Kitty Saves the World Page 63

“Sun, you remember what Ranger Lopez said about the geysers?”

“Yeah, that we only had to worry when they all stopped.” He was frowning, and the expression seemed so incongruous on him.

We were out of time.

Chapter 19

FOR JUST a moment I stood, face turned up to take in a chill breeze. It smelled wild, otherwordly. The sun had set, the trees surrounding the depression were jagged shadows against a dark sky. This felt like the pause before a scream.

“What does that mean, that they’ve stopped?” Ben said. If he’d been a wolf, his ears would have been pinned back and his tail up, ready for an attack. As a human, his back was stiff and his teeth were bared.

“All the thermal energy is going somewhere else,” I said. “It means something big’s about to blow.”

“We should move,” Grant said. “The spell is only starting, it’s not finished. We still have time. Tina, you have a location for us?”

“Yeah, the Ground People were pretty sure he’s by the shore of the lake. It’s marked on the map.”

“Then let’s get a move on,” I said, marching back toward the path we’d come in on.

A wind struck me hard enough to knock me to the ground and roll me toward one of the wide springs of superheated water. Maybe even the same one Lightman had thrown me into. I dug fingers into the dirt, braced my toes, went spread eagle to slow myself down, and it worked. By now I recognized that out-of-nowhere wind and the brimstone stink that went along with it.

“Ashtoreth!” I shouted, out of anger and sheer aggravation. She was the demon of bad timing, was what she was.

She came down the boardwalk steps snaking along the hill above us as if she were just another tourist here to see the sights. She had a weapon in each hand, a spear and sword, and her usual complement strung on straps and bandoliers. Maybe more metal and silver this time. Very little wood. She wasn’t here to kill vampires, after all.

And—she’d brought friends. A dozen or more dark figures emerging from the trees, crossing the wasted plain, descending through the air on funnels of wind. They were silhouettes, hard to see. Tall, powerful warriors holding spears and swords, covered with riveted leather armor and sheathed daggers. Like Ashtoreth, they wore dark goggles. They surrounded us.

This one early section of Paradise Lost is a whole list of demons, line after line of poetry describing all the fallen angels, all of Lucifer’s followers who’d plunged into hell with him after the fall. I wondered how many of them were here. I bet if I had the book with me I could figure out some of their names.

Not that we had time for that.

Ben was at my side, like he’d been blown right along with me, and pulled me to my feet so we could run. Didn’t matter where. Ashtoreth came toward us; her companions waited.

“Nice to have you both in one place,” she said, giving a swoop with each hand so her weapons sang through the air. “This is so overdue.” She picked up a run, hitting the last step with a giant leap that carried her right toward us. She aimed her weapons down, preparing to stab.

“Hey!” Hardin yelled, turning her full-spectrum light on the demon. Sighting along the beam of light, she fired her gun half a dozen times, probably most of what she had in the magazine. Ashtoreth didn’t even flinch at the bullets. But she ducked at the light, raising an arm to block her eyes. I imagined her squinting behind her smoky goggles.

Grant joined Hardin, bringing his magic to bear, hand raised, chanting words I couldn’t hear. Whatever it was only seemed to make the demon angry, because she swung her sword, a wide attack meant to disrupt rather than injure. Hardin and Grant dodged out of her range.

The other demons rushed in. Tina shouted the warning, and suddenly we had too many targets. We might have been able to stand up to Ashtoreth, but a dozen like her?

Grant turned back to Tina, who was weaponless, and put himself between her and a rushing attack, two demons with swords out. He held his arm straight up, and an object in his hand blazed a white light—I’d seen Amelia use a similar spell.

Like Hardin, Cormac had a full-spectrum light—neat trick, there. The two of them kept a space open around us, but that space was shrinking as demons guarded their vision and pushed closer.

Cormac arrived at my side, grabbing my arm and hauling me back. Reflexively, I turned and snarled at him—he was being so forceful, and I was so surprised. Just as reflexively, he raised his loaded crossbow and aimed at me, even though it wouldn’t have done him any good.

It was all reflexive. I calmed down and he lowered the weapon in the next moment.

He turned to Ben, shoving the park map into his hands. He must have grabbed it from Tina. And where was Tina? I couldn’t see her—a wall of demons was in the way.

Hardin shouted; I thought it was in anger, but I looked—a spear stuck out of her thigh. Ashtoreth was drawing another from her bandolier. Hardin, grimacing with pain, didn’t fall. She gritted her teeth, pulling at the spear while focusing the light at the demon.

“The goggles,” I tried to call out. My voice was choking. “Get the goggles off, they’re blind without them.” Cormac heard me, I thought.

Behind us, Cormac held up an amulet of some kind, shouted words of a spell. A light flashed, like Grant’s, and a demon who’d been charging toward us fell. My vision throbbed with afterimages.

Bright light was buying us time. But it wouldn’t drive them off.

Cormac shoved me again, and Ben took my arm.

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