Chapter no 92

House of Earth and Blood

Bryce’s face crumpled as she lurched to her feet, sprinting to the Gate.

She didn’t care how it was possible as Danika said again, “Light it up.”

Then Bryce was laughing and sobbing as she screamed, “LIGHT IT UP, DANIKA! LIGHT IT UP, LIGHT IT UP, LIGHT IT UP!”

Bryce slammed her palm onto the bronze disk of the Gate.

And soul to soul with the friend whom she had not forgotten, the friend who had not forgotten her, even in death, Bryce made the Drop.

Stunned silence filled the conference room as Bryce plunged into her power.

Declan Emmett didn’t look up from the feeds he monitored, his heart thundering.

“It’s not possible,” the Autumn King said. Declan was inclined to agree.

Sabine Fendyr murmured, “Danika had a small kernel of energy left, the Under-King said. A bit of self that remained.”

“Can a dead soul even serve as an Anchor?” Queen Hypaxia asked. “No,” Jesiba replied, with all the finality of the Under-King’s

emissary. “No, it can’t.”

Silence rippled through the room as they realized what they were witnessing. An untethered, solo Drop. Utter free fall. Bryce might as well have leapt from a cliff and hoped to land safely.

Declan drew his eyes from the video feed and scanned the graph on one of his three computers—the one charting Bryce’s Drop, courtesy of the Eleusian system. “She’s approaching her power level.” Barely a blip past zero on the scale.

Hypaxia peered over his shoulder to study the graph. “She’s not slowing, though.”

Declan squinted at the screen. “She’s gaining speed.” He shook his head. “But—but she’s classified as a low-level.” Near-negligible, if he felt like being a dick about it.

Hypaxia said quietly, “But the Gate is not.” Sabine demanded, “What do you mean?”

Hypaxia whispered, “I don’t think it’s a memorial plaque. On the Gate.” The witch pointed to the sign mounted on the glowing quartz, the bronze stark against the incandescent stone. “The power shall always belong to those who give their lives to the city.

Bryce dropped further into power. Past the normal, respectable levels.

Queen Hypaxia said, “The plaque is a blessing.”

Declan’s breathing was uneven as he murmured, “The power of the Gates—the power given over by every soul who has ever touched it … every soul who has handed over a drop of their magic.”

He tried and failed to calculate just how many people, over how many centuries, had touched the Gates in the city. Had handed over a drop of their power, like a coin tossed in a fountain. Made a wish on that drop of yielded power.

People of every House. Every race. Millions and millions of drops of power fueled this solo Drop.

Bryce passed level after level after level. The Autumn King’s face went pale.

Hypaxia said, “Look at the Gates.”

The quartz Gates across the city began to glow. Red, then orange, then gold, then white.

Firstlight erupted from them. Lines of it speared out in every direction.

The lights flowed down the ley lines between the Gates, connecting them along the main avenues. It formed a perfect, six-pointed star.

The lines of light began to spread. Curving around the city walls.

Cutting off the demons now aiming for the lands beyond.

Light met light met light met light.

Until the city was ringed with it. Until every street was glowing. And Bryce was still making the Drop.

It was joy and life and death and pain and song and silence.

Bryce tumbled into power, and power tumbled into her, and she didn’t care, didn’t care, didn’t care, because it was Danika falling with her, Danika laughing with her as their souls twined.

She was here, she was here, she was here—

Bryce plunged into the golden light and song at the heart of the universe.

Danika let out a howl of joy, and Bryce echoed it. Danika was here. It was enough.

“She’s passing Ruhn’s level,” Declan breathed, not believing it. That his friend’s party-girl sister had surpassed the prince himself. Surpassed Ruhn fucking Danaan.

Declan’s king was still as death as Bryce smashed past Ruhn’s ranking. This could change their very order. A powerful half-human princess with a star’s light in her veins … Fucking Hel.

Bryce began slowing at last. Nearing the Autumn King’s level.

Declan swallowed.

The city was awash with her light. Demons fled from it, racing back through the voids, opting to brave the glowing Gates rather than be trapped in Midgard.

Light shot up from the Gates, seven bolts becoming one in the heart of the city—above the Old Square Gate. A highway of power. Of Bryce’s will.

The voids between Midgard and Hel began to shrink. As if the light itself was abhorrent. As if that pure, unrestrained firstlight could heal the world.

And it did. Buildings shattered by brimstone slid back into place. Rubble gathered into walls and streets and fountains. Wounded people became whole again.

Bryce slowed further.

Declan ground his teeth. The voids within the Gates became smaller and smaller.

Demons rushed back to Hel through the shrinking doorways. More and more of the city healed as the Horn closed the portals. As Bryce sealed the portals, the Horn’s power flowing through her, amplified by the firstlight she was generating.

“Holy gods,” someone was whispering.

The voids between worlds became slivers. Then nothing at all. The Gates stood empty. The portals gone.

Bryce stopped at last. Declan studied the precise number of her power, just a decimal point above that of the Autumn King.

Declan let out a soft laugh, wishing Ruhn were here to see the male’s shocked expression.

The Autumn King’s face tightened and he growled at Declan, “I would not be so smug, boy.”

Declan tensed. “Why?”

The Autumn King hissed, “Because that girl may have used the Gates’ power to Drop to unforeseen levels, but she will not be able to make the Ascent.”

Declan’s fingers stilled on the keys of his laptop.

The Autumn King laughed mirthlessly. Not from malice, Declan realized—but something like pain. He’d never known the prick could feel such a thing.

Bryce slumped to the stones beside the Gate. Declan didn’t need medical monitors to know her heart had flatlined.

Her mortal body had died.

A clock on the computer showing the Eleusian system began counting down from a six-minute marker. The indicator of how long she had to make the Search and the Ascent, to let her mortal, aging body die, to face what lay within her soul, and race back up to life, into her full power. And emerge an immortal.

If she made the Ascent, the Eleusian system would register it, track


The Autumn King said hoarsely, “She made the Drop alone. Danika

Fendyr is dead—she is not a true Anchor. Bryce has no way back to life.”

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