Black Fallen (Dark Ink Chronicles #4)

5,505
05.03.2019

“Follow me,” Darius says, and we all run along the parapet, down a winding flight of derelict steps and across the courtyard to another ruined building. He ducks inside, and we all follow. Everyone is wearing training gear.

I’m still in a formal gown.

With a sword.

Inside, Noah leans close. “You scared the hell out of me, Poe,” he says. I look at him, and his familiar mercury eyes, very different from Athios’s, now that I’ve had a good look at both, comfort me. “Don’t do it again.”

“It’s here somewhere!” Darius yells over the steadily raging wind. It’s whistling and whining through the cracks and holes of the old kirk we now stand in. “Sydney?”

“There!” she yells, and Darius moves to where she points. To a recessed altar in the stone.

“Ah. I see you’ve found it for us,” a voice calls out. “Perfect.”

My words, Riley. Use them. Now. The words whispered across my cheeks. The painful language. I stare at the remaining Black Fallen, and I know I have to act fast. Dredging up the words Athios placed in my head, I will them out, past my lips, onto my tongue. So painful, and nausea stirs in my stomach and my knees weaken. Still, I say them, just as Athios had said them to me. The Fallen stare at me, their silvery gazes fixed, wide, and . . . frightened. They aren’t moving. Standing still as death. But their monsters are in full swing.

Shit.

A thunderous sound kicks up, and I realize it’s not thunder but voices. Deep, grumbling voices. Lots of them. I glance out over the field and see a small army moving toward us.

Tristan de Barre. Gawan of Conwyk.

And about fifteen big-ass guys dressed in full chain-mail armor.

With swords.

“Sydney! Riley!” Jake calls out, and I turn and catch the first Jodís head of the evening. He’d lunged so fast that I almost missed it.

“Riley, help Sydney!” Noah yells.

“Not until they get up here!” I say, inclining my head toward Tristan and the others.

I fight. Hard. And somehow we push back the two Fallen and the Jodís enough for Sydney and I to ease in behind Darius. Lucian and Ginger transform—and I mean fast. Like, blur—wolf. I’m not sure if ripping a Jodís’ head off is the same as hacking it off with a sword, but it looks like it has the same effect. Lucian, an enormous black wolf, rips the head off a Jodís with his jaws and spits it out, and the white, gross, screaming pile of pus ensues.

That’d be a yes, then.

The roar of warriors almost deafens me, and I see just enough of Tristan, in full steel chain-mail and helm, hacking his sword like it was another of his own appendages, to turn to help Sydney. To my surprise, she’s already got the stone covering the Seiagh halfway out. “Almost got it��”

“Riley!”

I turn just as one of the Fallen lunges at me. They must have broken free of the spell Athios gave to me. Why he didn’t use his willy-nilly powers on me, I don’t know. But I react. In my gown, I leap high and swing with all my might toward his head.

I watch it roll for a few feet before it disintegrates into a pile of ash.

Like the rest of his body.

When I land, Sydney has the Seiagh in her hand. My insides shake as I hear her incite some verse, and the language sounds a lot like the one spoken by Athios.

In the next instant, Sydney retrieves a silver dirk from her waistband and jabs it into the Seiagh’s center. With a shout, Sydney drops the old tome. The ancient volume bursts into flames. It is destroyed. Never again to harm humanity.

Or another innocent angel.

The storm has ceased now, and the only thing ringing through the ruins now are the sound of steel against steel, steel against rubbery gross neck, and the thuds of heads hitting the stone floor. When Sydney and I run from the kirk, the scene in the courtyard and in the ruins is like a scene from a medieval movie. I jump in and start swinging until the last Jodís falls.

But there is still one Fallen left, and he’s standing in the center of the courtyard surrounded by Jake, Gabriel, Darius, the lupines, Noah, and the warriors. I know what the Fallen are capable of, so I use what control I might have to keep him from attacking. Darius recites a verse in his own language, then lops off the Fallen’s head in one swing. It’s the end of the battle. Tristan, Gawan, and their men stand, sweating, but all alive. Not one innocent life lost.

Piles of dead Jodís are everywhere.

“Damn me, girl,” Tristan says, walking up to me and pulling off his helmet. His long dark hair is plastered to his head, and brilliant blue eyes gaze at me with a twinkle. “You must’ve had a fine, fine instructor. You’re amazing with the blade.”

“And in a ball gown, no less,” Gawan says, joining him. He, unlike the others, wears no helmet nor any armor. Still sweaty, though, and larger-than-life. “Fine fighting, lass.”

Just his ink markings alone would scare off most, I think to myself. “Thanks, guys,” I say, and wipe my forehead with my forearm. “I had great teachers.”

“I’m surprised no tourists were milling about,” Tristan says. “Usually they’re all over Tantallon.”

I know why, but I’ll tell them all later. I doubt they’d even believe me right now that one of the Fallen wasn’t quite so Black, and he’d used a charm to keep innocents out.

“One of the Fallen escaped,” Jake says. He rests against his sword and eyes me. “Disappeared into thin air.”

I guess I’ll be explaining that one a little sooner than later.

“Let’s go home,” Sydney says. “I’m starved.”

A roar of grumbling ayes fills the ruins. It will take a small army to feed Tristan and his men, for sure.

I smile at the big Dragonhawk knight. “I’m glad you came,” I say. “Even gladder you didn’t get dead.”

He gives me a crooked grin. “Aye, woman, me also.” He cocks his head. “You’ve got to come to Dreadmoor soon. My wife, Andrea, wants to meet you.”

I give a nod. “I accept that invite.”

Tristan smiles and moves off to speak with Gabriel.

“Riley,” Jake says beside me. “I’m . . . sorry. About Arcos. I . . . couldn’t—”

“I know, Jake. It wasn’t your fault,” I answer. “I knew that right away. Besides,” I look at him closely, “he may be with Eli.”

He nods. “You have a lot to tell me, girl,.”

I smile. “I do.”

With a sigh, he pushes off his sword. “Let’s go home.”

As a group, from afar, we must’ve looked like a big reenactment troupe or something like that. Who would’ve thought, though, that this gang of warriors, including one in a ball gown, was from other places, other times, once dead, vampires, werewolves, and one human with tendencies?

No one. In their right mind, that is.

“Riley, the scathe?” Gawan asks.

I look at him. “I’ve been told you might can guide me to a good place to look. I’ll need your help.”

He grabs me by the shoulder and squeezes. “I pray you’ll ready yourself in something other than a gown?”

That’s all it took. One little touch from Gawan.

And I’m there. . . .

Gawan stood, frozen to the very last step, and stared at the beauty whose gaze he couldn’t tear away from. Their eyes were fastened within the mirror’s reflection, and they stayed that way for a score of seconds or minutes. He knew not which.

Suddenly, it hurt to breathe, and every muscle burned as his body tensed. Unable to move, he simply stood. And stared.

Before he knew what was happening, his lips began to move—at first a whisper. A stunned, coarse whisper. The ancient Welsh verse barely reached his own ears.

Not once did his gaze leave hers.

“I mewn hon buchedd a I mewn ’r ’n gyfnesaf—” he began, his voice breaking like a lad of sixteen.

“Adduneda ’m cara atat forever ’n ddarpar . . .” she finished on a whisper.

In this life and into the next, I vow my love to you, forever, Intended . . .

Gawan’s throat closed, his heart slammed into his ribs, and a tidal wave of memories crashed over him, yet his feet, thank the saints, began to move, closer to the woman standing barefoot upon his straight-backed chair, staring into his oval mirror. His woman.

His Intended.

It was then he noticed a tear sliding down her cheek, her body trembling. A small black purse she’d been clutching slipped from her fingers and fell to the floor.

When he reached her, he grasped her around the waist and set her on the floor. Slowly, he turned her around.

Her eyes were squinched tightly shut, tears trailing out of them and down her cheeks.

With a ragged breath, Gawan lifted her chin, and fought the crushing urge to pull her into a ferocious embrace she’d not be able to tear free of. Saints, he wasn’t even sure he could manage another bloody word, much less a score of them. Christ, he remembered.

“Ellie, open your eyes,” he said. “Now.”

Her body shook beneath his hands, and he squeezed a bit tighter, just in case she started to slip to the floor. Her breathing, like his own, became labored, as though she’d been running for her very life.

Slowly her lids cracked open, and the most beautiful, tear-soaked, blue-green eyes stared back at him. Her mouth moved, but no words came out.

Gawan bent his head closer.

And then, he quickly realized, no words were needed.

Ellie threw her arms around Gawan’s neck and pulled his head down. Their lips met, settled, and simply melded.

Wrapping his arms tightly about her, he lifted her off the floor and allowed memory after memory to assail him, reveled in the familiar feeling of his Intended’s lips against his, the taste of her on his tongue, her soft body, made just for him, pressed against him.

Then her mouth began to move against his, and he pulled back, reluctantly so, just to hear her sweet words.

“You found me,” she said, in between a series of wet, sloppy kisses. “Gawan of Conwyk.” She bit his lower lip. “Junior warlord.” She dragged a slow kiss across his mouth. “Angel extraordinaire.” After a long, sensual kiss that nearly made him shout, she whispered against his lips, “My Intended.”