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  • Home > Christine Feehan > Dark Series > Dark Blood (Chapter 50)     
    Dark Blood(Dark #26) by Christine Feehan

    Xaviero, her child lives. You know who I mean. We killed her, didn’t we? Xavier said she was dead, yet her child lives. This one is hers and Razvan’s child as well. There was panic in him. He pushed it down to fight his way out of the smoke.

    Kill them. Kill them all now! Xaviero ordered, fear shimmering in his voice in spite of himself.

    Join your strength with mine, Xayvion insisted.

    He waited until Xaviero turned from his appointed task and sent power flowing to him in a steady stream. Lifting his arms, he retaliated against the three women, but for the first time, he was afraid.

    Giant worm underground,

    I call you forth from your mound,

    Encompass all, leave none behind,

    So from your core our magic may be entwined.

    The ground beneath Tatijana, Ivory and Skyler shifted ominously and then burst apart, as if it had been ripped in two and a giant sinkhole had formed. From the hole a giant worm burst into the open, serrated teeth catching all three women, driving them thirty feet into the air and then disappearing just as fast down the hole.

    This worm is one of their pets, Ivory warned. Don’t fight. There are venom sacs everywhere, the poison preventing all of us from shifting. I mix this venom with a few other chemicals and coat my weapons with it to prevent vampires from shifting. Try to relax. Razvan will come, she added with complete confidence. We’ve fought them before.

    Branislava felt the instant Xaviero’s power shifted and she struck at the first of the trees where he had attached his weave of black magic. He had used multiple layers, all foul and powerful, a testament to the fact that he’d worked on the inverted pentagram and barrier for years to create such a strong force. No, that was wrong. She felt the touch of each of the brothers. She recognized them separately now. As long as she could block out everything happening around her, she could concentrate on what the three brothers had done. And she was growing in confidence.

    She had successfully, without drawing Xaviero’s attention, taken off several of the layers. One by one. Peeling them back carefully. She felt as if he’d created a giant spider’s web and she had to delicately remove the silken threads without warning the spider sitting there waiting for a feast.

    Without his sustained power feeding the grid he’d created, she could work a little faster, although just as carefully. She was confident she could find a way to stop him.

    I call to alder,

    Battle witch,

    Isa’s calming treacherous ice,

    Focus my will,

    Hear my call,

    Fox of the wood, it is our day to battle,

    Move silently following this unknown path.

    I call to that which is unseen,

    Guide me through this web of darkness,

    Crystalline essence light my way,

    So that I may unbind that which has been bound.

    The tree shivered. The sickening grayish white of the trunk and branches dulled. Branislava took a deep breath and pushed more power at the first of the five points. Tiny sparks leapt around the tree like dancing fireflies. She was wrapped in fire. In passion. There was no way to contain what or who she was. She’d been lucky that Zev was as passionate as she was, was able to take her fierce heat and wild cravings. She poured that same fire into her spells, using her love, not allowing hatred or fear into her craft.

    Alder protect me as I pass from one form to another,

    Fire, I call your spirit,

    Be mindful of my call,

    She who bleeds feeds forth your fires of life.

    As a spider spins her web,

    I now unweave this charm.

    That which was woven in darkness,

    I bring forth light’s fire to encompass and disarm.

    The tree’s bark went from a sickly white to a darker, more natural hue. Branches and leaves took on a normal tone and the fog receded from the tree, driven back away from it by the glowing fireflies. The sparks danced read and orange, leaping about joyously through the limbs of the tree, and flickering through the leaves, bringing back life.

    Xaviero threw back his head and roared with rage. Roared. The ground shook. Nearly everyone fell hard. The mage’s arms shot out, encompassing the field. The air vibrated with his anger. Electricity crackled and snapped, sizzling like whips overhead. The fire leapt, flames roaring.

    “Feast, my pets. Kill them. Kill them all. Tear apart the woman. Devour her and leave nothing behind. Feast. Kill. Devour.”

    The hellhounds sprang on the Lycans between them and Branislava. The hellhounds leapt through the air to land on the Lycans and Carpathians nearest them, holding them down with great claws while razor-sharp teeth tore chunks out of flesh. Vipers sank teeth into ankles, regardless of having no venom. The Sange rau launched themselves at Branislava, determined to get past her guards and kill her as their master desired.

    Zev actually used three hellhounds as a springboard, hitting the Sange rau closest to Branislava squarely in the chest with both feet. He used his mixed blood strength and speed as well as his momentum of flying forward and the Sange rau’s momentum of blurring speed. The two crashed so hard together Zev felt every bone in his opponent’s chest smash under his assault. The shock ran up his legs, but he dropped harmlessly to the ground in a crouch.

    A hellhound knocked him flat, but he sliced open the beast’s belly as he went down. When it lifted its muzzle to scream, he slit its throat. Rolling, he came up and slammed one arrow into its right eye and left it for Fen to finish off as he raced to protect Branislava.

    Fen used a hellhound to leapfrog, rolling over its back to slam a silver stake deep into the chest of the Sange rau Zev had taken to the ground. As he rushed past the thrashing hellhound with one arrow in its eye and burned coat, he thrust a second arrow deep into the left eye and kept running.

    Dimitri came after him, using the silver sword, slashing downward in a long arc to sever the head of the Sange rau both Fen and Zev had wounded. The hellhound was down, but the one Fen had rolled over, burning its back with the hyssop oil, was snarling and ready for him, its great jaws wide open, displaying the wicked set of teeth. A chunk of flesh hung from the side of one jaw, along with strings of venom mixed with blood.

    Dimitri didn’t bother to slow down—he shoved the long blade of his sword coated with hyssop oil right down the gruesome throat and out the back of the massive head. They stood together, Fen, Dimitri and Zev, Razvan fighting his way to them, so the four stood back-to-back, prepared to keep everything and anything off of Branislava.

    Dimitri’s eyes narrowed. Where is Skyler? he demanded, trying to see everything on the fierce battlefield.

    Tatijana is missing as well, Fen added, his heart in his throat.

    Razvan indicated the huge hole in the center of the field where the three women had disappeared.

    Xaviero sent a worm for them. He backed away from the hole, although it was the hardest thing he’d ever done. We have to guard Branislava. Without her, we’re lost, and now both mages can work to kill her. Trust Ivory. She’s dealt with these worms and will bring them back safely.

    He closed his eyes briefly. Ivory, be safe. Come back to me.


    Ivory bit back an exclamation of pain as the worm’s teeth closed around her. It’s going to take us down into the hole. Don’t fight it. The more you fight, the more venom it will inject into your body. No matter how much it hurts, or how frightened you are, stay very still, she warned the others.

    It’s taking us up, not down, straight to that foul fog, Skyler hissed, trying to keep still when she felt as if the thing was sawing her in half.

    It’s rising fast, but it will go straight down again. Just hold on. Ivory injected calm into her voice. She’d seen the worms before, fought them, taken back Razvan from one.

    Tatijana shuddered. It’s taking me back to the mage’s lair. I’d rather die than go back.

    Don’t fight, Ivory reiterated. I know what to do. Just stay calm. Once we enter the hole, the worm can move fast underground. The tunnel is already dug and it just has to slide through. The ride will be much smoother. I’ve got some weapons we can use, but when it hits back to ground, it’s going to hurt like hell. I can’t risk losing them.

    The worm shot up about thirty feet, just enough for them to feel the foulness of the fog overhead and hear the screams and wails of the spirits trapped in the black smoke. It paused there for a moment and then backtracked with tremendous speed, down into the earth where it was most comfortable.

    I tried shifting, Tatijana said. It’s impossible.

    The worm has a venom that prevents that from happening. I’ve milked these worms and used the venom along with my own chemicals to improve the solution. I dip my weapons into the compound before I go hunting to prevent vampires from shifting. Ivory did her best to sound matter-of-fact.

    Now that they were sliding through the air at a dizzying rate of speed, the hold on them eased. For all its ferocity, the worm had a delicate touch when bringing prisoners to the mage. She knew what it cost both Skyler and Tatijana to stay so still within the grasp of the worm. When the teeth of the creature met flesh, it injected its venom to hold that form. Not only was it painful, it was terrifying to be dragged through a tunnel beneath the earth knowing the destination was far worse than the worm.

    Skyler was very young and new to their world. Her lifemate had only just claimed her. She’d been human, living with Carpathian adopted parents who protected her from such things. Tatijana had been a prisoner nearly her entire existence in the mage laboratories. Of course she wouldn’t want to return. Still, neither struggled, using tremendous discipline to do as she told them.

    Fighting a worm is very dangerous. Everything about them is venomous. The spikes he uses to propel himself forward and dig are especially perilous. He has a barb on the end of his tail. When you do get loose, stay far away from that.

    Education was always the key to success. The more information one had, the more power to defeat. She eased a crystal-centered circular weapon from her belt. Very gingerly she pushed one into Tatijana’s hands and a second into Skyler’s, before pulling a third out for herself.

    His mouth contains double rows of serrated teeth, and inside are sacs of venom. We’re going to have to go inside. If you find yourself outside of him, remember his tail can also break every bone in your body with one swipe and his hide is so tough it will slice your skin if you come into contact with it.

    I’ve seen them, Tatijana admitted. Xavier fed them humans.

    Skyler shuddered and then had to suppress a cry of pain.

    I’m going to disorient the worm with sound. Try to close your ears. The vibration alone will hurt your insides, but the sound itself is most troublesome. I know of no other way to distract it. It will thrash a bit and then open its mouth. That’s what we want and we’ll have only a couple of seconds. I can’t stress that enough. He’ll recover fast. Push the poison from your body and shift to molecules. Skyler, have you ever done that? Pushed the poison or shifted into something that small?

    She had to know if her young stepdaughter could do such a thing on her own.

    Absolutely, Ivory. I can do this. I will do this.

    The young voice quavered, but Ivory heard the absolute steel. Are you both ready? The moment the mouth opens and you can, follow me inside. Keep your weapon ready and don’t touch anything inside.

    She sent up a prayer that they would make it out, and then, using a pitch that caused vertigo and notes that disoriented and vibrated the very insides of the worm, she began to chant in a singsong voice.

    I call to the element of air, used for sound,

    Drum to the heartbeat of evil that digs through the ground.

    Pitch, harmonics, combine and align,

    Fight by attacking the warp evil’s mind.

    She had fought the worms several times, but it was always with her heart in her throat, a terrible, frightening fear that was nearly overwhelming. She had a deep faith and she prayed urgently not to be abandoned, not when she had two other lives depending on her.

    She continued to sing, but the rhythm of her song changed as Mother Earth responded to her discordant notes, changing the very vibrations within the soil, drawing it inward. The ground shivered with the sound, trembled as the wave of sound went crashing through it. The worm tube began to collapse in on itself. Soil, rock and debris fell around them, tumbling into the tube.

    A roar of thunder boomed down the hole just behind the worm and it hesitated, slowing almost to a stop. The entire body shuddered and shivered. Ivory sang again, the pitch reverberating through the dirt, the sound hurting all three of them right along with the worm. The notes crashed through their bodies, shook their minds and turned their insides into a quivering mass of congealed gelatin.

    Disoriented, the worm halted all progress, its mouth yawning wide in a terrible shriek that resounded through the ground, releasing all three at the same time.

    Ivory pushed the poison from her body and shifted to vapor, still holding the weapon so that it seemed to float through the air. Hurry. Hurry. Keep that weapon close and follow me inside. She didn’t have time to look to see if they followed, but she sensed them behind her as she streamed inside the open mouth of the worm.

    Both Skyler and Tatijana could feel the vibration of the disc in their hands as they followed Ivory deep into the creature’s mouth. They went past the double rows of what looked like shark teeth, continued past dripping fangs and thick pockets of amber-colored venom, down into the very throat of the worm.

    Ivory had constructed the disc of natural elements, everything gifted from Mother Earth herself, minerals and gems to form the weapon. She had used it many times against the worm, and like always before, it felt a natural part of her. She could tell Skyler and Tatijana were both daughters of the Earth in the way they held the weapon as well.

    You’re looking for scar tissue somewhere inside the throat. The worms have only two vulnerable spots and the second is deep inside the body where we definitely don’t want to go. Whatever you do, don’t scrape up against the walls of this worm. Don’t touch anything because everything inside is thick with its venom. The scar tissue is where the master can attach himself and give instructions.