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|Killer Frost(Mythos Academy #6) by Jennifer Estep|
So much more.
Vivian started screaming with pain—my pain—but I didn’t stop. I didn’t have any mercy. Not today. Not for her. Not after everything she’d done to me. Not after everyone she’d taken away from me. My mom, Nott, and even Logan and Grandma Frost for a while.
Oh yes, I showed her my pain and all the other pain I’d experienced over the years. All the bloody memories from the artifacts I’d touched. All the cruel, petty emotions I’d felt rolling off people. All the bad things that I’d realized they’d done when I flashed on them with my magic. And then, I showed her one of the most horrible memories I had—that of a girl being abused by her stepdad.
Vivian’s screams grew louder and louder, and that red spark flickered inside her, but I kept up with my relentless assault, slamming the images into her brain one after another the same way she had done to me.
And finally, I felt something inside her mind just . . . crumble, the same way that the statues out on the quad had crumbled under the brunt of Loki’s foul magic. Her hands fell away from my throat, and this time, I let her go. Vivian scrambled away from me, wrapped her arms around her knees, and started rocking back and forth on the floor. I hurried over to grab Vic and raised up the sword, thinking this might be another one of her tricks, but Vivian didn’t even try to reach for Lucretia. She didn’t even so much as glance in my direction.
“Make it stop,” she whispered in a small, broken voice. “It hurts so much. Please, please, please make it stop.”
I tightened my grip on Vic, still suspicious, but Vivian put her hands up to her head and kept rocking back and forth on the floor, her golden eyes fixed on something far away that only she could see—all of the horrible memories I’d shown her.
And I realized that the fight was over, and Vivian was no longer a threat. I let out a breath. Somehow, I knew that the Reaper girl would never be a threat to me ever again.
“Gwen?” Logan asked, coming up to stand beside me. “Aren’t you going to . . .” He made a slashing gesture with his own sword.
“No,” I said. “Because we don’t execute people who are down and out. That’s the Reapers’ thing. Not ours. That’s what they do. Not us.”
I stepped away from Vivian, but I didn’t move away from the center of the library. Because I knew who my next target was going to be—Loki.
Agrona raced over, picked up Lucretia, and bent down next to her protégé. She started to touch Vivian, but the Reaper girl flinched and pulled away from her, mumbling more nonsense words to herself.
“What did you do to her?” Agrona whispered, watching Vivian rock back and forth on the cold marble.
“She wanted to play in my head,” I said in a harsh voice. “So I showed her exactly what was in there.”
Agrona gave me a sharp look. “You showed her your memories?”
I smiled. “Just the bad ones. Believe me, I have plenty of those, thanks to you guys.”
Fear flickered in her green eyes before she could hide it. “You must have overloaded her brain. You’ve . . . you’ve destroyed her mind.”
I looked down at Vivian and shrugged. “Probably. But it was the same thing she wanted to do to me, and no less than what she deserved after everything she’s done.”
Maybe it would have been kinder if I’d killed her after all, but I didn’t say that. I could tell that was what Agrona was thinking—and my friends too. But I wasn’t in a merciful mood, not now, when the real test was still to come.
“Enough of this nonsense!” Loki hissed. “Attack! Attack! Attack! And this time, don’t stop until you’ve killed every last one of them!”
I’d known that was what he was going to say, and I didn’t hesitate. Even as my friends leaped out from behind the stacks to engage the Reapers, I pushed past Agrona and ran straight at the god. I raised Vic high, brought the sword up, around, and down, and slammed the blade into Loki’s chest—right where his heart would be, if he even had one.
Triumph filled me. I’d done it. I’d beaten Vivian, and now, I’d killed Loki too.
The god looked down at the sword buried in his chest. Then, he raised his head and looked me in the eyes.
He just . . . laughed and laughed, right in my face. “Oh, you stupid, stupid girl,” he sneered, his foul
breath kissing my cheeks like a rotten gust of wind. “Did you really think you could kill me with a mere sword?”
“Hey!” Vic snapped. “I’m not just any mere sword, pal!”
I yanked the sword free and stepped back, but I wasn’t ready to give up. Not yet.
I stabbed Loki again and again, slicing Vic every which way I could across his chest, his neck, even his arms and legs. All the while, he kept right on laughing at me, amused by my frantic struggles. No blood poured out of his wounds, and it seemed like I was slicing my sword through air instead of into someone’s body.
All around me, I could hear the shouts and screams of the fight, but I didn’t dare turn to look at how the rest of my friends were faring against the Reapers. For a moment, Logan and Agrona stepped into my line of sight. Agrona slashed at him again and again with Lucretia, but Logan easily blocked all of her blows, then whipped his sword up and buried the point in her heart. Grim satisfaction filled Logan’s face as Agrona dropped to the floor—dead.Loki laughed again, and I pushed away all thoughts of Logan. I yanked Vic out of Loki’s chest and stood there, panting and trying to get my breath back after my last frenzied attack. The god tilted his head to the side, his neck crack-crack-cracking as he studied me, his two red eyes burning into my violet ones.
“You know, what you did to that girl was quite impressive,” Loki purred. “Perhaps Agrona made a mistake trying to get me a Spartan body. Perhaps what I’ve really needed all along was your body, Gypsy.”
He stretched out a hand toward me. The thought of him infecting my body, my mind, my soul, the same way he had Logan’s was so horrifying that I almost leaped back.
Self-sacrifice is a very powerful thing, especially if you do it of your own free will. Once again, Nike’s voice whispered in my mind. And it didn’t stop there.
You have free will, Gwendolyn, just like every creature, mortal, and god does. Remember that because it’s the most important thing I’ll ever tell you.
Never forget that because it’s the very thing Loki and his Reapers are trying to take away from you—your right to choose your own fate.
One after another, I remembered bits and pieces of all my conversations with Nike, all the times she’d come to me, all the cryptic things and riddles she’d said. And suddenly, I knew what I had to do. Maybe I’d known it somewhere in the back of my mind all along and just hadn’t wanted to face it until now.
I couldn’t kill Loki. He was a god, simple as that. Immortal. Eternal. Forever.
But I wasn’t.
I wasn’t a god, and my body wasn’t immortal, eternal, forever, or anything even close to that.
No, it was—I was—decidedly mortal. And utterly killable.
So when Loki stretched out his hand toward me, I let his fingers close around my throat, even as I stared up into his burning red eyes. I saw so many things there. Hate, rage, disgust, but most of all, I saw triumph—triumph that he’d finally succeeded in finding a way to defeat Nike once and for all. Not by killing me, but by corrupting me with himself.
What he didn’t realize was that the same triumph was reflected back in my own eyes.
So I tightened my grip on Vic, closed my eyes, and let the evil god’s soul infect my own.
It was—Loki was—horrible.
Absolutely, completely, utterly horrible.
His soul slammed into my body like a bolt of lightning, frying me from the inside out. I could hear him laughing in my head, and my vision immediately went Reaper red. The only thing that wasn’t that awful color was Vic’s lone, purplish eye. Everything else just looked . . . bloody.
All the while, I was dimly aware that I was screaming—screaming and screaming as Loki infected every single part of me. I thought I’d known what Logan had gone through when it had happened to him, but seeing his memories hadn’t prepared me for the intense, unending pain and the sheer, utter agony. But I concentrated on the cold, hard feel of Vic in my hand, and I let Loki do his worst to me.
“Yes,” I heard the god murmur in my mind, or perhaps I was the one who was saying the words out loud. I couldn’t quite tell. “Oh yes. This Gypsy girl’s body will do quite nicely.”
I screamed again as he dived even deeper inside me, burrowing down farther and farther, drilling into every single part of my mind, my body, my heart and soul, until I could almost see the bright purple spark at the center of my being start to take on an ugly red tint. I was aware of Loki’s hand falling away from my throat, and his body dropping to the floor, since it was nothing but an empty shell, now that he was inside me.
“Gwen! Gwen!” I thought I heard Logan screaming my name, but his voice sounded dim and distant, as though both of us were underwater.
Eventually, the pain died down to a more manageable level, although I could still feel Loki inside my body, rifling through my insides like they were index cards, and murmuring to himself, or perhaps both of us, as he took stock of me.
“Yes, yes, young and strong,” he purred. “Oh, the things I’ll be able to do in your body, Gypsy. Nike will rue the day she ever dared to stand against me. It will be such a pleasure using you against her.”
I let him rant. It was all I could do to keep breathing—in and out, in and out—and not lose myself completely in the foul god’s rotten core. Even so, I could feel it eating away at me like acid. Slowly, I managed to turn around and realized that the fight had stopped and everyone—Reaper and Protectorate alike—was staring at me with wide eyes and gaping mouths.
“Gypsy girl?” Logan whispered in a horrified voice, slowly creeping toward me.
I could see a burning reflection in his blue gaze, and I realized that my eyes must be red—as Reaper red as his had been that day at the auditorium when Agrona had tried to put Loki’s soul into his body.
I tried to smile at Logan, tried to let him know that everything was going to be okay, this was all part of my plan, that it had to be this way, but it hurt too much, so I quickly gave up. Besides, I knew what I had to do now, and time was running out. Another minute, and Loki would have complete control of me. There would be no coming back from any of it.
Not for me—not for anyone.
Of course, I didn’t plan on coming back anyway, but if I was going to die, then I was determined to take Loki with me.
Everything felt odd and clumsy and large and heavy, as if my hands suddenly weren’t big enough for my body. But then again, it wasn’t really my body anymore— it was his.
So it took a lot of concentration and a couple of tries to bring up Vic and turn the sword around. I cut my right palm on his sharp blade, but it was a small, dull ache compared to the rest of the pain burning through my body.
I raised Vic up. His eye was still the same purple as before, and I focused on that soft twilight shade, letting it center me for what I had to do next.
“I’ll miss you, Vic,” I whispered, although it wasn’t my voice coming out of my mouth anymore. “I love you.” A single tear streaked down Vic’s hilt. “I love you
I pointed the sword’s tip inward at my chest. In front of me, I saw Logan’s eyes bulge as he figured out what I was going to do. He ran toward me, trying to stop me, but he was going to be too late.
But he wasn’t the only one who finally realized what I was planning. Loki stopped his soft murmuring, and his burning red eyes popped up into my mind, blotting out everything else, and peering at me as if I was doing a most curious and worrisome thing.
“What—what are you doing?” Loki’s voice flooded my mind again, rising to a sharp screech on the very last word. “You—you can’t do this. Stop! I command you! Stop!”
I let out a long, loud, crazy laugh that echoed from one side of the library to the other and rose all the way up to the domed ceiling before it abruptly bounced back down again. I positioned Vic so that his tip rested against my heart. His point pricked my skin, drawing a bit of blood, and I focused on that small flash of pain. Suddenly, I could feel claws scraping down my insides and seizing onto the tendons and muscles in my arms, tearing, ripping, and trying to get me to drop the sword. But I tightened my grip and held on.
“You will stop this madness at once!” Loki hissed again. “I demand that you stop right now!”
I laughed again.
“That’s where you’re wrong,” I said. “That’s where you’ve always been wrong. This whole time. All these centuries. You can’t stop me. You can’t stop me from doing one single thing, especially not this.”
“And why is that?” he hissed.
I smiled, even though he couldn’t see me. “Free will.” Then, I rammed Vic’s point into my heart as hard as I
There was a bright, blinding flash of pain. Then . . . nothing.
I sucked in a breath and sat bolt upright.
At least, that’s what I thought I did. One second, I was slamming Vic into my chest and feeling all the pain of the mortal wound I’d given myself and the warm blood that slicked down my hands. The next, I was standing in the middle of the Library of Antiquities, still holding Vic.
I looked down, but I wasn’t bleeding anymore. In fact, I was perfectly clean, and my clothes showed none of the wear and tear from the battles out on the quad. I brought my hand up to my chest, and I realized that I could feel a third mark slashing over the other two scars already over my heart. The wound throbbed, but the pain felt dull and far away.