Yield the Night by Annette Marie


  She tensed, prepared to fight them all. She would rather die in agony than let that spider touch her.

  A moment of silence.

  “It’s fine,” Ash finally said. “You heard her. She would rather have the pain.”

  “But Ash—” Lyre began.

  Ash made a brusque gesture. He turned to Piper. “It’s okay. You’ll be fine.”

  He leaned closer, brushing a hand down her arm. She blinked at him, trying to think beyond the haze of panic and pain. His gray stare was reassuring as he gently touched her cheek with his fingers, wiping away a tear she hadn’t realized she’d shed.

  And then she felt the tingle of magic across her skin in the wake of his touch.

  “No!” she cried. She jumped away from him but her knees instantly buckled.

  He pulled her back onto the sofa so she fell on top of him. Mist spun through her head, fuzzing her thoughts but doing nothing to dull the pain. She slumped weakly against him, her muscles numb and listless from his spell.

  “It’s okay,” he murmured in her ear. He ran his fingers through her hair, brushing it off her face. “You’re too tough to let this beat you.”

  Someone took her arm, stretching it out and turning her wrist upward. She whimpered, squeezing her eyes shut.

  “It’s okay,” Ash whispered again, his lips brushing her ear as he spoke. “You can do this. Don’t you remember when we were trapped in the cellar? I couldn’t think straight, but you were calm. You can handle anything. This is a walk in the park compared to that.”

  She took a deep breath. The edges of her panic dulled as he continued to whisper in her ear, his voice sliding down into her bones and making her shiver. She stopped hearing his words, lost in the sound of his voice alone.

  A sharp prick on her wrist made her jerk, her muscles unable to do more than twitch.

  “Done,” the healer declared, snapping the lid back on the box. “It should start working within twenty minutes. The bite will be sore and swollen for several days, and she may have some other symptoms—brief bouts of dizziness or a mild fever. Nothing to be concerned about.”

  “Thank you,” Miysis said. “I’ll call you if we need anything more.”

  Ash brushed his fingers across her cheek again, lifting his spell. Feeling crept back into her muscles, but she didn’t move. His arms were around her, his cheek resting against her forehead. He was warm, strong, and his delicious scent of fresh mountain air surrounded her. She closed her eyes and burrowed her face into the side of his neck, blocking out the world as she waited desperately for the pain to stop.

  “How long will the effects of the venom last?” Ash asked.

  “It depends on the person’s metabolism,” Miysis said. “For daemons, only a few hours. For haemons, a day or two.”

  “Can we give her more after that?”

  “It’s not wise. It’s still a poison, even if the effects are working in her favor right now. We found each subsequent exposure had less effect on magic and more adverse effects on the victim’s health, especially with back-to-back injections.”

  “That sounds ominous,” Lyre remarked, not quite managing a flippant tone.

  “We need Vejovis,” Ash said.

  “Obviously,” Miysis replied. “As I started to say before, I suspect I know where he is.”

  “Where?” Ash demanded.

  “I believe he’s gone home.”

  “Home? Where is ‘home’?”

  Miysis let out a deep breath. “Kyo Kawa Valley in the Overworld.”

  A heartbeat of silence.

  “Is that,” Lyre asked, dread clear in his voice, “the valley of ...”

  “The ryujin,” Miysis finished. “Yes. Vejovis lives in the heart of their territory.”

  “But how?”

  “He must have some kind of truce or deal with them.”

  Another moment of quiet.

  “But how?” Lyre repeated.

  “I have no idea. But that is where he lives, and it’s the safest place for him. Vejovis was instrumental in your escape from Asphodel. Samael will not allow that to go unpunished.”

  “Well, he should definitely be safe in the ryujin valley,” Lyre muttered.

  Piper lifted her head from Ash’s shoulder and glanced across the group. Lyre stood beside the sofa while Miysis sat on the arm. Seiya stood a few feet away, her arms folded and her expression dark.

  “What’s a ryujin?” The name was familiar but her pain-hazed brain couldn’t pull up the information.

  “The ryujin are an Overworld caste,” Miysis answered. “Aquatic quasi-amphibians related to water dragons. They are not a friendly people. In fact, they generally kill any other daemons they catch in their territory—Vejovis being the exception. Over the past centuries, various families have attempted to absorb the ryujin’s lands into their territory, but none have succeeded in spite of the ryujin’s relatively small numbers.”

  She rubbed a hand against her forehead. It was subtle, but the pain was definitely beginning to wane.

  “So what’s your plan then?” Lyre asked. “How will you get a message to Vejovis telling him we need him?”

  Miysis’s eyes turned to Piper, intense and analyzing. “To be blunt, I doubt Piper can afford to wait for messengers.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “We need to take her straight to Vejovis. She doesn’t have time to wait for him to come to her.”

  “You want to take Piper through Kyo Kawa Valley?” Lyre exclaimed. “Are you insane?”

  “The ryujin stay in or near water. We can cross their land to Vejovis’s residence without travelling too near to the river.” Miysis turned to Ash. “I can send a team to find Vejovis, but by the time they reach him and bring him back, it could be too late. I believe our only option is to take Piper straight to him. If we can get her to Vejovis before the rune spider’s venom wears off, there will be no risk of her condition deteriorating to dangerous levels, which I expect will take, at most, forty-eight hours once the venom is no longer protecting her.”

  “Forty-eight hours?” Lyre repeated. “But—her magic has only been unsealed for two days! It takes haemon children months to—”

  “I didn’t expect her to worsen this quickly, even from this morning,” Miysis said. “I would have expected at least six weeks, probably closer to ten, for her to reach this point. Her magic should require time to develop, like unused muscles that need to be strengthened ...”

  “The Sahar,” Piper muttered.

  Miysis looked at her. “Pardon?”

  “I think ...” She swallowed. “I think the Sahar damaged the seal on my magic. When I used it to break the gold collar Samael made me wear, the Stone’s magic felt like it was tearing me up inside. And ...” She pressed her lips together for a moment. “I’ve been having headaches for weeks. The whole time I was at Westwood. I thought it was just stress.”

  Miysis nodded. “That would explain it then. Your magic started developing two months ago when the seal was damaged. The remains of the seal were protecting you from the worst of it, but now that the seal is gone, your magic is nearing lethal levels.”

  She flinched at the word “lethal.”

  Ash’s arms tightened. “Then we take her to Vejovis—now,” he said. “We can’t chance waiting.”

  “You don’t even know if he’s there,” Seiya snapped, speaking for the first time.

  “‘We’?” Miysis repeated to Ash, ignoring Seiya. “You can’t possibly intend to come.”

  “He’s right,” Seiya said, her voice cutting. “We’re from the Underworld. What use will we be there? It’s ridiculous!”

  “We won’t be walking through an Overworld city,” Ash replied calmly to Miysis. “The valley will be deserted except for the ryujin. And if we do encounter them, you will need my help.”

  “My team and I will be perfectly capable of handling anything we encounter.”

  “Good for you. But I’ll be there anyway to make sure you don’t screw it u
p.”

  They scowled at each other, but Piper wasn’t watching them anymore. She pressed closer to Ash, fear rushing through her at the pure hatred on Seiya’s face as she glared at her.

  CHAPTER 12

  PIPER tightened the strap over the armguard covering her left forearm and checked that the band Ash had given her was secure. Miysis’s embassy had three basement levels, and two of them contained nothing but supplies and gear. It was an armory stocked for war. She definitely suspected he had a good chunk of his military scattered throughout the building.

  She’d been outfitted with new clothing and gear. Thankfully, it wasn’t in the Ra military colors of red and gold. Just regular browns. Fitted pants of a tough material that could take a lot of wear and tear, and a tan button-down shirt. She’d passed on a leather vest, not liking how it would restrict her movements. Speed and flexibility were her biggest strengths.

  What pleased her most was that, finally, she was armed again. A row of throwing knives was attached to her belt, two long daggers were strapped to her right thigh, and a sword was on her left hip. No gun though. The Overworld was, apparently, a gun-free zone. They didn’t manufacture firearms there at all, relying instead on simpler weapons and magic.

  Brushing her hands down her front, she nodded to herself. She was as prepared as she could be considering she had no idea what she was walking into. The Overworld. She’d been to the Underworld, though she’d seen very little of it. Asphodel, Samael’s estate, had been beautiful, with old-world elegance and an ancient style of architecture with interconnected buildings and courtyards. Only one building had had electricity: Chrysalis, where they developed products that crossed magic with technology.

  Outside the estate, she’d seen mountains and forests with strange species of trees and plant life, but by far the most shocking sight had been the sky, where a massive planet drifted by for large portions of the day, and two suns and three moons arched above both day and night.

  What would the Overworld be like? An entirely different planet in some other far corner of space? Seventy years ago, before the Third World War, space travel had been a thing. She’d heard that humans had gone to the moon, but not to other planets. According to Raum, she was the first non-daemon to go to the Underworld and back. Now she would be the first to go to both daemon worlds and back again.

  Assuming she made it back alive. If Vejovis wasn’t there ...

  She really didn’t like the idea of Ash and Lyre coming with her. Both had been insistent, even though they were Underworld daemons; they didn’t know any more about the Overworld than she did. Aside from moral support, she didn’t see how useful they’d be.

  Sighing, she pressed her thumb to her armguard over the hidden spider bite—an ugly swollen lump the size of a walnut. Ugh. She would have been angry at Ash for putting a partial sleeping spell on her, except it had been the right thing to do. The bite was a hell of a lot better than the pain of her headache, but she’d been too panicked to see that. Her record for keeping her composure lately was abysmal.

  She was already counting down to when the venom would wear off. Two hours of her precious forty-eight were already gone.

  Unable to hide in the small room any longer—the others were probably already waiting in the larger room down the hall—she turned toward the door, only to see someone already opening it. She was expecting it to be Ash or Lyre coming in to see what was keeping her. When she saw who came through the door, her face paled.

  Seiya, the very person she’d been hiding from, stalked straight for Piper with icy fury in her black eyes.

  “After everything I’ve said,” she snarled, bearing down on Piper. “After everything I’ve told you.”

  Piper held her ground as Seiya stopped practically on her toes.

  “I can’t believe you,” Seiya hissed. “Why are you doing this?”

  “I—”

  “You don’t need Ash! You don’t need his help! Why are you trying to get him killed?”

  “I’m not—”

  “You’re bringing him with you into one of the most dangerous territories in the Overworld. The Overworld! We’re Underworld daemons. What use will he be in the Overworld? Are you too selfish to leave him behind?”

  “I didn’t ask him to come!”

  “You’re not stopping him either!” Seiya yelled.

  “How am I supposed to stop him?” she shouted back. “I already told him he didn’t need to come, that I’d be fine with Miysis and his guys. He won’t listen!”

  “You aren’t trying hard enough!”

  “What else am I supposed to do?”

  Seiya leaned in even closer. “You told him he didn’t have to come. You didn’t tell him you don’t want him to come.”

  “What difference—”

  “It makes all the difference!” Her eyes went from midnight blue to pitch black. “You say, ‘Don’t come, Ash, don’t come,’ but your body language says, ‘I want you with me so badly. I can’t do this alone. I need you with me!’ Of course he’ll listen to that instead of your half-hearted protests!”

  “I did not—”

  Seiya threw up her hands and turned away. She stalked two steps then spun back again. “You don’t even realize the signals you’re sending. God, humans are stupid.”

  Piper balled her hands into fists, fury from the insult nearly choking her. “You—”

  “Do you actually care about him?” Seiya demanded.

  “Of course I—”

  “Then convince him to stay behind!” Seiya pointed at the door. “Go out there and convince him. Tell him you don’t want him to come. That you can’t stand the sight of him. Tell him he terrifies you and you never want to see him again. Whatever it takes. Stop him.”

  Piper stared at her. After a long moment, she shook her head. “No.”

  “What?”

  “I won’t manipulate him. He can make his own decisions.”

  Seiya bared her teeth. She was shaded—really shaded. Seiya would protect her brother from any danger, and right now, Piper was that danger.

  The draconian girl took a step toward Piper, magic making the air around her sizzle. The door to the room opened a second time. Seiya whirled around, hands raised and ready to cast lethal magic.

  Lyre leaned on the doorframe, as cool as ever. Shadows gathered in his golden eyes as he assessed them.

  “Afternoon, ladies,” he said calmly. “Must you fight? You’re both far too lovely for scars.” A half-smile curved his lips and his voice took on a purring note. “If you’re feeling so feisty, perhaps I can help you expend your energy in a more pleasant manner.”

  Piper inhaled deeply as tingles ran across her skin and warmth gathered in her belly. Aphrodisia. Lyre was using aphrodisia to diffuse Seiya’s anger. That didn’t seem like a smart idea, but at least Seiya wasn’t on the verge of attacking her anymore.

  Seiya dropped her aggressive pose and folded her arms across her chest. “Mind your own business.”

  “I am. But everyone is waiting, so ...”

  Casting a killer glare over her shoulder at Piper, Seiya stalked out. She deliberately slammed her shoulder into Lyre’s on her way by.

  Piper exhaled shakily once she was gone.

  “You okay?” Lyre asked, crossing the room to her. “You’re white as a sheet.”

  “I’m fine,” she mumbled.

  “Do you want to talk about it?”

  “Maybe later. Everyone is waiting.” She flapped her hands like she was shaking water off them. Her skin was tingling in a very delicious sort of way that really made her want his hands on her body. “Wow. Could you have gone a little easier on the aphrodisia?”

  “Ah, well, didn’t want to take any chances.”

  Piper stilled. “Was Seiya really going to attack me?”

  Lyre’s eyes were somber. “I think she was. You need to be more careful around her.”

  Exhaling, she took his arm and led him to the door. “Let’s go visit the Overworld.”


  “I’ve always wanted to see it,” he said, cheerful again in a blink. “I don’t have any spray paint though.”

  “Spray paint?”

  “I’ve always wanted to paint ‘Overworlders Suck’ on the side of a mountain and see how long it took them to notice.”

  She rolled her eyes as they joined the others in the main room. Seiya was skulking behind Ash, Zala in her arms. Zwi sat on Ash’s shoulder, watching the room with alert golden eyes. Ash absently stroked her side, looking vaguely disconcerted as he glanced at his sister. Piper was suddenly struck by the thought that, though they loved each other as profoundly as any siblings, Ash didn’t actually know Seiya that well. They’d been apart for years, seeing one another only from a distance. They’d probably been very close before their separation, but he’d spent only the last two months with the grown-up Seiya, who might very well be a completely different person from the child he once knew.

  Miysis stepped into the middle of the group as soon as Piper and Lyre had joined them. He’d changed from his business chic outfit into gear very similar to the rest of theirs—neutral colors and light armor. He wore a sword and several wicked curved daggers.

  “We’ll be travelling to the ley line shortly. Once we’re in the Overworld, it will be about twelve hours of hard travel to reach Vejovis’s home. We will stay there for the night, then travel back to the ley line.

  “Before we go, there are some rules I need to establish. First, we stay together. No wandering off. No adventures. The ryujin territory is not a place where you would want to find yourself alone.

  “Secondly, if you do get separated from the group, stay where you are. We’ll find you.

  “And lastly, don’t touch anything. Some plants in the Overworld are poisonous and we can only carry antidotes for the most common. Some don’t have antidotes. Keep your skin covered and don’t touch any plants, flowers, or fungi.”

  Lyre nudged Piper with his elbow. “And watch out for spiders.”

  She scowled at him.

  “We will be accompanied by four of my men.” He gestured to the four Ra daemons standing off to one side—all blond, green-eyed, and very muscular—before turning to Ash and Seiya. His expression hardened. “By coming, you put Piper and the success of this mission at greater risk. Do you still insist on accompanying us?”

 
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