Kitty Saves the World Page 66

She was behind me again. She was always right there, and she never got tired.

This was it, then. This realization that I probably wasn’t going to make it this time settled over me and lent me a strange sense of resolve. My body felt lighter, my running steps felt longer. I wasn’t going to survive this. That was okay, as long as I saved the world first. I just had to get the mirrored cross in front of Roman. Whatever happened after that didn’t matter. With only one goal to focus on instead of two—just getting to the water, not doing that and surviving—a new burst of energy filled me.

But I still had to get to the shore, and Ashtoreth was in front of me. I was long past thinking, I was only looking ahead and around for a new path, the next route, a possible solution.

A wind blew past me, a racing breeze—and a dark figure smacked Ashtoreth across the face with a staff. She fell back, dropped her spear, and snarled.

I stopped and blinked, confused.

Then it happened again.

Another shadow emerged from the woods and struck another blow while the demon was off balance, a jab to her lower back that made her grimace in pain. Her attention was entirely off me now.

The two figures moved with astonishing grace, slipping around Ashtoreth, always out of her reach, while smacking her with long black staves—not badly enough to drive her off, but enough to distract her. It was fascinating. The two were human, or at least human shaped, but they wore hoods and scarves around their faces, and their clothing was dark and shrouding.

What I could tell about them: they had the chill scent of vampires, they moved with the shadowy stealth of vampires, and they were warriors. Vampire ninjas. I stood in awe.

Then something happened. The attack changed. They stopped simply harassing the demon and moved on to what must have been the next step. Clearly they had a plan, a finely tuned and well-practiced one.

The first one produced a new weapon, or tool, or something. A hook with a wire line attached. The vampire got close, made a leap, stuck this hook into the leather of Ashtoreth’s vest, and pushed off to escape her counterblow. The wire trailed out—the other end was attached to a metal stake, which he—she? whatever?—drove into the ground. The second vampire did the same, hooking another line into her other side, pulling it taut, securing the stake.

Then they both did it again, and again. Hooks—big, iron-looking things with jagged barbs—dug into her belt, her back, her sleeves. Some of them might have dug into her skin. It was hard to tell, the vampires moved so fast, and Ashtoreth jerked and thrashed, trying to break free. Quick and efficient, the vampires staked down each of the wires until the demon was stuck. Tied down like a tent, with no give to her bonds and nowhere to go. She looked like a marionette, immobilized by her strings, pulled tight in all directions.

A third figure appeared. This one stepped into view, facing Ashtoreth, regarding her calmly. He didn’t attack, but somehow gave off every impression that he was just as dangerous as his companions. In a gloved hand he held a gold spear as tall as he was, with a wicked-looking point, barbed and filigreed. It looked like a harpoon.

The demon bared her teeth, closed her hands into fists, strained to break free and strike. But she flailed, a fish in a net.

The third figure slipped his hood back.

It was Rick.

I gasped, and clamped my hand over my mouth to keep from interrupting.

I didn’t think it had been that long since I’d seen him; then again, it felt like it had been years. Now he looked like someone who had stepped out of another world, gloved and cloaked, a character from a medieval epic, a burning determination in his eyes. He had a conquistador’s beard.

“Well,” he said to Ashtoreth. “Hello, again.”

He might not even have seen me—surely he knew I was here. But he didn’t look at me, not even a glance. Didn’t acknowledge me. He was busy, after all.

She hissed and kept thrashing, as if it would do some good. “I’ll not repent. I will not repent!”

“I wasn’t asking,” he said. “But, you know, if you wanted to, I’d listen.”

“Traitor! You’re a traitor twice over!”

“I was never subject to the will of your Master.”

“He made you! He made you all!”

“And we owe him nothing for that, thank God. But you—you chose your allegiance a long time ago, didn’t you? You fell with him, you’ll sink with him.”

With a great wrenching heave of her arm, she pulled at one of the cables—and snapped the stake out of the ground. One of Rick’s companions jumped to grab hold of the wire and hauled back to steady it before she could yank out any others.

Meanwhile, Rick spoke, reciting something epic in Latin, a prayer or a curse. An exorcism.

Ashtoreth shouted back at him, spitting as she did. I couldn’t understand her, but it sounded like yet another language. Not Latin, but obviously something filled with hate and expletives. Rick didn’t acknowledge her again. He was on a script. The two other vampires pulled back on the cords that held her, keeping her immobile, locked in place.

The battle of words continued. It was not simple, and it was not easy. Rick braced himself, booted feet dug into the earth, and the two vampires at the lines and stakes were struggling to keep the monster they’d caught at bay. Seconds ticked by.

Then Rick raised the golden harpoon and struck, pulling back over his shoulder and stabbing up into her chest.

Every other time we’d attacked or immobilized her, whether with weapons or magic, she’d escaped before we could do any damage. She called a wind, opened some kind of vortex to whatever world she came from, and vanished, just like that. She had some kind of teleporting ability, and if you could just zap yourself away from anywhere, why wouldn’t you, when you were about to lose a fight? But that didn’t happen this time.

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