Dark Skye Read online
In the belly of the beast, stygian darkness was interrupted only by glowing green filth. Thronos had awakened to find himself trapped against a pulpy surface, held upright by meaty tentacle-like veins that snaked around his arms and legs. Oozing cavities covered each vein; at that moment, one secreted green sludge onto his disintegrated clothing, his skin, his wings. Pain flared, smoke rising. Acid! The putrid air was noxious, scalding his lungs. He thrashed—the need to fly surging inside him—but he couldn’t get loose. Nïx had given him just four minutes to get himself and Melanthe free. He darted his eyes to his right. Lanthe. She was in the same predicament as he—attached to what looked like a stomach lining, surrounded by sizable glowing pustules. She remained unconscious, no doubt believing them still in Feveris. Acid had eaten away parts of her skin as well, even most of her metal breastplate. The indestructible dragon gold around her neck had protected her to a degree. A pustule burst beside her, thicker tentacles emerging from the sore to sweep up bits of her pale flesh. To consume her. With a bellow, Thronos thrashed with all his might, yanking at his arms. As the tentacle trapping his right arm stretched, he gazed out, spotting thousands more immortals ensnared, unconscious. The stomach walls seemed to go on for miles. In a rush of bile, the tentacle vein around his arm ripped open. He used his claws to slash another. At his legs, he hesitated, peering over his shoulders and then down. Hundreds of feet below him, a bubbling pool of green acid awaited his fall. How damaged were his wings? Praying they could support him—and Melanthe—he freed his legs. He plummeted, unfurling his wings, grimacing in pain. But even in the dense miasma, he was able to ascend the wall back to her. Though he heard eerie moans from a legion of beings, he couldn’t think about anyone but his mate. Nïx had told him that this stomach was too thick to slash through, that he’d be drugged again before he could fight his way free. She’d warned him he had only two hundred and forty seconds from the time he awoke until a poisonous mist would be dispersed, wiping away his memories and sending him back to the place of his most coveted dreams. He darted a glance over his shoulder. On the opposite wall of the stomach, some kind of bulbous gland, at least twenty feet in diameter, was swelling. To emit the mist? Running out of time! A portal was their only hope. He flew to Melanthe. Thronos wished he didn’t have to wake her until he’d taken her from this place—he’d heard of Loreans faced with such horror that they never recovered their faculties—but he had no choice. Gripping the tentacle vein coiled around her arm, he slashed at the rubbery surface, pointing the acid-dripping end away from her body. Her eyes shot open. She sucked in a breath—then released it in an earsplitting shriek. He redoubled his efforts, attacking another tentacle. “No, no, this isn’t happening. ” Her face crumpled. “Tell me it’s not eating my skin!” “Melanthe, you have to calm yourself. You’ve got to create a portal. ” Her head thrashed against the putrid lining, searing strands of her hair clear away. “That’s why it felt like I was burning in Feveris!” Once he’d freed her and taken her into his arms, she latched onto him. “M-make this stop! I’ll do anything. Just make me wake up!” “We are awake. But if we don’t leave this place, we’ll be here for eternity. In Feveris, you restored your power. ” “You said that wasn’t real!” “Didn’t it feel real?” He wished to the gods it had been. “You have power, right now. I need you to use it. Remember, it’s a muscle. ” She darted her gaze at her surroundings, a series of cries bursting from her lips. That gland swelled, threatening to burst. “No, look at me!” He pinched her chin. “I know you can do this. ” Her tears threatened to spill, wrecking him. He rasped, “You can do this, lamb. ” At that, she said, “I-I’ll try. ” When her eyes began to glitter, he murmured, “That’s it. ” He felt her tensing in his arms. Despite her terror, she called up her power; he could perceive it welling, unstoppable. Could others? Unconscious captives moaned louder. Sorcery sparked around her, growing and growing, blazing out from her like dawn—pure, pristine blue overwhelming rancid green. Dimly, in the back of his mind, he wondered how he’d ever considered the light of her sorcery anything but . . . wondrous. Heartbeats passed. She sagged against him. “I did it,” she gasped. “Where?” He spun them in circles. No opening. The mist would come at any second. “It should be here! I made a portal. I felt it happening. ” The gland erupted, spewing a green fog. “Damn it, no!” Relaxation stole through Lanthe’s body. “This is better. ” She grinned up at him as her eyes slid closed. “No, stay with me!” Another turn. Nothing. “Where is the bloody portal?” With dread, he looked down. A narrow tear in this reality lay waiting—one surrounded by piping acid. When the portal started to close, he muttered a prayer, wrapped his wings around Lanthe . . . And dropped. As they plummeted through the rift, he realized some being had followed.