Chapter no 78

House of Earth and Blood

He couldn’t swim.

Syrinx couldn’t swim. He didn’t stand a chance of getting out, getting free of the nøkk—

From her angle below, Bryce could only glimpse the bottoms of Syrinx’s frantic, desperate legs as he struggled to stay at the surface. She dropped the book, the golden bubble rupturing, and tried to rise to her feet.

Micah emerged from the door to the tank stairwell. His power hit her a moment later.

It flipped her, pinning her facedown on the carpeted stairs. Exposing her back to him.

She writhed, the ebbing pain in her leg secondary to the tingling numbness creeping through her blood. Syrinx was drowning, he was—

Micah loomed over her. She stretched her arm out—toward the shelf. Her tingling fingers brushed over the titles. On the Divine NumberThe Walking DeadThe Book of BreathingsThe Queen with Many Faces 

Syrinx was thrashing and thrashing, still fighting so hard—

And then Micah sent a blast of white-hot flame straight into her back. Into the Horn.

She screamed, even as the fire didn’t burn, but rather absorbed into the ink, raw power filling her, flame turning to ice and cracking through her blood like shifting glaciers.

The air in the room seemed to suck in on itself, tighter and tighter and tighter—

It blasted outward in a violent ripple. Bryce screamed, hoarfrost in her veins sizzling into burning agony. Upstairs, glass shattered. Then nothing.

Nothing. She shuddered on the ground, tingling ice and searing flame spasming through her.

Micah looked around. Waited.

Bryce could barely breathe, trembling as she waited for a portal to open, for some hole to another world to appear. But nothing occurred.

Disappointment flickered in Micah’s eyes before he said, “Interesting.”

The word told her enough: he’d try again. And again. It wouldn’t matter if she was alive or a pile of self-destructed pulp. Her body would still bear the Horn’s ink—the Horn itself. He’d lug around her corpse if he had to until he found a way to open a portal to another world.

She’d figured it out in the hours after the kristallos’s attack at the docks, when she’d seen herself in the mirror. And began to suspect that the tattoo on her back was not in any alphabet she knew because it was not an alphabet. Not one from Midgard. She’d looked again at all the locations Danika had visited that last week, and saw that only the tattoo shop had gone unchecked. Then she’d realized the amulet was gone, and she had been attacked. Just as Hunt had been attacked by the kristallos in the park—after he’d touched Danika’s jacket in the gallery. Touched Danika’s scent, full of the Horn.

Bryce strained, hauling herself against the invisible grip of Micah’s power. Her fingers brushed a dark purple book spine.

Syrinx, Syrinx, Syrinx—

“Maybe carving the Horn from you will be more effective,” Micah murmured. A knife hummed free from its sheath at his thigh. “This will hurt, I’m afraid.”

Bryce’s finger hooked on the lip of the book’s spine. Please. It did not move. Micah knelt over her.

Please, she begged the book. Please.

It slid toward her fingers.

Bryce whipped the book from its shelf and splayed open its pages. Greenish light blasted from it. Right into Micah’s chest.

It sent him rocketing back across the library, a clear shot to the open entry to the bathroom.

To where Lehabah waited in the shadows of the bathroom door, a small book in her own hands, whose pages she opened to unleash another blast of power against the door, propelling it shut.

The book’s power hissed over the bathroom door, sealing it tight.

Locking the Archangel within.

Ruhn had not woken up this morning expecting to watch his sister die.

And his father … Ruhn’s father said nothing at the horror that unfolded.

For three heartbeats, Bryce lay on the steps as the last of her leg stitched itself together, while she stared at the shut bathroom door. It might have been funny, the idea of locking a near-god inside a bathroom, had it not been so fucking terrifying.

A strangled voice growled behind Ruhn, “Help her.”

Hunt. The muscles of his neck were bulging, fighting Sandriel’s grip on him. Indeed, Hunt’s eyes were on Sandriel as he snarled, “Help her.”

The metal bathroom door, even with the book’s power sealing it, wouldn’t hold Micah for long. Minutes, if that. And the synth in Bryce’s system … How long did she have until she turned herself into bloody ribbons?

Lehabah rushed over to Bryce just as Hunt again growled at Sandriel, “Go stop him.”

No matter that even at ungodly speeds, it would take Sandriel an hour to fly there. Thirty minutes by helicopter.

A choking sound filled the air as Sandriel clamped down on her power, silencing Hunt’s voice. “This is Micah’s territory. I do not have the authority to intervene in his business.”

Athalar still managed to get out, dark eyes blazing, “Fuck. You.”

All of Sandriel’s triarii fixed their lethal attention on Hunt. He didn’t seem to give a shit, though. Not as Bryce gasped to Lehabah, “Get the tank’s feeding dock running.”

The gaping wound in her thigh finally sealed shut thanks to the synth shooting through her blood. And then Bryce was up and running.

The bathroom door shuddered. She didn’t so much as look back as she sprinted, still limping, for the stairs to the tank. She grabbed a knife off the ground. Micah’s knife.

Ruhn had to remind himself to take a breath as Bryce hit the stairs, ripping a piece from her torn shirt, wrapping it around her thigh to bind the knife to her. A makeshift sheath.

Declan switched the feed to the small chamber atop the tank, the water sloshing through the grated floor. A three-foot square in the center opened into the gloom, the small platform on a chain anchored to the top of the tank. Lehabah floated at the controls. “It’s not attacking him,” the sprite wept. “Syrie’s just limp there, he’s dead—”

Bryce knelt, and began taking swift, deep breaths. Fast, fast, fast— “What’s she doing?” Queen Hypaxia asked.

“She’s hyperventilating,” Tharion murmured back. “To get more air into her lungs.”

“Bryce,” Lehabah pleaded. “It’s a—”

But then Bryce sucked in one last, mighty breath, and plunged beneath the surface.

Into the nøkk’s lair. The feeding platform dropped with her, chain unraveling into the gloom, and as it raced past Bryce, she gripped the iron links, swimming down, down, down—

Bryce had no magic. No strength nor immortality to shield her. Not against the nøkk in the tank with her; not against the Archangel likely only a minute away from breaking through that bathroom door. Not against the synth that would destroy her if the rest didn’t.

His sister, his brash, wild sister—knew all that and still went to save her friend.

“It’s her Ordeal,” Flynn murmured. “This is her fucking Ordeal.”

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