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|Killer Frost(Mythos Academy #6) by Jennifer Estep|
I headed for the library steps, where Carson was still crouched down beside the gryphons, his staff in one hand and the Horn of Roland in the other. I spotted Rory and Rachel on one of the second-floor library balconies, with Daphne right beside them. The Valkyrie looked as cool and calm as ever, already taking aim with her onyx bow and golden arrow, waiting for a Reaper to get close enough for her to fire.
I reached the library steps and whirled back around, already raising my sword to give the signal to the archers above.
“Now!” I screamed.
A hail of arrows darkened the air above my head before slowly starting their inevitable, downward arcs. The arrows slammed into the first wave of Reapers that had crested the hill and stormed into the quad, knocking them back. Screams and shouts cut through the air, and the archers sent another volley of arrows at the second wave of warriors. But I could already tell it wouldn’t be enough. There were too many Reapers, and we didn’t have enough archers to stop them all, even though they were shooting as fast as they could.
Caw-caw-caw. Caw-caw-caw. Caw-caw-caw.
And just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, the Black rocs finally got involved in the fight.
They appeared in the sky like thunderous storm clouds, hovering over the quad for several seconds before abruptly dive-bombing, just as I’d feared they would. The Reapers riding them made the rocs target the archers on the towers and balconies, and the creatures raked out with their talons, catching more than one archer across the chest and making them fall from the balconies to their deaths on the ground below.
The sound of cracking bones was horribly loud. “Take out the rocs!” Logan screamed, waving his
hand at the archers above our heads. “Before they kill you all!”
That’s what Daphne, Rory, Rachel, and the other archers were trying to do, but there were simply too many rocs and not enough of them. Daphne, in particular, sent arrow after arrow after arrow at the creatures. Every projectile she fired was true, but she couldn’t launch the arrows fast enough, even though they were leaving her bow in a golden blur, one after another—
Daphne sent three arrows straight into three different rocs.
I blinked, wondering if I was only imagining things. But she reached back, drew three more arrows out of the quiver strapped to her back, and sent them into three more rocs, all of which plummeted to the ground, taking their riders down with them.
For a moment, Daphne looked as startled as I did. She stared down at her weapon, Sigyn’s bow, the one she’d had ever since the Reaper attack at the Crius Coliseum, the one that had kept reappearing in her room no matter how many times she gave the weapon back to Metis. Then, she grinned, gave me a thumbs-up, and reached back for three more arrows.
Nike had once told me that Daphne would know what to do with the bow when the time was right. It looked like Daphne had finally figured out what her artifact did, and she put it to deadly use.
But more and more rocs still swooped over the quad. I heard a loud screech and realized that one of the creatures was heading for me, its talons outstretched as it aimed straight for my throat. I threw my hand up, trying to block the attack, although I knew how useless my hand was against the creature’s sharp claws—
A bronze blur moved in front of me, slamming into the roc and driving the bird back. The leader of the gryphons landed on the quad, threw back his head, and let out a loud screech. The rest of the gryphons rose up from where they’d been hiding and launched themselves off the tops of the towers and balconies, clashing with the rocs in midair. Caws and screeches and spits and hisses tore through the quad above my head as the two sets of creatures slashed out at each other with their beaks and talons, and their wings crashed together, sending them all spinning down to the ground.
But with the gryphons involved in the fight, the archers got some much-needed breathing room and focused their arrows back on the Reapers. Wave after wave of warriors flooded the quad, their boots flattening the grass, their bare faces free of masks, their lips curved into evil grins, their black robes swirling out around them like clouds of deadly fog slowly spreading and infecting everything they touched.
Still, as I waited for the Reapers to reach my position, I looked past the ones rushing toward me, searching for Vivian, Agrona, and most important, Loki.
And I finally saw them.
Vivian and Agrona came striding onto the quad in the middle of the waves of Reapers. The two of them flanked Loki, who seemed to float rather than actually walk across the grass. Whatever the laurels had done to him, he wasn’t showing any visible effects from it now. If I hadn’t seen how completely ruined his face was, I might have thought the laurels hadn’t injured him at all.
And then the Reapers reached the library steps, and I
was in the thick of things once more.
Clash-clash-clang! Clash-clash-clang! Clash-clash-clang!
I cut down every Reaper who came close to me. Logan, Oliver, and Alexei did the same, and I got glimpses of my other friends fighting farther out in the quad. Kenzie stabbing at Reapers with a spear, with Talia slashing her sword across another warrior’s chest. Savannah twirling her staff from one hand to the other before smacking the heavy wood into the Reaper in front of her. Then Doug, her Viking boyfriend, stepping in to deliver the killing blow with his battle axe, protecting her as much as he could. Morgan alternating between sending crossbow bolts into Reapers, then stabbing them with the dagger she clutched in her other hand.
Linus, Sergei, Inari, and Ajax were also fighting together in the middle of the quad, with Reapers all around them. And I saw Professor Metis, heading in their direction, her staff in her hands, whipping it back and forth and clearing a path to Linus and the others.
I blinked again. I’d never really thought too much about what kind of warrior Metis was, but she had to be an Amazon to move that quickly. One second, she was fifty feet away from Linus and the others. The next, she was right beside them, taking some of the pressure off their flank. Soon, the five of them were fighting back-to-back, creating a ring of death in the middle of the Reapers.
But it still wasn’t going to be enough to save us. Because even more Reapers streamed into the quad
behind Loki, Vivian, and Agrona, and I could tell we were in danger of being overrun—and then executed.
“We have to push them back!” Logan screamed. “We have to get them away from Dad and the others!”
I knew that as well as he did, but I didn’t see how we could make it happen. Linus and the others were near the center of the quad, and we’d have to kill half the Reapers simply to get to them. Not to mention the fact that Vivian and Agrona were just standing by, as if waiting for Loki to do something spectacularly deadly.
I didn’t know if the god had that kind of magic, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Because it would be just our luck if we managed to take out all of the Reapers only to fall to Loki instead. I wondered if he could wave his hand and reduce us all to dust like he had the stone sphinxes down by the main gate. I shivered at the thought.
A sharp, sudden, clattering sound caught my attention, and I whipped my head to the right to discover that Carson had dropped his staff, and not because he was fighting and a Reaper had knocked it out of his grasp. No, the band geek seemed to have let go of the weapon of his own free will. To my surprise, Carson stepped forward, clutching the Horn of Roland in both hands, as though it were some sort of shield that would protect him from the Reapers and all of their slashing swords.
“Carson?!” I yelled, burying Vic in the chest of another Reaper before shoving the warrior away. “What are you doing?!”
“I’m not really sure,” he mumbled. “I feel . . . weird.” He looked at me, and I realized that his eyes had darkened to an absolute black and had the same odd sheen that the bits of onyx on his horn did. The strange, unrelenting color of his eyes seemed to bleed into his glasses, making it look like the lenses were completely black and yet somehow glowing faintly at the same time. Carson turned away from me and walked farther out into the quad, into the very heart of the battle. I cursed and went after him. I had to protect Carson. He was going to get himself killed, and Daphne would never
forgive me if that happened.
“Gwen!” I heard Logan scream behind me. “Watch out!”
I whirled around. Too late, I saw the Reaper who had snuck up on my blind side. I raised my sword, blocking the brutal blow that would have split my skull open, but the Reaper kicked out with his foot, catching me in the leg and making me stumble to the ground. Still on my knees, I lifted Vic, desperately trying to get him into position to counter the deadly blow that was coming my way—
Suddenly, Logan was there, darting in between me and the Reaper, and saving my life the way he had so many times before.
Logan banged his weapon against the Reaper’s, taking the blow meant for me, before spinning around and attacking the other warrior. The Sword of Thanatos gleamed a ghostly silver in his hand, the edges seeming to blur, as though the entire weapon were made out of mist. The sword didn’t seem to cut into the Reaper so much as it passed right through him, like a cloud of death. That’s what it was in Logan’s hand.
The Reaper collapsed without a sound, and Logan spun the sword around in his hand. I blinked, and the illusion was gone, the weapon solid metal again.
Logan stretched out a hand and helped me to my feet. “You okay?”
I nodded. “Thanks to you—again.” He grinned. “Anytime.”
“Carson!” Daphne shouted from the library balcony. A golden arrow zipped past us and buried itself in the back of a Reaper who’d been about to bring his sword down on top of Carson’s head. But the band geek walked on, completely unconcerned by the bloody chaos raging around him. His steps were slow and measured, and I had a feeling that if I could see his face, his features would be completely slack and blank. The Horn of Roland must have turned him into some sort of zombie, like the Bowl of Tears had once done to Morgan. That’s why Carson was walking into the middle of the fight instead of staying with me and my friends. I didn’t know what sort of power the artifact had, but it was obvious that it
had taken control of Carson.
Logan looked at me and nodded, his blue eyes blazing with the same determination that I felt. I gripped Vic a little tighter and nodded back. Now, the two of us had to make sure that Carson lived long enough to use his artifact.
Together, Logan and I hurried after the band geek, trying to keep close enough to protect him. He was like a calm little bunny hopping into a den of angry, hungry lions. The Reapers realized that Carson didn’t have a weapon and that he wasn’t fighting back, and they all scrambled to try to take down such an easy target.
“Faster, Gwen, faster!” Vic shouted, his mouth moving underneath my palm. “You can’t let the Reapers get in between the two of you or the Celt is dead!”
“Don’t you think I know that!” I yelled back at the sword, although I had no idea if he or Logan could hear me over the sounds of the fight.
A Reaper stepped in front of me, but I slashed Vic across his chest, shoved the other warrior out of the way, and hurried after Carson.
Ducking and dodging, sidestepping and leaping, whirling and twirling, Logan and I managed to keep up with the band geek as he moved from the library steps all the way over to the center of the quad.
Carson finally stopped, and I almost slammed into his back. Another Reaper came at us, but before he could attack, Daphne put an arrow into his chest. The Reaper crashed to a stop at our feet. But Carson continued to stand there, staring down at the horn in his hands as if nothing else mattered. I bit my lip. I wanted nothing more than to reach out and shake him, but I didn’t want to ruin his concentration . . . or whatever he was doing.
The Celt will know what to do with the horn when the time comes, Nike’s voice whispered in my mind. That’s what the goddess had said to me when I’d questioned her about why my friends had the artifacts they did.
I cut down another Reaper charging at us. Logan did the same. Whatever it was, I hoped that Carson figured it out soon. Otherwise, the three of us were dead.
Another Reaper fell at my feet, thanks to Daphne and her arrows, and I looked over at the far edge of the quad, where Vivian, Agrona, and Loki were still standing, out of the main part of the fight. Vivian spotted me, then her golden gaze flicked to Carson. She frowned and pointed us out to Agrona. Loki followed Vivian’s finger, but instead of staring at me with hate in his eyes as usual, his angry gaze locked onto Carson instead. His eyes bulged in surprise, then his face mottled with red rage.
“Kill him!” Loki screamed at the Reapers. “Don’t let him blow that horn—”
But it was too late. Carson slowly brought the Horn of Roland up to his lips, closed his eyes, and started to play.
One sweet, simple note drifted out of the horn, so soft that I thought I had only imagined it at first. Carson opened his eyes, drew back, and frowned, staring at the horn as if he was confused, as if it hadn’t done what he’d thought it would or what he wanted it to.
“Now would be a great time for you to use your music mojo to get us out of this!” I yelled at him, even as I battled a Reaper who was creeping up on his blind side.
“Gwen’s right!” Logan shouted, fighting off another
Carson was a Celt, sort of like a warrior bard, and he could play practically any instrument he picked up. I hoped he found a way to make the horn do whatever it was supposed to do before the Reapers overwhelmed us—
“Don’t worry, guys,” he said, his voice soft and almost dreamy-sounding. “I think I’ve got it now.”
Carson nodded, and that strange black gleam in his eyes brightened, as if he’d finally figured out some sort of great secret about the horn.