tempest reborn (jane true #6) Page 9

I looked up at Ryu, and felt hot, wet tears coursing down my cheeks.

‘You would say that, wouldn’t you? You’ve always hated Anyan, and now you hate him even more because we’re together. Don’t tell me you’re being all “save the world”. You just want Anyan gone…’

It was a low blow, and unfair, and I regretted it even as I said it. But I regretted it even more at the look Ryu gave me. It was cold, but also full of pity. Like he kinda wanted to smack me, but knew just what a wretch I was at that moment. I didn’t like being either person – the girl who said such hateful things or the one who deserved pity.

So I took it back, or at least tried to, since we can never really take back what’s already been said.

‘I’m sorry, Ryu. That was uncalled for.’

‘Forget it. I know you’re stressed. But you need to know I’m right. This is the only hope we’ve got, and we have no reason to think the universe is steering us wrong.’

Tears blurred my eyes again, and I looked back down at my lap. But Ryu kept talking, although his voice was gentler.

‘We have to stop the White, and this is how we do it. The first part of the poem worked – we made the stone. And look at Gus. He walked into that fire, and there he was, good as new when it was all over.

‘Plus, Anyan is running out of time. We all know it. And he’d rather be dead than be that thing. Anyan and I may have been rivals in the past, yes. But I also respect him, and I know him well enough to know he wouldn’t want any of this. None of us would.’

The tears kept falling, but I knew Ryu was right. Anyan was losing his battle, and he’d rather be dead than a shadow in the mind of the White for all eternity.

‘But why do I have to do it?’ I said, my voice breaking in an ugly sob.

‘Because life sucks,’ Ryu said, moving to my side of the table and squatting down to take both my hands in his. ‘But we’ll all be right there with you, if it helps.’

I looked at Ryu through the tears and nodded. ‘It does. Not much. But it does.’

‘Good. And I do think this will work. I didn’t want to believe that was really the universe, speaking through Grizzie or the monk. The whole thing seemed ridiculous. I was convinced you’d do some weird chant for three days, and at the end of that time we’d have a tired Jane and a pile of burned bones. Instead we got that stone. And whatever it is, it’s powerful. We can all sense it.’

We looked at the object in question, which was sitting on top of the refrigerator. It had seemed like a safe enough spot, considering it couldn’t really be hidden since it beamed out so much power.

I hadn’t really thought much about the stone, to be honest. And I hadn’t thought about it the way Ryu had – as proof the monk’s poem worked. But that’s exactly what it was, and what Gus had done walking into that conflagration had seemed just as crazy and dangerous at the time as carving someone up.

I picked up my copy of the poem and read it over again as Ryu went to get Iris and Caleb. They filed in and sat down.

Then, with the creature’s help, we came up with a bunch of strategies to get the White on the ground, and surrounded by water, so that I could carve him up like a turkey. We worked for hours, only taking a break when the others returned from their grocery-shopping trip. So as not to be recognized, they went to a supermarket an hour away, with a few coolers in the truck to pack up the frozen and perishable goods. Amy wasn’t strong enough to glamour all three of them, but they needed to get out of the house. My shenanigans had made them all virtual prisoners, another thing I had to keep in mind.

This has to end, I admitted to myself finally. One way or another.

The next few hours were torture as we waited for the word to come that Magog and her team were in Chinese air space and near the target we’d chosen – an abandoned factory that the government claimed wasn’t inhabited. Daniel had done quite a bit of negotiating to get the Chinese to agree to our use of their air space and their territory, and he’d been relieved when they’d acquiesced without too much of a fuss. We were, after all, bringing a dragon into their air space, but he claimed they understood the global threat the creature represented.

And speaking of global threats, there had also been reports of the Red in that area, and we’d had a few sightings of our own – a glimpse of something large and white on the horizon, which disappeared as quickly as it appeared.

So we knew we wouldn’t have long to wait once we threw off shields and made a fuss. That came the next day.

When we were given word that our troops in China were on the ground, Amy took my dad, Grizzie, and Tracy over to her house. They wouldn’t return until we’d given them the all clear. When the civilians were gone, we made our way to my cove. That’s where we’d decided to do battle with the White. It had years of protections on it to keep out wandering humans, and it didn’t matter it wasn’t that big. Because we were going out to the ocean.

We waited for Daniel’s signal – a text message to Ryu. It was such an easy, everyday way to begin what could end up being the loss of my world, that I hardly noticed it when Ryu’s phone sounded.

But then he nodded to me, and I knew it was time.

I commanded the labrys to light up, feeling it like a distant flame in my breast. At the exact same moment, the creature literally moved heaven and earth. A mirror cove to match mine sprang up across from where Iris, Ryu, Caleb, Nell, Trill, and I spread out across the beach.

We all had a role to play, but Nell and I were the real powers, so we stayed in front, while the others took their places behind a powerful shield.

The mirror cove rose slowly in front of us, the actual seabed rising at the creature’s command. Water streamed off, leaving mud and all sorts of gasping fish and other sea creatures. Ryu, meanwhile, kept a careful eye on his phone, waiting for a report from our people in China.

I felt like time stood still when it finally rang. He listened for a few seconds, and then he nodded again at me.

‘They’re in position. The enemy is advancing … and it’s the Red.’

I sagged as relief flooded through me, but I had no time to gloat.

It was show time.

First, I called to the labrys. From across the ocean it answered and suddenly it was with me again. It blazed up first in welcome, but then it blazed up again, as if recognizing something else out there in the dusky evening sky.

If all went according to plan, at that same moment back in China, the Alfar who had met our team on the aircraft carrier would invoke a special charm they’d brought – a hugely powerful nullifier that would make them, and quite a bit of the surrounding area, ‘go dark’. The Red would know she’d been had, but it wouldn’t matter. She’d have to get all the way back here to find the White, and by then it should be too late.

It would be too late, dammit.

That’s what I focused on as I looked at Nell. ‘You ready?’

The gnome nodded. I turned to my friends behind me.

‘Are you ready?’

They also nodded, although Iris’s lips were white with fear. But she’d insisted on being part of this, and I wasn’t about to tell her no. Not after what Morrigan’s cronies had done to her. For as much as I was doing this to get Anyan back, at some point I’d also realized just how much this was going to hurt Morrigan and the other monster she had living inside her.

And that was going to feel good, not just to Iris.

‘We’re ready!’ I called to the creature, although I could have just thought it. Fact is, it was fun to shout.

We were all so very, very ready.

Chapter Fifteen

It didn’t take the White long to make his appearance.

I’d been pretty specific in Anyan’s dream-hut, telling the barghest all about our plans – about going with an Alfar contingent to retrieve an important sacred object while my friends in Rockabill set up everything we’d need to complete a ritual that we were pretty sure would take care of the Red and the White for good.

Because they’d already seen the creature’s powers of apparation, we wanted them to believe they couldn’t take any chances. Just like the Red had changed my life with the flick of her tail, I made it sound like the second we managed to lay a hand on the object, the creature could have my crew back and completing the ritual before either of the dragons could blink.

Basically, we wanted them to believe they had to be in both places at once, to ensure the threat was mitigated. As I was supposed to be the ‘lure’ for the Red, the more powerful dragon, we couldn’t let the White know they’d been tricked till he’d landed in our trap.

So I stayed where I was, safe under one of Nell’s powerful glamours. Her territory extended to the waterline, and I was well inside it, standing as I was in the real cove. The creature was also pouring power into Nell’s defenses, so that the White would see nothing more than a few dinky supernaturals standing on a beach.

Easy picking for an ancient force of evil like him, right?

When he did glide in, he did so quite lazily. He wasn’t expecting us to put up much of a fight, after all, what with the champion thousands of miles away.