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  • Home > Christine Feehan > Dark Series > Dark Blood (Chapter 29)     
    Dark Blood(Dark #26) by Christine Feehan
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    Instead of going from the outside of the circle in, she began burning strips of the shadow from front to back, close together, so that if Xaviero tried entering, he couldn’t do so easily. Tatijana quickly followed suit from the other side, racing to stop Xaviero’s entrance. The moment they met in the middle, they began working backward, filling in the stripes so that every single tiny section of the portal was burned closed.

    As Branislava began the final circle to ensure there was no hidden way in around the outer edges of the shadow where they couldn’t see, she felt the sudden push against her as Xaviero tried to force his way through.

    Tatijana gasped and cringed, her spirit moving back away from the shadow. He’s here.

    But he can’t enter. Finish the outer edges of the circle and then begin the healing process on the burn. I’m going to help the others.

    She didn’t wait for her sister’s reaction. She left Pavlo and just as quickly entered the last Lycan. Zev worked on one end of the shadow, slowly and meticulously. Gregori was at the other end.

    He’s coming and he’s really angry. I’ll help Zev close the portal, Gregori, but you have to keep him from Borya’s heart. If he can’t get to the heart, he’ll go after another vital organ to kill him.

    She knew Zev would want the job of protecting Borya. He felt passionate about protecting Lycans, but he wasn’t as experienced in battling mages. Gregori was powerful in magic and he’d studied spells, both black and white, far more than most Carpathians ever had. She couldn’t open her mind to Gregori’s or that would give Xaviero access as well, but she trusted the healer to fight the mage off his patient.

    Try not to let him see who you are. He suspects his brother is thwarting his efforts in a power play to take over the ruling of all species. If he continues to believe that, it could give us a small advantage. She was already wielding the lightning laser, using the same striping technique she’d used on Pavlo. Unfortunately, mages adapted fast and Xaviero would already expect his brother to close the portal in a similar fashion.

    Good point, Gregori said, and built up his energy to block whatever the mage chose to throw at Borya.

    Zev, start from the bottom and create strips as I’m doing, so we form a waffle pattern. Make your lines as close together as possible and we’ll go back and fill them in when we’re done with this.

    She contemplated using a broader tip for the laser to take in more area, but the work was too delicate and the lightning difficult to control. She felt that wrenching sickness when Xaviero’s foul stench poured into the skull.

    Did you really think you could save these pitiful creatures from me? They are enslaved, mine to command. I refuse to allow you to use them for yourself, Xaviero exclaimed.

    He’s baiting again, Zev cautioned. He wants you to taunt him with the fact that you saved one of them.

    It would have been easy enough to fall into that trap, but Branislava’s confidence was growing with each encounter. She’d lost Igor, yes, but she had nearly trapped Xaviero in that shrinking shadow, and she and Tatijana had prevented his entrance into Pavlo, essentially saving his life. She didn’t rise to the bait.

    Once more, she felt black rage fill the skull, so powerful and strong it nearly pushed the skull bones apart. Gregori was there instantly, holding the skull in place. Xaviero shrieked, the sound reverberating through Borya’s entire body. He sounded hideous, enraged, maddened with his inability to draw out his enemy. The sounds he made felt as if he was raking the inside of her head and ears apart, tearing off long strips of skin and turning her organs to jelly.

    Your body is not here, Zev reminded her gently, calmly.

    She was proud of him. He had not stopped working, even for a moment, while she had given a microsecond’s pause. Xaviero would catch that mistake when he replayed the battle, but there was nothing she could do about it.

    Will Borya’s body turn to mush when it processes that sound? Branislava couldn’t help but be anxious. She continued to work as quickly as possible and wanted to command Zev to pick up his pace.

    In anticipation I had already plugged his ears, making him essentially deaf for the time being. There is a shield around his heart, Gregori assured her. Xaviero will know it is Carpathian in structure, but certainly not who—although he might recognize my handiwork, you never know. Either way, it won’t matter because he’ll know there are at least two of us working against him.

    Branislava let out a brief sigh of relief, at least she felt as though she did. It was strange not to have a body, yet still feel the reactions of one.

    Xaviero struck a second time, shooting electrical charges throughout the body, over and over, the neurons firing like crazy, the filaments nearly dancing at the surges racing through them to every nerve ending delivering the commands of the High Mage to his servant’s body.

    Gregori deflected each command, sometimes anticipating where Xaviero attacked next and other times rushing to get ahead of the electricity as it threatened to fry internal organs. The third attack was directed at the Lycan’s lungs, so that every bit of fluid tore from the extremities to pool in a central location.

    Terád keje—get scorched, you mage from hell, Gregori muttered under his breath, the curse finding its way into Branislava’s head.

    She knew what the healer was going to do, but there was no way to stop him, and in truth, it mattered little. Xaviero already was aware someone was in the Carpathian camp freeing or killing his puppets. It stood to reason that Gregori would be aiding Xaviero’s enemy.

    Thunder roar bring forth chains of light,

    Cloud to ground let lightning strike.

    Arch to channel magnetic field,

    Current run so shadowed flesh does feel.

    Xaviero shrieked and bolted. Branislava swore using very unladylike words to express her disappointment. She’d been so close to trapping him. A few more seconds and she and Zev would have closed the portal, shutting a part of Xaviero inside the burn. She could have killed it, diminishing the High Mage’s power just a little.

    She couldn’t blame Gregori for retaliating, not when Xaviero was trying every way possible to kill the Lycan. She finished closing the portal, and both she and Zev sank down the moment they let loose of the lightning, their spirits in tatters. Both had been wounded by the ice spears and the teeth of the tiny white wormlike creatures Xaviero had sent to kill Damon.

    I can finish up here, Gregori assured. You both need to rest.

    Branislava knew it was the truth, but she wasn’t certain she could comply with her mind racing and fear making her teeth chatter. Exhaustion had set in, far beyond anything she’d ever known. She did feel triumphant. In the end, Xaviero hadn’t identified her. He had found Gregori. Who could possibly mistake the power of the Carpathian healer? But he hadn’t identified Tatijana or Branislava, and that was a victory in itself.

    Come on, mon chaton féroce, Zev said gently, his tone turning her inside out. It’s time to rest. You’ve done your part and there’s nothing more to do but relax, take a little sustenance and lay in my arms.

    It sounded good to her. Branislava slipped from Borya’s head and back into her own body. She slumped over, too tired to maneuver such an unwieldy heavy load with her spirit so tattered. Dimitri was there instantly, kneeling beside her, gathering her up and pressing his wrist to her mouth.

    “Little sister, take what is freely offered,” he said formally. “And be quick about it. You look so pale I think you’re translucent.”

    “It’s the red hair,” Fen commented, helping Zev. “It makes her look like a ghost when she’s not fed.”

    I’d retaliate with something brilliant but I’m just too tired, Branislava said truthfully.

    She wanted to close her eyes and just go to sleep, maybe sink her body deep beneath the earth right where she was.

    Tatijana emerged from the Lycan she just healed and smiled at her sister. “Fen is a terrible tease, isn’t he? I’ll kick him for you when I have the strength.”

    Thanks, Tatijana, Branislava said. You’re the best sister a girl could have.

    “I have strength,” Skyler volunteered. “I’ll do it for you.” She suited action to words, landing a fairly easy kick on Fen’s shin. “That’s from Bronnie.”

    “Nice, Skyler.” Fen scowled his most fierce scowl. “Dimitri, control your wild woman.”

    Dimitri shrugged. “You do find a way to rile them all up, don’t you?”

    Gregori emerged next and Ivory was immediately beside him, giving him necessary blood. They sat together in silence, the Lycans they’d saved still unaware and the one who lay dead a testament to Xaviero’s cruelty.

    Fen, Dimitri and Zev all swung around at the same time, facing outward, leaping to their feet. Zev could feel the disturbance coming at them. The energy was low, almost too low, but the intent was murderous.

    “What it is?” Gregori asked. He closed the wound on Ivory’s wrist at the last moment.

    “Xaviero has found another way to attack us. He’s sent another wave of his army racing toward us. This is a rogue pack and they’ll kill and devour every species,” Zev answered. “The Earth is telling me they’re only a few kilometers away from this clearing. Those outside the circle of protection will be killed. We have to get to them. Leave those healing here.”

    Zev glanced at Fen and Dimitri. “I’ll go at them from the front. They’ll come at me hard. You close in from either side. Daciana and Makoce know what to do. They’ll be in the thick of it. Gregori, can you mop up after the kill? It’s a difficult job to continually sever heads, but it has to be done.”

    “Are you okay to do this, Zev?” Fen asked. “You’re wounded, and so is Bronnie. Gregori’s exhausted.”

    Zev shrugged. “It has to be done.”

    Gregori nodded. “No problem. If Zev can do this, so can I. I’ve fought them enough times now that I know how they work. No need to worry, I’ve made my own silver sword according to your blueprint of specs.”

    Zev turned his head to frown at him. “Mine?” His eyes met Tatijana’s.

    She grinned at him and shrugged. “I can’t help it if you talk in your sleep. You passed out, remember?”

    Branislava pushed herself up to her feet. Her head felt as if it might explode, a testimony to the ice spears Xaviero had sent. “Nice to know I can get all kinds of information out of you,” she commented. It took a moment to get her legs back. She swayed a little, but then straightened her shoulders, shrugging off weakness.

    “You and Tatijana take to the sky,” Zev told her. “You’ll serve us better up there. Both of you know the distances wolves can jump, so take that into consideration when you fly low.”

    Branislava nodded. She circled his neck with one arm and kissed him lightly. “We’ll be careful. You come back to me.”

    He kissed her back, and then turned his attention to Skyler and Ivory. “You two both can use your connection with Mother Earth as well as your wolves. Pick off the strays and stragglers. Stay to the outside of the main pack coming at us. Remember to watch for traps. Your wolves will ferret them out better than you. Listen to the Earth, and don’t get killed.”

    Skyler and Ivory both nodded.

    “Gregori, open a path through the clearing. If we’re lucky, we can run some of the rogues right into this trap,” Zev said. “And if we’re very lucky, they will not be led by a Sange rau. If you run into one, or even think there’s one in the vicinity, call out to Fen, Dimitri or me. I’m not as adept at fighting them. I think Fen is the most advanced version of the Hän ku pesäk kaikak, so if it comes to that, we’ll all follow his lead.”

    Fen nodded. “Let’s get this done, before they find any of our people.”

    Gregori immediately lifted his hands, facing outside the protective, double-ringed sphere.

    I call to thee Air which propels and blows,

    I call to thee Fire which burns below.

    I call to thee Water, send forth your gales,

    I call to thee Earth that brings forth a mist that cloaks and veils.

    Cleanse and clear,

    Seal this pass.

    Closing all,

    After all here have passed.

    Zev left the protection of the sphere first, with Fen and Dimitri fanning out on either side of him. Each of them tested the air and the ground beneath their feet. Gregori had opened a wide enough path that the chaos from the lightning forks didn’t affect their ability to scan for information, but it did wreak havoc with the hair on their bodies. Dimitri sent Zev a small, quick grin and nodded toward Fen. He mouthed the word skunk.

    “I can see you,” Fen pointed out.

    Dimitri raised an eyebrow, trying for innocence. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, bro.”

    Behind them, Tatijana and Branislava followed closely. They needed to find a spot where they could shift and take to the air. Instead of looking for a large enough place to accommodate a dragon, they simply gave themselves running room and took to the sky as small birds, leaping high as they shifted.

    Ivory and Skyler came next, moving fast, jogging toward the forest where they could better hunt prey with their wolves. Razvan angled to meet them, running fast through the trees to intercept them in the forest itself. Clearly, Ivory had shared every detail of the events and danger with him.

    Gregori moved out of the circle last, walking with long, purposeful strides straight to the edge of the forest, where he turned, lifted his hands and sent his command once again to close the path behind him.

    Lightning struck the ground and raced back into the sky. The ground shifted and water bubbled up. Inside the circle of protection, the three Lycans remained asleep, and the fourth, Igor, rested in peace.

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