Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 25541

I patrolled today along the wall, but the suspected breach points so far have not been more than chips and gouges in the stones. I have assigned more Guards to patrol the area anyway.

I have been to see Nadia. I brought her clean clothes and a hairbrush and a tray of food. She gave me a fragile smile. She said that Lela is a good friend and she hopes she is all right.

She is not all right, I wanted to shout. She won’t wake up. She won’t move. And she is only here because of YOU. But of course, that would not be helpful. So I left Nadia with her tray and I came here.

By Lela’s side again. Raphael says he does not know what will happen. She could wake up at any moment. Or she could die at any moment. One breath away from either fate. I could get her back, or I could lose her, in the space of a few seconds.

So I finally began to talk. I need you to come back because I don’t understand, I said. I don’t understand if I have made all of this up in my head, or if you feel it, too. Is it because I had waited so long, in so much darkness, that when you arrived it felt like you were the sun on my face? Would any girl have done that to me, or is it you?

I think it is you. There is a wildness in you that makes me want to grab you and crush you against me and bury my hands in your hair. There is a vulnerability in you that makes me want to destroy anything that threatens you. But within those two brackets, there is a you that intrigues me, the you that asks so many questions and rolls your eyes when you get an answer that doesn’t make sense. The you that argues. The you that manages to be witty even when you are scared to death. The you that doesn’t seem to realize just how beautiful you actually are. The you that is pure mystery that I am dying to unravel.

You must wake up, so I can figure this out. You must wake up and tell me if I am deluded, if I am weaving my own dangerous fantasy, or if you are beside me at the loom, and we are together in this.

I have been alone for so long, Lela. I don’t know what is real. Wake up and tell me. Please. 

Our heads snapped up at the sound of a low moan. A man lay crumpled in the road about a block ahead. Blood oozed from a gash across his forehead. Ana and I locked eyes, then crept toward the man, sticking close to the shelter of the nearest building. Ana reached him first and knelt at his side. The back of his neck was blistered and raw from lying in the sun, as were the backs of his hands. He wore a stained and torn leather smock, similar to the ones Raphael had given us. His lips were a startling color, redder than the most chapped lips I’d ever seen. He groaned as Ana touched his shoulder. “Hey,” she said to him. “You need some help?”
The man said something in a language I didn’t understand. I turned to Ana, who spoke several languages, but she looked as lost as I felt. “Let’s at least get him off the street,” she said. “He’s roasting alive.”
We grasped the guy under his arms and lifted him off the road. His blistered fingers clutched at our cloaks, and he licked at his crimson lips with his tongue, which was an equally violent shade of red. Though I wanted to help him, revulsion made my throat tighten.
“It’s all right,” Ana soothed as we dragged him toward the nearest building. Both of us sighed with relief as we entered the shaded, dank space. It was at least twenty degrees cooler than the street and felt downright awesome. We set him on the floor and began to rise, but our wounded companion grabbed our cloaks, speaking urgent words we couldn’t decipher.
I squatted next to him, trying to get him to look at me, to see we didn’t mean him any harm. Next to me, Ana stood up abruptly.
“What should we do for him?” I asked her.
“Nothing,” she whispered. “I think he’s served his purpose.”
Then I heard the growl, deep and vicious. It rolled like a wave up my spine, raising goose bumps. The bleeding man let go of my cloak, shot to his feet, and scrambled across the space to press himself against the wall. I looked over my shoulder.
Ana stood between me and the threat. She’d already drawn her knives. “He was a decoy.”

CHAOS.

It comes out in only one week! You still have time to preorder the ebook and get VIGILANTE, a short story from Ana’s perspective, for free. 

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 25540

I had just returned from a patrol to examine a possible breach in the city wall when I was greeted in the corridor by Rais, who informed me Nadia had escaped. I turned around and headed back out into the city. Fortunately, she was so focused on her plan that she did not try to evade any of us—she’d simply walked out of Ana’s quarters and right out of the station before anyone noticed she was gone. But instead of losing herself in the labyrinth of buildings, she walked straight up the street, headed for a tall building approximately ten blocks from the station.

I caught her on the steps. She struggled weakly as I wrapped my arm around her waist and dragged her back. “You don’t understand,” she mumbled. “I just want it to end. I never wanted to be here.”

“None of us ever wanted to be here, Nadia. But here we are. And you are coming back to the station, and I will get you some bread, and you will have a nice, warm cot to sleep on. You will be safe.”

She did not have a reply. She has no strength to fight. I had her back at the station within an hour.

And now I am at Lela’s side again, wondering why I cannot stay away. Her chest rises and falls with each slow breath, but apart from that she does not move. When I take her hand in mine, there is no grip there, no strength. It is so unlike the Lela that I have come to know that I am scared to touch her again.

I don’t know what to say to her. I think I am scared to pour out the truest words of my heart and still find that it is not enough to bring her back to me. That I am not sufficient to lure her, that mine is not a face she will search for when her eyes open.

I kissed her, while we were out there in Harag. At that moment I felt there was nothing left but to kiss her, that I had held back for so long and had no will to fight it anymore. And I kissed her again, before I knew what she was hiding from me, when all I wanted was to forget that Ana was gone and all that had happened, and Lela let me, she welcomed me, she put her hands on me and lifted all that heaviness from my shoulders. But while I was drowning in my need of her, she was letting herself die. When I realized the truth, it was more than I could bear.

So I don’t know what to do with you, Lela Santos. I don’t know what to feel or say. I don’t know if I should leave you to yourself, to Nadia, and even if I should, I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if you bring out the best in me or the absolute worst. I think maybe it is both at the same time.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll come back, and I will be brave enough to say these things out loud.

I miss Ana. If she were here, she would call me out for the fool I am, and I would deserve it.

**ONLY 5 journal entries left to post. However, all journal entries, including 30 from Malachi’s time in the land of the living, will be available 10/6, and you can pre-order Stories from the Shadowlands now. It also includes a novella and several bonus scenes, including two after the events of Chaos.**

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 25539

No sign of Ana. I am glad, but I am grieving. That is all I can say about it.

I write this as I sit next to Lela, who has been placed in Lutfi’s old room. His things have been cleared out, but I think he would have been happy to give up his chambers for her. He was gentle, and I think he sensed she needed gentleness.

Her wound is healed, but she is not waking up. Raphael suggested I talk to her, but I’m not sure what I could say. I don’t know who I am to her, or what she wants from me. I don’t know if she wants to know what she’s become to me. I don’t know anything right now.

I was informed last night that a fifth Guard—Saqr this time—was slaughtered ten blocks north of where Issam was killed. So very near the city wall. I’m going to leave for patrol shortly.

I visited Nadia last night. She is pretty in a frail, fragile kind of way. I took her a plate of food, wishing I had something better to offer her than stale bread and over-salted, gluey soup. I tried to explain to her what had happened and where she was. I told her Lela was here, too, and she expressed a vague interest in her friend. I felt the rise of frustration inside me, knowing what Lela sacrificed to get Nadia to this place of safety, and then I reminded myself how Nadia came to be in the city. It is perhaps too much to expect that this girl would realize how much she is loved. But I tried to tell her. I tried to explain. Lela was more than willing to give up her life for Nadia’s, even though she was scared, even though she had no desire to die.

She was willing. And that is love, I think, expressed through pure bravery and selflessness.

Enough. I must leave for patrol. I have been sitting here for the last many minutes, writing nothing, staring at Lela’s face, willing her eyes to open. Enough.

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 25538

I knew things might go badly, but I did not anticipate this. Perhaps I should have.

Ana is gone. She was killed as we tried to destroy the nest in Harag, as we tried to rescue Lela and Nadia. She’s gone.

I killed her with a grenade, a blast that also destroyed most of the surviving Mazikin, who had ambushed her. She asked me to do it, screamed for me to throw, as the Mazikin were carrying her away. And I did it, because I had no choice.

I have sent word to the Gate Guards to watch for Ana in case she comes back into the city through the Suicide Gates. I will not let her wander the city alone. If she’s come back in, we will find her. But I hope the Judge has decided it is time for her to move on. She and Takeshi might be together right now. That is what I will hope for.

We rescued Lela’s friend, whose name is Nadia. But she is clearly very much a resident of this city, very lost. I have put her in Ana’s quarters for now.

And then there is Lela. She was badly scratched by Sil and did not tell me quickly enough. If she were conscious, I would shake her for it. But after that I might kiss her and hold her against me and let my relief find its voice, because she would be all right.

She is not all right. She lost consciousness as we hiked back yesterday, and I had to tie Nadia to me and carry Lela just to get them both back here. Lela may not survive this. She is so stubbornly strong, but she was never supposed to be here. If I lose her to this city, I’m not sure I’ll be able to leave it. There would be something profoundly wrong in allowing this place to claim her. 

**ONLY 7 journal entries left to post. However, all journal entries, including 30 from Malachi’s time in the land of the living, will be available 10/6, and you can pre-order Stories from the Shadowlands now. It also includes a novella and several bonus scenes, including two after the events of Chaos.**

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 25535

I am in so much trouble. I have just come from the tower, and this time, I was not alone.

There are so many reasons why I did it. Ana, Lela and I trained for several hours last night, and Lela worked so hard. She is so fierce. Even Ana was impressed. And after Ana retired, I worked with Lela on hand to hand techniques.

That was when things veered off course. Because Lela has so obviously been hurt before, and when I attacked her from behind, she had a very strong reaction. As if I had brutalized her. As if I was the one. And after that, I wanted nothing more than to get away from her, but she asked me to continue, to help her learn to fight without being taken down by her memories.

When I think of that, the look on her face as she demanded I enact her worst fears, to enable her to conquer them, my admiration for her is like a living thing inside me, one that’s growing so fast that it’s taking me over. So when she asked me to show her what I “do for fun around here” (another phrase that seems very American to me, but very alive, too), I decided to bring her up to the tower.

And somehow, I ended up with my arms around her.

Suddenly, I am hungry again. But not for food.

We leave in a few hours. I should try to get some sleep.

We entered the soaring lobby, and the doors to the Judge’s chambers swung shut with an echoing click. “Where to?” I mumbled, my lips almost too numb to push the words over my tongue. Any strength I’d pulled together to face the Judge was gone. My heart beat sluggishly, forcing Juri’s venom through my veins. I allowed my heavy eyelids to close for a moment, and opened them to see we were now making our way down a wallpapered hallway lined with wooden doors. “Are we in the dark city?”
“Not quite,” answered Raphael. “We’re still in the Sanctum. It’s the connection between all of the realms, but not really in any of them, even though it looks that way. You’ll stay here until you’re ready to leave.”
I opened my mouth to ask when I would meet my new Captain, but at that moment, a door up ahead opened, and a woman stepped into the hallway. Tears sprang to my eyes. She wore the navy-blue shirt and fatigue-style pants I recognized as part of the human Guard uniform. Her gleaming black hair was pulled into a high ponytail, and her skin, a coppery umber, was far less pale than the last time I’d seen her, when I’d held her hand as she died. “Ana?”
Her dark cat’s eyes drifted over me and then lit on Raphael. “Have you healed her yet?”
“Not yet,” he replied.
“Good.”
She drew a knife, twirled it in her fingers, and threw it right at my chest.

CHAOS.

The book comes out TWO weeks from today, and here’s another little teaser. Remember: if you preorder CHAOS (US only), you’ll get VIGILANTE, a short story from Ana’s perspective, for free (and it will give you a glimpse of what’s happening to Malachi).

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 25534

I am back at the station after a long, strange odyssey. Lela is a puzzling, dangerous girl, but she is also strong—and she saved my life. But only after causing a great deal of trouble.

She was so determined to rescue her friend that she colluded with Sil to escape, not realizing what he really was. In their breakout, Sil killed Lutfi, who I had specifically assigned to guard Lela because she had been brutalized by Amid and I didn’t want her to be mistreated again. I encountered Sil and Lela in the hallway as I arrived to take Lela to the Sanctum, and watched him drag her out of the station and into the city.

Ana and I tracked them, and I made a decision that I hope I will not regret: I assigned her to play decoy. All the Mazikin—Sil and Juri and Doris included—saw Ana’s face. But we had to act quickly to get Lela away from them. In the fight, Juri bit me. And to my surprise, Lela tried to help—instead of running when she had the chance, she hit Juri with my staff and gave me the opportunity to slit his throat yet again.

Ana had gone after Sil, and if it hadn’t been for Lela, I would have collapsed on the street and died on the way back to the station. But somehow, she got me into an apartment building. And more amazing than that, she stayed with me for days as my body healed. She wiped blood from my skin and watched over me.

Thinking about that does strange things to me. Looking at her face does strange things to me. I suddenly feel raw and naked and new, as if my armor and everything else has been stripped away. When I am close to her, it is very difficult to keep my thoughts in order. She is defiant and rebellious, but also amusing, also vulnerable, also brave. She reminds me a bit of Ana when she first came to us, though Lela is more controlled and reasonable than Ana was at that stage.

And perhaps because of all that, I made her an offer. It came out of me on impulse, but the longer I spend with her, the more certain I am that I did the right thing. I want to help her find her friend. I realized I have seen this friend—she is the girl I found in the alleyway the night Ibram sliced my arm on Day 25527. She was in Harag, and I directed her to an apartment. It’s very likely she could still be there.

But that is also one of the most dangerous areas of the city, especially now, with Mazikin running loose and wielding scimitars. I have been informed that yet another Guard—Mandhur—was killed while I was away. The ambush was north of downtown, and the other Guards said the group of Mazikin fled to the west—toward Harag.

I sent Lela off with Ana while I met with the Guards and gave them their patrol routes, and I also went to visit Michael.

Our interaction regarding Lela’s armor was exceedingly awkward. My cheeks were burning as I described her approximate dimensions, and Michael seemed to enjoy that very much.

Ana and I will train her tonight, and we will leave in the morning.

And I still have not had the desire to eat or drink. The hunger and thirst are gone. If we find Lela’s friend, perhaps she will be ready to go. Perhaps the three of us will go to the Sanctum, and instead of leaving them there, maybe I will ask for an audience with the Judge, too. And maybe he will set me free. I cannot dwell too heavily on that right now, though. My first priority is preparing for this mission.

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 25529

I captured Sil yesterday and brought him back to the station. This is a huge development—I will force him to tell me what the Mazikin are up to. I heard him talking with Clarence about breaching the wall, a disturbing bit of news. I don’t know where they’d end up—in the Countryside? Another realm within the Shadowlands? This is something I cannot allow.

But even stranger than that is the girl who was captured and brought here. The Guards were sure she was a Mazikin—because she attacked and stabbed Amid—and they obeyed my orders to bring any live Mazikin they capture back to the station for me to question.

Unfortunately, Amid, whose dearest friend Issam was killed recently [ref Day 25523], decided to question her himself. He nearly killed her, but I asked Raphael to heal her.

And then I questioned her. She is not Mazikin. That much was clear almost immediately. But the story she told me seemed too bizarre to be true. She claimed she’d come into the city to find a friend of hers, a girl who had committed suicide. She bears a tattoo of the girl’s face on her arm, and she was showing it to people in the city, asking if they’d seen her. I have never, in all my days as a Guard, heard of such behavior. She wanted me to release her into the city, and had the same comically indignant line about her rights as that Mazikin who had possessed an American man. So she is American, and young, and beautiful, with caramel skin and amber eyes and disorderly hair and she smells like the sea, fresh and wild, and She clearly does not belong in this city. If she stays, she will starve.

I promised her I would take her to the Sanctum myself, but she rejected my offer. And then she did the most deceptive and clever thing she could possibly have done: she touched me. She tried to seduce me. She tried to kiss me. And oh, I came so close, so close to giving in. I did not fall for it.

Her name is Lela Santos. And I will admit that now, as I prepare to put on my armor and weapons and retrieve her from her holding cell to take her to the Sanctum, my heart is beating very fast. I will be glad when she is gone. She is a distraction.

**ONLY 10 journal entries left to post. However, all journal entries, including 30 from Malachi’s time in the land of the living, will be available 10/6, and you can pre-order Stories from the Shadowlands now. It also includes a novella and several bonus scenes, including two after the events of Chaos.**