|Home > Christine Feehan > Dark Series > Dark Blood (Chapter 45)|
|Dark Blood(Dark #26) by Christine Feehan|
The beast used its deadly claws to rip at the wall, tearing great long strips from the structure, but as fast as he dug, the wall repaired itself. Each time the claws sank into the wall, the hellhound lifted its head and bellowed with pain, the wall creating a current of electricity that clearly went right through the animal. Smoke rose around him, the stench of rotting, burned eggs intensifying, but even the pain didn’t slow the monster down.
“Travis, are you with me?” Zev asked.
“Yes.” The answer was very faint, but steady.
“I’m going to ask you to do something that will be very scary and equally as dangerous. Are you up for it?”
“If it keeps that thing away from my family,” Travis replied.
Zev drew his sword. “I’m going to sever both heads. You have to keep track of the one with the eye still intact. It won’t be easy. The hound is going to rage at us. It will likely attack me, headless. The two heads will roll around and black blood will be everywhere. You can’t look at anything but that one spot, the eye that needs to be closed. Fire your arrow and hit what you’re aiming at.”
“What if I miss?” Travis’s voice trembled.
“You can’t miss. Do you understand me? You can’t miss. You know how to shoot. Falcon taught you. You’ll hit what you’re aiming at.”
“Yes, sir,” Travis said.
Zev took a breath, let it out and stepped close to the massive hellhound. He brought his sword down hard, using the combined strength of Lycan and Carpathian, using his centuries of experience in battle. The sword cut cleanly through the gruesome creature, severing the two heads so that they fell to the floor.
A blast of heat rose from the severed neck, smoke rising and black blood pouring from the hole. Zev jumped back to avoid the splatter, placing his feet carefully as the headless body whipped around, claws ripping at the air around it.
The two heads rolled, leaving a trail of poisonous blood on the floor. One eye glowed a ghastly yellow, shining like a beacon each time it came around to the surface. Travis didn’t look to see what the headless body of the gigantic hound was doing to Zev. He did every single thing Falcon had taught him. He took a breath. Let it out. Counted to himself to get the rhythm of his target. Visualized the arrow going straight and true. He waited and as the head rolled, he let his arrow fly, and just as quickly fit another in the crossbow, just as Falcon had instructed.
His arrow hit the yellow eye dead center. It stared at him malevolently, wide open, the arrow protruding. The head rolled closer to him. He didn’t take his gaze from his target. When the eye rolled back up to the surface, he let lose the second arrow and just as quickly reloaded.
The head stilled, the eye open and staring, but now it appeared a faded yellow, hollow, with no real life or intelligence behind the glare. Still, Travis couldn’t tear his gaze away, fearing that the creature would come to life again. He was afraid to look behind him, fearing Zev wouldn’t be there and the headless body would be about to rip him to pieces with those terrible claws.
“Travis.” Zev’s soft voice reached him through the roaring in his ears. “Thank you. You killed it. We need to go back and help Jubal. If you need a minute, you can join the others in the safe room and let them know we’re almost done here. Jubal and I will clean up.”
Zev’s voice was that same calm, steady miracle of complete confidence. But he was moving up the stairs fast, a graceful, fluid exit, but an exit all the same. Travis was well aware the elite hunter was making certain Jubal was still alive and had killed the last of the hellhounds. He didn’t want to be left alone in the same room with the macabre two-headed beast, even though it appeared dead. He wasn’t about to open the safe room door until he was absolutely certain it was safe to do so. He ran after Zev.
Zev hated to leave the boy after he’d shown so much bravery, and was happy to hear his footsteps as Travis raced after him, but his mind was already on the fiends from hell trying to get to the children. There had been five of them. He’d killed the leader. The two-headed monster was dead. The two hounds that collided together had been slain as well. That left one. They’d been lucky. Jubal had good aim, and so had Paul and Travis. The oil had come in handy. Without it, the beasts would come at them again and again, in spite of the arrows. There was no other real way to kill the hellhound without the oil. It acted like poison to them.
Zev burst out onto the porch, ready for anything—other than the scene in front of him. Paul and Jubal sat on the ground a few inches from a dead hellhound, both laughing almost hysterically. They looked up as he approached. The hound and both men were covered in oil and puddles of it lay on the ground.
“Were either of you hurt? Bitten? Clawed? Did you get any blood on you?”
“No,” Jubal said. He looked at Paul and they broke into laughter again. “We’re just covered, ready for the fryer. How about you?”
Zev let the tension drain out of him, although he was fairly certain the two men were bordering on hysteria. “I’m covered in oil as well.” He sank down onto the ground beside them and surveyed the four massive bodies. “So are they. What did you do?”
Paul grinned and wiped his face with the back of his hand, smearing more oil. “I kept throwing buckets of the stuff at it while Jubal kept shooting. Eventually, the darn thing went down, but it took about ten arrows and five full buckets of the stuff. I can’t believe you managed to conjure up a replenishing container of oil.”
Travis came and sat down between Paul and Zev. He looked at the three men. “I’d much rather fight a vampire,” he declared with a small shudder.
“You’re not alone in that,” Paul agreed.
“We’ve got a mess to clean up,” Zev said. “Although I think I’m feeling a little sleepy.”
Jubal threw a handful of dirt at him. “Don’t even think about running out on us.”
Zev yawned. “Really. The sun is getting to me.”
“We’ll get to you,” Paul declared, making a move as though he might tackle Zev.
Zev was too fast, leaping to his feet, nearly skidding in the oil. “Fine. I’ll help. But you two made a mess.”
“We saved the day,” Jubal announced solemnly. “We were discussing medals of valor.”
Zev’s eyebrow shot up. “Medals?” he repeated, as if he wasn’t certain what that was.
“Of valor,” Paul said. “Trav can get in on it, too. We even designed one.” He looked at Jubal and the two of them roared with laughter.
Zev shook his head. “Young Travis, this is clearly a side effect of getting too close to one of the hellhounds. Their brains are addled.”
Travis nodded. “I can see that. We’d better leave them to it and clean up downstairs so the kids can get out of the safe room. They’ll be frightened.”
They turned away and Paul yelped in panic. “Wait! You can’t leave. You have to burn all this.”
Turning back, Zev laughed at the stricken faces of Jubal and Paul. Even Travis laughed with him. “I notice I get the work and you get the medals.” He called down the lightning and directed it over the bodies, incinerating them and the black, shiny blood that had spread throughout the yard.
“As it should be,” Paul muttered under his breath, just loud enough for Zev to hear.
A whip of lightning struck a few feet from Paul’s feet, getting the last of the blood from the ground. Paul practically leapt over the top of Jubal to get away from the sizzling tip.
“I’m telling Branislava on you,” he called out, using the last resort he had to even the odds.
An unholy mist crept through the forest, weaving through the trees close to the ground. Tendrils rose from the foot-high bank of fog, long tentacles inching through brush and leaves to wind like snakes and climb higher into the tree trunks. A strange odor of burning sulfur accompanied the dense vapor. The smell was faint, yet wildlife shied away from the creeping mist, whirling around when it approached and running as if their very lives were in danger.
A wolf sank down onto its haunches and lifted its muzzle skyward, emitting a long warning note. Another joined it.
To me now! Dimitri ordered the two alphas sharply. Hurry. Skyler, move it. We have no time. Zev! Fen! We’re surrounded. The wolves are calling, can you hear the warning?
Dimitri held out his arms for his wolves to leap aboard. They came running out of the deeper forest to leap at him. He felt the jolt as they shifted at the last moment. The little alpha female was getting it, but she still hit him harder than necessary. He reprimanded her automatically, reminding her to shift a little faster.
Skyler’s wolf Moonglow rushed toward them and she turned, arms wide, to make it easier for her to leap aboard. Dimitri kept his eyes on the fog as it inched its way toward the clearing where the ceremony to send Arno and his son Arnau off with honors was taking place.
He couldn’t describe it as mist any longer—the matter was far too dense and gave off an eerie, flickering, yellowish-gray glow. He signaled Skyler to start moving, back in the direction of the clearing. The fog was taking over the forest and he didn’t want her or the wolves in it.
Wolves began howling from various positions in the forest. Skyler gasped and reached for his hand. “The wild ones are warning us to get out,” she interpreted.
Dimitri lifted his head and howled back, emitting a series of notes and cries, perfectly pitched like a wolf, responding to the warnings of the wild wolves.
Ivory and Razvan came from the direction of the west, their wolves already riding on both of them. “Are you two all right?” Razvan asked, looking Skyler over carefully.
Skyler nodded. “One of my wolves, Frost, hasn’t returned yet. Dimitri called them in.”
“I’ve told the wild ones to get out of this part of the forest and avoid the fog,” Dimitri said. “They knew, they were warning us, but I wanted to make certain they understood how dangerous it is.”
Razvan indicated the yellowish vapor. “It appears to be climbing the trees. Look how it wraps around the trunk and goes up. It goes up the trees it touches before it creeps forward again along the forest floor.”
Ivory and Skyler stepped toward the fog, both determined to find the missing wolf. Dimitri caught Skyler’s arm to halt her.
“He’ll come back or he won’t, csitri, but you can’t get near that stuff. If every animal in the forest is running away from it, you have to heed the warnings.”
Ivory had halted as well, looking back at Razvan as if he’d communicated with her privately. Her long lashes hid her expression but she dropped her chin and shook her head. Razvan put his arm around her briefly as if comforting her.
“We can’t just leave him,” Skyler protested.
“You knew from the beginning we could lose the wolves,” Dimitri said, his tone gentle, but brooking no argument. “You can’t sacrifice your life hunting a stray. This fog is dangerous. We’ve got to go.”
“He’ll come back. He always strays too far, but he comes back,” Skyler said, leaning into Dimitri for a moment. “I’ve reprimanded him over and over but he just seems to get lost when he runs free, meaning he loses track of time and what he’s supposed to be doing.”
Insects poured out of the ground, running ahead of the fog as it continued to move toward the clearing. Ants, termites, beetles, every insect that sought refuge in the ground or fallen trees, turned the vegetation into a living carpet,
Dimitri tugged at Skyler’s hand. “We’re leaving now.”
Skyler hesitated. “Dimitri, the air feels heavier, almost as if there is a dark spell hidden with the fog.” She looked at her birth father. “Do you feel it?”
Razvan nodded. “Nature has been twisted and bent to another’s desire.”
“But more,” Skyler speculated. “It’s more than that. It’s darker. Evil. As if there are things wrought within the fog that come from another realm.”
Dimitri held up his hand for silence. He kept catching small murmurs, sounds, yet the others clearly couldn’t hear. He shook his head and took two steps back as the fog inched closer.
Frost came running from the direction Ivory and Razvan had come at a frantic pace, eyes a little wild. Dimitri held his arms out and the errant wolf leapt for the safety of his alpha’s back.
“There’s something in the fog, moving, talking. I can hear it,” Dimitri told the others. “It’s not only climbing the trees, but as it gets closer to the edge of the forest it’s building height on the ground as well. Let’s get back to the clearing and help get everyone out of there.”
Gregori, get the prince to safety. There is something out here beyond my knowledge, but there is no doubt it is dangerous. Whatever it is, it’s heading your way. It’s moving slow, but hidden within there is something evil. Dimitri sent the warning ahead of them, tasking Gregori with getting their prince to safety.
Gregori Daratrazanoff sighed heavily. Mikhail had attended the honor ceremony for Arno and his son as any good diplomat would. The Lycans insisted, in spite of all the warnings, that the fallen council member had to have a full ceremony, and be sent off with honor. Instead of holding the funeral the following rising, Rolf had insisted on preparing the ground and waiting three days and nights. No amount of arguing had changed his mind.
“You heard Dimitri. I have to get you out of here, Mikhail. Dimitri is warning Zev and he’ll do his best to persuade the Lycans to leave, but you can’t take the chance.”
“Do you know how many times you say that to me?” Mikhail asked with a small sigh.