Dark Wolf Page 14

You have judged him, you know him. You know his worth.

Spare him, Mother,

Bring forth your healing power,

Aid me in his healing,

Use me, bring forth your power through me.

Skyler hadn’t realized how truly shaken she was after connecting so often with Dimitri and seeing, no matter what she’d done to help him, that his suffering continued. There was little she could do about the silver chains binding him so tightly from neck to ankle, not from so great a distance. She had barely allowed herself to acknowledge those evil chains.

She knew it was the thin loops wrapped so tightly around his body, a mummy suit of silver, that kept Dimitri contained. He couldn’t reach out to his kind for aid. He couldn’t free himself, or fight his enemies. She had to find the best way to remove the silver and make certain she could heal the burns in his body at least enough to allow him to travel fast.

She really didn’t want to start a war. It would be so much better if they could rescue Dimitri without being detected.

If their plan worked, she would take the information Mother Earth provided on the Lycans, their strengths, weaknesses and habits, their nature and the very characteristics unique to them, and she would use those things against them.

Their last fail-safe depended on her. If they were wounded, or Dimitri was too weak, they needed that last safety zone. She would need to call on every ounce of her mage blood, of her connection to Mother Earth, of her Dragonseeker lineage, to provide a protection spell strong enough to allow anything human or Carpathian to enter, but hold all Lycans out. If she succeeded, they would have a place to run to, a place to defend if the Lycans attacked them. If not, they would all certainly die.

5

Pain was endless, slowing time so that each individual second crawled by. Dimitri could barely breathe, his breath coming in ragged, shuddering gasps, signaling he was nearly at the end of his endurance. His body shivered continuously of its own accord. Try as he might, he couldn’t stop that automatic reflex, much like a wounded animal alone and cornered. His mind was in chaos, the sound of his stuttering heart thundering in his ears.

Hunger beat at him with every slow second that passed. He was aware of every living creature with blood running in its veins that came near him. He could hear that throbbing beat deep in their veins like a drum summoning him. Even the twisting, agonizing pain couldn’t stop the need rising like a tsunami that couldn’t be denied.

His teeth were lengthened and sharp. It took every ounce of discipline he possessed to keep from fighting the silver chains encircling his body. Even with the hooks in him he could have called prey, but the chains prevented him.

He smelled the Lycans approaching long before he heard them coming. In his weakened state, he thought the tremendous gifts of a mixed blood—the Lycan’s dreaded Sange rau—would lessen, not strengthen, but his every sense stretched and grew until he was aware even of the insects crawling on the ground and up the tree trunks.

Sometimes he thought he could actually see and hear the plants growing around him. A few minutes earlier, the grasses surrounding him had been a few feet away from where he hung, but now they covered the ground beneath him like a thick mat. Bunches of flowers seemed to be springing up, fully formed with stalks and petals within minutes. He fastened his gaze to the ground, surprised to see ferns pushing through the earth in a dozen spots surrounding him.

“You don’t look so tough hanging there,” Gunnolf sneered as he came up on Dimitri.

Dimitri didn’t deign to respond, what was the point? Gunnolf wanted to elicit some response out of him, and he wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction. It wouldn’t lessen his pain, and he couldn’t get to him to take his blood, so really, retreating into his own mind was a far better option.

“Your friends haven’t exactly come running to save you,” Gunnolf continued, idly kicking at Dimitri’s leg. He laughed when Dimitri’s body swayed and the hooks dug in deeper, ripping at his flesh. “They must have realized what a dirty, disgusting monster you are and left us to kill you. They weren’t all that good in a fight anyway.”

Dimitri remained silent, his eyes on the ground. He could see dirt pushing up in places around the ferns and the mystery of it fascinated him. Some of the grass in spots directly beneath him had grown high enough that the blades brushed his legs. The grass wound around his ankle and slid beneath the tattered hem of his trousers. Slowly he could feel it traveling up along his skin until it found that exact spot where the Lycan hunter had kicked him. Tiny droplets of something cool and wet fell from the leaf to find the bruise. At once that pain was gone.

“I will say, you’ve lasted longer than anyone else ever sentenced to death by silver.” This time there was a hint of apprehension in Gunnolf’s voice. “No one has lasted past three days. They say it’s impossible to hold still and the silver reaches your heart faster. If you want to end the misery, just dance around a little bit more.”

He caught Dimitri’s shoulders and shook his body hard, laughing again as the fresh blood poured from each of the wounds where the hooks held him prisoner.

“Gunnolf! What are you doing?” Zev snapped sharply.

Gunnolf sobered instantly. He leaned close to Dimitri’s ear. “Die already, you monster, so I can get out of here.” He released him and stepped away from the dangling body.

Zev shoved him away from Dimitri. “You have no right to put your hands on him. The man is suffering. Isn’t that enough for you? If you weren’t one of my pack, I would think you’ve gone rogue and enjoy the suffering of others.”

“He’s Sange rau, a monster beyond compare.” Gunnolf spit on the ground to show his contempt. “He would kill every man, woman and child we have and never look back.”

“He is not vampire as the others were,” Zev argued.

His tone had gone thoughtful. Dimitri’s gaze jumped up, and he found Zev was now looking at the ground. His rugged features were expressionless, but his piercing eyes saw far too much. Dimitri’s heart gave a jolt in his chest as Zev glided forward, a fluid, easy move that was nearly impossible for Gunnolf to follow, but so very easy for Dimitri.

There, on the ground beneath his swaying body, mostly buried in the thick mat of grass and the ferns and flowers, were a few telling beads of silver glittering, drawing the eye. The sole of Zev’s boot slipped over the silver, mashing it further into the ground. When he moved his boot, stepping forward, grass sprang up as if he’d never taken a step. The silver beads were completely hidden from view.

Zev raised his gaze to Dimitri’s. “You had better get out of here, Gunnolf. You’ve challenged me one too many times and my patience has grown thin. The next time, you had better come prepared to defeat me in battle.”

Gunnolf snarled, baring his teeth, but he turned abruptly and strode away. Zev sighed, shaking his head. “That one and I will tangle in the near future, and it will be a fight to the death.”

“He will not fight fair,” Dimitri predicted. “In fact, I doubt he will come at you face-to-face. He will try to kill you when your back is turned and there is no one to see his treachery.”

“I am truly sorry,” Zev said. “I sent word to the council to try to get this sentence retracted, but there has been no word. I cannot go against my people, but I would help in whatever way I can.”

“You have been kind to bring me water,” Dimitri said.

“No one has ever been able to remove silver from their system,” Zev said, looking down at the ground beneath Dimitri.

Using the toe of his boot, Zev pushed aside the grass and ferns. No trace of silver remained. Frowning, he dug into the soil. “It’s gone.”

Dimitri said nothing. He could feel the grass blades winding their way around his ankle and slipping over his calf to the point of entry where the hooks were embedded in his muscle. Those tiny beads of salve dropped onto his raw wounds. The grass seemed to massage the soothing gel into lesions and then began moving up toward the gashes on his thighs.

Skyler. His woman. His lifemate. Who would have ever thought she could have so much power packed into that little frame of hers? She had a core of pure steel. He had no doubt in his mind that she had made some pact with Mother Earth and this form of healing was her doing. Healing and hiding evidence.

Zev came closer. “I cannot free you, but I can aid you. There is no law that says I cannot provide nutrients for you. Allow me to give you blood.”

Dimitri’s heart jumped and then began to pound. He had never considered that a Lycan would make such an offer. The temptation was overwhelming. He could feel saliva forming in his mouth. His teeth were sharp and terrible.

“I am weak. Far too weak to trust myself. I am uncertain if I could stop.” He forced the truth out, respecting the man, not wanting to take any chances. He would have drained Gunnolf dry, but Zev had integrity and the sentence of the council had clearly come as a shock to him.

“You are wrapped in chains,” Zev pointed out. “I can control your intake.”

Dimitri lifted his head to look around him. The forest was thick with trees and brush, but he felt and heard the life force of other Lycans close by. He could feel eyes on them. “The more you aid me, the more suspect you become in the eyes of the others. The one you call Gunnolf is poisoning the minds of the others against you. By aiding me, you help his cause.”

“What is his cause?” Zev asked. “Why is it so important for you to die before the summit reaches its conclusion? It makes no sense. Key members of our council are meeting right now with your prince and his people to settle the issue of the Sange rau—the Bad Blood, and the Hän ku pesäk kaikak, or Paznicii de toate—Guardian of all. Doesn’t it make sense to see that outcome before sentencing you to death?”

Dimitri tried a smile, exposing his lengthened canines. “I’m the one sentenced to death, so obviously it makes perfect sense to me.”

“I see you’ve retained your sense of humor.”

“I try.” The soothing grass had reached his thighs now, moving up both legs to find those terrible, burning wounds in an effort to ease the pain.

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