Death of Gods – Scarlett Dawn, Katherine Rhodes

HELL. The only way to describe the pain in my leg. It burned and throbbed and bled. There was no bliss of unconsciousness for me. I didn’t understand what kind of evil this was tearing my leg apart. “Kimber?” That was Drez’s voice. I snapped my eyes open and saw I was on a litter and being loaded onto a buckboard. I found Drez as well as Jallina standing over me. “What happened? What did they do to my leg?” “Dorian said you were shot,” Roran answered as he climbed on board with me “Shot? With an arrow?” “No.” Drez climbed on the back and walked to the driver’s seat where he helped Jallina up. “No arrows. Master Dorian called it a hand cannon.” Drez swatted the horses into motion. “Rilen!” I exclaimed, realizing he wasn’t there. “He went back to help Dorian,” Jallina said.

I settled, but another round of horrible pain ripped through my leg as Drez hit a bump. I yelped. “Hang on,” Drez said. “The best healer in S’Kir is waiting for us at the temple.” Roran glanced at the two driving the buckboard. “Who?” “Doctor Symi, of course,” Jallina said. I glanced out from the buckboard as the city passed by. Through the pain, I could see parts were ripped apart, left in rubble, and smoldering from fires. I wanted to ask so many questions, but I couldn’t get them out through my clenched teeth. “Drez…” Jallina’s worried voice drifted to me.

“I see it.” He tossed a look back at us. “Hang on. I’m sorry, but this is going to jostle you. The horse swerved left. I slipped across the wood and hit the side of the carriage, and had to brace with my good leg to keep from flying off the back through the open gate. “What the hell!” Roran snapped and grabbed the gate to slam it closed. “This isn’t the way to the temple.” “No, but we can’t go that way. We have to go around and use the back entrance,” Jallina said.

“There was a group of marauders holding a cross street.” I looked at Roran who asked the question. “Marauders?” Drez shook his head. “Later. We have to get to Doctor Symi.” I didn’t argue. I was starting to feel dizzy and foggy from the pain. I tucked myself into the corner and pulled the blanket around me. Roran studied me. “Are you cold, ilati?” I nodded.

Roran lay down next to me and moved inside the blanket. “That’s from the blood loss.” Roran wrapped his arms around me and pulled me close. He wrapped the blanket around us. “We’ll get you fixed up.” “I’m scared, Roran,” I whispered. “Me too,” he admitted. “But Symi is the best doctor in S’Kir. You’ll be better in a few hours. He just needs to fix your leg.

” Shivering, I tucked my head into his shoulder. “Why…why did they attack us?” “I don’t know, ilati.” His warmth seeping into me, the shivering began to slow. “What does that mean?” His shirt collar was filthy, and I brushed at it. “All three of you call me that.” “Three?” Jallina hissed from the front seat. I lifted my hand and offered her a rude gesture. Roran laughed quietly and brushed a strand of hair off my face. “It means goddess.” “That’s a bit of overkill,” I whispered, smirking.

“Why? We worship you, don’t we?” Even through the pain, I could feel my nipples pearl at his veiled suggestion. I breathed carefully. “It really hurts, Roran.” “Rest. We’ll be at the temple soon. Get you all fixed up.” Roran put his hand on my forehead. “Relax, ilati. You’ve done what you were meant to do.” I snuggled up to him, trusting him as I realized I had never been able to trust before.

Despite the pain, I fell asleep. * * * Doctor Symi was a neat, tidy man. His clothes were simple, clean, and unobtrusive with the symbol of his profession embroidered neatly above his pocket on his shirt. His cocoa skin seemed to be the right color of warm and comforting for his profession. With close-cropped hair, his honey-colored eyes stood out and seemed to read the soul. “Mistress, I am sorry that you’re in pain. And I regret that I will have to cause more. Our supply of painkillers has been depleted, badly, and there just isn’t enough to go around.” I didn’t really understand why they wouldn’t have painkillers, but I was more concerned about what happened. “What hit me?” “It’s a bullet.

” Jallina offered the answer from her seat next to me. “Master Dorian said it—from a hand cannon. There have been dozens of people in the research field for years trying to shrink the cannon to something a person could carry. Our swords have always been more effective.” “There’s a tiny projectile in your leg that we will have to get out,” Symi said. A look of confusion passed over Roran’s face. “Doctor Symi, you’re from South End. A day by train. How are we here?” Drez and Jallina shot each other a glance and shared it with Symi. Jallina finally answered him.

“He’s been here a week. We called for him when you went into the cave.” A jolt went through me. “We only went into the cave…” I trailed off, studying their faces, pausing to deal with the pain. “How long? How long were we in that cave?” Drez answered. “Eighteen days.” “What?” Roran was as shocked as I was. “How is that even possible?” “We were so encased in magic,” I whispered. “It felt like hours, not days.” Roran was truly shocked.

“The Breaking was one of the most magnificent things most people had ever seen,” Drez said. “It was a beautiful dance of destruction that moved mountains and changed the sea.” “I was afraid the magic was never going to let you out of the cave,” Jallina said. “That breaking the Spine broke you.” I turned to Doctor Symi. “I’m not the first one to be injured, am I? That’s why there is so few painkillers.” Doctor Symi nodded. “That’s correct. I have been treating wounds of all terrible kinds as I’ve come up on the train. Whatever those… weapons are, they are destructive.

We’ve lost many innocent people already.” “Eighteen days…” I looked at Drez, who just nodded. Jallina cleared her throat. “Doctor Symi will have to cut into your leg to get the bullet out.” Roran let out a breath. “Gods, I didn’t want this to happen.” He looked at Drez. “You’re a spy for Kimber. I need you to be a spy for all of us. I need to know everything about these weapons and why we weren’t told about them.

” Drez nodded sharply. “Of course. I have a lot of information already gathered.” Doctor Symi clapped his hands. “Out. Out, out.” “Everyone?” “All of you. No one needs to be in here but the nurse and me. Head out. Go help at the shield.

There are many things to be done there.” Roran cleared his throat. “I can help with the pain, Doctor.” “Not as well as I can.” We all turned to find Dorian standing in the doorway. He took long strides into the room to stand by me. “Doctor, I’ll stay. I can help Mistress Kimber block the pain.” “Can you?” Doctor Symi seemed intrigued. “All strong wielders can,” Roran nodded.

“I need more of you around since our painkillers are gone. Honestly. If you can spare anyone who is strong enough and has the skill, I have people who need the relief.” Roran nodded. “I’ll spread the word. Strong magic and stronger stomachs.” “Thank you,” he said. Taking Jallina’s seat and my hand, Dorian whispered in my ear. “I will do what I can to stop the pain for you, but this is going to hurt like hell.” “Just take it out and make sure I can heal well.

” Doctor Symi smiled and headed to the bathroom to scrub his hands. “My dear, this is a simple fix. You’ll be fine in a few days. I’ll be right back.” Dorian looked worried, nervous even. I squeezed his hand. “Are you going to be okay with this?” “I’m going to teach you how to use magic to block the pain. It’s a very strange, uncomfortable feeling to detach from who we are to deal with it, and that’s why we don’t use it as much as we could.” “That wasn’t my question.” I stared at him.

“I’m not okay with this, ilati.” He stroked a thumb over the skin of my hand. “I am pissed beyond belief that you fulfilled your destiny and were rewarded with a grievous injury from vampires. I guess they…” I waited for him to finish, but it was clear he wasn’t going to. “I will be okay alone if you want to leave, Dorian.” “No.” For reasons I didn’t understand, he needed to take a moment to himself. I didn’t intrude. I just kept breathing through the pain I had been enduring the entire time. Dorian’s eyes snapped to mine.

“You’re already in pain. Let me teach you.” He smoothed the messy mass of sandy brown waves with a careful hand. “Close your eyes. Breathe slowly.” I was already trying to breathe slowly, but with his hand there, it seemed easier. He spoke softly. “Find a thread of magic, yellow or orange, and follow it slowly. Bring it down to the pain and weave a small pouch with it. You should be able to see the pain there, tiny little threads of blue and red.

” I could see them. They weren’t tiny, though. They were huge, angry, glowing, and trying to pull the skin open and keep it open. “Oh…” Ba-boom. Flash. I flinched but started weaving a little pouch of orange and yellow. Ba-boom. Crash! The pouch grew strong. Ba-boom. Ba-boom.

Ba— “Kimber?” “I can see it. It’s contained. I feel your heart…” Ba-boom. Ba-boom. “You’re so deep in the magic…” I could hear his amazement in his voice. “Careful, don’t go too much further.” I brought my hand up to look at it. There was a flicker on my wrist, a mark that faded in and out. It wanted to stay but couldn’t. Missing.

“Is she relaxed?” That was the doctor. “She’s… flickering… in the magic…” Ba-boom. But no echo this time. I wanted the heartbeats together, but the more frantically I pulled them toward each other, the more they were out of sync. I couldn’t stop them. I could get them— “This is…. as far as… pain will go.” The chamber was dark. Warm bodies all around me. Ba-boom! Hearts but not together.

No. I must have them together. I felt warm breath on my cheek. “Kimber…” Dorian was there again. The words hissed out of me. “Soul mates.” “Kimber Raven, you’re in the throes of a vision.” Not a vision. No, definitely a vision. The room was warm.

Comfortable. I was wrapped in male bodies. It felt so much like our bed. Like they had left me in a cloud of sexual bliss. “Soul mates,” I breathed again. “No, Kimber. It’s prophecy.” “I’m not a seer…” I’m not a seer. I am a seer. Cold, ice-cold fangs.

Buried in my neck. Uncareful. Uncaring. Sucking hard, tearing, ripping. Hot blood. Bile. Fear. Alone. I am an instrument of magic. I am alone despite the warmth of men.

I am not whole. I am incomplete. My heart beats alone. Alone. NEVES STOOD ON THE DRUID SIDE of the Chasm, her hand painting the air, back and forth restlessly. “Why do we always need dramatic names for such things?” Roran sighed. “Why couldn’t we just call it a passage or bridge? We have to call it the Chasm like some dramatist’s play heavy on foreboding.” Rilen turned his head slowly toward his brother. “Roran?” “Yes, brother?” “Shut up.” Rilen turned back to the scene before us.

I leaned on the crutch and shook my head. “What is she doing?” “Maintaining the shield,” Dorian answered. “We’ve all been taking turns keeping the vampires on their side. There have been skirmishes all up and down the Scar since the mountains fell.” “This was not the way I envisioned this happening.” I sighed. I certainly hadn’t envisioned being shot by the vampires within seconds of finishing a part of my destiny. Nor was standing here, holding a shield in place while the vampires occasionally took a random shot at it. And there was no way I wanted to be limping around on my leg. Doctor Symi had taken nearly two hours to remove the bullet, clean the wound, and stitch my thigh.

I had only been allowed out of bed the day before with a crutch, and mostly because I was complaining about being in bed for five days after losing eighteen before that. “Why is this happening?” Jallina asked. Dorian almost said something. For the fifth day in a row, when someone had asked the question, Dorian almost opened his mouth. I was pretty sure that no one else noticed it, but I did. It was strange how in tune I was with Dorian now. Rilen and Roran had been my friends before my bedmates, so being in tune with them didn’t surprise me. Dorian did. I didn’t know if he felt comfortable with me yet. He had avoided the bed for so long, and then to crash into it like we did was… well, it was.

And it was also good. Really good. I felt a heat climbing my cheeks remembering the sexcapade in the training room. I wanted to do that again. This time, with Rilen and Roran there. Sweet Savior, I was turning into a sex fiend. I liked it. More sex, more power, more ability to use my magic, to keep people safe, to help the city of S’Kir survive…this. Whatever this was. I straightened on the crutch.

“I should take my rightful turn at the shield.” “Oh, no,” Roran said. “No, no, no.” “Not you,” Rilen agreed. “But—” “You’re injured and exhausted,” Rilen said. “You’re exhausted too,” I snapped. “That’s why we’re not on rotation yet,” Roran stated. “We have another week’s reprieve.” Dorian nodded. “I called in a few of our more powerful magic wielders that we’ve identified.

They are working in pairs, and the masters are working alone. We’re fine without you.” “But—” “Kimber, you just literally brought down a mountain,” Jallina snapped. “Let them handle it.” The twins chuckled while Dorian had a pleased smirk on his face. I narrowed my eyes and turned back to the magical shield. “We can’t keep this shield up forever,” Mistress Ophelia mumbled from the right. “We’re going to have to fight.” “We are.” Vitas nodded.

I swallowed hard. “What do we know of fighting? Especially against their guns?” “Better still,” Mistress Ophelia corrected me, “what do we know of them that is not just legend and hearsay?” The group moved away from Neves to allow her to concentrate. There was a small tent not far from her where the masters would rest before and after their time at the shield. Well, two tents, really. And some magical sound dispersal. No one need eavesdrop on a temple master having sex. There was a table with cheese, fruit, and bread on it, as well as pitchers of wine, water, and fruit juice. Several other temple masters sat there looking haggard and exhausted. Our group joined them, with Rilen and Roran flanking me at the table, helping me with the crutch and the chair as I sat. Master Bebbenel snorted.

“I see you found your bedmates, Mistress Breaker.” I stared at him. I hated him more than I had ever hated Master Dorian. At least with Dorian, I could see him doing what was right—no matter how much I had hated him. Master Bebbenel just continued his jackassery. I decided I owed him no respect, only an answer. “Indeed I have, Master Bebbenel.” He leaned forward, his head on his chin. “And what has Master Dorian to say about you borrowing his mates?” I stared him dead in the eye. “Usually? Something like, ‘Oh, Gods, yes, Kimber.

Ride that cock! Ride it!’” Dead silence. Lunella burst out laughing, and Jallina followed her into sidesplitting guffawing. The twins were red instantly, but their eyes were full of mirth and pride. Everyone else at the table alternated between humor and horror. Dorian cleared his throat, but there was no mistaking the smirk on his lip. “Now that we have established that Mistress Breaker is indeed having her sexual needs fulfilled nicely, perhaps we can turn to the pressing matter of the vampires with hand cannons and hate in their arsenal.” Drez, across from me, fought for his composure and leaned forward. “Guns. Several of our researchers have been trying to recreate what they are using, and have come fairly far, but not near to what Doctor Symi dug out of Mistress Kimber’s thigh. What he pulled from there was a blunted teardrop shape, nothing like our hand cannons have.

We’ve given them permission to study the tiny ball and see what they could do with it. It will lead to a breakthrough, but I highly doubt, given the lines of vampires and guns we’re holding at bay, that it will be in time to be of any use to us.” “I agree,” Vitas said. He was the next on the shield. “Whatever we have now is all we have.” “What do we have?” Mistress Sona’s voice was low and tired from her time on the shield. Her fingers entwined with Mistress Maurielle’s as Maurielle dusted her other hand up and down the woman’s arm, clearly a comforting touch. Oh. “Cannons, swords, and magic,” Vitas answered, pulling me out of the realization. “That’s about it.

” “What do we guess they have?” Mistress Sona asked. “Guns, cannons, vampire magic,” Jallina answered. Quirking an eyebrow, I looked around. “What’s the difference between their magic and ours?” “We have the ability to…” Maurielle’s words started confidently but immediately dropped off. “…um, we can fight with it. Shield with it. We can call objects we’ve bound to ourselves. I, um…” Everyone glanced around the room, sharing looks of confusion. There was no information on what the vampires could do. I wasn’t even sure they knew what we could do.

Dorian sat back in his chair and rolled his eyes. “We can do everything the vampires can do. Our magicks are equal.” Bebbenel looked at him, the arrogance rolling out across the table. “The legends say they can move with incredible speed, Master Dorian. Their hearing is beyond compare. They can see in the dark and their marksmanship is perfect, so they don’t have to train at all.” The entirety of the druid’s answer was contained in the quirk of his dark eyebrow. The stories I had taught to the children had been full of the tales of the vampires. The way they could move, and the way they enjoyed their blood.

Strong, fast, nearly death-proof, silent, and— though the books didn’t say it to young children—ruthless. A picture of Elex’s dead body on the bed flashed through my mind. We had ruthless covered. Argo snorted. “You really think—Ow!” He slapped a hand on his ear and stared at Dorian. “What did you do?”

.

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