|Home > Christine Feehan > Dark Series > Dark Blood (Chapter 10)|
|Dark Blood(Dark #26) by Christine Feehan|
His mind retreated from the pain, an agony such as he’d never experienced, his insides forced into regeneration, an unnatural fiery death and rebirth.
“You’re losing him,” Mikhail hissed. “He’s a Dark Blood. Call to that part of him, the warrior in him. Call to the blood line of Tirunul.”
From far away Zev heard the prince speak, but his voice was lost among other voices calling to him from another realm.
He felt the fireball of pure white energy moving through him, burning him clean, cauterizing and cleansing, but that too was becoming distant.
Zev, you have to fight.
That was Fen, demanding. Coaxing.
Come on, bro, this is your time. Don’t let go. You can beat this thing.
He recognized Dimitri’s voice—or thought he did. The fire consumed him, left him with no lungs, no heart, no mind. He was incinerated. Burned alive.
I am with you, Branislava whispered. Wherever you are, I am with you always.
She was alone, her spirit weave still intact with his and no other. She was surrounded by her family, the people who would have aligned their fate with hers, but she had done as he asked, believed in his strength enough to risk her life once again with him.
He held tight to her, even as his mind wandered into another realm. He saw them, shadowy figures, tall warriors with slashing eyes and fierce expressions. Women, beautiful and courageous, whose faces were stamped with the same passionate resolution as their men. All had one thought, one mind. They were joined together for one purpose only—to heal the horrendous wound in his gut.
He felt the first stirring in his mind of something unfamiliar—yet so familiar. His blood heated, boiled, flowed through his veins like hot, molten lava. Dark and strong, his blood refused to be taken by the fire. His blood was liquid already and the fire couldn’t change that. The white-hot energy annihilated everything in its path, forcing his body to either die or rise like a phoenix from the ashes.
His blood moved valiantly through his body, determined to keep him alive, to keep one step ahead of the fireball crashing through him. It pushed into his heart and out again, ran through him like the underground rivers no one ever saw or was aware of, when his heart wanted to falter. His lungs refused to work, to find air, so burned and raw they couldn’t work.
Dark Bloods do not ever give in. They do not give up. They fight with their last breath.
He had no breath. There was no air, only that all-consuming fire raging through his body. He was already in the other realm, surrounding by the ancestors. Here, he could find his grandmother and his mother. Here he could find his great-grandparents, the last of his legendary line.
You are the last of the line. You are kont o sívanak, strong heart. You have the heart of a warrior and you cannot choose to remain in this land of shadows. You are needed.
This time he wasn’t certain who spoke to him. The prince? Gregori? They had faded so far away he had almost let go of them. The ancients then. He felt confused, but he was not a man to ever give up. He wanted life for Branislava and himself. His choice would always be life for her. He wanted that chance to make her happy and experience a lifetime with her.
More, he was a warrior and his people needed him. It really came down to that simplicity. He felt strength rising from somewhere deep inside of him. Determination and purpose. His people—both species—had need of him and he would not fail them. His woman had given him faith he hadn’t yet earned and he would not fail her.
He called to his wolf, knowing as long as he was split, he couldn’t find his way back. He could face the fire, embrace it even, if that’s what it took to be healed and survive for those who needed him. The crisis brewing in him wasn’t about his ability to withstand the power generated by the prince and the healer—his bloodline saw to that—it was the division of his mixed blood. The Carpathian in him rose to do battle with the healer and the prince to fight for his life, but the wolf had no knowledge of such healing and he retreated, snarling and fighting, determined to drag Zev with him to a safe place where the fire couldn’t reach them.
Zev was alpha, his wolf dominant among his kind. It was strong and reactive, a force to be reckoned with, and it refused to give ground once it took a stand. The longer the prince and the healer had to remain locked together, the more intense the fire grew. Time was slipping away. The battle was his to win or lose.
There, in that other realm, surrounded by the dead, his body engulfed in flames, he reached for his Lycan side, embracing his wolf. There was no hesitation or trepidation on his part. His Dark Blood and the blood of his brothers called to the wolf. Lycan and Carpathian blood didn’t blend together so much as there were two separate species in one body with the host able to draw on the strengths of both.
He commanded his wolf to join with him, to absorb the fire burning through him. The wolf snarled and raged at him, prowling close to the surface, threatening the change, to take over the host body, wanting to shift from his present form to half man, half wolf in order to fight those who sought to kill them through the burn of the white-hot fire.
Zev couldn’t wait any longer, he was slipping further into that realm. The shadowy figures became more substantial. The chanting of the Carpathian people faded into the background. The heat in his body became even more intense, an excruciating pain he couldn’t stop. His wolf insisted the answer was to go further into the other realm, far away from the two men wielding fire.
Stay with me, Lycan. Stay with your mate. I have great need of you. Branislava joined with him, her sweet voice calling through the other realm. She had no fear of fire. She embraced the flames, absorbed them, became them.
The wolf went still, listening for just a moment to the musical sound. Zev struck at him instantly. The Carpathian imposed his will, the strong heart of a warrior, forcing the wolf to heed his word. He drew the Lycan with him back toward the surface, back toward the hot, hot fire—and Branislava.
Flames seemed to burn from the inside out, stealing his breath, robbing him of reason and the ability to think. The wolf nearly escaped him, but at the last moment, Zev managed to stop his wandering mind and bring himself wholly back into the land of the living. He gasped, lungs burning for air. He swallowed a cry of pain, and then the fire was gone and he could breathe again.
Gregori stepped away from him, swaying with weariness. He tried to catch Mikhail as the prince sat abruptly on the floor of the cave beside the raised bed, but he collapsed as well.
“It is done,” Mikhail said. “He survived. He’ll need blood.”
“As do you.” Dominic of the Dragonseekers, uncle to Tatijana and Branislava, crouched beside the prince and extended his wrist. “I offer freely.”
Zev felt Branislava take his hand in spite of the fact that his body was still fiery hot. The terrible intensity of the heat had diminished so that he could easily withstand the aftermath. His injured organs, cells, muscle and tissue had been forced to grow, regenerating in minutes when it should have taken months beneath the ground.
He threaded his fingers through Branislava’s, content to lie still. It feels like a nuclear bomb went off inside of me. I thought, if I opened my eyes and looked down at my stomach, I might see a mushroom cloud rising into the air.
Her fingers brushed over his bare skin, right over the wound that had been a gaping hole in his body. He could feel her touch, so light and delicate gliding over his stomach.
Thank you, Branka, for believing in me enough to do as I asked.
It was difficult, she admitted. I had faith in your strength, Zev, but I also knew your wolf was very suspicious and might become a problem.
Zev frowned, his gaze jumping to her face. Tell me.
When you were first injured, there in the meeting hall when the bomb went off and you tried to protect Arno, the council member, with your body over his and the table stake went through your stomach, your wolf wasn’t happy to have us invading you. Our healing sessions involve going into your body and healing from the inside out with energy. Lycans regenerate. Both work, but Carpathians and Lycans have two very different ways of dealing with injuries and your wolf was very suspicious. I had to do a lot of soothing.
Around him, the cavern had become alive with activity. He could hear the low murmur of conversations. Darius gave blood to Gregori, and Fen offered him his wrist. He took it, suddenly craving the rich nutrients.
I didn’t know, I was too far gone, I guess.
He didn’t like the idea of loss of control and I think we would have lost you then, but Skyler is a woman and she is very close to the wolves. He accepted her. Tatijana had healed you before and of course he recognized her and accepted her. I am your lifemate, his mate, and he accepted me. Also, Arno was working with him, a member of the council and that gave him reassurance.
Zev sighed and swept his tongue across the twin holes in Fen’s wrist to stop the blood flow. Wolves always rose to protect their other side. I should have expected him to rise. He’s strong and fast and he would fight to the death anyone he thought might harm me while I was unconscious. Thank heaven he’s so enamored with you.
She raised her eyebrow at him. Him? Only the wolf? She gave a little disbelieving sniff.
“Can you sit up?” Dimitri asked.
Zev had no idea, but he hid a smile from Branislava. He liked her little displays of temper. The burning through his body had subsided slowly. He actually hadn’t noticed it ebbing away as he talked with his lifemate. “I’m willing to give it a try.”
Dimitri got an arm around him. Fen hovered like a new father with his firstborn. Zev resisted a sarcastic remark. Branislava stepped back to give him room, and immediately a hush fell in the cavern and all eyes turned to him.
Mikhail had gotten to his feet. If it was possible for him to look anxious—he did. Gregori moved closer, stopping Zev from moving with a hand on his chest while he slowly inspected the wound site.
“Tell me how you’re feeling.”
Zev shrugged. “The fire faded and I can breathe normally. I haven’t been able to do that since I got caught in the blast. I moved a few inches and didn’t double up in pain, so that’s a good sign, but I’ll admit I feel weak.”
Gregori nodded. “That’s to be expected. You’ll need blood several times over this night and rest as well as more recuperation in the ground during the day tomorrow. When you rise, we believe you will be at full strength, if your body has healed as we expected.”
“Let’s try it then,” Zev said.
The room was too still and quiet. The anxious look on Fen’s normally expressionless, stone face was too much for him. Zev shot him a glare. “Stop looking at me like I’m one of your chicks and you’re the mother hen. I’ve got this.”
“You always think you’ve got it,” Fen snapped back. “I’ve never seen a man more prone to getting stabbed, shot, sliced or ripped open, unless, of course, it’s Dimitri. It’s a wonder I don’t have gray hair.”
“You do,” Zev and Dimitri said simultaneously.
The tension in the cave immediately gave way to a wave of laughter.
Zev braced himself for pain as he gingerly sat up, Dimitri’s arm a strong bar across his back to aid him if he needed it. To his utter astonishment, there was no agony, no hurt, not even an ache or slight stitch. If anything, his muscles seemed stronger than ever.
He grinned at Gregori. “I’d have to say it worked.”
“I want to check before you get overconfident,” Gregori said. “Just give me a minute.”
“You’re in worse shape than I am,” Zev said.
“You’re the first person to ever survive,” Gregori said.
That wiped the smile off Zev’s face.
Gregori and Mikhail looked at one another and burst into laughter.
“Very funny, you two,” Zev said. “I’m taking my lady and going home.” He wasn’t altogether certain they weren’t serious and just a little hysterical with relief.
Branislava brought her uncle close. “This is Dominic and his lifemate, Solange.”
There was no mistaking Solange fought beside the Dragonseeker. She was a warrior through and through.
Zev inclined his head. “I’m grateful to both of you, for coming and for your generous offer of weaving your spirits to mine.”
“Clearly it wasn’t necessary. Mikhail tells me you are the last of the Dark Blood line. I knew your great-grandparents. There were few as skilled as they were,” Dominic said.
He drew Branislava close to him. He was certain now, that the Carpathians were right and he was of the Dark Blood lineage, but at this moment, all he wanted to do was rest and spend a little time getting to know his woman.
“Take another look at him, Gregori,” Fen said. “We need to get him home.”
Let’s sit on the verandah, just for a little while,” Zev suggested. They had just risen from their day’s slumber and he wanted time to be with her. “We can visit out here.” While there was no actual pain, he was surprised at how weak he still was.
The night was beautiful. Deep in the forest it was darker than outside of it, because the trees blocked a good part of the moon. He caught glimpses of the glow as well as a scattering of stars through the canopy and branches. Somewhere close by a wolf howled and another answered.
“Skyler and Dimitri have taken their wolves hunting,” Branislava said. “They’re hungry. I can tell by the sound of their calls. The alpha is on the trail of something big.”
“Few can hear the difference in the notes,” Zev said, a little shocked. “Yet you can tell what that call actually means?”
She nodded. “I can hear what they say by the pitch, the notes in their voices. I can identify each member of the wolf pack that inhabits this territory. I also have learned all four voices of Skyler and Dimitri’s wolves as well.”