Authors: Sarah J. Maas
The screaming went on, and on, and on. Interrupted only by the camera’s fritzed system. The muffled grunts and growls were wet and vicious, and Danika was begging, sobbing as she pleaded for mercy, wept and screamed for it to stop—
“Turn it off,” Hunt ordered, stalking from the room. “Turn it off
.” He was out so fast Isaiah couldn’t stop him, instantly crossing the space to the door beside theirs and flinging it open before Isaiah had cleared the room.
But there was Danika, audio crackling in and out, the sound of her voice still pleading for mercy coming from the speakers in the ceiling. Danika, being devoured and shredded.
The silence from the murderer was as chilling as Danika’s sobbing screams.
Viktoria twisted toward the door as Hunt barreled in, his face dark with fury, wings spreading. The Shadow of Death unleashed.
Isaiah tasted ether. Lightning writhed at Hunt’s fingertips.
Danika’s unending, half-muffled screams filled the room.
Isaiah stepped into the chamber in time to see Bryce explode.
He summoned a wall of wind around himself and Vik, Hunt no doubt doing the same, as Bryce shot out of her chair and flipped the table. It soared over Viktoria’s head and slammed into the observation window.
A feral growl filled the room as she grabbed the chair she’d been sitting on, hurling it against the wall, so hard its metal frame dented and crumpled.
She vomited all over the floor. If his power hadn’t been around Viktoria, it would have showered her absurdly expensive bespoke heels.
The audio finally cut off when the hall camera went on the fritz again—and stayed that way.
Bryce panted, staring at her mess. Then fell to her knees in it.
She puked again. And again. And then curled over her knees, her silky hair falling into the vomit as she rocked herself in the stunned silence.
She was half-Fae, assessed at a power level barely on the grid. What she’d just done to the table and chair … Pure, physical rage. Even the most aloof of the Fae couldn’t halt an eruption of primal wrath when it overtook them.
Unfazed, Hunt approached her, his gray wings high to avoid dragging through the vomit.
“Hey.” Hunt knelt at Bryce’s side. He reached for her shoulder, but lowered his hand. How many people ever saw the hands of the Umbra Mortis reach for them with no hint of violence?
Hunt nodded toward the destroyed table and chair. “Impressive.”
Bryce bowed farther over herself, her tan fingers near-white as
they dug into her back hard enough to bruise. Her voice was a broken rasp. “I want to go home.”
Hunt’s dark eyes flickered. But he said nothing more.
Viktoria, frowning at the mess, slipped away to find someone to clean it.
Isaiah said, “You can’t go home, I’m afraid. It’s an active crime scene.” And it was so wrecked that even if they scrubbed it with bleach, no Vanir would be able to walk in and not scent the slaughter. “It’s not safe for you to return until we’ve found who did this. And why they did it.”
Then Bryce breathed, “Does S-Sabine—”
“Yes,” Isaiah said gently. “Everyone who was in Danika’s life has been notified.”
The entire world would know in a few hours.
Still kneeling beside her, Hunt said roughly, “We can move you to a room with a cot and a bathroom. Get you some clothes.”
Her dress was so torn that most of her skin was on display, a rip along the waist revealing the hint of a dark tattoo down her back. He’d seen whores in the Meat Market wearing more modest clothes.
The phone in Isaiah’s pocket buzzed. Naomi. The voice of the captain of the 33rd’s infantry was strained when Isaiah answered. “Let the girl go. Right now. Get her out of this building, and for all our sakes, do
put anyone on her tail. Especially Hunt.”
“Why? The Governor gave us the opposite order.”
“I got a phone call,” Naomi said. “From Ruhn fucking Danaan. He’s livid that we didn’t notify Sky and Breath about bringing in the girl. Says it falls under the Fae’s jurisdiction and whatever the fuck else. So screw what the Governor wants—he’ll thank us later for avoiding this enormous fucking headache. Let the girl go
. She can come back in with a Fae escort, if that’s what those assholes want.”
Hunt, having heard the entire conversation, studied Bryce Quinlan with a predator’s unflinching assessment. As one of the triarii, Naomi Boreas answered only to Micah and owed them no explanation, but to disregard his direct order in favor of the Fae … Naomi added, “Do it, Isaiah.” Then she hung up.
Despite Bryce’s pointed Fae ears, her glazed eyes registered no sign that she’d heard.
Isaiah pocketed his phone. “You’re free to go.”
She uncurled on surprisingly steady legs, despite the bandage on one of them. Yet blood and dirt caked her bare feet. Enough of the former that Hunt said, “We’ve got a medwitch on-site.”
But Bryce ignored him and limped out, through the open door and into the hall.
His eyes fixed on the doorway as the scuffle-hop of her steps faded.
For a long minute, neither of them spoke. Then Hunt blew out a breath and rose. “What room is Naomi putting Briggs in?”
Isaiah didn’t get the chance to answer before footsteps sounded down the hall, approaching fast. Definitely not Bryce’s.
Even in one of the most secure places in this city, Isaiah and Hunt positioned their hands within easy reach of their weapons, the former crossing his arms so that he might draw the gun hidden beneath his suit jacket, the latter letting his hand dangle at his thigh, inches from the black-hilted knife sheathed there. Lightning again writhed at Hunt’s fingers.
A dark-haired Fae male burst through the interrogation room door. Even with a silver hoop through his lower lip, even with one side of his long raven-black hair buzzed, even with the sleeves of tattoos beneath the leather jacket, there was no disguising the heritage the strikingly handsome face broadcasted.
Ruhn Danaan, Crown Prince of the Valbaran Fae. Son of the Autumn King and the current possessor of the Starsword, fabled dark blade of the ancient Starborn Fae. Proof of the prince’s Chosen One status among the Fae—whatever the Hel that meant.
That sword was currently strapped across Ruhn’s back, its black hilt devouring the glaring firstlights. Isaiah had once heard someone say the sword was made from iridium mined from a meteorite, forged in another world—before the Fae had come through the Northern Rift.
Danaan’s blue eyes simmered like the heart of a flame—though Ruhn himself bore no such magic. Fire magic was common among
the Valbaran Fae, wielded by the Autumn King himself. But rumor claimed Ruhn’s magic was more like those of his kin who ruled the sacred Fae isle of Avallen across the sea: power to summon shadows or mist that could not only veil the physical world, but the mind as well. Perhaps even telepathy.
Ruhn glanced at the vomit, scenting the female who’d just left. “Where the fuck is she?”
Hunt went still at the cold command in the prince’s voice.
“Bryce Quinlan has been released,” Isaiah said. “We sent her upstairs a few minutes ago.”
Ruhn had to have taken a side entrance if he’d missed her, and they hadn’t been warned by the front desk of his arrival. Perhaps he’d used that magic of his to worm through the shadows.
The prince turned toward the doorway, but Hunt said, “What’s it to you?”
Ruhn bristled. “She’s my cousin, asshole. We take care of our own.”
A distant cousin, since the Autumn King had no siblings, but apparently the prince knew Bryce well enough to intervene.
Hunt threw Ruhn a grin. “Where were you tonight?”
“Fuck you, Athalar.” Ruhn bared his teeth. “I suppose you heard that Danika and I got into it over Briggs at the Head meeting. What a lead. Good job.” Each word came out more clipped than the last. “If I wanted to kill Danika, I wouldn’t summon a fucking demon to do it. Where the fuck is Briggs? I want to talk to him.”
“He’s incoming.” Hunt was still smiling. That lightning still danced at his knuckles. “And you don’t get the first shot at him.” Then he added, “Daddy’s clout and cash only get you so far, Prince.”
It made no difference that Ruhn headed up the Fae division of the Aux, and was as well trained as any of their elite fighters. Or that the sword on his back wasn’t merely decorative.
It didn’t matter to Hunt. Not where royals and rigid hierarchies were concerned.
Ruhn said, “Keep talking, Athalar. Let’s see where it gets you.”
Hunt smirked. “I’m shaking.”
Isaiah cleared his throat. Burning Solas, the last thing he needed
tonight was a brawl between one of his triarii and a prince of the Fae. He said to Ruhn, “Can you tell us if Miss Quinlan’s behavior before the murder tonight was unusual or—”
“The Raven’s owner told me she was drunk and had snorted a pile of lightseeker,” Ruhn snapped. “But you’ll find Bryce with that kind of shit in her system at least one night a week.”
“Why does she do it at all?” Isaiah asked.
Ruhn crossed his arms. “She does what she wants. She always has.” There was enough bitterness there to suggest history—bad history.
Hunt drawled, “Just how close are you two?”
“If you’re asking whether I’m fucking her,” Ruhn seethed, “the answer, asshole, is no. She’s family.”
“Distant family,” Hunt pointed out. “I heard the Fae like to keep their bloodline undiluted.”
Ruhn held his stare. And as Hunt smiled again, ether filled the room, the promise of a storm skittering over Isaiah’s skin.
Wondering if he’d be dumb enough to get between them when Ruhn attempted to bash in Hunt’s teeth and Hunt turned the prince into a pile of smoldering bones, Isaiah said quickly, “We’re just trying to do our job, Prince.”
“If you assholes had kept an eye on Briggs like you were supposed to, maybe this wouldn’t have happened at all.”
Hunt’s gray wings flared slightly—a malakh’s usual stance when preparing for a physical fight. And those dark eyes … They were the eyes of the feared warrior, the Fallen angel. The one who had smashed apart the battlefields he’d been ordered to fight on. The one who killed on an Archangel’s whim, and did it so well they called him the Shadow of Death.
“Careful,” Hunt said.
“Stay the fuck away from Bryce,” Ruhn snarled before striding back through the door, presumably after his cousin. At least Bryce would have an escort.
Hunt flipped off the empty doorway. After a moment, he murmured, “The tracking device in the water Quinlan drank when she got here. What’s the time frame on it?”
“Three days,” Isaiah replied.
Hunt studied the knife sheathed at his thigh. “Danika Fendyr was one of the strongest Vanir in the city, even without making the Drop. She begged like a human by the end.”
Sabine would never recover from the shame.
“I don’t know of a demon that kills like that,” Hunt mused. “Or disappears that easily. I couldn’t find a trace. It’s like it vanished back to Hel.”
Isaiah said, “If Briggs is behind it, we’ll learn what the demon is soon enough.”
If Briggs talked at all. He certainly hadn’t when he’d been busted in his bomb lab, despite the best efforts of the 33rd’s interrogators and the Aux.
Isaiah added, “I’ll have every available patrol quietly looking out for other young packs in the Auxiliary. If it winds up not being related to Briggs, then it could be the start of a pattern.”
Hunt asked darkly, “If we find the demon?”
Isaiah shrugged. “Then make sure it’s not a problem anymore, Hunt.”
Hunt’s eyes sharpened into lethal focus. “And Bryce Quinlan—after the three days are up?”
Isaiah frowned at the table, the crumpled chair. “If she’s smart, she’ll lie low and not attract the attention of any other powerful immortals for the rest of her life.”
he black steps ringing the foggy shore of the Bone Quarter bit into Bryce’s knees as she knelt before the towering ivory gates.
The Istros spread like a gray mirror behind her, silent in the predawn light.
As quiet and still as she had gone, hollowed out and drifting.
Mist curled around her, veiling all but the obsidian steps she knelt on and the carved bone gates looming overhead. The rotting black boat at her back was her only companion, its moldy, ancient rope draped over the steps in lieu of a mooring. She’d paid the fee—the boat would linger here until she was done. Until she had said what she needed to say.
The living realm remained a world away, the spires and skyscrapers of the city hidden by that swirling mist, its car horns and array of voices rendered mute. She’d left behind any mortal possessions. They would have no value here, among the Reapers and the dead.
She’d been glad to leave them—especially her phone, so full of anger and hatred.
Ithan’s latest audiomail had come only an hour ago, stirring her from the unsleeping stupor in which she’d spent the past six nights, staring at the dark ceiling of the hotel room she was sharing with her mother. Ignoring every call and message.
Ithan’s words had lingered, though, when she’d slipped into the hotel bathroom to listen.
Don’t come to the Sailing tomorrow. You’re not welcome there.
She’d listened to it over and over, the first words to echo in her silent head.
Her mother hadn’t woken from the bed beside hers when Bryce had exited the hotel room on Fae-soft feet, taking the service elevator and leaving through the unwatched alley door. She hadn’t left that room for six days, just sat staring vacantly at the floral hotel wallpaper. And now, with the seventh dawning … Only for this would she leave. Would she remember how to move her body, how to speak.
Danika’s Sailing would commence at dawn, and the Sailings for the rest of the pack would follow. Bryce would not be there to witness them. Even without the wolves banning her from it, she couldn’t have endured it. To see the black boat pushed from the dock, all that was left of Danika with it, her soul to be judged either worthy or unworthy of entering the sacred isle across the river.
There was only silence here. Silence and mist.
Was this death? Silence and fog?
Bryce ran her tongue over her dry, chapped lips. She did not remember the last time she’d drunk anything. Had a meal. Only her mother coaxing her to take a sip of water.
A light had gone out inside her. A light had been extinguished.
She might as well have been staring inside herself: Darkness. Silence. Mist.
Bryce lifted her head, peering up toward the carved bone gates, hewn from the ribs of a long-dead leviathan who’d prowled the deep seas of the north. The mist swirled tighter, the temperature dropping. Announcing the arrival of something ancient and terrible.
Bryce remained kneeling. Bowed her head.
She was not welcome at the Sailing. So she had come here to say goodbye. To give Danika this one last thing.
The creature that dwelt in the mist emerged, and even the river at her back trembled.
Bryce opened her eyes. And slowly lifted her gaze.