House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City) (95 page)

BOOK: House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City)
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He had four hours to reach water. The rebels would use that against him. And he might have sold his life away to the Viper Queen, but to live without his fins … He wasn’t ready to lose that piece of his soul.

Cormac’s eyes rippled with fire as he met Tharion’s stare.
Run
, that gaze said.

Tharion ran.

The mech-suit behind him fired again, and he rolled between its massive legs. Shooting to his feet, he sped for the hole the
mech-suit had made in the wall. Daylight poured in through the billowing smoke.

That tether in his chest—the Viper Queen’s leash—seemed to whisper,
Get to water, you stupid bastard, then return to me.

Tharion dared a glance back as he leapt through the opening. The mech-suit was advancing on Cormac. Pippa marched beside it now, smiling in triumph.

Beyond them, row after row of half-made mech hybrids slumbered. Waiting for activation and slaughter. It didn’t matter which side they fought for.

Cormac managed to lift a bloody hand to point behind Pippa. She drew up short and whirled to face the five glowing beings at the far end of the space.

The Asteri. Oh gods. They’d come.

Cormac gave no warning as he erupted into a ball of fire.

Pippa was consumed by it first. Then the mech-pilot, who burned alive in his suit.

But the ball kept growing, spreading, roaring, and Tharion began running again, not waiting to see if it could somehow, against all odds, take out the Asteri.

He ran into the open air, following the tug of that leash back to the water, to Valbara, dodging the wolf guards now racing to the building. Sirens blared. White light rippled into the sky—the Asteri’s rage.

Tharion cleared the trees. Kept running for the coast. Maybe he’d get lucky and find a vehicle before then—even if he had to steal it. Or put a gun to the driver’s head.

He was half a mile away when the entire building exploded, taking Cormac, the suits, and the rebels with it.

Slumped on the cell floor, Ruhn’s body ached from the beating he’d taken. Mordoc had surrounded him with dreadwolves—no shadows would have been able to hide Ruhn from the bloodhound anyway. He’d have been sniffed out immediately.

Had Day betrayed him? Pretended to be captured so he’d come here? He’d been so blind, so fucking
blind
, and now—

The door to the cell far beneath the Asteri’s palace opened. Ruhn, chained to the wall with gorsian shackles, looked up in horror as Bryce and Athalar entered, similarly shackled. His sister’s face was wholly white.

Athalar bared his teeth at the Harpy as she shoved him in. Since Mordoc still lurked by the cell archway, grinning at them both, Ruhn had no doubt that the Hind was somewhere close by—that she’d be the one who got to work on them.

Neither Athalar nor Bryce fought their captors as they, too, were chained to the wall. Bryce was shaking. With fear or rage, Ruhn didn’t know.

He met Mordoc’s stare, letting the dreadwolf see just who the fuck he was tangling with. “How did you know I’d be here?”

The dreadwolf captain pushed off from the archway, violence in every movement. “Because Rigelus planned it that way. I still can’t believe you walked right into his hands, you stupid fuck.”

“We came here to assist the Asteri,” Ruhn tried. “You’ve got the wrong idea.”

From the corner of his eye, he could sense Bryce trying to catch his attention.

But Mordoc’s face twisted with cruel delight. “Oh? Was that the excuse you were going to use in that alley? Or with the mystics? You forget who you’re speaking to. I never forget a scent.” He sneered at Bryce and Hunt. “I tracked you all around Lunathion—Rigelus was all too happy to hear about your activities.”

“I thought you reported to the Hind,” Athalar said.

The silver darts along Mordoc’s collar glinted as he stepped closer. “Rigelus has a special interest in you lot. He asked me to sniff around.” He made a show of smelling Hunt. “Maybe it’s because your scent is wrong, angel.”

Athalar growled, “What the fuck does that mean?”

Mordoc angled his head with mocking assessment. “Not like any other angel I’ve scented.”

The Harpy rolled her eyes and said to the captain, “Enough. Leave us.”

Mordoc’s lip curled. “We’re to wait here.”


Leave us,
” the Harpy snapped. “I want a head start before she ruins my fun. Surely you know a thing or two about that, if you’re sneaking around her to report to Rigelus.” Mordoc bristled, but stalked off with a low snarl.

Ruhn’s mind raced. They should never have come here. Mordoc
had
remembered his scent—and tracked them these past weeks. Had fed every location to Rigelus. Fuck.

The Harpy grinned. “It’s been a while since I’ve played with you, Athalar.”

Hunt spat at her feet. “Come and get it.”

Ruhn knew he was trying to keep her from going for Bryce. Buying them whatever time he could to find a way out of this shitstorm. Ruhn met Bryce’s panicked look.

She couldn’t teleport, thanks to the gorsian shackles. Could Cormac get back here? He was their only shot at getting out of these chains—their only shot at survival. Had Dec seen the capture? Even if he had, there were no reinforcements to send.

The Harpy drew a short, lethal knife. The kind so precise that it could carve skin from the most delicate places. She flipped it in her hand, keeping back from Athalar’s reach, even with the chains. Her focus slid to Ruhn. Hate lit her eyes.

“Not so cocky now, are you, princeling?” she asked. She pointed her knife toward his crotch. “You know how long it takes for a male to grow back his balls?”

Pure dread shot through him.

Bryce hissed, “Keep your fucking hands off him.”

The Harpy laughed. “Does it bother you, Princess, to see your males so roughly handled?” She approached Ruhn, and he could do nothing as she ran the side of the blade down his cheek. “So pretty,” she murmured, her eyes like blackest Hel. “It will be a shame to ruin such beauty.”

Hunt growled, “Come play with someone interesting.”

“Still the noble bastard,” the Harpy said, running the knife down
the other side of Ruhn’s face. If she came close enough, he could try to rip out her throat with his teeth, but she was too wary. Kept far enough back. “Trying to distract me from harming others. Don’t you remember how I cut up your soldiers piece by piece despite your pleading?”

Bryce lunged against her chains, and Ruhn’s heart cracked as she screamed, “
Get the fuck away from him!

“Listening to you squeal while I carve him will be a delight,” the Harpy said, and slid the knife to the base of Ruhn’s throat.

It was going to hurt. It would hurt, but because of his Vanir blood, he wouldn’t die—not yet. He’d keep healing while she sliced him apart.


GET OFF HIM!
” Bryce bellowed. A guttural roar thundered in the words. As Fae as he’d ever heard his sister.

The tip of the knife pierced Ruhn’s throat, its sting blooming. He dove deep, into the place where he’d always run to avoid his father’s ministrations.

They’d walked in here so foolishly, had been so blind—

The Harpy sucked in a breath, muscles tensing to shove in the knife.

Something golden and swift as the wind barreled into her side and sent the Harpy sprawling.

Bryce shouted, but all the noise, all the thoughts in Ruhn’s head eddied away as a familiar, lovely scent hit him. As he beheld the female who leapt to her feet, now a wall between him and the Harpy.

The Hind.

 

75

“You fucking
cunt
,” the Harpy cursed, rising to draw a long, wicked sword.

Ruhn couldn’t move from the floor as the Hind unsheathed her own slim blade. As her beckoning scent floated to him. A scent that was somehow entwined with his own. It was very faint, like a shadow, so vague that he doubted anyone else would realize the underlying scent belonged to him.

And her scent had been familiar from the start because Hypaxia was her half-sister, he realized. Family ties didn’t lie. He’d been wrong about her being in House of Sky and Breath—the Hind could claim total allegiance to Earth and Blood.

“I knew it. I always
knew
it,” the Harpy seethed, wings rustling. “Traitorous bitch.”

It couldn’t be.

It … it couldn’t be.

Bryce and Hunt were frozen with shock.

Ruhn whispered, “Day?”

Lidia Cervos looked over a shoulder. And she said with quiet calm in a voice he knew like his own heartbeat, a voice he had never once heard her use as the Hind, “Night.”

“The Asteri will carve you up and feed you to your dreadwolves,” the Harpy crooned, sword angling. “And I’m going to help them do it.”

The golden-haired female—Lidia,
Day
—only said to the Harpy, “Not if I kill you first.”

The Harpy lunged. The Hind was waiting.

Sword met sword, and Ruhn could only watch as the shifter deflected and parried the angel’s strike. Her blade shone like quicksilver, and as the Harpy brought down another arm-breaking blow, a dagger appeared in Lidia’s other hand.

The Hind crossed dagger and sword and met the blow, using the Harpy’s movement to kick at her exposed stomach. The angel went down in a pile of wings and black hair, but she was instantly up, circling. “The Asteri will let Pollux have at you, I think.” A bitter, cruel laugh.

Pollux—the male who’d … A blaring white noise blasted through Ruhn’s head.

“Pollux will get what’s coming to him, too,” the Hind said, blocking the attack and spinning on her knees so that she was behind the Harpy. The Harpy twirled, meeting the blow, but backed a step closer to Ruhn.

Their blades again met, the Harpy pressing. The Hind’s arms strained, the sleek muscles in her thighs visible through her skintight white pants as she pushed up, up, to her feet. She kept her black boots planted—the Harpy’s stance was nowhere near as solid.

Lidia’s golden eyes slid to Ruhn’s. She nodded shallowly. A command.

Ruhn crouched, readying.

“Lying filth,” the Harpy raged, losing another inch. Just a little further … “When did they turn you?”

Ruhn’s heart raced.

The two females clashed and withdrew with horrifying skill, then clashed again. “Liar I might be,” Lidia growled, smiling savagely, “but at least I’m no fool.”

The Harpy blinked as the Hind shoved her another inch.

Right to the edge of Ruhn’s reach.

Ruhn grabbed the Harpy’s ankle and
yanked
. The angel shouted, tumbling down again, wings splaying.

The Hind struck.

Swift as a cobra, Lidia plunged her sword into the top of the Harpy’s spine, right through her neck. The tip of her blade hit the floor before the Harpy’s body collided with it.

The Harpy tried to scream, but the Hind had angled the blow to pierce her vocal cords. The next blow, with her parrying dagger, plunged through the Harpy’s ear and into the skull beneath. Another move, and her head rolled away.

And then silence. The Harpy’s wings twitched.

Ruhn slowly lifted his gaze to the Hind.

Lidia stood over him, splattered with blood. Every line of the body he’d seen and felt was taut. On alert.

Hunt breathed, “You’re a double agent?”

But Lidia launched into motion, grabbing Ruhn’s chains, unlocking them with a key from her imperial uniform. “We don’t have much time. You have to get out of here.”

She’d sworn she wouldn’t come for him if he got into trouble. But here she was.

“Was this a trap?” Bryce demanded.

“Not in the way you’re thinking,” Lidia said. As the Hind, she’d kept her voice low and soft. Day’s voice—
this
person’s voice—sounded higher. She came close enough while she freed Ruhn’s feet that he could scent her again. “I tried to warn you that I believed Rigelus
wanted
you to come here, that he knew you would, but … I was interrupted.” By Pollux. “When I was finally able to reach out to you again, it was clear that only those of us in Sandriel’s triarii knew about Rigelus’s plan, and that Mordoc had been feeding him information regarding your whereabouts. To warn you off would have been to give myself away.”

Hunt glowered as Ruhn stared at the Hind. “And we couldn’t have that,” the angel said.

Mordoc—how had the bloodhound not noticed the subtle shift in Lidia’s scent? In Ruhn’s? Or had he, and been biding his time to spring the trap shut?

Lidia shot Hunt a glare, not backing down as she started on Bryce’s chains. “There is a great deal that you do not understand.”

She was so beautiful. And utterly soulless.

You remind me that I’m alive
, she’d told him.

“You killed Sofie,” Bryce hissed.

“No.” Lidia shook her head. “I called for the city-ship to save her. They arrived too late.”

“What?” Athalar blurted.

Ruhn blinked as the Hind pulled a white stone from her pocket. “These are calling stones—beacons. The Ocean Queen enchanted them. They’ll summon whatever city-ship is closest when dropped into the water. Her mystics sense when the ships might be needed in a certain area, and the stones are used as a precise method of location.”

She’d done it that day in Ydra, too. She’d summoned the ship that saved them.

“Sofie drowned because of you,” Ruhn growled, his voice like gravel. “People died at your hands—”

“There is so much to tell you, Ruhn,” she said softly, and his name on her tongue …

But Ruhn looked away from her. He could have sworn the Hind flinched.

He didn’t care. Not as Hunt asked Bryce, “Did you find out the truth?”

Bryce paled. “I did. I—”

Steps sounded down the hall. Far away, but approaching. The Hind went still. “Pollux.”

Her hearing had to be better than his. Or she knew the cadence of the bastard’s steps so well she could tell from a distance.

“We have to make it appear real,” she said to Bryce, to Ruhn, voice pleading, utterly desperate. “The information lines
can’t
be broken.” Her voice cracked. “Do you understand?”

Bryce did, apparently. She smirked. “I shouldn’t enjoy this so much.”

BOOK: House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City)
8.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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