The darkest night, p.14

The Darkest Night, page 14

 part  #1 of  Lords of the Underworld Series


The Darkest Night

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  Hotel Taverna, Budapest

  Sabin, keeper of Doubt, lay on his bed, staring up the suite's virginal white ceiling. He'd traveled from New York to Budapest with one goal: finding Pandora's box and destroying it. All right, two goals. So far, no luck. But he had found the warriors who had walked away from him thousands of years ago. Men he'd once fought beside. Men he'd once loved.

  Men who now hated him.

  He sighed. Since his arrival three days ago, he'd caught a glimpse of Paris here and there, but hadn't made his presence known, unsure of the reception he'd receive. Would he be attacked on sight or embraced as the prodigal son?

  Damn, but he almost feared finding out. He'd nearly decapitated Aeron when the warrior tried to stop him from burning Athens to the ground in an effort to draw out the Hunters responsible for their friend Baden's death.

  A few times since coming here, Sabin had tried to stealthily infiltrate their midst, to learn everything he could about these warriors he'd once considered brothers yet who were now strangers to him. They had revealed nothing. So he had turned his attentions to the humans surrounding them. Only one had heard him. A woman. She hadn't given him any new information, either.

  All he knew was that six warriors were alive and kicking in that massive fortress on the hill, and they were armed out the ass.

  That, he'd already learned from a Hunter he'd interrogated a month ago. The very Hunter who had told him, with great reluctance, about the search for Pandora's box. How finding the box would mean the end of the Lords of the Underworld, for the demons would be sucked back inside its walls and the warriors unable to survive without them.

  Apparently, Hunters had been planning for weeks to storm the fortress and capture the warriors inside, but hadn't found a way in yet. The fact that they wanted to capture rather than destroy plagued Sabin with questions. Did the warriors here know where the box was? Did they care? How did they feel about Hunters these days? They'd walked away from the fight once. Would they do so again?

  He uttered another sigh. There'd be time for thinking on that later. Right now, he had another mystery to solve. The changing of the guard, so to speak. From the hands-off Greeks to the control-freak Titans - a worry he hadn't expected.

  He didn't know these new gods, but he didn't think he liked them. There'd been murmurs of war and domination all through the heavens when they'd summoned him, forcing him to stand in a circle of unfamiliar faces and answer their questions.

  What is your ultimate goal?

  What are you willing to do to reach it?

  Are you afraid of dying?

  Why they'd summoned him and not the others, he didn't know. He didn't know anything, really. Not anymore. He wasn't even sure Maddox would tell the others to visit the cemetery.

  He hoped they came. The time had come to make his presence known; he simply wanted to have the advantage when he did so.

  If only I could lie. . . It would have made things a whole lot easier.

  But Sabin couldn't lie - if he tried, the demon went crazy and Sabin passed out cold. Strange reaction to wickedness, but he could not stop it. What he could do was project his thoughts into another's mind, filling them with mistrust and worry as he wove a web of doubt through questions and observations.

  Neither questions nor observations were lies, now were they?

  Plugged in as his demon was to doubt, Sabin had heard Maddox praying for the human girl and had swooped in, creating even more doubt about whether she could survive without the aid of a god. That she had survived worked in Sabin's favor, allowing him to demand payment.

  On the off chance the warriors arrived - they'd be armed despite his command, he was sure - Sabin and his men were going to be there, waiting. Hoping. How would they react to this unexpected reunion?

  With hatred, most likely.

  "Shut the hell up," he told the spirit. He didn't mind using it against others, but he hated when the stupid thing tried to weaken him.

  The door to his suite swung open.

  He gripped the blade strapped to the back of his neck, preparing to strike. When he spotted his guests, he relaxed.

  "What kind of welcome is that?" Kane asked.

  Cameo, Amun and Gideon flanked him. They'd been together since Baden's death, when they'd given themselves over to their demons. Anything to help punish those who had taken one of their own.

  The destruction they had caused, the people who had been hurt. . . Sabin shuddered, remembering. It had taken a long time to find themselves again, but by then it had been too late. They could never fully immerse themselves into society, could never be anything other than warriors.

  Hunters wouldn't let them.

  More than destroying Baden, they had slaughtered any human the warriors favored and destroyed any home they'd ever made. For that, Sabin would fight them for the rest of his days. Aka eternity. Until the last one fell, defeated, he would fight.

  Sabin sat up and anchored his weight on his elbows, leaning back against the headboard. "Anything?"

  "Plenty," Gideon said.

  "Nothing," Kane countered with a roll of his eyes.

  Gideon was possessed by the spirit of Lies. Unlike Sabin, the man couldn't utter a single truth. Everyone in the room knew to believe the opposite of whatever he said.

  Sabin pinned Gideon with a next-time-just-keep-your-mouth-shut look and the man shrugged, as if to say he'd do what he wanted, when he wanted. No 'as if' about it, actually. Gideon did do whatever he wanted. Always had. Rebellion swam in his blood.

  He was tall, a warrior like Sabin, but that was where the similarities ended. While Sabin had brown hair, brown eyes and a roughly hewn face, Gideon was pure punk, embracing the modern Goth look, throwing in a little grunge and mixing it all together with movie-star flair.

  He'd colored his pale hair bright, metallic blue. Said he'd done it because it really made his eyes pop. Of course, that was a lie. He'd probably crafted the look as a warning to humans. Approach at your own peril.

  He was pierced and tattooed all over his body. He only wore black, and he never left home without a full arsenal strapped to his body.

  Well, none of them did, really.

  "Where's Strider?" Sabin asked.

  Gideon opened his mouth to answer - with a lie - but Kane, possessor of Disaster, interrupted, "He couldn't accept defeat. He's still looking. "

  Of course. Sabin should have known. Because Strider held Defeat inside of him, he had to win, no matter what he was doing - war, cards, ping-pong - or he suffered physically, unable to move from bed for days.

  Sabin had told his team to talk to the locals with the goal of learning something new about the Lords or the box, so Strider would not return until he did so.

  Cameo, the only woman in their cursed group, plopped into the plush lounge across from him. Once, she, too, had been an immortal warrior to the gods. Like the other warriors, she'd been offended when Pandora was chosen to guard dimOuniak. But unlike them, she hadn't resented the fact that a female guard had been chosen - only that the female selected hadn't been herself. He still remembered her enormous smile the day they'd decided to topple Pandora. It was the last smile Sabin had ever seen on her face.

  "The locals are unwilling to give us any information;" she said. "For some reason they consider the warriors - get this - angels and don't want to betray them. "

  Sabin had a hard time listening to her. She was the saddest excuse for flesh he'd ever seen.

  Oh, she wasn't ugly. Far from it. She was small and delicate, with black hair and amazingly bright silver eyes. But she now held the spirit of Misery inside her, so laughter, giddiness and joy were not a part of her life.

  Sabin had tried for hundreds of years to cheer her up. No matter what he did, what he said, she always looked on the verge of suicide. Truly, all the sadness in the world was swimming in those silver eyes and layered in her voice. He'd always wondered how she persevered wit
hout going mad.

  He rubbed his jaw as his gaze sought Amun. "Did you learn anything?"

  Amun leaned against the far wall, a dark slash in contrast to the stark white of the room. Dark skin, dark eyes, dark everything, Amun could divine secrets - deep, deep secrets - when in close proximity with someone.

  Had to be a burden, knowing the ugliest secrets of those around him.

  Maybe that was why Amun rarely spoke. Afraid he'd spill unthinkable truths. Afraid he'd cause widespread panic.

  "Nothing to help our cause," Cameo answered for him in that death-warmed-over tone of hers. "Except for the women who've slept with Paris and Maddox and only know the size of their cocks, the townspeople have always remained at a distance from the warriors, so they don't know enough for Amun to divine a secret. "

  Okay, seriously. She made him want to plunge a knife in her heart, right here, right now, rather than wait for her to do it. Anything to stop the sadness.

  Before he could respond, the door burst open a second time and Strider entered, claiming everyone's attention.

  His light hair was in tangles around his face, his blue eyes bright. Dirt streaked his sharp cheekbones and blood was sprinkled on his chin. But his strides were smooth, unburdened, so Sabin knew the man had found something.

  Sabin straightened abruptly. "Tell us. "

  Strider paused in the center of the room and grinned. "As we suspected, Hunters are already here. "

  Cameo shifted in a movement of total grace and elegance completely at odds with her suicidal expression. "Let's capture and question them and find out if they know more than we do. "

  "No need," Strider said. "I already detained one. "

  "And?" Sabin asked excitedly.

  "Like that Hunter told you last month, they're here to capture the Lords on the hill. They've got someone on the inside. "

  "I'm delighted to hear this," Gideon said.

  Strider ignored him. They all did.

  "No mention of the box?" Kane asked. As he spoke, a lightbulb shorted out in the lamp beside him, spraying sparks in every direction.

  "None. "

  The lamp tipped over, nailing Kane in the head.

  Sabin shook his head. The man was a walking disaster. Literally. Whenever Kane stepped into a room, things went to hell pretty quickly. Sabin expected the ceiling to cave at any moment. And yeah, it had happened before.

  Kane brushed the tiny flames from his hair and rubbed his temple, hazel eyes showing no emotion. Without a word, he moved away from the hazardous lamp and eased onto the floor as far away from everyone as he could get.

  Sabin cast a glance out the French double doors that opened onto a comfortable balcony with a romantic view of the city. Not that he had room for romance in his life.

  Women tended to run screaming from him - if he didn't run screaming first.

  He didn't mean to, but he made them doubt themselves in every way imaginable. Their life choices, their appearance, their everything. They cried. Always. Sometimes they tried to kill themselves. And he just couldn't take it anymore. Couldn't take the guilt that came with his unstoppable actions. So now he stayed away. Far, far away.

  Sabin tamped down a wave of regret. Night had fallen and he could see the twinkling city lights. The moon was full, bright and clear. A golden beacon in the black velvet sky. Cold air wisped inside, dancing the sheer white curtains against the wall.

  A night for lovers.

  Or death.

  "Where are the Hunters now?" he asked.

  "Meeting at a club, according to my source. I already checked it out, and it's about five minutes from here," Strider said.

  Sabin had wanted to be at the cemetery, but now he wanted to be at the club. Unfortunately, he couldn't be in both places at once. In an echo of the choice that had faced him centuries ago, he again found himself torn between Hunters and his old friends.

  He gave the room another inspection, as if the answer was hiding somewhere in the shadows. "I need one of you to go to the cemetery tonight. Fully armed. I did my best to draw the warriors there. You can decide what to do if you see them. The rest of us will visit the club. "

  "I'll take the cemetery," Kane said. He didn't sound excited. Rather, he sounded resigned. "The club might collapse if I go. "


  A chunk of plaster chose that moment to dislodge from the wall and slam into Kane's skull. Good thing the man had a mane of thick tabby-cat hair to soften the blow. As it was, he winced.

  Sabin sighed. "If all goes well, we might get the answers we've been waiting for and finally, once and for all, be able to destroy Pandora's box. " Before the Hunters find it and suck our demons back inside, killing us. "Now let's move out. "
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