Reign of Fury (Battles in the Dark Vol. 3)

Emmerich had thought following the instructions in his visions would lead to their salvation. He couldn’t have been more wrong.

A bigger plan had been in play that no one knew about. One devised for thousands of years by a goddess to reclaim her powers, where Kira was the key to that plan.


So the moment Emmerich turned Kira into a creature more powerful and dangerous than anything they had ever come across, they never realized it would be the moment the goddess’s plan would reach fruition.

Now with her powers back, the goddess is hell-bent on destroying humanity, and Emmerich and Kuron must work together to stop her. At the same time, they must find a way to destroy the creature Kira had become so the old Kira could come back to them.

However, time was against them, and if they didn’t find a solution quickly, the goddess’s fury will destroy them all.

 

Warning: This book is intended for people 18+

A long time ago

“You can’t do this to me! Let me go!” the woman said in a language unheard of in this universe. At the same time, she struggled against the chains that held her in place in the middle of the circular temple room.

“Ithéndril!” a male who suddenly appeared in front of her said in the same language. The word he spoke was a sentiment their kind used toward one they felt deeply for. “What have you done?” He said the comment more to himself than anything, as he watched her pull against her restraints. The expression on her face was wild with fury and pain. He had never seen her like this before. He never thought she—

“I’ve done what needed to be done!” she spat, having heard his comment.

He felt the direction of her anger focus solely on him. The heat of her steely gaze could have boiled his blood—literally—if they didn’t have her chained. It wouldn’t have killed him, but it disturbed him that if she wasn’t chained, she would try to kill him and everyone else in the temple with the state she was in. She could quite possibly succeed as well, seeing as she was one of the most powerful among them. That alone told him that the woman standing before him wasn’t the highly composed person he held more than the usual affections for. This woman was out of control, and there was nothing deadlier than one of their own who couldn’t keep their fury at bay.

Her answer to his question also baffled him. “What has come over you, Ithéndril? How could you have…” He stopped short, finding it hard to utter the words. “How could you…” He stopped again and closed his eyes tightly as his mouth formed into a hard line. The image of what he had witnessed in the palace before he had come here, started to affect his emotions to the point that even saying the words was almost too much for him. He opened his eyes again, trying to control his own anger from consuming him. “You must be punished for what you have done,” he spoke in an even tone.

“What I’ve done? I wouldn’t have done it to begin with if you hadn’t sent someone to kill him,” she snapped at him. “Why couldn’t you just leave him alone?” The question was directed at the others in the room. “I would have gone anywhere you asked me. I would even agree to never see him again, if it would have saved his life.” Her voice trembled with grief.

“You know that’s not our way,” he answered, finding it hard to keep his voice even.

The woman turned her focus back to him, managing to control her quivering lip long enough to scorch him with her glare, before turning it on everyone else who stood in the temple. “Fuck our ways,” she growled.

The male in front of her pursed his lips. “That attitude is what has gotten you in this mess in the first place. If you hadn’t done what you did, that man would still be alive. You played with his life the moment you started that relationship, knowing full well what the consequences were if it went beyond just an affair of the flesh. What you did was selfish.”

“Selfish?” she said incredulously. “How can you call loving someone and them loving you back selfish?”

“You know as well as I do it was not the act that was the problem. It was who he was.”

“Who he was, was a man none of you could ever compare with,” she bit back.

“Of course we couldn’t compare,” he chastised her. “He was human. We are gods.”

Her face contorted into a snarl. “That isn’t even close to what I meant.”

His lips thinned. “This is the reason why it’s forbidden to engage in an emotional relationship with a species like them. It poisons your mind into thinking they’re worth more than the shit beneath our feet. And look where it got you. Look what it has made you become. You murdered your own kind, Ithéndril. Nothing can save you now. Not even me,” he whispered the last part.

“I don’t want your help.” The female immediately regretted her comment. She could see she’d hurt him, something she never intended, especially when he was the one who was always there for her. Hurting him made her feel like she was betraying him somehow.

On the other hand, the circumstances warranted the hurtful remarks. She also knew there was no point arguing with him, or any of them. They just didn’t understand. They had thought humans insignificant from the moment they knew of their existence eons ago. That belief would never change. Not unless they experienced what she had experienced. If they did, they would know better and would have never sent the sentinel to kill her love, and she would never have had to kill the sentinel in turn.

“You still don’t seem to understand the severity of─”

“If you’re going to punish me, do it already,” she interrupted him.

He glared at her, still in disbelief over her indifference toward him and the rest of her kin.

“Very well then.” He let out a deep breath before voicing the words he truly didn’t want to utter. “For punishment of your crimes, you will be stripped of your var’kul powers and renounced as one of our kin. As of this day, none of your former kin will speak, see, or help you in any way.”

She couldn’t hold in her shock. “You can’t be serious. Tell me you didn’t agree to this?” she asked him.

“I’m not finished,” he berated her. “As this was the planet where you committed those crimes, it will be here you shall live out the rest of your days for all eternity.”

“For killing the sentinel? Are you all mad? Banishment for an eon is more than an adequate sentence for killing one of our own.”

He frowned. “You know it’s more than just your killing of the sentinel. You─”

“Because I loved a human, I know,” she interrupted him again. “And now you’re punishing me not only for that but as if I killed an entire faction. Well, I won’t stand for it. You may try to take my powers, but that will never happen.” She instantly started chanting loudly, no longer willing to listen to what he or any of the others in the room had to say. They dared to try and take her powers? She would make them regret their decision.

He knew exactly what she was trying to do but was unsure why she even bothered, since her restraints made it impossible to use powers. Nonetheless, he immediately gave a signal to those in the circle, and they all started chanting. But it didn’t take long for him to grow concerned.

In mere moments, the shadows grew long in the temple until nearly all light was banished from the sky outside. They could also hear and smell the storm that brought forth the coming darkness. It was large, more than cyclonic in its proportion, and it was all produced out of the female’s growing rage.

All figures surrounding her gave each other worried glances for what they were witnessing shouldn’t have been possible, but they continued to chant, their voices echoing off the walls around them.

The chains on the female’s wrists began to glow red.

It was at that point he knew that if he didn’t do something right then and there, she would get loose, and what had occurred in the palace would be nothing compared to the wrath she would unleash upon them.

He strode forward, continuing his chanting. He pulled a stone out of his pocket and gripped it tightly. “You can’t fight us. You need to stop,” he said to her.

Her glare and the continuation of her chanting told him she wasn’t going to back down.

Boom!

The sound of lightning hitting outside the temple startled them, but their chanting never wavered.

“I said stop,” he said more insistently.

She continued to ignore him.

“Stop!” he yelled as he sent an electrical charge at her from his outstretched hand, knowing there was no other choice.

The charge was meant to knock her out, but instead, it hit an invisible shield-like barrier that seemed to have formed around her body.

His eyes widened in disbelief. The power she was exuding was beyond anything he had ever seen. However, it didn’t stop him from doing what he had to do. He centered himself, then exhaled before sending a continual charge at her barrier. The glow of the charge and the resulting sparks as it hit its target, illuminated the temple. He moved forward, keeping his eyes on her, not willing to stop his assault just as she wasn’t willing to back down.

He didn’t break her gaze but could still see the cuffs on her wrists and the chain links begin to melt. Her incantation was powerful, yet she still had to battle against the a’kei of the cuffs while keeping up the integrity of her barrier as she spoke those powerful words. All of which would put her under extreme pressure, which was what he wanted.

He exerted more force into his assault, walking closer.

The longer it went on and the closer he came to her, the more strain she was put under. It resulted in more lightning striking and cracking the temple walls. The moment he saw her forehead crease, he knew she was beginning to wane. It was now a battle of whether she could hold out long enough to break her chains versus him breaking her first. He took another step forward. “You can’t win this,” he said to her. “Give up.”

Never! He heard her response in his mind.

“Then watch as I break you.” He looked to the ceiling of the temple. A moment later, a strike of lightning penetrated the ceiling and hit the charge he was using to destroy her protective shield. It followed his current and hit her barrier at full force.

She screamed as her shield shattered. The moment it happened, the darkness outside which had come with the storm disappeared, and their voices became even louder as they chanted the words that would bring forth her punishment.

Her screaming continued as a light suddenly started to pour out of her and moved toward the stone he held in his hand. He extended it out in front of him and the powerful energy streamed into the stone itself, making it glow with a brilliance of colors. When all the light had left her body and relocated itself into the stone, it shone glaringly bright before dulling completely.

The temple became silent.

“Unchain her,” he ordered.

Two figures walked over to her. She had fallen to her knees, her body motionless and her head bowed. When they uncuffed her wrists, her hands fell into her lap.

He moved so that he stood directly in front of her, casting a shadow over her beautiful frame.

“You have taken everything from me,” she whispered.

“Not everything,” he replied. “We left you with enough power to still make you greater than all those who live in this world. For now, you will continue to be seen as a goddess.”

She slowly stared up at him.

“But in time, as you can no longer use or demonstrate your var’kul powers,” he held the stone out that now possessed those powers as he spoke, “they will forget what you are. You will no longer be their goddess. Instead, you’ll be seen as a woman with powers more capable than most. But you…you will always remember you could change the heavens, and that in itself will make you regret this day for all of time.”

She surprised him when she started to smile, but he continued speaking.

“You will be transported down to the palace. Then, we will all leave this place. We have had enough of this world and the memories that come with it, thanks to you.”

He frowned when he saw that her smile grew wider with the news.

“It’s over now,” he said to her, feeling as though she didn’t quite understand.

With his last comment, she closed her eyes and chuckled. Opening them again, she stared up at him. “It’s never over,” she retorted. In a flash, she leaned forward and grabbed his hand which held the stone. Quickly chanting a few words, the stone disappeared.

He shoved her away and she went flying across the room, hitting a marble pole. It should have hurt her, yet she showed no signs of being in pain. Instead, she began to laugh. “I told you I would never give them up.” Then she disappeared as well.

Reappearing at the location she had sent the stone to, she quickly gave thanks that even though she didn’t have her var’kul powers at that moment, she could still teleport anywhere in this world. Now all she had to do was grab the stone and find a way to open it.

She had sent it to her favorite spot on Earth, which was a cave on a remote tropical island abundant with picturesque views, beautiful fragrances, and unique wildlife. On the roof of the cave there was an opening where the light shone through, hitting the crystal blue body of water below, which made the surface of the water glitter. The habitat from above had worked its way into the cavern, creating an intricate root system that traveled the walls. This had been going on for so long that trees had actually grown within the cave and were nearly as tall as the cave itself, creating an awe-inspiring sight.

This place always made her feel at peace, and it was why she had chosen the spot to send the stone to. Once she found it and freed her powers, she would need some time to get her emotions under control. If she did anything straight away, lives would be lost, and with the way she was feeling right then, they would be lost in the most torturous of ways.

After a few moments, she frowned when she couldn’t find the stone straight away. Doing another quick search of the area, she soon realized the stone wasn’t there at all.

How was that possible? This was the location she had sent it to.

Suddenly, there was a tingling on the back of her neck that told her she was no longer alone.

“Ithéndril.”

Of all of her people to come after her, she knew it would be him. He may have just delivered her punishment, but he was probably the only one whom she would speak to without potential bloodshed, and they all knew that. “I’m surprised you still refer to me as such after everything that has just happened,” she said, not yet ready to turn around.

“Not everything has changed,” he replied.

“But everything has. And it will never be the same again.”

“You act like I’m the one at fault here,” he said.

“Aren’t you?” she responded, looking at him over her shoulder.

“Ithéndril, I will─”

“Stop calling me that! I cannot be that to you anymore.”

He sighed. “If that’s what you wish.”

Of course it wasn’t what she wished. But it couldn’t be any other way. “How did you find me?”

“It’s your favorite place to go when you want to be alone,” he answered.

The fact he knew that about her didn’t unsettle her. Her kind generally knew all there was to know about each other. However, when it came to places they regarded as a sanctuary for themselves, they didn’t seek out the location nor intrude upon that sacred place. But here he was, knowing more about her than what any of others probably knew. It made her question why.

“Should I be surprised that you know that about me?”

He didn’t answer her. Instead, he asked his own question. “You can’t find it, can you?”

She swung around, and her eyes narrowed on him. “Where is it? What did you do with the stone?” she asked in an accusatory tone.

“I didn’t do anything. You were the one that sent it away.”

“Yet, it’s not here.” As she gauged him more carefully, she noticed a look pass over his face. “And you knew it wouldn’t go where I sent it, didn’t you?”

“I couldn’t be sure,” he responded.

“But you knew it may happen?” she accused.

“Yes.”

“How? How could the a’kei I used not work when none of you knew I would use it in the first place?”

“Your a’kei did work. Just not how you wanted it to.”

Her brow creased in confusion. “I don’t understand.”

“There was one more thing the others insisted on being part of your punishment,” he continued.

Her eyes narrowed again. “What did they do?”

He exhaled loudly before he spoke. “They made it so your remaining powers will be…defective at times. That your a’kei won’t always work how you want it to.”

“What?” she growled. “And you let them do this?”

“Yes, I did,” he said defensively. “I had no choice. After what you did…” He still couldn’t finish that sentence and voice the image that plagued his thoughts.

“I haven’t done─”

“No! Enough!” he snapped, making her go silent. They both glared at each other for a moment before he spoke again. “I must go.”

She may have been angry with him, but his announcement that he was leaving her made her panic. “No! You can’t leave me here like this.”

He quickly strode toward her, making her step back. “Do you think I want to do this?” he snarled, grabbing her elbow so she couldn’t move back any further. “Do you think this is how I want to leave you? You’ve given me no other option here.”

She pursed her lips and slowly nodded her head. “No, apparently I haven’t,” she said as she looked away from him. “Don’t worry about it. You can leave.”

He could see that she was hurting, feeling betrayed by his actions. It made him feel worse about leaving her like this even though he shouldn’t feel bad at all. This was her punishment. Yet, even after all she had done, it was still hard for him to let her go. “Ithé─”

“I said don’t call me that,” she snapped, her eyes shifting back to his. “I also said you can leave.”

Her comment was met with silence.

“I said go,” she said more forcibly.

He let go of her elbow and moved back a few steps.

“And you can tell the others when you see them, that you may all see me being left alone on this world as a punishment, but I see it as a reward. I’ll be surrounded by a species capable of feeling for another in a way they aren’t afraid to show or act upon.”

“Keep remembering that sentiment as the years go past, Ithéndril,” he said in a saddened voice. “Because I fear it will be the only thing that will save you from yourself.”

“I will,” she snapped. “As they won’t betray me like you did.”

He knew she said her last comment out of spite, but he couldn’t help but react also. “If you think I’m the one who betrayed you, then you’re mistaken. It was your lover’s kind that told us about the two of you. The same kind you’re looking forward to spending all of your time with from now on.”

Her eyes widened. “You lie!”

He raised an eyebrow at her. “Do I?”

The confusion on her face told him she couldn’t tell if he was bluffing. “No. They wouldn’t.” She shook her head as she spoke. “They said they would keep it a secret.”

“I’m sorry to tell you they broke their promise. You may have loved one of them, but there are many willing to make sure the lines between us and them are not blurred.”

Her expression became more distraught as he spoke.

“So, as of this moment, you will truly be alone.” He then disappeared.

The moment the shock wore off, she screamed.

“Now, kill the rest of them,” the woman ordered.

The words which echoed over the rain, wind, and thunder from the woman who self-proclaimed herself a god, was the moment Emmerich and each and every mythlend that stood in the arena with him knew they were about to fight for their lives. But even fighting seemed useless against the creature that the goddess had just ordered to kill them.

“What have we done?” Raidan, the Vanatre nostvore leader, asked in horror as he gazed up at the creature.

“You’ve created the ultimate killer,” Kuron replied, with just as much awe as the rest of them as they stared up at Kira. “And this time, I don’t think there’ll be anywhere for anyone to hide,” he ended softly.

The mooran’s words rang true to Emmerich and everyone else around them. The ultimate killer was the perfect title for what Kira was now, as she had destroyed what had been deemed indestructible. All that was left of the Hunrati Queen were the particles of dust flying on the wind of the storm the supposed god had created.

The death of the Hunrati Queen was what everyone had wanted, but they didn’t stop to think they would be creating an even bigger problem. All they saw was what had to be done. The Hunrati were terrorizing the world and massacring cities of humans and mythlends just out of amusement. They needed to be stopped.  Emmerich had thought transforming Kira into something more powerful than these panther-like beasts was the only solution to their problem. He didn’t know changing Kira would be the catalyst that would break free a goddess who was hell-bent on destroying everyone and everything, or that this goddess would have Kira under her control.

Above all else, he also didn’t know that he would lose Kira, the woman he loved, in the process. It made him blame himself for being so ignorant to what was really going on.

Why hadn’t he seen it? Why hadn’t he realized that following the directions in his visions was the worst thing they could have done?

His decisions had resulted in him barely recognizing the human huntress he’d met not so long ago. The biggest change was the massive black, shiny, feathered wings Kira had grown that flapped rhythmically on either side of her body which kept her stationary a few hundred feet high in the sky. But that wasn’t what made her so unrecognizable. What did, was that the features he had adored so much about her, had disappeared. Gone was her beautiful long dark hair, which had now changed to a snow white. Gone was her beautiful smile, replaced with a mouth full of sharpened teeth that made even him cringe. Gone were her gorgeous green eyes that with just one look used to stir his cock and make his pants uncomfortable to wear every time. Instead, he looked into a pair of unfamiliar eyes the color of hell, the reddish hue unsettling for anyone whom they were focused on. And those eyes only conveyed one thing. Hunger.

Kira dived through the air, her newly savage teeth bared.

“Run!” Emmerich yelled.

The warning came too late. In one fell swoop, Kira hit her targets at a frightening speed, pulverizing heads with her hands and slicing other mythlends in half with her dangerously sharp and outstretched wings. But she wasn’t done. Turning sharply, she went through the group again, killing numerous others in the same fashion.

In one fleeting moment, she killed half of the surviving mythlends that stood in the arena.

The entire scene put Emmerich into a state of shock, regardless of the chaos, which erupted around him. It wasn’t until a strike of lightning hit the Earth near his position that he snapped out of it. A moment later, a hand grabbed his shoulder and he turned and faced Kuron.

“We need to get out of here,” Kuron yelled at him over the howling wind.

Emmerich turned his head back to Kira and watched as she hovered once again in the air and licked at the remnants of her victims’ blood from her hands and arms, giving them a moment’s reprieve before she would undoubtedly strike again.

“Emmerich! We can’t stay here.” Kuron looked over to Kira as well. “It’s not her anymore. If we don’t leave now, she’ll kill us.”

“We don’t know that,” he argued.

“Yes, we do,” Kuron said adamantly.

“No, you only think we can’t get through to her.” Emmerich refused to believe she was completely lost to them. But it was only when he watched what Kira did next that he started to accept what the mooran was telling him.

Her focus was on a lycrould that was in full-wolf form running in the opposite direction from her.  She dived at him so fast that Emmerich nearly didn’t see it. Picking the lycrould up by digging her taloned fingers into his flesh and making the lycrould howl with pain, she flew off with him into the dangerously dark sky. Stopping to hover once again, Emmerich and Kuron stared up at Kira as she bit into the lycrould’s neck from behind. She fed off him, as if her hunger was insatiable, before ripping the lycrould apart completely. The pieces of the lycrould fell from the sky as did a rain of blood and entrails. Kira didn’t wait to see it hit the ground before going after her next target.

“I want to believe she’s still in there. But this is not the time to find out,” Kuron stated. “Because if we’re wrong, then every one of us is going to end up like that lycrould.”

Emmerich knew the mooran was right. He couldn’t bargain everyone’s life on the idea they could get through to Kira. That was best left for when he had made sure everyone else was safe. “What do we do, then?”

“We find a way out of here,” said Kuron, “and quickly, as we can’t rely on the Hunrati to slow her down.”

Sure enough, a quick survey of the area told Emmerich that the Hunrati had already teleported out of there. The bastards had left them there to defend themselves, and it made Emmerich snarl with disgust. For a species that saw themselves as invincible, Kira killing their Queen  had obviously put them in their place and had them running scared. He couldn’t help but want to smile at that notion.

Emmerich also noticed that since everyone else didn’t have the ability to teleport, they had scattered in different directions while at the same time trying to avoid any lightning that struck in their path. The lightning was getting out of control by this point. The amount hitting the arena would see it crumble entirely if it didn’t ease off soon.

It made it even more imperative they get out of there, if any of them were to survive.

“Go where, though?” Emmerich yelled back to Kuron. “I doubt there’s anywhere we can hide where she won’t find us in a matter of minutes.”

The mooran pursed his lips. A second later his eyes widened. “The mirror!”

Emmerich instantly understood what he said. “Do it!”

They both flinched when lightning struck near their position which was too close for comfort. It was also the moment Raidan joined them, as did Sephora, Bardar, Sebastion, and Torstad.

“What’s the plan?” asked Raidan.

“We’re getting out of here,” Emmerich answered.

“I can’t do it out here,” Kuron informed him as another strike of lightning hit near where they were standing. “We need somewhere undercover.”

“The doors,” Emmerich responded, indicating toward the entrance to the tunnel at the other end of the arena, which led to where they had been held in cages for nearly a week by the Hunrati. Despite the bad memories it held, it was the only suitable place that would protect them from the lightning.

It also unfortunately meant they had to backtrack and go past Kira all over again. Looking back at her, they could see she had set her sights on a number of humans that the Hunrati had brought to the arena as unwilling spectators. They weren’t as fast as a mythlend, so they were easy pickings for Kira, who killed them one by one at an alarming rate.

“What about the goddess?” asked Sebastion.

“She disappeared as soon as Kira attacked,” Kuron informed them.

It didn’t stop everyone from turning and staring at the location they had last seen her. Sure enough, the goddess was nowhere in sight. At least, it was one less thing they had to worry about at that moment.

Emmerich gazed back at his leader. They nodded at each other, which was a signal they both understood what each other was thinking.

Raidan then focused on everyone else. “Scatter and meet,” he ordered.

They didn’t have to be told twice. Taking off in different directions, they all headed for the same target. They didn’t want to bunch together and give Kira an opportunity to take them all out in one go. Scattering gave them a higher chance of survival. Well, that was what Emmerich was hoping.

“The tunnel!” he yelled to those who were within earshot and hadn’t yet escaped the arena, knowing they would understand what he meant. At the same time, he had to constantly dodge lightning strikes that hit the ground in front of him. It seemed with every passing second, the storm was becoming infinitely worse. He wasn’t even sure whether his people had heard him; the wind had become overwhelmingly loud and even he had trouble hearing.

While he zig-zagged his way across the sand toward his target, he could see Kira’s winged shadow fly past on the ground in front of him, going back and forth in different directions. It made him acutely aware of how much danger they were in.

As he was running toward the doors, his heart nearly stopped, when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw whom Kira had chosen as her next target. As she swept Raidan off his feet, Emmerich abruptly came to a halt and watched in horror as she carried Raidan a short distance in the opposite direction they were running, and then threw him so hard against a wall that it crumbled the moment his body made impact.

“No!” Emmerich yelled with alarm. A hand grabbed hold of his arm tightly before he had a chance to even take one step toward his leader. “Let me go!” he growled loudly at Kuron over the sound of the wind.

“No!” Kuron shouted back. “We need to get to safety.”

“And I need to save my leader. Now get your slimy-ass hands off of me before I do something that makes you incapable of using them again.” Emmerich may have been furious with the mooran for stopping him from going to his leader, but he still knew he couldn’t take the corpse’s hands off of him himself. Not when it would just take one thought from him and Emmerich’s energy would be diminished. He needed the mooran to let go of him without Emmerich risking his life in the process. “Don’t make me say it again,” he continued when the mooran didn’t heed his order, his electric blue glowing eyes boring into Kuron’s.

Kuron ignored him once again and held on more tightly. “You can’t go back there.”

“That’s not for you to decide,” Emmerich snarled, snapping his fangs.

“No, it’s not. But she has made…”

Emmerich stopped listening as he couldn’t wait any longer. He needed to save his leader.

Under his breath, he said an a’keieck phrase which sent a pulse of energy toward the mooran, stopping him mid-sentence.

Kuron grimaced at the pain that assaulted him, but he didn’t let go. “Stop fighting me on this and look,” he said through gritted teeth, nodding his head in the direction Raidan had been thrown.

Shifting his eyes back to his leader, Emmerich caught sight of Kira standing over Raidan’s body. With overwhelming dread, he watched as she lifted his lifeless body off the ground with one hand and brought him in close. She then used her wings to cover them both, which made it impossible for Emmerich to work out what she was doing, but his imagination ran wild with every scenario not ending well for his leader.

“You see?” Kuron yelled. “You can’t help him.”

Emmerich remained silent, his body tense and ready to spring into action. He just didn’t know which direction to take. His mind was at war as he struggled between the need to go and at least try to save Raidan, as he wasn’t willing to just give up on him, and the small voice that said saving his leader was useless at this point.

“Emmerich! You need to think about your clan. They need you. Raidan would want you to keep going.”

The mooran’s reasoning added to the small voice in Emmerich’s head. But he was still finding it hard to let go.

“Emmerich!” Kuron shouted even louder.

Emmerich turned to the mooran, his expression distraught and filled with rage at the same time. “Let’s go,” he finally said.

They moved quickly.

Just as they were about to go through the doors, something hit the wall just beside the entrance. They both stopped, and Emmerich’s eyes widened as he looked upon the headless body of his leader, which had already begun to disintegrate.

Emmerich swung around and looked back. Kira still stood across the arena where he had last seen her. The difference now, her gaze rested upon him. He nearly balked at the sight of her. Smeared down the front of her entire body was the blood of her victims. Her newly white hair was drenched and dripping red, as were her black-feathered wings. But it was the wide toothy smile, the narrowed gaze with her frightening hell-colored eyes, and her hand that held up his leader’s disintegrating head like it was a prize, that made him feel like his world was crashing down around him.

It took all his might to turn back around and head down that tunnel instead of running to his leader’s body. He glanced Kuron’s way and saw the same shock written all over the mooran’s face.

Kuron’s eyes met his for a brief second, and Emmerich could see that all sense of reality was lost in their depths. He bet it was also how he looked to the mooran.

The world didn’t make sense anymore. The woman they both loved was killing everyone around them, and they were the ones who had made her into this monster. It was like they were in some type of nightmare they couldn’t wake up from. But it wasn’t a dream, and Raidan was now dead.

It just didn’t seem possible.

Yet, making sense of anything at that point was useless anyway. It was why Emmerich kept going for the sake of his clan and every other creature that was trying to survive this. But it didn’t stop the rage building up to a new level within him. He could feel his eyes burn bright, his fangs ache, and his need to scream overwhelm him. However, it wasn’t as intense as his need to kill something or someone, namely, the one responsible for all this happening in the first place. But that would have to wait.

As soon as they reached the room with all the cages, some of which were still occupied, Emmerich made his way to the back of the room. He tried not to take note of how many were in the room or who. All he knew was that their numbers were drastically smaller than what they had started out with in the arena. He just wasn’t prepared yet to acknowledge the extent of death that had occurred. Raidan’s death was rattling him enough, and he was one step away from completely losing his shit. Knowing about any other losses of people he cared for would tip him over the edge, and then he wouldn’t be good to anyone.

He just hoped that those who hadn’t followed them had managed to get away. He doubted, however, they would remain safe for long. Not with Kira hell-bent on killing them all.

Emmerich could feel the muscle in his cheek twitch as he clenched his teeth at the thought of what had become of her.

No. He couldn’t think about that now. He needed to focus.

“Open the portal!” he barked at Kuron, who had followed him to the back of the room.

Kuron gave him a displeased look at how he spoke to him but did as he asked. Once he said the incantation quickly, it didn’t take long for the portal to form in front of them.

“What are you all waiting for?” Emmerich snarled when no one took the initiative to go through. “Move!”

Everyone immediately started racing through the portal.

“What about the others?” asked Kuron.

Emmerich knew he was referring to the still caged creatures, who had all begun to cry for help. “We can’t save them,” he answered without an ounce of emotion in his voice.

“Why not?”

“Stop questioning everything I do,” he snapped. “Just go through and wait on the other side.”

Emmerich could see from the corner of his eye that the mooran stood for a moment staring at him before walking away. Emmerich then waited. He would only give it a moment longer before he would go through himself, but he needed to make sure there was no one else coming that could be saved.

When he saw the outline of a body with large wings, he immediately tensed.

As soon as the figure came into the light, he was relieved slightly. But only slightly.

It was the winged demon that had been held captive, like they had, for the Hunrati Queen’s games. There were an abundance of dangerous foes in these cages, but he was the only one that unsettled every one of them. No one truly knew what he was, but if the stories were true, he was from a place that didn’t exist in this dimension; a place of pain and agony where true nightmares came from—even for mythlends.

Emmerich didn’t even try to stop the creature, nor did it even acknowledge Emmerich’s existence as it walked past him and followed the others through the portal. Emmerich followed, as it seemed no one else would be coming, and he wasn’t sure what the creature would do once it reached the other side. They had enough issues as it was. They didn’t need that thing to add to those issues.

As he was about to walk through, Emmerich’s body was suddenly swung around, which took him by surprise. His eyes focused on Kira’s face as she wrapped her hand around his throat in a vice-like grip. Emmerich’s hands automatically went to the hand at his throat, and he tried with all his strength to pull it off.

“Kira,” he struggled to say as her hand started to crush his windpipe. “Kira…listen…to me. You don’t…have…to do this.”

He couldn’t tell whether she understood him or not because her face remained expressionless. If she did understand, her reaction a moment later told him she really didn’t give a fuck about what he had to say. She opened her lips slightly, and the bottoms of her razor-sharp teeth came into view while the light from the torch sconces flickered off their pearly white surfaces. The next thing he knew, she pulled one of his hands away from her hands and then those razor-sharp teeth started piercing his neck.

Emmerich bellowed with the pain that assaulted him.

He had never felt such agony before as he did now when her teeth ripped into his flesh. It was like all the pain receptors in his body had just been activated, starting with the area around his neck and working quickly down through his body.

It didn’t make sense why his body would react in such a way being what he was. Having teeth in his flesh was never an issue. It should have brought him pleasure, if anything, not this torturous feeling that made his blood feel like it was on fire and therefore melting him from the inside out. The only explanation was there was something in Kira’s saliva that triggered something inside him on a cellular level, which was destroying him in a way no other creature was capable of.

It must have also been how she had destroyed that Hunrati bitch. He was extremely happy about the death of the Hunrati Queen, but he now wondered what the cost was for her death to the rest of the world.

Not that he thought he would ever find out. As Kira continued to feed off him, Emmerich could feel his life force draining out of him, at the same time that his body quaked uncontrollably with tremors of agony. He hated to admit it, but this seemed to be it for him. He was about to die at the hands of the woman he loved.

Emmerich closed his eyes and found the last bit of strength he had. Even if she didn’t say the sentiments back, he needed to say out loud how he felt about her. “I love you,” he whispered into her ear as he felt the fog of darkness start to take over.

Suddenly, he felt the removal of her teeth from his neck. Opening his eyes, he found Kira staring at him. “Ki─”

He never got another word out as she pushed him, with the hand she still had around his throat, through the portal. As soon as he came out the other side and landed in a heap on the ground, Kuron said a few quick words and the portal closed.

Emmerich groaned as he made his way back into a standing position. His hand then went to the wound on his neck and winced as it still felt like it was on fire. The pain and loss of blood had him swaying on his feet and nearly falling back to his knees, but he found a table to lean against before he completely went over.

“Geezus! What the fuck happened?” Kuron asked with alarm, heading over to him.

“It doesn’t matter,” Emmerich grunted. “Just get us out of here.”

He heard Kuron mutter something under his breath before moving closer to the large gilded mirror they had all walked through.

All of a sudden, there was a wrist in Emmerich’s face that had been pierced with fangs, the blood oozing and trailing down the arm while also dripping on the floor. Emmerich gazed up at Sephora.

“Take it,” she said.

“I’ll be okay,” he replied, feeling uncomfortable taking something from another male’s mate, let alone the original lycrould’s mate.

“Don’t argue with me,” she warned. “You will not win.”

Emmerich felt like a child and Sephora his parent as she stared at him, and he knew if he didn’t do as she said, she would probably force him. She was, after all, the original nostvore, so in some weird twisted way she was all of their mothers. It also meant she was extremely more powerful than he was, so he changed his mind quickly about resisting her.

He took her wrist in his hand and brought it to his mouth. As soon as the blood hit his lips, he felt a burst of energy flow through him. It was a wondrous taste, unlike any nostvore he had every fed from. He quickly noticed, however, that even though he could feel his energy levels increase, the pain that Kira’s bite had inflicted upon him wasn’t leaving. It had dulled, but it didn’t seem to be something that could easily be stopped.

He didn’t take a lot of what Sephora offered him, just enough to get him standing straight again, and then he let her wrist go.

“Thank you,” he said, nodding his head at her.

“You’re welcome,” she replied, giving him a small smile in return.

At the same time this was going on, once again, the mooran said something in a language Emmerich didn’t understand, and the mirror turned into a portal.

No one waited this time for him to give the order, going through the mirror quickly. As they started to make their way through, Emmerich looked around at his surroundings. He had walked into a room he didn’t recognize, which seemed crowded with so many of them confined in one space. Yet, it seemed even more so as all mythlends gave the winged demon a wide birth, not wanting to get close as they were unsure of what he would do. The demon also waited for the others to go through, but Emmerich knew the moment he did want to step through the portal, no one would stand in his way.

While the others exited through the portal, Emmerich took note of where they had stumbled into, even though they would be leaving as soon as they had arrived. Immediately he knew he was in the castle in the city of Kartarus because the place stunk of Hunrati and other ancient smells. Plus, where else would they have stored the mirror when they weren’t using it?

He would have loved to have taken the time to explore the place where the Hunrati had resided or slept, for lack of a better word, for thousands of years. The place where Kira had been kept and transformed into a Hunrati when everyone else had thought she was dead. However, the city of Kartarus was situated near the arena, so they were still in danger not only from the storm, but from Kira, too.

“Emmerich!”

Emmerich turned to the mooran. It was time to leave. Everyone was through except for themselves and the winged demon. Kuron gave him a look as the creature walked through the portal without a word.

“We’ll deal with it on the other side,” he said to the mooran before he could say anything.

“Fair enough.”

They then walked through the mirror.

As soon as Emmerich stepped through the portal and into the Vanatre mansion, relief instantly coursed through him even though he was still in pain and felt quite faint. His eyes then searched for the demon. It was nowhere to be seen.

“Where did the demon go?” he asked a nostvore that was close by.

“He left as soon as he came through.” the nostvore replied.

Emmerich didn’t know whether to be relieved by the news or worried, due to him having no clue as to what the creature’s intentions were at this point. He just hoped it stayed out of sight for now and didn’t bring attention to itself if it had gone into the city. He didn’t want it to be another problem.

“Where’s Raidan?” Sebastion asked as he walked up to him.

The question caught Emmerich off guard. No one knew of their leader’s death yet except him and the mooran, and he was having trouble finding the right words. Not that he thought there were any right words for such an announcement.

He gazed at all the faces around him as they waited expectantly for his answer. “Raidan…our leader, he didn’t come through the portal because he died before he could make it through.”

Gasps abounded.

“I won’t go into how it happened,” he quickly continued. “It’s not important. What is important is focusing on what is happening right now.”

There were many distraught, shocked, and upset voices starting to talk over him.

“I know we have all basically been through hell and back in the last few weeks,” he said, which quietened the voices. “And we would all love to just take a breath and mourn those that have died. But now is not the time for either,” he quickly added, knowing it was also something Raidan would have said. “Our quest to stop the Hunrati succeeded, but we now face a different enemy. One who has been orchestrating a plan for longer than either of our kinds have been alive. Hell, she actually created us if what we have been told is true. And if it is, I’m sure she has no issue destroying her creations.” He paused. “We have never seen or experienced a threat such as this, and we cannot let down our defenses. Not yet. We need to find out what it is we are really dealing with, and find a way to stop it. I know I’m asking a lot from all of you and I don’t blame you if you want to leave. That is your choice. But if you do decide to stay, know that I will do everything in my power to find out what we are up against and how we can fight her and make those that have lost their lives in the past few weeks, proud.”

He paused again.

“And I’m sorry,” he continued. “But I cannot give you all time to think about this. You need to make a decision now so that we can organize our strategies. I will not force any of you to stay and risk your lives again. We have done that too many times already. Just remember that even if you don’t stay with us, there’s a good chance your lives will be in danger anyway. The difference will be that we will fight for our lives together. And that does mean fighting with those that we would never have thought to fight with,” he said, intentionally staring at Tsar. He was the lycrould Emmerich believed to be in charge still since it seemed Javan, the lycrould king, had not made it through the portal.

Even if Javan did make it through, Emmerich doubted his clan would allow him to remain king. His leadership would most likely be challenged after Javan was seen acting like the Hunrati Queen’s bitch and doing nothing to save his clan when Nephuria had them killing each other among other things. What made it worse was that the lycrould king seemed upset by the Hunrati Queen’s demise. That scene alone would have his clan seeing it as a betrayal, and Emmerich was pretty sure they were happy he didn’t make it back.

“So who will join me in saving our world one last time?” Emmerich then went quiet, waiting for their response.

Silence ensued as everyone looked left and right to see what the other would do. No one voiced their allegiance, but no one went for the doors either.

“I will join you,” said a voice among the quiet.

All eyes turned to the mooran.

“Even though you continue to piss me off to no end and half the time I’m around you I want to punch you in the face,” Kuron continued as he walked toward him. “I know working together is our best option for survival.” When he stood by Emmerich’s side, he gazed at everyone else. “And anyone would be crazy to do this on their own. Out there is a battlefield for our kind,” he said, pointing out a window. “Not only from this goddess and the creature we have created,” he glanced at Emmerich when he said this, “but the humans, as well. Don’t think they aren’t still a threat. Their numbers still overpower us and they are looking for anything that isn’t one of them, to kill. We need to remain vigilant and stay hidden while we deal with the bigger issue as we did with the Hunrati. We need to fight together.”

“And that is why we will join you,” a soft female voice announced.

Emmerich and everyone else watched as Sephora and Bardar, the original nostvore and lycrould walked up and stood by his side.

“For those who do not know who it is that stands before you, this is Sephora and Bardar…the first nostvore and lycrould,” Emmerich informed them.

Shock registered on many faces, except for the few who already knew who they were.

“Bullshit!” growled Tsar. “The original lycrould and nostvore are dead.”

“Do we look dead?” Bardar growled back.

Before Tsar could reply, Emmerich cut in, “I promise you this is not a lie.”

“Why should we believe what you say?” Tsar asked, his eyes now on Emmerich.

Just by looking at Tsar, Emmerich could tell that the idea of a lycrould far exceeding his abilities, let alone one who was the original lycrould, threatened him immensely.

“These two could be anyone,” Tsar continued. “And it wouldn’t surprise me as you parasites love to manipulate others into bending to your will.”

“Curb your tongue, lycrould!” Bardar barked, taking a threatening step toward him.

“Bardar!” Sephora chastised. “Don’t blame the lycrould for being suspicious. How could they know we are who we say we are, when we have never been there for them? We have remained hidden for too long, my love,” Sephora continued, then looked to the crowd. “Emmerich speaks the truth about who we are.”

“Why should we believe you?” Tsar spoke up again but kept his tone less volatile.

“Because there is no need for us to lie about such a thing,” she answered the lycrould, looking directly at him. Her stare seemed to unsettle Tsar, and he looked downward. “I know it’s hard to comprehend what we’re telling you,” she said as her eyes scanned all those around her, “but it doesn’t make it any less true. I’m also not about to make excuses for why we have never been here for you, but I will explain the reason behind it.” She went silent for a moment. “Just after the Hunrati had been put to sleep thousands of years ago, the world was no longer safe for creatures such as us. We were hunted by the humans—just like you are now—as they didn’t want to live under the fear of two new powerful species nor any other mythlend. But unlike now, there were so few of us to defend ourselves against an attack. We both had only turned a small number of humans, and unlike me and my partner, as you all know, our kind does not respond well to the change. Being the first of our species, we knew so little ourselves about our kind that we had no clue as to how to help them adapt; not that we didn’t try.”

Her voice had saddened. “But it didn’t matter in the end. Their need for blood and flesh soon brought hunters to our doorstep, and we became severely outnumbered. Many died before it was decided that the only thing we could do was leave. The world no longer wanted us to be a part of it, and there was little we could do about it. So we went into hiding and remained isolated for many years. Our children, however, didn’t like this course of action, and it wasn’t long before they left us. We didn’t believe they could survive out there. Not with how things were. It was why we were surprised to find out, many years later, that they did survive. More than that, they flourished and became two of the most powerful mythlend species in the world.”

She gazed at them all with affection in her expression. “And fighting next to you all in that arena showed the reason why that was. We are both so proud, and it has had us both wishing we had been a part of your development as a species. But, we never did because we felt as much as you had blended into this world, we didn’t think we could. We had spent so much time on our own and didn’t know if we would be accepted by society as you had. It was wrong of us to think that, and there is nothing that can change it. But we are here now, and we’ll fight by your side and help in any way we can. That is if you want our help?” she said, glancing at Emmerich.

Emmerich smiled at the original nostvore. “Of course I would. I would be honored to have both of your help.”

Sephora smiled in return. “But what about everyone else?” she asked, turning her head back to the group and looking at them one by one. “Who will join us in this fight?”

Emmerich didn’t know what it was about her, but there was something that made him listen to her every word and agree with everything she said. It also seemed she had the same effect on everyone else because one after the other, voices rang out saying the one thing he wanted to hear, I will join you. Emmerich was even more surprised when Tsar and his lycroulds stepped forward and voiced their allegiance to the cause as well.

Eventually, a nostvore Emmerich knew as Protus stepped forward. One of Emmerich’s best Vanatre soldiers. “What are your orders, M’Lord?” he asked.

Emmerich looked at each expectant face before him. Even the lycroulds were silent, waiting for his answer. He realized something then; they weren’t looking to him because of who he was, but whom he had become…the Vanatre leader. And it meant it was up to him what course of action they would take next.

“It’s time to make some new friends,” he eventually replied.

No one knew what his statement meant, but they didn’t disagree either, for who would go up against the nostvore who won wars.

Reign of Fury (Battles in the Dark, #3)