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|Killer Frost(Mythos Academy #6) by Jennifer Estep|
More and more Reapers started heading in our direction, urged on by Loki’s continued screams about killing Carson. I watched in horror as one Reaper broke away from the other warrior he was fighting and raced in our direction. Then another one, then five more, then ten more, until it seemed as if every single Reaper on the quad was running toward us with the sole intention of killing Carson where he stood. Even as Logan and I stepped in front of him, I knew we wouldn’t be able to stop the Reapers from swarming over us and taking him out.
“Carson!” I screamed. “Play the freaking horn! Now!” “Okay,” he said in that same soft, dreamy voice. “I
can do that.”
He brought the horn to his lips. Once again, a single, sweet note sounded, but the Reapers kept coming. Daphne dropped three more of them with her arrows, sending the projectiles into three different targets at once. But more and more Reapers rushed forward to take their places.
“Carson!” I screamed again, slashing Vic back and forth as fast as I could, lashing out at every single warrior I could reach, with Logan doing the same thing beside me. “Carson!”
Just when I thought the Reapers were going to overrun us, Carson drew in another breath and began to play in earnest. Note after note erupted from the horn, each one stronger and sharper than the last. Carson blew and blew on the horn, his fingers pressing into the onyx keys as though it were a regular tuba he was playing instead of a powerful artifact.
At first, the music didn’t seem to have any effect. The Reapers kept coming and coming, and Logan and I kept fighting them off, one after another, even though my arms ached from the effort of holding on to Vic and driving the sword’s blade into my enemies over and over again. Meanwhile, Daphne kept shooting arrows, and between the three of us, we managed to keep Carson safe.
But then, through the music, I heard another sound.
At first, I thought I was just imagining the sounds through the yells, shouts, and screamsof the fight. Then, I heard it again . . . and again . . . and again . . .
Each successive crack sounded louder than the one before it, as though someone was firing a cannon over and over again. I instinctively ducked down, and so did everyone else, wondering where the sounds were coming from and what they really were. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move.
One of the gargoyles perched on the steps of the English-history building slowly began stretching and moving, as though it was waking up after a long, long sleep. In a way, I supposed that’s exactly what it was doing. I thought I was only imagining the statue moving, that maybe I’d been fighting too hard for too long and had taken one too many blows to the head. But then, the gargoyle on the other side of the steps began to move and stretch as well, and I finally realized what the Horn of Roland did and why it had fallen into Carson’s hands.
Because it brought the statues of Mythos Academy to
Carson kept playing and playing, the sounds of the Horn of Roland rising up to drown out everything else. It was a soft, sweet sound, but yet, somehow fierce and wild and loud and free all at the same time. It was the kind of music that made you want to dance and dance and dance until you laughed with joy and simply collapsed from the fast, sheer thrill of the movement and the music. Slowly, the Protectorate guards and the Reapers stopped fighting, all of us hypnotized by Carson’s wonderful playing.
Meanwhile, the statues on all of the buildings began breaking free of their stone foundations, as drawn to the music as everyone else was. The gargoyles, the chimeras and dragons and basilisks, even the Minotaur, leaped down from their lofty perches and started ambling toward Carson, bits of stone cracking off their bodies from where the creatures had been standing in the same positions for so long.
And leading the procession were the two gryphons from the library steps.
They looked even fiercer and more lifelike than I ever could have dreamed, as though their dark gray stone was the thinnest sort of skin that housed their utter wildness. The gryphons came to stand beside Carson, one on either side of him, flanking him just like they always had the library steps. Both of the gryphons turned and bowed their heads to me and Logan. All I could do was bow back and hope that Carson knew what he was doing.
Finally, five minutes after it had started, Carson lowered the horn from his lips. By that point, all of the fighting had stopped on the quad, and everyone was still and silent, mesmerized by the band geek and how he’d brought the statues to life with his music.
Carson stared at the statues all around him, his black eyes gleaming with delight, as though he were the ultimate sort of Pied Piper.
“No!” Loki screamed again, breaking through the spell that Carson had put all of us under with his music. “Stop him—”
Carson brought the Horn of Roland back to his lips and started to play again, the tune harsher and angrier than before, the notes coming faster and faster as though he were building toward something dark, dangerous, and utterly deadly.
But spurred on by Loki, several of the Reapers had started to creep forward again, their eyes flicking back and forth from Carson to the statues even as they raised their swords and eased closer and closer to the band geek.
The statues began to grumble in time to the music, low, angry snarls ripping out of their stone throats. The Reapers paused and looked at each other, uncertain what was going on. Yeah. I think we all felt that way right now.
“Kill him!” Loki screamed again. “Now!”
The Reapers looked at each other and charged forward. And still, Carson kept right on playing, his eyes closed, completely unconcerned about the danger coming his way.
“Carson!” I screamed in warning, raising Vic and moving toward the oncoming warriors, with Logan still right next to me, his own weapon in an attack position.
But we didn’t have to battle the Reapers. Because the statues did it for us.
A Reaper neared Carson and raised his sword high, ready to bring it down on top of the band geek’s head. One of the library gryphons reached out and casually swiped his massive paw across the Reaper’s chest, the sharp, stone talons easily ripping into the warrior’s flesh and bones. That Reaper screamed and fell, and the fight began in earnest again.
This time, the statues plowed into the Reapers, clawing, biting, and scratching for all they were worth. One wave of Reapers fell. Then another, then another. Everyone in the Protectorate drew in a collective breath and got back into the fight as well. Logan and I stayed where we were by Carson’s side while the two library gryphons protected him—and us too.
Every time a Reaper got within five feet of me, Logan, and Carson, the gryphons would lash out with their paws, talons, and beaks, and either drive the Reaper back or kill the warrior outright. It was one of the most bizarre, wonderful, and frightening things I’d ever seen.
And it slowly turned the tide in our favor.
With the statues fighting by our side, helping us, the Protectorate guards and the rest of my friends were finally able to make a dent in the Reapers’ numbers. Warrior after warrior fell on the quad, and this time, the Protectorate forces were the ones who advanced, instead of retreating. The last notes of Carson’s song finally faded away, but no one seemed to notice, and everyone kept right on fighting, including the statues.
Suddenly, Alexei and Oliver were by my side, and we all pressed forward, cutting down Reaper after Reaper.
Logan was grinning, and so was I. New energy, new determination, surged through my body. Because, now, I thought we might actually win this battle after all—
An angry snarl sounded, lower and uglier than all the others, and I realized that Loki was striding forward through the Reapers, shoving his own warriors out of his way. He stopped close to the middle of the quad, not that far from where Carson, Logan, Oliver, Alexei, and I were standing. A gargoyle bounded across the grass, heading straight toward him. Loki looked at it with disgust, then gave a sharp, short wave of his hand, sending a burst of power forward.
The gargoyle disintegrated into dust, and my heart sank.
One by one, the stone statues moved to attack Loki, and every time—every single time—he waved his hand at them.
One by one, the statues crumbled to dust, breaking into bits and tumbling to a stop at the god’s feet. One after another, they all just . . . shattered. I wasn’t even aware that I was crying until I felt the cold wetness of my own tears on my cheeks. The statues . . . he was destroying them all.
Every last one.
Somehow, that hurt worse than any other part of the battle so far. For months, I’d been creeped out by the statues, always feeling like they were watching me, and now I knew why—because they’d been protecting me. And now, they were being destroyed for their watchfulness.
“No!” I screamed. “Stop it! Stop killing them!”
I would have surged forward and tried to attack Loki myself, but Logan caught my arm and pulled me back.
“No, Gwen!” Logan yelled. “It’s too late! There’s nothing you can do! Not against his magic!”
Loki stepped forward and raised both of his hands. This time, a blast of magic swept over the entire quad, rippling through the air like a heat wave, smashing every single statue that it touched, until the only ones that remained were the two gryphons from the library steps. But even they seemed to be weakened, stumbling around from the powerful blast like the rest of us were.
I kept crying, the tears rolling down my cheeks. I’d been able to ignore the horrors of the battle up until now, but everything hit me at once, and I fell to my knees on the quad, trying to find the strength to get back up.
“Nike’s Champion is down!” “Death to the Protectorate!”
The Reapers pressed their advantage and began engaging the Protectorate guards again, their attacks even fiercer than before. This time, without the statues to help us, the Reapers advanced.
I staggered back up onto my feet and swung Vic in arc after furious arc, but it didn’t change the battle at all. Finally, I felt Logan’s hand on my arm again, pulling me back. Oliver and Alexei grabbed Carson, who still had a dreamy look on his face. It seemed as if the Horn of Roland was still working its magic on him.
This time, Vivian and Agrona made their way to the front of the Reapers, and I saw Vivian finally start swinging Lucretia and getting into the fight. From the triumphant look on her face, she thought they had already won, and that it was just a matter of getting rid of the guards one at a time before she could come and kill me and the rest of my friends.
And I couldn’t help but think that she was right. “Retreat!” Linus yelled out, his voice booming through
the quad, even as he scrambled back over the piles of stone that now littered the grass. “Fall back to the library! Now!”
The Protectorate guards turned and raced toward the library, and my friends dragged me and Carson along with everyone else.
And so we made our second and final retreat up the steps and into the Library of Antiquities.
Logan and I staggered up the library steps along with everyone else. Linus, Sergei, and Inari were the last ones inside, and Metis and Ajax slammed the doors shut behind them. I didn’t know where they’d gotten them from, but Metis, Ajax, and some of the guards raised a couple of thick iron bars and slid them across the doors, locking us inside and the Reapers out.
I stared at the doors, waiting for the Reapers to start trying to break through them, but nothing happened, and everything was eerily silent.
“They need some time to regroup,” Metis said, putting a hand on my shoulder. “And so do we. Come on.”
I nodded and let her lead me away from the doors, more than a little numb after everything that had happened. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder what was taking place outside on the quad, especially to the two stone gryphons. Had Loki raised his hand and turned them to dust like he had all the other statues?
The sadness, worry, and grief just kept on coming as I stepped into the main space of the library—because it had already been turned into a sick bay.
The remaining Protectorate guards slumped over the tables and chairs or had collapsed onto the floor, and the students and other adults weren’t much better. I saw blood everywhere I looked, on every single arm, hand, leg, and face. My gaze locked on to a guy who wasn’t that much older than me. He was cradling his arm, which had a nasty gash in it, and it almost seemed as if I could hear each and every drop of his blood plopping against the white marble floor.
I stood there in the middle of the chaos, that numb feeling spreading through my body.
“Quickly!” Nickamedes said, hobbling around and trying to get everyone’s attention. “Get the injured and the wounded into the back of the library! This way! This way!”
Grandma Frost was with him. Her eyes met mine, and I could see the relief in her face that I was okay. She clapped her hands together. “Do what Nickamedes says. Now!”
The two of them waved their hands, urging the others to follow them as they hurried into the back section of the library. Everyone who was able put their arms under the shoulders of the wounded and helped them in that direction.
“Gwen?” Alexei said, touching my arm. “Are you okay? Do you need to be healed?”
“Why would you say that?” I murmured. “Because you look half-dead,” Oliver said.
I snapped out of my daze and stared down at my own body, which was covered with dirt, blood, bruises, and shallow cuts. I’d been so caught up in the fight that I hadn’t even noticed my injuries before now. None of them was serious, but still, all I wanted to do was curl up into a ball on the floor and cry. But I couldn’t do that.