Home > Reaper Unhinged (Deadside Reapers #6)

Reaper Unhinged (Deadside Reapers #6)
Author: Debbie Cassidy

Chapter One

The kitchen island in the pack house was the only lit part of the ground floor in the hours before dawn. Sleep had been elusive of late, but I wasn’t alone in my predawn vigil and that was a great comfort.

“Are you sure about this?” Cora asked for the umpteenth time. “I can go back to the Underealm and check if Mal’s back. You have no idea what you’ll be walking into.”

Purgatory. That’s what I’d be walking into. Malachi’s territory. His domain. He knew the place inside out. I’d hoped he’d be able to come with me. Help me find the Edge, where the cores of the purest souls were held prisoner, but he wasn’t at the Keep.

He and Azazel were scouring the Underealm, looking for Lilith.

I stared into my empty coffee mug. “We can’t wait any longer. I can’t expect Mal to drop the search for Lilith to come and help us.”

Grayson topped up my mug and then took the seat beside me, but even his reassuring heat couldn’t chase away the chill that seemed to cling to my veins ever since the Dread attack on Deadside and the Dominion angel’s, Cassius’, revelations.

I’d been stupid to send Cora to fetch Mal from the Underealm. Mal and Azazel needed to focus on finding Lilith. If they failed, Mammon would take over the Underealm, and if that happened, saving the Beyond would mean nothing, because there was no doubt in my mind that Mammon’s greed would bring him into the earthly realm sooner rather than later. The demon wanted power. He wanted everything, and the Underealm wouldn’t be enough for him. However, if I didn’t find a way to save the Beyond, there would be nothing for him to come for. Earth, along with every living creature on it, would cease to exist.

We needed to handle Purgatory and finding a new power source for the Beyond without Mal or Azazel.

“Seraphina won’t be alone,” Uri said to Cora. “I’ll keep her safe.”

“Have you been to Purgatory before?” Grayson asked him.

“No, but celestials cannot be corrupted by malignant spirits.”

I gave him a skeptical look. “Really? Then why is the Eye still active? Why haven’t the celestials done away with the malignant spirits that live there?”

He pressed his lips together. “It isn’t the malignant that we shy away from, it’s the rift you call the Eye. The forces within are unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. The celestials who ventured forth never returned, and so we steer clear. However, Purgatory was created by the Beyond. You will be safe with me.”

I believed in him. “I trust you.”

He’d gone to great lengths to protect me. Allowing himself to be tortured, having his wings ripped from his body rather than give his celestial captors my name. I trusted him with my life.

I owed him my life.

He had a little color back in his cheeks now, and the wounds on his back had healed, all except the spots where his wings had been. Those wounds were deeper than the rest. They’d take more time. Petra had applied bandages to prevent infection even though I wasn’t sure celestials could get infections. I was still getting used to his slightly longer hair and the five o’clock shadow he was sporting. It made him look dangerous; that, coupled with the clothes Grayson had loaned him, made him look like part of my pack.

I blinked to dispel the possessive thought. I was grateful, that was all. He’d brought us the truth. And I cared about him as a friend. Hell, the last couple of days I’d been afraid the Beyond would cut him off from the celestial power like they’d done the Dread, but they hadn’t. I guess now that our worlds were on the verge of going to shit, they didn’t see the point in locking him out. The cat was out of the bag, so to speak. We knew the truth about the Beyond, how they were using souls to power their realm and how the earthly realm was connected to their world. If the Beyond fell, then so would earth.

“Why hasn’t Cassius gotten back to us yet?” Cora asked Uriel.

The celestial shrugged. “I have no idea. He’s an upper-level celestial. We run in different circles, literally. He’d have to get a meeting with the Righteous and petition for the information. I’m sure he’s doing his best.”

But it had been seventy-two hours since we’d last spoken to him. He needed to speed shit up. If what he said was true, if we only had a handful of weeks left before the power supply to the Beyond ran out, then we couldn’t afford any delays.

The distant beat of wings drew my attention to the front doors. The world outside was gray, signaling the arrival of dawn and the return of Keon. The last couple of days he’d gone flying alone just before the sun rose. He was agitated and restless.

Here wasn’t the place he needed or wanted to be, yet he stayed to keep me safe, because if I died then Lilith would suffer.

Eve’s curse kept him here, and it was killing him not to be out there searching for his queen.

He strode in, his dark blue hair windswept and tousled, falling over his bare shoulders and pectorals. He wore a pair of black joggers loaned to him by Grayson and his feet were bare. He looked wild, feral, and dangerous.

“Another pre-dawn meeting?” He said it with derisive agitation.

“No more meetings.” I stood and pushed back my chair. “I’m done waiting. And when I get back, if we haven’t heard from Cassius, then I’m going to go find him myself.”

Keon’s jaw ticked. Yeah, he wasn’t happy about not being able to come to Purgatory with me. But only a full-blooded celestial or the wielder of a scythe could come and go from Purgatory. He might be Lilith’s son, but he was still very much a daemon.

Keon fixed his yellow cat eyes on Uri. “You will keep her alive.”

It wasn’t a question.

Uriel’s expression was sincere. “Of course.”

Keon locked gazes with him for a long beat, but whatever he saw in Uriel’s eyes must have been enough to satisfy him because his shoulders relaxed a fraction.

There was only one more thing I needed to find out. “Um…does anyone know where the entrance to Purgatory is?”

Luckily for me, Uri knew where to take us. His wings were gone, but he could still do his nifty teleport thing, and it brought us to a side street a few meters away from the entrance to an underground train station in East Necro.

It was a small station I’d never stopped at before.

“Purgatory is in there?” It was super early, but people were already up and about, ready to start the daily grind. In an hour this place would be crawling. “You can’t be serious.”

His expression was deathly serious, though. “We need to take a train three platforms along. The entrance to Purgatory is there.” He shrugged. Admittedly there was no train station here a century ago, just thick forestland and tales of monsters to keep humans at bay. Now, with the advance of technology, we’ve had to adapt. “The scythes open the way for a Dominus, and a celestial can also open the door. Humans are safe. Trust me.”

“I trust you, Uri. Let’s do this.”

We headed across the street and down the steps into the underground. It smelled musky and kinda gross, but I was damned if I breathed through my mouth and tasted the air.

Yuck.

It was strange to think that Mal came this way on a regular basis. That he came down here and rode the train. The world rumbled with the sound of said train. There was no one manning the ticket barriers, and they lay open, letting in anyone who dared venture forth. The booth where a human would have sat selling tickets was closed, glass cracked, and sprayed red and blue with graffiti.

A white sheet of paper was pasted to the wall by the booth. The words Blood Drive were written in bold red ink.

Yeah, this was one of the off-the-grid stations. The place people would get off if they wanted to avoid paying for a trip, so I was surprised to see so many suits. Uri and I stuck out like a sore thumb in our casual gear. Dean had loaned the celestial a leather jacket with a fur collar. It looked good on him.

He led the way, and I followed him past the pointless barrier and left into a tiled tunnel decorated with old posters sitting behind glass. Several Blood Drive posters were pasted to the glass, obscuring the original advertisements.

A woman sat on the ground clutching a baby to her chest, her dark eyes pits of sorrow in her face. I could see the tile through her barely corporeal form.

A ghost.

She held out her ghost baby like an offering.

I faltered. “Uri…”

His jaw tightened. “They slip through the cracks sometimes,” he said. “The ones who die alone. The ones without someone to care. Not every soul finds its way to a Soul Savers, and not every soul is picked up by a reaper.”

“Well this one will be.” My hand tingled as my scythe signaled its appearance.

Uri gently gripped my elbow. “You can’t. Not now. Not until we’ve finished in Purgatory.”

Shit. Of course. If I took her now, she’d be ejected into the ether with the other souls I intended to save and… An awful thought occurred to me. How could I have missed it. “Uri, what happens to all the souls now? Cassius said they used the voralexes to siphon the souls from our scythes and convert them into energy, but did they also need the voralexes to recycle them?”

He looked momentarily stunned. “I don’t know.” He frowned. “If the Beyond was still recycling souls then it means that the natural reproduction of souls isn’t enough to maintain a human population.”

And with the voralexes gone, humanity would eventually die out anyway. Fuck. “I’ll need to speak to Cassius about this. We need a solution and fast. A power source for the Beyond won’t be enough.”

“Please…..” The ghost’s lament, finally verbalized, reached my ears. “Peace…”

“I’ll be back for you and your baby. I promise.”

She slumped back against the tile as if spent, and her dark gaze glazed over.

We passed several more spirits trapped here in the underground. Not the usual alert ghosts—the ones who’d been given purpose by Soul Savers. Not the registered ones, but the ones that had slipped through the cracks. You could tell the difference by the despair in their eyes, by the slow, sluggish way they moved. They were remnants. They were lost. We stood on the platform with a few other people waiting for the train.

   
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