Authors: Eric Asher
Tags: #vampires, #demon, #civil war, #fairy, #fairies, #necromancer, #vesik
“Hmm?” I asked, without looking up from the
fascinating, terrifying passage. I winced at my sore back as I
leaned forward, following a sentence onto the next page. I didn’t
give much thought to the fact no one but the fairies should have
been in the shop.
“Something’s happening.” The voice cracked, and I
realized Vicky stood across the table from me. My head snapped
Gouts of darkness surrounded her eyes and ran down
her cheeks, as though she’d put on half a pound of eyeliner and
then cried for days.
“What the hell?” I hissed as I jumped out of my chair
to touch the darkness on her face. It felt rough beneath my
fingertips, as if something had burned her and the skin had scarred
My voice broke as I fought the panic
back down. I wasn’t sure if the fairies were in their clock, but I
hoped to hell they were.
Foster swooped up into the second floor a moment
later and flashed into his seven-foot form, sword drawn. Aideen
followed close behind.
“Vicky?” Foster said. He sucked in a breath when the
girl turned to look at him. “Nudd be damned, what happened?”
“It is starting,” Aideen said as she hurried around
Foster, pushing his wings to the side so she could crouch beside
Vicky. “She looks like a teenager now. Her spirit is old enough to
make the transition.”
“I don’t want to change,” Vicky said between short
“I thought we had more time,” I said. “Mike and I
haven’t finished planning the hunt. He’s still in the Burning
Lands, and I can’t reach him.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Foster said. “You have to go
soon, or there’s not going to be a point in trying.”
“We need Cara,” Aideen said. “If anyone knows how to
slow it, she will.”
I squeezed my forehead, running my fingertips up into
my hairline. It didn’t matter if we weren’t talking on a regular
basis. Vicky was infinitely more important than whatever trust
issues I had at that moment. “Get her.”
Aideen nodded and ran back through the hall of books
and down the stairs, using her full-sized form to hop down the
flights in two bounds.
“I can hear the fires talking to me,” Vicky
whispered. “They say awful things, Damian. They say I should have
let the Fae in Falias die. It would have stopped the war.”
“The Fae will always fight,” Foster said. “They
aren’t so different from humans in that regard.” He looked back at
me. “We need Mike.”
“Can we wait for him? Or do we just chase him down in
the Burning Lands?”
Foster glanced at Vicky and then back to me. “Build a
carefully laid plan, or dive in head first? Why did you even ask?”
It should have been funny, but his voice was flat.
Vicky wavered on her feet and reached out to the
“You okay?” I asked.
Her head twitched to the side and she winced. “Oww. I
don’t … I don’t feel right.”
I raised my Sight, and stared in horror as the golden
glow I was so used to seeing around her soured and grew deep with
reds and blacks and darkness.
Vicky stilled as the miasma surged. She stood like
the old vampires—unmoving, unbreathing—until a voice screeched
through the void that made me want to claw my ears out. “Why do you
battle the inevitable, Anubis-son?”
Vicky’s head turned toward me, but there was nothing
left of her in those eyes. Infinite black pits stared through
“Who are you?” I whispered. My heart flailed in my
“I am …” Her lips curled into a smile.
Images of the battle at Stones River roared back into
my mind, and the voices in my head screamed with me. Carter and
Maggie dying, the soulsword, the final blow, Philip’s escape. When
the golden cries inside my head died out, Prosperine spoke
“You cannot kill what is not mortal, necromancer. I
have come to take this child, and in your failure you—”
I held out my hand and screamed,
Golden light flashed across the table, slamming
Vicky into the bookshelves with a terrible thud and dropping her to
the floor. Golden drifts of power rose from my hand, and the thick
scent of burned hair filled my nostrils. My skin bore red welts
where the power had torn through me and seared the hair from my
Cara shouted as she breached
the stairs with Aideen. “We have
idea what the spells in
that book do! You could have killed her!”
“Nothing can kill the Destroyer,” I said quietly as I
crouched down and rolled Vicky over. She was breathing normally
now. I frowned at the burn near her shoulder. Beneath her scorched
shirt lay an intricate pattern of scars, not unlike a Celtic
“That was a soulart,” Foster said. “It was
“I need Mike and Hugh. We can’t wait any more.” I
scooped Vicky up and sat her down gently in one of the chairs. She
made a whimpering sound and curled up into a ball.
I focused my Sight and studied the golden flow of her
aura. None of the awful red and black stains remained. “Whatever
grip Prosperine had, it’s gone now.”
“Check her eyes,” Cara said.
Ever so gently, I lifted one of her eyelids. I could
see the white of her eye again, but flecks of blackness
“It has begun,” Cara said.
“We need answers,” I said, turning back to the Book
that Bleeds. “Get Hugh and bring him here. I’m going into the
“Where’s Happy?” Vicky whispered.
I glanced up at the fairies. Foster offered a
“Call him,” Cara said. “He is her guardian as much as
we are, if not more so.”
I closed my eyes and pushed my aura out. The bear
misted into my vision a moment later. “Happy, something’s happened
to Vicky. Come quick.”
The room shook with the heavy bark of the ghost panda
as he materialized in the shop. I watched the bear shift and become
the man, Shiawase.
“I feared her time may be growing short,” Shiawase
said. “It is a wonder she has lasted so long against the rising
“Do you know what to do?” Foster asked.
Shiawase shook his head. “Had I known what to do, it
would have been done long ago. The answers wait in the Burning
Lands. Where is Mike the Demon?”
“He’s already crossed over,” I said.
“Can the Ghost Pack reach him?”
I gave a brief shake of my head. “Carter tried a week
ago. They tracked Mike to a fortress in the waste before they lost
all trace of him.”
Shiawase looked down at Vicky and ran a hand across
her head. “She could track him. Her powers are magnified a hundred
fold inside that realm. I have been hesitant to let her venture
back into those lands, but now I fear the choice has been taken
“The ghosts and Vicky can cross over,” Cara said,
“but how do you expect to get Damian there without Mike?”
“I have to ask Gaia,” I said, before Shiawase could
answer. I stepped around the table and crouched down, pulling the
trunk out of the back wall. Gaia’s gray hand waited beside the Key
of the Dead and the bloodstone. The hand felt cold in my grasp. I
stared at the fairies and Shiawase. “Watch her.”
I stepped into the Abyss.
Blackness and cold surrounded me in the depths of
that lost realm. Stars wavered into my vision before the blasted
images of Old Gods and tentacle-laden creatures out of nightmare
rose beside my path.
“Gaia,” I said, watching the golden motes of light
drift down to the severed hand, forming the outline of her
“Welcome, my friend. Where might I take you
“I need to get to the Burning Lands.”
Gaia frowned and looked away. “Would it not be best
to consult Mike the Demon?”
I couldn’t stop a small smile. That was what we
called Mike all the time, and now even Gaia was using the name.
“He’s already in the Burning Lands and we have no way to contact
“Truly? The dead wolves cannot reach the Fallen
Gaia’s brow wrinkled. “What is his purpose, to go so
deep into those lands?”
“He was hunting for the devil that holds Vicky’s
“Ah, one of the ancient accords. He means to break
“We all do.”
“I cannot take a mortal through the old ways, Damian,
but I believe you may survive with the army of souls at your side.”
She raised my left hand and placed hers on top of it. “I will make
the journey with you, but understand you will be alone in the
Burning Lands until you find your friends. I do not know where the
broken Seal may take you and my hand cannot summon me through it.
It will be up to you and Mike the Demon to find a way back.
“Do you wish to prepare, or shall I take you
“I need to prepare. Take me back to the shop
“As you wish. Take my hand when you are ready, and I
will walk you into the Seal.”
The Abyss bowed and twisted in my vision, and then I
was back in my reading nook, staring at the fairies.
“Can you get to the Burning Lands?” I asked, glancing
between Foster and Aideen.
“In theory, yes,” Aideen said, “but we would need a
gateway, or a tool like the hand.”
“We need to leave soon,” I said. “Tomorrow at the
Foster looked back to Aideen.
She shook her head. “I’m sorry, I don’t see any way
for us to do that without Glenn’s help.”
“Shit,” Foster said. “That’s not an option. If
Damian’s gone, we don’t want it broadcast to all the Fae.”
“Where’s Cara?” I asked.
“She left to find Hugh,” Foster said.
I nodded. “Vicky can travel with Happy.” I looked
down at the sleeping girl and the samurai beside her.
“Yes,” he said, inclining his head with a bob of his
topknot. “I can travel between the worlds, but is it so wise to
take the child into the Burning Lands?”
“If fighting a devil is anything like fighting a
demon, Vicky might be our strongest weapon.”
“She could be a deadly adversary if Prosperine is
able to consume her in full,” Aideen said. “Are you ready to strike
her down if you must?”
“No,” I said as I closed my eyes and sighed.
“Yes,” Shiawase said. “I will not abandon her to the
destiny of the Destroyer.
I turned and stared at the samurai. There was a
sadness that lingered on his face, but more than anything, the
crease of his brow spoke of his fierceness. It was a stark contrast
to the hand he ran over Vicky’s hair.
A black whorl opened behind Foster, and a
surprised-looking werewolf fell out of it. Hugh grunted as he hit
the floor, barely catching himself in a three-point landing. Cara
stepped through behind him.
Hugh looked up at Cara. “A bit more warning would not
“We have more important things to attend to than your
motion sickness, wolf.”
It was cold, if not untrue, but Hugh didn’t seem
phased. He stood up and laid a hand on the back of the nearest
chair. “Cara has told me you intend to enter the Burning
“Yes.” I glanced at Vicky, and Hugh’s eyes followed
He sucked in a breath before crossing his arms and
bowing his head. “You intend to hunt?”
“I intend to kill her devil in creative and violent
Hugh smiled. “It is a noble sentiment Damian, but
this is not a journey to be made alone.”
“Gaia is taking me through the Seal. It’s the only
way.” I didn’t blink as I said the last. I held Hugh’s gaze. I
couldn’t tell him why with Cara standing in the room, but I hoped
he’d understand that we couldn’t explain anything more right
“I will be with him,” Shiawase said. “So long as
Vicky remains herself, she will be able to fight alongside us.”
Hugh nodded. “It is when she becomes something else
that I fear for us all. The child is tied to Damian, who is tied to
the Ghost Pack, who are tied to the River Pack. What could a
creature of the Burning Lands do with that bond?”
I stared at the werewolf. The thought hadn’t crossed
my mind. “Could Prosperine use that bond?”
“It is a unique scenario,” Cara said. “I don’t know
what is possible and what is not. I would think the Seal, even
broken, would protect the River Pack from any physical harm, so
long as Prosperine remains in the Burning Lands.”
Hugh eyed the fairies before turning his attention
back to me. “This is a battle for Carter and Maggie, Damian. They
deserve blood, and more, from that creature.”
The pack marks on my arm burned with Hugh’s words,
and I curled my hands into fists.
“Vicky is one of the Harrowers,” Hugh said. “She is
as much a part of the Ghost Pack as any wolf. Fight beside them.
You will not be able to convince them otherwise.”
“They may not be safe around me.”
Hugh smiled. “A wolf does not fear death, and a dead
wolf, well ... what greater honor is there than fighting for your
family? Than dying for them?”
“Gaia will keep me connected to this realm,” I said,
not acknowledging the pang in my chest at his words. My gaze didn’t
waver from Hugh.
He frowned slightly—and it would have been easy to
miss if I wasn’t looking for it—before nodding.
“I’ll do what I can to report back through the Ghost
Pack. My bond with Vicky and my bond with the pack may be affected
by the Seal.”
“That is good, brother. I feel better knowing you are
able to come back at a moment’s notice.”
Hugh was perceptive as hell.
I glanced at the fairies and asked, “Can I carry my
weapons with me?”
“Those that have been blessed by the Fae should make
the journey,” Aideen said. “Others may be lost to the Abyss.
Crossing through the Seal is not so simple as walking through the
Abyss with Gaia.”