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The Hour of Dust and Ashes

(The third book in the Charlie Madigan series)

A novel by Kelly Gay

This one’s for my sister, Kameryn Long

Integration Task Force

Officers Off-world Manual

14th Edition

ITF.OOM.37–100–26

(Cont. Sec.1102.07 pg. 620)

Drug diminishes the will of the human spirit, causing weaker disembodied spirits to easily gain control.

Ash

has a honeysuckle aroma. Do not inhale. Once ingested, fatal overdose may occur. Survivors must maintain routine dosage in order to prevent fatal withdraw. No known cure.

Manufactured using Charbydon flower,

Sangurne N’ashu.

Colloquial term: Bleeding Soul.

Sons of Dawn: A cult created by the biblical King Solomon (son of the human woman Bathsheba and the jinn High Chief Malek Murr). Said to have discovered some truth behind the legend of the First Ones. Purpose: to liberate Charbydon from the nobles and return control back to the jinn.

Known Members:

Grigori Tennin.

Jinn tribal boss. Resides in Underground Atlanta. Stands to become the next High Chief should the jinn regain control of Charbydon.

Llyran.

Adonai. Level Ten felon. Stole the Old Lore from the Hall of Records in Elysia and used the cult to foster his own bid for supreme power. Deceased.

Mynogan.

Charbydon noble. High Elder of the royal House of Abaddon. Manufactured the off-world drug

ash

along with Grigori Tennin and Cassius Mott. Orchestrated the ritual to bring darkness over Earth. Deceased.

The First Ones: Divine beings mentioned in the Old Lore of the Elysians. Myth claims that from them, the three noble races descended: the Elysian Adonai, the Charbydon nobles, and humans. The myth also claims that the nobles once ruled in Elysia, but were later cast out into Charbydon.

Noteworthy:

The Sons of Dawn’s

mission is to find physical proof of the First Ones’ existence and prove to the nobles that their true home is in Elysia. This will lead to the nobles waging war for Elysian territory.

Ahkneri.

One of the First Ones. Called the Star, and later the instrument of vengeance, retribution, and punishment. Holder of the named weapon, Urzenemelech. (The remains of this being were supposedly discovered by King Solomon and used during the Winter Solstice ritual on top of Helios Tower by Llyran and the Sons of Dawn, but no evidence of such a discovery has been found.)

KT.AMMEND/ADD.ITFOOM.1102.07GA (Section1102.07: Known Threats: Amendments & Additions)

1

“You mean to tell me every single exorcist in this city is gone?”

Perched on her crude stone chair like an ancient Greek actor shadowed in darkness and smoke, Alessandra rolled her luminous green eyes to the ceiling. “Why is it everyone who stands before me must repeat everything I say?”

Because you say the craziest things? I thought, keeping a straight face.

Under the bowl-shaped seat, a bundle of laurel leaves smoked in a copper basin wedged between thick tripod legs. The fine material she worer her head and shoulders caught the sweet-smelling smoke rising from below, billowing the fabric and directing much of it toward her lungs. Her hand stroked the back of a python curled in her lap, its fat head resting over her forearm.

Stone, python, laurel leaves—all primitive, powerful things that enhanced the sight and gave Atlanta’s resident oracle a spot at the very top.

There was a time long ago when oracles were killed for being wrong, but Alessandra—with her pale, ageless skin and softly glowing eyes that never focused on anything for long—hadn’t stayed in business the last two thousand years by being wrong. Confusing, frustrating, pompous to a staggering degree? Absofucking-lutely. But never wrong.

The smoke hit the back of my throat, tasting of burnt leaves and bitter wood. I coughed, waving at the ghostly ribbons drifting my way and cursing the oracle’s refusal to install ventilation in her temple.

She called it a temple. I called it a decrepit forties-style theater in Underground Atlanta. There was one stage, mezzanine seating, and staggered seating in the pit. You got a number, waited your turn, and then walked onto the stage to face the hooded oracle seated above her burning leaves.

Alessandra also owned the club next door. She’d had it connected to her temple via a wide, arched tunnel that allowed the beat, the strobe lights, the smoke, and the club patrons to trickle through. Sandra loved an audience, and milking the drunks for every penny they had was an added bonus to an already lucrative career.

The smoke, the saccharine sweetness hanging in the air like jungle humidity, the unbelievably hard time Alessandra felt compelled to give me—not to mention the constant throbbing beat from the club next door—were ingredients for The Perfect Migraine.

And The Perfect Reason why I kept my visits few and far between.

“You waste my time, Charlie Madigan. As usual. Track them down if you want. Search until you expire for all I care. You’ve found how many in the last week? None. Nada. Zip. Zeroooo.” She sang the last word, making an O with her thumb and pointer finger. Her red nails flashed in the dim light. Such a small

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