Black Heart Page 18

The revelation of my blood ties to Lucifer had caused me to accrue more enemies than any one person should have, and they were here even in this strange place.

Why, why, why had Nathaniel sent me here? It was disturbing to think that I had shared intimacies with him and that he had still managed to trick me, to betray me.

Of course, it was possible that he hadn’t betrayed me at all, that this was all just a coincidence. It was hard for me to buy that, though. Coincidence didn’t play a huge role in my life. Pretty much everything that happened to me was by somebody’s design.

I didn’t know whether the collection of mantises below was their entire population or just a small portion of it, but there seemed to be a lot of them. And the fae did not appear to be doing very well.

I remembered fighting the mantis myself, remembered the tough carapace that resisted the blade of my sword. The only part of the insect that was vulnerable was its joints.

The fae bowmen were excellent shots. I saw more than one mantis fall after a perfectly placed arrow pierced its neck. But the trouble was that there were a lot of mantises, and it took time for even a preternaturally fast archer to nock the arrow, draw the bow, and let it fly.

The end result was that the faerie were falling as fast as the insects. I didn’t know whether the fae here were my enemies or my friends. The only faerie I’d ever met who hadn’t tried to kill me was J.B. But I knew the insects were definitely not the good guys.

So I could help the fae, if they would let me. I scrambled back to the trapdoor, opened it, and peered down the ladder. As I expected, no one was guarding me. They had their hands full with the insect attack.

I climbed down the ladder to the balcony on the third level. There was no one on this floor as far as I could see. They were all down below, fighting, protecting their children, building fortifications to prevent the insects from climbing into the tree.

I’d never tried this spell from a distance. Usually I was in a hand-to-hand situation when I decided to set something on fire. I didn’t want to accidentally hit any of the faerie, so instead of targeting the insects in the fray, I aimed for a group of mantis that were just emerging from the forest.

I took a deep breath, felt the power of the Morningstar flow through me, and let the lightning fly. Electricity crackled through the air, leaving behind the scent of ozone. It slammed into the knot of mantis, which screeched and fell to the ground, their flesh smoking. The air filled with the scent of burning insect.

Several of the mantis screamed and pointed upward at me, and a number of the fae turned to look as well. From this distance, I couldn’t tell whether they were scared or grateful. I almost didn’t care which it was so long as they realized I was not to be trifled with.

Besides, it felt so good to release some of the magic that had built up inside me. I hadn’t realized it was like bottled tension, that the breadth and depth of the Morningstar’s power was so huge that it needed to be released at regular intervals. Normally I was fighting bad guys on a regular basis, so I had more than enough opportunities to blow off some steam.

Even before I’d come into my legacy from Lucifer I’d had an Agency pickup at least once a day. I’d always been able to release my magic before it got too dangerous. I hadn’t even known it was dangerous.

I wondered how Lucifer dealt with this. Maybe after so many millennia it didn’t bother him anymore. Or maybe he had some secret outlet for his magic. It was slightly amusing to think of Lucifer hanging out in space somewhere, smashing planets just to get rid of his pent-up energy.

Amusing, and more than a little frightening.

I continued blasting at the insects for a few more moments, taking down several of the creatures and evening up the odds for the fae.

Finally, one of the creatures gave out a call, and the remaining mantis—the ones fighting hand to hand with the fae—retreated into the forest.

The exhausted warriors below turned as one body to look up at me. They did not seem grateful. They looked frightened, or angry, but none of them looked ready to thank me.

I curled my fingers around the banister, magic still humming under the surface of my skin. The urge to take off, to disappear into the sky, was tremendous. My wings strained against the tether that bound them. As it had when my wrists were tied, the cord seem to grow tighter with my struggles, to squeeze more painfully.

My palms were smoking against the wood of the railing. It didn’t hurt, but when I lifted them away I could see the imprint of my hand charred into the surface.

There was a pounding of feet from both sides of the walkway as fae poured up the stairs. They were coming for me.

I stood still and waited. I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t fly away. All I could hope was that Batarian would interpret my actions as trustworthy.

The fae appeared on either side of me, Sakarian leading one group and Litarian the other. Sakarian looked wary, but defiant. Litarian appeared unruffled as always. He held a coil of rope in his hands.

“You’re not tying me up again,” I said.

“Lord Batarian has ordered you bound and brought before him,” Sakarian snarled.

“I will kill all of you and burn this place to the ground before I will submit any further,” I said.

As I said it, I knew it was true. I didn’t have to tolerate them.

“You cannot kill us all without incurring harm to yourself,” Sakarian said.

“Oh, yeah?” I said softly. A ball of flame appeared above my palm. “Who wants to try me?”

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