Immortal Grave (The Dark Betrayal Trilogy), page 21
Her friends fought and killed the enemies that came from the darkness with deadly quickness. The sound of the Dark Ones hissing and growling filled the corridor and combined with the sound of weapons meeting flesh. By the time they reached the doors to the large auditorium in the center of the building many of Ree’s friends had blood splashed across their clothes or faces. There was no denying the ferocity of the group. Thankfully, none looked to have taken any damage. Ree could feel the black hole of ice that meant Tristan was awake and waiting for her. Looking at the doors, Ree held her sword in her right hand, letting it angle away from her body and pointing it toward the floor. She sent the power whirling away from her, and the loose hair around her face whipped forward angrily as the power slammed the doors open to reveal a large room, lit only by the moon filtering through the skylights.
Tristan was standing on the stage between Loki and Ares, his face set in a dark look. Ree’s heart squeezed at the familiar face and she tried to remind herself that he wasn’t her brother any longer. He clapped three times before taking a step toward Ree. “So, you’ve come to try to kill me.”
“I’m here to end this war.” Ree let the power flare out around her so that the green light slid along the floor in all directions.
“You think this is about a war?” Della stepped into view. She was lurking near the shadows of the stage, her elegant face wreathed in amusement. “This is about a brother and sister set against each other. About one embracing a new way of life, while the other clings to the past.”
“This is about you setting my brother against me. About you killing everyone on this planet or making them cattle. This is much bigger than Tristan and me.” Ree’s anger had the power swirling around her feet. “I know enough of the situation to understand he made his choice. He isn’t my brother any longer. He’s merely your pawn.”
“I’m no one’s pawn, Ree.” Tristan stepped gracefully off of the stage to land in the aisle directly in front of her. Something felt different about his energy. Instead of being the cold, empty spot most Dark One’s generated, power crackled along his edges, like frozen lightning.
Ree’s eyes darted to the gods still standing on the stage. Ares was glaring at her with hatred, but Loki wore his customary look of amusement, his blond hair glowing an eerie silver-white in the moonlight. Off to the side of the stage was someone Ree hadn’t thought about much over the last few days. Shannon leaned against the chest of Michael. Her hair was lank, her cheeks hollow, and her dark eyes rimmed in red. Michael’s mouth was open just enough to let his curved fangs peek out, pressing over his bottom lip. He snarled at Ree and she had to squash the desire to kill him right then.
“Who gave you the toothpick?” Tristan looked at the sword Ree gripped. “Paden, you’re doing a terrible job of keeping her safe. She’s so clumsy she’ll probably cut off her own foot.” Tristan laughed, his face transforming into something closer to what Ree remembered from when he was alive. There was a flash of something warm from the corner Shannon and Michael were standing in and Ree couldn’t help but let her eyes dart in that direction. The black of Shannon’s eyes had diminished and Ree was surprised by the love the girl felt when looking at her brother.
“The only feet you need to be worried about are you own.” Ree focused on Tristan.
“Oh, that’s rich.” Tristan looked over his shoulder where Della stood laughing. He looked back at Ree with a small smile. “You know, since I’m your brother, I’m going to let you practice a little before we do our thing.”
Ree narrowed her eyes and raised her sword. “Scared, Trist?”
Tristan snarled at Ree, his fangs ripping free of his gums. The cold energy around him snapped and churned. “I have nothing to fear from you, Ree.”
Ree let the energy that had been sliding along the floor rush toward Tristan. He jumped out of the way quickly, leaping back onto the stage in a move that shouldn’t have been possible. He growled again and Della jumped onto the stage. The tall woman slid next to him and ran her hand up and down his arm possessively.
“Then why do you keep running away?” Ree stared at Tristan. She felt her friends tensing behind her as they fanned out a little wider. Dark Ones were slipping into the room, their eyes glittering in the shadows as they made their presence known.
“Now, why would he do that? He promised the others they could have a crack at you before he finished things.” Della smiled at Tristan, her double fangs pressing into her own lips to leave small spots of blood. “He’s merely keeping his promise. I knew Tristan would make a good leader.” She leaned forward and nuzzled his neck. There was a spike of raw anger that came from Shannon, but Tristan’s face was neutral. “I learned from past mistakes.” Della looked over at Roland, her eyes swirling with black.
Roland didn’t respond, but Ree could feel the barely-checked rage as he stared at the woman who had stolen his life.
“Looks like she still has some things to learn.” Ree could see Weylin shake his head from the corner of her eye. “Pissing off Roland never ends well for the other person.”
Della looked at Weylin and hissed, her fingers tightening on Tristan’s arm. Her back arched like a cat’s, and her face transformed into something inhuman. Her overly large eyes seemed to almost glow, and the skin stretched over the severe angles of her face tightened, showing the sharp bones underneath. Her fingernails drew blood from Tristan’s arm. His lip curled when he looked down at her hand. Reaching over, he pried her curled fingers away from his skin.
“Looks like someone hit a sore spot.” Melanie’s voice cut through the room.
“She looks a bit like a cat with mange.” If it had been anyone other than Bryce to make that statement, Ree wouldn’t have been as amused. The corners of her mouth pulled slightly up.
“Attack.” Tristan’s voice brought the seriousness back, and Ree was thrust into fighting. Dark Ones swarmed from the shadows, some dropping from the beams that lined the high ceiling. When one landed in front her, she quickly spun, using her sword to cleave the Dark One’s head from his body. He fell to floor in a fine dust, no blood or gore to be seen.
Dark Ones seemed to never stop coming, and Ree realized Ares and Loki had opened portals. Ree moved so she was back to back with Paden, carefully avoiding the attacks of the monsters nearest her.
“Portals.” Ree said as she ducked underneath a blow to ram a dagger between the Dark One’s ribs.
“I see them.” Paden’s voice was calm and to the point. “How do we stop them?”
“Don’t know.” Ree moved again, this time relying on her sword to dispatch her opponent. “Maybe if we block them as they exit?”
“I got it.” Weylin jumped from the back of one chair to the next row, moving quickly toward the nearest portal. When he neared the shimmering doorway, he pulled something out of his pocket and tossed it into the opening. The sound of the explosion was almost deafening, the fire that washed out of the portal was blinding. Ares roared and made to jump from the stage, but Della held up her hand.
“You cannot engage, war god. It will bring your brethren.” Della’s voice reached Ree’s ears and she realized it was only Loki controlling the portals. The gods of Earth must be looking for Ares’s power signature. If he used his god abilities it would bring the pack of them down on the school immediately.
“Della is mine.” Roland’s cold voice touched Ree’s ears. She didn’t have time to respond before he disappeared from view.
“The rest!” Ree shouted at Weylin.
Ree broke away from her group, set on making her way to Tristan.
Her brother’s eyes never left her face as she killed Dark Ones on her way to him. Paden was following closely behind her, protecting her back. The others all fought to keep the remaining Dark Ones away. The sounds of Weylin’s explosions and the screams of the dying filled the room with chaos. Roland appeared on the stage near Della. His face was dark and stormy, fangs extended, and he carried two swords black wi
“The prodigal son returns.” Della moved away from Tristan and flashed her fangs at Roland. Ree couldn’t follow everything that happened next, but she was certain Roland had been on the offensive while Della did her best to get an advantage. It was as if the world had slowed when Della and Roland met blade to blade. Della seemed to hold the upper hand for the most part, her strength and agility giving her an edge over Roland. She bent and moved in a manner no human body, even turned with the alien disease, would ever be able to.
Time seemed to slow as Della and Roland danced around each other. Their movements were in sync, telling that they had spent time training together while on the same side. No matter how much Roland pushed and gave to the fight, Della returned with the same amount of vigor. The only difference was the rage that simmered under Roland’s skin. His hate for Della was a physical force, letting him hold his ground. When she flipped over his head to swipe at his back, he barely reacted, despite the blood that ran from the wound.
Tristan moved toward Ree drawing her full attention, his dark eyes glittering with something that made her shiver inside as he stared at her from the stage. Gripping the power, she let it fill her until it swirled in the very tips of her fingers and toes. Her feet left the ground and she floated up so she only had to step onto the wooden floor of the raised platform. Tristan pulled the sword from the scabbard on his back and looked at Ree. Holding her own sword by her side, Ree gathered the power in her hand and threw it at Tristan. He moved deftly out of its path and tsked at her.
“Your only bet is to stick me with your toothpick.” Tristan moved forward, faster than any of the Guardians or the Dark Ones that Ree had fought. His thrusts had her stumbling backward toward the edge of the stage. Paden was on the stage immediately, moving between Ree and Tristan. He seemed to fare much better than Ree had, his footing much more sure and his blows just as fast as Tristan’s. Paden’s dual immortal lineage gave him an edge over the other Guardians.
Michael seemed to come out of nowhere, completely forgotten in the battle. His knife flew past Ree as she caught her footing and stuck in Paden’s thigh. It was just enough to slow Paden down, and Tristan seized his opportunity. His sword was a blur of silver as it swung toward Paden’s neck.
The power soared out of Ree without a thought, flying through the room in a rippling wave of green energy. Caught in the killing move, Tristan wasn’t prepared for Ree’s attack. The only people left standing were Ree and Roland, who was never touched by her power. Roland never stopped his movements, and drove his sword through Della’s stomach, pinning her to the wooden floor. Ree dropped to her knee and yanked one of the short swords from her back and flung it at Tristan’s chest.
The flash of Shannon’s dark hair was the only warning Ree had before her short sword embedded in the girl’s chest, knocking her back into Tristan. For a long second, it was as if the entire world had gone silent. Every hair on Ree’s body stood up and her heartbeat echoed in her ears.
“Why?” Tristan clutched Shannon to him, shaking his head, a dark bloody tear falling from one eye.
“Love you.” Shannon’s words were so soft, Ree could barely make them out, even with her enhanced hearing. Her heart stopped the moment the last word left her lips and Tristan’s roar of rage matched the outburst of cold energy that washed out of his body. It was similar to what Ree held, but cold and dead. The most shocking feeling was the complete and utter grief that came from her brother’s hunched form, and the realization that if he could grieve it meant he could feel love.
Paden slid back along the stage and grabbed Ree’s hand. His fingers squeezed hers as they scrambled to not fall off the edge. Paden’s wide green eyes met hers, and she knew exactly what he was thinking. She didn’t know where that burst of energy had come from either.
Tristan was brushing the hair away from Shannon’s face, his bloody tears falling on her pale skin. Michael moved into view, his expression one of disgust as he looked at Tristan. Tristan seemed to feel his old friend’s eyes on him, because he looked up at Michael and growled. Laying Shannon down, he stood and was on Michael faster than Ree could follow. With a savage yank, he pulled Michael’s head from his shoulders and threw it across the room, where it trailed ashes in its wake.
“Tristan!” Della’s voice cut through the room. Roland was kneeling next to her, a sharp piece of wood lodged in his side. Ree’s heart hammered in her chest as she felt for her friends. They were all alive, but hurting. She couldn’t help them because Tristan’s rage had shifted back to Ree. His dark eyes bored into hers, and she knew that there was no stopping the fight now.
“Loki!” Della’s voice cut through Ree’s bones. Melanie jumped onto the stage and made her way to Roland. He pulled the wood from his side with a gasp and sat back on his heels, shaking his head a little.
“Oh, this has been much better than I thought it would be!” Loki’s laugh made Ree want to crawl away, and the hairs on her body vibrated with disgust.
“You’re supposed to be on our side now, god!” Green splattered out of Della’s mouth as she snarled.
“I’m a god of chaos. That doesn’t change no matter who I’ve aligned myself with.” Loki’s voice was chiding. Melanie looked at Roland before yanking the sword out of Della’s chest. Quick as lightning, she loped the original Dark One’s head from her shoulders and quickly turned to drive the sword back through the very center of her heart. Della’s body didn’t disintegrate like the others. Instead of a fine ash, or even the gooey ash of a freshly fed Dark One, her body seemed to age. All of her long years ran over her body, turning her alien beauty into something from a crypt. Her screeching howl was an eerie accompaniment to her painful demise.
Tristan picked up his sword as he advanced and Ree stood, bringing her own to the front. Paden rose next to her, pulling the knife out of his leg and tossing it to the side. She could feel him vibrating with tension. Ree listened to the instincts she had inherited from Sophie and ran at her brother. This was no time to be on the defense. His blows jarred Ree’s arms and her muscles strained to not let him get the upper hand.
“This will be decided by the two of them.” The flash of Loki’s power surrounded Ree and Tristan, his voice laughing as he kept everyone else from interfering. Paden’s angry voice beat at the shield, but Loki only laughed.
Tristan never acknowledged the shield; his sole intent was killing Ree. She fought with everything she had, never stopping, even when she thought her arms would fail. With each blow she received, she was reminded that Sophie had barely survived an attack from Tristan. Blow after blow weakened her arms until she was certain they would fall off of her body. Her legs shook with the effort to keep up. The pain and hate coming from her brother was almost enough to choke her, despite the effort she put into blocking. It was almost as if there was some connection linking them; some kind of blood or magical tie.
Ree stepped back, her foot slipping in some of Shannon’s blood. It was the smallest moment, the tiniest loss of concentration, and Tristan’s sword slashed across her hip as she scrambled to get her footing. Paden’s howl of rage and fear made Ree’s soul shake as she looked up into Tristan’s eyes. His backhanded strike lifted her from her feet and sent her careening into the shield. Her sword flew from her hand and landed feet away. The flash of Loki’s energy seemed like fireworks to Ree as she tried to shake her brother’s strike off.
Tristan advanced, his eyes set on Ree. As she tried to skirt along the edge of the shield, she slipped on the blood from her hip and thigh and had to catch herself with her hands. Her fingers touched something hard and she grasped it between her blood-soaked fingers like it was the key to a very important lock. Standing up, Ree looked at Tristan and a feeling of calm settled in the pit of her stomach.
“I love you, Tristan.” She threw Michael’s knife as hard as she could, but before it had even hit her brother, she pulled as much power as she could and let it follow the blade. The knife st
The realization that her brother was not completely lost almost destroyed Ree’s concentration. She grabbed at that tiny little piece of soul and fed all of the power she could into it, it was like trying to feed a dying child. That tiny little piece of soul twisted and turned, fighting for itself, trying to be free. She dropped to her knees with the effort, so tired she could barely see straight, but Paden’s voice reached her ears.
“Me, Ree. Take from me.” Her friends’ voices joined Paden’s and she did as they said. She reached out toward them and Loki’s shield shattered around Ree. It didn’t stand a chance when she made up her mind. All of their energies called to her, but her eyes stayed on her brother’s glowing form. Paden’s fingers closed on her shoulders and she felt his energy pour into her body. Through him, Ree grabbed at her other friends’ energies, but it still wasn’t enough.
Tristan writhed where he was held; his eyes glued to Ree’s face. Ree did the only thing she could think to do and pulled from the strongest sources in the room. Ares and Loki were like never-ending pools of energy and Ree’s body convulsed with the power she channeled from the gods into her brother.
Ares’s roar barely registered with Ree, but she felt his hate and anger as he tried to attack her friends. She felt the moment he called his remaining energy, no longer caring if the other gods found him. Ares threw a bolt of power at Ree and her friends, his attack meant to distract. Closing her eyes, Ree simply pulled that energy into herself as well. Fire ran over her body and she felt when Paden was pushed away. Her body lifted from the floor, her feet dangled above the ground. Loki’s amused laughter had changed into something inhuman as he howled in shock and rage. In his need to cause chaos, he had missed just how at risk he truly was. She pulled and pulled from the gods, taking everything from them, even the energy that animated their cells. She drew until there was no more, directing every little bit of energy she could at the growing piece of Tristan’s soul.
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