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|Killer Frost(Mythos Academy #6) by Jennifer Estep|
I used their distraction to reach into my other jeans pocket and pull out a wad of material that I’d looped over and over itself, making it resemble a small belt. I snapped the material open, and a length of gnarled, knotted, light gray seaweed unspooled in my hand. The net of Ran, the Norse goddess of storms, which had the unusual property of making whatever it was holding much lighter. I’d used it before to ride the gryphons, and I was going to use it now to get us out of here.
“Hurry, Gwen!” Vic urged. “They’re regrouping!” Sure enough, the Reapers were creeping toward the
adult gryphon again, but a couple of arrows from Daphne and Oliver in the woods took care of that. Grandma Frost and I raced over to the adult gryphon, and I threw the net over his back, looped it around his neck, and tied the whole thing together. Then, Grandma and I scrambled onto his broad back, both of us hooking our hands through the net so we wouldn’t fall off the creature.
“Get us out of here!” I yelled.
The adult gryphon let out another loud screech, pumped his wings once, and shot up into the air. So did the baby gryphon that was carrying Rory; a third gryphon had appeared to fly Rachel away as well. I knew that Daphne and Oliver would find their own way out of the woods and back to Oliver’s car and would meet up with us later at the academy. That was the plan we’d worked out before, and my friends should have no problem getting away from the Reapers and back to Oliver’s SUV.
Still, as the gryphon flew higher and higher, I leaned over the side of the creature’s back and stared down into the clearing below. Agrona was still hovering over Loki and screaming at the other Reapers, most of whom were staring up at the gryphons, their mouths open wide in utter shock.
And then there was Vivian.
For the first time ever, I had the supreme satisfaction of staring down at my nemesis and seeing the rage and frustration on her face as the gryphons carried me, Grandma Frost, Rory, and Rachel to safety.
I couldn’t help but laugh as the gryphons flew higher and higher and faster and faster.
All sorts of emotions surged through me, but the main one was relief—relief that I’d actually been able to pull off my plan and save my grandma and the candle from the Reapers.
But that emotion was quickly tempered by another, darker realization—Loki was injured, but not dead.
And I still had no idea how to kill him.
I’d used up all the laurels but one. Sure, the leaves had hurt him and probably made his body even more twisted and broken than before, but they hadn’t killed him.
And I didn’t know what would.
But one thing was for certain—this wasn’t over. Because I still had Sol’s candle, and the Reapers still wanted it. Loki still wanted it. Because there was enough of it left to heal at least one more person, and I couldn’t let Loki get his hands on it, or we’d be right back where we’d started.
No, the Reapers would come after the candle again. It was just a matter of when and how many of them there would be.
Still, I was determined to enjoy this rare moment of triumph because I knew exactly how brief it would be. No doubt Linus had figured out by now that I’d taken the candle, and he’d be waiting at the academy, probably ready to clap me in chains and drag me down to the prison as soon as I showed my face there. But I didn’t care because I’d saved my grandma. At least for the moment. What the next few hours would bring, well, I couldn’t say, but I’d face the new troubles head-on, just like I had everything else so far.
Vivian’s mansion wasn’t all that far from the academy, and it didn’t take long before the town of Cypress Mountain came into sight, with its cluster of shops and streets.
I leaned down and pointed to the edge of campus and a spot behind the stone wall that ringed the grounds. I could have told the gryphon to land in the middle of the main quad, like he’d done the last time I’d ridden him out in Colorado, but I wanted at least a few minutes with Rory, Rachel, my grandma, and the gryphons before the Protectorate came and dragged me away.
“Put us down there,” I yelled above the roar of the wind in my ears. “Please.”
The gryphon nodded, and I felt a wave of understanding surge off him and into me. He let out a fierce screech, and the baby followed his father’s lead, as well as the third gryphon. The three of them dove toward the ground in unison, hovering in midair like helicopters, whipping up snow and leaves with the fierce beats of their broad bronze wings, before gently touching down. I let go of the net and slid off the gryphon’s back, and Grandma Frost did the same.
I turned toward her. “Are you okay?”
She nodded and grabbed my hands. “I’m better now that we’re away from that awful place.”
“Come on,” I said, untying the net from the gryphon, folding it up, and stuffing it back into my jeans pocket. “We don’t have a lot of time.”
I led her over to the others. Rachel was already on the ground, stroking the head of the gryphon she’d been riding, while Rory gracefully slid off the baby’s back and scratched behind his ears. They both turned to face me as I approached, and the gryphons gathered around the four of us.
“How was your trip out here?” I asked.
Rachel and Rory both grinned at each other, then at me.
“The plane ride was fine,” Rachel said. “And the gryphons met us exactly where you wanted them to.”
“Although it was a little freaky holing up at your grandma’s house with gryphons wandering around in the backyard and hiding out in that park on the other side of the hill,” Rory chimed in. “I thought for sure that the Protectorate was going to come in and bust us at any second, but they never did.”
That was the plan I’d worked out with Rory. I knew I’d need some way to get myself and Grandma away from the Reapers fast, and the gryphons had aided me once before at the Eir Ruins. So I’d asked Rory and Rachel to hike up the mountain, find the cavern where the gryphons made their home, and ask the creatures to come to North Carolina to help me battle the Reapers. And here they were—my plan had worked like the proverbial charm.
I introduced Rachel, Rory, and the gryphons to Grandma Frost, who nodded her head at them all in turn, then moved forward to shake Rachel’s hand, and then Rory’s. “Thank you for helping Gwen,” she said, still holding
on to Rory’s hand. “And me too.”
She looked at Rory, and her eyes grew glassy for a moment. I knew she was getting a glimpse of the Spartan girl’s future, but Grandma didn’t say anything about what she’d seen as her eyes cleared and she dropped Rory’s hand.
But Rory had noticed that something was going on, and she gave my grandma a suspicious look. Then again, Rory was almost always suspicious about everything, and with good reason, since her parents had been Reapers and had hidden that truth from her for years.
“Gwen!” A faint voice drifted over to me. “Gwen!”
I whirled around. To my surprise, Carson was running toward me as fast as he could, his boots slapping against the cobblestone path and his arms pumping in time with his long strides. He’d barely come into view when I realized that several other people were running along behind them—and that most of them were wearing gray Protectorate robes.
I sighed. They’d gotten here sooner than I’d thought they would.
I turned to the leader of the gryphons. “You might want to leave now. This isn’t going to be pleasant for me. Or you either, if you stick around.”
The gryphon bowed his head. He let out a fierce screech, and he and the other two creatures flapped their wings and soared up into the air. But they didn’t go far, perching in the tops of the trees above our heads, watching over us as best they could.
“Gwen! Gwen!” Carson kept shouting at me.
I sighed again and turned to face the music. “Whatever happens, I’m so grateful to you for rescu-
ing me, pumpkin,” Grandma Frost murmured, reaching over and giving my hand a gentle squeeze. “I’m so proud of you.”
“Me too,” Vic piped up from his spot in his scabbard. “And I’m sure the fuzzball will be as well.”
I looked at Grandma. “No matter what happens to me, make sure Nyx is taken care of. Please?”
She squeezed my hand again. “Consider it done.” Carson finally sputtered to a stop in front of us. His
brown eyes were wide behind his black glasses, and he bent down and put his hands on his knees as he tried to suck down some much-needed oxygen.
“Daphne . . . and . . . Oliver . . .” he rasped, panting for breath. “Just . . . texted me. They’re almost back . . . to the academy.”
The last tight knot of worry loosened in my chest. I hadn’t been able to text my friends while we’d been flying back, and I was so glad that they were okay, that they’d gotten away from the Reapers who’d gone into the woods after them.
“Good. Tell them thanks for everything they did,” I said. “For everything you all did. I couldn’t have done it without you, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.”
Carson managed to grin in between sucking down more giant gulps of air.
I stepped in front of the others, making sure they were behind me. This had been my idea, not theirs, and I was going to be the one to take full responsibility for it—along with the brunt of the punishment.
So I lifted my chin and waited.
Linus Quinn came striding down the path toward me, his gray Protectorate robe snapping around his legs, as though it was trying to show me exactly how angry he was with me. In fact, I thought I could see a vein throbbing in his temple from here.
Linus finally reached me, and his eyes locked with mine. Oh yeah. I could definitely see that vein throbbing in his temple now. His cold blue gaze met mine for a moment before he looked past me at the others. He carefully examined Grandma Frost, Rory, Rachel, and the gryphons in turn before he stared at me again.
But Carson, Linus, and the Protectorate guards weren’t the only ones who’d shown up. Logan and Alexei had come down to the gate too, flanked by Sergei and Inari.
I looked at Logan, who stared back at me. His face was carefully neutral, and his eyes devoid of any obvious emotion. I couldn’t tell whether he was angry at me for what I’d done or relieved that I was okay. Probably a little bit of both. Okay, okay, probably a lot of both.
Alexei’s face was as stoic as ever, and even Sergei and Inari had somber expressions, telling me exactly how much trouble I was in. It seemed I’d gone from one bad situation to the next over the past few days, and no doubt more trouble was on the way. But at least I’d saved my grandma, at least I’d gotten that much right. So I lifted my chin once more and prepared to take my punishment.
“Gwendolyn Cassandra Frost,” Linus Quinn boomed in the loudest voice I’d ever heard him use. “You’re under arrest.”
I flashed back to the first time he’d said those words to me in Kaldi Coffee. His accusations hadn’t been true then, but I couldn’t deny the charges now.
So I nodded my head. “Okay.”
Linus blinked, as if he were shocked that I was going to go along with him so easily. But his surprise quickly vanished, replaced once more by the anger that made his blue eyes burn almost as bright as Loki’s red eye did.
“Take her away,” he ordered.
Linus didn’t waste any time ordering the Protectorate guards to escort me down to the prison in the bottom of the math-science building, and fifteen minutes later, I found myself in a familiar position—shackled to a stone table in the middle of the room.
My gaze moved from one side of the prison to the other, but there was nothing new to see. Glass cells stacked up three stories high around the circular room, with the interrogation table sitting in the center of the area. I craned my neck back so I could look up at the domed ceiling and the carving that was embedded in the stone directly above my head—a hand holding a set of scales. The scales had started out being perfectly balanced, but as soon as I sat down at the table, they shifted to one side, the way they always seemed to. I wondered if it was my side or the Reapers’, but I had no way of knowing. Still, it made me shiver all the same.
But I wasn’t alone at the table. Vic lay in his scabbard off to one side, along with all of the artifacts I’d used over the past few hours. Janus’s key. Morpheus’s dreambox. Ran’s net. The only thing that wasn’t here was Sol’s candle, which I’d handed over to Linus before the guards had led me away. My mistletoe bracelet with its lone remaining laurel leaf was still wrapped around my wrist, only because no one could figure out how to get it off me.
A key screeched in the door, and I straightened up in my seat. After Inari and Sergei had shackled me to the table, they’d both left, leaving me alone with Raven, who was sitting at her usual desk, her black combat boots propped up on the wooden surface as she flipped through another one of her celebrity gossip magazines.
The door opened, and I thought Linus would come striding in and immediately put me on trial for everything I’d done.
To my surprise, Logan walked through the door instead.
I caught a glimpse of Alexei and Coach Ajax out in the hallway before the door slammed shut behind Logan. He looked at me and slowly walked in my direction. He slid into the seat across from me and raised his gaze to mine.
I could feel so many conflicting emotions surging off him. Relief that I was okay, along with all of our friends. Hurt that I hadn’t told him what I was doing. Disbelief that I’d lied to him time and time again over the past few days. Worry about what his dad might to do me now for going against the Protectorate.