
“God created men from clay and djinn from smokeless fire,” Roland said, once the waiter left. “Even people not versed in the Qur’an know this line. Have you ever wondered about the meaning behind it?”
“People are made of clay. We are tied to the Earth and soil; our magic is its magic. Also clay soil is almost impossible to enchant.”
“But you can enchant a clay pot.”
I thought about it. “But to make a clay pot, you have to first add water, which holds enchantment, and then treat it with fire.”
“So djinn have a lot more magic than we do.”
“Not only do they have a lot more magic, they are magic. They require a large amount of it just to survive. A djinn absorbs the magic from its environment, storing it like a battery. Now let’s take your ifrit, for instance. He is confined to an earring, imprisoned, likely driven mad by the thousands of years of confinement. He wants freedom but he lacks the magic to break free and to exist in our volatile world.”
“The only way he can manifest is by possessing a human host,” I said. “I gathered as much.”
“The granting of the three wishes is an ancient ritual. In reality, it simply makes the possession that much easier; to express a wish, you must first open your mind to the djinn and then accept his magic. You have to believe that he can grant any wish. Instead of a hostile takeover, the process becomes a seduction. With each wish, your body becomes more and more receptive until finally your mind submits to the djinn completely. Some djinn can take over a human in a single wish, but most of the time it takes three. As soon as the ifrit possesses a body, the reserve of that human’s magic belongs to him.”
“That still doesn’t explain why he turns them into giants.”
“Two reasons. First, from what I have been told, he turns them into giants and then attempts to transform them into heated metal. In my time the most powerful of the ifrits transformed into armored giants before the battle. This state also permitted them to absorb a large amount of magic from the environment.”
“So every time he makes a giant, he grows stronger.” I managed to make that into a statement rather than a question, but this one came too close for comfort.
It was like jumping on a trampoline. The first bounce was low, the second higher, the third higher still. First the djinn took over someone with only a little bit of magic, which gave him enough power to take over Lago, who had more magic, which in turn would give him enough juice to possess someone with yet a bigger magical reserve. Such as a knight of the Order. I really hoped not. “You mentioned two reasons.”
“Djinn are vindictive by nature, and of all of them, the ifrits are the most likely to hold a grudge. They are creatures of enormous pride. Wrong them once, and they will hunt you across an endless desert just to watch you die. Once you strike out against one, he will be your enemy for life. If you frustrate his efforts in any way, you will find that out.”
“I did.” He sent a bull made of fire to my house.
“So I hear. What would you want in his place?”
“Revenge against those who imprisoned me. But they are long dead.”
“Blood never dies, Kate. It grows like a tree through generations. The ifrits can feel their own, especially those related to their particular clan. Look for someone he hates. He is likely gathering magic to become powerful enough to unleash his rage upon the descendants of his captors. Because he is a noble, he will call lesser djinn to him to do his bidding. He will identify his victims, and he will torture and maim them and do whatever he can to extract maximum suffering. The ifrits are not fond of granting a quick death.”
Eduardo, the betrayer’s spawn. He must’ve been a descendant of the ifrit’s captors. Now the ifrit was torturing him.
“Once he finishes his revenge, he will turn against the lesser targets. He will seek to rule because that’s what he did in life.”
And we would be his targets. We had to end this chain of power-ups before it went any further.
“You’ve allowed me one question. I will allow you one as well,” he said.
“Why is he using the ghouls?”
“Because he is used to ruling. He likely thinks that he requires an army to do his bidding, and they, by their very nature, are easy for him to dominate for him. Your cake is getting warm,” Roland pointed out.
The fountain of knowledge had run dry. I had more questions. I wanted to ask about ghouls and about defeating the ifrit, but my time was up. One question was all he would answer, so I settled down to eat the rest of my cake.
• • •
THE EVENING WAS dying slowly, the sun bleeding its lifeblood onto the horizon when Curran pulled into our driveway. We had taken a short detour. The answer my father gave me at dinner made me rethink our stalker, so we stopped by the address the Clerk had given me. Derek had emerged from the shadows as we had pulled up and reported that he hadn’t seen anyone. We picked him up, I left a short note by the door, held in place by a rock, and we went home.
The magic had ebbed. Technology once again took the planet in its grip. At least we’d get a short break from the ifrit.
There were so many things I had wanted to ask my father. I wanted to know about the ghouls. I wanted him to tell me why he had broken Christopher’s mind. I wanted to know more about my mother. But this was a slippery slope.
There was one person I could ask about all of this. Trouble was, he wasn’t always reliable.
I stepped out of the Jeep.
“You okay?” Curran asked me.
“Yeah. I’m going to go talk to Christopher for a little bit. Do you think the note will work?”
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