Burning Skies Page 68

This was too much for her to bear.

“I can’t,” she whispered. “I want to go home. Now.”

* * *

Medichi turned toward the ascendiate, released her waist, then took her gently by the shoulders. It had been a long time since his own ascension, and for all that time he had battled as a warrior. He felt her youth and his age, her inexperience and his centuries of living and making war. He had seen worse than this, a thousand times worse than this, but he knew Parisa, her careful world sequestered in a place of books and fairy tales. She had to be in shock.

She lifted her gaze to his, her amethyst eyes drenched with tears. “I don’t want this.”

He smiled a little. He smoothed back her dark hair. “None of us does. But this is what we’ve got, at least tonight. This is what we have to deal with, and that includes you.”

She shook her head, then she leaned into him and he surrounded her with his arms.

He forgot about everything but her. His body seemed to know this woman, a side effect of the breh-hedden, because holding her like this was the most normal thing in the world.

The trouble was, his brother warrior needed his help, needed her help. She had a gift that might enable them to do the impossible, might locate Havily.

“These visions that you have, Parisa,” he began.

She sighed against him. “Yes.”

“They’re not really visions, are they?”

She grew very still. “No. I don’t think so.” Her voice was muffled because her mouth was pressed into his shoulder.

“They occur in real time, don’t they?”


“Now I need to ask you something really hard.”

“I won’t do it.” She gripped his arms, her fingers digging into his biceps.

“How many times did Havily save your life?”

“Don’t ask me to do it.”

“I’ll be right next to you all the way.”

After a long moment, she drew back and looked up at him. Her breaths were shallow and fast. Her face was twisted as if in pain. “I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be part of this.”

“It’s not fair to you.”

“I never wanted these wings. I never asked to see these things.”

“I promise you I’ll be right beside you. That’s what I’m here for. But Parisa, I need you to have courage right now … for Havily … just in case she’s still alive. If we can find her, get to her, we can save her. Can you at least try for her sake?”

“I’m afraid of what I’ll find. I couldn’t bear it if she was dead. She was my friend.”

Once again, he slid his arms all the way around her and held her fast.

* * *

Parisa knew she didn’t have a choice, not really. She could protest but in the end she had to do this.

She closed her eyes and focused. She let her mind wrap around all her memories of Havily, of the moment in her Peoria home when she had calmed Parisa enough so that she could retract her wings and escape from that monster, Crace, and later, the next evening, of Havily saving her from a terrible fall when she had first tried to fly. She then thought of Havily teaching her to fly, and later, after she breached the mist and brought death vampires onto the villa property, Havily had taken her to the turret room. She would have died even then, but Havily had drawn her into the darkening.

Because this was her present truth, that Havily was her friend and had saved her life again and again, she focused on her and let the images come.

And come they did.

She drew back and stared at Medichi’s chin. “I see a place full of terrible heat, burning coals. A man, a big man, pounds metal near the flames. The man is turning his head.” Parisa recognized him. “Oh, God, it’s Crace.” She panned to follow the direction of his gaze. Off to the side … “Oh, dear God … I see Havily. I see her.”

“Endelle,” Medichi called out. “Parisa can see Havily.”

“What do you mean, Parisa can see Havily?” Endelle called back.

“She says she has visions, but I think it’s more like your ability to voyeur. If she thinks of someone, she can see them.”

“Well, shit,” Endelle cried, but she kept her hands close to Marcus’s neck. “Looks like your girl has more power even than me. Parisa, you’re a goddamn preternatural voyeur.”

Preternatural voyeur. Great.

“Is she alive?” The question came from Marcus, whose voice was still reedy.

Tension flowed toward Parisa from every ascender clustered on the ground and from the Warriors of the Blood walking the perimeter.

“Yes,” Parisa said. “She’s alive.”

“Oh, thank … God.” Marcus’s voice broke on a sob.

Endelle turned and spoke over her shoulder. “Tell us where, Parisa. If we work together we’ll have a better chance of finding her. Maybe our combined powers can get a fix on her.”

Parisa started to weep and couldn’t stop. Her body shook. Medichi held her up by gripping her arms and holding her in place. “He has her … manacled to a wall. He has tubes in each of her arms and she looks really pale. She’s cloaked in some kind of white gauze.”

Endelle again called to her. “Is there blood draining from one of the tubes?”

“No. But there’s a bag on the floor full of dark liquid, maybe blood, probably her blood.” She broke into a sob.

“Alison,” Kerrick called out to his breh in a booming voice. “Come to Parisa, now.”

Endelle added. “Alison, come! This is too much for a mortal to bear.”

Parisa could see Alison through a veil of tears. She rose from a victim at least twenty yards away. She vanished then appeared right in front of Parisa. The next thing she knew, Alison’s hands were on her face. Medichi slid his arms around her waist and held her against him. Hot tears tracked her cheeks. She trembled from head to foot.

But the sensation that entered her head was incredible, as though a balm was being poured over her mind.

Her breathing slowed and the tears stopped. Her body calmed down. A cool damp cloth drifted over her face and wiped her tears away.

“Antony, don’t let go of her,” Alison said.

“I’ve got her.”

Yes, Parisa thought. He has me.

“Bring her to me,” Endelle called across the space. Medichi dipped and slung his arm behind her knees. He lifted her as though she were a feather but then he was so strong, so powerful, a warrior.

She put her arm around his neck. “I shouldn’t be such a child. I feel foolish,” she whispered.

He met her gaze. “You’re doing just fine. We all understand how hard this is, how impossible this.” There was sincerity in his voice, respect in his eyes. She nodded and his lips curved, just a little, just enough. She put her hand on his cheek.

Medichi settled himself on the ground between Endelle and Kerrick but held her close on his lap. Alison went back to tending others. Marcus stayed where he was but his face was completely restored and his color looked better, healthier. Healing was an amazing aspect of ascended life.

Marcus met her gaze. “So … Havily is alive?”

She nodded. “I can see her now. Clearly.”

“Good. That’s good.”

Endelle glanced at her. “If the three of us form a telepathic link, we might be able to get this job done. Once I’m in the darkening, I’ll use your mind to see her location. With some luck, I might be able to find her that way, but you’ll have to be strong. Can you do that for us?”

Parisa nodded.

“I’ll need to get inside your head, though. I’ll be as gentle as I can but everything about the power you’ve exhibited tells me you can do this. Okay?”

Again, Parisa dipped her chin.

Endelle’s gaze shifted to the healer named Horace, whose brow was covered in sweat, whose hands had never moved from the raw place where Marcus’s feet had been burned down to bone. Slowly, flesh had reappeared; the toes looked almost normal now. Parisa could almost breathe.

“Horace,” Endelle said. “How long before Marcus is fully restored, ready to fight, hard?”

Horace lifted a weary face to Endelle. “If someone will provide him with food, lots of it, and Gatorade, an hour, I think, so long as we can continue our healing as we are.”

Parisa stared at Horace. “Gatorade?” she asked. “Really?” Somehow this was the funniest thing in the world to her, and she started to laugh.

Of course, everyone stared at her as though fearing she’d just lost her mind, so she reined in the amusement but every once in a while a chuckle escaped her. Okay, so she’d lost it. But Gatorade, really?

“So we have an hour,” Endelle said quietly, her gaze directed at Marcus.

Parisa glanced at him as well. He really was looking better.

Yeah, she could almost breathe again.

* * *

Havily lost track of time.

When she awoke next, or perhaps returned to consciousness, she had no concept of how long she’d been under. Crace was keeping her drugged, that much she knew, but there was something she had to remember to do … or not to do, but she couldn’t seem to think straight.

She kept her eyes closed because she could hear the rhythmic slam of hammer to metal. So the bastard was still in his forge making more shackles. That much she could remember. She was shackled, she was in Crace’s forge, and the bastard had kidnapped her.

She thought about folding the hell out of there but she couldn’t. Oh, yeah, she’d tried before. Whatever drug Crace was giving her kept her so weak mentally that she couldn’t hold her thoughts together long enough to do what she needed to do. She needed less of the drug in her system if she had any hope of escaping—but what was it she wasn’t supposed to do?

She struggled to think, to remember.

She leaned her head against the stone wall. She still sat on the low wooden bench, her legs stretched out in front of her. How long could she survive like this?

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