There was a time in her life when facing vampires would have had her wetting herself in terror. Abigail tilted her head to the side, then smiled. The three vampires coming toward them had all stopped short when Khait had unfurled his wings. As soon as the sword had ignited in his hand, two of them had turned to run.
It hadn’t done them much good. He smiled as he walked back to her, his wings vanishing along with the flames of the blade. She raised a hand to touch his cheek, and he turned his head slightly to kiss her palm. “It worked.” She glanced at the sword. “Just like it did for Ash.”
“We…” They both turned at the sound of a crashing noise, followed by a loud splash. A pale green dragon was locked in combat with a copper dragon, and both beasts vanished into the depths of the lake. Khait blinked. “Uh…”
“Which dragon are we rooting for?” Abigail looked up at him.
“Well, Merlin is the green one, so…” Khait shrugged.
She glanced at the time again. Five minutes and twenty-two seconds. A vampire had nearly made it into the house, only to get flatten by the combat model. Adele took a deep breath. Pachua was out of Jormun’s league, and unlike Merlin, Pachua hadn’t been weakened by dealing with an archangel. Adam had driven Merlin back, but Adam wasn’t in Jormun’s league. Once his advantage of surprise was gone, the fight would be over quickly. Hopefully, the young man was correct about not being able to die.
If they could hold for… She bowed her head for a moment, then squared her shoulders. If she could get the seal to the sanctuary, all was not lost. It was possible they could even save Jormun, if she managed that. She looked down at the time. Four minutes, fifty-nine seconds.
Even without the flaming sword, Ash was doing well. Whatever power had been loaned to him was still there, though not as strongly as it had been before. He caught her looking at him and nodded. Magda returned the nod. The first wave had fallen, and Adam had driven Merlin back. “He’ll have more he can call upon.” She sighed, then shook her head. “We don’t have to hold forever. “If he calls in too much more, Tia and Ryuu can intervene.”
Ash looked down at the sword in his hand, then glanced at the house. He frowned. “Why?”
“Because Tia won’t —”
“No.” Ash turned toward Magda. “Why guide Ted to the seal? He had to know that Merlin would want it.” Ash frowned. “That Merlin would…” Ash shook his head. “Gabriel would never deliberately put us in harm’s way.”
“It’s possible that wasn’t Gabriel.” Magda frowned. They had two demons with them. It was possible with Gabriel gone, another had decided to intervene, or… But that didn’t explain Ash and the sword. “Ash?”
“It doesn’t…” Ash shook his head. “We are missing something. I keep asking the voice, but it isn’t answering.”
“The voice?” Magda put a hand on his arm. He’d mentioned a voice before, but she’d assumed it was just one of his oddities. Now, though, she was starting to wonder. And to worry. “What voice?”
“The one that helped me. Is helping me. I thought it was Gabriel at first, but it’s not.” Ash gave a frustrated sigh. “If Tia comes, she’ll have to deal with Pachua, not Merlin.”
“I…” Magda closed her eyes, and felt her stomach turn to ice. Ash was right. Pachua was there, fighting Jormun, loudly. If Tia intervened, it would be to deal with that. “We are on our own.” She swallowed.
“No.” Ash smiled up at her. “I don’t think we are.”
A surge of something hit him, knocking him away and causing him to lose his hold on the draconic shape. Adam tried to focus and couldn’t and kicked upwards. His head broke the water, and he dragged air into his lungs. Then he looked around. There was no sign of Merlin. Jormun had said that there was a way for him to sense power being used in his vicinity, but he hadn’t managed that trick. He took another breath, then started for shore.
Halfway there, something caught him and flung him out of the water. He felt bones shatter as he slammed into something. Then everything went dark.
Stephan swallowed as he saw the white-haired man walk out of the lake. Stasya stared at the trees were Adam had been flung. “Baby Bear.”
Merlin looked up in their direction. He started to gesture. Stephan grabbed Stasya and moved in front of her as Merlin flung a ball of fire in their direction. A heartbeat later he felt only air wash over him. He blinked, then raised his head to see Father Williams standing with an arm outstretched. His hand was coated in ice, and more frost seemed to cover his hair and eyes. Okay. Father Williams could counter dragonfire. Good to know.
He looked back to see Merlin was already moving again, heading toward the front door. “Giovanni.” Stasya’s voice was respectful when she nodded to Father Williams. “We cannot hold against Merlin.”
“We don’t have to.” Father Williams shook his head. “We simply need to make it more difficult for him, force him to take greater action.” He took a deep breath as more frost seemed to emanate from him, and Stephan saw the ice start to cover the front door of the house, forming a thick wall. Father Williams staggered as he dropped his hands.
Quickly, Stephan moved to catch him. “Sorry, I know I’m cutting you off from…”
“I don’t have much left.” Father Williams nodded as Stephan moved him to one of the benches.
There was a roar of frustration from Merlin. “Well, you pissed him off.”
“He is coming this way.” Stasya drew her gun.
Lightning hit Merlin square in the chest, sending him flying backward. Laura strode around the corner, her hair sticking out from her head in a static corona. “Erilon isn’t answering.” She glanced at them. Stephan looked over his shoulder to see Lykos and Christophe coming to join them. “I’m not going to be able to hit him that hard again.”
“Punching and shooting not work. Ice with wards though, he will need power to get through.” Lykos took a deep breath as another roar of frustration came from Merlin. “He is still going to squish us.”
His hand closed over his gun as Merlin came back into view, his face furious. Khait appeared a few feet in front of them, flaming sword in hand, wings spread. “Run.” The demon moved into a defensive position. “Now.”
“Found him.” Ash knelt next to the fallen form. He could see at least two shattered ribs sticking out of Adam’s chest, and one of the young man’s legs was bent in a way nature had never intended. “He doesn’t look so good.”
“He’s breathing.” Magda nodded as she knelt on Adam’s other side. “Dammit, nothing I have is going to get him back on his feet quickly.”
Ash put a hand on Adam’s head. “He’s cool, like he’s…” He made a slight whimpering sound.
“Shock.” Magda sighed. “If I try to pick him up, I’ll just make his injuries worse.”
“But we can keep anything from getting to him while he’s hurt.” Ash rose, then drew the sword again.
Magda nodded, and shifted back into the were form. “See if you can get him conscious. He seems to heal a bit when he shifts.”
“Right.” Ash knelt down again but kept the sword close at hand. “Adam?” He touched Adam’s face gently. “Adam, can you hear me?”
“Adele?” Bridget saw the woman staring at the screen of her phone. The robot stood near the door, waiting. The reflection through the glass looked odd, and Bridget blinked. It looked like there was a wall of ice outside. “Adele?”
“One minute…” Adele swallowed. “Thirty-nine seconds.”
“How bad is protocol?” Bridget raised an eyebrow.
“It means we lost Jormun.” Adele’s voice was sharp. “Isn’t that bad enough?” She looked down at the phone again. “One minute, twenty-two seconds.”
“Merlin needs to use power to get in here, so Tia —”
“If Tia shows, it will be to deal with Pachua.” Adele shook her head. “That’s why Merlin unleashed Pachua.” Tears were in Adele’s eyes when she looked up at Bridget.
“This…” Bridget shook her head. “Fucking sucks.”
“The rules…” Adele wiped at her eyes.
“Fuck the rules.” Bridget raised her voice. There was a surge of something that seemed to flow from the east through them. They both went still. “Uh…” Bridget blinked. “Okay, that was dramatic.”
“One minute…” Adele looked down at the phone again. “Four seconds.”
Bridget turned to look out the window. Khait was facing a dragon. Or trying to. Facing a witch had nearly killed him, and now he was facing that witch’s master. She didn’t see Abigail anywhere. Bridget stared for a moment, then shook her head. “Fuck the rules.” She turned and started for the basement.
Iggy looked up when he saw her, then gave a small shake of his head. “Chica, what’s going…”
“Move.” She headed toward the box.
“Uh…” Iggy stepped into her path. “Chica, they were all pretty clear what would happen if uh…”
“I’m not going to break it.” She started to move around him, and he stepped into her path. “Iggy, get out of my way.”
“I’m not —” The alpha werewolf shook his head, spreading his arms to keep her from getting past.
“Ignacio Torres…” She narrowed her eyes. “I taught a demon some fucking manners. Get out of my way, before I do the same to you.”
“Uh…” He glanced over his shoulder at the rest of the pack, none of whom moved forward to back him up. Pedro actually took a step back. “Pendejos.” He looked back at her. “Bridget —” He shook his head, and his eyes flashed gold. “I can’t do that.”
He heard gun shots as he rushed toward where Ted lay. Ted was moving, groaning as blood seeped out around the knife in his stomach. Daniel glanced up to see Michaels reloading before firing another clip at the thing that had just taken out Jormun. “Really?” The thing turned toward Michaels. “The first ten shots didn’t clue you in that bullets won’t work on me?”
“I’ve got seven more clips.” Michaels reached into his pocket to pull out another one. Jormun was moving, though a lot slower than Daniel would like. If Michaels could keep the thing distracted long enough… Daniel focused his power on Ted, enough to keep the man from bleeding out. Then he started toward Jormun as carefully as he could, praying the monster didn’t turn around. “Let’s try this one.” Michaels slapped another clip into the gun.
The monster shrugged and spread his arms invitingly, making a bigger target of himself. Two bullets struck it in the chest. It looked down. “Itched a little.” It shook its head, then turned to smirk at Daniel. “You’re making a mistake there, little one.”
“You…” Jormun lifted his head, his voice weak. “Made a larger one.”
“Are you…” The monster laughed. “Trying to threaten me?”
The sirens coming their way suddenly went quiet. Daniel blinked. Jormun shook his head and managed to get himself halfway to his feet. “I’m not the one you need to fear, Pachua.”
The smoke coming from the center seemed to stop drifting upward, and the flames he could see inside the building went still, frozen in time. Michaels eyes went wide, and he lowered the gun as he stared at something behind Daniel. Slowly, Daniel turned.
Gabriel stood next to Ted, his eyes glowing a deep, molten gold.