One of the wicked brothers was out today. The twin’s Nonna watched as they finished their charm, relieved when white sparks rose in the red flames. Another victory, they tricked the devil again. There are seven demon princes, but only four di Carlos should fear: Wrath, Greed, Envy, and Pride. The Malvagi search for souls for their king, the devil. The seven princes are corrupted by sin, when they cross the human world, they can’t bear the light so can only go out when dark. It was a punishment sent from La Prima Strega, many years ago.
The twins wore amulets blessed in holy water, freshly turned grave dirt, and sparkling shafts of moonlight. They were never without their amulets. One night Emilia and Vittoria decided to remove the amulets. When Emilia and her sister took both, a shimmering lavender-black light exploded from their amulets. Nearby a hellhound howled up at the moon, though they’d convince themselves it was only the wind. They never told anyone what they’d done, and never spoke of the strange purple light. Since the incident happened, Emilia didn’t tell her sister she changed. From that evening forward, whenever she held her cornicello and concentrated, she saw what she’d call luccicare. A faint shimmer or aura surrounding a person, the only exceptions being herself and her twin.
Emilia’s grandmother, Nonna Maria buzzed around the kitchen of their restaurant, Sea & Vine, frantic because Emilia’s twin, Vittoria was late to dinner service. Vittoria was out the night before a holy day. The moon was full and a shade of yellow. Over the last several weeks, beginning with Emilia and her twins eighteenth birthday, her twin missed quite a few dinner services, coming back with her cheeks flushed and eyes bright. There was something different about her, most likely because of the young vendor, Domenico Nucci Junior. Emilia had once taken a peek in Vittoria’s diary and saw his name scribbled in the margins.
Meanwhile, Emilia’s grandmother was saying that sardines washed themselves onto the shore but gulls didn’t touch them. It means the devil’s stirring the seas, they’ve come to collect. Her grandmother says two girls were murdered last week, one in Sciacca and one where they live, Palermo. They weren’t human, they were Streghe- witches. If there were one thing humans feared as much as the Malvagi, it was witches. There are stories that claim the Wicked will return to Sicily every few weeks beginning now, searching for something that was stolen from the devil. Emilia asks what was stolen and Nonna says a blood debt. A knock at the door sounded and someone asked if Emilia was there, it was Antonio Vicenzu Bernardo, a new member of the holy brotherhood. The nearby monastery relied on donations and charity, so once or twice a month Emilia made dinner for them.
Antonio didn’t know Emilia and her family were witches. There were thirteen witch families living in Palermo, they were the true Daughters of the Moon, for their safety, none interacted with each other. The witches magic while only passing down the matriarchal line, didn’t appear in all women. Emilia’s witch-born mother didn’t have any abilities. Once there had been a council formed with the eldest member of each family. Nonna was the leader in Palermo, but the coven later disbanded, it could possibly be because of old Sofia Santorini had invoked the dark arts and something went very wrong, leaving her mind fragmented. Some said she used a human skull during a scrying session. Others claimed it was a black mirror. Her mind was now trapped between realms. The humans grew suspicious of the witch’s sudden madness and talk of the devil spread. The world grew dangerous for real witches to meet, even secretly.
Emilia is reminded of the time she used a truth spell to see if Antonio returned her feelings. Truth spells shouldn’t be used because they were part of Il Proibito, which held severe consequences. When the coven disbanded, some families, like Claudia’s family, turned to the dark arts. After Antonio’s mother died suddenly last summer, he surprised everyone when he left home and started his religious life. The next day, Vittoria secretly approaches in the morning. Emilia asks what Vittoria was doing earlier. She says she was summoning the devil, that an ancient book whispered its secrets to her and she decided to take him as her husband. Emilia tells Vittoria a dream about a ghost, it was a strange dream, a disembodied voice whispered things too low to hear. Vittoria opened her diary and wrote down everything Emilia retold. After Emilia tells Vittoria about her dream, Vittoria puts the diary down and goes to sleep.
Because it was a holy day, there were many crowds so Emilia had to wait until Sea & Vine closed to retrieve her things. The brotherhood would be out celebrating La Santuzza- The Little Saint. Emilia looked to her sister who’d been unusually quiet all morning. There was something that was troubling her. Vittoria says she needs to leave a little early.
Later, Nonna tells Emilia that the sky was as red as the devil’s blood. Tonight, was not a night to be out, they should stay in and work on their grimoires, and sew dried yarrow inside their skirts. Nonna checked to make sure both twins were wearing their amulets, they both wore it. The amulets could set the demon princes free. Unless they wanted to be responsible for the Malvagi entering their realm after La Prima locked them away, they should keep it on. Vittoria gripped her cornicello tightly. Emilia recalled the hellhound they’d heard a night long ago. Nonna must be wrong, the devil and his demon realm were imprisoned. Nonna always said the amulets couldn’t be brought together. Emilia hadn’t let the two amulets touch all those years ago, she’d just held her sister’s while wearing hers. The princes of Hell were where they belonged. No demons were roaming Earth.
Emilia stared at the dark monastery. Inside the monastery, from the corner of her eye, she noticed movement. There was a sound of cloth brushing against stone, someone or something was inside the monastery with Emilia. It was probably Vittoria playing tricks on Emilia again, like when she spooked her the day before. She called “Vittoria?” staring the shadows. There was no answer. Emilia thought about the rumors Antonio mentioned yesterday, picturing a shape-shifter hiding in the dark. Danger lurked nearby, Nonna was right, she shouldn’t have gone out at night.
Something began calling her, a silent buzzing. At the end of the monastery corridor, Emilia stopped outside a room with an open door. It took a moment for her vision to adjust, but when it did, Emilia wondered how she’d missed him. He was still, his hair was onyx, and he was tall and powerfully built. He stood over a shrouded body. Emilia thought it was odd he set up candles and burned herbs, definitely not human. Emilia remembered the scent of thyme from the night before, and wondered if the man had been there yesterday. He suddenly bent toward the body, hands skimming the area above her heart. When he removed his hand, his fingers were coated in blood. He brought his fingers to his mouth and licked them. Emilia dashed out of her hiding spot, screaming, “Stop!” The stranger jumped back. Emilia grabbed her cornicello, concentrating on his aura, it wasn’t lavender, but black and gold. There was a dagger in his hand. A gold snake with lavender eyes twined around its hilt, fangs bared. When he saw her, he fled, dropping his dagger. Emilia walked over to the body.
Vittoria’s body lay motionless on the ground. The delicate bodice, destroyed, her cornicello missing. Her heart had been ripped from her chest. Emilia swears that she will make whoever did this pay. Emilia looked at Vittoria one last time, picked up the dagger and then ran away.
Emilia walked past her family’s darkened restaurant, already closed for the night. All of a sudden, Emilia hears someone speaking. She spun around in the empty street. They say, “Memories, like hearts, can be stolen.” Emilia turned again and saw nothing. Emilia runs away. Vittoria was dead. Their family’s lives would never be the same. Nonna was at the window. Nonna started shaking her head, her eyes watering, as she grabbed her cornicello. Emilia didn’t have to say anything, the blood staining her hands said enough.
Emilia’s Nonna thinks it wasn’t a human who attacked Vittoria. She thinks the blood debt is responsible for Vittoria’s murder. It was part of an ancient bargain struck between La Prima and the devil. It is believed La Prima cursed the Wicked, others believe the devil cursed witches. There’s been three witch murders. Emilia refused to believe the devil killed Vittoria, but what use do humans have with witch hearts? Emilia is determined to find Vittoria’s killer. Nonna says Emilia must put her theories to rest for the family. Nothing good will come from knocking on doors best left closed. Emilia excused herself and went back upstairs. She kept thinking about how Vittoria was dressed. Emilia had no idea where she’d gotten the white gown. She wasn’t wearing it the last time Emilia saw her. Was she secretly about to marry Domenico? Or something else? Apart from that one time when they were eight, Emilia never removed her cornicello again. Her sister might have, but Emilia didn’t know why. If she hadn’t taken her protection amulet off, who did and where was it now?
It had been three weeks since Vittoria’s death. Emilia hadn’t found anyone who knew the stranger or recognized his blade. In haste to get into bed, Emilia knocked over a glass of water. Liquid ran over the floorboards where Vittoria hid things, like dried flowers, notes from the latest boy who loved her, her diary, and perfume she’d made. Emilia pried the board open. Inside were all the objects Emilia remembered, plus a gambling chip with a crowned frog on one side, and two thick sheets of black parchment tied with matching string. Gold roots edged the border, the ink shiny against the darkness of the oversized page. They were spells torn from a grimoire she’d never seen, she couldn’t identify what it was used for. It listed herbs and specific colored candles and instructions in Latin. Emilia then picked up Vittoria’s diary that she wrote in constantly, recording Emilia’s strange dreams and Claudia’s scrying sessions. Emilia opened the diary but the pages were stuck together. She pulled a harder, but the book didn’t budge. Emilia yanked it with all of her strength. Emilia whispered a spell of unveiling, and tossed a pinch of salt over her shoulder for luck with deciphering the enchantment. Faint spiderwebbing in a violet rose around the diary. Her sister had spelled it shut using magic Emilia never seen before.
Vittoria probably figured out Emilia had snooped in her diary a few weeks ago. Emilia couldn’t break the spell, but she knew someone who might be able to: Carolina Grimaldi. Carolina was Claudia’s aunt. Carolina had a stall in the marketplace if Emilia hurried, she might catch her before she opened her booth. Emilia grabbed a satchel with everything inside and left. She found Carolina. Emilia pulled the diary out. Carolina stepped away, staring at the diary. She tells Emilia to put the diary back where she found it. Emilia also pulls out the grimoire sheets. Carolina says that the grimoire sheets is a summoning spell. Maybe Vittoria was trying to control a demon. Emilia doesn’t believe that, she says all demons are trapped in Hell. Carolina says for her to try and summon a demon. Unless she has an object that belongs to a prince of Hell, that spell should only summon a lower-level demon. They often trade information for little favors or trinkets. Not all demons are all trapped in the underworld. Carolina says the spells are strictly for summoning.
Emilia would try and summon a demon. If it worked, in exchange for a small favor, Emilia would ask it to break the spell on her diary. All she needed now were some bones. Emilia still wasn’t sure if the man over Vittoria’s body acted alone, or if he was part of the strega hunters. He was the only one there that night. Emilia would keep her family safe while tracking down Vittoria’s killer. Instead of one bargain, she’d make two. First, she’d have the demon summoned, break the enchantment on Vittoria’s diary, and then have it locate the dark-haired man. Having his knife would help her. She had no idea how Vittoria came across these grimoire pages.
Emilia stood in the cave. For the summoning to be successful, Emilia needed to follow the rules of the ritual exactly. The last thing she had to do was formally invite a demon to join her, using Latin, their native tongue. She didn’t want to offer the demon any opportunity to escape the circle, and didn’t want it to harm her, so she decided on aevitas ligati in aeternus protego, translating to “Bound forever in eternal protection.” Forever seemed like a wise idea when it came to making sure a demon couldn’t leave the circle. If it was forced to protect Emilia, it couldn’t attack her. Demons were creatures of strict rules, so if she invited one to join her, she had to formally uninvite it and send it back to its realm.
Emilia set objects down in a circle. A sudden blast of wind tore through the cave. Suddenly, the cave went still. Emilia shifted her attention to the summoning circle; blood splattered the ground around the perimeter. It needed to be within its border to entice the demon. Emilia didn’t have another jar of blood, and walking all the way back to the restaurant would take forever. The spell needed to be done at night, and daylight was a couple of hours away. She dragged the blade over the top of her forearm. Emilia held her arm over the summoning circle and began chanting as soon as the first drops hit the ground. Smoke swirled around the circle’s edge. A sound like a crackling fire preceded the demon’s arrival. Emilia had summoned a creature from Hell. As the smoke cleared, it revealed a tall, dark-haired man. His back was to Emilia. He didn’t look like a lesser demon. Instinctually Emilia reached up and held her cornicello for comfort. His luccicare was black and gold. Emilia had only ever seen that once before. She immediately dropped her cornicello and snatched his dagger from the floor.
Emilia’s blade sliced a long line across the demon’s chest. It should have pierced his heart, if he hadn’t maneuvered back. A searing pain erupted under her skin. It might’ve been the mixture of their blood on the strange blade created a charm of its own or maybe the protection spell also prevented her from striking him with a killing blow. He yanked the dagger away and tossed it on the ground. Emilia began punching the demon. He just stood there, allowing her to continue. He studied the circle and his attention jerked down toward Emilia, immediately looking at the fresh cut on her arm. A frown formed on his face. The demon asks Emilia what spell she used. Emilia says she used a summoning spell and one for protection.
A gold light flashed over Emilia’s arm before turning into pale lavender. A tattoo in purple, twin crescent moons laying sideways within a ring of stars, appeared on her outer forearm, burning. The demon was also experiencing the pain. He says she marked him. He looked like he could hardly comprehend that Emilia managed something so impossible. It must’ve been the cost of the dark magic she’d used to summon him. The tattoos likely acted as a magical bond of sorts. He tells Emilia he is Prince of Wrath, general of war, one of the feared Seven. Emilia could feel the anger vibrating off him, he was holding himself back a lot, it was unsettling. He says she should call him Wrath.
A prince of Hell will never reveal their true name to enemies. Emilia asks again why Wrath was standing over her sister’s body, licking her blood. He says he didn’t kill her. He came to the monastery because Vittoria had made a bargain with his brother and he came to collect it. Eventually, Wrath stops answering her questions until she answered his question. He asked the Latin version of the spell Emilia used. Emilia tells him and Wrath offers her a blood trade in return.
Wrath says according to the protection spell; he must ensure her safety. The spell binds him from harming her, but also requires him to grant you protection from others. A blood bond between them will alert other demons that Emilia are a temporary member of House Wrath. With the bond, demons will sense the bond and reconsider harming Emilia. Wrath is bound to the circle for three days. The protection charm Emilia placed is for eternity. The blood trade will allow Wrath to sense when Emilia is in danger. Without it, he can’t guarantee Emilia’s safety which puts him in violation of the rules she made. His power will be diminished it he doesn’t follow the rule. Emilia agrees and yet, when Wrath says it’s for six months, Emilia lets go of his grasp. Wrath says he and Emilia are aligned with the common goal of finding Vittoria’s murderer. He says he won’t give more details unless Emilia agrees to the blood bond. Emilia doesn’t accept the blood trade.
Emilia knew two things about Wrath, he wanted to locate her sister’s murderer and probably kill whoever it was and his strong desire to form a blood bond with her. A witch must never enter into a blood trade with a prince of Hell. By doing so, it allows the demon to have a direct link to the witch. Emilia didn’t know much about Wrath. His brother seemed to be interested in bargaining with witches, and she needs to know why. Nonna tells Emilia the moon is almost full and it’s no time to be playing with forces she has no hope of controlling. Nonna responds says tells her to accept it and grieve. Let go of her vengeance, or it will curse them all.
The next day when Emilia goes to the market to buy a shirt for Wrath, she encounters Claudia. Claudia says she’s had the strangest dreams, meaning visions. Claudia says she thinks it’s a warning. She saw black wings and an empty pitcher being filled and emptied. Claudia says she thinks some terrible darkness is coming or it’s already here. Claudia also says Domenico is a mess. He visits the monastery at least twice a week to pray and mostly locks himself in one of the empty chambers, lighting prayer candles until after midnight. Claudia also says Antonio is worried about Emilia. He’s back from his travels putting rumors of shape-shifters to rest. Emilia hands the Vittoria’s diary to Claudia. Claudia’s eyes widened and she says it is ancient. Emilia asks her to find out what sort of magic was used and hands her the diary. As she turns to leave, a shadow looms over her friend, hissing, “He’s here.” It was the same disembodied voice Emilia heard the night her sister had been killed. Yet Claudia didn’t hear anything. Emilia leaves.
Emilia visits Wrath to question him about witch hunters. Wrath doesn’t tell her anything. Emilia reminds him about the blood trade and Wrath says she may ask a few questions. Emilia asks if Wrath had ever heard of any humans who have banded together to hunt witches, he says no, though history has shown them to be active, so they probably exist. He tells her his brother, Pride bargained with her sister. Emilia then remembers the time when Vittoria was going to be married to one of the princes of Hell. Wrath says Pride needs to marry to break a curse placed on him. Wrath is helping Pride because he was bored and it seemed fun. He needs his bride to be a witch specifically because to break the curse he needs someone with magical abilities. If she refuses, Wrath says she’ll be made aware consequences, or she’d risk death. Emilia asked if the witches that before Vittoria were killed before or after Wrath spoke to them. He says, after, he gives them a day to think it over. Wrath tells Emilia, only him and Pride know of the bargain. Emilia then refuses his blood trade and goes to the monastery.
Walking to the monastery, Emilia felt like she was being followed. A low voice spoke from the shadows. A man emerged from the darkness, his hair was black silk, and his eyes were green. The glittering luccicare surrounding him indicated what Emilia already suspected: Malvagi. Emilia let go of her amulet and subtly tucked it inside her bodice. It was the demon prince, Envy. Emilia panicked she’d left her moon-blessed chalk and herbs at home. Emilia suddenly gets into a trance, thinking, if she had even a fraction of his magic, she could force others to tell her what happened to her twin. She could stop another witch from losing her life in a demonic bargain. Emilia wanted what they had so badly that she burned with hatred. Envy leaned forward, a hungry gleam in his eyes. Emilia had the impression that he suffered from those same feelings, that he envied his brothers in a way that almost drove him mad. Emilia took Wrath’s dagger and pierced her chest, nearly about to carve out her heart. An electrical current pulsed from her tattoo and the spell on Emilia was broken. Envy had affected Emilia even with her cornicello. He asks if they can strike a bargain. If Emilia sells her soul to House Envy, he will help her find what she seeks. If the other houses will come for Emilia soon. Envy tells her to pick a house or the decision will be made for her.
Emilia decided to run to Claudia’s house for fear the demon princes have found the diary. She tells her the Wicked are here. Dark witches think it was the price La Prima paid for the vengeance spell she cast on the devil because he stole her first born’s soul. The devil was trapped in Hell for eternity. His brothers could travel between realms within reason. Supposedly he’d only retain his full powers if a witch sat on the throne beside him, wearing the Horn of Hades to keep balance between realms. There is no written documentation on what the Horn of Hades is or how it works. Claudia’s aunt thinks part of the curse included removing or blocking witches’ memory. Her aunt also believes that’s what happened to Sofia Santorini, her scrying session unveiled something about the curse it wanted forgotten. The only way someone might find the truth is if they had the first book of spells created by La Prima. The Wicked are searching for it. There may be a spell in it that will allow the devil to break the curse and travel between realms without needing a witch queen. Emilia thought about the strange grimoire sheets Vittoria had hidden under the floorboards. There was ancient magic binding her diary that wasn’t of this realm. Was the location of the first book of spells written in there? If Vittoria’s spell book was La Prima’s book, how did she find it? Emilia asks Claudia to retrieve the diary.
On the back Vittoria’s gambling chip, was Greed’s name. There was a strong possibility that her sister’s first summoning correlated to the devil’s sudden desire to break the curse. If she didn’t summon a demon or find the first book of spells, maybe she found the Horn of Hades and its discovery set everything into motion. Emilia had summoned a prince of Hell, so it was likely Vittoria had accomplished the impossible, too. If Wrath gave Vittoria the grimoire sheets, did that mean he’d convinced her to help in some wicked scheme? What could a demon prince possibly gain by angering the devil, and slaying his brides? No matter what secrets her sister kept, Emilia knew with utter certainty that she’d never help someone if they murdered witches.
Emilia flashed the gambling chip at Salvatore. He says that’s the mysterious club everyone it talking about. He says it was somewhere near the cathedral, days ago. Emilia walked to the cathedral, she was about to give up and try somewhere else when she felt the sudden urge to clutch her amulet. She sensed the slight lure of demon magic. Emilia could have sworn she heard a faint humming, guiding her path. After a few minutes of wandering down side roads away from the cathedral, Emilia stopped in front of a door with a crowned frog burned onto it. She pulled the gambling chip out from her bodice.
Emilia entered the gambling club. As she walked down further, someone called “Vittoria!” It was Domenico Nucci Senior, he was intoxicated. Emilia turned around and men who’d been guarding the door told her, their boss would like to talk to Emilia. The Prince of Greed sat behind the mammoth desk, two demon guards stood behind him. Greed says, he’ll answer Emilia’s questions in exchange for her amulet. Greed doesn’t say anything and pulls out a gold chain, a strange essence came off it. He says it’s the Eye of Darkness, it grants whoever wears it true protection from creatures with bad meaning. Greed wants to swap with Emilia for her amulet. He also wants her to join the House Greed. Greed says Emilia aligning with him will be very useful in the future. Emilia will owe Greed a favor, a powerful one, if the charm saves her life.
Greed won’t answer any other questions Emilia has, so she gets up. Greed quickly says, he will answer one of her questions in exchange for nothing. Emilia asks him to tell her about the Horn of Hades. He says it’s a key that locks the gates of Hell. Emilia said, “I heard it was part of a curse. That if a witch wears it she’ll have power over the devil. Greed responds, “Witch legends are fascinating in their falsehoods. The Horn of Hades was a gift. Your sister knew the true story.” Emilia then asks how to break a demon spell that was cast on an object. He says he can’t answer any more questions without it costing her. That was her first actual question. He gets upset but answers, she has to sacrifice a bit of herself. Greed says Emilia’s sister gave her amulet. If Emilia gives Greed her amulet, he said he will vow to protect her world. A Viperidae was summoned to the human realm to guard the amulet.
Her blood would unlock Vittoria’s diary. It opened. Vittoria had written down one of Claudia’s scrying sessions in great detail. Then she saw a tiny, note Vittoria had left for herself. “Am I hearing magical objects, or the souls attached to them over time?” Vittoria never mentioned she had the ability to hear magical objects. The last passage Emilia finds says, “I’d already decided to hide it, far from where they could ever find it. The Horn of Hades is a key to locking the gates of Hell, but, according to it, what it really is, is two somethings. They are the devil’s horns, cut off by his own hand. Emilia and I, for reasons I am unsure of, have been wearing the devil’s horns our whole lives. So if that’s true, how did they find their way to us?”
Later, her Nonna says the Malvagi have returned. Her Nonna says the key does unlock the gates of Hell. La Prima cast a spell that turned them into two smaller amulets, hoping to hide them, if brought together, they not only have the ability to lock the gates, they can also summon the devil. Emilia’s family are known as Stelle Streghe. Star witches. Her Nonna says their family come from an ancient line of witches who worked with the Wicked prior to the curse, to ensure creatures of the underworld remained there. She doesn’t finish her sentence when a floating blade hovered against her throat. The ghost demon was back. The invisible hand dragged Wrath’s blade across her throat. A window burst open, and the invisible demon fled through it. If Emilia hadn’t started investigating her sister’s murder, or tricked Greed, none of this would have happened. Emilia reached up and went to hold her amulet. Her hand dropped away, empty. She forgot she’d taken it off. Emilia went to pick it off the counter her cornicello was gone.
Emilia went to visit Wrath. She asks how someone can summon a Viperidae. He says, “If they choose to guard something, or bring it into their nest, no denizen of the underworld may interfere. They must choose to give it up on their own.” They look like Vipers, with long fangs and are very deadly. Very few antidotes exist if someone is bitten, the ones that do exist have a cost. Emilia leaves to go find the Viperidae. The Viperidae was big, its body coiled in the center of the tunnel. Emilia muttered a sleeping spell, Somnum and dropped a handful of dried chamomile. Her sister’s amulet was on ground next to the beast. It seemed like it should be easy to sneak over, grab it, and retreat without waking the demon. And it would have been, if it wasn’t for all the pebbles and debris littered on the ground.
With sleep spells was, there was no way to prevent someone or something from waking normally. Emilia continued walking. Finally, Emilia reached the amulet and slowly bent to retrieve it. Emilia kept her eyes on the demon. The instant her fingers clasped the cornicello, the chain fell. The Viperidae struck. Its tail whipped out, knocking Emilia off her feet. She gripped Vittoria’s amulet with one hand, and a handful of debris in the other. She waited until the demon was almost on her before tossing the debris in its eyes. Emilia took her first step into the tunnel she used to get to the Viperidae when a fang the size of a sword pierced the fleshy part on her lower back. Emilia stopped moving, her whole body prickled and went ice cold. The pain hit her a beat later, hot and searing. Emilia dropped to the ground. The beast came closer to her, she let it get close before it lowered its head, ready to sink its fangs, Emilia struck hard and fast, shoving Vittoria’s amulet into one of its eyes. Liquid gushed over her hands, as the Viperidae shrieked. She didn’t wait to see if it was dead or badly injured and turned and fled.
Everything was spinning. Emilia staggered away from the tunnel. Suddenly someone was asking her where the Viperidae bit her. Someone picked Emilia up. Wrath was bringing Emilia to Hell. She heard voices and then someone asked her if she gives him permission to fix the poison. Light flashed and Emilia awoke in a soaking tub. Wrath comes in and Emilia asks what was the cost of helping her. Wrath evades her question. Before Wrath tried to woo her, Emilia whispered a containment charm. He disappeared. Emilia dressed and went to find Wrath.
Emilia found Wrath imprisoned in the cave where she first summoned. Emilia tells him she thinks an invisible demon is following her. Wrath says it might be an Umbra demon. The demons are mercenary spies, they sell their services to any royal House that use for them. Wrath is surprised that Emilia had encountered the demon three times. Emilia asks if he also thinks Greed hired the demon because she spoke to Greed before her grandmother was attacked and she tricked him into giving her more information than he’d originally agreed to. Emilia asks Wrath again if he thinks Greed sent the demons, he says, possibly. An Umbra demon can only slip between realms, if a prince sends them or they’re summoned. Wrath also says he can’t be summoned. Emilia asks, what if someone has the Horn of Hades. Wrath gets surprised but doesn’t answer. She asks if Wrath would help her figure out if someone summoned Pride. Emilia says only one of the Horns was used and breaks the containment charm. Wrath promises Emilia he will not physically harm a witch, nor force her into marriage with Pride. Emilia and Wrath stood at the building adjacent to the monastery.
Wrath tells he licked Vittoria’s blood to test Vittoria’s blood to see if she was aligned with any demon house. Her blood showed that she hadn’t aligned with any house. Emilia then asks him if he thinks Greed or Envy would want to stop Pride from marrying. He says, no, Greed enjoys ruling his house and Envy lacks the ambition to do anything. The objects around Emilia and Wrath couldn’t be used to summon Pride even if Emilia’s sister had possession of both horns, it still wouldn’t work without the correct candles, metals, and plants. Whatever happened in this chamber that night, Vittoria didn’t summon Pride. It doesn’t look like she was trying to, either. Wrath says she might have wanted to summon him, but changed her mind along the way or didn’t do it in the monastery.
Wrath says there there was no trace of Greed in the chamber. Unless her sister had a personal object belonging to him, it’s far more likely she or whoever may have set up this particular circle summoned one of his subjects, there are thousands of them. Emilia asked what kind of object would Vittoria need to summon Greed. Wrath says she probably won’t find it because it would have been in the monastery the night she was murdered. Whoever killed her must have taken it when they left. There’s no scent there that can be traced. If it’s a demon, Wrath will have to track it a different way. Emilia says maybe Vittoria didn’t actually summon a demon. Maybe she stumbled upon someone else trying to summon Greed and they killed her or maybe they’d summoned a lesser demon and it attacked. Wrath disagrees because a lesser demon would go for the throat or the viscera, it wouldn’t solely target one organ and leave. Emilia threatens Wrath because she has his dagger, which could kill him. She asks Wrath why Pride sent him to the monastery.
Wrath tells Emilia a dagger to the heart hurts but won’t kill him. From down the monastery hall, someone asks, “Hello?” It was Antonio. He saw the serpent tattoo on Wrath and their matching ink on both forearms. Emilia introduces Wrath as an old friend, Samael. She picked the name because is Samael was a prince of Rome and an angel of death. Wrath tells her not to call him that again and says they can’t rule out Emilia’s friend because he’s mortal. Wrath informs Emilia he’ll send a message to the next potential bride. He cannot leave this world until she sends him back or unless his connection is severed with a demon blade. Emilia mentioned Transvenio and Wrath says his ties to her prevent him from freely traveling between realms. But they also allow him to stay here longer than he normally could. Their bond anchors him here. The devil could send messages between realms. Maybe the devil was tired of witches wearing his horns. Emilia asks how Wrath plans to deliver the bride to Hell. He says he’s only speaking with her tomorrow. He never mentions taking her to Hell. Wrath says he’s going to secure a building tonight. Once he finds a location, he’ll send a note telling her where he’ll be. If Emilia doesn’t hear from him by dusk, she will meet Wrath back at the cave.
When Emilia comes home her mom questions where she was all night. Emilia says she was at the monastery. Her mom says she knew that because Fratello Antonio came over, worried. Emilia was doomed yet her mother says hanging out with young men may distract her but won’t take the pain away forever. Emilia is relieved. Her mother tells her she has to make extra pasta for Antonio. She delivers the pasta to him, furious. Antonio says he was just worried because her sister was murdered here and a month later, he finds her in the same chamber with someone he’s never seen and whose name Emilia refuse to give. He wanted to check if she was alright. His voice was quiet when tells Emilia, another girl was murdered after they spoke last night. After what happened with Vittoria, he had to be sure it wasn’t. Antonio apologizes. Emilia asks her name but Antonio doesn’t know, all he knows is she looks like the other girls.
Emilia wanders through the crowd trying to find Wrath. She finds him and they go find Salvatore, the town’s gossip and vendor of the shirt Emilia bought for Wrath. Wrath tells her about the potential bride, Giulia Santorini. Giulia’s grandmother Sofia was the witch whose mind had gotten trapped between realms, shifting between realities so swiftly she no longer knew what was real and what was a vision. After what happened to Sofia, the Santorinis never dabbled in the dark arts again. Maybe she was wrong and Giulia decided to invoke the dark arts like her grandma. And perhaps she was the one who’d given her sister those mysterious grimoire pages. Maybe the grimoire was the missing link. Emilia thought again about the first book of spells. About the magic binding her sister’s diary. Emilia asks Wrath if he didn’t contact her last night and Wrath responds saying he or Pride did not kill her. He also thinks none of his brothers killed her either. Wrath exchanges his shirt for another one. Salvatore says the girl that was killed had her heart ripped out too. Sal gives them a location and Emilia and Wrath leave. Wrath doesn’t smell any of the other demons’ magic at the death location. Emilia says the next witch Wrath gets informed of needs to be protected.
Emilia’s father gives Emilia a note from Salvatore that reads: Piazza Zisa and Via degli Emiri. Eight in the evening. Later that evening, Emilia crept into the abandoned castle that was on the note. Emilia finds another note that says: Roof. Wrath was sitting on the roof, in the sunlight. Emilia is confused so Wrath tells her that he can be in the sunlight. After she asks, Wrath says he doesn’t know who the next witch is yet. Emilia then asks why Wrath invited her earlier, he was supposed to call her at night. He says the building is secured with magic so unless something is invited in, it’ll be safe from humans, his brothers and most supernatural creatures. Wrath informs Emilia he will be out to meet one of Pride’s messengers. He tells her an associate has been watching him since late last night, and witnessed him passing information this morning to someone wearing a hood. Whoever he spoke to is most likely the murderer. Emilia then forces Wrath to bring her along. While she follows him, Emilia realizes she let slip where she lives.
Wrath tells Emilia they’re meeting a mortal who sold his soul. Emilia gives his dagger back. She asks him if she were to die, how long it would take for his powers to start diminishing. Wrath responds saying it depends on how much magic he expends. If he doesn’t use much, he could retain them for a small amount of time, probably a decade for Emilia. Someone else can also act as an anchor although it is rare and not worth the time it would take to find someone and agree to terms both sides accept. Emilia and Wrath are interrupted when the messenger appears holding a letter from Wrath’s brother. Wrath immediately advances on him and grabs him. He asks the messenger who paid him to open Pride’s letter.
Emilia then steps forward, using a magical command and starts to ask the messenger questions after he wasn’t answering Wrath. She says, “Did you open the letter?” “Y-yes.” “Did anyone pay you to do it?” “Yes.” “Who paid you, Francesco? Greed?” “No.” “Tell me who paid you then.” “I do not know his name.” “Is he human?” “He wore a hood. I didn’t see his face.” “Did you tell him where Giulia would be the night she was murdered?” “Yes.” “Did you meet with him today?” “Yes.” “What information did you give him?” “A-a-another address. And a time to meet. I didn’t have a name this time, I swear!” “What time and address did you give him, Francesco?” “Th-th-th-the Piazza Vigliena. M-m-midnight.” All of a sudden, the messenger forgot who he was and where he was. Emilia had used dark magic. Wrath lets the messenger go. He’s upset at Emilia but tells her they’re going to the Quattro Canti, where the real messenger is waiting for them.
Wrath asks Emilia to wait while he goes to talk to the new messenger. Emilia creeps closer and hears them say, “. . . suspects the truth, Anir. I’m sure the others will in time, too.” “Too late for regrets now,” the human, Anir, said. “With everything going on . . . it might be a good thing. I mean, you chose to do the ritual. Right? Is it really that bad?” “She’s a demon-blooded damned witch. What do you think?” Wrath introduces Emilia to his most trusted associate, Anir. He knows who will agree to marry Pride next. He was there the night Emilia was attacked by the Viperidae. Wrath’s associate is a human. Emilia asks him why he cannot be his anchor. If something were to happen to her, he’d be fine. Wrath hesitates but says Anir no longer claims the human world as his. Anir was waiting for the robed figure to arrive, but they never showed up. Wrath informs Emilia the next witch is Valentina Rossi. Valentina is Claudia’s cousin. Wrath says Emilia can inform her but it’s her decision at the end. He’s going to use her as bait to draw out the murder.
All of a sudden, the three encounter a body with blood pooled around it. Emilia recognizes the body as Valentina Rossi. Wrath says that means one of his brothers is responsible. Anir then says, “Either way, the implications of a betrayal within the Seven . . . forget the curse, your highness. Personal feelings about witches aside, finish the marriage bond with Emilia and secure your own House before war comes. You’ll need your powers at their fullest. Whoever is organizing this must have killed Pride’s wife. Emilia asks what marriage bond. Wrath says Emilia will not be forced to go to hell. Emilia leaves.
Emilia goes to a restaurant to continue her search for Vittoria’s killer. A chair was pulled out across from Emilia and Wrath slid into it. He found her through their tattoo bond. While eating, Wrath tells her in order for the curse to be fully broken, a consort needs to sit on the throne and help rule House Pride. The last consort was murdered, her heart torn from her chest. The First Witch did curse Pride. Daughter of the sun goddess and a demon, she was created as the perfect balance between light and dark. Witches were told she was immortal. The First Witch cursed him as punishment for what she thought happened between her firstborn and him. Her daughter willingly chose to wed him, they fell in love despite who they were, Wrath says. She was a star witch, meant to be a guardian between realms. La Prima, commanded her daughter to give up her throne, and return to the coven, but she refused. The First Witch used the darkest kind of magic to remove her daughter’s power and banished her from the coven. It had unforeseen effects for other witches, too. It’s why some give birth to human daughters, Wrath finishes.
Wrath is concerned with breaking the curse if Pride is trapped in the underworld because several human years ago, something fractured the gates of Hell. It was said it was part of a prophecy. Then Pride’s wife was murdered and his powers dampened. He was trapped in Hell, and lesser demons began testing us by trying to slip through cracks in the gates. The gates are continuing to weaken, despite the princes’ best efforts. Some things have already arrived in the human world, like lesser demons. Emilia should be concerned about the Aper demon. It has a head of a boar, tusks of an elephant. Huge reptilian bodies, cleft hooves. Dumb as an ox, but they’ve got a particular fondness for witch blood. A thousand tiny teeth in double rows make them very accomplished with swiftly draining a body. Emilia felt a wet snuff at the base of his neck. Wrath tells her, whatever she does, don’t run.
Once a demon who craves witch blood has been provoked, it will pursue the cause of its addiction, stopping only when the source has run dry. To ward against this dark energy, pin a sachet of dried yarrow inside your clothing during each new moon. Wrath’s warning came late, Emilia hiked up her skirts and ran. Suddenly, Emilia glanced around, no demons lurked behind her. Silence. Emilia wasn’t alone, she just couldn’t see any danger coming. Demons must have the ability to cloak themselves with some sort of glamour. Emilia turned and ran as fast as she could. Apparently, she was wrong about the glamour. It hadn’t been hiding at all, it just moved too fast for her to see it. It wasn’t moving now. Emilia refused to break eye contact with it. It would pounce if she turned around. They maintained each others pace until they were trapped down a dead end. Finally remembering the moon-blessed chalk in her pocket, Emilia reached down. One second, she was standing, the next she was on the ground with teeth snapping at her neck. Panic set in. A blade shot through where the demon’s heart used to be, and shadows writhed like snakes from the wound. Wrath stood there. He asked if she recognized the pawprint on the door. She says it might be fennel stalk, but didn’t know where from. She saw that symbol before, but couldn’t recall when or where. Once they left, Emilia would look at Vittoria’s diary. Wrath and Emilia enter through door.
The door led to a large room that was filled with crates and fishing traps. The location looked like it hadn’t been used for a while. Before he could argue, Emilia slipped out the door and headed to her house. She looked into the bedroom. Floorboards were ripped up and broken. Wooden splinters littered the little knotted rug Nonna made for her and Vittoria when they were little. Feathers floated on the breeze blowing in from the shattered window. Wrath said princes of Hell had to be invited into a mortal’s home, but that rule didn’t hold true for all demons. Lower-caste creatures of Hell seemed to do as they pleased. The Umbra slipped beyond their protection charms, and no formal invitation had been sent to it. Wrath also mentioned magic didn’t work on them the same way it did on corporeal beings, so it was likely more an issue with that than their charms. Her sister’s diary was long gone, taking the many secrets with it. Greed was back to the top of Emilia’s suspect list. He was the only prince of Hell thus far that she knew used them to do his bidding. The grimoire pages she tucked back in there after she summoned Wrath were torn to shreds. Emilia visits Claudia to see how she is faring. Claudia too, wants vengeance. Emilia asks if she has a spell to make an invisible ward powerful enough to kill a demon if it tries to cross it. Claudia says she believes so. Emilia tells Claudia to cast the ward around both their homes, if she can. Emilia gives some of her blood for the charm.
Emilia entered his stolen palace and marched up the stairs. She asks why he doesn’t take her half of the Horn. He said he did not steal her sister’s diary. It wasn’t just a normal diary, there was a demonic locking spell on it, Emilia says. Wrath says he has something planned for tonight, Isabella Crisci has made a deal with Pride. When Emilia wakes up, Wrath isn’t there. Emilia decided to leave too. She walked up the streets clinging to cliffs and finally stopped to stare out at the sea. There was a bonfire, glowing below her. A shadowy group of people began gathering in a cove, mostly hidden from view. Emilia held Vittoria’s cornicello in her fist and squeezed her eyes shut, silently commanding it to lead her to her own amulet. There was no time for parties, Emilia lifted her foot to start off again, but something wouldn’t let her go. She opened her eyes and glared down at the party. Vittoria would have dragged Emilia down there to dance and drink and live. Now she was dead and Emilia was standing up here, alone. She decided she would dance and laugh and forget the world for a few hour. She followed the narrow path to the water and sounds of merriment. The goddess cried out in warning. Caught up in her thoughts, she hadn’t been listening to the signs. An overwhelming sense of fear crashed into her when feet hit the sand, but by then it was too late. I’d already reached the raging bonfire.
Happiness, pure, radiant, and all- consuming, filled her. If she’d been angry a moment before, it was a forgotten the second she walked across the sand. If she’d been worried about invading demons, she no longer could recall why. A dance partner appeared. A tiny voice screamed in warning, this was all wrong, but was silenced as music and movement swept Emilia. Whispers grew louder. Someone handed Emilia a glass of wine and she drank deeply. She gulped more. Then her glass was gone and she was pulled into another dance. “Remember.” A strange voice whispered to her. “Inferus sicut superus.” As above, so below. Something piercing in her arm, cold and sharp, jolted Emilia from her trance. Emilia’s invisible dance partner vanished. She felt she should run in the other direction. He stopped before her, his expression wary. “Time to go, witch.” Emilia twirled away, but he grabbed her hand, spinning her back. Wrath tells her she needs to leave immediately because she under his brother, Lust’s influence. Lust snapped his fingers and the influence over Emilia was gone. Lust says he is deliver a message to Wrath, he is needed at home, immediately. Wrath attacks him, puncturing a lung and breaking a few ribs.
Emilia was in the void for a week. All happiness was gone. Anything that once held meaning was long forgotten, buried deep in a void Emilia couldn’t break through. While Emilia was in bed, in the distance, I thought I heard Wrath telling a story about a witch. One day her heart had been ripped from her, emotionally. The void was only filled when she went out hunting for vengeance, and even then her grief was never far. Then, when she’d been close to discovering some long-forgotten secret, she met a terrible prince. He delighted in taking what little pleasure she’d clung to, leaving her empty and vulnerable. One morning, Emilia was finally taken out of bed and dumped into a waiting bath, clothes and all. Candles set in a circle on the floor. At some point, Wrath had hung window coverings. A line of sand circled the tub along with dozens of fragrant orange blossoms and plumeria, Emilia’s favorite flowers. Adding orange blossoms and plumeria was a bit much—the sand would have done just fine for the earth portion of the ritual. I didn’t point that out, though. Emilia was surprised the demon even knew this much of the witches’ ways.
Wrath tells Emilia Lust is likely almost healed, he won’t bother her again. He tells her, “You need to trust in yourself and your power. Or they will torture and taunt you for eternity.” Wrath tells her he’ll be back in a little while. He leaves before Emilia can say something so she also dresses and leaves.
Emilia hurried through the streets. She sees Claudia pacing the small courtyard separating the dormitory from the monastery. Tears streamed down her face. She yanked at her hair, mumbling. Her skirts were dirty and torn. Claudia says, “They said not to use them. To never use them. Bones and black mirrors. Black mirrors and bones. Piles of bodies and ashes of the fallen. Bones of the dead, and the dead are dust because I’ve seen the raven’s wings beating against the crescent moon.” She says she is hearing whispers. Black mirrors were used for scrying. Emilia tells her everything is fine but Claudia says she can hear them, the bones of the dead, and the dust of the stars, and the devouring moon with its vicious grin. Claudia yells, “make them stop screaming!” “The damned! They think they burn, but there are worse fates than fire and ash.”
Claudia threw her head back and screamed. She says again, “Black mirrors. Burning eyes. Death comes bearing friendship. Inferus sicut superus. The book needs blood. It craves it. Blood breaks it.” Claudia tells Emilia to hide her heart before they take it. “Change is here. Angelus mortis. He’s coming and going, and is a cunning thief who stole the stars and drank them dry. He will take you. You’re already gone. In the end, you choose. But he’s also chosen. I’ll mourn. I am mourning. Like leaves on the wind. The angel of death claimed you. Changed you. You are here, but not there, there is where you will be, your life is ended. Same but different. For eternity.” I knew enough of scrying to know her warnings were not simply rantings, or signs of madness. It sounded like Claudia was trapped between realms and realities, hearing a hundred different messages at once. Emilia decides to bring her to her Nonna but Claudia whispers, “Run.”
A dormitory door flew open, and a few members of the brotherhood rushed outside. Brother Carmine emerged from the back of the group, he hated witches, if he saw Claudia like this, he’d believe she was possessed. Antonio knelt beside her. Emilia asks Claudia to leave with her, she accepts. Claudia slips her hand into Antonio’s, cringing, saying, “He said he’s not ready, and he will not move. Time is slipping like water through his hands. But still he waits. He waits and waits. He wants her to choose. He knows she will. Soon. Then he will take her heart, too. And her soul.” Claudia mentions Domenico because he didn’t go to the monastery that day, he was gone. Emilia decides to go find him, but doesn’t know where his family lives.
Emilia knew where to find Claudia’s aunt Carolina. While rounding the corner, she hears an unfamiliar voice speak. A dark figure stepped in front of her. He was a vampire. The vampire introduces himself as Alexei and says Prince Envy wants to see her. He says that should give him enough time at Sea & Vine. Claudia had shielded their home against demons. It was late, and the restaurant was closed. The vampire says, “My prince said I ought to mention that spells, like witch bones, are easily broken. If one knows where to apply the correct pressure. Or in this case, who to target.” Envy had spies watching her home. He says, “Demon shields and wards are tricky, but can be broken. Your family should be with the prince by now; the more you struggle, the harder it will be on them. He does not like to be kept waiting.” Emilia whispered a truth spell. She asks him if Envy had Claudia break the ward on her family’s home, he says yes. He tells Emilia her parents are at the restaurant with Envy. Emilia ran. She scans the room, searching for signs of a struggle. Envy looks at her and says “You’re right on schedule, pet. The show is about to begin.”
The Prince of Envy had been behind the attack on Nonna, not Greed. Envy was the traitor Wrath and Emilia had been looking for. Wrath had been so convinced Envy would never rise up against them, that he didn’t even look into the threat. Emilia’s parents are locked in the kitchen and her grandmother are at her house. Envy threatens to torture all that are close to her. He tells Emilia Wrath will never choose her in the end. Envy says he wants both Emilia and Vittoria’s conicello. Envy gives Emilia twenty-four hours to bring the Horn and her loved ones will not be maimed. Emilia doesn’t have the other amulet, she is confused why Envy attacked her grandmother, but doesn’t have the amulet, but accusations without evidence are worthless. Once Emilia has the amulets, her family and friends will be returned to her. Envy tells her that Wrath wants to break the devil’s curse. Once he has collects his final soul, the curse won’t matter to him. He will have full power, and the ability to walk this realm freely without an anchor. He can either choose to stay in the Seven Circles and rule his royal House, or he can roam the earth until the end of days.
A Prince of Hell’s greatest pleasure is causing discord. Before an attack, his irises turn darker than a starless night with flecks of red, a sign of his wicked bloodlust. The tall, arched door clicked shut behind Emilia. Wrath emerged from the darkness of the abandoned palace. Wrath and Emilia kiss. Suddenly Emilia says, “Was Envy lying when he said you need to deliver one more soul to gain your freedom?” He startled away, but not before she got her answer in the form of a singular, thrashing beat of his heart. Anger filled the space between them. Emilia asks him to deny her statement, but he can’t because of the bond between them. She needed to locate the amulet immediately. Emilia swears that is Wrath follows her, she will sever their summoning bond.
Two doors away from Emilia’s home, she hears Brother Carmine having a hushed conversation about Antonio with another member of the brotherhood. Emilia slipped out from the shadows and hurried into her house. There were three demons crammed inside the kitchen with her family. Antonio wasn’t there, but Envy was and threatens to kill Nonna. Envy’s cut off when Nonna whispers a silencing spell. Nonna rose up from the ground, a faint purple glow surrounding her. She opened a glittering black portal forming behind Envy. She magically sewed his feet to the floor. Emilia’s grandmother planted both hands on Envy’s chest and sent him straight to Hell. The two remaining demons dove through the portal after him. The portal closed. Emilia’s parents who were still in a near-unconscious state. Claudia was also slumped over, her eyes shut as if in sleep.
Nonna tells Emilia she’s marked. On Emilia’s neck there was a shimmering S. It was the place Wrath’s tongue touched her the night she almost died in the Viperidae attack. The mark allows her to Wrath without the use of an object that belongs to him and nothing will prevent him from answering the summoning. Emilia’s Nonna mentions a prophecy. Back when she was a young woman, she was entrusted with being one of the keepers of the Horn of Hades. Each generation, a witch was chosen to guard them. Everyone was told of an ancient prophecy involving twin witches. When they were born, on the night of a terrible storm, only then could the amulets be worn. No other twin witches, both with magic, have been born into this line other than Vittoria and Emilia. The prophecy says the twins would signal the end of the devil’s curse, and would be forced to make great sacrifices to keep the gates of Hell intact. If they choose to do nothing, Hell will reign on earth. The twins are meant to bring balance to both realms. As above, so below. The gates are breaking.
Emilia heard the her parents wake, she wanted to talk with them but decided the danger she’d put them in would be greater. Suddenly Emilia remembers the fennel. Nonna had used dried fennel on Envy. Wrath had pointed out that the image painted on the door to that old fisherman’s storage building had a paw holding a stalk of fennel, not wheat like she’d originally thought. The symbol was familiar, it symbolized an ancient order of shape-shifters who were said to battle evil. If an ancient sect of warriors was living in Palermo, maybe they’d like to help rid the city of the demons invading it. The building with the painted shape-shifter symbol, was still eerily and quiet. She scanned the miscellaneous items carefully, dragging her attention over each floorboard, each corner, and every last item she could see.
Emilia decided to see if her luccicare would locate the magical object the way Vittoria was able to hear them quietly whispering to her. There began to be a slight humming. Emilia stepped to the right and the sound faded. When she moved left the humming came back. When she removed and old hook from the wall right in front of her, a secret door behind it clicked open. Emilia peered at the secret door, wondering if she’d be brave enough to see where it led. Whispers called to her, louder. Perhaps wearing Vittoria’s cornicello gave her access to her magic. Which meant, whatever had drawn her sister to that cave above the sea, was now calling to Emilia. Emilia held her cornicello tightly, and stepped into the secret passage.
Vittoria’s amulet had gone from a slight purple glow to a strong pulsating light. Emilia glanced around, searching for the cause and saw a crude cross painted on the wall, she was underneath the church. Buried a little by dirt, was a glint of silver. Emilia’s missing amulet glowed. Emilia took off Vittoria’s amulet, putting it in her pocket and put hers on her neck. Someone was down there with her. Emilia rounded the corner and hurried into the shadows, drew a quick protection circle, then pressed herself into a damp recess, hidden from view. It was Wrath, who covers her mouth to silence her. There were three Umbra demons behind them and two dozen that have been following her since she left her house. The only explanation to this was either the gates are exponentially weakening or someone summoned them all. Wrath mentions he can transvenio her to the palace, but Emilia is hesitant because Wrath says it feels uncomfortable for a few seconds. Emilia doesn’t have the chance to reply because the demons caught up with them. Wrath begins fighting them while Emilia is frozen in place.
Wrath fought, thrashed, and managed to take out a few more, but it was no use. Even something as mighty as the demon of war couldn’t hold back the tide of invisible bodies that kept coming for him. Strangely enough, not one of them so much as breathed in Emilia’s direction. Eventually they held Wrath in place. Envy was there. Wrath couldn’t unleash his power because Emilia was there. Envy then sinks his dagger into Wrath and he dragged it across his body. Wrath tells Emilia to leave. Emilia thinks Wrath is dying. Envy wrapped long fingers around Emilia’s wrist, grinding the bones together. A little more pressure and he’d fracture something. Emilia quickly looped Vittoria’s amulet over her head. A whiplike crack split the silence as the devil’s horns were reunited. Emilia orders Envy to leave and now has him as an enemy.
Resurrection spells are part of both the dark arts and the Forbidden. If you attempt to steal back life, Death will take its retribution elsewhere, balancing the scales. Emilia goes to the ruined palace. Without Wrath’s dagger, Emilia didn’t have any gold, which was a main ingredient she needed to summon a demon from House Wrath. A small gold ring hammered into olive branches sat on a bed of crushed velvet. During ancient Roman times, an olive branch was given by an enemy as a gesture of peace. Wrath had given her the final piece to needed to summon him. Emilia says a spell and waited for Wrath’s arrival. Emilia squeezed a few more droplets of blood into the circle, but nothing happened. She went over the ritual again, but there was no smoke, or sign Emilia summoned anything. Nonna said as long as he lived, Wrath would come. Emilia thought back to the very beginning, when she prayed to the goddess of death and fury, and couldn’t help but wonder if she finally exacted the revenge Emilia no longer wanted against him. Wrath was really, truly gone. The Horn of Hades was in Emilia’s possession, but she wasn’t sure how to use it to close the gates of Hell. Her family fled, Antonio was kidnapped by Envy, Emilia’s best friend’s mind was still trapped between realms, and Umbra demons had infiltrated the city.
Emilia visits Domenico Senior and asks how Domenico Junior is. Domenico Senior doesn’t give any valuable answers, so Emilia was about to leave when she notices a tattoo of a paw print clutching a fennel stalk. It was painted on the side of his food cart. Emilia had never seen it in her sister’s diary, she saw it the day Wrath and her had tried to get close to investigate the murder of Giulia Santorini. Emilia questions him again. Domenico Senior says Vittoria knew Greed and they were working on a plan together. He mentions the benandanti. Their spirits change into animal forms to astral travel four times a year. They also fight in the Night Battles. Domenico Senior says that’s what the benandanti are, but that’s not what he is. They took on their symbol so they’re often confused. He says they’re called Ember Wolves. The benandanti are human, they aren’t, they’re werewolves. Wolves stuck with their pack and were loyal only to each other.
Domenico Senior made a bargain with Greed. Greed promised to forgive his debts if the wolves fight on the side of the devil when the time comes. They haven’t shifted in nearly two decades, so Domenico didn’t think the bargain held value. One day werewolves were able to shift, and the next they couldn’t. This changed when a boy celebrated their twentieth year, usually changing for the first time. When Dom shifted, Domenico Senior knew they were in trouble. What Domenico Senior did was shameful. Now Dom prays at the monastery for his father and for himself, hoping everyone will forgive his father’s sins. Vittoria set up the bargain between Domenico Senior and Greed, it was part of her bigger plan. But Vittoria never told Domenico what that was. All roads kept leading back to the monastery. Emilia left Signore Nucci. Before Vittoria was murdered, Nonna said there were witch hunters actively seeking prey on the island. If someone wanted to kill witches, the holy order was the perfect suspect. Emilia thought about the night she found Claudia, to Brother Carmine, who’d had a murderous gleam in his eyes.
A group of robed figures was gathered in the courtyard. One of their members was missing, and several young women were dead. Emilia hid near the edge of the main building. She arrived at the apex of Brother Carmine’s speech. Emilia was contemplating whether or not she should follow him when she felt the call of magic coming from within the monastery. Emilia removed her sister’s cornicello from her pocket and put around her neck. The brotherhood was gone. As she hurried past the mummies in an otherwise empty corridor, Emilia felt something watching. Emilia called out but no one emerged. When Emilia looked down the seemingly empty corridor of the dead again, she heard faint whispers. Emilia followed the voices, traveling deeper into the catacombs. The hum of voices grew louder. Several minutes later, Emilia stopped in a dank hallway carved of limestone. A door near the end of the hallway was slightly cracked open. Emilia took the last few steps and paused beside it. It could be a trap, but the whispers had turned frantic now. From the outside, the room looked empty. Illusions were deceptively easy magic—they often projected what you expected to find.
Emilia pushed back toward the door, but it was no use. Emilia would stay in this room until whoever had set the containment spell set her free. The whispers were incessant. The glamour abruptly dropped away. The walls were covered in Latin. The letters softly glowed and pulsated. A spell that powerful wouldn’t be easily broken. Emilia was alone, except for a book. Emilia thinks the book was the “it” Vittoria described in her diary. That was the secret her sister died to keep. The voices quieted. Vittoria had found La Prima’s grimoire. Someone had summoned the devil or wanted to. This was the mysterious grimoire Vittoria had torn pages from. A hooded figure stepped into the room, and knocked the blessed chalk out of her hands. It was Antonio, who hates her. Antonio willingly delivered Claudia straight into the enemies’ hands. He killed Vittoria. Quickly, Emilia held the Horn of Hades and whispered a foul spell. She lifted her arm, then slashed down in an arc. Invisible claws cut Antonio’s robes to ribbons, sparing his flesh. An eye for an eye. He fell to his knees and began praying. Emilia forced Antonio to look at him.
Emilia wants to curse him but instead decides to question him and possibly spare his life. When his mother was dying, Antonio brought her to a witch who couldn’t do anything about his mother, because of this he promised if he met another witch, he’d kill her. Later an angel came to him informing him on the devil’s curse. In order to break it, the devil needed to marry a witch. This couldn’t happen, or the devil would be set free. The angel said he’d provide the names of potential brides, and all Antonio had to do to save the people from true evil was kill witches. Antonio knows Emilia has the Horn of Hades and he wants to destroy it. Antonio wants to kill the devil when Emilia summons him. Pride comes, in Antonio’s body. Pride wants Emilia to be his consort, but that will cost her soul. He then yanked out a dagger and aimed it at Antonio’s heart. Emilia stops him and tells him to meet her in a cave before agreeing to anything. Emilia wanted a few minutes to read over the first book of spells, but it was gone.
Instead of the Devil meeting Emilia it was Wrath. Wrath didn’t acknowledge her. The Wicked were skilled liars. In a containment circle Antonio floated in a sort of suspended animation. Emilia considered her dwindling options. If Emilia stayed, the gates of Hell would weaken and open, destroying everything. The human world wasn’t equipped to deal with the carnage that hordes of demons would bring if the gates opened. Emilia agreed under two conditions: no other witch will be hunted, no human attacked, every prince of Hell would stay out of the human world, and Antonio will be Emilia’s prisoner. A scroll materialized along with a raven’s quill, the point more blade than pen. Emilia carefully read over the parchment. Selling a soul shouldn’t be so easy. I had a more difficult time haggling with vendors in the marketplace over clothing. Emilia pricked her finger and signed her soul away in blood, the magic binding her to the devil for eternity. Once she finished, the scroll disappeared in a wisp of smoke. Wrath took her amulets back too. They were no longer bound together, and Wrath’s power was overwhelming. Emilia took Wrath’s hands and his fingers tightened on hers. The pain lasted only a moment before a new sensation stoked even greater fear. Emilia arrived in Hell.