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  • Home > Christine Feehan > Dark Series > Dark Blood (Chapter 52)     
    Dark Blood(Dark #26) by Christine Feehan

    Because it’s impossible. The fire is so hot it’s melting anything within several feet of it. He’s burning blue flames inside of it. My body can’t withstand such a temperature, Branka. I’ve tried regulating it, but he has magic in that fire.

    My love—her voice overwhelmed him with tenderness—trust me. Wrap yourself in me. My spirit is woven to yours. My body belongs to you. My soul is the other half of yours. I am fire. Cloak yourself with my dragon scales and in darkness make your way to your grandfather. It can be done.

    You should have been a general, mon chaton féroce. He had much to learn about being Carpathian. His woman was brilliant.

    Fen. Dimitri, he said. Step slowly in front of me. Slowly, so you don’t draw the attention of either of the demon brothers.

    Fen moved first, gliding without seeming to, his body coming in at an angle to allow Zev to slip behind him. Dimitri immediately shifted his weight from one leg to the other, effectively blocking Zev from sight. Instantly Zev shifted, going completely invisible. He moved through the crowd with stealth, careful to keep from alerting a hound or making one of the remaining Sange rau nervous.

    He realized the packs had done a tremendous job in bringing down the mage’s army. There were very few of the Sange rau left alive. The mages had given the illusion that there were many more, but he counted no more than a dozen left, including the one who had shoved his grandfather into the dirt.

    Zev conveyed the information to Fen and Dimitri. They would spread the word and the Carpathians would make certain they were in a good position to take down the remaining Sange rau if need be. He hoped if they managed to kill the mages and destroy their plan, the mixed bloods would understand what and who they had worked for. Perhaps they were under some kind of spell. They certainly weren’t members of the Sacred Circle, although one or two of those he’d killed, he recognized from meeting them in their packs. They’d definitely started out as Lycan.

    He inched his way through the crowd, staying as low to the ground as possible, winding his way without form toward the fire. Even without his body he felt the terrible melting power of the blue flame. He knew as he approached it that that flame was part of the power grid Branislava and the others were trying to take down.

    Zev wrapped his body in his lifemate, feeling her dragon scales close over his skin, those fiery protective scales that warded off even the heat of a magical blue flame. He sent her the overwhelming love he felt for her, his faith in her, and most of all his gratitude for her. Even in the middle of her working at destroying Xaviero’s web of power, she enfolded him in love. He was not going alone through that fire.

    He wore the red-gold scales like a long hooded coat of armor. He moved slowly even though he felt the fierce heat. The scales reflected the hot blue flames back away from him and he found he could actually breathe as he inched his way toward his grandfather.

    For the first time he was truly grateful for his mixed blood. With those silver chains, Hemming would never be able to run. He would have to sling him over his shoulder and carry him away from that triangle and the fearsome opening in the ground. He couldn’t look into that hellhole.

    As he neared his goal, Xaviero stood over Hemming, his ceremonial knife held high in his hand. The knife was much larger than he had ever seen in a ceremony, looking more as if it could kill a huge animal, much less a man. Runes danced across the silver blade, continually moving as if thirsty for the blood of the Dark Blood the mage intended to murder, yet not sever his head, preserving the body for Xavier.

    Hemming didn’t try to move away, nor did he look away from Xaviero. The silver chains had to be agony, burned so deeply into his skin Zev could barely make out that there was actually skin left on his grandfather. The prisoner was fully aware of his surroundings and the intentions of the mage, but he didn’t blink, staring defiantly at Xaviero as he chanted, his voice rising with Xayvion’s.

    The four women had cast their circle of protection right under the noses of the mages’ watchdogs. Each time a Sange rau or a hellhound got near them, Daciana’s pack, along with Tomas, Andre, Lojos, Mataias and Razvan, kept them back. Fen, Dimitri or Zev had come in to finish the job of taking down any threat to the women.

    Branislava lifted her arms, uncaring that either of the mages or their sentinels might spot her. It was now or never. Tatijana, Skyler and Ivory followed her actions.

    Alder, battle witch, heed to my call,

    It is time for battle, evil must fall.

    Cedar known as the tree of life,

    I call to you now as the gates of hell come to life.

    The four women joined their power, merged minds and became one single entity, one heart and goal—to stop the mage from his dark deeds.

    Blackthorn straif, Dark Crone of the woods,

    I have need of your power, stand and slay that which must be undone,

    Ancient oak Dagda,

    Dominion of power I call to you now, feast on this blackest of powers.

    Now, Branislava whispered into his mind. Hurry.

    Zev didn’t hesitate, trusting her. The flames of the two candles flickered, leapt and then died. The four remaining trees that helped formed the inverted pentagram each began to change, starting in their root systems. A healthy mottled bark replaced the sickly white color from the ground up the tree to the reaching branches, and finally the leaves turned silvery green.

    Zev burst into the triangle as the source of power faded, careful not to touch the mage, but literally snatching the chained body out from under the knife plunging downward toward the heart. He rolled with his grandfather, away from the mage and out of the triangle, coming to his feet and shifting Hemming’s body over one shoulder in a fireman’s carry.

    The hellhounds reacted, snarling and charging him, their speed utterly incredible. Zev ran at them, closing the distance between them every bit as fast. When he was just feet from the massive beasts, he hurdled them, using the strength from his mixed blood, the Lycan’s ability to spring and the distance and speed of the combination of species.

    Fen and Dimitri closed ranks, facing the hellhounds chasing Zev. Covered in battle wounds, slashes and fierce bites, Andre, Tomas and Lojos joined them while Mataias dropped back to protect Zev as he carried his grandfather’s body back to the circle of protection the four women had cast around them.

    The blue flame in the fire sputtered and faded, was consumed by the rich red gold of the natural flames. At once the color of the smoke changed, and the fire itself died down so that the flames weren’t reaching for that unhealthy bank of fog overhead. As the white smoke mingled with the black and eventually devoured it, the dense wall of fog began to break up into smaller, ragged patches.

    The wall of foul fog surrounding the clearing, making it impenetrable, thinned as a cooling wind began to blow through it. The spirits trapped in the unnatural smoke drifted into the purified smoke, rising upward toward the clouds where the wind took them.

    Xaviero roared with rage as molten lava burst from the hole in the ground. The smell of sulfur claimed every other scent, drowning out even the smell of blood. For one moment voices could be heard. Wailing. Shrieking. Demonic. The lava rained down inside the triangle, forcing Xaviero and Xayvion to flee the safety of their refuge.

    The four women turned as one unit to face the fleeing mages. Xaviero threw his hands in the air, tracing a pattern of destruction, twisting the raining lava into fireballs of magma and hurling them toward his enemies. As one, Branislava, Skyler, Tatijana and Ivory flung up their hands, tracing symbols and chanting softly under their breath to turn the firebombs into harmless rain.

    The earth shook violently, throwing everyone to the ground. Once. Twice. A third time. One lone spirit shot close to the surface, hovered there in the fading smoke, mouth gaping wide in a silent scream of protest. His hollow eyes stared accusingly. It wasn’t difficult to recognize Xavier as he tried desperately to escape.

    Ivory stepped forward, pushing air at the smoke, clean, crisp, fresh air, right into the middle of the apparition. There was no malice on her face. No hatred. Just acceptance of what had to be done.

    I call to wind chaos and destruction,

    Phlegmatic energy of air,

    Blow through that which is shadow,

    Dispersing all with marked protective care.

    The face distorted grotesquely. Small holes appeared, the wind drifting through the mask almost sedately. Xavier hovered there, reaching through the smoke toward his brothers. Both took a step toward him as if they could yank him out of the abyss. Something reached up from below and hooked wicked claws into the smoke, yanking the spirit below. Xavier’s desperate wail hurt their ears, and then the earth slammed shut with a decisive crash.

    Xaviero slowly lifted his gaze to the women. Hatred was in every line of his face. His mouth pulled back in a snarl. He lifted his arms to the sky and then made a throwing gesture. A large, spinning rock with crystal spikes burst from the earth and hurtled toward them.

    Skyler pushed air at the rock, stopping it before it could strike. You are too old to be throwing a childish tantrum, she chided. We are daughters of the Earth. Do you think our mother would allow you to harm us? Choose another weapon, this one will not work.

    The rock dropped harmlessly to the ground. She didn’t fling it back at him, or send it smashing into the hellhounds ringing him. She just let it drop, showing no animosity toward him whatsoever.

    His anger grew to a festering rage. You, Xaviero hissed at Skyler. You are the child that should never have been born. The child of every species. Mage, Jaguar, Carpathian, Lycan and human. Your mother deceived us. She was too powerful and had to be killed. We couldn’t risk her coming against us as she eventually would have. And yet our brother stupidly used Razvan’s body to impregnate her. His mistake. His ultimate mistake.

    Skyler stared into his eyes, unblinking. Unafraid. Her mother had warned her to stay away from the mages, to hide who she was and her abilities, but she was no longer that helpless child and she never would be again. You did not frighten my mother nor do you frighten me. I pity you with your grandiose schemes and desperate need for control. You have nothing, and you are nothing.

    Your mother was nothing. She crawled before us, a child we created. Mage, Jaguar and human for our purposes. Ours. She danced to our tune. She was no more than a puppet, he screamed.

    Skyler recognized that he was trying to anger her. That he was using her mother’s past to fuel her temper so he could use that against her, twist her emotions into something ugly. She shook her head. You feared her power and her goodness or you wouldn’t have wanted her dead. Again, I’m sorry for you. She lifted her hands into the air and began sketching a pattern.

    For those who lost will,

    Let it now be returned,

    Taking back their power,

    So freedom may be earned.

    Your evil will not prevail.

    These men no longer belong to you,

    Just as my mother never belonged to you.

    Most of the mixed bloods who had served Xaviero stopped fighting abruptly, looking confused and disoriented. A few sat down and buried their faces in their hands.

    Xayvion slipped into the shadows. Brother. Leave with me now. We cannot defeat them.

    They are women. Nothing. Xaviero spit on the ground. These warriors cannot touch me, the hellhounds obey. I will kill all four of them.

    Brother. I entreat you. Leave now. Xayvion’s voice faded.

    Sputtering, his face red, Xaviero stomped hard on the ground, and then threw two crystal spheres he produced from the pockets of his robe into the hollows he’d made in the dirt. Furious that his brother would think the women, even combined, could wield more power than the two of them left him wanting to tear the four hated women apart limb by limb.

    Water bubbled up from the indentations his heels had made, shot into the sky and then rained down over the four women, an acid rain that threatened to consume them.

    Tatijana shifted partially into the blue dragon, her wedge-shaped head lifted to the sky, mouth open while her hands followed a complicated pattern.

    Waters chemical, acid rain,

    I drink your strength having no pain.

    You quench my thirst, revive my will,

    I transmute this water making it evil’s swill.

    When the last drop was gone and Xaviero stood gaping at her, she shifted back and smiled almost gently at him. You taught me that trick when I was ten years old. Have you forgotten? My dragon is a water dragon and you used me, forced me to consume acid rain. My dragon seems to have developed a taste for it. She smiled serenely and gave the mage a small salute.

    Xaviero whirled around, ignoring the scattering hellhounds who howled like lost souls, uncertain what he wanted them to do. They began snapping at one another. Two went down in a fierce fight while the others rushed to bite and claw the combatants.

    So intent on destroying the four women he blamed for thwarting his plan, Xaviero appeared not to notice. He continued spinning, his robes flaring out in a wide circle, scattering sparks over the ground. Blue flames burst from his fingertips, so that he looked as if he was circled by one long, continuous blue flame. He produced a wild wind that fanned the dying flames of the pyre into a fearsome conflagration.

    His hands flowed, his voice rising as he sent the blue fire streaking overhead straight at Branislava. She ignored the screams and shouts to get down, standing her ground, holding Xaviero’s gaze as he smirked at her, certain the flame would devour all four of the women.

    As the heated missile bore down on them, Branislava stepped forward, just a little ahead of the others, lifting her arms straight over her head as if putting on a long gown. Her hands moved gracefully in the air, like a dancer telling a story.

    Born in fire, honed in ice,

    I call to the four corners.

    Make your energies mine,

    I call to fire, sister kin,

    I absorb your abilities,

    Taking all within.

    She turned to embrace the battlefield.

    I call to Pisionics swinging blades,