|Home > Jennifer Estep > Mythos Academy > Midnight Frost (Page 6)|
|Midnight Frost(Mythos Academy #5) by Jennifer Estep|
"I've got him!" I yelled. "You circle around! We have to cut him off before he reaches one of the side doors and gets outside!"
Oliver nodded, turned, and raced in that direction.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Nickamedes standing behind the checkout counter holding his bottle of water - the water that had been poisoned along with mine. I immediately veered in that direction.
"Stop!" I yelled. "Don't drink that!"
"Gwendolyn?" Nickamedes said, his brow furrowing as he stared at the chaos in and around the study tables. "What's going on? What are you doing? Why are all the students drawing their weapons instead of studying?"
I slapped the water bottle out of the librarian's hand. "Don't drink that!"
Nickamedes looked at me like I'd lost my mind, but I was already moving past him, reaching down, grabbing Vic, and pulling the weapon free from his scabbard. The sword's eye snapped open, and he fixed his purplish gaze on me.
"Reaper?" he asked in a hopeful voice.
I felt the sword's mouth curve into a smile against the palm of my hand.
"Fuzzball!" Vic barked. "Time to fight!"
Nyx scrambled up out of her basket and let out a fierce growl, like a soldier obeying her general's orders.
"Gwendolyn?" Nickamedes asked again, his blue eyes going back and forth between the three of us.
"Reaper! Poison! Chase!" That was all I managed to get out before I rounded the counter, headed toward the back of the library, and started to run again.
Those moments at the checkout counter had cost me, and I didn't see Oliver or Jason as I darted into the back half of the building. The lights were turned down low on this side of the library, making the shadows seem that much darker and even more sinister than usual. But instead of charging blindly down the aisles, I slowed, eased up beside a bookcase, and peered around it.
Nothing - I saw and heard nothing.
Rows of books stretched out as far as I could see before the shadows swallowed them up at the far end of the aisle. A few glass artifact cases squatted here and there in front of the shelves, the metal and jewels inside gleaming like dull stars. I drew in several long, slow breaths, trying to calm my racing heart, and straining to hear any footsteps, any rustles of clothing, or any other whispers of movement that would tell me where Jason was.
Nothing - once again, I saw and heard nothing.
Well, if Jason wasn't going to come to me, I'd have to find him instead. So I tightened my grip on Vic and eased down the aisle, looking in front of and behind me, and peering left and right through the rows of books on either side. Nyx trotted along behind me like a pup-sized sentry. The Fenrir wolf was quiet, although her toenails softly scraped against the floor. I thought about calling out to Oliver, but I didn't want to give away my position to Jason -
I started to move over to the study tables on this side of the library when Nyx let out a fierce growl and a sword zoomed out of the darkness. I jumped to my left, and the blade bounced off the side of one of the bookcases, throwing red sparks everywhere.
I whirled around. Jason was behind me. Jeans, sweater, nice features. He looked the same as before with one notable difference - his eyes were glowing red. A bright, fiery, intense red that told me exactly how much he hated me - and just how much he wanted to kill me.
He let out a wild battle cry and raised his weapon for another strike.
Back and forth, we fought through the study tables. Nyx danced all around us, trying to get into the battle, but Jason and I were moving too fast for that. He cursed every time I blocked one of his attacks, but I didn't bother responding to him.
All I wanted to do right now was kill him.
"Gwen!" Oliver's voice drifted out of the stacks to me.
"Over here!" I yelled back.
Jason lashed out with his sword, causing me to jump back. He glanced over his shoulder and saw the same thing I did - Oliver running out of the stacks, still clutching that keyboard.
Jason lunged forward. The attack caught me by surprise, and I stumbled back a few more steps. My hip hit the side of one of the study tables, and I growled with pain. I raised Vic, expecting Jason to try to end me while my defenses were down, but, instead, he turned and ran again. I started after him, but my legs got tangled up in a chair, and it took me a few precious seconds to free myself, even though I knew any delay on my part would let him escape.
But I'd forgotten I wasn't the only one fighting the Reaper - Nyx was too.
I don't know how she did it, since she was actually behind me, but the Fenrir wolf pup sank down on her haunches and sprang through the air, leaping farther than I'd ever seen her go before - and landing on the back of one of Jason's legs.
Nyx let out another growl and sank her needle-sharp baby teeth into his calf. Jason yelped in pain and staggered forward, his leg almost buckling beneath him. Nyx drew back and bit him again. Jason managed to shake her off, sending the wolf pup sliding across the floor, but he was limping as he headed toward one of the side doors, shoved it open, and staggered out.
Oliver finally reached me. "Gwen! Are you okay!"
"I'm fine. We have to get him!"
He nodded, and we pushed through the door after our enemy. Nyx scrambled to her feet and chased after us, as well.
The wolf pup must have done more damage to Jason than I'd realized, because he hadn't made it very far, having only hobbled down a set of steps and then a few feet out onto the quad, leaving a trail of blood drops behind him. Oliver threw away his keyboard, leaped onto the balcony wall, then launched himself through the air and onto Jason's back. The two guys hit the snowy ground with an audible thud.
Jason tried to attack Oliver, but the Spartan slapped his sword away. The Reaper managed to throw Oliver off of him, and both guys sprang back up onto their feet.
I raced down the steps, Vic still clutched in my hands, and Oliver and I both slowly advanced on Jason. Nyx was there too, her violet eyes fixed on him, teeth bared, and growls rumbling out of her tiny throat like a car engine steadily churning. Jason turned to run, but once again, his leg almost went out from under him. He yelped with pain and pulled up short.
"It's over," I said. "You're hurt, and we're not. Give it up."
He turned to face us. His eyes, which were still that horrible Reaper red, zoomed from me to Oliver and back again. Instead of answering me, Jason reached into his jeans pocket. I tensed, expecting him to come up with a dagger or maybe a throwing star, but all he pulled out was a red paper pouch. He wasted no time in ripping it open with his teeth.
Oliver started forward, but I held up my hand, stopping him. That pouch probably had the same kind of white powder in it that I'd seen Jason dump into the water bottles. Maybe you had to eat the poison for it to work, or maybe it just had to touch your skin or get in your nose or eyes. Either way, he could easily douse us with it, and I didn't want to take that risk.
Jason realized we weren't going to be dumb enough to charge him, and his mouth twisted down into an angry, sullen pout. Behind us, more lights turned on inside the library, and more shouts and yells cut through the night air.
"It's over," I repeated. "The Protectorate guards will be here any second. You're done. Give it up."
Jason stared at me, considering my words. He looked at Oliver again, then his red gaze dropped to the pouch in his hand. He hesitated a second longer, then raised it up, and I realized what he was going to do - poison himself, sacrifice himself, to the evil god.
"Don't do it," I warned. "Loki isn't worth it. Trust me. You've already ruined your life by serving him. Don't let him take away what's left of it too."
"As if I could go back to the other Reapers after failing my mission. And of course Loki is worth it," Jason sneered. His voice, which I remembered being so soft and kind, was now harsh with hate. "You'll realize that soon enough - when you and all of your stupid friends are cowering at his feet. That day is coming, Gypsy - sooner than you think."
Even as I started forward to try to stop him, I knew it was already too late. Jason drew in a breath, tipped the contents of the pouch into his mouth, and swallowed them. He grimaced, as though the powder left a bad taste behind. After a moment, his eyes bulged, and he reached up and started clawing at his throat.
"Burns . . ." he rasped. "It . . . burns . . ."
His legs went out from under him, and he collapsed on the cold, snow-dusted grass. I went over to him, but it was no use. Jason started convulsing, and a strange smell filled the air - almost like the sharp tang of a pine tree. As quickly as he started convulsing, the Reaper stopped. His head lolled to the side, and a bit of white foam trickled out the side of his mouth.
I watched as the fierce red light burning in Jason's eyes dimmed, dulled, and finally died - and so did he.
I don't know how long I stood over Jason's body, staring into his sightless eyes as if they would tell me something important.
As if they would actually let me understand why someone would willingly choose to serve a god who wanted to hurt, kill, and enslave other people. As if looking into his eyes would tell me why he'd sacrificed himself for such a horrible creature as Loki. Was it the power the evil god promised his followers? A desire to be as cruel as Loki himself was? Or something else entirely? I didn't know, and I didn't understand. I didn't know if I would ever understand - or maybe I just didn't want to.
"Gwen?" Oliver said, putting a hand on my shoulder. "Are you okay?"
I let out a breath. "Yeah. We're alive, and he's not. I guess that's all that matters, right?"
"Of course that's all that matters," Vic said. "Don't you think so, fuzzball?"
Nyx let out a yippy growl, agreeing with him.
Oliver slung his arm around my shoulders, and I moved closer to him, glad he was here with me. After a moment, I stepped away from him and stared down at Jason's body again.
"Do you think - do you think I should touch him?" I asked. "Before his memories completely fade away?"
Oliver shook his head and pointed at the red paper pouch in Jason's hand. "No. We don't know how that poison works or what other kind he might have on him. It could be on his skin, on his clothes. It's not worth the risk. The Protectorate guards will look through his backpack and check out his phone and laptop. Hopefully, that will tell them exactly what he was up to and who he was working with. Maybe it will even give the Protectorate some leads on where Vivian and Agrona might be."
"And what if that's not enough?"
Oliver shrugged. "It'll have to be - "
A phone started ringing. Oliver and I looked at each other, then at the dead boy. It was his phone. I hesitated, then dropped to my knees beside him.
"Gwen? What are you doing?" Oliver asked.
"Don't worry. I'll be careful."
I pulled down the edge of my hoodie sleeve and used it to fish Jason's phone out of his jacket pocket, careful not to touch the phone with my bare fingers, before getting back up onto my feet. Still using my sleeve, I tapped the screen to accept the call and held the phone up close to my ear.
"Finally!" Vivian Holler's voice filled my ear. "I was starting to think you were never going to pick up. Is it done yet?"
I didn't know who I'd expected to be on the other end of the line, but hearing the Reaper girl's voice startled me so much that I almost lost my grip on the phone. For one crazy moment, I wondered if this was some twisted new version of my nightmare. But it couldn't be that - otherwise Logan would have been here, stabbing me to death again.
"Jason?" Vivian asked again. "Are you there? Did Gwen drink the poison?"
I finally found my voice. "So sorry to disappoint, Viv. But I'm not dead yet."
Oliver's eyebrows shot up in his face at the realization of who I was talking to.
But Vivian must have been just as surprised to hear my voice as I'd been to hear hers because she didn't say anything. Instead, I heard a faint rasp-rasp-rasping sound. I frowned. It almost sounded like she was jogging across a lawn or something.
"Well, that's too bad," Vivian finally sniped. "Do me a favor, though. Put Jason on the phone. I want to tell him exactly what I plan to do to him for his failure to poison you."
I stared down at his body. "That's going to be a bit difficult, since he's already dead."
"Good," she snarled. "You've saved me the trouble of killing him."
I didn't respond.
"Oh, come on, now, Gwen," Vivian said. "Why are you looking so glum? You've managed to make it through another day. Even if Oliver is the one standing next to you, instead of your precious Logan."
I whirled around, my gaze zooming from one side of the quad to the other. The streetlights along the cobblestone paths cast out golden glows, but shadows cloaked the rest of the area. Still, I knew Vivian was here somewhere - watching me. That was the only way she could have known Oliver was outside with me.
Oliver tapped me on the shoulder. What's wrong? he mouthed. I shook my head. I didn't want him darting off and trying to find Vivian. It would be all too easy for her to ambush him - and me too.
"Logan's fine," I said, trying to make my voice strong and confident. "He's waiting inside the library for me right now."
"Liar," Vivian countered. "I know he's not at Mythos anymore. In fact, I know exactly where he is - with Agrona and the rest of the Reapers. She captured him yesterday morning."
Logan captured by the Reapers? It was my nightmare come true all over again. Still, I tried not to let her hear my panic.