Magic currents cursed an.., p.18

Magic Currents (Cursed Angel Collection), page 18

 

Magic Currents (Cursed Angel Collection)
 


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  After enough twists around the staircase that I was beginning to feel a little dizzy, the stairs ended, opening onto a broad, circular landing. Heavy double doors made of the same planks as the drawbridge stood open. Two Hunters, one on each side of the doorway, stood guard.

  The one on the right was a muscled, broad-shouldered man with a shaved head.

  The one on the left was dark-haired, with a face that haunted my memories and my heart, a face I hadn’t seen clearly in years and wasn’t sure I’d ever see again.

  My breath hitched in my throat, and my pulse seemed to pause. I swayed on my feet as my knees weakened.

  It was Armand. My love, my betrothed.

  With a small shiver in my chest, I began to breathe again.

  Armand looked straight at me with blank eyes completely devoid of even a flicker of recognition. All I could think of was the ampule of elixir in my pocket, the one that would break the Sorcerer’s spell and bring my love back to me.

  Something else seemed to be pulling at my attention, drawing it past Armand’s face. Within the room beyond the doorway, the Demon Lord sat upon a divan surrounded by scantily clad women. There was only one of them who had the honor of standing at the demon’s shoulder.

  My mother.

  Chapter 24

  I FELT LIKE I’d been punched in the gut. My eyes tore back and forth between Armand, the love of my life, and the mother I’d lost so long ago, while my heart seemed ready to burst with a painful mix of love, sorrow, and hope.

  As we passed Armand, he didn’t even flick a look my way. My fingers itched to reach for the vial that would break the Hunter’s spell. I had at least one dose still left. I suddenly realized that even if Erlich and the witches of The Colony managed to draw most of the Hunters out of the Watchtower, Armand might not abandon his post. He’d not been seen outside the Watchtower in years, and Eduardo had told me he was a personal servant to the Demon Lord.

  Where was Erlich and that magical diversion, anyway?

  I had to push my fretting aside when we stopped before the Demon Lord. We were still outside the range of my tiny, hidden crossbow.

  “My Lord,” Gerard said. “We’ve captured the witch who escaped.”

  The Demon Lord was half human, and for the most part he looked like a regular man. Except for his eyes. The irises were pale yellow, like a cat’s, and the pupils also had a feline vertical shape. It was remarkable just how chilling that one difference was.

  He tilted his head slightly, examining me.

  “Such a lot of trouble she’s caused,” he intoned. “I shall thoroughly enjoy the offering of her heart.”

  A shiver slipped up my spine and over my scalp. Something was off about his voice. I’d seen the Demon Lord before, but had never heard him speak. His words seemed to come from somewhere else, maybe Hell itself, and project through his throat.

  My gaze slipped over to my mother. Eduardo had said she was still herself, but she was looking straight at me, and I could swear there was no flicker of recognition in her eyes. Maybe I’d changed too much since she’d seen me last. I looked away, suddenly afraid the Demon Lord would somehow sense the familial connection.

  Movement from the left drew my attention. I hadn’t seen the Sorcerer lurking over there.

  “She killed one of our men,” the Sorcerer said. “She was aiming for me.”

  My chest clenched at the memory as guilt stabbed through me. My dart had hit a Hunter, and apparently the venom had killed him. It was an error I’d never forgive myself for.

  I felt Lorenzo’s grip on my arms tighten and then release, as if he were trying to signal something. It was then that I noticed the noise outside the Demon Lord’s lair. Running footsteps and shouts.

  “What’s this?” the Demon Lord demanded, rising to his feet. He took a few steps forward as he peered past me through the doors.

  The Sorcerer went out onto the landing, his robes flowing behind him.

  “Now’s your chance,” Lorenzo hissed in my ear.

  He released my arms and I let the open shackle fall from my wrist, the one that had the crossbow strapped to it. Everything seemed to slow down as I pulled my sleeve up, strode between the two Hunters who’d escorted us, raised my arm, and took aim at the Demon Lord. With a tiny ping, the arrow flew from the miniature weapon. It stuck solidly into the half demon’s chest, and a small spot of blood began to seep around it.

  My heart leapt in triumph as the Demon Lord stared down at the arrow, which was hardly bigger than a sewing needle. He slowly raised a hand and plucked it out with his thumb and forefinger. The Hunters in the room scrambled around, many of them beginning to go for the door and some stopping and looking around as if waiting for orders. The men were distracted, and didn’t notice their lord had been shot.

  I watched the Demon Lord, anticipating his collapse, waiting for his face to fold in pain. But instead, his expression darkened into barely contained rage. As he looked up at me, I hurriedly reached to load another arrow into the crossbow, but my fingers were shaking too badly. I was about to sprint at the Demon Lord and drive another pin into him with my bare hands when a hand clamped around my arm.

  “The venom!” Lorenzo hollered at me over the din of Hunters shouting and panicked cries from the demon’s concubines. “It must have washed off!”

  “Oh, shells, no,” I whispered.

  When I’d plunged into the sea, the water had dissolved the dried poison-laced blood on the arrows. I was the biggest idiot in the world, and now I was going to die for it.

  I stared dumbly at Lorenzo for what seemed like a full minute, though it was probably only a second or two. He yanked at my arm, nearly pulling it out of the socket as he towed me away from the Demon Lord, who was alternately shouting for the Sorcerer and screaming at his men. In Lorenzo’s other hand, a disc of light appeared. He flung it at the doorway, and it exploded like a grenade, hurling the Hunters out of our way. Temporarily blinded by the flash of his power, I let him drag me along as I blinked the spots from my eyes, stunned more by my own stupidity than Lorenzo’s power.

  Behind us, the Demon Lord’s voice seemed to have grown so that it projected over all the other noise. I glanced over my shoulder to see that he literally appeared larger, as if his anger had fueled some kind of unearthly growth.

  Through small windows on one side of the landing, I heard reports and saw flashes of light exploding over The Colony. It wasn’t Hunter lightning magic—Eduardo had come through! The witches and warlocks in the city were putting on a show of magic like fireworks. Small ripples of power emanated from outside, even though the charm Erlich had put on me earlier should have completely blocked my ability to sense other witches’ magic.

  “HALT, ANGEL!” a deep, resonating voice thundered from behind us. The words seemed to crack in the air like a whip and echo around in my skull like the aftereffect of a punch to the head.

  It wasn’t just the booming noise from the Demon Lord’s throat that made my entire body stiffen. I couldn’t move. Lorenzo was also immobile.

  “Demon power,” Lorenzo said to me through clenched teeth. “But his is weak, weaker than his father’s.”

  He was right. It was already wearing off, as if whatever caused me to become frozen was melting away. But in those few seconds, the Demon Lord had covered half the distance to me and Lorenzo. The half demon’s eyes flared red. Impossibly, he had stretched to over seven feet tall.

  Lorenzo released my arm and shoved me. “Go, go!” he shouted at me. “We need the venom!”

  My mouth dropped open as the angel turned to the half demon. Lorenzo held white-bright haloes in both hands. He flung them at the Demon Lord.

  I spun around and pumped my arms, running for one of the windows. For the second time that day, I was going to hurl myself out of the Watchtower and into the sea below.

  I got one foot up onto the sill—thankfully there was no actual pane—when someone grabbed my hair and my shoulder and hauled me backward. Completely losing my
balance, I fell and would have smacked my head on the floor if not for the person dragging me away from the window. I clawed at the fist tangled in my hair, but the grip was too strong.

  Crying out as some of my hair was ripped from my scalp, I twisted to see who had caught me. My heart jumped into my throat.

  “Armand!” I yelled over the noise. “Armand, it’s me, Victoria.”

  I knew it was fruitless to try to speak to him, but seeing his face so close, I couldn’t help it. As I expected, he ignored me. I kicked and struggled, and he finally lifted me off the floor and carried me under his arm, back toward the light flashing from the demon’s lair. Lorenzo appeared to be battling the Sorcerer while the giant, angry Demon Lord loomed behind him. The half demon had no magic of his own.

  Squirming and struggling, I fought to reach the pouch with the ampule of potion that I’d gotten from the Underground leadership, the one that would free Armand’s mind.

  I let out a cry of victory when my fingers closed around it. With an awkward motion, I broke the top and flung its contents up into Armand’s face, and quickly chanted the words that would break the spell. The fluid must have stung because he dropped me to dig his fists into his eyes.

  I crab-crawled out of his way as he stumbled to his knees. Finishing the chant, I watched him, my heart frozen in anticipation.

  Time seemed to slow as Armand gripped his head and groaned. I was vaguely aware of the battle raging behind me in the demon’s lair, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from Armand. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t even blink.

  When he finally raised his head, he slowly swept his gaze around, as if he wasn’t sure where he was. Then his eyes locked on mine, and I knew. It was him. My love was back. I sucked in a hitching breath as a quiet sob tore from my throat and my eyes welled.

  He lifted his arm, stretching out his hand to me, as a smile began to spread over his face. I thought he might have let out a little laugh, but I couldn’t hear it over the blasts. I began to crawl on all fours toward Armand, already imagining his arms around me and his cheek against mine, when something struck the middle of my back with a searing stab.

  I screamed, arching against the pain. It intensified, and my voice rose in pitch. Lightning magic from the Sorcerer. I couldn’t see him, but I knew that’s what it was.

  Had he struck down Lorenzo? If the Sorcerer had defeated the angel, all was lost.

  That was my last thought before the world went dark.

  Chapter 25

  I WASN’T OUT for long, maybe only a few seconds. When I regained my senses, something was pressing me into the floor, squeezing my lungs. I lifted my head, struggling out from under the weight. When I realized what it was, I froze. Armand had thrown himself over my body, intercepting the Sorcerer’s lightning magic that was meant for me.

  But the attack had stopped.

  I tried to rouse Armand, shaking his shoulders and calling his name, while also trying to figure out what had happened. There were sounds of struggle, grunts, and cries, but thick, dark mist from magic strikes filled the air.

  I had to get the sea serpent venom, but I couldn’t just leave Armand unconscious and defenseless. The foggy air began to clear, and I saw two things at once: Lorenzo standing stiff and still as a frozen man as the Demon Lord chanted at him in some hellish language, and my mother on the Sorcerer’s back with her arms wrapped around his neck, squeezing for all she was worth. She’d stopped his lightning magic attack.

  The Demon Lord appeared and grabbed a handful of her hair and yanked. She let go of her chokehold to try to fight off the Demon Lord, and he dragged her roughly backward. She hit the floor hard, but was still struggling.

  The Sorcerer whirled around and raised his hands with his fingers spread. Electricity zapped through the room as he drew power deeply. He was aiming straight for my mother.

  Before I could form a thought, I was on my feet and running toward them.

  “No!” I screamed. “Don’t hurt her!”

  But I was too late. Jagged yellow-white magic was already flying from the Sorcerer’s hands. It hit my mother in the chest like a lightning strike. She went limp, but the Demon Lord held her upright so the Sorcerer could continue his barrage.

  At the moment I reached the Sorcerer and desperately swung out, clawing and punching him, my awareness flew out to the sea.

  The serpent was there. It had been lurking nearby, as if anticipating my need.

  As soon as it sensed my distress, it darted toward the Watchtower.

  My thoughts were a terrified jumble, but enough to convey that I was battling the Sorcerer and the Demon Lord and I needed help. I needed the serpent to kill the Demon Lord with venom. That one thought I managed to send clearly.

  Suddenly the entire Watchtower rocked as if an earthquake had struck The Colony. The Sorcerer and I pitched sideways, falling hard onto my hip, and it was enough to interrupt his magic. There was another impact, even larger than the first. That one silenced the Demon Lord as he looked through the doorway of his lair in confusion.

  I turned to follow the half demon’s gaze just as Lorenzo went limp, no longer under the influence of the demonic chants. He caught himself before he fell, landing on one knee. Great silver-white wings sprang from his back. I tried to shout at him, but my words were lost when something slammed into the Watchtower again and great cracking and creaking noises, as if the earth itself were breaking apart, drowned out all sound.

  Rocks and debris blasted into the Demon Lord’s lair. I screamed and covered my head as wind rushed past me. When I looked up, I realized there was a giant hole in the outer wall of the Watchtower where windows had been a second before.

  Lorenzo took a few running steps and then jumped through the hole. I caught a glimpse of his wings spreading and catching air just before my view was blocked.

  Why was the angel deserting us?

  I had no time to fully form my anger at Lorenzo. Something was coming through the opening in the wall. Something huge and marked by two glowing orbs. A streak of bioluminescence lit up the area outside of the lair where Armand still lay.

  The serpent had come. Its giant head pushed forward, crashing through the constraints of the doorway into the lair where the Sorcerer, Demon Lord, my unconscious mother, and I were scattered around the room like dolls.

  I scrambled out of the way as the serpent breached farther into the space, completely filling the doorway. I had a view from the side as its jaws stretched wide and a huge tongue darted out. It curled around the Demon Lord and pulled him back toward its mouth, sweeping the Sorcerer along, too. The serpent’s jaws snapped shut and it retreated from the room, sliding back out through the doorway.

  I went to look as the serpent retracted back through the opening in the wall and disappeared from sight, leaving only a trail of seawater where it had been.

  Armand had been off to the side of the serpent’s path, and was just waking up.

  “Armand, help me!” I cried, rushing to the crumpled form of my mother.

  With shaking hands, I felt for a pulse. When I found it—weak, but there—I let out a tiny sob.

  “Let’s get her out of here,” Armand said. He scooped her up in his arms, and we hurried toward the stairs.

  We were the only ones left, and the Watchtower was still groaning and creaking from the serpent’s destruction. Suddenly remembering that I still had a role to play in breaking the curse, I turned to Armand.

  “Get out and take her someplace safe,” I said. “I don’t have time to explain, but I can’t leave yet.”

  The look of pain and distress on his face tore at my heart, but I pushed the feelings away.

  “Please, just go!” I cried as more of the wall crumbled and crashed to the floor.

  He finally turned and began rushing down the stairs with my mother in his arms.

  I went to the opening, looking for Lorenzo. The angel was nowhere to be seen. But below in the sea, the glow of the serpent’s spine streaked, its eyes bobbing just ab
ove the surface. It conveyed to me that the Demon Lord and the Sorcerer were dead from the venom.

  “Don’t swallow the half demon!” I hollered down at the huge snake. “The angel has to incinerate the Demon Lord’s body!”

  I sensed understanding from the sea serpent, but now I had to figure out where Lorenzo had flown off to.

  Without warning, a strong breeze and a great flapping of pale wings appeared in front of me, startling me so badly I let out a squeak and stumbled back.

  “For shells’ sake, where have you been?” I shouted at Lorenzo as he hovered in the air. His entire body was aglow. “Never mind, it doesn’t matter. The serpent killed the Demon Lord, and I told it that you need the body.”

  Lorenzo opened his mouth, and when he spoke it was in a lilting language that was so painfully beautiful I swayed on my feet in sudden ecstasy. I didn’t know the language, but somehow understood what he said.

  “You must drown the tower and the House of Light in water,” he commanded. “Do it as soon as the Demon Lord’s body is consumed by my fire. Any delay, even a few seconds, and Hell will choose a new Lord from the cambion children, and we will lose our chance.”

  He gave me a piercing look, and I knew what he was conveying. I wouldn’t have time to get out of the tower. I would have to do it now, from here. I nodded and he pivoted in the air and swooped down toward the serpent.

  A moment later, the great snake raised its head from the water. In the dark of night, I was able to see its movements only by the position of its illuminated eyes and spine. It opened its jaws and something bulky launched up into the air.

  A huge halo of angelic light flew from Lorenzo’s hand, and the ring of light caught the object the serpent had tossed up. The light spread from a ring into an orb that enclosed the object. It was, of course, the body of the Demon Lord. The orb brightened, burning with so much light I had to throw up my arm to shade my eyes. It grew impossibly stronger, and I could feel the heat of it against my bare skin.

 
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