Dance of the Gods Page 12

The wind caught at him, plucked at his wings like greedy fingers. In it he could hear their voices, blended together as one, and could feel their power, a hot stream that washed the whirling air.

Then that wind slapped at him, and sent him into a rolling, spinning dive.

Blair heard the hawk cry, saw it spiral. Her heart rolled up into her throat, lodged there as Larkin tumbled through the air. It stayed there, a hot, hard ball even as the hawk sheered up, wings spread. Then dived to land gracefully at her feet.

For a moment, she saw the melding of them, hawk and man. Then Larkin stood facing her, his breathing labored, his face pale.

“What the hell was that? What the hell happened? I thought you were going to splat. Your nose is bleeding.”

Her voice was tinny to his ears so he shook his head as if to clear it. “Not surprising.” He swiped at the blood. “Something’s happening up there, something very big from the feel of it. The light damn near blinded me, and the wind’s a bloody wicked one. I couldn’t tell, not for certain, if they’re in trouble. But I think we’d best go up and make certain.”

“Okay.” She started to hand him his sword, and the ground heaved. Off-balance, she pitched forward. He managed to catch her, but the momentum threw him back against the rock, and nearly sent both of them into the water.

“Sorry, sorry.” But it was brace against him or fall. “You hurt?”

“Knocked the bleeding breath out of me again is all.”

The next spume of surf soaked them both. “Screw this. We’d better get out of here.”

“I’m for that. Steady now.”

They linked their arms around each other’s waists, struggling to stay upright. Rock and sod began to spill down the cliff face, making the idea of climbing up it again unappealing if not impossible.

“I can get us up to the others,” he told her. “You’ll just have to hold on, and I’ll—”

He broke off as the wall itself began to waver, to change. To open.

“Well now,” he murmured, “what have we here?”

“Spell broke down, or was broken down. Could be trouble.”

“I’m hoping.”

“Right there with you.”

Even as he spoke, they rushed out. Big and burly, and armed with swords.

“How can they—”

“Not vamps.” Blair pushed away from Larkin, planted her feet. She figured the quaking ground was as much a problem for the enemy as it was for her and Larkin. “Fight now, explain later.”

She swung her sword up, blocked the first blow. The force rippled down her arm even as the ground buckled under her feet. She used it, going down, blocking again as she snatched one of the stakes out of her belt.

She jammed it through his leg. He stumbled, howled, and she came up with her sword.

One down, she thought, and refused the pity. She pivoted, nearly went down as the ground came up, and clashed steel with the one who sprang behind her.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Larkin taking on two at once. “Bear claw!” she shouted.

“There’s an idea.” His arm thickened, lengthened. With the keen black claws that curled out, he swiped even as his sword swung in his other hand.

They were holding their own, Blair thought, but no more than that. There was no room to maneuver, not when a wrong step could have them tumbling into the sea.

Bashed on the rocks, swept away. Worse than the sword. Still, they couldn’t climb, not now. There was no choice but to stand and fight.

She fell, rolled, and the sword plunged into the rocky ground an inch from her face. She kicked up, pumping hard, and sent her opponent into the sea.

Too many of them, too many, she thought as she gained her feet and staggered. But it could be worse. It could…

The light changed, dimmed. With the false twilight came the first splatters of rain.

“Christ, Jesus Christ. She’s bringing the dark.”

With it, vampires began to slink out of the cave. The sea, and a hard, drowning death suddenly seemed the better alternative.

Calculating quickly, she sent fire rippling down her blade. They could block them with fire, hold some back, destroy others. But too many would get through.

“We can’t win this, Larkin. Make like a hawk, get to the others. Get them out of here. I’ll hold them off as long as I can.”

“Don’t be foolish. Get on.” He threw her his sword. “Hold on.”

He changed, but it wasn’t a hawk that stood beside her. The dragon’s gold wings spread, and as it reared back, its tail sliced down the first that came out of the caves.

She didn’t think, just leaped on its back, locking her legs around its serpentine body. She sliced out to the left, hacking at one that charged. Then she was rising up, streaming through the gloom and the mist.

And she couldn’t help it, couldn’t stop it. She let out a wild cry of sheer delight, throwing back her head as she stabbed the swords into the sky. And set them both to flame.

The wind rushed by her, and the ground rushed away. She sheathed one sword so that she could run a hand over the dragon. The scales, glimmering gold, felt like polished jewels, sun-warmed and smooth. Looking down, she saw earth and sea, and swirling pockets of mists that blanketed the jaws of the rocks.

Then she saw, on the high cliff, three figures sprawled on the tough, wet grass.

“Get down there. Get down there fast!” She knew he could hear and understand her, in any form, but she might have saved her breath.

The rush of speed slapped her back as he arrowed toward the ground. She was jumping off even as he landed, and began to change back.

The fear was bright silver in her belly, but she saw Hoyt push himself up to sit, saw him reach for Glenna. His nose was bleeding, as hers was. When Larkin reached Moira, turned her over, Blair saw blood on her lips.

“We’ve got to move, we’ve got to go. They could follow us, and if they want to, they can move fast.” She pulled Glenna to her feet. “Let’s move faster.”

“I’m woozy. Sorry, I…”

“Lean on me. Larkin—”

But he’d already chosen his own way. She shoved at her wet hair as she pushed Glenna toward the horse he’d become. “Get up. You and Moira. Hoyt and I are right behind you. Can you walk?” she asked Hoyt.

“I can.” If his legs were shaky, he still moved, and quickly as Larkin galloped off. “So much time passed. It’s dusk.”

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