Dangerous Games
Chapter Twelve

 Keri Arthur

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Consciousness came back slowly, accompanied by a pounding headache that had spots dancing crazily before my closed eyelids and my stomach doing an accompanying jig. And I couldn't even begin to describe the pain radiating up from my left hand.
Better to ignore it. Pretend it wasn't there, even if the sheer force of it had sweat rolling down my forehead.
Or maybe that was the heat. It was hot here, wherever the hell "here" was. My skin burned, and it wasn't just the aches that caused it. The air was thick and humid, and filled with the rank scent of mustiness and old earth. Lying underneath those two were the finer aromas of blood and death and sorrow and pain, some of them ancient, some of them fresh, all of them raw.
Which suggested that this place was not only underground, but somewhere that had seen more than its fair share of death.
As had the table on which I lay. Misery and death seemed embedded in the stone itself, and the chill riding up from it ate into my spine and butt, making them ache. I resisted the temptation to shift position, and concentrated on what was going on in the room itself.
Somewhere to my left, fire crackled. I couldn't smell smoke, but there didn't seem to be even the faintest trickle of fresh air and it just didn't feel like a hearth-type fire complete with chimney. Given who had more than likely lit the flames, it was a fair bet to say it was probably magic in origin. I very much doubted Caelfind had been the only practitioner. Surely a dark god would know a bit about the dark arts of sorcery, as well.
Rising beyond the crackle of flame was the sound of chanting. I listened for several seconds, trying to understand the melodious words, but they didn't seem to be in any language I recognized. But the voice I knew - it belonged to Jin.
A tremor ran through my soul. I might not know where I was, but scent, sensation, and instinct were giving very strong indications of what this place was used for.
This was Quinn's gateway. The place where Kingsley did his sacrifices or feedings or whatever the hell they actually were. Why he transported the bodies to warehouses afterward, I have no idea. Maybe he simply didn't want the stink of rotting flesh hanging around his place of sacrifice.
I was tempted to open my eyes and looked around further, but until I was sure Jin and I were alone in this place, I couldn't risk even the slightest twitch.
I drew in a breath - slowly but deeply - tasting the air, sorting through the thick scents of death and age and power, looking for the one that was Kingsley.
He wasn't here - a fact that was surely backed up from the fact I was relatively clearheaded. No longer was I the compliant, needy little bitch I'd been in the house, and my thoughts were free of the foggy distance that had made me so pliable earlier. Of course, there were now a thousand little miners working away on the inside of my skull and within my hand, but the pain - eye watering as it was - was a good one. Because I could think. I could feel. And after the events of the last few hours, that alone felt like heaven.
But the bitter, metallic taste in the back of my mouth very much suggested that my distant state had probably been artificially induced, that perhaps both the wine and water had been drugged. They had to have been - it was the only explanation for what had happened. What I'd allowed to happen.
And with my will suppressed, Kingsley had a relatively easy time of getting through some of my shields and making me do what he'd wanted me to do.
But only when he was close. My brief attack on Jin had proven that.
The one good thing about this whole situation was the fact he obviously hadn't gotten through all my shields. Otherwise, he would have known I wasn't any old sacrifice victim, but a werewolf and a guardian. And they surely would have taken far more precautions with me if they'd realized what they actually had.
Because I wasn't restrained in any way I might be naked, but my arms were resting by my sides and my legs were stretched comfortably straight out And while I mightn't have my shoes, I could still feel the two knives disguised as hair clips in my hair. I had weapons - good weapons - when I needed them.
My very first instinct was to get up and run while Jin's attention was caught elsewhere, but I quelled it quickly Though I could only smell him in the room, I had no idea what else might be here as well There might be nasty little - or not so little - beasties like the hellhound waiting in the shadows And I seriously doubted I'd have the strength to battle Mew as well as Jin.
No, better to wait for the right situation Like, sometime before they started gutting me.
I drew in another slow, deep breath, trying to sense something else about the room we were in Nothing more than the aromas I'd already tasted touched the air. I'd have to risk opening my eyes.
I cracked one eyelid open Warm light danced across the shadowed, earthy walls, highlighting the faint hieroglyphics etched into the rough-hewn walls Some of the hieroglyphics were familiar, because they were the same as the ones on the back of the ring I'd found in the corner of the skinned thief's house As to what the others were, I had no idea, yet just looking at them had an odd sense of dread rolling through me. I don't know why, but they left me feeling terribly alone and afraid.
The fear that had, up until now, taken a backseat to pain and sensation came back with a rush, and again it was all I could do not to get up and run.
I blew out a soft breath, trying to stem panic, trying to keep my breathing slow and easy, and continued to carefully survey my surroundings.
If I was going to get out of here, I needed to know where all the players were, and what the entire situation was. I might suspect where I was and what my fate would be, but I needed to suss out the entire situation before I made any plans.
Which meant shifting a little to get a better view.
It was dangerous. I could see Jin standing in the shadows to the right of the flame, softly chanting, but I had no idea if there was something - or someone - waiting just beyond the range of my senses.
Still, the chance had to be taken.
Heart hammering, I carefully inched sideways - shifting, then waiting; shifting, then waiting - until I was lying at a slight angle across the stone. My stomach was a mess of knots by the time I finished, and my body flushed with the heat of fear, but my head was nearer to the edge of the giant table, and I had a far better view of a good half of the room.
Only it wasn't a room carved-out underground, as I'd suspected, but a real cave. An old cave, one whose walls looked worn by the grime of time. From this angle, the hieroglyphics looked far younger than the walls, the symbols carved into the earth like open wounds, fresh and bleeding.
Another shiver ran through me, and I tore my gaze away. Jin was standing to my far left, dressed in a black robe that covered him from neck to feet. Interestingly, the dragon had very little body heat under infrared. It was dark and purplish, not even resembling the heat of a body on the verge of death. It was something totally different, something totally alien.
But then, I guess I was dealing with the ancient spirit of a dragon, not a human in any sense of the word beyond the borrowed body.
Behind him was a door. It was a heavy, modern metal thing, so at odds with the feel of this place. Yet for some reason, just seeing it made me feel better.
If there was a door, people could get here. People could still rescue me if by chance I couldn't actually rescue myself.
It gave hope, when part of me hadn't really wanted to hope until now.
Midway between me and that door was a small stand. A leather cloth covered the top, and on this rested a wickedly curved knife and a heavy silver chalice.
Both items smelled of death and age, though up until that moment, I would have sworn silver could never retain a smell.
My gaze went from the small table to Jin and back again.
That knife might be my one chance of freedom. If Maisie hadn't been lying when she'd said the best way to kill the dragons was to behead them.
I studied Jin again. His eyes were closed, his concentration on the chant I couldn't understand. If it was a spell of some kind, it didn't appear to be aimed at me. At least, not aimed at restraining me. It could well be doing something else, something that would affect me when I moved.
But the only way I was going to find out was to actually move.
I blew out a soft breath, then wrapped myself in shadows and slipped off the stone table. The chanting went on, a rhythmical sound that showed no awareness of change.
I stepped across the stones, the warmth of them caressing my skin, sending little tingles of itchy energy spiraling up my legs. I ignored it, wrapped my hand around the black hilt of the curved blade, raised it high, and ran at Jin with all the speed I could muster.
I was a dhampire. I had not only the speed of a vampire, but the strength of a werewolf and a vampire behind me. And no one, not even the spirit of a dragon, could counter them. Especially when taken unawares. Jin looked up at the last possible moment, his words stuttering to a halt and his eyes widening just a fraction before the knife sliced through flesh, muscle, and bone, severing his neck swiftly and cleanly. That almost comical look of surprise froze on his face as his head rolled from his neck and dropped to the floor. A second later, his body followed, crumpling in an untidy heap, blood spurting from the stump of his neck and pooling around his head. Almost like a dark halo.
Wispy tendrils began to rise from his body. I raised the knife and quickly retreated to the circle of stones. I had no idea if a dragon's soul could actually attack, or whether the silver blade or the circle of stones would protect me, but it sure as hell felt safer than standing next to a rising soul that belonged to the master of pain.
The tendrils swirled, pulling together, finding shape, finding form. Becoming that of a serpent without wings.
It hissed, the sound echoing around the chamber and making me wince.
But it didn't attack, merely pulled apart once again and drifted away.
Going back to the hell where it had come from, hopefully.
It seemed Maisie hadn't lied to me, after all.
I looked beyond him, through the doorway. The next room seemed haunted by shadows. I couldn't see anyone, couldn't sense anyone. And yet... I had a feeling I was no longer alone.
A suspicion that was confirmed when one of those shadows moved.
For a moment, my heart leapt, and joy flooded through me. Rhoan. It had to be Rhoan, even if I couldn't feel his presence. He would have sensed I was in trouble, and come hell or high water, he would come for me.
Then the fresh air moving in from the other room hit me, accompanied by the noxious scent of unwashed flesh.
I almost laughed at the irony of it.
It wasn't Rhoan.
It was Gautier.
How totally, absolutely, fuckingly appropriate.
For a moment, the mad instinct to run, to rush past him and just get out, hit, and I took several steps forward before I forced myself to stop.
Truth was, I had no idea what waited beyond that door and Gautier. It could be the other dragon. It could be the dark god himself. Three against one just wasn't good odds in any way, shape, or form.
Besides, I might very well land myself in a room that offered absolutely no fighting - and more importantly, no running - space. If I had to fight Gautier, then this larger chamber was the place to do it in.
I glanced down at the stones surrounding the table. Unfortunately, now that Jin's chanting had stopped, there was no feeling of power coming from them. No purplish light coming from the writings on the wall.
Fate, it seemed, had no intention of helping me out any more than she already had. Not that I was surprised. Fate and I had never been chummy.
"What are you doing here, Gautier?"
He didn't answer immediately, instead squatting down next to Jin's body and dipping a finger into the thick poo! of blood. He raised it to his mouth and sucked on it lightly. His eyes were filled with a madness and fury that was Gautier and something more. Something alien and deadly.
"A dragon's blood tastes like human blood, in case you were wondering."
"I wasn't, but thanks for the update, stinko."
He smiled and rose. From behind his back he produced a knife - longer and brighter than the one I was holding. "It'll be interesting to see whether your blood is as sweet as other wolves', or if it holds the sharpness of your tongue."
My knuckles went white with the force of my grip on the curved knife. "Tell me one thing before we do this, Gautier."
"Grant a dying wish? It is not usually in my nature to do so, but seeing we've had such a sweet and caring relationship over the years, go ahead and ask."
"How did you get into Dunleavy's town house uninvited?"
"Ah." His smile mocked as he ran his finger up the edge of his blade, drawing blood and not seeming to care. "I am the creation of a lab, a vampire endowed with the powers of other races. Because of it, I have never had the threshold restriction of a vampire."
Meaning he could walk through any doorway uninvited? That sure went a long way to explaining how he'd become our greatest guardian. That and the fact he was a psycho who loved to kill.
But at least it explained how he'd left that note in the apartment Jack had sent us to, to keep us safe when Gautier had first fled the Directorate's leash. A chill ran through me. He could have gotten us anytime he pleased, anywhere he'd pleased. Even in the places we'd felt the safest.
"If you arc the death head of the dragon, how did you retain your soul when the others did not? And why didn't you tell your dark master that I was a guardian?"
He stepped past Tin's body. Just one step, but it was enough to have my heart just about leaping through my chest. "That's three questions."
"In the scheme of things, it's not going to kill you to answer a couple more questions."
"In the scheme of things, you will die slowly, in agony, with the full knowledge that the help that waits just beyond these doors will never ever find you or this place. And you will die with the knowing I will kill all that you hold dear, and then I will kill as I want. Because no one will be able to stop me. I am death, and you are mine."
"You know, this death spirit you're sharing body-space with has made you a lot more eloquent, but he sure as hell talks as much shit as you do."
His gaze narrowed, just a fraction, but the sensation of danger swirled around me and the hairs along the back of my neck stood on end. It had never been a sane idea to annoy Gautier, but how much stupider was it now that he shared space with the spirit of death? Still, if I was going to die, then I sure as hell was going to die spitting in his eye and throwing barbs all the way.
"We will enjoy killing you."
"But are we going to answer the questions?"
He smiled again, and it was the smile I knew. All oily confidence and belief in self.
"The others were human and easily swept away. I am, as I've already said, a lab-born vampire. It is not so easy to get rid of me."
Didn't we know that. "And not telling Kingsley who I was?"
"He has other victims upstairs. He will not take mine. And in this place there is no cavalry to save you. It's just you and me."
I stared at him for a moment, then took a deep breath, gathering courage, and stepped over the stones, moving into the center of the circular cavern. It was bigger than I'd originally thought, filled with shifting shadows that wouldn't do either of us any good.
I rolled my shoulders, trying to ease the ache, then shifted my feet, letting the grit and dirt dig into my heels and enhance my grip. Once I was ready - or as ready as I was ever going to get - I lifted my free hand and gave him a quick "come on" sign. "Let's do it, stinko."
He laughed, and it was the most joyous sound I'd ever heard escape his thin lips. In one smooth movement, he sheathed the knife behind his back, then he came at me, a blur of energy and heat and sheer bloody murder.
There was little I could do but try to survive. I weaved and dodged and blocked, using every skill pounded into my body over the last few months, every instinct, every ounce of speed. He was fast, super fast, with instincts and fighting skills honed far sharper than mine ever would be. But I was fighting for my life, and that gave me a huge advantage in the survival stakes. Enough to survive, anyway.
We moved, weaved, dodged around the room. Dirt clouded the heavy air, making it thicker, harder to breathe. Or maybe that was simply fear, weighing heavier and heavier on my flesh. Our dance was a vicious one, done in silence, except for the occasional smack of Mesh against flesh or the heavy thump of a step against dusty ground. Blow after blow got through my defenses and rained upon my body, cutting and bruising but not breaking. Not yet. And every time he hit me, every time his teeth or nails scraped me, I kept the pain inside. If he wanted it, he was going to have to work a darn sight harder for it.
It was a frightening though that he probably could. And would.
Still, after long minutes of heavy fighting, I was still upright, and still relatively unhurt. But God, I was thankful when he paused. As much as the wolf within begged to attack, to slash and bite and generally tear chunks off his stinking form, common sense held sway. I couldn't keep such intensity up. I might have the strength of a wolf and a vampire within me, but Gautier was a whole lot more now - who knew what strengths the dragon gave him? I had to pace myself, had to play this his way, until I got the chance to play it mine.
He breathed deep. Rapture flared in the depths of his flat eyes. "Ah, the sweet taste of your fear, Riley. So much more exquisite than blood."
I backed away a little farther, and swiped at the sweat running down my forehead with a bloody arm. Confidence fairly oozed from his pores, and really, who could blame him? I stunk of sweat, effort, and blood, as well as the aforementioned fear, and there was no point in denying any of it.
"Enjoy it while you can, psycho, because it'll be the last time that you do."
He reached back behind him and drew the knife free once again. In the flickering torchlight, the silver blade seemed to glow with an odd, red-gold luminance. As if it were already coated with my blood.
I shivered and ignored the blade, watching his hands instead. With normal psychos you watched their eyes for their moves, but Gautier was far too devious to give the game away so easily. If he was going to throw that blade, I'd get the warning in the brief flick of his fingers.
He didn't throw it.
Just laughed. The sound rolled across the silence, sawing at my nerves.
I flexed my fingers and waited.
He smiled and casually swung the blade back and forth, back and forth.
When he finally came at me, it was so fast I barely had time to blink. I spun and lashed out with one bare foot. My heel skimmed his stomach, forcing him backward.
His free hand chopped down, his blow barely avoiding my shin, then he was following the impetus of the movement, spinning and kicking and slashing in one smooth motion. My knife went flying from suddenly nerveless fingers. His knife whistled mere inches from my nose, and probably would have sliced open my face if I hadn't bolted backward.
That angered me, for some reason. Beating me to a pulp I could handle, but cutting my face just went beyond the bounds of decency. I might not have a whole lot of prettiness to be worried about, but, I was attached to what I had.
Gautier's fingers flexed, just the once, around the blade's shaft, then he blurred. His steps were featherlight on the dusty ground, little more than whispers of air. I wished I could say the same about his scent. It was thick with the reek of death, so vile that it snatched my breath and made it even harder to concentrate.
I tracked him with infrared, waiting until he closed in, then dropped and spun, lashing out with one foot, trying to bring him down. He avoided the kick easily, then his fist was arcing toward me. I dodged, felt the breeze of it scrape past my cheek, and dove forward, tackling him at knee height and bringing him down. We both hit the ground with a grunt and rolled in a mess of arms and legs and slashing teeth. I called to my alternate shape, felt her roil through my body eagerly, and slashed at his stomach with my teeth. Blood and flesh filled my mouth, a foulness worse than even his scent. Bile rose, and I hawked, spitting out his taste as I scrambled away. Silver glittered through the air. I dodged, lunged in a second time, tearing at the hand, the fingers, that held the blade.
He cursed, then his free fist was in my side, burrowing deep. Something snapped within, and everything went red as the force of the blow battered me away from him. I tumbled over and over in the dirt, changing shape along the way, until I hit the far wall in human form and with spine-jarring force.
But there was no time to lay there. No time to get my breath. The air was screaming with the scent and force of Gautier's follow-up leap. If he pinned me, that would be the end of it. I knew that from the one and only fight we'd had before now.
I rolled away and slashed sideways with my heel. The blow connected low. smashing into his leg just below his knee. Flesh and bone gave way under the power of it, and I swear I heard a crack. He grunted, fury flashing across his dead features, then he spun and grabbed my leg even as I tried to scramble away. A gasp escaped my lips and he chuckled.
I twisted, lunging up, fingers like daggers as I went for his eyes. He reared back, and I changed the blow, chopping down on a pressure point instead, trying to break his grip on my leg.
He swore, and swung, throwing me across the room a second time. I hit the wall with a smack that knocked the air from my lungs and left me gasping. Or maybe it wasn't the blow. Maybe there wasn't any air to begin with, because my lungs burned and I couldn't seem to breathe, no matter how much I gasped.
And he was coming at me again.
Somehow, I got up. Somehow, I forced myself to move. I felt rather than saw the sweep of the blade, and threw myself out of the way. Felt the silver point slash my calves as it whooshed past, leaving a trail burning fire in my flesh.
I rolled to my feet, scrambled around the table, putting its bulk between us. There I stood, watching him as I gasped for breath, my body shaking, aching, and bloody. It didn't matter. I was still standing, still fighting. The great Gautier hadn't beaten me yet, and he fucking well wouldn't. No matter what he did. No matter how bad it got.
He came at me again, and this time the knife was a deadly silver blur, leaving me with little option other than to back away. I didn't expect him to lunge forward, and the move took me by surprise. I jumped backward, but my foot caught against something solid - Jin's body, I realized with despair - and suddenly I was falling, sprawling, across the floor. Right next to the curved sacrifice blade - which was at Gautier's feet.
He laughed, a sound of pleasure and victory combined, and raised the knife, the bloody blade glittering as the torchlight caressed it.
I had one hope left and I tried it.
"Rhoan," I gasped, looking past Gautier. "Blow the bastard's brains out."
Against all the odds, against all reason, Gautier turned. I grabbed the curved knife, bucked upright, and swept the bright blade from left to right, removing Gautier's head from his shoulders.
I saw incredulity bloom in his eyes before his body crumpled and his head rolled away into the shadows. Which was good, because I didn't want to look at his ugly mug any more than I had to.
I dropped to my knees beside his body and took a deep, sobbing breath. Rhoan had once told me that old tricks would never save my life. How wrong he'd been.
I'd won the battle I never thought I could win. I'd beaten the great Gautier, and had done it with a trick as old as time itself.
And yet, the danger wasn't over for me. Two dragon heads might now be dead, but there was one left, as well as the dark lord. I had to get out of here, while the going was good.
But it seemed that fate had helped me as much as she intended to. Because as I stumbled to my feet, John Kingsley walked back into the room.
His gaze swept from the altar to the bodies of the two men and then to me. If he was at all annoyed at the death of his dragons, it didn't show. He appeared amused, if anything. Though I guess a dark god could probably bring back the souls of his dragons easily enough.
"It seems Gautier was right. I did underestimate your strength."
I clenched my fist around the ceremonial knife. "People tend to do that."
His gaze slid down to the knife I held so firmly, and a smile teased the corners of his thin lips. "So who, precisely, are you?"
"So Gautier really didn't tell you?"
"Gautier was distressingly closedmouthed when it came to details about you. A point he paid the ultimate price for."
"I'm a guardian," I said. "And I'm here to stop you."
He laughed, and it was a sound so warm and enticing fear skidded down my spine.
I thought I was free of the dark god's influence.
I was very, very wrong.
Kingsley raised his hands and began to chant. His rich voice seemed to evoke a power from the hieroglyphics on the wall, because they began to glow with a muted purple light. Energy swirled around us, pungent and acidic, caressing my skin with a warmth that felt like water, and yet stung sharply as salt in a cut.
My skin began to tingle, my toes and fingers jump. As I breathed the suddenly thick, aromatic air, the aches and pains rolling through my body began to ease, until it was all but a muted ache.
I remembered the smile his other victims had died with. Remembered the feeling they'd died wanting the death and agony Kingsley had given them.
Realized that this power, whatever it was, was the reason. It didn't only ease the pain, but eased will, as well. I couldn't afford anything to affect clear thought - not if I wanted to stay alive.
I raised the ceremonial blade. Under the odd, purplish fire coming from the hieroglyphics, the blade gleamed with a deep red glow. As if it had a life and blood of its own.
"Stop whatever you're doing, Kingsley, or I'll chop something vital off." Because I couldn't kill him, not without pinning his soul to his body first.
And that would take the concealed silver knives that were miraculously still in my hair. But using them would mean getting closer, and that was something I just didn't want to do.
He smiled. Power swirled around me, through me, tugging at my resolve, dampening my will.
"You will drop the knife, young Riley."
I gripped it harder. The power became thicker, richer, stirring my senses, pulling at desire. I was a wolf and lust part of my nature, but the desire he was promising was not the sweetness of orgasm but rather death.
Sweat trickled down my spine. "Kingsley, this place is surrounded by the Directorate. If they're not already busting into your lair, they soon will be. Give up, while you can."
"They will never find this place. We are deep underground, and protected by magic. Fighting me is useless, little one."
And the magic swirled, becoming a crescendo from which there was no escape. I wanted to fight it, I desperately wanted to, but it was as if someone had pulled the plug on the sink that was my courage and determination. It all just floated away, and that odd detachment came back full force.
I couldn't beat him. Not alone.
"Come here," he said.
My feet moved me across the room. I fought every step and it didn't matter a damn. Kingsley smiled, and touched a hand to my cheek. His fingers were cool and clammy, reminding me of dead flesh, and the part of me that was still free wanted to scream in horror.
"Look at me," he said softly.
His words were a command that whipped around me, and there was nothing I could do but obey. This close to him, his will was extremely strong, flaying my flesh with power and heat and desire. Despite everything, my body began to respond, my blood flicking like fire through my veins once again.
His gaze was ablaze with hunger and power, but what he hungered for this time was not sex, not emotion, but something far more powerful.
"Do you wish a completion?"
It was the same question he'd asked in the room with the stocks. Then, as now, I held my tongue, biting down hard on the need to answer.
If I did, it would be the end for me.
"I can give it to you, you know," he continued. "Give you satisfaction of a kind you have never felt."
I didn't say anything. Couldn't say anything. My tongue seemed stuck to the roof of my mouth.
"Do you wish a taste, little one?"
The power swirled, brighter and harder, until my whole body thrummed with it and the need to give in was a wave that was gathering pace toward an eager shore.
And then one of the shadows moved in the other room and awareness shot through me. I was no longer alone in this fight and the thought had energy surging, bolstering floundering will and determination.
"What I want," I said, my words little more than a pant of air, "is for you to fucking die, as horribly as all those women died."
And in one smooth movement, I grabbed the knives from my hair, flicked off the protective covers with my thumbs, and plunged them deep into Kingsley's chest.
Fury filled his eyes, and the power in the air became a weapon that hit with the force of a hammer, throwing me hard across the room. I hit the wall with a grunt, smashing the back of my head as I slid down to the floor. My vision wavered. Stars danced and shadows moved as Kingsley strode toward me. Blood and steam were dribbling from the wound but he didn't really appear to notice.
I scrambled away on all fours, but he grabbed my foot and yanked me to a halt.
"For that, you will pay with pain before I kill you."
"Bastard," I panted, kicking out with my free foot. "Let me go."
"Or you'll what? Kill me? Heard that threat once before, little one, and it is as ineffective as these little knives sticking in my flesh."
I didn't say anything. Didn't have time. Because at that moment, a sound rang out.
Not just a sound, but a gunshot.
The bullet shot Kingsley's fucking brains through the side of his head and splattered them across the wall.
I didn't even have the energy to cheer.
As Kingsley's body slumped to the ground, Rhoan stepped fully into the room.
"Why will you bad guys never listen?" he said, talking to Kingsley as if he were still capable of hearing and thought. And I guess if the silver-threaded knife had done its job and trapped his spirit inside his lifeless body, then he was still capable of understanding. He just couldn't reply. "I keep warning and warning, and nobody seems willing to listen. One of these days someone is going to wake up to the fact that I'm serious when I say never to attack my sister without looking over your shoulder for me."
I dragged myself into a sitting position and leaned wearily against the wall. "Maybe you should send out a pamphlet to bad guys' headquarters. It could be the only way to make sure they know."
"Now that sounds like a plan." He hefted the weapon onto his shoulder, and gave me a grin. "And thanks for saving the good bit for me."
I laughed. At the irony in his words. In sheer, bloody relief at still being alive.
Laughed until the tears started flowing and the pain hit full force.
Laughed until I knew no more.