Magic Immortal – Ella Summers

Naomi had failed to prevent Firestorm from freeing her nefarious husband Darksire from the depths of hell. But that wasn’t everything. She had to focus on her victories, on everything she had achieved. She, Makani, and their allies had defeated the demon Septimus. More importantly, they’d accomplished the impossible. They’d brought Dad back from the dead. They had made her family whole again. Naomi was just so happy that Dad was back, that she would get to be the one to bring him home. She couldn’t wait to see everyone’s faces when they saw him, the moment they realized he was still alive—and that he was with them once again. There was no sweeter victory than that. Naomi helped her father to his feet. “Come on, Dad. It’s time to go home.” Makani walked at his other side, and together they steadied Dad’s steps as they hurried down the worn trail. Dizziness still rattled in Naomi’s bones, the aftereffects of their trip through hell and the subsequent fight with the magic panthers.

Even Makani wasn’t moving as fast as he usually did, as though the weight of his expended magic had finally caught up with him. Their allies weren’t faring any better. Sera and Alex walked like they were trudging through thick mud. Kai and Logan pressed on with typical male stubbornness, but Naomi could read the fatigue in their eyes. The silver halos around the ghosts Chastity and Valor were flickering weakly, like a pair of broken light bulbs. All those trips back and forth between hell and the earth had certainly taken their toll. Only Riley and Lara, who’d arrived after the battle against Firestorm was over, were still at full power. They looked more refreshed than drained, like they’d each just chugged down a magic energy drink. “It’s not far,” Naomi coaxed her father—and her own tired body. They just had to make it beyond the barrier that surrounded Monster Lake before the zombies found them.

They did not need another fight right now, especially not one against the undead. “How is your mother?” Dad asked her. “Things were tough for a long time. After you disappeared, Mom went off on her own for months, determined to find you. She was sure you were still alive.” “She was always so stubborn,” Dad said with a happy, pained smile. “Yes, she is,” Naomi agreed. “But she was right. None of the rest of us believed you were still alive. Yet here you are, after all these years, returning to us.

” “Thanks to you.” His hand clutched Makani’s arm. “Both of you.” “You did the same for me once,” Makani reminded him. “Ah, good times,” Dad chuckled. “I can’t say I miss those years in hell, though.” “Nor do I.” “Mom will be so happy to see you,” Naomi told her father. “It’s especially hard on her this time of year.” “Our wedding anniversary.

” “You kept track of time, even through all your years in hell?” Naomi said, surprised. Time worked differently in hell than on earth. Sometimes it moved slowly, sometimes it flashed past, the seconds bleeding through your fingers. “Some things transcend realms,” Dad declared. How romantic and yet how real—a love that nothing could tear apart. Naomi’s moment of surprise gave way to utter amazement. Even after all these years apart, her parents’ love had not faded. The genuine, sappy sweetness of it brought tears to Naomi’s eyes. Dad smiled at her, brushing a tear from her cheek. “Sorry to break up this reunion, but we have to move.

Now,” Alex said urgently. “The zombies are closing in.” Monster Lake was aptly named. Years ago, the magical research company Swift Research had bought the park to use as a magical research wilderness. They’d set out to create a wonderland of magical creature crossbreeds, but that wonderland dream had quickly deteriorated into an all-out nightmare. When they lost control of their creations, the company had abandoned the project—and the city. Their legacy was this tiny slice of hell at the south end of San Francisco. It turned out their research project’s methods involved infusing zombie magic into beasts. As anyone who had fought zombies could attest, that plan was pure idiocy. If there was any creature harder to kill than a zombie, Naomi hadn’t met one.

And the geniuses at Swift Research had created a whole park full of them. See, the fun thing about zombies was you couldn’t kill them by chopping off their heads, burning them, or even hacking them into tiny little pieces. Their mutilated, undead remains just kept coming at you. The only surefire way to kill a zombie was to break the bonds of the grave magic powering them. That required more magic than most supernaturals possessed. But it got even better. If you missed even a single zombie in your extermination, it went around reanimating the others. If someone really wanted to destroy the earth, they wouldn’t need to bother with complex conspiracies or self-indulgent intrigues. They’d just infuse cockroaches with zombie magic. The world wouldn’t survive the week.

It was a good thing villains were too high and mighty to come up with such a pedestrian plan. After Swift Research’s hasty retreat from Monster Lake, the Magic Council had sent in exterminators. Most of them did not return. The Magic Council tried again and again to eliminate the zombies, but eventually even they were forced to concede that Monster Lake was a lost cause. So a team of mages cast an anti-zombie wall around the park’s perimeter. Huge signs with big block letters warned the general population to stay out, but every so often, some magic-drunk moron wandered into the park to test his prowess. An undead, beastly voice howled in the distance. Naomi sighed. She had never thought she would be one of those morons. Why did the demon Septimus’s fortress in hell have to overlap with Monster Lake on earth? The universe must have hated her.

Of course, this was the sort of place which possessed such nasty, undead mojo that it transcended realms, leaking through the veil. Septimus probably got a buzz off the zombie fumes, even all the way back in his fortress in the eighth circle of hell. “We escaped hell, defeated a powerful dark fairy inside a demon’s body, and survived the battle with Firestorm, the Fire Monster. We are not going down now. We are not going to be a meal for a pack of zombie beasts,” Naomi assured her father. “I have complete confidence in your abilities.” Dad’s gaze panned across her companions. “In all of your abilities.” His faith would soon be tested. The trees were shaking.

A group of mismatched, unholy creatures burst out of the bushes and charged onto the broken stone trail. They all looked different, and yet they were all the same, united by the undead magic pulsing through their bodies. Each patchwork beast was an amalgamation of several different kinds of monsters, all held together by zombie magic. Half of one beast’s face was that of a lion; the other half came from a tiger. Where the two sides of its face met, the zombie glue glowed toxic green. Everything from the chest down belonged to a horse. Another monster had the body of a man and the wings of an eagle. A giant scorpion tail rattled behind him. Apparently, some of the employees of Swift Research had not escaped the park. And when the zombie monsters had found and mauled them, their human parts had reconnected in new and revolting ways.

A giant butterfly, larger than a house cat, hovered over the other monsters. Its eight sets of wings, each one marked with a different colorful pattern, fluttered in and out. The creature was so beautiful, it was hard to believe that it was a monster. Magic glue marks didn’t mar its body, but a bright purple glow pulsed around the whole giant butterfly. A gargantuan peacock stalked forward. The fifty pairs of eyes on its feathers, which looked like actual beast eyes, blinked in unison. Each pair seemed to come from a different kind of beast. A dragon, a tiger, an eagle. Naomi could have sworn she spotted a pair of demon eyes in there too. She felt like she was staring straight into the eyes of hell—and hell was staring right back at her.

“Well, sister, at least we’ll go down fighting side-by-side,” Alex said to Sera as the monsters closed in on them. Sera rolled her eyes. “You’re always so melodramatic.” “And you’re always so serious,” replied Alex, smirking. “But you should never be serious when there are zombies around. You just have to laugh at them, or you’ll deteriorate into hysterics.” Alex the badass, the Black Plague, the Paranormal Vigilante, the kickass mercenary with the really big sword and an even bigger mouth, was scared of zombies. That just went to show everyone had a weakness. The zombies were nearly upon them when Naomi’s father dropped to his knees, convulsions rocking his body. Apparently, Alex wasn’t the only badass who was scared of zombies.

His magic had recently been sucked out by demon magic. It seemed he was finally cracking under the pressure. “Look at his eyes,” Makani said. Dad’s eyes were glowing red. Fear didn’t create an effect like that. This was something else entirely. Dark, hellish magic pulsed around Dad. Naomi could feel the demon emerging from within him. Her father’s body was rejecting its presence. Spirit Warriors could not be possessed, not truly.

The demon had held on just long enough to hitch a ride to earth. So this was what Firestorm had been talking about when she’d warned them that Darksire’s return was just the beginning. The demon hiding inside of Dad was her demon ally—and they were all about to have front row seats to the culmination of its scheme. Naomi prepared to open up the veil and send the demon back to hell before it could take a host. She only prayed she had enough magic left to do it. It would not go willingly. She would have to fight the demon every step of the way. “You guys handle the zombies,” Naomi told the others. “I’ll take the demon.” Her friends surged forward to meet the zombie beasts, while she focused on her father—and the demon hiding inside of him.

She waited for it to fully emerge. The seconds dripped by. “I don’t mean to rush you, Naomi,” Riley said beside her, throwing a potion that exploded on a zombie beast. “But if you’re going to work your magic, now would be the time.” “Yes,” Sera agreed from somewhere nearby, her voice strained. “Now would be good. We need to get out of here.” Lara’s gleeful cackle intertwined with the shrill shriek of a firework shooting up into the sky. Two dragons were born from the explosion, one green and one blue. Woven from strands of magical light held together by Lara’s willpower, the summoned dragons dove, breathing down fire upon the zombies.

Their bodies were completely bathed in flames, but the beasts kept coming. And more were closing in. It seemed like all the creatures of Monster Lake had decided to join the party tonight. Streams of knives shot out from Logan and sank into the zombie beasts. Alex swung her sword like the blades of a lawnmower, hacking them to pieces. Kai and Sera were blasting them with one elemental spell after the other. The zombies hardly noticed any of that. They just kept coming, their dead, hungry eyes locked on the living targets in front of them. Naomi pounded her hands against Dad’s chest, shooting her spirit magic through him. Maybe that would force the demon out of him faster.

A dark and shapeless shadow poured out of his mouth like a breath of darkness. It dissipated. The demon was trying to flee. Naomi grasped the chimney smoke of hell between her magic-charged fingers. But before she could open the veil and send the demon to hell, Dad rocked back, convulsing even harder than before. The demon slipped through her fingers. She watched in horror as dark mist gushed out of Dad’s pores. A second demon emerged from her father’s body. Followed by another. And another.

One after the other, they streamed out of him. Naomi wove her spirit magic together into a net, trying to catch the demonic souls. Four, five, six demons. There were just so many of them. She’d never seen anything like it. A blast of magic shot out of Dad, hurling Naomi away. Demons exploded from him. Dozens and dozens of demons. The dark stream pulsing out of Dad didn’t seem to end. Naomi had thought she knew Firestorm’s plan.

She’d been so wrong. This wasn’t just about only one demon. It was a full-on demonic invasion. Firestorm and Darksire had turned her father into a demon dirty bomb. Every step of the way, they had manipulated Naomi. The human sacrifices to put them on the trail, the booby trap to arouse suspicion, the all-too-obvious breadcrumbs of clues. They had led her to Dad. They’d wanted him to escape hell. He was the vessel that carried the demons to earth. Naomi wove her spirit magic around her father, but it was too late.

She didn’t have enough magic left in her. The demons burst through the weak bonds of her spell. There were too many to contain, too many to follow. The storm of demons shot across the city in search of unwilling hosts.

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