Dream Warrior (Page 18)

Dream Warrior (Dark-Hunter #17)(18)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Her eyes flashed red as she removed her hand from his grasp to touch his hair. "It’s been a long time, Jared."

"I am so sorry." His voice broke as if he was fighting back tears.

She knelt on the floor in front of him and removed the sunglasses to show the eerie red, orange and yellow eyes of his. "I know, couran. But I’m not the one you need to beg forgiveness from. Now stand, and together we will fight again."

His gaze was so tormented that it made Jericho’s chest tighten. "I will not fail you again, Mistress. I swear it."

She smiled kindly. "I understand why you did what you did. There is no malice in me." She clenched his hand in hers and held them together in the center of her chest, over her heart. "You have others to save now. We need to be quick about it."

She released him and sat back. In one flash of light, she returned to being a sword again that stood before him.

Jared took the hilt in his hand, kissed it reverently and stood.

Jericho looked at Acheron, wanting to understand what had just happened.

Ash tucked his hands into his pockets. "The Sephirii had ten elite warriors called the Mimoroux. Each one chosen by the sword he or she carried."

Jared manifested a baldric and put it on so he could carry his sword. "Takara went two thousand years without a Shiori."

"A what?"

"A guide." Jared swallowed before he spoke again. "No one was allowed to wield her. Not until me."

Jericho didn’t understand until Ash explained. "She was the most powerful of the swords. And whoever wielded her led all the other Sephirii."

Shit. The Sepherii had been betrayed by their leader. By the most chosen among them…

Jared shook his head. "I deserve what was done to me and worse. But this isn’t about the past. We have to stop Noir." He looked at Acheron. "Do you have your Charonte?"

"They’re ready when we are."

Phobos moved forward. "I have a handful of surviving Dolophoni and Oneroi standing by right now."

Jared inclined his head. "Then we attack. May the Source guide us true."

Jericho scoffed. "Screw the Source. This is about vengeance, and Noir is going to regret ever messing with me."

CHAPTER 10

Terrified, Delphine was thrown into a drak cell by one of Azura’s handmaidens. The door slammed shut, sealing her inside with a sickening thud. There was no light whatsoever, and in the oppressive darkness she could hear something breathing. Where was it?

More importantly, what was it?

Worse, Azura had returned the containment collar to her neck. All she had was her bare hands for protection. Never had she felt more vulnerable.

"I’m getting really tired of being grabbed and tagged." For thousands of years, she’d fought without ever failing. Now she couldn’t seem to move without screwing up.

Something coughed.

Delphine spun around, ready to battle. "Who’s there?"

"Me." The voice was so weak that at first she didn’t recognize it.

"M’Adoc?"

"Yes."

She followed the sound of the heavy breathing to find him somewhere on the ground near her feet. Now that she was closer, she could tell that the sharp breaths weren’t from anger. Rather they were gasps of pain.

Afraid of stepping on him, she paused.

Still she couldn’t see even the faintest of outlines for his body. "Are you all right?"

"Just peachy," he said in a tight tone that betrayed the excruciating pain he was in.

She reached to touch him only to have him let out an agonized curse. It felt as if there was blood on her fingers and when he’d jerked, she heard some kind of heavy chain rattle.

"Don’t touch me."

"I’m sorry," she apologized. "I can’t see."

"Just. . . stay… put."

"Is there any light here?"

He coughed. "You don’t want it lit."

"Why not?"

She heard something skittering across the room. Terrified, she turned, trying to see it in the darkness. But there was nothing there at all.

"Trust me, child. You don’t want to see what’s in here with us."

Something rattled around the door, making the hair on the back of her neck rise. She didn’t like this. Not even a little. "Are you chained?"

"Yes."

"Can I free you?"

"No. They have the chains embedded through my body."

Her stomach clenched. How horrifying. Most of all, how could he stand the pain he had to be in? "Why are we here?"

"To be fed to the things that call this place home."

Raw, unmitigated terror filled her. "What?" She panicked even more.

"Calm down, Delphine. You have to."

She heard the skittering again. Turning around, she tried to locate it.

"They attack when they sense fear. You must control your emotions. I know it’s hard, but concentrate."

Her heart pounded so hard, she was amazed it wasn’t flying out of her chest. It didn’t help when she stumbled and fell over a broken skeleton on the ground. The moment she did, something unknown touched her leg.

"What? Who’s here?"

"Shhhh," M’Adoc breathed soothingly. "Calm down."

If he said that one more time, she would scream. "Why won’t you tell me the answer?"

"Because I’m trying not to scare you more. Just breathe slowly. Think about something comforting."

Delphine closed her eyes. In the past, her mother would have come to her mind. But today, it was an image of Jericho smiling at her that made her feel safe. Protected.

The skittering backed away.

"That’s my girl."

She pushed herself up slowly. "Is there anything I can do to help you?"

"Keep the monsters from winning this war. You have to make sure that Noir is stopped no matter what."

That’s what she intended to do. "I’m trying, M’Adoc."

She heard him curse in pain before he spoke again. "You’re a brave woman, Delphine. You always were."

She rubbed at the chills on her arms. "I don’t feel brave, especially not right now."

"That’s what bravery is, especially for a woman not used to having emotions. When you feel deep, paralyzing fear and you don’t let it stop you, that is true courage. There’s never bravery without fear. Just as there’s no love without hate."

She wasn’t sure if that was true or not. Her experience with emotions was too recent. The concept of bravery seemed beyond her understanding. "Why did they put you here?"

"I wouldn’t give them what they wanted. I refused to convert and join Noir’s plans. Besides, Zeus was more cruel than this when he rounded us up to punish us for his dreams. Noir and Azura have nothing on him. Beatings and torture I can take."

Delphine shivered as she remembered some of her own beatings. Though Oneroi were immune to emotions, the ability to feel and experience pain had stayed with them. For one thing, it wasn’t truly an emotion, it was a physical response to being hurt, and for the other, it allowed Zeus and the other gods to punish them when they stepped over the rules. "What about the others? Did they convert?"

"M’Ordant’s dead." She heard the tears in his voice as he said that, and her own heart ached at the loss. M’Ordant had been a stickler for the rules, but at the same time, he’d been a good Oneroi. And a great friend.

Any time she’d needed backup, he’d been there to help. She would miss him greatly. ‘They killed him days ago when he refused to eat their poison."

She didn’t want to ask the next question and yet she had to know the answer. "What about D’Alerian?"

"I don’t know. I haven’t seen him since we were captured. Part of me hopes he’s dead, too, rather than being tortured like I’ve been. I know they’d never get him to convert, either. May the gods help him wherever he is."

She groaned in frustration. "Why are they doing this to us? There are other pantheons out there."

"But not with the Oneroi. It’s our powers they crave. More than that, Zeus banning our emotions made the Skoti an easy target. Noir was able to infiltrate our ranks by promising to return their feelings to them. Stupid, gullible bastards believing his lies."

"It’s not entirely their fault. He’s drugging them."

"I know. They tried to drug me, too."

"And still you didn’t convert?"

"No. I’m not stupid enough to call that prick master. Better I should live out eternity in this hole being eaten alive than help him."

Delphine. . .

She gasped as a demonic voice spoke her name. It reminded her of her mother. Help me, Delphine. Please.

"Ignore them," M’Adoc snapped.

"What are they?"

"The souls of the damned. If you answer them, you’ll take their place in this hell forever, and they’ll be free to wander the mortal realm."

The calls were louder now.

Delphine plugged her ears and made herself hear Jericho’s voice. She closed her eyes and imagined being with him. Holding him.

That’s it. . .

Laughter rang out.

Suddenly, light poured through the room. Delphine screamed as she saw the ghastly white specter in front of her. Its face was hollowed out. Its eyes sunken in darkness. Wisps of dirty gray hair floated around a bloated face as it reached for her to pull her close to it.

"I will not fear you!" she shouted. "I fear nothing. Nothing!" She prepared to battle it.

The ghoul launched itself at her.

Delphine ducked its punch, expecting it to attack her. But just as it reached her, it screamed and pulled back.

It was Jericho.

He had the creature by the neck. "Get Delphine out of here," he shouted over his shoulder. With one swift move, he cut the creature’s throat and slung it away just in time to catch an assault from another one.

Phobos ran at her and pulled her toward the door. "Wait!" she said, trying to stop, "M’Adoc is here, too."

"We’ve got him." Phobos shoved her into the hallway.

Asmodeus was outside, waiting.

Delphine drew up short, expecting him to be against them. "What are you doing here?"

"Being counted among friends. But for the record, you guys better not lose. I don’t want my ass fried over this, or any other body parts, either."

"Why would you help us?"

Asmodeus shrugged. "I hear stupidity is a fatal disease. Doing my own experimentation to see if that’s true or not. If I survive, we’ll know it’s not. If I die… well, it’ll suck. Bad. And I won’t be happy."

Phobos came out of the room with M’Adoc leaning heavily against him. M’Adoc’s face had been beaten to the point she barely recognized him. His clothes were torn and showed her a body rife with bleeding wounds. "C’mon."

She had no chance to argue before they left this realm. The next thing she knew, she was in a huge, white room with Tory and several other Oneroi. A man and a woman were tending the wounded while they lay on the floor in utter agony.

Three Charonte popped in with more wounded, whom they laid on the floor before vanishing again.

"What’s going on?" she asked Tory, who was helping one of the Skoti drink a glass of water.

"Ash, Jericho, Jared and Phobos are pulling as many of the prisoners out as they can."

Still, Delphine was confused. "Why bring them here?"

"It’s the safest place until we can regroup. Ash wants to count the survivors first."

Delphine looked around at the small handful who were here. It really didn’t look promising. But at least they weren’t fighting them. The Skoti appeared too weak to do anything other than lay on the ground and groan.

It sickened her to see them like this.

"Here. Let me help you."

She turned to find a petite woman by her side. "Help me with what?"

She smiled kindly. "Remove your collar. Relax, my name is Danger, and I’m one of Acheron’s stewards. You’re safe here, I promise."

Delphine lifted her hair up so that Danger could unfasten the collar and restore her powers… again. She was getting really tired of losing them. "Thank you."

"You’re welcome." As Danger pulled it off, a sharp sting went through her.

Grimacing, she pulled back. But it took her a minute to realize it wasn’t from the collar coming off.

It was her powers warning her that Jericho was in serious trouble.

Jericho left the pit to return to Ash and Jared, who were fighting demons, gallu and other creepy things, in the main hole where most of the prisoners were being kept. He couldn’t take a step without being hammered by them.

But that was all right by him. He was getting a lot of pent-up aggression out. Poor them for being the recipients. If he wasn’t enjoying it so much, he’d actually feel sorry for them.

As it was…

He cut a demon in half.

Phobos popped back in by his side. "Has anyone seen Deimos?"

Jericho caught another gallu, threw him on the ground and plunged his dagger between the creature’s eyes to kill it before he answered. "He was with Jaden."

"Where?"

"Hanging on a wall."

Phobos gave him a harsh glare. "Can you show me?"

Leaving Ash and the Charonte to fight, Jericho led Phobos and Jared down the same hallway he’d taken earlier with Asmodeus. One of the best parts about his returned powers was being able to remember little details such as this. He’d missed the flawless memory of the gods.