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|Killer Frost(Mythos Academy #6) by Jennifer Estep|
Linus sighed. “We have long planned for this, and we will immediately begin to evacuate campus, for starters. I don’t want any students getting caught in the battle with the Reapers.”
“What about the Protectorate? Are you going to stay? Are you going to fight?”
He squared his shoulders. “Of course we’re going to stay and fight. This is the battle that we’ve been waiting for, that we’ve been planning for, that we’ve spent all these long years training for. We might not have thought it would have arrived this soon, but we will do our best, Miss Frost. Rest assured of that.”
I nodded. Well, if there was going to be a fight, then I wanted to be a part of it—I needed to be a part of it. Because, like it or not, I was still the best chance the Pantheon had of stopping Loki and the Reapers once and for all.
“All right then,” I said. “Are you going to leave me down here to rot or are you going to let me go and do something useful?”
Linus narrowed his eyes. “Define useful.”
“You said the Reapers have been going around stealing artifacts, right? And you’ve been finding stockpiles of them at their hideouts?”
“Then they are sure to be carrying them with them. We need to level the playing field. Loki has enough power on his own without adding artifacts to it.”
“What do you suggest?” Linus asked.
I nodded my head at Nickamedes. “Let me go back to the library with Nickamedes. Nobody knows the artifacts there like we do. If we’re going to stay and fight, if this could be our last stand, our final battle, then I want to make sure we do everything we can to win it. Don’t you?”
Linus stared at me for several long seconds that seemed to stretch on . . . and on . . . and on . . .
Finally, he nodded. He pulled a key out of one of the pockets of his robe, leaned forward, and undid the shackles that chained me to the table.
“You’re right,” he said. “Despite your other actions, we’re going to need every single advantage we have if we hope to defeat Loki and the Reapers.”
“Even if that means trusting me?” I asked in a wry voice, rubbing first one wrist, then the other.
The faintest of smiles curved Linus’s lips. “Yes,” he said. “Even if it means that.”
I grinned back at him. In this case, I didn’t mind being the lesser of two evils.
Linus stepped out into the hallway and started barking out orders, and everyone rushed away to do the tasks they’d been assigned.
Logan nodded at me before he hurried out the door. I returned the gesture, knowing I’d catch up with him later. Right now, we both had work to do.
I stood up and started stuffing all of the artifacts on the table back into my pockets. I might still need them. I also belted Vic and his scabbard around my waist again, which meant the only thing left on the table was Sol’s candle.
“Hey,” I called out to Linus. “What do you want to do with this?”
I pointed at the white wax. Linus stopped his conversation with Ajax, came back into the prison, and walked over to the table. He considered the candle, then me, for several moments.
“Why don’t you hang on to it, Miss Frost?” he finally said. “As much as I hate to admit it, you’ve taken good care of it so far.”
I nodded and slid the candle into my jeans pocket.
Fifteen minutes later, I walked out of the mathscience building.
Linus had already sounded the alarm to evacuate campus, and kids were running in every direction across the quad, yelling to each other, and clutching their bags and weapons. At first, there didn’t seem to be any kind of method to the madness, but after a few seconds, I realized that most of the kids were running from the dorms, up the hill, across the quad, and toward the gym. “Why the gym?” I asked Alexei, who was walking
with me and still acting as my guard.
“That’s where the buses are gathering that will take the students off campus,” he said. “It’s standard operating procedure at all of the academies in case of a largescale Reaper attack.”
“Where will everyone go?”
“To a secure location nearby,” he said. “From there, some will go on home to their families, if they are close by.” He paused. “Depending on what happens here, of course.”
I swallowed. He didn’t say the words, but I knew what he meant. Depending on whether we won—or just died.
But I pushed my unease aside, although I was aware of some of the kids stopping and staring at me before hurrying on their way. And I could feel the desperation and fear rolling off all of them—along with the faintest bit of hope.
Hope that I really was Nike’s Champion. Hope that I could find a way to end this. Hope that I could finally rid everyone at our academy and all the others from the constant threat of Loki and his Reapers.
That hope gave me the determination to swallow down my own fear and get on with things.
Alexei and I hurried across the quad and over to the Library of Antiquities. Perhaps it was my imagination, but the library seemed darker and gloomier than ever before, with the statues, balconies, and towers casting out long shadows that stretched all the way to the opposite side of the quad. Or perhaps it was because I knew death, destruction, and chaos were coming our way—and wondering how we could possibly survive.
Still, despite my rush, and everything that needed to be done before the Reapers arrived, I stopped a moment to talk to the gryphon statues on either side of the library steps.
“Today would be a good time for you guys to actually, you know, move,” I said. “Rip right out of your stone shells and attack any Reaper who dares to set foot on the quad. I’m just saying. It would be really great if you could do that, please. Okay?”
Of course, the gryphons didn’t respond, but I still patted first one statue, then the other, before heading into the library. Alexei followed me.
Nickamedes was already inside and standing behind the checkout counter, talking to Metis. Apparently, he’d already enlisted Daphne to help search through the library’s electronic catalog of artifacts, because she was sitting in my usual spot behind one of the computers, furiously pounding on the keyboard, pink sparks of magic shooting out of her fingertips with every letter she hit.
She looked up as Alexei and I stepped up to the counter in front of her.
“How’s it going?” I asked.
“Slowly,” Daphne said, her eyes focusing back on the monitor. “I had no idea there were this many freaking artifacts in the library. I don’t know how Nickamedes keeps them all straight.”
I nodded and moved around the counter, hurrying toward Metis and Nickamedes. They turned in my direction.
“Professor?” I asked. “How are things? Where is everyone?”
“As well as can be expected, so far,” she replied. “Ajax is over at the gym, helping with the evacuation. So are Sergei and Inari. Oliver and Carson are back in the stacks, gathering up some of the artifacts that Daphne has already found. Rory, Rachel, and Geraldine are down at the dorms, getting Nyx and dealing with the gryphons.”
One by one, she ticked our friends off on her fingers. Metis frowned, as though she were reviewing a mental list in her head. “And I think that’s everyone.”
But it wasn’t everyone, because she hadn’t said a word about Logan. I opened my mouth to ask her about him, but Metis’s phone chirped. She touched my arm, then went back into the stacks to take the call.
Nickamedes watched her go, a longing look on his face, and some sort of deeper emotion flaring in his icy eyes. I couldn’t tell exactly what he was feeling, but it almost seemed as if the librarian was seeing Metis for the very first time. I wondered if I was the cause of that, if he was thinking about what I’d told him. If perhaps he was actually giving some thought to the idea of him and Metis as a couple. Provided they made it through the battle, of course.
Provided any of us did.
Nickamedes snapped out of his thoughts, whatever they might have been. A bit of a blush tinted his cheeks when he realized that I’d been watching him watch Metis, and he quickly stepped over to one of the metal carts, which was piled high with daggers, swords, and other weapons, instead of books.
“And Logan?” I asked, still staring at Nickamedes. “Where is he?”
“Right here, Gypsy girl.”
I whirled around to see Logan come striding out of the stacks, several weapons bristling in his arms. He laid the weapons down on one of the study tables and started sliding them apart. He also reached into his jeans pocket and drew out the ID cards that had been in the cases with the artifacts and started arranging them side-by-side with the sword, spear, staff, or other weapon they belonged to.
My gaze roamed over the weapons, most of which I recognized from my time back in the stacks, dusting all of the glass cases. There were some powerful artifacts in the library, things that would make you quicker, stronger, harder to injure, faster to heal. But no doubt the Reapers had the exact same types of artifacts, and in the end, I wondered if it would all just be a draw, at least when it came to the weapons.
Logan finished laying out the ID cards. His hand closed over a long silver sword, which he held up so that I could see it.
“It says that belonged to Thanatos, the Greek god of death,” he said. “Pretty cool, huh? What would you think about me using it?”
He twirled the sword around in his hand, getting familiar with the weapon the way he always did. I glanced up at the domed ceiling where the fresco was. Sure enough, I could see a silver sword glimmering through the shadows, the same sword that Logan was holding right now.
I grinned at him. “I think it looks great on you. A perfect weapon for a Spartan warrior.”
He grinned back, his face creasing into a wide, happy smile. And suddenly, it felt like everything was right between us again, despite the craziness of the last few hours.
“It is an impressive blade,” Vic piped up from his scabbard, which was belted around my waist. “Although not nearly as impressive as I am, obviously.”
I rolled my eyes. Logan laughed.
“No, Vic,” Logan said. “Nothing could ever be as impressive as you are.”
If Vic had shoulders, they would have puffed up in pride at Logan’s words. “Of course not. But I’m glad that you finally realize my brilliance, Spartan. It’s been a long time coming. In fact, I think . . .”
And Vic was off, talking about how he was the ultimate sword of swords, how he was going to rip into all the Reapers that were coming to the academy, and other such nonsense. Logan and I exchanged a look, both of us amused by Vic’s antics. He leaned over and squeezed my hand, and I squeezed back.
Together, still listening to Vic rant, we started sorting through the rest of the weapons on the table.
I spent the next hour in the library, working alongside my friends. Nickamedes helped Daphne search through the electronic catalog of artifacts, telling her which items might be the most useful and important. She printed off a long list, which I divided up among me, Logan, Carson, Oliver, and Alexei. The five of us went back into the stacks, retrieved all of the items, and brought them to the study tables in the center of the library.
By the time we were finished, we had enough weapons, armor, garments, and jewelry to outfit a small army.
And we had the warriors to use them.
To my surprise, not all of the kids, professors, and staff members chose to evacuate the academy. Instead, many of them came to the library, determined to fight alongside us. Folks like Kenzie Tanaka, one of Logan’s Spartan friends, and his Amazon girlfriend, Talia Pizarro. Morgan McDougall, a former mean-girl Valkyrie who’d helped me out more than once over the past few months. Even Savannah Warren, the Amazon who was Logan’s ex-girlfriend, showed up.
I’d put Logan in charge of the weapons, and he quickly sized up every kid and adult and gave them the blade, bow, staff, or spear he thought would best suit them. Then, the other kids clustered around the study tables, familiarizing themselves with the weapons the way I’d seen them do so many times before in gym class.
But this wasn’t a class, and no one was going to pull their punches today.
Meanwhile, Raven manned the coffee cart, passing out free drinks and snacks to anyone who wanted something, although most folks just stood there, holding their food, instead of actually chowing down on it. I knew I was far too full of fear, worry, and dread to even think about eating right now.
Instead, I wondered why.
I wondered why the other kids and adults would risk themselves in a battle that we had a very real chance of losing, instead of evacuating to safety with the others. I asked the question out loud to Daphne, who was still typing furiously on the computer, searching for more artifacts, but she wasn’t the one who answered me.
Instead, Savannah piped up from her spot at a nearby study table.
“You’re not the only one who’s lost people to the Reapers,” Savannah said in a quiet voice, twirling a staff around and around in her hands. “This is our chance to finally confront the Reapers who took away the people we love.”
From what Daphne had once told me, most of Savannah’s family had been murdered by Reapers. I winced, thinking that I’d taken Logan away from her too, but she came over and laid a hand on my arm, as if she knew exactly what I was thinking.
“It’s okay, Gwen,” Savannah said, her green eyes serious. “I’ve moved on. In fact, I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”
She turned and smiled at a Viking I recognized from my English-lit class, one who gave her an adoring look in return. When he realized that we were both watching him, he blushed, ducked his head, and went back to hefting the battle axe in his hand.