Redemption (The Alexa Montgomery Saga) (15 page)

BOOK: Redemption (The Alexa Montgomery Saga)
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But it is coming to an end
soon, Warrior. The pain, the running, the fighting, the struggle, the burning.
All of it. It is coming to an end.

And it was. I could feel it. I
could see it on the faces of everyone here. I realized for the first time that
I had met a lot of people in the last month and a half, and a great deal of
them I was fond of. Soraya and Catherine stood in the crowd, their faces alight
with a sense of hope that I wished I could capture and borrow. Victoria and
Simon, the Warrior whom Nelly had taken with her from Two Rivers, stood hand in
hand. Patterson, Gavin–fierce Warriors that they were–stood stone-faced and
ready to ride with me into the sunset. Tommy and Kayden. Malcolm and Olivia and
her granddaughter, Akira. The man and his wife, whose names I couldn’t
remember, that had directed me to Dangeon and told me how to breach the
security when my Mother had been trapped there. One of the shopkeepers from Two
Rivers who had given me free clothing on a day that seemed so long ago now,
back when I had first stepped into this messed-up world.

All of them, and so many more.
Just staring at me, waiting for me to either explain myself or offer some
brilliant plan of attack. Which one, I wasn’t sure. I could see from the looks
on some of their faces, mostly the ones that I didn’t know personally, that the
King’s accusations against me and my sister had had some effect. Like this
wasn’t going to be difficult enough.

Malcolm climbed up onto the small
platform with me, nodded once, and turned to face the people. His voice, with
its soft, short rhythms, made people want to listen, strain to listen even, as
though the things that fell from his mouth were of the utmost importance. I had
only spoken with him a few times, and did not know him well, but I could see
how he made a good leader. I, on the other hand, disliked giving orders almost
as much as I disliked taking them.

“Friends,” Malcolm began, “we
have all come to this place with a shared desire. We all wish to see the
current leader of our world out of his office, and the people who have suffered
under his rule free of their chains. We have a common need for freedom, and I
believe that together, we can see this need met.”

Someone in the crowd shouted
then, just two words, but they made the skin on my back crawl and my shoulders
tighten just the slightest bit with distaste.

“Sun Warrior!” said the faceless
voice.

I clenched my teeth. I had a name,
damn it. I really wished people would use it. I tilted my head back, searching
for the person that the voice belonged to, and spotted a Brocken Vampire as big
and tall as an old tree—if not as big as even the King’s smallest of
Warriors—moving through the crowd toward the front, his eyes locked on my own.

He reached the front and stood
before me, level with my eyesight on account of the platform on which I stood.
I raised my eyebrows, thinking of my Gladius, which was tucked into the back of
my jeans, as always. “Brocken,” I said, returning his greeting and hoping that
he disliked the title as much as I did mine.

The Brocken crossed his meaty
arms, regarding me with a little amusement behind his eyes. I knew instantly
that he was thinking about my size, thinking that I was too small and petite to
be such a fearsome Sun Warrior. “Is it true,” he said, “that you have a sister
who is one of the Accursed?”

I raised an eyebrow at him. “No,”
I said. “I have a sister who is
half
Accursed.”

At this murmurs and whispers ran
through the crowd, and I found myself wishing that I had the pull string to an
enormous bucket of freezing cold water hanging over their heads. Why bother to
whisper when someone knows you are talking about them?

Well, I’d say they were some
pretty ungrateful sonsabitches, wouldn’t you, Warrior? Look at them all
sneaking wary glances at you, at the silver on your arm, like a bunch of stupid
humans. They have no idea what we have done, what we have
lost
to be
here fighting this war that had never belonged to us. Yep, bunch of ungrateful
SOB’s, if you ask me.

“I didn’t ask you, and I’m
starting to think that this war
does
belong to me. Maybe it always has.”

Look who’s turning insightful.

I opened my mouth and words came
spilling out before I could stop my Monster from saying them. “Go on,” I said,
my voice carrying over the buzz of the crowd. “If someone has something to say,
say it. I’m right here. I’m all ears.”

Silence fell over the people. I
stood on my platform, eyes settling from face to face. Most of them looked down
at their feet as my gaze swept over them, as cowed as humans. I certainly had
my work cut out for me. I locked eyes with Camillia, who was standing at the
front, knowing that if she was going to break the promise she’d given me and
spill the beans about my sister, now would be the time. But I could see it from
the look on her face that Camillia planned to do no such thing, and it didn’t
surprise me. Camillia was one of the people whom my sister had “touched” as
Tommy had become fond of saying, and that meant that her devotion to Nelly was
complete. She had even looked a little relieved when I told her that Nelly was
out of reach.

However, I didn’t fail to notice
that Silvia wasn’t present. She had not taken the news so lightly.

When the burly Brocken who had
challenged me the other day–Darvin, I think his name was—stepped forward, I had
to stop myself from rolling my eyes like a pissed off preteen.

“I got something to say,” Darvin
said in his bellowing voice.
No shit
, I thought. “How can you expect us
to trust you if your own sister is one of those demons?”

My left eye twitched. “I couldn’t
give a shit less if any of you trust me or not,” I said, because it couldn’t be
closer to the truth. “You want to fight this war by yourselves, by all means,
be my guests.”

The other Brocken who had called
out Sun Warrior a moment ago burst out into a deep, loud laugh. My eye twitched
again, but this time my fingers itched, too. “You sure are a feisty little
thing, aren’t you?” said the Brocken. “Hard to believe that your bark is as big
as your bite.”

This got a few nervous chuckles
out of the crowd, but most of the spectators were still silent, apparently not
such big fools as these two vampires. They knew instinctually that I was not
someone who should be challenged. I felt a crooked smile tilt my lips. “Yes,” I
said. “I get that a lot.” I nodded at the silver on my right arm. “I pretty
sure all of these people said the same thing.”

All eyes fell to the silver
lilies burned into my skin. My smile grew wider still. I turned my back to the
crowd, glad that the tank-top I was wearing had a low-cut back. I looked over
my shoulder at where the silver markers snaked across my shoulders, down my
spine. “And all of these, too,” I said.

I turned back to the crowd and
raised an eyebrow at the two big Brockens. “Would you like a demonstration?” I
asked, hoping that one of them, hell, that
both
of them would take me up
on the offer. There’s nothing quite like kicking the shit out of men four times
your size.
That’s
power, and I was in desperate need of a release.

Yes! Oh yes! Let’s do it,
Warrior. Let’s do it. Let’s do it. Let’s do it!

But both men averted their eyes
now, Darvin mumbling under his breath, and the other one smiling a little
sheepishly to himself. Perhaps they weren’t such big fools after all.

Damn, so close.

“Hurting them would do us no
good. We need all the men we can get, especially men like them–fighters. Unless
you plan on taking out the King’s entire army single-handedly.

Hmm, I’m certainly willing to
give it the old college try. What do you say, Warrior?

“Shut up.”

My Monster chuckled.
Very
original.

I decided then that rather than
standing here having a conversation with myself, I should probably try
addressing the people. I knew they had questions. Instead of waiting for them
to ask them, I should just answer them first and then change the subject to the
matter that really mattered. Every moment I wasted here was another moment that
Nelly had to spend alone in the White World. And another moment that the King
had opportunity to make good on his promise regarding Tommy’s father.
Tick-tock.

The only problem was that I
wasn’t sure what to say. The closet thing I had to an inspirational,
war-leading speech was snippets of memory from Mel Gibson’s lines in
Braveheart.
I wondered briefly if maybe I couldn’t use some of them. It’s not like most of
these supernaturals would have seen the film, but I rejected that idea as
quickly as I’d thought of it. But I had to bite my cheek to stop myself from
breaking out into an insane fit of giggles.

May I?
my Monster asked.

I sighed.
“Oh, if you must.”

“I am not going to lie to you,” I
said. “Yes, my sister is half-Accursed, and I can understand why that would
make some of you uneasy, but Nelly is not the one that you need to fear, or
even be worried about. King William is the one who is to blame for everything.
He is the one who is putting so many of our people in slave villages and
milking them for blood to sell to the Lamia. He is the one who, as we speak, murders
those he believes oppose him. He is the one who is deciding who is fit to live
and who should die. Well, I think that it is
he
who needs to die, and
that fate I plan to deliver to him.”

Silence. I swallowed, casting a
look over at Tommy and seeing haste and worry written all over his face. I
continued, “My sister is not going to be any part of this battle. She is far
away from here, so there is no need to even discuss the matter. What we need to
be concerning ourselves with is stopping the King before he can kill any more
people. The only real question is, who of you are willing to come with me to
see this happen?”

A voice rang out over the crowd
that was familiar to me but that I couldn’t place. “I will go with you, Sun
Warrior!”

A memory clicked into place at
the same time that my eyes found him, and his presence was so unexpected, so
wonderfully
unexpected, that I had to stop myself from leaping off of the platform and
running to him. Mark, one of the first people I had made friends with in this
world, one of the first Warriors who had been kind to me back when I had
arrived at Two Rivers. The last time I had seen him, he had been lying in a
hospital bed after a very bloody fight against Kayden in the Arena. Mark
approached the platform, a smile on his handsome face, walking quickly and
smoothly, but the predator in me could see that he favored his left leg. I
guess he hadn’t healed completely from Kayden’s beating.

“Mark,” I said, my breath seeming
to catch in my throat. I hopped down from my elevated position and looked up at
him, inexplicably happy to see him.

“Aye, Sun Warrior,” he said,
regarding me with his kind smile. “I will fight beside you, and help you see to
the death of a King.”

I reached forward and pulled Mark
into a tight hug, unable to help myself. For some reason, tears felt like
welling in my eyes, but I forced them back with all of might. “I’m so glad to
see you,” I whispered, and laughed a little for the first time in what felt
like forever.

He stepped back and nodded. Then
my friends and loved ones began to call out their allegiance, one by one.

Kayden’s strong voice was the one
that started it all. He raised his Warrior’s sword high over his head, his
stance as fierce as I had ever seen it, and he shouted, “Death to the King!”

Then, Tommy, Gavin, Patterson,
Malcolm, Olivia, Simon, Victoria, Catherine, Camillia, and even little Soraya
and Akira, followed in his footsteps, their voices mingling together and
growing. “Death to the King! Death to the King!”

The sound rose and rose as more
and more people joined in. Those who were Warriors had their swords pointed
skyward the same as my Libra, their sliver tips like teeth jabbing at the black
sky. Some of the children among them, ranging in all ages, threw their little
fists into the air and chanted with the glee of the innocent. A few of the
women had tears rolling slowly down their tired faces, but they too cried out.
The sound of them all seemed to boom with the beats of my heart, and for the
first time in my life, I felt as though I had a greater purpose other than
protecting my sister. Maybe even a greater purpose
than
protecting my
sister, though in my heart, that could never be so.

I climbed back up onto the
platform, feeling oddly touched by the whole thing when I really should have
been feeling dread and terror. But I found, as I stood before them, that I was
not afraid. There was so much
rightness
in those four words. There was
so much
hope.

My Gladius sent cool tingles up
my spine where it was tucked into the back of my pants. I reached back and
retrieved it, my fingers wrapping around the silver, fitting perfectly into the
smooth places of the carved design on its handle. I looked down at the weapon
my Mother had given me, the only thing I had left that she had given me, and
knew in my heart that this was
right.
I had always believed that my
training, all of the bruises and cuts and early morning runs, had been her way
of preparing me to take care of Nelly. Similarly, I had believed that this
sword had been an instrument with which to do that. Now, as I looked down at
the silver lilies carved into it, the design that matched that of the
death-count of my own silver markings, I thought that maybe I had been wrong.
Or at least not completely
right.

My Mother had wanted me to save
Nelly, but maybe, when she handed me this sword, maybe she had been telling me
to save the world, too. I felt the way that truly gifted writers must feel when
they are handed a pen and utter free will.
Here, darling, you take this pen
and use your gift to change the world.
Or, in my case,
here, take this
sword and use your gift to…
kill?

BOOK: Redemption (The Alexa Montgomery Saga)
7.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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