Home > Lord of Embers (The Demon Queen Trials #2)

Lord of Embers (The Demon Queen Trials #2)
Author: C.N. Crawford

 


Summary of City of Thorns

 

 

In case you forgot, a refresher…

In book one, Rowan was determined to break into the City of Thorns.

She knew that her mother had been murdered by a demon, but she couldn’t remember anything about the killer. All she had was a faint memory of a five-pointed star on the killer’s forehead, and the knowledge that her mother had burned to death. The trauma from that night left her with a deep fear of fire, and an inability to remember the exact events.

One night, while out for her birthday with her best friend Shai, a powerful demon showed up at the bar. The gorgeous, silver-haired Lord of Chaos seemed to think she was his worst enemy—a succubus named Mortana. Long ago, Mortana was responsible for killing all the other Lilu (incubi and succubi). She was the reason that Orion was imprisoned for centuries. He blames Mortana for killing his family. Suffice it to say, he really loathes her—and Rowan looks exactly like her.

The next thing she knew, Rowan was in a dungeon in the demons’ City of Thorns, about to be executed. Only when Orion bit her neck and tasted her mortal blood did he believe she was mortal.

Then, the two struck a deal. She would pretend to be Mortana—the succubus—and help Orion learn how to kill the king (Cambriel). Rowan would get to stay in the city, secretly hunting for her mom’s killer.

The two of them work on disguising Rowan as a succubus, and as they spend more time with each other, their attraction grows. Together, they explore the city. Rowan searched for a five-pointed star, and anyone who might wield fire magic.

In the old Lilu quarter of the city, Rowan discovered a portrait of her mother hanging in an abandoned mansion. She learned that her mother had once lived as a demon aristocrat in the city, and that her father had probably burned to death outside the mansion. When the Lilu were massacred by Mortana and the king centuries ago, her parents had gone into hiding.

At last, the truth came out and shocked both of them. A shimmering key tattoo showed up on Rowan’s arm, and she discovered that her magical powers had been locked as a way to hide her identity.

Rowan is not mortal, but is a succubus with fire power. Even more horrifying to Rowan is the realization that she and Orion both have the five-pointed star on their heads. Both of them have fire magic, like her mother’s killer. The star she’d been searching for is a mark of Lucifer, signifying that someone is destined to rule. Rowan can’t remember much from the night her mother died, but she wonders if she saw the star on her own forehead in a reflection.

As soon as Orion sees the mark on her forehead, he is convinced that she has been lying to him. Now, he is positive that she is Mortana. The two of them fight, trying to kill each other, but neither of them can bring themselves to do it.

At the end of book one, Rowan is hiding from Orion. She still does not know who killed her mother, but she has a clue in an old nursery rhyme she found in her parents’ house.

 

 

Chapter 1—Rowan

 

 

I gripped a plastic bag to my chest, trying to keep it dry. A slate-gray sky spread out overhead. As I stepped in a cold puddle, rain drenched my socks through the hole in my shoe.

This was my life now—kicked out of the City of Thorns, back in my old neighborhood. As soon as Orion had discovered the mark of Lucifer glowing on my head, he’d decided I was his worst enemy. The oath he’d sworn kept me out of the demon city where I belonged. If he saw me again, he’d be compelled to kill me.

Shivering, I glanced across the street at the powder-blue house where I’d grown up and the crooked statues of the Virgin Mary the owner kept on the little patch of grass out front.

Behind it, the dark Osborne Woods Reservation stretched for thousands of acres. For a moment, a memory flashed in my mind—sprinting through those woods years ago in rain like this. I shuddered, sliding my hand in my pockets to run my fingers over my keys.

Not far ahead, a woman with a stroller hurried down the sidewalk with her baby to get out of the rain. My throat tightened. Mom used to send me out for Dunkin’ Donuts across the street on weekend mornings. God, I missed her. Being in this neighborhood wasn’t helping.

Witchcraft Point sounded like a magical neighborhood of curiosity shops and cobblestones. In reality, it was the old industrial part of town, a cluster of half-abandoned, boarded-up tanneries, broken windows, and shabby rentals. Fast food joints completed the bleak suburban sprawl.

I turned to look behind me at the demon city—towering walls of golden stone and gleaming turrets on Osborne’s tallest hill to the east. It was warmer inside the gates, where the amber walls glowed with an unearthly light like an ancient Mediterranean paradise. Beyond the gates, the Acheron River sprang from the ground and flowed out to the candy-blue sea.

I had to get back in there somehow. Not only was it much nicer there, but I hadn’t found the person who’d burned Mom to death in Osborne Woods.

Yet.

I turned away from the city again.

After a few days outside the City of Thorns, I could feel my magic and strength seeping out of my body. It was a deeply uncomfortable feeling, like growing sicker.

I glanced to my left. On a craggy hill behind the Dunkin’ parking lot, the Osborne Gallows had once stood. Hard to imagine now, but bodies had once swung on the slope behind the dumpster.

I pulled the plastic bag of sweatpants closer, hoping they wouldn’t be wet by the time I arrived at the home of Mr. Esposito, my mom’s nonagenarian friend. Earlier today, I’d peered out my dingy basement windows and seen him walking to the bus stop in the pouring rain. His pants had sagged to his knees on his skinny frame, and he’d shuffled along, trying to get to a bench so he could pull them up.

I’d stood at the window, frozen in indecision. Should I run out to help him, or would that embarrass him? Was it better to pretend I never saw it? While I’d dithered over the decision, he’d reached the bench and restored his dignity himself. But it was clear to me what he’d needed—elasticated sweatpants that would stay on.

At Family Dollar, I’d spent twelve dollars on three pairs of sweatpants, discounted to four dollars each. Two for Mr. Esposito, one for myself.

I pulled out my phone, hoping to see a text from Shai, but my battery had run out. Raindrops slid down the dark phone screen, and I shoved it back into my pocket. These cheap sweatpants were comfortable enough, and they had pockets. I was starting to think I wouldn’t wear anything else.

Mortana liked glamour. I wanted to wear pajamas all day. Not much of a life plan, maybe, but right now, I didn’t have a better one.

After I dropped off these sweatpants, I’d get a bus to my favorite part of town, the historic district around Osborne Common, and splurge on a hot chocolate in Ye Olde Osborne Coffee Shoppe. Situated northeast of here, that part of the city boasted Georgian houses, quaint brick sidewalks, cobbled roads, and signs with pristine gold lettering. And while I was lifting my spirits there, I’d dry off, pull out my little notepad, and come up with my master plan.

When you had only a few dollars and half a box of cereal left, you really needed a plan.

I turned onto Gallows Hill Road, walking quickly. Colored flags fluttered in the wind, adorning an overgrown parking lot that had once been a used car dealership. The sky was growing darker now. Across the street, the broken windows of a mint-green concrete building had been boarded up with plywood. Just beyond that sat Mr. Esposito’s ramshackle house—chipped white paint, a garden of weeds and tall grass, and a curtain hanging halfway down the front window. I really needed to come back here and help with the house a bit. No one else lived around here or kept an eye on him, and he didn’t have any family.

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