Lykos groaned, then felt whoever he was laying on shift and groan as well. He rolled off Khait, and started to stand, only to note with some irritation that his left fibula appeared to be sticking out of his leg. He growled as he shoved it back into place. Walking was not going to be fun for the next couple hours. The backlash from the orb’s destruction had taken out a good section of a wall, and he was concerned part of the building was going to follow it down. “Christophe?” Lykos looked around.
“Here.” Christophe shoved the remains of a painting off himself. He was bleeding from a cut on his forehead, but his injuries didn’t look bad. Khait looked in much worse shape. His wings were little more than char, but he was getting back to his feet. He offered Lykos a hand up.
He started to look for the others, then made a frustrated sound. “Naughty girl had defenses.” Over on the other side of the small crater he’d made, Wren was getting back to her feet.
Michaels groaned as he felt a rib move. Daniel had just fixed that. He started to get to his feet, and heard Wren let out a string of curses as she started to turn toward him. Someone yanked him clear a heartbeat before Wren sent the remains of a couch crashing into the area he’d just been standing. He looked up to see Abigail giving him a worried look. “She’s after you.”
“Yeah, noticed.” He twisted to pull himself and Abigail clear of another hurled piece of furniture. He saw Laura on the balcony above. She flung a vase at Wren just as Wren started to gather a spell, disrupting it. Wren made a snarling sound as she turned toward Laura. “Dammit, baby girl, get out of there.” He reached for his gun, only to realize he’d lost it in the explosion.
Adam yanked Laura out of the way of the spell, getting her clear as the part of the balcony she’d been on melted. Below, Khait hauled Bridget out of the way of the results.
“You…” Laura heard Wren let out a furious shriek as next to her Adam’s body went rigid. Wren’s face was a mask of pure fury. “You side with her?” She was glaring at Adam. “You picked that skank over me?”
Around them, the others were moving. She saw Christophe pick up a gun and fire a couple shots at Wren. They didn’t hit her, but they did disrupt her concentration. Adam pulled away, shaking his head. “Get clear.” He nodded to her as he started moving away from her location. He froze before he got more than a couple feet, and to her horror saw him start to turn back toward her.
“You’re dead, whore.” Wren growled.
Laura felt Erilon draw on her power, then saw Adam stagger back, going to his knees as Erilon shut down whatever he’d been about to do. Laura started moving, and heard Michaels call her name. She scrambled back, and then a hand caught her and hauled her up and clear just as Wren threw another spell. “Thanks…” She started to reflexively thank Matthias, only to realize this alpha was a lighter color.
With Erilon disrupting the link, she saw Adam pick up a length of pipe and hurl it at Wren as though it were a spear. It missed, but she wanted to cheer for him anyway. I can’t hold it, Laura. “We need to get that ring away from her.” She looked up at the wolf.
“You’re the boss.” The alpha leapt down, roaring as he did so. Wren immediately turned to focus on him, and Laura saw Christophe come in from behind. He caught hold of the chain holding the ring, and Wren made a swift gesture that sent both Christophe and the alpha flying into opposite walls. Christophe slid to the ground, limp, but the alpha shook himself and started back to his feet.
“This…” Wren looked at the talisman, then yanked the chain from around her neck before looking up at Laura. “You want him, bitch?”
Her eyes went wide and horrified. “No, don’t —”
“He’s all yours.” Wren’s hand glowed as she slammed the talisman against the remains of a stone statue. It shattered.
“Oh god…” Bridget gasped. She felt Khait’s hand grab hers as she looked at where Adam was standing. He was staring at Wren as the talisman that had contained his soul fell out of her hand, broken. And Adam… He gave a small shake of his head when… A chill went down her spine, and she turned to look at where Khait was holding his hand.
“Got it…” He smiled at her.
Then his hand slipped off hers as he fell. “Khait!” She felt fury and a part of her mind reached for the ring.
She didn’t need to give the command.
She could already feel Adam moving.
He didn’t fall. Adam didn’t fall. Wren stared at him and heard someone else shouting. Then she saw Adam’s face darken into fury a heartbeat before he started for her. His body shifted as he did, turning from man to tiger. The same tiger she’d seen tear apart someone much larger than her. “Adam…” She stepped back, trying to gather what was left of her magic.
Something thudded, and then something grabbed her, yanking her out of the tiger’s path and pulling her with it through the wall. Momentum drove consciousness from her as she went limp in Merlin’s grasp.
Abigail gasped, putting her hands over her mouth as she saw Khait fall, his body twitching as he hit the ground. Daniel rushed from where he’d been checking Christophe, and slid to a stop next to Khait, putting his hands on Khait’s chest. She was dimly aware something large had swept the witch away. Abigail shook her head and started for Khait when she saw Jormun enter. He was bleeding from several large gashes.
“Jormun…” She gasped.
“He ran. Merlin, when you…” He shook his head. “When you did whatever you did in here he ran. What…” Jormun’s eyes went to where Daniel was working on Khait, then he looked up at her.
“She shattered the talisman. Khait…” Bridget choked on the words. “Danny…” She stared at the healer.
“Lykos, we need a talisman.” Jormun strode over to Daniel and put his hand on Daniel’s shoulder. “Hurry.”
Daniel put his hands on Khait’s chest, grabbing at every piece he could find, knotting it together as he felt Khait’s life force unraveling. “Come on…” He focused his power, but pieces were slipping free again almost as fast as he could pull them back in. He could feel his own power starting to tremble from the strain and pushed harder. If he could…
Something touched his shoulder, and then he felt a surge of power into his own. He caught it and focused, using it to start fusing pieces together. This wasn’t going to be enough, he knew that. There was nothing to anchor the pieces to, nothing but his own will to keep the knot from flying apart again. Time. He just needed… If he could buy enough time, someone could do something.
Magda followed Ash into the chamber with the others. Lykos was cursing as he worked at something in his hands. Michaels was tending to an unconscious Christophe, and… And Adam stood with Laura, their arms around a sobbing Abigail. Daniel knelt next to Khait, his eyes closed in concentration. Jormun stood behind Daniel, his eyes also closed as he kept his hand on Daniel’s shoulder. Jormun was focusing his power through Daniel, helping Daniel… Helping Daniel keep Khait alive.
She approached where Bridget was standing. “Is…”
“Merlin took Wren with him.” Bridget’s face was furious. “She decided she’d rather destroy Adam then let him go, and…” Bridget wiped at her eyes. “Oh, Khait…”
Five hours. Lykos had said it would take him five hours to duplicate a talisman. Even if… Even if he didn’t duplicate good draconic craftsmanship, she could see from the strain starting to show on Jormun’s face that they didn’t have that much time. “I thought…”
“The backup talisman broke when Lykos destroyed the orb.” Bridget shook her head. She waved to Stephan to stay back, and he nodded.
Khait was laying on the ground. Khait was dying. Ash started to shake his head and found himself taking a half step back. He wanted to crawl away, to run and hide and Ash. The balance is what keeps us together. He nodded. Then he nodded again.
He walked forward and knelt next to Khait. The sword hilt was warm in his hand. The note had said to keep it with him. You’re not Gabriel, are you? The voice was gentle in his mind when it replied. No. Ash nodded. He set the hilt on Khait’s chest.
Stephan stared in shock as Ash’s eyes suddenly glowed with bright golden light. He put his hand over the sword hilt, and Daniel made a gasping sound. “Got it.” Daniel’s face broke into a wide smile. “I’ve got it.”
Khait’s body gave a sudden jerk as he started thrashing. Then his eyes opened, glowing with golden light. It grew stronger as the light in Ash’s eyes faded, and then Ash took his hands away. He smiled. “Woof.”
The golden light vanished. Daniel slid to the side, and Jormun also started to stagger. A young man in a Teen Titan’s shirt caught Jormun before he could fall, as Ash moved to steady Daniel. “The hell just…”
“Not hell.” Ash looked back at him, a huge smile on his face. His eyes were still glowing, just a little, and his voice seemed to reverberate just a little. “Not hell at all.”
“Ow.” Khait groaned. Abigail broke free of Laura and rushed over to him.
Somewhere in the distance, he heard sirens. “We, uh…” Stephan looked around the ruins of what had been a very nice estate before their arrival. “We should get out of here.”
He wasn’t free, but… Despite the fact that his companions were bloodied up and injured and they were quite possibly about to be in a lot of trouble with local law enforcement, he couldn’t stop himself from smiling. He wasn’t free, but for the first time since before he’d meet the hag, he was safe among friends. He felt Laura take his hand, and it was tempting to swing her up into his arms and kiss her until she couldn’t see straight. If she hadn’t had her share of bruises, he might not have been able to resist. Well, that and the fact that Michaels had recovered his gun and still looked like he wanted to shoot somebody.
Adam blinked as he recognized the young man supporting the big guy who’d helped Daniel. “Iggy?” He tilted his head. “What are you doing here?”
“Jefe.” Iggy nodded to him. “Well, I was in Washington, like you said, then, uh…” He gestured at where Stephan was carrying Khait. “Chupacabra guy showed up with you for like, half a second, then we were here and there were those Cabal cabrons, so…” He shook his head. “Where is ‘here’ anyway?”
“France.” Adam shrugged. “Who is your friend?” He nodded at the big guy Iggy was supporting.
“Thought he was your friend.” Iggy gave him a confused look.
“We’ll explain him later.” Magda shook her head. She was carrying a slender young man, who’d objected to being carried for all of about three seconds before the other guy Adam didn’t recognize had just growled at him.
His eyes went back to where Stephan was carrying Khait. Stephan wasn’t limping. Adam blinked, then glanced at Laura. “I think I’m going to need to be filled in on a few things.”
“Like how I got to France.” Iggy shook his head, and his voice took on a nervous note. “Hermano, you don’t pay me enough to eat snails.”