Dark Skye Read online

Page 14


Chapter 13

  Lanthe had been certain of death, convinced their momentum would slam them into the side of a mountain, crushing them or giving them a lava bath. Instead, Thronos had hit the bull’s-eye, then slid home. She drew back to face him. —Okay. That was a pretty cool move. Way to thread the needle. — She thought it took him a second longer than usual to scowl down at her. He set her to her feet, steadying her with a big palm over her shoulder. —Thanks. — He jerked his hand away, looking angry with himself. Then he turned to survey the area. Thanks to the glow of the lava flows just beyond the cave mouth, there was enough ambient light for even Lanthe to see clearly. Each of the cave walls had been hewn smooth, as if to create a canvas for a multitude of etched hieroglyphs. There were pillars to support the ceiling, a raised rock shelf along the back wall, and layers of dust. She’d been to ancient ruins before. This place seemed so old it made those other ones appear techno. Thronos cased the perimeter, pausing at intervals to scent the air. What she wouldn’t give for his heightened senses. And his strength, she added when he moved a fallen pillar out of his way, plucking it up as if it were a matchstick. “You have no idea why we arrived here?” he asked. She shook her head, trailing after him. In the back left corner of the cave, she perceived something that made the tiny hairs on her nape stand up. There was only one way her senses could trump Thronos’s: recognizing the call of gold. Yet the wall appeared solid. Looking for a door, she examined some glyphs, brushing away dust. She gave the marks a few pokes with a gauntlet claw, but found nothing. Even as she walked away, she glanced over her shoulder longingly. Maybe there was a mother lode locked in the mountain, never to be discovered in this hell plane. The idea left her deflated. Now that the adrenaline of their escape had waned, she was growing dizzy with fatigue and blood loss. Her regenerating tongue was sending waves of pain throughout her mouth and head. “Do you recognize these markings, sorceress?” She’d been learning Demonish in Rothkalina, was conversant at least, but she didn’t recognize this. —Proto-Pandemonian, maybe? Or some kind of primitive Demonish?— Thronos looked even more unsettled than before, shoving his fingers through his thick hair. Something about this cave was affecting him. “You expect me to believe your door to Pandemonia was random?” —We could have gone anywhere, anyplace in existence. Believe me, it could’ve been worse. — “Worse than Pandemonia?” —Absolutely. — Foreign realms were often lethal to some degree, so dangerous that only an immortal could survive there. Though many in the Lore believed immortals were quasi-deities, others thought they’d been forced to evolve in those foreign dimensions, to become ever more hardy, until one eon they became . . . undying. Then they’d traveled across realities to inhabit the mortal world, attracted to the relative ease of that plane. So basically, Sorceri had evolved with senses only a little better than a human’s, bodies that were weak compared to other Lore species, and life spans that could end from far more than just a beheading or mystical fire. Her species sucked at evolution. “What realm trumps this one, Melanthe?” —At least there’s rain here. — She started wringing out her hair. —We could have gone to Oblivion, forced to fight other demons for water. — His wings twitched with irritation. “Other demons?” —Would you rather we’d landed in Feveris?— Anyone who entered that plane was bespelled with unending, uncontrollable desire. “Feveris, then?” Had his voice grown huskier? “The Land of Lusts?” If she’d had more blood left in her body, she might have blushed at his tone. “Have you been there?” he asked. She had, just to dip a toe, to see if the rumors were true. Her servants had tied a rope around her waist to drag her back if she got bespelled, a precaution they’d been forced to use. Within minutes, Lanthe had begun stripping for a gnome. —Maybe. — She’d never forget that perpetually sunny, coastal plane, redolent with the scent of Hawaiian Tropic, island flowers, and sex. Or its twinkling rays of sun . . . “I’m sure you felt right at home there,” he grated. She was still smarting from his harlot comment on the prison island. —Maybe YOU influenced me to open this door to Pandemonia, demon! All last night I was captive of a demon, so naturally I opened a threshold to YOUR home world. — He stalked up to her, yelling, “Do not call me demon!” She forced herself to hold her ground, then repeated his earlier words: —Sensitive about this, creature?— “Demons are savage. Vrekeners have grace and a sacred purpose. We are descended from gods!” —How do you know this?— “From the Tales of Troth—sanctified knowledge passed on from one Vrekener generation to the next for millennia. ” —I’m going to have to stop you, because you’ve already bored me. In any case, my brother-in-law Rydstrom is no savage. He’s one of the best males I know. — “Enough of Rydstrom! You sound infatuated with him. ” —He is hot. — “That’s what you like? Ever superficial, sorceress. ” —And you are ever pathologically jealous. — “It’s much deeper than jealousy. The males you bedded stole from me. You stole from me. ” —What did I steal?— “Years and children. I would have killed any other for such a grievous loss. ” —That’s what you’ve wanted from me all this time? Years and children? Even if those years would have been miserable?— “I accept that our existence together will be bleak. The most I hope for is that we can raise our offspring without killing each other. ” Lanthe’s biological clock—which had no idea Thronos was a kidnapping, judgmental prick—quickened at the words our offspring. Being a doting auntie to the twins had jump-started Lanthe’s clock. Caring for little Ruby in the prison had put it into overdrive. That she was at the tail end of her fertile time probably wasn’t helping matters. But children with Thronos? Never. It would be bad enough if Lanthe was trapped in Skye Hell, being brainwashed; she’d be damned if her children shunned laughter, for gold’s sake. “You don’t seem averse to the idea of young in general,” he observed. Not at all. And it wasn’t like she hadn’t been looking for a partner all these years. Too bad each of her forays had ended poorly. She would either gain a creepy new admirer, have her powers stolen, or get the dreaded brush-off: males wincing at their watches, claiming, “Got a really early morning tomorrow, sweet. ” Then they’d blaze. Hit it and quit it. Nail and bail. Yet never a conceive and leave, because she’d taken precautions whenever she’d been in season. “How could you not have had children?” Thronos demanded. “Your opportunities for impregnation must have been legion. ” She was making a note of all these slut-shaming comments, vowing to throw his demonic origins in his face at every opportunity. —Each day, I’m going to give you two harlot cards to play. If you play more than your two, then I’m going to retaliate, and you won’t enjoy it. — “Answer the question. ” —My wanting children is a recent development, one that has come to a screeching halt now that I’m your captive. Once I get free, I might investigate the possibility further. — “You’ll never be free of me. ” The words sounded like a sentencing. Meeting her gaze, he said, “Every second we’re together, I get under your skin as deeply as you’ve scarred mine. ” This was like arguing with a wall. A demonic, flying wall. —What’s your plan now?— “Avoid the war on the plateau below. ” The sound of it filtered upward so unceasingly that already it had become a kind of white noise. “Which means we’ll be staying in this cave until you can create a portal to the mortal realm. From there, I’ll take you to the Skye. ” —You’re not hearing me. Thronos, if you didn’t know about the attacks, then your knights were acting outside your orders. What’s to stop them from pitching me over the side up there?— “My knights would not have dared harm you. ” Had he sounded a touch less smug about that? Less confident? She had to keep chipping away at his stubborn beliefs. —This sorceress is predicting some big adjustments in your future. You’re going to have to accept that Vrekeners break their word, and that your chivalrous and valiant knights laughed as they dropped a terrified girl to her death. You’re going to have to accept that your men sought to murder your eleven-year-old mate with a pitchfork while she fought not