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Authors: Shannon Mayer

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Veiled Threat (5 page)

BOOK: Veiled Threat
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Blaz didn’t wait for Erik to mount on Ophelia before he spread his wings and launched into the air. A few short hours and we’d be in Portland, and I’d be facing ogres I wasn’t a hundred percent sure were on my side anymore.

Peachy.

Ophelia’s voice rippled across my mind, and by the way she spoke, she wasn’t projecting to anyone else. Curious.

May we speak, Rylee?
Apparently she could be polite when she wanted.

I gave her a nod.

I am the keeper of the knowledge, the last dragon to hold information about the Blood of the Lost. Of which you are the last. If you are anything like Erik, trouble will soon find you and I will lose my chance to speak with you.

My mind whirled. If Erik was related to me, how was it I was the last?

Erik is your father’s brother. Your mother is the one whose bloodline carries the Blood of the Lost. They were an ancient supernatural, one who held much sway over the rest of the world of magic and wonder. It is why they were wiped out. They had too much power. They were the ones who created the veil.

Son of a bitch, that did not sound like it was going to help me in the “making friends” department. A question formed inside my mind but I blocked it. I didn’t do well with the whole speaking privately inside my head. Not when I would just have to fill Blaz and Liam in anyway.

“How many other supernaturals might remember this?”

Ophelia was ahead of us and she craned her head back and lifted her eyebrows at me as if to ask if I were sure.

“How many, Ophelia?” I repeated the words louder.

Her voice projected through us all, a booming echo where before it had been just above a whisper.
A few of the very old ones, this all happened thousands of years ago. The blood line was thinned to a few families, barely enough to keep it alive. Your kind was not always known as “The Lost.”

“Then what were we know as?” This was too damned weird of a conversation, but it had been a long time coming.

That is beyond even myself and I have all the information anyone could have. It was a part of the systematic destruction of your kind. If you didn’t know what you were, how could you possibly return to it?

She seemed to let out a heavy sigh and a deep regret flowed through her and into me.
You need to know that your kind created the many levels of the veil; your people ruled the supernatural world. And now it has come to you to bring that world together again, under your name to fight the darkness. To fight the demons. It will be the last act of the Blood of the Lost, to finish what they started, keeping the world safe from the demons who would rule it. That was why they created the veil in the first place, a holding ground for demons.

Her words stirred something deep within me and I recognized what she said for the truth it held, even if I didn’t like it so much. Liam’s hands tightened on my waist and I glanced over my shoulder. His eyes reflected what I already knew. Truth, when it came, was less likely to make us happy than we thought. Finding out who and what I really was didn’t necessarily make life easier.

My fingers dug into the leather straps in front of me, but I wasn’t really that freaked out. To be fair, in some ways this was just regurgitation of what I already knew via the prophecies I’d read. I had to pull off this coup and kill Orion or everyone was doomed. Did it really matter what my bloodline was when no one else knew or even gave half a shit. “Anything else? Any other skeletons bitching in my family closet?”

Ophelia blinked back at me, her eyes uncertain.
Perhaps you do not understand the severity of the situation, Tracker.

Erik slapped her on the neck. “Spit it out, cranky.”

Blaz snickered and Ophelia glared first at Erik, then Blaz.

Pushy dicks. Fine. There is only one thing you truly need to know, if Erik would have his way.
Erik threw his hands into the air and she ignored him.
Seal the veils, that is what you must do to stop Orion.

Well damn, that was actually helpful. It was the first time anyone said
how
I was going to stop the demons. “Do you know how I’m going do that? You know, the details of this deed I’m supposed to perform?”

She shook her head, and I glanced at Blaz. “How about you?”

No, I don’t know either. Has there been nothing in those ogre-skinned books of Jack’s?

We flew through a bank of clouds while I mulled it over, moisture slicking any bare skin in seconds. I wiped my face and closed my eyes, thinking hard. When we’d been in Europe, I’d spent time reading through the remaining books of prophecy at Jack’s manor. I’d done my best to decipher the meanings, but so much was written in cryptic old English, it was difficult at best to slog through.

“No. Just lots of ‘you will be the one to stop him,’ no how to actually stop him, or any helpful shit like that. Knowing my luck, that bit is in the violet skinned book.”

The two dragons kept pace with one another, their wings dipping and rising almost in tandem. Neither had anything else to add to that.

Liam leaned forward and put his mouth near my ear. “You okay?”

Surprised, I turned to face him. “What do you mean?”

His eyebrows rose high. “Just surprised you aren’t freaking out. You don’t tend to take information like that well on a good day.”

“Just what is that supposed to mean?”

Means you explode first and think about the new info later, once you’ve caused a fair amount of chaos.
Blaz didn’t project to everyone, or I might have given them the explosion they expected.

Instead, I withdrew, pulling deep into myself. I didn’t want to admit they were right. I wasn’t feeling like myself lately; something was off and I couldn’t pinpoint it. Maybe it was all the quiet hours and too much time to think, or maybe it was the fact I slept through the night consistently for a longer stretch than I ever have.

Even
Berget’s
visits didn’t disturb me. She made it a standing meeting that we saw each other at least once a week in my dreams, but they no longer left me shaking and pumping full of adrenaline. Now, they were like seeing her face to face, no more smoke and mirrors, no more wondering which Berget I was talking to—the sane one, or the one who wanted to see my head on the end of a pike.

I leaned against Liam’s chest and closed my eyes. “I’m going to see if I can talk to Berget. Maybe her memories will hold a clue for us.”

I wasn’t sure if I could sleep while flying, the air cold on my face, legs strapped against Blaz, but it was an excuse to keep to myself.

And damned if I didn’t slide into a light doze. I reached for Berget as she’d shown me, and she came into view, walking along the edge of Blaz’s wing and sat beside me. She wore a long, full blue skirt and corseted top, very old school. The colors accentuated her bright blue eyes and long golden hair. Of course I knew she wasn’t really here; her hair and skirt didn’t move in the rushing wind and she walked just above Blaz, floating an inch over his skin.

“Rylee, is something wrong?” Her mouth turned downward in a sharp line.

“Yes and no. Don’t use the castle, the doorways have all been destroyed with the exception of three and red caps are guarding the shit out of the place.” My eyes drifted to half mast and I almost pulled out of the doze. Berget crouched beside me.

“Orion and his demons are making a bid?”

I nodded, still disturbed at times with how old she sounded when she spoke most times. Old and wise. The memories and power of her adoptive parents were held in check by the opal implanted into the side of her chest, but she could still access them when needed. And sometimes the years of playing the part of the thousand-year-old vampire came through in her speech patterns and behavior.

She rubbed her fingers over her side where the opal was buried. Fear sparked through me.

“Are you having problems?” I didn’t need to be more specific; we both knew what that one problem was.

“They are … grumpy, for lack of a better term. Irritated that I’ve bound them.” She gave me a small smile “But that isn’t here nor there. For the moment, they are fine. What is it you wanted to ask me?”

I looked her over, saw she wasn’t trying to hide anything from me. Worry still trickled along my spine. The opal was a temporary stop, one that would eventually run out. I pushed that aside; I had to believe we had the time to figure out a better way to keep her safe. And to be honest, the help of vampires with a lot of years behind them was not a bad thing. At least, not right now.

“In their memories, is there anything about how to close the veil?”

Her eyes widened and I quickly told her about Ophelia and Erik, and what Ophelia shared in regards to how to bind the demons.

Berget didn’t ask if I trusted them; even though we’d spent most of our lifetime apart, she knew me well enough to know I wouldn’t pursue this if I didn’t think it was the truth.

“I will have to take some time to see what I can find. While I can access everything, it is delicate because they are bound. They are not always willing to share. I will come to you if I drag something out of them.” She shrugged her pale, slim shoulders, and her lips tipped upward, though a current of sadness ran through her eyes. Then, she went a totally different direction, one I wouldn’t have seen coming, not in a million years.

“Doran is in love with you, you know that, right?”

I couldn’t hold onto the light doze, jerking awake with a gasp. Liam’s arms tightened around me.

“Bad?”

My jaw dropped open and I coughed on the moist air. Doran was … nooooooo. That couldn’t possibly be. Of course, I forgot to close my thoughts from Blaz so he chimed in.

Not surprised, you have intrigued him from the beginning. You two would actually make quite the pairing.

“Shut up!”

Alex from the “back seat” let out a howl. “Shuttttttt upppppppp!”

That was my boy, always backing me up.

Liam leaned forward and I shook my head. I was not going to discuss this with him with all this audience. Even if I whispered, Blaz would hear and right now I didn’t want anyone to know.

I already know, you twit.

Hot embarrassment and even hotter anger arched along my spine. “Stay out of my head, Blaz.” I snapped.

He had the gall to laugh, a deep rumble slipping through him and into me as he dove. I clenched the leather and Alex let out a series of excited yips and howls.

Liam said nothing. Smart man, he knew when to wait for me.

We dropped in large, lazy circles, the two dragons mirroring one another. From where we were I saw the city of Portland. I Tracked Sas and the ogres, felt them pulling me away from the city proper. My gut clenched. I knew where they were. Fuck it all, I did not want to visit the place where Orion had almost broken free. No choice, I had to speak to the ogres, had to see if they were with us or not.

Time to suck it up.

“All right, kiddos, we’re going to Mt. Hood.”

Chapter 5

T
he ground was
thick with cooled and blackened lava, and the mountain was bare of trees and wildlife. Ophelia and Blaz didn’t seem bothered by it, landing on the edge of the lake where the flow was the thinnest, the surface cracking under their weight.

Erik slid off Ophelia’s back and glanced around. “Let me guess, you had something to do with this? Untrained, you cause a lot of problems, don’t you?” The second bit was not a question but a statement. Asshole.

I gritted my teeth against the flood of heat climbing into my face as I slid off Blaz’s back. Embarrassment wasn’t something I was used to and it irritated me. Which made me angry, a much more familiar emotion. Liam hopped off behind me and we stepped out in front to meet Sas head on.

“Not on purpose,” I said.

Erik snorted and crossed his arms over his chest. “Rarely is with someone like you.”

Damn, he was pissing me off. Screw it, I would ignore him, get him to show me what I needed and then send him on his merry fucking way. I Tracked Sas and felt her moving toward us. To say she was not happy was an understatement. A self-righteous fury slipped along her threads into me. Yeah, this was going to get interesting real fast. At least we wouldn’t have to look for her.

Liam lifted his face to the breeze rolling down Mt. Hood. “The whole mountain is quiet now. Almost like it never tried to kill us.”

“I wouldn’t worry about the things that aren’t ogre shaped and carrying weapons right now,” I said, shifting my stance to face the oncoming ogress, and of course, she happened to be headed our way through the only clump of trees and bush left standing. Even if it was all dead. I saw her in the distance, her violet skin catching the light here and there. Or maybe that was a weapon the light danced off. That was more likely. Behind Sas was a veritable army of ogres, the colors of the different gangs’ skin catching the light as they drew closer.

And it wasn’t just Sas who was angry; the whole of the group was geared up for a fight. Suddenly I was very glad Ophelia had come along. Two dragons were a hell of a lot more intimidating than one.

Blaz glared at me.

I’m not intimidating enough for you?

“The more the merrier and all that shit.” I pulled my sword from my back and uncoiled my whip with the other hand. A little bit of distance wasn’t a bad thing with angry ogres.

Thirty seconds passed while we waited, weapons out and tension high.

Thirty one and a half seconds, and Sas raged in front of us, battle axe raised high above her head, fury lighting her features. I didn’t move, didn’t even change my breathing, though my heart was pounding like an oversized jackhammer.

I tipped my chin up a fraction of an inch. “Hello, Sas.”

“I can’t believe you’d dare come here. You are stupid.” She slowed her steps, her eyes only on me. Fortunately, the gang of ogres behind her wasn’t quite as single-minded; they formed a long line, their eyes glued to the two dragons.

Hell yes for back up. I would never complain again about Blaz coming along.

About damn time.

I ignored him and struggled to find the right words, words I’d been working over for the last month. “Sla gave me his oath that the ogres would stand with me when the time comes. Does that still hold or are you as honorless as the rest of the supernaturals think?”

She let out a long, low hiss. “Sla is dead, and I lead the gangs now. All of them.”

The ogres behind her, men and a few women, clanged their weapons, sending a bevy of birds into flight.

Ophelia snaked her neck out and grabbed two birds mid air, gulping them down. The ogres went silent again—well, maybe that wasn’t quite right. Still, except for a tremor here and there, their eyes darting to one another and then to the dragons. No shit, there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d want to face down a dragon either.

Yet you already did, little idiot.
Blaz’s tone was full of humor; Erik and Ophelia let out a snicker as if it were some big joke.

Again, I did my best to ignore him. “And you won’t stand by Sla’s decree?”

“Fuck you, Tracker. You killed my men, led them into a trap. They were my mates, I felt their deaths and they were not good deaths. Slow and tortured, they broke at the end, screaming my name as they died.” Tears slid down her cheeks but they did not soften the fury lighting her face.

The bile in my stomach jumped halfway up my throat and tears stung at my own eyes. I knew the boys had been skinned alive, knew it had been bad. But feeling their death, that was not something I could imagine. I didn’t know ogres had that connection once mated.

I knew if I felt Liam die a horrid death, there would be no stemming my rage, especially if I thought someone I knew had done it, someone I trusted. I cleared my throat and pushed down my emotions as best I could.

“And you think I did it?” My voice was husky, filled with emotions I couldn’t contain no matter how I tried.

With each word she stepped closer until we were nose to nose, her breath hot on my face. “Your stupidity did it. You thought you were all powerful, that you could change the world but you can’t. You aren’t the one the prophecies speak of. You are nothing but an interloper, a fucking twat filled with the idea of ruling the supernatural world like her ancestors did.”

The pain of losing Dox was not done healing, but that didn’t mean I would take this shit. The sympathy I had for her fled.

“You’re a moron, Sas. That’s what you are. I’m not here for power or prestige. You think I want to face down strongest demon this world has ever seen, and all that comes with him? You think I want to put the lives of those I love on the line to keep this piece of shit world safe?” I shoved her hard, tucking a foot behind her feet so she ended up on her ass in front of me. “You stay here on your bare ass mountain and cower as the demons over run this world, and know that maybe your help would have tipped the scales and kept us safe.”

She snarled and leapt to her feet, battle axe raised. “I am not the fool that the boys were. I see you for what you are, and I will not let my people be slaughtered and turned into petty pawns for your dreams of power.”

The ogres behind her let out a low murmur, but I saw doubt on some faces.

“And you all agree with her? You think I’m here to rule you?”

I shook my head. “Dox was my friend, one of the few I had. He was shunned by his own because of his gentle nature, he was cast aside. And yet he fought at my side against Orion because he believed it was the right thing to do. He was a hero; he didn’t shy away from danger, or the possibility of death. He knew, as did the triplets and Sla, this is
war
. Not a game, not a silly play. And they were willing to lay down their lives to try and stop the demons. The same as I am. The same as we are.” I swept my hand back to encompass the dragons, Liam, Erik and Alex. “Perhaps I was wrong thinking the ogres were strong enough to face the darkest hours this world will ever know.”

Sas glared at me, but said nothing, only lifted her axe higher. Looked like I wasn’t getting through to them. Not that I really expected to, I wasn’t much of a motivational speaker.

Erik stepped to my side to speak with me, careful to keep me between him and the ogres. “You won’t ever convince them, but as Orion unleashes his demons, he very well may do it for you.”

I clenched my whip handle, the leather digging into my palm. “And by then it may be too late.”

“Yes, but you can’t force them to see. When the blind refuse the gift of sight, you only anger them by describing what the world around them offers.”

I glanced at him. “Damn, that was downright poetic.”

He gave a shrug and a wry grin. “I have my moments.”

Blaz dropped his head close to us and Sas took several large steps back, her eyes widening and her hand tightening on her axe handle.

I agree with Erik, it is time to go. There are more pressing matters.

Fuck it all, what could be more pressing than trying to get allies on our side?

Ophelia stretched her wings, her eyes locking with mine.
There has been a break in the veil, we must attend to that now.

“And you waited ‘til now to tell me?” I yelled as I ran for Blaz’s back.

Blaz let out a big snort, a spurt of flame with it.
We just sensed it. It just happened.

I yanked myself onto Blaz’s back, Liam behind me. Alex lifted his eyes and cracked a yawn; the lazy sod slept the whole time.

“Home now?”

“No. Not yet.”

From the ground Sas let out a laugh. “So now you would run away, without even finishing our conversation?”

“What more is there to say? You would let the world die for your pride and your grief; I don’t have that luxury. No need to be proper—you’re an idiot and I have work to do. Piss on you and your gangs. I hope Orion bleeds you dry showing you the error of your ways.” There, how was that for poetic?

The ogres sucked in a collective breath, as did Liam.

“That was necessary because … ”

“Because this world is black and white. We have no room for grey anymore and I can’t damn well coddle them. They are with us, or against us.” And that was the truth of it; there was no leeway anymore.

Liam didn’t touch me, didn’t wrap his arms around me, as Blaz took off. The dragon’s wings sent up a spiral plume of ash, for a brief second obscuring the ogres below. I wished to hell things had gone better.

Could have gone much worse, Rylee. We might have had to kill them if they’d attacked. Besides, this way they might come around. You never know with ogres, they love fighting almost as much as they love fucking.

Blaz had a point. “For now, it doesn’t matter. Where is this breach in the veil and what the fuck are we going to do about it? Better yet, how did you know?”

Ophelia spoke loud and clear.
Perhaps the better question would be what is a breach in the veil. Let us start with that.

Liam ground his teeth behind me. “What the hell is a breach in the veil, then?”

It is a true tear in the fabric between the worlds, not a doorway, but a spill over from too much power bearing down on that which keeps the human and the supernatural world apart. They happened in the early days when the veil was first created, before the levels were instituted to keep those most dangerous farthest from the surface.

“Shit, that sounds like a dandy time,” I grumbled.

Blaz kicked in,
Dragons sense a tear in the veil, an actual tear, not an opening. The ability is hard wired into us, part of why the Slayers took to pairing with us back in the day. Made it easier to contain the demons.

In that moment, I didn’t need to ask where the tear in the veil was. I could find out myself. Swallowing hard, I Tracked demons as a whole.

“Don’t do it, Rylee,” Erik called back to me, turning in his seat to face me. “Tracking demons is beyond dangerous, they can lock onto you and pull you through to them.” How did he know I was going to Track demons? Shit, could I be read that easily? I guess I’d have to ask after all.

“Blaz, Ophelia, where is the tear in the veil?” I yelled to be heard over the wind whipping past us.

Blaz’s words rocked me.
The farm.
No, no, no, that couldn’t be right. It couldn’t.

Feeling a steady beat of panic rising through me, I Tracked Pamela and Milly and nearly swallowed my tongue.

Liam grabbed my arms. “What is it? Your heart rate is into light speed.”

“They broke through at the farm and Milly and Pamela are fighting them.”

He didn’t let go of me. “How bad is it?”

I shuddered as something hit Milly, and a shard of pain rippled from her to me and then the same thing happened to Pamela.

Not again, I couldn’t lose the kid again.

I whispered the words, feeling them pierce me.

“As bad as it could be.”

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