Assassin: Fall of the Golden Valefar
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They two of them were dragged, kicking and screaming into the street. Eric’s heart felt like it was going to explode. Regret surged through him. Natalia kept breaking free, but didn’t stay that way for long. Before they were outside, they bound her wrists and ankles with duct tape. She screamed for him to help, but Eric was too weak. She’d drained his energy and his body was slow to heal. He wasn’t strong enough to do anything, and now Ivy was demanding his presence. It was time to pay for what he’d done. There was no going backwards.
Mandor dragged the two of them to the street and the Valefar backed away. Natalia’s heart was surging. It felt like her ribs would crack. She screamed, demanding, “Tell me what’s happening!” but Eric didn’t speak. Panic filled her body. She’d made Eric weak so he couldn’t fight them off. The two of them together probably could have managed to fight together and get away, but what she did to him—that would take days to recover from. Tears stung her eyes as fury filled her body. Things were not ending like this! She was going to be killed with Eric, and in the back of her mind, she knew what that meant. What she’d seen. Her blood ran cold as she glanced at him.
Eric looked over at her. The expression in his eyes said he knew what was coming. Her stomach twisted. With a weakened voice he said, “I’m sorry, Natalia.”
She glared at him. “What did you do? What is this?” she screamed. They were surrounded by Valefar, but not one came within ten feet of them. They were tossed into the street like it was an altar, and that’s what scared her he most. Something was coming for them.
“I pissed off the Queen of the Underworld. On purpose.” That was it. That was his plan. Taunt Ivy until she couldn’t ignore him anymore. Violate every treaty, every accord between the angels and the demons to force Ivy to destroy him. He ensnared Ivy so that she had to act. This was her action. The street below them seemed to melt and morph. Natalia screamed as an icy hand, made of Underworld shadows, started to wrap around her and Eric.
“Eric,” she breathed, fear coursing through her veins as a sickening sensation spread through her stomach. The shadows laced inside of her body, weaving through her lungs, pressing the air out and making it impossible to breathe.
The fear wafting off of Natalia slammed into Eric like a wave. Glancing over at her, he said, “You’re finally afraid when you should be.” He watched her as the shadows wrapped around her body, covering her fully. Her eyes grew wide as it crossed over her mouth and pulled her into the ground. She disappeared from sight. “I’m sorry, Nat. So sorry.”
Mandor watched from the sidelines, staying far enough away to not get pulled in. His dark eyes pierced Eric’s arrogant gaze, as Eric was swallowed by the earth. His body was being crushed from all sides, burning like it was on fire, as he was pulled through the earth and below. When he emerged in the Underworld, Eric gasped, drawing in lungs full of dank air. The darkness surrounded him, but he knew it wouldn’t be dark for long. He was in the Underworld, but he didn’t know exactly where.
Pushing himself off the ground, he rose to his feet. “Natalia?” he called, but there was no answer. He understood her rage, her fear. He wanted to spend more time with her, now more than ever. She was an Ori! How could he be so blind? The entire time she was with him, she was spying on him, plotting his death. A death she couldn’t deliver. A death that she predicted would spill more blood than all the wars combined.
That voice pierced his heart and he froze, his body becoming rigid. Ivy stood behind him, saying his name, demanding he turn and face her. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to go. Ivy was supposed to destroy him and him alone. But Natalia was here somewhere. There was no way to save her. Ivy would condemn them together. The one act of kindness that Eric managed to achieve bit him on the ass. The baby he saved was Natalia. She grew up alone and unwanted, and the girl was as deranged as he was. And now she got sucked into hell with him. Fuck. There was no way to save her. He turned slowly, his gaze lowered.
Ivy stood before him, her ethereal form glowing pale blue like the center of a flame. A gown billowed around her ankles, sheer, not hiding her figure from him. He noticed it, but the significance didn’t register. As he lifted his eyes, he saw that the Grecian dress formed a tight, sheer bodice. She looked exactly the way he remembered.
Her eyes glowed fiercely, anger turning to rage, “How could you? After I gave them my word? After the Accords? Eric, how could you!” Her voice bellowed off the walls. T’Gar and several other demons surrounded him making sure he didn’t try to run. Natalia remained hidden, unseen.
He straightened and looked at her. “I had to.” His voice was weak, his gaze filled with sorrow. The haunted features that made Ivy drawn to him only filled her with fury. He couldn’t tell her what he did or why. He didn’t need her compassion. Not anymore. He did everything within his power to evoke her wrath, and this was it.
Ivy’s hands were clenched at her sides. She stepped toward him, knowing that she couldn’t touch him. She wanted to slap him and hug him. There was nothing she could do to save him. Tears would have streaked her face if she was mortal, but she wasn’t.
She spoke, her heart ripping apart with each word, “There’s no way around this. There’s nothing I can do to protect you, and if I don’t destroy you, Eric, it’ll start another war. Surely you knew… you knew this! And you did it anyway!”
Her voice made him die inside. He caused her pain that he could never undo. This was the cruelty he didn’t want to bestow, but there was no other way. She always looked at him with hope, like someday, somehow, something would save him, but there was nothing. He knew that now, even if she didn’t. This was necessary. It was the only way to stop him, to end him before he became something worse.
His voice was cold, “You knew all along that this day would come.”
Eyes wide, Ivy yelled, “You forced it! There was no way to know what would have happened, what would have become of you. You are what you choose to be, and you chose wrong!” Her slender finger was thrust into his face as she screamed. Fury shook her small body, her hair glowing like flames trailing down her back.
“No!” he growled, looking her in the eye, leaning closer to her face. “You’re wrong! You always have been! There is nothing, no reason to spare me. I killed without mercy. I assassinated angels, Martis, and men without remorse. If you fail to kill me now, it won’t end!”
“Shut up, Eric! You’re wrong! You always have been!” Her eyes were glistening, wide and furious. Her long hair draped over her shoulders in long curls. Her hands clenched, then she deliberately opened them.
Eyes wide, she asked, “How could you do this to me? After everything I went through? You were there, Eric. You saw me. One of the only reasons I was able to bear it was because you did. For centuries you bore this hideous weight of a curse that would have destroyed anyone else, but you…” her voice was becoming weaker, breaking as she spoke, “You gave me hope. You made me think I could bare it. That I could take the lot I’d been handed. It was you. Not Lorren. Not Collin. You.”
Eric’s voice was cold, his spine rigid. He had to do this. Breaking down would only make it more painful for her. He snapped, “I am not your strength. I never have been. All of that, everything that makes you what you are, is something that was inside of you all along.” He shook his head, his voice softening though he didn’t mean for it to. “I’m not like you. Everything I touch is destroyed. It predates the curse. I feel like a fucking Omen, Ivy. There’s no one who’s loved me and lived.”
Everything he said felt like a slap in the face. After everything they’d been through together, he just threw it all away. And the words he said now, it felt as if she hadn’t mattered to him at all. But she cared about him. Her lips parted, her voice soft, “I loved you, Eric. And I’m still standing.”
The tension was unbearable. There was nothing she could do to save him now. The angels would demand his destruction. He knew how they thought, what they would require to abstain from another war. His death would satisfy them. It had to appear that Ivy was controlling her realm, and the appearance that she wasn’t or couldn’t, would make them come and take it from her.
Eric made her look weak, like a ruler who couldn’t control him. He slaughtered beings from every realm and basically went on a strategic killing spree to get her to this point, to force her hand. And now she was talking about it and it felt like his skin was being ripped off. How could she say she loved him? How did she not see that her death was his fault?
He growled, pulling his hair, shaking, “You’re dead, Ivy. You endured a horrific fate and I can’t help but wonder if I was the one who caused it. Fuck, I know I caused it!” Eric couldn’t look at her. She was his moment of peace, but she chose someone else. He was destined to become the man painted on Natalia’s wall. There was only one way to stop him. “The time for words is over.” He breathed deeply, and looked her in the eye. “There’s nothing else to say. We both know what has to happen.”
Ivy’s expression was unreadable. His heart was slamming into his ribs, wondering if she could destroy him. He stood before her, spine straight, as her lips moved, silently saying a spell that would end his life. Streaks of blue formed before his eyes, power that flowed from Ivy into the darkness. It twisted together as she spoke, softly, so softly. Her voice was hollow, her gaze vacant. He knew it was killing her to say it, to watch her power destroy him, but he’d left her no choice.
A wall of blue flames surrounded him, growing hotter and hotter. He felt his body tremble, suddenly unable to stand, and fell to his knees. Gasping for air, he remained on all fours, unable to lift his head. It felt like he was being torn apart, cell by cell. He didn’t know what incantation she’d said, but it was working. He could feel it. His life was being sucked out of him, slowly, strand by strand. His lungs burned and didn’t want to fill. When he took a breath, it felt like sand poured down his throat. Gagging, he fell forward, his hair falling into his eyes. His body heaved, but nothing happened. Not seeing, not blinking, Eric lay prone, staring into space. The blue flames whipped through his hair like an ethereal wind.
Ivy’s lips continued to move, drawing more power and forcing it onto her friend. Eric’s skin turned translucent as if he were about to disappear. Ivy felt dead inside. She was dead. This couldn’t be happening, but there was no alternative. Eric knew what he was doing. He knew it would result in war if she failed to act, and she couldn’t allow that. The time for war was over. One rogue assassin shouldn’t matter, but he mattered to her. She felt another presence, a life that accompanied Eric into the Underworld. Ivy saw the girl in the shadows, waiting for her to move, before she completed the spell. As the blue flames appeared to extinguish his life, Ivy waited. The girl would act. She could see it in her stance. A jealous vengeance would force her to act.