Nightshade Page 93

Shouts sounded in the room, the pounding of footfalls on the library floor. I raised my face to see at least twenty Searchers leaping through the shattered windows, surging in a wave of glinting steel and buzzing arrows toward the Keeper. The air around Bosque shimmered and the flurry of projectiles sailing at him bounced back like they’d slammed into a shield. Bosque raised his arms. The leaping flames of the fire extinguished and the red haze illuminating the room gave way to the blindness of heavy shadow.

A few of the Searchers stumbled and fell; others jerked awkwardly to a stop, struggling to regain their bearings. Shay pushed me off him and rolled to his feet.

“What happened?”

“Searchers,” I hissed. “More than I’ve ever seen.”

Bosque threw his head back and cried out. I covered my ears against the sound, which made the library’s books vibrate on the shelves. The darkness covering the room collected into distinct pools that rose into the air and slowly took shape. I gasped and grabbed Shay’s arm.

“Are those . . .” His voice was tight.

“Wraiths,” I murmured. “But it’s impossible.”

“Why?” His eyes were wide as the shadow guards descended upon the invading force.

I could barely draw breath to get the words out. “No one can summon more than a single wraith at a time. They’re too hard to control.”

“Wraiths incoming!” one of the Searchers shouted. “Ethan, Connor! Get the boy and get out now! The rest of you clear a path for them!”

Another Searcher, a woman, screamed when black tendrils snaked around her waist. Yet another hacked futilely with his sword at the looming wraith that engulfed him; he made strangling sounds as his body disappeared into the black veil.

“Go! Go! Go!” the first Searcher yelled.

Bosque’s face twisted, full of outrage. With fingers extended like talons, he pointed to the library door, twisted his hand, and jerked his arm back. The door flew open and the horde that waited on the balcony sprang to life, rushing into the fray. Succubi and incubi hissed and screeched as they flew through the library, spouting flames while the Searchers’ arrows buzzed through the air. Several of the winged creatures screamed and dropped to the ground, feathered shafts protruding from their chests.

The chimera bounded into the room and pounced on a Searcher who screamed as the lion’s jaws clamped on his shoulder, its serpent tail striking at his legs over and over. Shuffling feet and moans announced the arrival of the painted undead, who lurched into the battle, jaws agape, eyes hollow and hungry. A few of the Searchers dropped their weapons, screaming at the sight of these slow-moving, desiccated creatures.

Bosque began to laugh and waved his arms as though conducting a symphony. The chorus of moans grew louder.

“Don’t look at the Fallen!” the first Searcher shouted. “Our target is all that matters!”

“Monroe! The boy is over here!” A man bolted from the other side of the room toward us. I recognized him instantly, even without blood gushing from his nose.

I bared my teeth as he raised his crossbow.

“No talking this time,” Ethan said.

I shifted forms, launching myself at him, but my breath came whistling back out as a pair of crossbow bolts buried in my chest. The force of my leap sent Ethan and me tumbling over each other across the floor. I smashed into the far wall. Pain rocketed up my spine. I could feel blood running over my stomach as I fought to remain conscious.

“Calla!” Shay hurled himself at us, shifting in midair. Ethan swore, twisting away from Shay’s snapping jaws.

“Monroe, Connor! Get over here now! They’ve turned the Scion,” Ethan yelled, and another string of curses erupted from his throat.

A blurred figure sped across the room, weaving through the chaos of wings, claws, and weapons. I saw Connor fling his body across the floor, rolling just out of reach of the slithering shape of a wraith. He leapt to his feet and bolted toward Shay, who snarled when Connor drew his swords. He held the blades low, wolf and Searcher stalking in a slow circle facing each other.

“I don’t want to hurt you, kid, but we don’t have time for this.”

I watched them struggle through a haze of pain. My breath sounded wet each time I sucked in air. Despite the spike of pain I tried to drag myself toward them.

While Shay’s eyes tracked Connor, Ethan struggled to his feet. His hand dipped inside his leather duster and he threw himself onto the wolf’s back. Shay yelped when the Searcher plunged a syringe into his neck. Shay bucked, snarling, and Ethan flew back onto the stone floor. The wolf pivoted, muscles bunched to leap at Ethan, but abruptly shook his head. His limbs shuddered and he whimpered, swaying on his feet and collapsing onto the floor. He didn’t move again.

I howled, struggling across the floor to his side. Each step was agony. The crossbow bolts still protruded from my chest. The blood in my lungs was slowly drowning me.

When I reached him, I shifted forms, buried my hands in his fur, and shook his shoulders.

“Shay! Shay!” Even as I clung to him, I could feel strength ebbing from my limbs.

“Enchanted bolts; hope you’re enjoying the ride.” Ethan’s gravel-rough voice drew my eyes to the side. He had the crossbow trained on me once more. “Are you the one who turned him?”

My chest was on fire, my vision blurred. I nodded and slumped to the floor, rolling alongside Shay. So this is how I die? I reached for his hand.

Ethan’s finger tightened on the trigger. A long moan from behind me pulled his eyes away. He gasped, stumbling back. “Kyle?”

I twisted my neck. Through a haze of pain I saw the corpse-like Searcher who’d emerged from one of the paintings ambling toward us, his arms grasping mindlessly at the air in front of him.

“No!” Ethan started toward the lurching body.

The Searcher who had been shouting orders loomed over me, blocking Ethan’s view of the moaning creature.

“Get out of the way, Monroe,” Ethan said. “I have to help him.”

“He’s not your brother, Ethan.” Monroe gripped the other man’s arms. “That isn’t Kyle. Not anymore. Forget him.”

I heard a choked sob as Ethan’s shoulders crumpled.

“We need to get out of here,” Monroe said. “Stay at Connor’s back in the retreat.”

Ethan’s face was tight with grief, but he nodded. “On it.”

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