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|Killer Frost(Mythos Academy #6) by Jennifer Estep|
“They’re going for it,” I said. “Let’s get into position.”
I stood in the middle of the library and waited for Vivian to come and kill me.
That noise from the saw, or whatever it was, grew louder and louder, until it reverberated through my head like a drill. I grimaced.
I glanced around, searching for my friends. Oliver and Alexei were crouched behind Raven’s coffee cart, with Rory peeking out at me from the other side, a dagger clutched in her hand. Sergei, Inari, Coach Ajax, and the other Protectorate guards were hidden in the stacks and behind the marble statues of the gods and goddesses that ringed the second-floor balcony. Daphne was up there too, crouching next to Sigyn’s statue, holding the bow that had supposedly once belonged to the goddess. Carson was with her, still clutching the Horn of Roland, although I didn’t know what else he might be able to do with the artifact, if anything.
Linus stood beside me, as the head of the Protectorate, with Logan on my other side. Metis was still in the back, healing as many of the wounded as she could while Rachel, Nickamedes, Raven, and Grandma Frost helped them climb to the upper floors so that the gryphons could fly them away to safety.
“Are you sure you can do this, Miss Frost?” Linus
asked in the kindest voice he’d ever used with me. “You need to draw the fight out as long as possible. It won’t be easy, given what a skilled warrior Vivian is.”
I shrugged. “I don’t really have a choice, now, do I?” “No, I suppose not,” he murmured.
The whining of the saw grew even louder, making me wince again. But as quickly as the noise had started, it faded away altogether. Silence. Then—
Bang. Bang. BANG!
A great crash sounded, and I knew the Reapers had breached the outer library doors. I drew in a breath and held up Vic.
“Are you ready for this?”
The sword fixed his purplish eye on me. “I’m ready, and you are too, Gwen. Trust me. Nike believes in you, and so do I.”
My gaze drifted up to the goddess’s statue on the second floor. Her face was as neutral as before, although her eyes seemed to be fixed on mine. I wondered what she thought of the battle so far, the choices I’d made, and the fact that it was all going to end here in the library. Although I supposed that was rather fitting, since this was the place where it had all started, the night I’d grabbed Vic out of his artifact case.
I hope you’re proud of me, I thought, still staring at the goddess. I’ve done the best I could to save everyone.
The goddess tipped her head at me, but that was her only response.
The doors flew open, and Vivian and Agrona came striding into the main part of the library. Loki stepped inside after them, flanked by Reapers on all sides. My heart sank as I realized exactly how many Reapers were left. They still outnumbered us three-to-one, if not more. “So,” Agrona purred, stopping a few feet away and looking at Linus. “It’s finally come down to this. Your final, ultimate defeat, and here you are, hiding behind a teenage girl, no less. I’m rather disappointed in you, Linus. I would have thought that you would have man-
aged to hold out for at least a little while longer.”
Linus straightened up to his full height. His eyes were full of hate as he stared back at his former wife. “Well, not all of us have a god on our side,” he snapped back. “Or plot and scheme for years to put his soul into an innocent boy’s body.”
I frowned. Everyone knew that Agrona had tried to put Loki’s soul into Logan’s body. That was old news. Still, something about Linus’s words resonated in my mind in a strange way. Something about Loki wanting a new body, a mortal body . . .
Agrona arched a blond eyebrow. “Still angry about that, dear husband? Tsk. Tsk. You’re setting a bad example for your innocent boy there, holding such a grudge.”
Logan stepped forward, his hand tightening around his sword. “He’s not the only one. One of the happiest moments in my life is going to be the one when I finally kill you for everything you’ve done to my family.”
“Unfortunately, that’s not the deal we made,” Agrona said. “Vivian and Gwen will do the fighting. And then we’ll see what happens to the rest of you.”
She smirked at her former stepson. Logan took another step forward, but Linus grabbed his arm and shook his head.
“Let it play out,” Linus said in a soft voice that only we could hear. “Remember, every second counts.”
Logan didn’t like it, but he reluctantly nodded his head and stepped back.
“Well, then,” Agrona said. “I say we let the battle begin. My lord?”
She turned to Loki, who nodded his head at her. Then, the god’s gaze flicked over to Vivian.
“Do not fail me this time,” he said in his silky, but deadly voice. “Or you will not like the consequences.”
Vivian trembled the faintest bit. “Of course not, my lord.”
She bowed to him, then turned and strode toward me, stopping in the middle of the library floor. I stepped up so that I was standing about five feet away from her. We’d cleared all of the chairs and study tables out of the way, so there was only open space around me and Vivian.
“No interference from anyone,” Linus called out in a grim voice. “Those were the terms we agreed upon.”
“Don’t worry.” Vivian smirked. “I won’t need any help with her. Not this time.”
“Well, well, well, aren’t we feeling confident today, Viv?” I mocked her. “But you’re going to lose, just like you always have before.”
“We’ll see about that,” she hissed.
She held her weapon up by the blade, and I did the same with Vic so that the two swords could see each other. Lucretia’s red eye snapped.
“So, we meet again, Vic,” the other sword purred. “For the last time.”
“Of course, it will be for the last time,” Vic snapped back. “Because I’m finally going to cleave you in two, you simpering sword!”
“The only one who simpers around here is you, you overconfident hunk of metal!” Lucretia cried back.
I would have stood there and let the two swords trade insults all day long, as it gave Metis, Nickamedes, and the others more time to heal and evacuate the wounded, but Vivian lowered her sword and tightened her hand around the hilt once more.
I did the same, and the fight was on.
Vivian raised her sword high overhead and charged at me, trying to use her Valkyrie strength to end me with that first, hard, sharp, powerful blow. Her sword crashed against mine, sending red and purple sparks everywhere. It took all of my strength to hold on to Vic and not crumple under her attack, but I managed it.
“Die, Gypsy!” Vivian hissed. “You first!” I hissed back at her.
We broke apart and continued our battle. Back and forth, we fought in the middle of the library, hacking and slashing our weapons at each other over and over again, each one of us trying to kill the other.
I whirled around after parrying Vivian’s latest attack and glanced at the clock mounted on the wall of the glass office complex. Only three minutes had passed since we’d started fighting. Funny, but it felt like forever. Or maybe that was because I’d been battling Vivian ever since she’d tricked me into finding the Helheim Dagger for her. Either way, I needed to keep going, even though I was already utterly exhausted from the battle out on the quad.
So the next time Vivian gave me the slightest opening, I pretended to trip over my own feet instead of slashing my sword across her arm like I should have, like I really wanted to.
The Reaper girl blinked in surprise before her eyes abruptly narrowed. She frowned. “What are you doing? Why aren’t you attacking me with everything you have?” “Because I don’t need to,” I mocked, not wanting her
to realize that I was trying to draw the fight out for as long as possible. “Face it, Viv. You’re not half the warrior that I am. I can kill you anytime I want to. I just want to humiliate you first in front of all your Reaper friends—and especially Loki.”
I raised my sword and charged at her.
Clash-clash-clang! Clash-clash-clang! Clash-clash-clang!
Once more, we fought, and once more, we broke apart and started circling each other. My eyes flicked to the clock on the office complex wall again, but only two more minutes had passed—
“You . . . you . . . you’re stalling!” Vivian snarled. “Why? What are you up to, Gwen?”
A golden light blazed in her eyes, and a sharp, sudden pain exploded in my head, as though she had stabbed a knife deep into my brain. I screamed, but the pain intensified. Vivian stepped forward and slammed her fist into my face, adding to the agony. I rocked back, but I didn’t go down, so she punched me again. This time, the pain was so intense that I felt my legs sliding out from under me and my ass hitting the marble floor.
“Get up, Gwen!” Vic screamed. “Get up! Now!”
But I couldn’t. All I was aware of were those damn invisible fingers digging through my brain again and again, prying into every part of my mind, peering into every single corner, and rifling through all of my secrets. Still, I tried to push back. Tried to imagine my own hands forming fists and pounding at the disgusting, crawling fingers like they were worms that I was squishing, but nothing seemed to work, and the pain continued, seeming to get stronger and stronger with every breath I took.
Above me, I heard Vivian laugh. “Give it up, Gwen. You’re no match for my telepathy magic. Why, if I’d known that it was this easy to take you down with it, I would have used it right off the bat. But let’s have a little fun before I kill you. Humiliate you the same way that you wanted to humiliate me. What do you say? I’ve been wanting to do this for a long, long time. Let me show you exactly what the Reapers have planned for your precious friends and the rest of your pathetic Protectorate.”
Still reeling from the agony in my head, I huddled on the floor as Vivian showed me image after gruesome image. The first thing that popped into my mind was her driving Lucretia through my chest, the sight so vivid that I thought she’d really done it for a moment. Then, she did the same thing to each one of my friends in turn. Oliver. Alexei. Daphne. Carson. And finally, Logan.
I started to scream again, but those images vanished, replaced by one of Metis, Nickamedes, and Ajax all wearing chains, on their knees and bowing their heads as Vivian lorded it over them.
Then, that sight disappeared, and I saw Vivian raising her sword over my grandma’s head and killing her just like she had murdered my mom.
One after another, the images flooded my mind, and there was nothing I could do to stop them. But the more images Vivian showed me, the more she let me see how much she wanted to hurt my friends, the angrier I got. I grabbed hold of that anger and held it tight, using it like a shield to block out the uglier images and all of the horrible hallucinations the Reaper girl kept forcing into my mind. And slowly, bit by bit, I came back to myself, pulling my mind up out of the dark abyss of pain and terror and nightmares. Because they weren’t real, and I wasn’t about to let them come true—not now, not ever.
Finally, Vivian stopped her mental assault long enough to sneer down at me. “Well, Gwen? How does the future look to you?”
I stared up at her. “Not nearly as bleak as yours does.” I lashed out and stabbed Vic deep into her calf. Vivian screamed in surprise and fell to the floor beside me. I pushed the last of the pain away and threw myself on top of the Reaper girl, slamming my fist into her face over and over again as hard as I could. Sometime during the fight, Vic fell from my hand and skittered across the floor, and I slapped Lucretia away from Vivian before she could use the sword against me. Vivian snarled in anger and surprise, and we rolled around and around in the middle of the library floor, punching, hitting, and
clawing at each other as fiercely as we could.
I was furious, as furious as I’d ever been, but I was still no match for her Valkyrie strength. Vivian pinned me to the ground, her hands locked around my wrists.
“I was going to slice you open with Lucretia,” she said. “But now I think I’ll just choke you to death instead. That will be so much more fun.”
Before I could stop her, she reached up, wrapped her hands around my throat, and started squeezing.
I laughed in her face, although it came out as more of a rasping wheeze.
Vivian frowned. “What are you doing? Why are you laughing?”
“Because you forgot one thing, Viv,” I snarled. “You’re not the only one here with magic. I have it too, remember? And not just any magic—touch magic.”
Too late, Vivian realized that her skin was touching mine. Her eyes widened, and she started to pull her hands away from my throat, but I didn’t let her. Instead, I wrapped my hands around hers and reached for my magic.
My psychometry kicked in, and I flashed on the Reaper girl, seeing the bright red spark that burned at the very center of her being. I thought about closing my hands around that spark and slowly crushing it until it was snuffed out completely. But I couldn’t forget about all of the awful images she’d shown me, and I wanted to give Vivian a taste of her own medicine.
“You want to see something truly terrible?” I growled. “You like watching other people suffer? Well, let me show you what real suffering looks like.”
I tightened my grip on Vivian’s hands. And then I showed her exactly how much she and the other Reapers had hurt me over the last few months. Every battle we’d had, all the pain I’d felt, all the agony of realizing that she was the one who’d murdered my mom and watching her kill Nott right before my eyes. I showed her all that and more.