Chapter no 84

House of Earth and Blood

Hunt couldn’t take his eyes from the feed of Bryce battling her way through the city. Hypaxia’s phone rang somewhere off to his left, and the witch-queen answered before the first ring had ended. Listened. “What do you mean, the brooms are destroyed?”

Declan patched her call through to the speakers, so they could all hear the shaking voice of the witch on the other end of the line. “They’re all in splinters, Your Majesty. The conference center armory, too. The guns, the swords—the helicopters, too. The cars. All of it, wrecked.”

Dread curdled in Hunt’s gut as the Autumn King murmured, “Micah.” The Archangel must have done it before he left, quietly and unseen. Anticipating keeping them at bay while he experimented with the Horn’s power. With Bryce.

“I have a helicopter,” Fury said. “I kept it off-site.”

Ruhn got to his feet. “Then we move out now.” It would still take thirty minutes to get there.

“The city is a slaughterhouse,” Sabine was saying into the phone. “Hold your posts in Moonwood and FiRo!”

Every pack in the Aux was linked to the call, able to hear each other. With a few keystrokes, Declan had linked Sabine’s phone to the system in the conference room so the Aux might hear them all as well. But some packs had stopped responding altogether.

Hunt snapped at Sabine, “Get a fucking wolf pack to the Old Square now!” Even with Fury’s helicopter, he’d be too late. But if help could at least reach Bryce before she headed solo into the charnel house that would be the Meadows—

Sabine snapped back at him, “There are no wolves left for the Old Square!

But the Prime of the wolves had stirred at last, and pointed an ancient, gnarled finger to the screen. To the feeds. And he said, “One wolf remains in the Old Square.”

Everyone looked then. To where he’d pointed. Whom he’d pointed


Bryce raced through the carnage, sword glinting with each swipe and

duck and slash.

Sabine choked. “That’s Danika’s sword you’re sensing, Father—”

The Prime’s age-worn eyes blinked unseeingly at the screen. His hand curled on his chest. “A wolf.” He tapped his heart. Still Bryce fought onward toward the Meadows, still she ran interference for anyone fleeing for the shelters, buying them a path to safety. “A true wolf.”

Hunt’s throat tightened to the point of pain. He extended his hand to Isaiah. “Give me your phone.”

Isaiah didn’t question him, and didn’t say a word as he handed it over. Hunt dialed a number he’d memorized, since he hadn’t dared to store it in his contacts. The call rang and rang before it finally went through. “I’m guessing this is important?”

Hunt didn’t bother to identify himself as he growled, “You owe me a gods-damned favor.”

The Viper Queen only said, amusement coating her rich voice, “Oh?”

Two minutes later, Hunt had risen from his seat, intent on following Ruhn to Fury’s helicopter, when Jesiba’s phone rang. The sorceress announced, voice strained, “It’s Bryce.”

Hunt whipped his head to the camera feed, and sure enough, Bryce had tucked her phone into her bra strap over her shoulder, presumably leaving it on speaker. She wove around abandoned cars as she crossed the border into Asphodel Meadows. The sun began to set, as if Solas himself was abandoning them.

“Bring it up on the speakers and merge the call with the Aux lines,” Jesiba ordered Declan, and answered the phone. “Bryce?”

Bryce’s panting was labored. Her rifle cracked like breaking thunder. “Tell whoever’s at the Summit that I need backup in the Meadows—I’m heading for the shelter near the Mortal Gate.”

Ruhn vaulted down the stairs and ran right to the speaker in the center of the table. He said to it, “Bryce, it’s a massacre. Get inside that shelter before they all shut—”

Her rifle boomed, and another demon went down. But more swept through the Gates and into the city, staining the streets with blood as surely as the vibrant sunset now stained the sky.

Bryce ducked behind a dumpster for cover as she fired again and again. Reloaded.

“There’s no backup for Asphodel Meadows,” Sabine said. “Every pack is stationed—”

There are children here!” Bryce screamed. “There are babies!”

The room fell silent. A deeper sort of horror spread through Hunt like ink in water.

And then a male voice panted over the speakers, “I’m coming, Bryce.”

Bryce’s bloodied face crumpled as she whispered, “Ithan?” Sabine snarled, “Holstrom, stay at your fucking post—”

But Ithan said again, more urgently this time, “Bryce, I’m coming.

Hang on.” A pause. Then he added, “We’re all coming.”

Hunt’s knees wobbled as Sabine bellowed at Ithan, “You are disobeying a direct order from your—”

Ithan cut off her call. And every wolf under his command ended their connection, too.

The wolves could be at the Meadows in three minutes.

Three minutes through Hel, through the slaughter and death. Three minutes in a flat-out run, a sprint to save the most defenseless among them.

The human children.

The jackals joined them. The coyotes. The wild dogs and common dogs. The hyenas and dingoes. The foxes. It was who they were. Who they had always been. Defenders of those who could not protect themselves. Defenders of the small, the young.

Shifter or true animal, that truth lay etched in the soul of every canine.

Ithan Holstrom sprinted toward Asphodel Meadows with the weight of that history behind him, burning in his heart. He prayed he was not too late.

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