Dark Skye Read online
If I take you into the air, they’ll rip you from me,” Thronos grated as the ground began to vibrate beneath their feet. “More are coming!” Lanthe cried. Just beyond the brush, demon foot soldiers were charging toward them. “I’ll have to fight them here. ” She’d seen him victorious against a number of ghouls, but demons were cunning. With reluctance, Thronos released her hand, bringing his wings in tight to strike. “Stay behind me—right at the edge of those markers. The demons won’t go near them. ” She edged back. “But don’t cross the line, Lanthe—” The first wave broke from the brush. So many of them! In a blur, swords arced out, whistling all around Thronos. He struck with both wings. Heads rolled across the ground like horned bowling balls. Jugular blood painted the silver grass red. More demons advanced. More died. When Thronos’s wings whipped like sails, billowing the air, a fine mist of crimson sprayed over her face. Any demon who attacked paid with his life. Thronos decapitated with a ruthless efficiency. But they kept coming. Even the demons at the back started firing on Thronos, lobbing a hail of spears and daggers, fire and ice grenades. He had to use one wing as a constant shield against the sky as more warriors closed in, swarming like ants from a kicked mound. He deflected the volleys, but he was getting slower, expending so much strength. He couldn’t stall them for much longer. Only a matter of time. Then he would die, and she’d be captured. Unless she did something. When in trouble . . . Portal! She had some power, but was it enough to create a gateway to a different world, under pressure, just two days after her last one? It’ll never happen. Still, she raised her hand, dispelling sorcery right at the edge of the hell zone. As she labored to split the seam of this reality, Thronos must have felt the energy; he turned to her with his blood-wetted wings splayed, a warning in his eyes: Do not run from me. She gasped. In the lightning flashes, he looked like a . . . legend. Like an avenging angel. From hell. Every inch of his skin was coated with others’ blood, his own as well. Gashes sliced his flesh, bisecting ancient scars. Stark against the crimson, his eyes were fully onyx—and locked on Lanthe as he began fighting his way toward her. A rift was opening, drawing her attention from him! Come on, portal! Come on! Almost big enough for her to step through. Rothkalina, Rothkalina, Rothkalina, she repeated like a mantra. There was nothing to stop her from leaving Pandemonia. Could she abandon Thronos to save herself? To return to her family? After that kiss . . . Look back over your shoulder at him again, and you’ll regret it. Still, at the threshold, Lanthe bit her lip and turned back. “Don’t!” His voice was rife with pain—as if he already knew she would leave him behind. “Don’t run from me, lamb!” Lamb. He hadn’t called her that since they were children. She remembered their last day together as they’d sat beneath his wings. She’d sighed that she loved him. His voice had been thick when he’d replied, “I-I love you too, lamb. ” Damn him! She couldn’t leave him. Though demons dogged his heels, she bit out a curse and waited for him. I can’t believe I’m doing this! He looked as shocked as she felt. Yet then he cast her that determined expression of his, the one she now recognized. It meant he believed he was about to beat all odds and triumph. He continued fighting to reach her, but with his attention divided, his strikes weren’t as efficient. She could see demons circling him in the air—and on the ground. Some lay in wait between Thronos and Lanthe. He’d never reach her. And malicious gazes had already turned to her. Demons ready to kill. Or worse. Think, Lanthe! She couldn’t use persuasion on this many, especially not the ones farthest back. She frowned. Did she even need to? As Sabine had told her: Illusion is reality. Lanthe yanked off the chain around her neck, holding it in a fist above her head. The pieces clanked loudly. “Look what I’ve got!” A few demons locked their gazes on the shining keys. Infusing her command with sorcery, she yelled, “Look, Pandemonians, look. ” Blue light coiled all around her, until she was radiating as brightly as the lightning above. More warriors stilled, hushed murmurs floating over the crowd. In the lull, Thronos backed toward her. She jostled the keys above her. “Do you want these?” Her sorcery was reflected in the eyes of the closest demons. “Or should I simply disintegrate them—with my deadly blue light?” Ha! Audible gasps sounded. “I am a great and terrible goddess, the Keeper of Keys and the Queen of Hell. ” She pointed at Thronos. “He is the mighty . . . Reader of Words. ” (Best she got. ) “Cease fighting him!” Another command. The demons closest to her disengaged at once. Brows raised, Thronos hastened to her. He mouthed, Reader of Words? Lanthe wasn’t done yet. She told the crowd, “Though we leave you now, I will return with these keys”—return for more gold—“but only if you achieve peace here. ” Geopolitical stability makes for easier treasure transpo. “Understood?” She slipped the necklace back on. When the unsteady threshold began to waver and shrink, Thronos sprinted for her. Would the space be wide enough for them to squeeze through? He tucked her against him on his way to the portal. “You awaited me. For the first time, you didn’t run from me!” At her ear, he rasped, “You will never regret this. ” Clasping her tight, he dove for the opening at the last second. The rift sealed behind them as they barreled headlong into a new world.