|Home > Jennifer Estep > Mythos Academy > Killer Frost (Page 22)|
|Killer Frost(Mythos Academy #6) by Jennifer Estep|
My heart sank. It was working—the candle and all of its powerful magic was actually making Loki stronger, just like everyone had feared.
The evil god let out a loud, wild, crazy cackle, and I realized I’d just made the worst mistake of my life.
We all held our breath as Loki continued to cackle with glee. Me, Grandma Frost, Vivian, Agrona, the rest of the Reapers. We all watched him get better right before our eyes. I’d seen Metis and Daphne work their healing magic before, but it was nothing compared to this. Fresh waves of hot, pulsing, malevolent power surged off Loki with every breath he took.
And there was nothing I could do to stop it.
“How does it feel knowing that you’re going to be single-handedly responsible for the destruction of the pathetic Pantheon?” Vivian hissed in my ear. “What will all of your friends think of you then? What will your Spartan boyfriend think of you when he realizes that you’ve doomed every single person the two of you care about to a short, painful, miserable life? Not so heroic now, are you, Gwen Frost?”
I ignored her cruel words and focused my attention on the candle and that black spark still burning in Loki’s hands.
Come on! I thought, as if I could get the laurel leaves to work just by yelling at them in my mind. Come on! You’re supposed to be killing him. Not healing him.
But all I could do was stand there and scream and scream inside my head.
Seconds passed, then a minute, then another one, and another one. But still, the candle kept burning, kept making Loki stronger—
Suddenly, he let out a surprised, almost strangled gasp, and a treacherous bit of hope erupted in my heart, cutting through the utter despair.
My gaze zoomed to the candle. Perhaps it was my imagination, but I thought I could actually see the silver laurel leaves glinting within the wax, burning almost as bright as the black spark flickering on the wick. I blinked, and I realized that the flame had actually changed from one moment to the next.
Because now, the spark was silver—as silver as the laurel leaves.
“Get ready,” I whispered to Grandma Frost, gripping her hand even tighter with mine.
I glanced at the Reapers, but they were all fixated on Loki, smiles of wonder and excitement on their faces as they realized that their goal of finally healing him was within reach. No one seemed to notice that the spark had changed color, except for me. Grandma finally noticed too, and she gave me a sharp look. She nodded, and I nodded back at her. She’d be ready when the time came, and so would I.
Now, I just had to hope that the candle would finish what it had started—the wayI wanted it to.
But Loki seemed to recover from that first, shocked gasp. He straightened back up to his full height, and the spark sputtered from silver back to black. My heart sank again—
A bright, ominous whoosh of silver flame erupted from the candle, boiling a thick cloud of silver smoke straight up into the god’s face, completely obscuring his features for a moment, before dissipating as quickly as it had appeared.
“My lord?” Agrona asked in an uncertain voice.
Loki let out a pain-filled snarl, but he tightened his hold on the candle, his fingers digging into the white wax like claws, as if he could get the artifact to work through the sheer force of his own will. Maybe he could. Worry filled the pit of my stomach once more.
But as quickly as Loki had seemed to regain his health and strength, it all melted away like, well, candle wax. His figure grew shorter, thinner, and hunchbacked, and his bones crack-crack-cracked back into the same, extreme, awkward, twisted positions that they’d been in before. In an instant, he went from being on the verge of a full recovery to looking the same as he always did.
But it didn’t stop there.
Loki seemed to shrink down and curl in on himself, like a turtle retreating back into the ruined shell of its own body. His eyes, which had been burning so bright, began to dim, and thick chunks of his hair fell out, drifting to the broken stone like macabre bits of black, red, and golden snow.
“My lord?” Agrona asked again, taking a tentative step forward. “Are you . . . ill?”
Loki screamed in response.
Vivan whipped around to me, her golden gaze locking with my violet one, and I felt a sharp, sudden, stabbing pain in my head, as though a pair of fingers were digging into my skull. Vivian peered at me, using her telepathy magic to root around in my mind. I tried to block her attack, but my gaze flicked to the candle, and the image of the silver laurel leaves loomed up in my thoughts before I could shut it out.
She whirled back around to Agrona and Loki. “Drop it! Drop the candle! She’s done something to it!”
Agrona reached for the candle, but Loki hunched over it that much more, keeping her from ripping it out of his hands.
“No!” he screamed. “It was working! It has to work! I’ll make it work!”
The candle erupted into silver flames in his hands. I threw my hand up against the sudden, intense heat and blinding light. So did everyone else in the clearing. It took me a moment, but I managed to force my gaze back to the candle.
This time, I could see each and every one of the silver laurel leaves burning in the white wax, doing exactly what they were supposed to—killing Loki.
He let out another scream, and the flames seem to engulf his entire body, as though he were some sort of candle himself, burning, burning bright. But he still didn’t let go of the artifact. I didn’t know if it was because he couldn’t or if he still thought that he could figure out some way to reverse the magic and get it to heal him again.
I happily watched as his legs slid out from under him, and he fell to the cracked stone of the Garm gate, still holding on to the candle. Agrona tried to get close enough to rip the artifact out of his hands, but she couldn’t get through the silver flames still washing over Loki’s body, making him scream and scream and scream.
Vivian drew Lucretia out of the scabbard belted to her waist. “What did you do? What did you do?”
I grinned. “How does it feel, Viv? Knowing that you’re single-handedly responsible for injuring Loki so badly?”
Her gaze cut to the god, who was moaning, groaning, and rocking back and forth on the broken stone, even as the flames continued to burn all over his body.
“You’ll pay for this!” she hissed at me. “More than you ever dreamed of—”
“Now!” I yelled as loud as I could, cutting her off and hoping the others would hear my voice over Loki’s screams.
I waited a second, but nothing happened, and the woods remained as still and silent as before, except for Loki’s continued screams.
Vivian smirked. “What’s wrong? Did you bring some of your friends with you after all, Gwen? Well, it looks like they decided to abandon you. Smartest decision they’ve ever made, if you ask me.”
I drew Vic out of his scabbard. “Maybe. But I don’t need them to take care of you.”
Vivian let out an angry yell, and I did the same. With one thought, we surged toward each other.
Clash-clash-clang! Clash-clash-clang! Clash-clash-clang!
Vivian and I fought over the broken stone, each one of us doing our best to kill the other girl where she stood. The Reapers looked back and forth between us and Agrona, not sure whether they should help Vivian kill me or do something to try to aid Loki.
“Help me, you fools!” Agrona said, tearing off her black robe and using the fabric to beat at the flames still devouring Loki’s body.
The Reapers left me to Vivian and headed in Agrona’s direction, but they forgot about one thing—Grandma Frost.
Grandma stuck her foot out, tripping a Reaper as he rushed past her. He tumbled to the ground, and Grandma snatched up his sword from where it had fallen. She twirled the weapon around, then brought the point down into the Reaper’s side, making him scream with pain. Two Reapers whirled around at the sound. They realized that Grandma Frost had a weapon and headed toward her.
I swung my own sword out in a vicious arc, trying to charge past Vivian to help my grandma, but the Reaper girl parried my blow and lashed out with one of her own that had me leaping back to get out of the way of Lucretia’s whistling blade.
Grandma twirled the sword in her hand again and stepped up to meet the Reapers, but the one she’d stabbed reached out and grabbed her ankle, throwing her off balance. Horrified, I watched as she tried to pull herself out of the Reaper’s grasp and straighten up so she could battle the other two who were charging at her. She wasn’t going to get free in time, and both of the Reapers raised their swords, ready to bring the weapons down on top of her head—
A golden arrow zoomed out of the woods and buried itself in the chest of one of the Reapers who’d been targeting Grandma. A second later, another arrow—this one made of regular metal—took out the Reaper on Grandma’s other side. Daphne and Oliver had finally gotten into position in the trees, and they were doing their best to help us escape.
But there were still too many Reapers for that.
Even if I could have gotten past Vivian, there were still more than a dozen Reapers in the clearing, although most of them had gone over to help Agrona with Loki. The Reapers had stripped off their black cloaks and were using the fabric to try to smother the silver flames still crackling over his body.
Finally, Agrona reached down and managed to wrench the candle out of Loki’s hands. It must have burned her too because she hissed and tossed it aside. The candle skittered across the broken black marble, landing a few feet away from me and Vivian.
The silver spark and flames had vanished, as though the laurel leaves and all the magic they had contained had been used up, although a bit of silver smoke continued to puff up from the wick. Other than that, the candle was simply a candle once more, and I didn’t see any trace of the leaves remaining in the wax.
But there was still about a quarter of the candle left. I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I wasn’t about to let the Reapers get their hands on it.
Vivian saw me looking at the candle, and we both lunged for it at the same time. My hand closed around the wax, and I braced myself, waiting for the awful memories of Loki’s pain to fill my mind. But all I got from the candle was that feeling of intense heat, and I realized there was still some magic left in it after all— more than enough magic to heal Loki, despite what I’d done to him.
Vivian threw herself on top of me, and we rolled over and over across the stone, with her trying to tear the candle out of my grasp, and me tightening my death grip on the smooth piece of wax. I couldn’t let her get her hands on the candle now. Not when I only had one laurel leaf left on my bracelet and no time to press it into the wax.
“Give it up, Gwen!” Vivian hissed. “I’m stronger than you are. Any second, you’re going to let go of that candle, and then you’ll lose—just like you’ve lost to me every single time before now.”
“Dream on,” I hissed back.
Then, I punched her in the face. I was still holding on to Vic’s hilt, and I slammed my fist and the sword into her features as hard as I could. I felt her nose crunch under the metal, and blood sprayed through the air, spattering onto both of us.
Vivian shrieked and rolled away from me. I scrambled to my feet, still holding Vic and the candle, which I stuffed into my jacket pocket and zipped up tight so I wouldn’t lose it. Grandma Frost raced over to my side. We turned to run into the woods but found our path blocked by a group of Reapers. We whirled around the other way, but there were more of them coming up on that side too.
Grandma and I stood back-to-back near the middle of the Garm gate, watching the Reapers slowly approach us. More golden and wooden arrows zipped out of the woods, and a few of the Reapers split off to go after Daphne and Oliver. I hoped my friends could avoid them and that they wouldn’t be foolish enough to try to get close to me and Grandma with so many of our enemies clustered around us. Besides, I still had one trick left, one that I hoped was enough to save us.
“Kill them!” Loki howled, still rocking back and forth on the stone. “Kill them both! Now!”
The Reapers raised their swords and surged toward us, and I snapped up Vic, ready to fight them for as long as I could—
A wild, fierce cry boomed through the clearing, making me wince at its volume. But a smile tugged up my lips all the same because I knew exactly what had made the noise.
The high-pitched screech came again, even louder than before, and more than a few of the Reapers paused, looking up toward the treetops, no doubt expecting to see their Black rocs roosting on the sturdier branches. But it wasn’t a roc making that noise.
Not even close.
A second later, two male Eir gryphons landed in the middle of the broken stone. One of the gryphons was large, easily as large as the Black rocs the Reapers always used, but the other one was smaller, although he had grown quite a bit since the last time I’d seen him and was now almost as big as his dad. Both gryphons were beautiful, with bronze fur and wings, black beaks and talons, and bright, shimmering eyes that burned like warm, bronze lanterns.
But the gryphons weren’t alone.
A pretty girl with black hair and green eyes was perched on top of the baby gryphon. She wore black jeans, a green sweater, and a green leather jacket that gave her a tough-girl vibe. A woman with similar features and clothes rode the adult gryphon. My cousin, Rory Forseti, and her aunt, Rachel Maddox. The other friends I’d called for help, along with the gryphons.
“Hey, Gwen.” Rory grinned at me, shoving her hair back out of her eyes. “How was our grand entrance?”
“Perfect!” I yelled back at her. “Just perfect!” Grandma Frost ran toward the gryphons, while I cov-
ered her, holding off all the Reapers that tried to get past me to attack her. Rachel jumped off the adult gryphon, and the creature leaped into the middle of the fray, swiping his claws into every Reaper that came near him. In a moment, the gryphon had taken out three of the Reapers, and even Vivian and Agrona were looking at him with surprise—and more than a little fear.