Yield the Night by Annette Marie


  Seiya shot Piper a threatening look, and Piper knew she was supposed to jump in and tell Ash she didn’t want him to come. But she wouldn’t lie; she did want him to come. Besides, she didn’t fully trust Miysis and definitely didn’t want to be alone with him.

  “We’re coming,” Ash replied.

  “Fine,” Miysis said flatly, turning away. “But I am not responsible for your fate. Let’s get this done.”

  He strode out of the room, toward the elevators, his men following behind. Piper fell into step beside Lyre, glad she would have him as a buffer between her and Seiya during the trip. When she’d first met Seiya, she’d thought maybe they could be friends. But now the feel of Seiya’s eyes on her back made her skin prickle with nervousness, and she honestly wondered what the greater danger was: their upcoming journey, or Seiya’s fierce determination to eliminate any threat to her brother.

  . . .

  The cars dropped them off at what looked to Piper like a random spot along the highway. She watched as the drivers turned the vehicles around and drove about fifty yards back to a small opening off the side of the road where they parked. They would wait there until Miysis and the rest of them returned.

  Lyre stood beside her. He’d kept close to her since her confrontation with Seiya, not leaving any openings for another argument to erupt between them. Perhaps by mutual agreement with Lyre, Ash was staying close to Seiya, doubling the buffer.

  Piper gave her head a little shake. During her two months at Westwood, she’d frequently doubted her decision to go to the school instead of staying with Ash. But if this was what it would have been like, she was glad she had made the responsible decision.

  “This way,” Miysis said, leading them straight into the trees.

  At first, Piper thought he was walking right into the bushes, but after a few steps into the shady undergrowth, she recognized the faint trail he was following. As they walked, her nervousness grew, but at least she didn’t have a blinding headache to deal with. She hoped Miysis’s guess was right and Vejovis was actually at home. If he wasn’t, they’d be making this long, dangerous trip for nothing. It was too bad telephones didn’t exist in the Overworld. It was travel to talk to someone, or don’t talk to them at all.

  Ahead of her, Ash walked behind Seiya, Zwi riding on his shoulder. The dragonet usually hid when there were strangers around, but he must have told her to stay close. Otherwise no one in the group would have been able to spot her.

  Ten more minutes into the forest and the trees thinned out, allowing the group to break single file. Lyre trotted up beside her, flashing her a grin when she glanced at him. Her stomach did one of those inevitable swoops; he was just that gorgeous.

  “Hey, beautiful. Stop looking so glum. Aren’t you the one who loves adventure?”

  “I prefer my adventures to be a little less life-and-death, you know.”

  “All my adventures are life and death,” he replied with a shrug.

  She studied him, again remembering the deadly black stare in his stunning face when she’d glimpsed him without his glamour. He was only too happy to let everyone think he was a pushover. Samael’s soldiers certainly hadn’t had any idea how deadly he was. She would never again make the mistake of assuming he, or any daemon, was an easy foe.

  He grinned mischievously. “All your adventures lately have been life and death too. Maybe secretly, that’s how you like it.”

  She snorted.

  “Is there anything else you secretly like that you want to share with me?” His tone left no question as to what sort of undisclosed preferences he was asking about.

  She rolled her eyes. “Lyre.”

  He chuckled, and they walked in silence for a few minutes before he spoke again. “So ... want to tell me what’s going on between you and Seiya?”

  Piper glanced at the two draconians. They were speaking quietly and far enough ahead that they probably couldn’t hear her or Lyre.

  “Seiya is blaming me for Ash putting himself in danger to protect me,” she whispered.

  “Ah. I thought it might be something like that.”

  “Lyre ...” She took a deep breath and forced the words out. “I’m afraid she might kill me to protect him.”

  She’d expected Lyre to scoff. Panic plunged into her belly when he nodded.

  “You should be afraid.”

  “Are you serious?”

  “Very.” He leaned his head closer and lowered his voice. “Seiya isn’t like Ash. They fight their battles in completely different ways.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “Ash faces every challenge head on. If he can’t plow directly through his enemies, he’ll sneak up on them from behind. But when he wants something done, he goes straight for it. Although he’s capable of subtlety, he’s not a subtle guy.”

  “No, not really.”

  “Well, Seiya is the opposite. She learned how to get the results she wants at Samael’s feet. Think about what that means.”

  Piper licked her lips. “She doesn’t attack problems head on like Ash.”

  “No, she doesn’t. She circles the problem and snips bits out here, cuts out bits over there, then stands back and watches as the whole thing implodes. She may be a draconian, but she is a daughter of Hades.”

  Piper exhaled shakily. Seiya had done a very good job of cutting the ground out from under her. First driving home that Piper and Ash didn’t belong together. Then preying on Piper’s desire to protect Ash from danger. Then threatening Piper’s life when it became clear the first two hadn’t worked. What would Seiya do next? There wasn’t much left short of actual violence.

  “Shit,” she whispered. “Does Ash know she’s so dangerous?”

  Lyre’s face hardened with quiet pain. “I don’t know. He won’t talk to me. He keeps shutting down, closing off ... slipping into this state like ...”

  “Like Raum.”

  They exchanged anxious looks.

  The last time Piper had seen Raum, he’d been on the floor in a pool of blood from the wounds she’d given him using the Sahar. She wasn’t entirely sure whether he’d survived, but since Vejovis had been there to heal him, she was hoping he had.

  Raum had been Samael’s slave for his entire life, and his spirit had been broken a long time ago. He was cold, detached, and unswervingly obeyed Samael’s every command. It was like his soul had died, leaving just a body to obey and a mind bereft of emotion. The thought of Ash dying inside like that terrified her.

  Lyre’s fingers closed around her hand, squeezing it gently. “What Seiya doesn’t see,” he whispered, “is that you’re good for him. Since we got you back, he’s been more animated and engaged than I’ve seen him in weeks. Have you had a chance to talk with him yet?”

  She shook her head, enduring a stab of guilt.

  “Don’t worry. This probably isn’t a good time anyway. The only thing he’s worrying about right now is getting you through this.”

  Ahead of them, Miysis had stopped. She and Lyre joined the group in what appeared to be a random spot in the forest. Lyre kept her fingers in his, his thumb rubbing the back of her hand comfortingly as her nervousness increased.

  To get to one of the other worlds, a daemon first had to enter a ley line—one of the invisible rivers of power running across the Earth, the Underworld, and the Overworld. From there, he had to jump into the Void, the empty nothingness between worlds. If he survived the Void, he would come out into another world.

  Piper couldn’t cross the Void on her own, so someone would have to put her to sleep and carry her through. Raum had carried her the first time. Ash had done it the second.

  “Can you feel it?” Lyre whispered to her as Miysis discussed something with Ash and one of his men. “The ley line? You have magic now. You should be able to sense it.”

  “Me?” she whispered back in disbelief. Her? Sense a ley line?

  “Close your eyes. What do you feel?”

  She closed her eyes, trying to blank her mind, but
she didn’t have to try hard. As soon as the visual distractions around her were gone, she felt it; like an invisible canal rushing past, the ley line was impossible to ignore, a combination of the spark of magic in the atmosphere and an indescribable presence in her mind. It called to her, urging her closer. She couldn’t see it or picture it in any way, but she knew it was right in front of her, just a few steps beyond where Miysis stood talking with the others.

  “Wow,” she whispered to Lyre, opening her eyes. She squinted at the boring stretch of trees. “Should I be able to see it too?”

  “If you were a daemon, you could, but haemons can’t.”

  “What does it look like?”

  “Like a band from the northern lights running across the ground.”

  Her eyes widened. “Wow. Wish I could see it.”

  “Well, you know, they say that when two people are as one, they can see through each other’s eyes. I’m totally willing to try if you want—”

  “Not now, Lyre.”

  “So later then?”

  Miysis looked past Ash and caught Piper’s eye. He motioned her over. Her anxiety levels shot up. Lyre gave her hand one more squeeze before letting go. She warily approached Miysis. Ash stood beside him, his expression unreadable. An icy drop of fear hit her stomach as she searched his eyes. Too much like Raum.

  “Piper,” Miysis said, “Koen will carry you through first. My men will partner with Ashtaroth, Seiya, and Lyre to make sure they come out in the correct spot.”

  The ley lines on Earth and the other worlds didn’t correspond geographically. You had to know what exit point you wanted, but since the Underworld daemons had never been to the Overworld before, they would need guides.

  Her eyes darted from the Ra daemon beside Miysis to Ash. “Can’t Ash take me through?”

  “He’s only done it once and my man is trained in this,” Miysis said.

  Ash nodded his agreement.

  Her hands shook a little. She’d felt a lot better when she’d assumed Ash would take her through. She trusted him a lot more than a daemon she’d just met, even if he were more experienced than Ash.

  Ash stepped closer and leaned down to put his lips to her ear. “You’ll be safe with Koen. Don’t worry,” he whispered, his breath tickling her ear. “It would drain my magic to carry you through, and I don’t know where I’m going. It’s not worth the risk.”

  She nodded. She hadn’t considered the drain on his magic stores; it would be a very bad idea for him to go into the Overworld already weakened.

  She caught his wrist before he could pull away. “Ash ... could you do the spell to make me sleep? I—I don’t want anyone else messing with my head.”

  With a glance at Miysis for confirmation, he slid one arm around her waist to catch her when the spell took hold. His other hand cupped her cheek, warm and gentle.

  “Ready?” he murmured.

  “Yes,” she whispered.

  Her cheek tingled under his touch as soft magic spiraled through her head. Her eyelids grew heavy and slid closed. The next time she opened them, she would be in another world, but that wasn’t where her thoughts lingered.

  Instead, as she slumped forward and he pulled her against his chest, she wished he would hold her in his arms again, and that by holding him in hers, she could fix the damage Samael had done to his heart and soul before it was too late.

  CHAPTER 13

  PIPER sat on a rock and stared. Just stared.

  The ley line Miysis had chosen in the Overworld was on the side of a mountain. Behind her, grassy slopes rose steeply before giving way to craggy rock. High, high above, the snow-tipped peak of the mountain challenged the sun in the sky.

  Five yards beyond her feet, the flat stretch of grass ended. The sheer cliff dropped a hundred feet to a fast-flowing river below. She’d taken one peek over the edge before the vertigo had forced her away. She’d decided sitting was her best bet and had parked her butt on a rock.

  Beyond the cliff, on the other side of the river, two more mountains rose. Miysis had already pointed out the suspected location of Vejovis’s residence—at the base of the third, most distant mountain. It was a long distance to travel on foot, but there were no ley lines any closer.

  The shapes of the mountains and valleys were familiar, but nothing else in this place reminded her much of home.

  She felt as if she were looking at the world through blue-tinted glass. The grass had a bluish tinge, and each waxy blade was decorated with tiny bright blue dots. The rocky peaks of the mountains were veined with blue stone, some of it glittering in the sunlight and sparkling like lines of blue ice through the rock. In the valleys, she could see the tops of trees, their wide, pale leaves scattered through with azure orbs—some kind of fruit or flower? She was too far away to tell.

  She looked up, squinting at the bright morning sky. Directly above, a second sun beamed down on her face. Her gaze dropped to the horizon. The curve of a planet rose beyond the farthest mountains, just breaching the horizon as it rose into the sky. It wasn’t quite as large as the planet in the sky in the Underworld, but big enough. If the Overworld hadn’t had two suns, it would’ve been dark for much of the day due to regular eclipses from the planet orbiting them. Or perhaps it was this planet orbiting the other.

  Ash sat beside her, his eyes also on the slowly rising planet.

  “The first time I saw it,” he murmured, seeming to be reading her thoughts, “I wondered if it was the same planet. What if the Underworld and Overworld are both moons of Periskios? But there’s no way to know for sure.”

  “Daemons have never tried to figure it out?”

  “Underworld daemons don’t normally visit the Overworld and vice versa. In fact, we deliberately avoid such a thing. And we don’t talk to one another either. Philosophers and scientists we are not.”

  She squinted at him. “So you’ve been here before then. Why didn’t you say so?”

  “I didn’t think it was wise to mention it around Miysis.”

  “Why not?”

  “Because it was Samael who sent me here.”

  She quickly schooled her expression. Whatever Samael had sent Ash to the Overworld to do would have been something bad for the Overworlders. Definitely not a good thing to mention.

  Lyre stood a half a dozen paces away, a lot nearer to the cliff’s edge than Piper was willing to go. He stared across the landscape, silent with awe. Seiya stood beside him, also gazing at the beautiful world they’d found themselves in.

  Miysis strode over to them. “My last man just came through. He’ll stay here until we return in case we need to separate for some reason.”

  He turned to the valley. “We’ll follow this mountain around, staying on the east side of the river. It only runs north for a few miles before bending toward the west.”

  He pointed, his finger tracing the path of the river. “The mountainside eventually grows too steep for travel, but there’s an easy crossing where the river goes underground. We can cross without getting wet then continue through the west side of the valley. The river exits the caves a mile downstream. Beyond that is Two Dragon Falls. We’ll have to rappel down along the west side; there’s no other way into the valley.”

  Piper let out a long breath. Staying dry was a good thing on two levels: it kept them out of the ryujin’s element, and she wouldn’t have to admit to anyone that her swimming skills were limited to a clumsy dog-paddle. Rappelling down a mountain didn’t sound all that fun though.

  “After that, it should be easy travel through the base of the valley to the north end where Vejovis resides.”

  “The river goes under the mountain?” Piper asked. She’d been squinting at it for several minutes already, trying to figure out where the water flowed.

  “Yes. There are dozens of major rivers and hundreds of smaller ones in this stretch of mountains, and most of them flow in and out of the extensive cave system beneath the mountain range. It’s made mapping the valley rather difficult.”

/>   Lyre turned away from the valley. “I have a question. Why are we walking there? We have more than enough wings to fly. It would take, what, an hour or two to fly across? Versus an entire day to walk?”

  Piper blinked, then remembered that Ra daemons were griffins—and griffins had wings. She and Lyre were the only members of the group who couldn’t fly.

  “About two centuries ago,” Miysis replied, “a warlord of questionable intelligence decided that an aerial raid was a surefire strategy to exterminate the ryujin in the valley, which is sitting on the borders of five different territories. Since then, the ryujin keep close watch on the skies. They have become quite adept at shooting moving targets out of the air.”

  “Ah,” Lyre replied. “In that case, I really don’t mind walking at all. Good exercise.”

  “Speaking of wings,” Miysis said, turning to the draconians, “I strongly recommend you keep your glamour in place while we’re here. You know the consequences of releasing it.”

  “What consequences?” Piper asked in alarm.

  “Our magic is different from Overworld magic,” Ash said with a shrug. “It would attract too much attention.”

  “Oh.”

  “Definitely something to avoid,” Miysis remarked. He focused on Ash. “If you do die, should we be concerned about searching your body for the Sahar?”

  “Do you really think I would walk around the Overworld with the Stone in my pocket?” He looked Miysis straight in the eye. “I don’t have it and I didn’t bring it here.”

  Shadows passed across Miysis’s eyes as he checked Ash’s truthfulness. “A smart decision. Are we ready to begin then?”

  Miysis and one of his men went first. Lyre followed, Piper trailing behind him, Ash behind her, then Seiya and the last two Ra daemons. The fourth one stayed on the narrow plateau. Piper kicked at the gravel-scattered path, watching the stones tumble down the gradual decline ahead of her. The trail was decorated with blue and brown stones in all shades, with the occasional ice-green pebble mixed in.

 
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