Dark Skye Read online

Page 20


Chapter 19

  Thronos snatched her hand, sprinting for the main cave—then skidded to a stop just beyond the door. The outside opening was blocked by another dragon, apparently the same one from earlier! Had it returned with reinforcements? Back to the temple. “They’re getting angrier,” she cried. “Fire comes next!” The dragon perched at the ceiling opening sucked in such a deep breath that Lanthe’s braids rose. She heard a hiss like a punctured oxygen tank. That sound must be its fuel. Just as fire erupted, Thronos hunched over her against the wall, covering her with his wings, two mighty shields. The force of the flames was like a boot kick to his back; he lurched forward against Lanthe. “Ah, gods, are you okay?” He bit out, “Why wouldn’t I be?” Had he just made a joke? Now? “Ready to leave?” Sweat beaded his strained face. “How?” She could swear she scented . . . melting gold. Was the dragon fire burning it to liquid? When the flames receded, Thronos lowered his wing, glancing out. “The temple has another secret doorway. ” She peeked out through two folds of his wings. “But the dragon’s still above. ” She spotted something that couldn’t be right. Amid a piping hot puddle of molten gold was a red medallion on a matching chain. Red gold. It had to be silisk gold—a. k. a. dragon’s gold. “Down!” Thronos covered her again, and once more a blast of flames battered them. “We’re going to run when he draws his next breath. ” “I-I need to collect something. ” “Your gauntlets? You don’t need those!” “First of all, yes, I do. Second, I’m talking about a medallion, behind you. Three o’clock. ” He glanced in that direction. “Forget it, sorceress. ” Gritting his teeth, he said, “Past the benches is a second door. We run as soon as these flames end. Now. ” He shoved her in front of him, wings cloaking her as they rushed to the wall across the temple. When Thronos’s eyes darted over the markings, hers went wide. “You’re reading them! That’s how you found this place!” He started manipulating sections of gold. “What of it!” Just as the gold door began to inch open, the dragon drew another breath. She heard that hissing sound. The door was too slow . . . too slow! Through the opening crack, she spied a shadowy corridor with stone steps leading down. “Go!” Thronos propelled her inside. She was several flights down before he closed in behind her. Flames followed them. He blocked them with his wings. Once they were out of range of the fire, he said, “Get behind me! We’ve no idea what we’re heading into. ” She nodded, shifting aside to let him lead as they raced farther down. A narrow passageway like this would prevent him from using his wings to strike. Now that she was working with him—somewhat—his vulnerabilities were hers as well. If they’d encountered those ghouls in this tight an area, she and Thronos would be dead, or worse. The air grew hazy. Steam and smoke choked the corridor. Ahead, a rectangular opening seemed to glow. An exit! She stumbled. He glanced back. “I’m fine!” He sped through the exit onto a pathway— A pathway that was bordered by a sheer cliff dropping into a river of lava. He was pinwheeling at the edge! She didn’t think; her hand shot out, grasping the back of his breeches to reel him back in. He gave her an irritated look over his shoulder. “I can fly, you know. ” Lava erupted from below in a geyser inches from his face. “Run!” As they sprinted down the winding path, he positioned his wings over them. They barely evaded the deluge of lava. Glancing back, she said, “If you’d fallen and tried to fly, that lava would have engulfed you. ” He couldn’t deny it. “I think the words you’re searching for are ‘Thank you, oh great and wonderful sorceress. ’?” He narrowed his eyes. “You saved me from falling now. If only you’d shown me the same consideration when I was a boy. ” “If only you’d warned my family that yours was coming over for tea and decapitation! What else have you got? I can do this all day!” She heard rock crunching behind them. The dragons were scaling the mountainside in pursuit! Four lights blazed on the other side of the peak—from the dragons’ eyes. Like movie-premiere spotlights directed straight up into the sky, they cut through the steam and murk. “When they crest, we’ll have to hide,” Thronos said. “For now, get as far down the path as you can. ” As she ran, she could see that the mountains on each side of the plateau below were actually the beginnings of two jagged ranges. More peaks lined the ongoing plateau and distant valleys—like teeth. Farther down, she came upon a wooden handrail. She reached for it, nearly stumbling when it disintegrated into ash. “Careful, Melanthe!” Like a domino chain, the rail began collapsing into ash, foot by foot for what looked like leagues. “I’m sick of heights!” As they raced forward, Thronos kept her between him and the mountain. The lower they got on the path, the more lava spurted in their way, forcing them to leap and dodge. Molten silver ore spilled from the charred mountainside, flashing in the firelight—distracting her. “Eyes forward, sorceress!” When they had to vault over a burned-out section of the ledge and she nearly fell short, he snapped, “Come to me. ” Without a word, she turned to hop into his arms, locking her legs around his waist, her arms around his neck. When he squeezed her against him, she said, “I’m getting used to jumping you. ” He did a double take as he set off once more. “Are you, then?” “Easy, tiger. I meant that we keep having to run for our lives. ” “Just watch our back. ” As he lunged across another gulley, he said, “I couldn’t have warned you about my father. ” “What?” “I had no idea of his plans until after he and his men had left. I dove for the abbey, but by the time I got there, he’d already killed your parents. ” The truth of that night. “How’d he find out?” “My tutor saw me sneaking out and followed me. ” Thronos slowed to meet her eyes. “I never betrayed you, Melanthe. I’d been tempted to tell my parents about you—I knew the Hall would move soon—but I would’ve talked to you about it first. ” To his clear surprise, she said, “I believe you. ” Then her gaze drifted past him. “They’re cresting! We have to hide. ” Thronos’s wings would perfectly match this blackened rock face and the silver ore that drizzled from the stone. “Good thing you blend. ” “I do not blend. ” “Face it, demon, you blend like a native of hell. Luckily for us, the fire-breathing dragon breeds don’t scent so well. ” “How would you know?” “I’ve hung out with a pack of them in Rothkalina. My sister can talk to them. They’re really nice once you get to know them, only attacking trespassers and such. . . . ” She trailed off when Thronos froze in place, craning his head up. She followed his gaze. At least a dozen dragons swarmed the side of the mountain like bats coating a cave ceiling.