tempest reborn (jane true #6) Page 20


I took their hands and put them together, indicating they were now a team. Then I gestured at the fish.

‘I can stop it. You distract it.’

Trill pursed her lips. I nodded my head vehemently, as if to counteract her doubt. ‘You distract it,’ I mouthed. ‘Only way.’

The kelpie nodded, tugging Ryu back when he tried to follow me as I swam toward the anglerfish. Its eerie eyes watched me hungrily, and it attacked our shields with renewed vigor.

Just then two massive mage balls hit it from the side. Trill and Ryu came at it from the left, pummeling it with the biggest mage balls they could muster. The fish emitted a watery stream of bubbles, I guess the equivalent of a fish roar, and turned to its attackers. Its angler wobbled through the water a second behind it, like a recalcitrant puppy on a leash.

Its peripheral vision was good, however, for just as I went in to use the labrys to cut the tie connecting it to Morrigan, it lashed back around, nearly catching me with one of those sharp teeth. It cut through my shields, and I frantically backpedaled, building back up my protections as I slashed forward with the ax. It hit tooth, slicing off one of those massive needles and causing the fish to retreat a pace.

Trill and Ryu went in again, this time separately. Trill, as the more powerful fighter in the water, took the lead, using her body to lure the fish. It lunged toward her, but Ryu was there, pushing it back with a mighty shove of his shields even as he aimed a mage ball at one of its eyes. The blast hit with horrifying effect and one of those milky orbs became a blackened, viscous ruin. Enraged and in pain, the fish lashed forward blindly, and I darted in toward its angler. Using my magic to sense my target’s random movements through the water, I held still waiting for the perfect shot…

It came a few seconds later. The fish’s frantic movements stilled for just a second, and that’s when I struck. The labrys severed the cord binding the angler to the Red. With a weird underwater sonic boom, the power eclipsed from the fish. I looked down to see a fish no larger than my forearm darting down into the depths. Now that it couldn’t eat me or my friends, I was glad it survived. It hadn’t wanted to be a pawn of the Red’s any more than the rest of us.

I started when someone grabbed my arm, turning to find Ryu, his face white. I looked down to see why, and mentally screamed for the creature.

Grabbing for the baobhan sith and his bloody bundle, I felt the creature apparate us as my eyes tried to take in the full extent of Trill’s terrible injuries.

Chapter Twenty-Five

With an agonized mental groan, the creature landed us straight back in the Scottish military base from which we’d first set out. I’d ask it later about how its power was holding up, but right now all my thoughts were on Trill.

‘Medic! We need a medic!’ Ryu was shouting, and I felt his power wrapped around the kelpie in a blanket of healing. I knew Ryu wasn’t the best healer, but I nonetheless added my power to his. We could hopefully keep her stable.

Various forms hurtled around us, many of them making an aggressive push toward us as others took a defensive line. We had appeared magically in the midst of a bunch of soldiers, after all. So those who recognized us tried to keep us from being attacked by those who didn’t. I only half registered what was happening, however, as my attention was mostly focused on Trill.

Her pearl-gray skin had paled to a ghastly white, her black fingernails looking even more eerie against her pallor. Her eyes flickered back in her head as she lost and regained consciousness. I clutched her cold hand, my mouth moving in a silent prayer as I took in the horrible belly wound. I think she’d been speared straight through.

It was only when I heard the familiar sound of clip-clops behind me that I dared breathe.

‘Move,’ Caleb said curtly, and I shuffled like a crab to the side. The satyr did what I’d seen him do only once before, with me, when I’d been hurt after an attack by the ifrit-halfling, Conleth. He took Trill into his arms and literally wrapped her up in his healing magic. Hope rushed through me as the satyr’s strong healing power lapped at my shields. But it was quickly dashed when he opened his eyes, a pained look on his face.

‘We need to get her to the infirmary. Now.’ Caleb looked around at the watchful human soldiers surrounding us, and one quick-witted individual made a motion to follow. She led us swiftly out of the doors opposite, across a tarmac over which a gray sky threatened storms, and into another building. We turned right, trotting down the hall to a set of double doors that led us into the welcome sterility of a hospital ward.

‘She’s been impaled,’ Caleb said to the doctor on duty, a frazzled-looking woman with wiry red hair held back in a tight ponytail. ‘I’m healing her as much as I can, but something’s blocking me.’

‘The fucking Red,’ I hissed as the woman motioned to a bed. Caleb laid the kelpie down gently. Trill was totally unconscious now.

Caleb frowned. ‘The dragon was seen over the waters. How did she—’

‘She made herself a champion,’ Ryu said curtly. ‘An anglerfish.’

‘She must also have given it some of her ability to wound without recourse to healing magic. Not all of it, though. I can make a dent. But Trill’s wounds…’

While Caleb talked, the doctors were at work. The satyr never stopped sending power pulsing through that lifeline of healing magic he’d created between him and the kelpie. Ryu and I fed him power, through which I could feel a little of what he was able to do.

It wasn’t much. Basically, he was keeping Trill alive, but he couldn’t do a lot to actually heal her. It was more than he was able to do with someone wounded by the actual Red, but not a lot.

The doctor was shouting commands for blood, various medicines, and other specialists. Needles were inserted all over the place while Trill’s wound was cleaned and prepped for surgery. Not a single doctor or nurse balked over the fact that their patient had gray skin, a foreshortened muzzle, or seaweed hair, and my heart swelled at their professionalism. I knew I was clinging to straws by that point, but it seemed right that one of our little band would be taken care of by human and supernatural alike.

When they whisked the little kelpie off to surgery, we followed. Caleb kept sustaining her, and we kept feeding him power. The surgeons quickly got down to business, and I admit I turned away. My forehead found the cool tile wall in front of me as I leaned toward it, exhausted. I knew it wasn’t so much physical or magical as mental tiredness, but it felt like I’d been hit by a truck.

Hands on my waist pulled me around, then one hand moved up to cradle the back of my head, pulling my forehead away from the tile and toward my favorite man-wall. Anyan lifted me, and my legs moved around his waist as he walked me over a few paces. Then he sat on something. I don’t know what, as I kept my eyes closed the whole time, greedily lapping up that sudden feeling of security that came over me.

‘Go feed, I’ll take over for you,’ Anyan said, his strong arms keeping me in a comforting squeeze. I pulled back to look at him, and saw a pale, worried expression. His arms around me tightened spasmodically, and for a second it looked as if he would cry.

Ryu didn’t respond verbally, but I felt his power slip away as Anyan took over for the baobhan sith. Before he left, Ryu’s hand found my shoulder.

‘You were great out there,’ he said wearily.

I craned my neck to look at Ryu. ‘So were you. And Trill probably wouldn’t have made it if you weren’t so quick.’

He shook his head. ‘Not quick enough.’

‘Nonsense. You saved her. Now, go rest up. Restore your power.’

Ryu nodded, giving Anyan a curious look. The barghest did look really pale, but of course we would all be upset about Trill.

‘Thanks,’ Ryu said, turning on his heel to stride away. His wetsuit clung to his strong back and thighs.

Some soldier girl’s about to get lucky, I thought, but without jealousy. I already felt pretty damned lucky, at least when it came to Anyan.

Now we just needed Trill to pull through…

It was a long few hours as the surgeons worked. I think I dozed, lulled by the steady beat of Anyan’s heart, which I concentrated on to tune out the muffled sounds of surgery. Various machines made pings and beeps, while the doctors murmured commands the nurses echoed. Every once in a while, something would squelch or suck wetly, causing me to shiver.

Throughout it all, Anyan held me, the both of us feeding Caleb our power while the satyr patiently did his own work, shoring up the efforts of the surgeons with a layer of magic and keeping Trill’s body functioning.

After what felt like a day, Anyan tapped me gently on the back. I raised my head from his chest and then stood, my legs feeling a bit wobbly. I turned to face the doctor, who by that point looked almost as pale and fatigued as her patient.

‘She’s not out of the woods. But we’ve done what we can. The next few hours will be critical.’

I nodded, tears blurring my vision. I didn’t want Trill to be critical, or in any woods, let alone bad woods.

‘Your people have another healer on hand to take over for yours,’ she said, nodding at Caleb. If the doctor looked tired, Caleb looked worse. His craggy face had gone crevasse-like, his blue eyes reddened like he had pink eye, blinking blearily out of dark pits.