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|Gideon(Nightwalkers #2) by Jacquelyn Frank|
“Iron,” she whispered to Elijah. “All of them, I would bet.”
Elijah didn’t say a word, just nodded to her. He closed his eyes for a moment and then spoke the dreaded word aloud. With a skillful twist of the wind, he carried the sound away and up to the roof. The breeze moaned the warning gently to the medic and his mate.
They looked at each other, knowing it was too late for them to warn the troops behind them. They could see the mass of flying women streaming up over the cliffside.
Jacob waited as long as he could, wanting as many of them to be caught by surprise as he could manage. The only way to do that would be to wait until they were all on the ground at his level. He was not to have the luxury of time, he realized, the stench of the black magic washing up to him with the same speed as their advance. Remaining low, he buried his fingers into the earth.
“Come, Lady, let us teach these abominations not to fool with Your children,” he whispered to the loam beneath him.
With a single broad gesture, both Jacob and an enormous wall of earth rose toward the heavens. The entire area rumbled with the roar of the rising ground. The on-coming forces found themselves being washed over with a thunderous wave of dirt and rock and other natural debris.
The necromancers escaped with the most ease, soaring higher into the air and out of reach of the damaging wave; only half of the hunters found themselves being pulled in tow with them. The other half succumbed to the sheer force and weight of the attack. Yelling, shouting of commands, and wild confusion followed. Jacob did not wait long before reaching to alter the gravitational forces on the beach below his flying form.
Instantly, bodies were caught in the drag of their own weight, the force crushing enough to strike them hard upon the rocks.
Again, it was the magic-users who circumvented his attack. He was suddenly the target of brutal bolts of electricity. He was struck hard, blown back over the ridge, and driven down into the ground, the force of the strike of his body tearing up the soil in a ten-foot strip.
Elijah was the next to leap into the air, but unlike Jacob, his body was the consistency of the wind, and the electrical attacks had no effect on him. As he stirred up the ocean, bringing warm air and cold water into a mixture perfect enough to give birth to a horribly dense fog, the opposing forces found themselves blanketed with the blinding mist.
From the rooftop, Gideon and Legna had risen to their feet. As the fog advanced to a point just shy of them, they saw the bright golden hair of the Lycanthrope Queen snapping in the building wind around her, the curls of it slipping like a thousand fingers around her now-nude body. Legna watched with fascination as the hair spread out over every ounce of flesh, turning into a rich coat of fur as she dropped to all fours. With a mighty trembling of her entire body, rather like the shaking of a dog fresh out of water, she turned from a beautiful woman to a lethal mountain lion.
The scream of the cat echoed joyously in the confusing fog, rousing startled cries of fear. Forces were landing on the ground five and ten at a time, only to be lost from each other immediately. Suddenly a horrifying scream would rise out of the melee, the death cry of a human being who had met up with a rather eager huntress in the form of a great golden-eyed cat.
The Vampire joined the lion, flying into the mist with the leap of the ultimate predator. To those who became his targets, at first there was nothing but the gray dampness of fog, and then, suddenly, there was a creature so dark and fast that it was only the relief of his white fangs that gave them warning two seconds before he struck. The hunters were just humans of great prowess, so it was safe for him to pull first one, then another, under the powerful drain of his fangs.
It was the blackened blood of the necromancers he could not drink, but the humans were drained to within an inch of their lives before he dropped them carelessly away from him. There was a certain pleasure involved, as was always the case when taking female blood. Before long the fanged snarl became a smile, his dark eyes shining like onyx with the erotic high.
He caught a couple of iron crossbow bolts in nonvital areas, but the wounds only allowed him to exchange his blood supply all the faster. As he was drained, he was refilled. It was the first time in centuries that he had felt an actual pulse inside of himself. It was the artificial throb of the fresh supply forcing the existing supply out of open wounds, but it was close enough to the former workings of his still heart to give him a mighty rush.
With the troops blinded, the necromancers knew they were in trouble. Those who had mastered enslaving Demons pulled an unexpected contingent of Demons from the beach. They were Transformed, their deviant emotions striking at Legna with shock and vile clarity. She stumbled back from the force of it, and Gideon barely caught her before she went careening off the slope of the roof. Scooping her into his arms, he jumped to the ground with one great leap of empowered muscles and flexible tendons.
The minute the earth was under her feet again, Legna began to recover. Gideon knew this because her immediate rage at the abominations she was sensing washed over him like a physical force. He knew what she knew, and they both knew this was trouble. With Jacob still down and trapped in the fog with the landing force, and Isabella far away in her sickbed, they would be forced to destroy these Transformed Demons themselves.
It was understandable that they were troubled by this realization. Fighting the Transformed was the most difficult battle a Demon might ever know. And of all of them, Gideon and Noah were the only ones other than the Enforcers who had any experience with it. Even so, their experiences were at the very least a century old, and at the very most quite limited. Legna turned her attention to Noah, suddenly understanding that he could not release his assault with Jacob lying in the center of the battlefield. The Earth Demon would be just as vulnerable to fire as any of the others.
Legna disappeared with a snap of the air before Gideon could think to stop her. She felt him shout in her mind as she reappeared in the streak of torn-up soil Jacob had left behind him. She crouched low, peering through the fog for him. He would not be far, but he had to be out cold to not be giving off any emotions. And as a typical Demon, right about then he ought to have been pretty pissed off.
Suddenly someone ran out of the fog and almost tripped over her. The human hunter’s eyes widened at the unexpected encounter, but she raised her crossbow and fired. Legna dodged getting the bolt in a vital body part, but as she rolled away she felt unbelievably searing pain and heat cutting through her jeans and thigh. Her mate’s roar of rage drowned her cry of pain, the frightening sound of it echoing through the fog. But Legna was not the delicate, graceful flower everyone seemed to think she was. She barely hesitated in getting back to her feet. Apparently, judging by the look of confusion and shock on the hunter’s face as Legna stepped with obvious menace toward her, the human had expected her to disintegrate, perhaps like the vampires did on mortal TV shows when staked through the heart.
Wait until they find out how well that is going to work, she thought wickedly as she lunged for her attacker. Legna tackled the woman at the midsection, disarming her as the crossbow went flying from her sweating hands. The hunter hit the ground with a grunt, echoed by an immediate second grunt when Legna bounced on her, driving her knee down into her sternum. With all of her disgust and her rage, Legna yanked the iron bolt out of her leg, screaming as the iron burned her hand and as she plunged the bolt into her victim’s chest.
She left the female human gasping for breath that would not fill her collapsing lung. She stood up and turned with a wild flinging of her loosening braid, feeling the sounds and scents and sensations of the night filling her, magnifying, calling to the huntress within.
She immediately recognized that Jacob was ten feet to her right. She advanced at as fast a run as she dared in the fog. She encountered another hunter on the way, and this time she was prepared. She dove into her opponent’s mind, causing a rush of fear to well in her until her heart was pounding too hard for her body to handle. It braked to a stop only a minute later; she had literally been frightened to death.
The empath dropped to her knees at Jacob’s side. Her hands hit his chilled body and without a moment of hesitation she teleported them out of harm’s way. Legna dropped Jacob onto the couch in his living area and teleported once more, this time popping up at her brother’s side.
“Jacob is safe. Go!”
Noah nodded once and began to steal energy from the enemies before him, converting it swiftly into a rushing wall of fire. He didn’t worry about Siena. He felt her heat and energy easily and was aware of her circling away from his target area. Damien was launching off the ground already to do the same.
The world went up in flames, screams of pain and death and shock filling the night air along with smoke and the scent of burning flesh. But once more it was the magic-users who managed to spare themselves. The necromancers began to land past the line of the wall of fire, facing off with Gideon, Legna, and Noah. Elijah was doubling back to call up the rear guards and the half-breed was lying in silent wait, watching to take the Demons’ cue.
Noah began to fire off little meteors of flame at the corrupted females. Gideon pulled a knife from his thigh and sent it winging into one necromancer as he reached to grasp a second around the throat. She crumpled instantly when he dove into the workings of her body and commanded her heart to stop.
Legna had reappeared at her mate’s side shortly before this new onslaught had begun. She was aware of only one thing: Transformed Demons were stumbling out of the dark, most of them on fire, none of them feeling it. They would die eventually, but it could be a very long time in the making and they could still cause a great deal of harm and damage in the interim. She sent herself out, projecting her cotton-candy thoughts first into one, then another. She had them engaged in thoughts of comfort at first, but then realized it was not going to hold their attention long. If she got them to stop and sit still, the fire would consume them more quickly without giving them a chance to damage anyone.
Eventually she adjusted her visions to ones of a carnal nature. Demons Transformed had only two thoughts: freedom and lust. They had the one already, so the second was all that remained to engage them. The Transformed began to fall to the ground, flopping around with a grotesque glee and pleasure as they took hold of imaginary partners.
Weak from blood loss and all her teleporting, Legna could only engage three of them at once, leaving others to head for her brother and her beloved.
Gideon felt Legna drop to her knees. She was too close to the fighting to be left where she was, and too weak to move. But at the same time, to touch her might disrupt the tenuous control she had on the three Transformed Demons. His only choice was to battle on, to protect her by eliminating any advancing threats.
Gideon was throwing his second knife as he retrieved the first, spinning as he moved with lightning speed. He saw Noah drawing energy from one female until she collapsed and then sending a bolt of fire into the next. Many of them knew a shielding spell; some of the men’s elemental attacks bounced off unharmed women.
Damien suddenly flew out of the fog and darkness from behind the attacking harpies. He had the ability to cast fear before himself, just as Siena could, though on a different, less natural level. It was a power of pure darkness, of the malevolence that inexplicably caused fear of the dark, the monsters under the bed, or the inevitability of death as that horse and rider rode across a grave. Since it was a part of every living being on the planet, no shielding could protect them from it. Shields prevented things like power and weapons from entering; the darkness Damien manipulated already existed within the shield and within the people themselves.
Magic-users were losing concentration left and right as he advanced, all safeguards and magical means destroyed along with their shattered focus. He began to seize necromancers one at a time, the quick turn of delicate necks preceding an eerily casual discarding of the remaining bodies. To Damien, it was no different than disposing of trash, and it showed. Too many of these creatures had staked out his brethren in the midday sun for the joy of watching them burn to ash, and they deserved none of his pity or his mercy.
Contrary to mythic belief, a Vampire did not conflagrate all at once when exposed to the sun. The imprisoned creature would smolder like a moss fire, for hour upon hour, no doubt screaming for mercy the entire time. And for what? For having a differing body chemistry that enhanced their mental senses, gave them the ability to fly and the need for blood to survive? The lawful majority of the race did not kill when they fed, and the idea of converting humans to Vampire was the most ridiculous in human history. Just like all species, Vampires were born to this world.
So it gave Damien no guilt, no moral dilemma to dispose of these women in this fashion. It was a far more merciful fate than they would have planned for him had they been given the chance. Even more merciful than the fates they had planned for the Enforcer female and her innocent unborn child.
Suddenly, a second wave of dirt surged up from under the feet of the front line of Demons, tumbling the fighters backward into the softened hands of Mother Earth. The wave caught up the enemy, surfing them like drift-wood back to the edge of the cliff, hurling many of them off it.
There was a massive surge of power from behind the front line of battling Demons as reinforcements arrived. It was a relief to feel it. The most powerful of their species had done their worst, had destroyed the majority of the threat, but it had cost them all in energy and health. It was time for the first line to fall back and entrust others to finish the battle.
Jacob hurried forward to Legna, who lay in the soft mattress of aerated soil he had provided for her. He pulled her up into his grasp and, relieving them of the hold of gravity, used it instead to propel them skyward and behind their advancing line.
Gideon was overwhelmed with the urge to go to her but knew that she would be safe with Jacob for the moment and that he was needed to fight where he was. Elijah was lifting the fog as those who had survived the last attack sailed up over the cliffside once more. They surged up like an enraged flock of predatory birds, screeching out spells and incantations as they faced the force of Demons.