Home > Dark Harmony (The Bargainer #3)(6)

Dark Harmony (The Bargainer #3)(6)
Author: Laura Thalassa

Just as I open my mouth to speak, an arrow whizzes by my head.

Acting on aggression and instinct, Des withdraws his sword, the weapon ringing as it’s released. He spins towards the melee, his eyes scanning the room. The moment he finds the archer, he vanishes from my side, leaving me alone.

The world has a hollow feel to it, the shrieks, the smells, the sights.

Ours to savor, the siren whispers. Join in. Let’s take part in it until there’s enough blood to swim in.

I take a step, then another, drawn by the twisted pull of the battle. Around me, several fairies’ eyes catch on my shining form.

A soldier closes in on me, her eyes bright but her face impassive as she lifts her sword.

I look at the weapon, and my blades suddenly seem small and paltry. No match for this woman with her quick reflexes and her bloodlust.

Let her try to kill us.

Then again, I happen to know a little someone who fits that bill pretty well …

Normally, I’m careful to contain my siren, even when I use my magic. Now, I let that control slip just a little.

I feel her laughter bubble in my chest.

This—will—be—fun.

As soon as the soldier swings her weapon, I move, my body bending and dipping to avoid the hits. My movements feel fluid, like water rolling down a river.

I duck, spin, and with a swift thrust, shove my daggers up into her belly. It’s an impossible strike, one that even a week ago I wouldn’t have been able to make. And now I have to wonder if, along with long life and a sense for magic, the lilac wine gave me other fae attributes, such as agility and precision.

I yank my blades up her torso, cutting through flesh and other, softer things, before I draw back.

The soldier staggers back as I withdraw. But not even the wounds I inflict are enough to stop her. She attacks me again. I block the first blow, but I’m not quick enough to entirely avoid the second one. I feel the blade of one sink into my leathers, then bite into my skin. I cry out and spin, my dagger pointed out. The weapon cleanly slices open the woman’s neck.

Yessss. My siren laps up the carnage.

I’m opponent-less for all of five seconds, and then another woman is on me, her curving blades glinting wickedly beneath the light of the giant bronze chandelier above us.

Bending my knees, I spring into the air, the thick strokes of my wings forcing me up. Several feet off the ground I tuck my wings tight against my back and drop onto the soldier, burying my dagger in her neck.

Her curved blade arcs through the air, the point skewering me in the thigh before she falls limp onto the floor. I collapse on top of her, hissing at the wound.

A shaky hand goes to my thigh. I grind my teeth against the sharp pain.

I think it’s deep—definitely deep enough to make walking a problem.

I push myself off the dead fairy, nearly crying out when I place weight on my leg. But just as soon as I feel the full force of the injury, it begins to close, the blood trickling off.

Fae magic at work. Another perk of the lilac wine.

Once my wound heals, I jump back in the melee.

Across the room I spot Malaki and Temper—the latter with a crazy smile on her face—as they fight the sleeping soldiers. And far above us Des fights in midair, his enemies dropping from the sky.

The soldiers keep coming, and it takes all my focus to fight them off.

By the time I reach the main entrance of the castle, the smell of magic and blood coats the air like perfume. I’m dappled in the liquid, wearing it like another layer of armor.

Hard to believe that I agonized over one single death for years. By the end of the night—if I’m still alive—my death count will be in the double digits.

The fighting spills into the courtyard, and bursts of fae magic light up the night as fairies draw on their power.

I briefly sheath my daggers as my gaze moves over the landscape. The human part of me is trying not to heave. The grounds are strewn with glassy eyes and gutted bodies.

Soldiers are killing soldiers. Civilians are getting cut down. And the formerly sleeping women are out there in droves alongside their spawn.

Now that the time has come, those creepy casket children have cast off all pretenses of innocence. Their tiny bodies feast on prone fairies, their eyes glowing with unholy malice.

It’s madness I can’t make sense of.

Des lands next to me and grabs my hand. He looks like a savage, his battle leathers bloodstained, and his pale hair speckled with the fluid. It’s unnerving just how much the look suits him.

“You good?” he asks, his eyes bright with concern, and ironically fae delight.

Fairies and their feral hearts, the siren whispers. He’s enjoying this almost as much as we are.

His gaze drops to my lips, his other hand reaching for my shining skin.

I wet my dry mouth and nod. “I’m fine.”

To emphasize my point, I will my wings away. They don’t disappear immediately, and even once they do, it’s a struggle to keep them concealed.

It’s a waste of an effort. The Night King’s still staring at my lips, looking entranced by them.

Around us, the air thickens with static electricity, raising the hairs along my arm. I look around, trying to figure out its source. Des tears his gaze from my mouth, his eyes moving over our surroundings.

Something bad is coming.

BOOM!

The ground beneath me trembles and debris flies into the air as something on the other side of the palace explodes. A moment later, I feel a wave of dark magic slam into me, knocking me off my feet. Des catches me before I hit the ground, and the two of us share an intense look.

A fresh batch of screams rise from the other side of the castle.

I was wrong—something bad isn’t coming.

It’s already here.

Next to me, the Bargainer’s wings appear at his back, expanding ominously. “I’ll be right back, cherub.”

With that, he vanishes from my side.

Des!

I can still feel the press of his hands against me, but he’s gone.

My eyes move towards the back of the palace, where the screams are coming from. That’s where he went.

I sprint towards the back of the castle, my heart pounding wildly. There’s pressure near my shoulder blades, my wings fighting to reveal themselves.

Ignoring the sensation, I run down one of the cobblestone paths that winds around the palace, the stones smeared with blood. Ahead of me, a dead fairy lays sprawled across the pale grass, her arms stretched wide, her eyes glassy.

How many lives have been cut down in a single night?

Too many. We’ll make our enemies pay for the slight.

Fairies flee past me, some taking to the air, and some sprinting on foot, all of them running from whatever it is that caused the explosion.

When I round the back of the castle, I come up short. I have to lock my knees at the sight in front of me.

Dear God.

The circular annex that contains the Night Kingdom’s royal portal is in use, its double doors obliterated. Row after row of gore-covered soldiers pour through it, their eyes vacant. They march onto palace grounds, their uniforms carrying the symbol of the Night Kingdom.

The sleeping men.

There are dozens and dozens of them, and more are coming with every passing second.

I stagger at the sight of them.

I’m going to die.

I’m going to die, and it will all be for nothing: Finding Des only to lose him. Spending an agonizing seven years without him. Enduring Karnon. Nearly dying at the Green Man’s hands. Drinking the lilac wine. None of it matters anymore because an army of possessed soldiers want to wipe the Night King’s people from the face of the earth, and I will be just one more casualty.

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