Authors: Cassandra Gannon
copyright © 2012 Cassandra Gannon
Cover Image © 2012 Cassandra Gannon
by Star Turtle Publishing
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Also by Cassandra Gannon
The Elemental Phases Series
Warrior from the Shadowland
Guardian of the Earth House
Exile in the Water Kingdom
Treasure of the Fire Kingdom
Queen of the Magnetland
Magic of the Wood House
: Destiny of the
A Kinda Fairytale Series
Wicked Ugly Bad
Beast in Shining Armor
Not Another Vampire Book
Love in the Time of Zombies
Cowboy from the Future
Once Upon a Caveman
If you enjoy Cassandra’s books, you may
also enjoy books by her sister, Elizabeth Gannon:
The Consortium of Chaos series
The Son of Sun and Sand
The Guy Your Friends Warned You About
The Only Fish in the Sea
The Snow Queen
Travels with a Fairytale Monster
coached me to the fourth grade jacks championship,
made me soup and read me
when I was sick,
who understood the importance of finding the perfect nail polish.
you’d like this book… even with the swearing.
Learn a wiser part,
Distrust your erring
senses, and search your heart
Marie Bouvier de La Motte Guyon-
world had fallen into chaos around him.
of the Air House fought his way through the main gallery of the Air Palace,
stepping over a dead body without even noticing its wide, staring eyes. There
were too many dead bodies for him to process just one. In less than thirty-six
hours, Gion’s world had been reduced to nothing but sickness, and war, and the
paralyzing knowledge that he stood at the edge of oblivion.
had doomed them all.
Electricity Phase, his face bright with fever and his eyes filled with rage,
came at Gion with a broad sword. It swung out, the man’s fury and desperation
giving him strength. Gion ducked sideways as the blade swished past his head.
He felt the vibration of it in the air. The sword missed him by half an inch
and imbedded itself in the wall.
Air House murdered my family!” The anonymous Electricity Phase screamed. “My
Match and children are dead!” He tried to pry the blade free for another go at
Gion’s throat. “I will fucking kill you!”
I get that a lot.” Gion agreed and raised his solid black sword. The blade
sailed out, more from instinct than any real plan, and took off the other man’s
head in one clean slice.
watched his unknown adversary fall to the stone floor and firmed his jaw. The
man had been dying, anyway; sick from the pestilence that Parald had unleashed
plague without a name had struck the Phases the day before with unstoppable,
unpredictable force. It spread like ripples in a pond, one person after
another falling ill and dying. The bodies grew hot with fevers, their bodies
shook with chills. Their skin took on a ghastly, shriveled grayness, like they
were being sucked dry from the inside out. The sick coughed and coughed, until
finally sinking into a deep coma-like sleep that they’d never awake from. Most
of the patients felt only relief when they reached that stage.
had undoubtedly done the Electricity Phase a favor. The decapitation had been
fast and painless, while wasting away from the plague left Phases shrunken
shells of their former selves. The man died honorably, fighting for his
someone had to die, they should always die fighting for something they believed
had searched for that all his life.
to truly believe in.
the five hundred sixty years he’d been alive, Gion had only ever found one
clear vision, though. Only one person, place or thing ever gave him hope and
let him see past beyond the invisible bars of his fate. She meant everything
to him. Now, at the end of the all things, he had to somehow keep her safe.
he had to reach her, though.
pushed his way through the battle raging around him. The exactingly formal
interior of the Air Palace had been obliterated under the solid mass of
fighting and death. Blood coated the elegant Oriental carpets. The antique
furniture lay in splintered pieces. The priceless artwork had been ripped from
the walls. All the ornate trappings of the palace lay in ruins.
like the rest of the Air House.
plowed his fist into a Weather Phase’s larynx and then used his powers to slam
a Dust Phase into the wall. Gion might have even struck down an Air Phase or
two as he fought towards his goal. He didn’t care who had to die, he
to those fucking stairs.
Air House was under attack from the rest of the Elemental realm.
the beginning of time, the Elemental Phases had held together the
interconnected processes of nature. They controlled everything from Fire, to
Earth, to Weather. Each House depended on the others and each Phase held a bit
of the whole. They supported the very pillars of life. Without them the
entire world would topple into nothingness.
universe simply couldn’t exist without the Elemental Houses.
now they were falling, poisoned by an invisible killer. A germ, of all
things. Set loose as revenge against the Water House, this plague was already
spreading too fast to stop. It was merciless, killing the guilty and innocent
alike. And there was absolutely no way to stop it. In thirty-six hours, it
had already killed hundreds and thousands more were sick.
still felt healthy. So did a handful of others. That gave people hope. Maybe
a genetic immunity would kick in. Maybe some of the Phases would be saved from
the plague. Even if Gion wasn’t one of them in the end, he hoped that some
would be spared. If the illness continued its wild burn through the Elementals
ranks, the Phases would be extinct in a matter of days.
they’d drag the rest of the creation down with them.
Phase attacked him and Gion didn’t even take the time to check the man’s House
designation before he lopped his head off.
Elemental was born with a colored streak at their temple. The different shades
designated the different Houses. The Air House’s color was yellowish gold and
it sliced through Gion’s dark hair, marking him as an enemy of the free world.
severed head rolled slightly, hitting the wall, the mouth sagging open in an
expression of accusation and horror. Gion grabbed the man’s sword and stabbed
into the midsection of a Water Phase as he passed. Water Phases had turquoise
blue at their temple. Gion deliberately ensured that this attack wasn’t a
death blow. He didn’t like killing Water Phases, even ones who’d soon die from
the plague. Truthfully, he didn’t relishing any of these deaths because the
invaders were right.
more specifically, the blame fell on Parald, the Air House’s false king. His
vengeance against the Council of All Houses and against Tritone, of the Water
House would end the world. Parald’s germ warfare could exterminate everything
in every realm.
had always hated that asshole.
wanted Tritone for his queen. When she’d denied him, Parald’s megalomania
festered into mass murder. Ty renounced Parald to the entire Elemental world,
refusing the Match. Dooming them both to be alone for eternity, rather than
join with him. Then, her family had whisked her away, keeping Ty safe from
Parald’s clutches in her beautiful homeland of graceful waterfalls and crystal clear
pools. Enraged that Ty was beyond his reach, Parald called on the primordial
Khaos to strike out at his enemies. One tiny microbe slipped past the Water
House’s barriers and, within hours, the deaths had begun.
this plague wouldn’t be satisfied until it had consumed them all. The deaths
were speeding up, like a freight train building momentum as it roared towards
its final destination.
had finally confessed about the plague in a panicked, rambling speech to Gion that
went on for far too long. By that time, everyone already suspected who was
responsible and it was too late. Parald had begged Gion for help. He’d
ordered it. He’d denied his own guilt. He’d blamed Ty and Kay and Job. He’d
cried and screamed and generally made an ass of himself.
the invasion had begun.
played out around Gion as he wrestled his way through the fray. Limbs hacked
off. Blood spewed forth, coating the floor. Bodies stepped on as Phases fought
to destroy one another.
of the Fire House fought three Air Phases at once, his blade swinging around
like a baton.
of the Sound House was shoved backwards by her opponent and hit the ground.
She swept out her sword, loping off the Air Phase’s leg at the knee and then slicing
the man’s throat as he fell.
of the Air House decapitated a Magnet Phase and then kicked the body hard
enough to send the corpse flying into an Energy Phase. At which point, Saxon
killed that guy, too.
a Gravity Phase attacked Gion. His sword rose, ready to chop off Gion’s head,
and Gion didn’t hesitate. Air slammed out like a cannon.
could control Air. Most Elementals wouldn’t use their Element to inflict
damage on one another. It took a lot of power and the vast majority of Phases
just weren’t strong enough. Also, it wasn’t an honorable way to fight; the
equivalent of challenging someone to a fencing match and then shooting them
before the first “en guard!”
Gion was incredibly powerful and he’d never been mistaken for an honorable sort
of guy. Cheater, liar, moral reprobate… Whatever. Just so he won. Gion drove
his energy straight through the guy’s midsection, leaving a hole the size of a
could recover from a wound like that.
corpse for the pyre.
Phases couldn’t travel into other Houses’ territory without permission. But,
the confusion created by the pestilence and the deaths of so many Phases meant
that barriers were weak. Vulnerable to attack. And
wanted to attack the Air House for what Parald had done. As the stacks of
bodies grew larger, hundreds of sick and dying focused their attention on
the corner of his eye, Gion saw a Smoke Phase wrench a woman around by her
hair. Gion vaguely processed that the victim was an Air Phase. Amarna, the
niece of the old Air King, Seneca. The old,
Air King, thanks to
Gion and Parald’s successful usurpation plot the year before.
was nobody’s hero and, since at least five or six of the people who’d attacked
him today had been women, he certainly wasn’t working off of some “save the
damsel in distress” ego trip. In fact, his instincts told him to press onward
and ignore the Smoke Phase’s attack. It didn’t concern him. Urgency pounded
through Gion, insisting that he get the hell out of there and find Ty.
Amarna was about to die and the girl didn’t deserve that. This plague had
nothing to do with her. Most Air Phases were victims, too. Victims of Parald,
since they were dying of the Fall, and victims of other Elementals, since they
were now under siege. Amarna shouldn’t suffer for the mistakes of others.
the Smoke Phases annoyed the hell out of Gion.
took quick detour, twirling his sword around in his hand as he shoved his way
towards Amarna. The Smoke Phase had his back to Gion, Amarna’s blonde hair
fisted in one of his palms as he tore at her clothing with the other. Amarna
attempted to wrestle free, her body turning so she faced Gion. She saw him
coming over the Smoke Phase’s shoulder. Gion watched her pale blue eyes widen
in an, “Oh great, is he going to try and kill me, now, too?” sort of expression.
reputation really did precede him.
Gion ordered flatly. He wasn’t particularly surprised when she listened and
instantly crouched down even though it must’ve wrenched at the roots of her
hair. The girl had always been the brains in her family.
Smoke Phase never had the chance to see Gion, at all.
of the best parts of being a conscienceless bastard was not caring too much
about playing fair. For instance, Gion didn’t even blink when he decapitated
the Smoke Phase from behind. Giving the other guy a sporting chance didn’t
exactly rank high on his list of priories. Anyone who whined about the ethics
killing enemies while their backs were turned had never really had an
cringed as the Smoke Phase’s blood sprayed across her. The weight of his body
pulled her to the ground, her long hair tangled around the corpse. She cried
out and tried to extricate herself before she was trampled by the battling
throng around her. “Gion!”
didn’t have time for this.
used his sword to quickly cut her hair free, hacking the strands away from the
Smoke Phase’s carcass. “Move.” He seized Amarna by the arm and yanked her to
her feet. “Just get the hell out of here.” He grabbed the Smoke Phase’s
fallen sword and shoved the hilt into her hand. The girl looked like she was
in a fog. “Focus!” He gave Amarna a shake and she finally seemed to hear him.
blue eyes met his. “What?”
gets too close, take off their head, alright? I don’t care what House they’re
from.” Aside from this plague, decapitation was the surest way to kill an
looked down at the sword as if she had no idea how it had appeared in her palm.
“Are you crazy? I don’t know how to use this!”
.” Gion snapped. “It
things. I’m fairly sure
you can figure out how it works.”