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from The Gods' Own by Alexis Cunningham

Copyright © 2019–2021 Alexis Cunningham

Chapter 21
A Meeting of Scions: Redux

Dima and Krystof struggled through the stream of escaping commuters and ran down the stairs to sealed station gate. Mladin’s gauntlets glowed as he summoned a fraction of his power and the sealed gate buckled like wet paper creating an opening. Dismay flooded Krystof, he could already hear screaming within.

Ignoring Dima’s warning he ran down the stairs. A blizzard of glowing butterflies rose to meet him, preventing him from entering the room. He couldn’t see beyond but he could hear the screaming stop, an eerie silence sending ice down his spine. Dalleon’s power rose in his soul like a white heat and he threw his arms out, shoving back at the whirling wall. The butterflies fell away and he stumbled into a nightmare.

Mladin stood on a table close to the door surrounded by a silent army of possessed commuters, one by one they turned to him, eyes glowing an alien blue, but no two eyes were colder than Mladin’s.

  ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we have an intruder. Detail him.’

An old man with rheumy eyes and gnarled fingers threw himself at Krystof, knocking them both back toward the stairs. Krystof stumbled, falling as he was grabbed and tackled to the ground. A woman beat at him with her fists, striking his arms as he threw them up to protect his face. Another woman wrenched at the long blonde hair of the first hauling her away and driving her head into the corner of the wall. The crowd was frenzied, each one driven by the mad compulsion to fulfil Mladin’s will. A teenager grabbed the old man throwing him to another youth. The latter held his arms while the first drove a fist into his stomach. Krystof got to his knees, stretching out a hand toward the old man. Someone dove toward him, he saw a feral flash of teeth and ducked. Nails clawed at his skin. Someone grabbed his hair, wrenching his head back…

…and like a switch flipping in his mind, Krystof was back on that street in the Snacks, surrounded by ghouls. He was paralysed, power and training forgotten. The only thing in his head was a long staticy scream. The beating was unrelenting. Fists and feet rained down on him like a thunderous rain. Pain spread through his body until each blow seemed to sit upon a floating veil of agony somehow bigger than his body. He could do nothing. Fear rattled inside him. The terror of the helpless.

A tea kettle shriek cut through the air, slicing through the haze in Krystof’s head and landing him firmly back in his own body. A wave of heat scorched the air and the hands clawing at him were blown away. Krystof rolled to his hands and knees, Dalleon’s power quilting his limbs in softness as he began to heal. Possessed commuters lay in pain on the floor, strewn like litter to the corners of the room. Smoke curled off the walls and the sprinkler system activated, the loud hiss of water the only sound.

The entire room was lit with the stirring of Kaekelion’s magic. Dima stood in front of the stairs, arms raised and gauntlets spitting gold-white sparks. His eyes burned with the molten gold of a foundry furnace, but the fire and fury was lost in the shadow of Kaekelion’s huge dragon wings, stretching to block the exit.

‘Surrender now, Jaraslav. Or I’ll forget my vow never to harm a scion.’

Mladin lost his savage grin. He threw up his arms and a whirlwind of butterflies surrounded him like a moving suit of armour. It did him no good. Moving with the whiplash sharp movements of a fish caught on a line, Dima’s spine bowed, he rose three feet into the air and a corona of light turned the station into a kaleidoscope of wrenched shadow and blazing light. Dima threw his arms forward, like a man shoving a heavy box through the air. Magic kindled, a beam of solid light that screamed through the air.

A figure, nothing more than a burly silhouette, lurched forward throwing himself into the path of the beam. An ear splitting roar knocked Krystof flat to the ground, his chest rattling with the vibration. Hands clutched to his ears, Krystof stared through tear bright eyes as Lstimer braced himself, legs apart and arms out, splitting the beam around the massive expanse of his bear back.

Mladin moved with a dancer’s grace and his horde of butterflies danced to his will, arrowing through the air above the beam like a swarm of hornets straight for Dima. Kaekelion’s wings snapped shut, protecting his scion. The beam cut off. Lstimer staggered but caught his balance quickly. He charged Dima, slamming man and dragon both into the wall next to the stairs.

The pair grappled, striking a ticket booth and ricocheting into a rack of leaflets. Magic rolled off both bodies, striking sparks where the power of the two seraph clashed. Each contact caused a shockwave of magic that repulsed the two men. Every time they were blown apart they lunged together again. Bakareon’s huge clawed paws left contrails of magic stinging the air with each wide lateral strike. Dragon wing...

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