Laura’s eyes went wide when she saw Khait’s eyes shine with golden light. She grinned. “Okay, may…”
“Uh…” Stephan touched her shoulder, and she turned to see him pointing.
“Bozhe moi.” Stasya stared at where Ash was heading toward Merlin and Khait, his eyes also glowing. There was a firey sword in his hand, and she saw a glimmer of fire start to rotate in a circle on his other arm, forming what looked to be a shield. Ash leaped into the air and there was a brief flash of shimmering wings behind him just before he landed in a flanking position on the porch behind Merlin.
The glimmer of light in Merlin’s eyes was also far brighter, and yet the dragon looked dumbstruck by what had just happened. “Guys…”
“I am not certain…” Father Williams started shaking his head. “That this is a good thing.”
“Maybe we should get inside.” Stephan raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah.” Laura mentally called for Erilon and heard nothing in response. “Yeah, let’s see if Adele knows what’s going on.”
Ash brought his arm in front of him, and saw fire suddenly swirl in front of it, forming into a shield. On the other side of Merlin, Khait nodded, his eyes shimmering with golden light. Merlin let out a snarl, and his form began to shift. He felt just a moment of irritation that the dragon was going to wreck Ted’s porch. It changed to amusement as Khait spun, glimmering black wings striking Merlin and sending him flying back to land on the ground. Usariel…
The voice in his head guided his movements, and he leapt down again, moving in to flank with Khait. Merlin’s form shifted into the green dragon, and its tail swung at him. His body was moving almost before he was aware the attack was coming, leaping over the tail and at the same time bringing the sword in his hand down to slice across it.
“You…” Iggy was staring at Abigail. “You shot the…”
Bridget glanced at the seal. It looked to still be completely intact. She couldn’t see any signs of damage to it at all. “Uh…”
“Pretty sure ordinary bullets aren’t going to do a lot of good against whatever that is made out of…” Abigail lowered the gun, then shrugged at Javier. “Or against you.” She sighed. “I just wanted to get their attention. Let them —”
“Whatever you just did…” Adele’s voice came from the room above. “I think it worked.”
She exchanged a look with Abigail, then both of them went running up the stairs. Javier glanced at Iggy before following. Laura and some of the others were heading into the house, with Stephan supporting Father Williams. Adele was pointing out the door. Khait and Ash were steadily driving Merlin back. The swords in their hands glowed almost as brightly as their eyes. “Uh…” She glanced at Abigail. “I think maybe you got somebody’s attention, at least.”
“Think Gabriel is possessing Ash?” Abigail tilted her head. “I mean, kinda like last time?”
“Khait is a…” Bridget shrugged. “I mean, it’s possible. At least…” She turned toward Adele. “Jormun?”
“He said to restart the timer, but then something cut him off. I don’t know his situation, but it didn’t seem good.” Adele swallowed.
“People are glowing.” Christophe entered, followed by Lykos. “Why are people glowing?”
“Abigail shot the seal.” Javier pointed at Abigail.
“Abigail did what?” Adele whirled toward her. Then she turned to Lykos. “Can you fix it?”
“It’s not broken.” Abigail shook her head. “I didn’t even dent it.”
“And no.” Lykos frowned. “Is bigger magic than me.”
“Why did you shoot the seal?” Laura was staring at Abigail.
“Because this whole we can’t act because of this rule and that rule and that fucking thing out there trying to kill us is the one that made all these shitty rules.” Abigail glared.
“He rigged the game.” Bridget raised her head. “Seems only fair if our side cheats a little.”
“You two…” Lykos grinned. “Spend too much time with Khait.”
Ted stared at the scene in front of him. Seeing Gabriel wielding a scythe was disturbing enough. Seeing Michaels’ eyes start to glow as the piece of metal in his hand transformed into a six-foot-long glowing sword was something else entirely. He glanced at Jormun, only to see his own shock mirrored on the face of the dragon. Pachua took one look at the two men facing him and his body suddenly began to shift, taking the form of the fiery red serpent again. “Jormun…”
“I see it.” Jormun nodded.
“And?” He glanced at Jormun again.
“I said I see it.” Jormun swallowed. “Still working on believing.”
“Daniel, at least get Jormun able to walk.” Ted got to his own feet, then went to help pull Jormun up off the ground. He glanced at the young man. “Daniel?”
“Right.” Daniel shook himself, turning away from where Gabriel and Michaels were driving a dragon back. Every time Pachua moved toward one, the other came in to attack. The two seemed to move in near perfect unison, taking advantage of each other’s movements. Gabriel’s wings made a sharp downward motion, and then he was in the air, whirling like a holy dervish. The tips of his wings made contact with Pachua, revealing that they were as sharp as they looked. The dragon’s blood splattered the ground as the creature roared.
After a moment, Jormun pushed Daniel away. “No, you’ll do no one any good if we have to carry you as well.” He managed to stand a little more upright, though he still leaned some of his weight on Ted. He gave a tiny shake of his head, and Ted turned to look at the fight again.
His eyes went wide. Gabriel was back on the ground and had drawn the dragon forward. Wings made of light were spreading from Michaels back as he leaped into the air, bringing the massive two-handed sword down on Pachua. The dragon roared as the blade bit deep. “How far away should we be right now?” He glanced at Jormun again.
“Behind me.” Jormun exhaled. “Or about three hundred miles.”
“Behind you it is.” Ted grabbed Daniel’s arm and dragged the younger man back a couple steps. “Uh…” He touched Jormun’s shoulder. “You going to be okay?”
“I’ll let you know.” Jormun swallowed.
He let the other force control his body, moving with it in unison. Some part of his brain retained the presence of mind to feel a small thrill as wings carried him upward. The length of metal in his hands was now clearly a sword, glowing with flames. Michaels spun on the wings to slash again at Pachua, who roared in response. Gabriel moved, darting in neatly. Despite the unwieldy appearance of the scythe, the other man’s movements were agile and quick.
Pachua’s eyes flashed, and Michaels felt something wash over him. If he wasn’t possessed at the moment, that probably would have been bad. Very. Shit. Hopefully, Jormun could keep any of that from reaching Ted or Daniel. He shifted his grip on the sword in his hands and braced himself to swing hard. The blow sliced into Pachua’s shoulder, making the beast roar loud enough that another wall in the building fell down. Part of him wished the blow had taken the limb all the way off, as payback for what the thing had done to Matthias. This isn’t about payback, little brother. This is about justice.
Well, the just thing to do was kick Pachua’s ass back to whatever hellhole he’d crawled out of. Amusement tinged the voice in his head. On that, we agree.
Seeing Ash kicking the ass of the king of the dragons was oddly heartwarming. Stephan smiled, then looked around. “Where’s Magda?”
“Well…” Laura looked around and frowned. “She was with Ash. Where’s Adam?”
“Last saw, Merlin threw Baby Bear into forest.” Stasya narrowed her eyes. “Need to —” Khait’s blade caught Merlin in the shoulder, sending the dragon flying a few steps back. “Yes, like that.”
“Oh, not good.” Stephan’s eyes widened when he saw Merlin start to change shape. “That’s not good.”
A green dragon lunged at Khait, only for Khait to respond by taking to the air, black wings lifting him up easily. Ash took advantage of the position to open a large gash on the dragon’s legs. “Okay, so, he was weakened by imprisoning Gabriel, which is why he ran from Jormun. So, Khait and possessed Ash should be able to take him now, right?” Bridget’s voice was hopeful.
“If still weak…” Lykos shook his head. “Would have already run.”
“Well…” Stephan sighed. “Shit.”
He wasn’t entirely sure his current light-headed feeling had anything to do with the amount of power he’d expended on Jormun. Daniel wasn’t sure what was going on with Michaels at the moment, but he was pretty sure it wasn’t Erilon. Michaels waited until Pachua had lunged upward at the flying Gabriel to rake the massive blade across the creature’s belly. Pachua snarled and staggered. It swiped at Michaels, sending him flying backward. Michaels hit the wall of the other building hard enough to crack the concrete.
Instinctively, Daniel started to move in that direction. Michaels simply gave a slight shake of his head and launched himself back into the fray, translucent wings appearing once more behind him. Pachua tried to bite at him, only for Gabriel’s scythe to open a gash on the dragon’s neck. Pachua roared.
Then the serpent took to the air, going straight up. There was a crack like thunder, and it vanished. A heartbeat later, the two men both turned toward them, eyes glowing molten gold. Jormun straightened, assuming a defensive posture. “Ted.”
“I…” Ted blinked as the two men looked at each other again. Gabriel then turned and headed in the direction from which Michaels had originally come. Michaels, however, headed toward them. “I’m not sure…”
“Jormun.” Michaels voice reverberated slightly. “It has been a long time.”
Jormun blinked. His eyes went wide. He swallowed, then nodded. “Michael?”
Michaels smiled, then reached a hand out to touch Jormun’s forehead. Jormun staggered slightly, then straightened to his full height. Then the man turned the glowing eyes toward Daniel, and he offered his hand. Daniel hesitated a moment, then reached out his own. Power flooded into him the moment his hand made contact with the other man’s. “Come. The others need our help.”
The pain was fading. That’s because you’re dying. Matthias tried to focus on the voice. Erilon? I’m sorry. I wasn’t strong enough. Her voice sounded faint and strained. He nodded or tried to. It’s alright, Erilon. Go, before you end up coming with me. I’m sorry.
Something seemed to let go, and then he was failing. The pain started to return, growing worse. Matthias started to brace himself. He heard voices, hungry, calling for him.
Then something caught hold of his wrist, arresting his fall. Erilon, I told you…
The world swam around him, and he was standing on the front porch of his mother’s cabin. In the distance the world was foggy and out of focus, as though it started ceasing to exist a mile away in all directions. And standing on the porch with him… “Gabriel?”
“No.” The other man twitched a shoulder. There was a pale white glow around him, and a hint of gold above his head. His voice seemed to echo from all directions. “And yes. I can leave you here. In this place between. You will never need to fear hell, if here you remain.”
“So, I’m dead?” Matthias swallowed.
“Yes.” Gabriel nodded. “And no.”
“You can’t just give a straight answer?” He folded his arms.
“Not in any way you can meaningfully understand.” Gabriel shook his head. “Do you want to stay here?”
“What…” Matthias rubbed the back of his neck. “What happens if I say no?”
“I will not be able to catch you again, Matthias.” Gabriel met his eyes calmly.
“How’d you catch me?” Matthias blinked. Gabriel just lifted one eyebrow, and Matthias shrugged. “Oh.”
“It ain’t a choice. Whatever lay that way or an eternity here without Daniel. One hell or another.” Matthias shook his head. “I’ll take my chances.”
Gabriel extended a hand. “Then hang on.” He frowned, then shrugged. “And don’t ask questions about this later.”
“Why not?” Matthias frowned as he took Gabriel’s hand.
“Because the human me isn’t going to remember a word of this conversation.” Gabriel grinned.
Lightning struck somewhere to the left of Ted’s porch. It faded a moment later, leaving Michaels standing there, with Jormun, Ted, and Daniel a few feet behind him. Laura’s jaw dropped. “Why is my dad glowing?”
“Why is your dad glowing?” Father Williams stood up. Ted grabbed Daniel’s arm and started dragging him toward the house. Jormun and the glowing Michaels started for where Merlin was fighting Ash and Khait. “What is…”
There was another crack of lightning. A few feet away from where the others had appeared now stood Gabriel and Matthias. She couldn’t help but feel just the tiniest bit of relief that only Gabriel was glowing. Matthias broke into a dead run toward the house, simply shifting form and scooping Daniel and Ted both up as he ran in their direction. She noted that Jormun had broken off from Michaels. Michaels was still moving toward Merlin, but Jormun was heading into the woods. She frowned, then moved to open the door for Matthias. “What —” She started to ask.
He set Ted and Daniel down before returning to human form. Daniel immediately let out a sobbing sound and turned to hug him tightly. Matthias returned the hug, kissing Daniel’s forehead before looking up at her. “Was hoping you could tell me.” He frowned. “Somebody mind bringing me up to speed on, well…” He blinked. “Anything?”
“I thought you were with Jormun.” Stephan frowned.
“I was, then…” Matthias shook his head, then suddenly blinked. His face shifted into a look of fearful concern. “Erilon?”
“If you ever do that again so help me I will hold you down so Daniel can kick your ass.”
Magda stared at the scene on the lake. The green dragon faced four figures, all of them glowing gold and wreathed in fire. She had to count several times before she could wrap her brain around it. And yet, she knew all of them. The only one that… Leaves crunched, and she whirled, snarling.
Jormun held up his hands. “It’s only me.” He moved to kneel next to Adam. “He does not look so good.”
“He’s alive, and he actually looks a bit better than he did a few minutes ago. He woke up a little, enough to shift his ribs in a bit before he passed out again.” Magda nodded as she returned to human form. “If we can get him to Daniel…”
“There is a lot of power flying about right now.” Jormun shook his head. “The house is warded, and I can shield the two of you, but getting caught in the open would not be wise.” He extended his hand, and she saw a pattern of mushrooms start to grow up through the frosted ground, forming a circle around them.
She blinked. “A faerie circle?”
He gave her a small smile. “I am half elf, you know.” The smile faded from his face as he stood, looking out over the lake.
Against four winged figures, it was clear the green dragon was losing. Its fight became frenzied. “Are those who I think they are?”
“Ash, Khait, Michaels, and Gabriel.” Jormun shrugged as something seemed to strike the invisible barrier around them. The stray bit of magic exploded into pale yellow light before fading away. “And company.”
The green dragon was badly wounded and starting to falter. It staggered, and then with a final sweep of its great wings, it took to the sky and vanished.
“He ran.” Magda shook her head. “Merlin ran.”
“That…” Jormun actually sounded relieved. “Is probably for the best.”
“How can you —” She turned toward him.
“Magda, if a dragon could be killed without severe consequences, Merlin would have killed me after I caused the fall of his precious Roman Empire.” Jormun sighed. Then he bent down to pick up Adam. “Come. Let us return to the others.”