Home > Dreams of Gods & Monsters(11)

Dreams of Gods & Monsters(11)
Author: Laini Taylor

He scanned their faces. His own was hard but lit by some inner brilliance. “As regards the angels, I ask nothing of you but patience. We can’t fight them as we once did, trusting to our numbers even as we bled. I don’t ask your permission to find a new way. If you stay with me, I expect faith. The future is shadowed, and I can promise you nothing beyond this: We will fight for our world to the last echo of our souls, and if we are very strong and very lucky and very smart, we may live to rebuild some of what we’ve lost.”

He made eye contact with each in turn, making them feel seen and counted, valued. His look conveyed his faith in them—and more, his trust in their faith in him. He went on: “This much is plain: If we fail to thwart this pressing threat, we end. Chimaera end.” He paused. His gaze having come full circle to Keita-Eiri, he said, with caressing gentleness that somehow made the rebuke so much more damning: “This is no laughing matter, soldier.”

And then he urged Uthem forward and they cut their way through the troops to resume their place at the head of the army. Karou watched as the soldiers silently moved back into formation, and she knew that not one of them would leave him, and that Akiva and Liraz would be safe from errant hamsa strikes for the remainder of the journey.

That was good. She felt a flush of pride for Ziri, and also of awe. In his natural flesh, the young soldier had been quiet, almost shy—the opposite of this eloquent megalomaniac whose flesh he now wore. Watching him, she had wondered for the first time—and maybe it was stupid that she hadn’t thought to wonder it before—how being Thiago might change him.

But the thought subsided as soon as it came. This was Ziri. Of all the many things Karou had to worry about, his being corrupted by power was not one of them.

Lisseth, however, was. Karou looked to her, still hovering near in the air, and saw calculation in the Naja’s eyes as she watched their general resume his place.

What was she thinking? Karou knew there wasn’t a chance in hell of Thiago’s lieutenants leaving the company, but god, she wished they would. No one knew him better, and no one would watch him more closely. As for what she’d told Lisseth about making an enemy of the resurrectionist, it hadn’t been a joke or an idle threat. If anything was certain for revenant soldiers, it was that if they went into battle often enough, eventually they’d be in need of a body.

Bovine, thought Karou. A big slow cow for you. And the next time Lisseth shot her a glance, she thought, almost merrily, Moo.

7

A GIFT FROM THE WILD

The chimaera had ridden high over the peaks now. The kasbah was behind them, the portal just ahead, though Karou could barely make it out. Even up close it presented as a mere ripple, and you had to dive through it on faith, feel its edges feather open around you. Larger creatures did best to fold back their wings and hit it with speed, and if they went just a fraction too high or low they’d feel no resistance and overshoot it, remaining right here in this sky. That didn’t happen now, though. This company knew what they were doing, and vanished through the crease one by one.

It took time, each looming shape winking out into the ether.

When it came Virko’s turn, Karou called, “Hold on!” to Zuzana, and she did, and they careened through the cut. Emylion and Mik went next, and Karou didn’t like having her friends out of her sight, so she nodded to the Wolf, who had circled around to see everyone through, and with one last deep breath of Earth air, she dove.

Against her face, the feather touch of whatever unknowable membrane it was that held the worlds distinct, and she was through.

She was in Eretz.

No blue sky here; it arched white over their heads and darkened to gunmetal gray on the single visible horizon, all the rest lost in a haze. Beneath them was only water, and in the colorlessness of the day it rippled almost black. The Bay of Beasts. There was something terrifying about black water. Something pitiless.

The wind was strong, buffeting the host as it fell back into formation. Karou pulled her sweater closer around her and shivered. The last of the host pushed through the cut, Uthem and Thiago last of all. Uthem’s equine and draconic elements were indistinguishably supple, green and rippling and seeming to pour into the world out of nothingness. The Vispeng race not naturally being winged, Karou had gotten creative in order to preserve his length: two sets of wings, the main pair like sails and a smaller set anchored near his hind legs. It looked pretty cool, if she did say so herself.

The Wolf had bowed his head through the portal, and as soon as he was through, he sat up to take stock of his circling troops. His eye came quickly to rest on Karou, and though he paused on her only briefly, she felt herself to be—knew herself to be—his first care in the world, this or any other. Only when he knew where she was, and was satisfied that she was well, did he turn to the task at hand, which was to guide this army safely over the Bay of Beasts.

Karou found it difficult to turn away from the portal and just leave it there, where anyone might find it and use it. Akiva was to have scorched it closed behind them, but Jael had changed their plan. Now they would need it.

To return and start the apocalypse.

The Wolf once more took the lead, turning them eastward, away from the gunmetal horizon and toward the Adelphas Mountains. On a clear day, the peaks would have been visible from here. But it wasn’t a clear day, and they could see nothing ahead but thickening mist, which had its pluses and its minuses.

In the plus column, the mists gave them cover. They wouldn’t be sighted from a distance by any seraph patrols.

In the minus, the mists gave anyone cover… and anyone—or anything—would not be sighted from a distance by themselves.

Karou was in a central position in the pack, having just come alongside Rua to check on Issa, when it happened.

“Sweet girl, are you bearing up?” Issa asked.

“I’m fine,” Karou replied. “But you need more clothes.”

“I won’t argue with that,” Issa replied. She was actually wearing clothes—a sweater of Karou’s, slit wide at the neck to accommodate her cobra hood—which in itself was unusual for Issa, but her lips were blue, and her shoulders were drawn up practically to her ears as she shivered. The Naja race hailed from a hot climate. Morocco had suited her perfectly. This cold mist, not so much, and their frigid destination even less, though at least there they would be sheltered from the elements, and Karou remembered geothermal chambers in the lower labyrinth of the caves, if all was as it had been years ago.

   
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