Dark Skye Read online

Page 5

Chapter 4

  Lanthe swiped the back of her forearm over her mouth. “I wondered that myself. ” Earlier, Lanthe, Carrow, Ruby, and two other Sorceri had been whiling away time in their cell, awaiting their turn at vivisection, when suddenly they’d felt a presence; a sorceress of colossal power had descended on this island, La Dorada the Queen of Evil. That female had liberated all the evil beings, popping their collars off—members of the Pravus like Lanthe’s cellmate, Portia the Queen of Stone. Portia had used her goddesslike control over rock of any kind to raise mountains up through the center of the prison. The force had crushed the thick metal cell walls like tin cans. Her accomplice, Emberine the Queen of Flames, had lit the place up like an inferno. Immortals had flooded out, overpowering the Order’s various defenses. Then . . . pande-fucking-monium. Humans—and collared Loreans—had been gutted, drained of blood, infected by ghouls or Wendigos, raped to death by succubae, or eaten by any number of creatures. The Queen of Evil, a freaking fellow Sorceri, had left Lanthe helpless in the midst of that chaos. Real solidarity there, Dorada. And yet she’d freed Thronos, a Vrekener? He was a “knight of reckoning,” the equivalent of a Lore sheriff. Lanthe raised her face to the rain, collecting a mouthful to rinse. Then she turned to him. “Maybe you lost your collar because you’ve become evil over all these centuries. ” “Or maybe my mind was filled with evil imaginings. ” Another flash of his fangs. “You have that effect on me. ” Lanthe worked her way to her feet, swaying dizzily. He’d dropped them onto a sliver of land, hundreds of feet above the ground. From this unsettling vantage, she scanned the night. Though a Sorceri’s night vision wasn’t as acute as most immortals’, she could see a good deal of the island, even in the darkness. Skirmishes were breaking out all over, and the Pravus were dominating. The island teemed with them. She didn’t remember this many Pravus in the cells. She’d bet that alliance was teleporting reinforcements here to pick off the helpless, collared Vertas. Like me. A year ago, she and Sabine had switched sides, helping King Rydstrom the Good reclaim his kingdom of Rothkalina. Prior to that, the sisters had been all Pravus, all the time. Once Lanthe got free of Thronos, maybe she could try to slide back to her former alliance, at least until Sabine came and saved her. Her big sister must be worried sick over her weeks-long disappearance. Before leaving their home to hunt for a new boyfriend, Lanthe had left her a note that merely read: Out getting some strange, XOXO. In fact, Lanthe was surprised Sabine hadn’t found her by now. She always had in the past. They’d never been separated for this long— Her eyes widened. From this height, she’d spied Carrow, Ruby, and Carrow’s new vemon husband, Malkom Slaine. Though that vampire/demon was one of the deadliest, most fearsome beings in the Lore, he appeared to be shepherding them to safety. Guess he decided against killing Carrow. Lanthe’s heart leapt to see them safe, and she drew a breath to call for them, but Thronos slapped his calloused hand over her mouth. She kicked back with her boots, struggling against him; he held her with minimal effort. He waited until Carrow was out of earshot before releasing Lanthe. “They’re going to worry about me!” She strained to keep them in sight. “Good. If the witch is foolish enough to care about someone like you, she deserves woe. ” Someone like me. “Speaking from experience?” She whirled around on him, eye level with his chest. The wet linen of his shirt clung to his muscles, draping over his pecs, showing hints of the scars beneath. Why haven’t I ever noticed his muscles are so defined? Probably because each time she’d seen him, she’d been running for her life. She craned her head up to peer at his face, at the raised scars there. All caused by me. A deep one twisted along his chiseled jawline, while four shorter ones slashed diagonally down his cheeks, like Celtic war paint. Once a body became immortal, it was unchangeable for the most part. Though a Lorean like him could buy a glamour from the witches to camouflage those marks, he would always have them. Despite his scars, females would still find him handsome. Very much so. “What are you looking at?” he snapped, seeming disturbed by the perusal. But then, he seemed disturbed in general. “My lifetime enemy. ” She’d spent that long constantly fleeing Vrekeners. Now she was trapped with the object of her fears. Not exactly helping her Vrekener PTSD. But she’d escape sooner or later; she always did. And then he’d just come after her again, as he always did. “Well, you’ve got me, Thronos. Now what happens?” She thought she saw a flicker of shock in his eyes, as if he could barely accept his success after so long. “Now I’m going to get us off this island. ” “How? It’s thousands of miles from land, surrounded by shark-infested waters. ” The humans had been prepared to prevent escape. Well, prepared for everything except a really piqued La Dorada. “You can’t fly that distance. ” Though he’d tried to hide it, she’d seen his pain from just a short jaunt—his face had grown drawn and waxen, his lips a thin line. Considering that others of his kind could fly hundreds, if not thousands, of miles at a time, she wondered what his limit was. “Especially not with me in tow. ” He looked like he was biting down rage—as if just the sound of her voice was setting him off. “I have other means of escape. ” “Uh-huh. Listen, there’s a key to my torque down there. ” Of sorts. Each collar was locked and unlocked with the thumbprint of the warden, a troll named Fegley (not literally a troll). When Lanthe and company had stumbled across the trapped warden, Lanthe had cut off his hand for ease of use. But before Lanthe could free herself, Emberine had stolen the grubby thing and incinerated the rest of Fegley! Which had forced Lanthe and her friends to hit the tunnels. . . . “If you help me get this collar off,” she told Thronos, “I could create a portal to wherever you want. ” Or she could command him to repeatedly stab himself in the dick. Then she’d run away as fast as she could manage—seeing as she would be laughing really hard. This was assuming her sporadic persuasion worked, but she was hopeful; after all, she’d been storing up a lot of it over the last three weeks. Thronos pinned her gaze with his own frenzied one. “You’ll wear that collar for the rest of your immortal life. That you retain it is a stroke of fortune. ” She knew he was serious. Which meant she had to get away from him and find that hand. “You always wanted me biddable, didn’t you? Like Vrekener females?” Lanthe had heard they never laughed, drank, danced, or sang, and always wore drab, full-coverage clothing. A world away from merry, hedonistic Sorceri females with their racy metal garments, brightly colored masks, and bold makeup. And, horror of horrors—Vrekeners disdained the wearing of gold. For a gold-worshipping sorceress like Lanthe, this was blasphemy. “You always wished I’d been born meek and powerless. ” “You might as well have been powerless. Over these centuries, you could hardly use your abilities—even without the collar. ” Burn. Worse, he was right. Though persuasion was her root power—the one she’d been born with, akin to her soul—she’d almost extinguished it by healing her sister from repeated Vrekener attacks. Each time the winged menace found them, Sabine would charge into danger. Each time, Lanthe would clean up the damage, commanding Sabine’s body to mend itself. Lanthe’s ruined power was well-known. While Sorceri had stolen other abilities from her, there’d been no takers on her defective soul. “Look at your glittering eyes. Sensitive about this, creature?” She reminded herself that she had managed a few spurts of persuasion in emergency situations. On one night, the stars had aligned, and she’d rendered Omort—a nearly omnipotent sorcerer—temporarily powerless. Long enough for the demon King Rydstrom the Good to fight and kill him. Without Lanthe’s help, Rydstrom never could have freed all the rage demons of Rothkalina from Omort’s oppression. How badly she wished for everyone in the Lore to know about that! Then they’d respect her. She narrowed her eyes, recalling another time she’d conjured persuasion. “I used my sorcery on you the last time we met. ” Thronos clearly didn’t like to be reminded of that. A year ago, he’d set a trap around one of her portals, lying in wait for her to return. When she’d come upon him and his knights, she’d eked out some sorcery