Dark Blood Page 59

Keep working. Shrink his escape route, Zev advised. If you begin to counter his every move, he will win this battle. Concentrate on removing that mark. I’ll do what I can to protect Igor each time Xaviero throws something at him.

Zev made sense. The longer the portal was open, the more damage Xaviero could do. But she didn’t want Zev in harm’s way. She kept working, forcing herself to be methodical and careful. Using the fine laser point of hot energy to burn away the shadow was difficult with Igor seizing.

Zev used his healing energy to move around the brain and take down the swelling, carefully avoiding moving fast, rather drifting through the fluid in an effort to keep from drawing the High Mage’s attention. The seizures slowed and then stopped without Xaviero being any closer to knowing the identity of his enemy.

There was a small stillness that boded ill. Branislava continued to work, burning away the mage-shadow from the outside to the inside, narrowing the portal as quickly as possible without permanently harming Igor.

Without warning, worms erupted through the brain matter, tiny wiggling white worms with teeth. They appeared starving, biting viciously at the brain as if they would devour it. This time, Branislava knew she had no choice. She had to rid Igor of the malevolent creatures, or he would die in spite of all she had done. With trepidation, she opened her mind to counter his spell.

Zev blocked that opening solidly, refusing to give Xaviero a point of entry. Use the laser to burn them away. Don’t let him draw you into a match of spells, or give him any clue to your identity.

Branislava did so immediately, skimming the laser over the brain much like a fire-breathing dragon. She had much skill in this kind of warfare and used her knowledge to rid the brain of the terrible worms feeding on it. They blackened and turned to ash even as she turned back and relentlessly continued closing the mage-shadow.

Xaviero shrieked his rage, erupting into a temper tantrum, something she remembered vividly from her centuries encased in ice. A thousand spears of ice pierced every conceivable spot of Igor’s brain, striking everywhere, countering the lightning spear. There was no way to avoid the dangerous icicles stabbing from every direction.

Zev countered with heat, melting them, but not before both of their spirits were pierced with the mage’s weapons.

How bad are you hurt? he asked anxiously. He was pierced through and through and felt as if his body was bleeding from dozens of wounds.

I can do this.

There was a hitch in her voice that caused him concern, but he had to trust her. Keep working, he advised. I’ll do my best to work on Igor’s wounds.

Some of them are deep. You have to repair them or we’ll lose him anyway.

Branislava bit down hard on the need to hurry. She was so close and she didn’t dare make a mistake, but her spirit felt ragged, torn, so thin, her strength waning. She couldn’t get a boost from Zev, he was using everything he had in his attempt to save Igor and counter Xaviero’s attacks.

She kept the laser in continuous motion, slowly squeezing the portal until it was almost nothing. She dared not feel triumphant yet. Now was the moment Xaviero had to make a decision. Did he try another attack and risk a part of him being trapped? A good mage could use that small part against him. Or did he flee without knowing the identity of his opponent?

Xaviero poured himself into the portal, but as he did so, he sent one last command to Igor. The Lycan’s heart reacted as the stimuli raced through the pathways, laden with chemicals. Zev was fighting to repair the damage to the brain and Branislava was busy closing the portal to prevent Xaviero from returning. The heart seized.

The attack was massive. There was no way to stop the brain from shutting down. Branislava tried, refusing to give in, desperate to keep from losing the man she and Zev fought so hard for. No matter what they did, Igor didn’t respond, Xaviero making certain he had thwarted them in the end.

Branislava’s breath caught in her throat. He’ll go after the other two and do the same thing. Can you aid Gregori? Use a laser? With two of you it will be twice as fast.

Zev followed her spirit from the dead body of the Lycan, just as determined as she was to save the lives of the other two. He didn’t like the idea of splitting up, but he told himself they were tied together, spirit to spirit, and if needed, he could pull her out fast.

I’ll do my best. He refused to flinch at the idea of using lightning. He had a healthy respect for nature, but the way the Carpathians regularly wielded it without harming themselves was amazing to him and something he was determined to learn—just not when trying to save a fellow Lycan.

Branislava’s spirit entered Pavlo, the Lycan Tatijana was working on to remove the mage-shadow. Like all of them, Tatijana had never actually attempted to remove a shadow, certainly not one placed by a High Mage, and she worked slowly and methodically to make certain she didn’t make a mistake.

The safeguards were down and she was removing the shadow from the left side, slowly burning away the mark using a sweeping motion from side to side.

He’s coming Tatijana, Branislava warned, conveying her sense of urgency with her tone and the fact that she pulled lightning to her and began wielding the laser as fast as she safely could. He killed Igor and he’ll try for this one as well as the Lycan Gregori is working on. Pick up the pace. I’m going to try something new.

Instead of going from the outside of the circle in, she began burning strips of the shadow from front to back, close together, so that if Xaviero tried entering, he couldn’t do so easily. Tatijana quickly followed suit from the other side, racing to stop Xaviero’s entrance. The moment they met in the middle, they began working backward, filling in the stripes so that every single tiny section of the portal was burned closed.

As Branislava began the final circle to ensure there was no hidden way in around the outer edges of the shadow where they couldn’t see, she felt the sudden push against her as Xaviero tried to force his way through.

Tatijana gasped and cringed, her spirit moving back away from the shadow. He’s here.

But he can’t enter. Finish the outer edges of the circle and then begin the healing process on the burn. I’m going to help the others.

She didn’t wait for her sister’s reaction. She left Pavlo and just as quickly entered the last Lycan. Zev worked on one end of the shadow, slowly and meticulously. Gregori was at the other end.

He’s coming and he’s really angry. I’ll help Zev close the portal, Gregori, but you have to keep him from Borya’s heart. If he can’t get to the heart, he’ll go after another vital organ to kill him.

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