Fatima remembers the package. She removes it from her messenger bag and holds it out to Firdaus. "The merchant delivered this today. It’s a book."Firdaus eagerly takes the package. "I've been waiting for a volume of poetry written by an obscure Kmemu poet."Firdaus rips open the brown paper wrapped around the book and makes a sound of pleasure when he discovers that the book is indeed the volume he was seeking. He flips open the book, running his fingers through the text. Fatima watches him, consoled by the pleasure he takes in the written word. He suddenly, unexpectedly, goes still, and the old Ifrit’s face empties of expression."What is it, baba?" Fatima moves closer to Firdaus. Firdaus lowers the book, and Fatima sees a smudge of black on the edge of the paper. She watches that viscous blackness slither from the paper onto Firdaus’s hand before being absorbed through his skin.Firdaus's gold eyes flash black, and Fatima staggers back a step."The taint," Firdaus says through clenched teeth. Black veins appear on his skin and spread like the vines of a grape plant. Fatima watches helplessly."What do I do, baba? Who do I call?"Firdaus's skin is sallow, and he is sweating profusely. He grips the edge of his desk tightly, keeping himself upright. The book has fallen unnoticed to the floor. "Listen, ya binti, listen." Fatima nods frantically."You are a child of flesh and blood, and I am a being of fire and bone. Were I merciful, I would bid you run and end this tale here. But I am Ifrit and my stories are eternal even though I am not." Firdaus extends his trembling right hand to Fatima. "In return for the kindness I have shown you, will you become the ink that writes my tale?"There never was a choice.Fatima reaches out and grabs his right hand with both of hers.