Just how powerful is he?
His shoulders were tensed, and I couldn’t imagine the kind of pain he had to be in. But he kept standing, even as magic swirled around him, crawling up his arm like a creature trying to devour him.
The mints fizzled and boiled in the space between his hand and the barrier, and there was a loud, roaring noise that sounded like a dragon.
The earth shook, and the top of the shield cracked so it looked like a huge animal had raked its claws across it.
The heat was unimaginable, and I thought I could smell burnt flesh.
“Killian!” I screamed.
He ignored me and kept his hand planted. He curled his lips back in a smirk and bared his fangs as more cracks spiderwebbed out from where his fingers dug into the magic shield.
The mints exploded into tiny fires.
A shockwave burst from the barrier, and it shattered.
Shards of the barrier were flung over the field, pelting the area—though they bounced harmlessly off our shields. Another roar, and they disappeared entirely.
I sprinted through the hole between April and June, ignoring the shouts of my friends. “Killian!” I skidded to a stop next to him, carefully holding my katana in one hand while I rested my other on his elbow.
His arm was a mess. The sleeve of his suitcoat and his dress shirt had tattered, revealing bloodied flesh.
Killian flexed his fingers—which were also covered in blood. “Give it a moment, I’ll be fine.” His smile was feral again as he shifted his attention. “I’m in well enough health to bid my respects to the honorable Queen Nyte and her courageous Consort Ira.”
With the barrier fallen, it gave me my first good look at Queen Nyte and Consort Ira.
Nyte was in a state of shock. Her coppery skin was an ashen color, and she had drawn her hands up to her throat—one of the only visible pieces of skin since she was armored from her feet to her neck. But apparently she hadn’t given any thought to wearing a helm for her head like her nobles had.
Consort Ira, however, was furious.
His jaw was locked, and I could see the muscles on his neck throb as he, too, had gone for vanity over practicality and wasn’t wearing a helmet either.
“You think you’ve won?” Ira spat. “We haven’t even begun to fight! All you’ve done is manage to get your troops surrounded. We’re going to kill all of you.”
I wanted to unleash a fireball and strike him where he stood.
The two monarchs’ matching armor—silver plate armor with runes and black and purple crystals embedded into it—would protect them from any light attacks. Although it appeared to be similar to the armor the nobles wore, it was undoubtedly a level above in power, which meant guns weren’t going to be much help.
The armor looked heavy, but the best fae armor was really light because—surprise—it was actually made by the elves, and had been guarded jealously by the few fae who could afford to own it.
That also meant it did an excellent job at protecting them. Weapons were pretty much useless. Magic was the best way to go, but I needed to make sure when I went for them, I had the perfect shot, which was where our plan came in.
So even though instinct screamed at me to bust out my magic, I forced myself to smile. “That’s cute. You think you can overpower us wizards with your borrowed magic?”
Ira didn’t like that.
He hissed—like a freakin’ snake. Or a vampire.
“Enough!” Queen Nyte had recovered from her surprise. She held her harp, which glowed black and looked pretty ominous and was very obviously magical. “You will pay for your impertinence!”
I am aware I occasionally lean on the cliché beliefs about vampires to magnify my image—we have a mysterious aura I find very useful in dazzling pesky humans who want me to do things like get permits and other stupid red tape items.
But, truly…“you will pay for your impertinence”? How trite can you get?
I glanced at Hazel. Based on her posture and the way she rubbed the hilt of her sword, she wasn’t very impressed either.
I leaned over and murmured in her ear, “Order the troops.”
“Yeah, yeah.” She backed up a few steps and raised her katana to a guarding stance. “Formation release!” she shouted over the din of the fight. “Adjust to formation…companion!”
I flexed my fingers again. My arm had mostly healed—breaking the barrier had hurt, but we couldn’t have Hazel break it and give our biggest strategy away.
I pulled out my dagger as I strode toward the fae monarchs, studying their armor as I weighed out the best way to subdue them.
Queen Nyte laughed. “I have waited so long to visit misery upon you, Killian Drake. You ruined my life when you—” She cut off in a very undignified squeal when I, using my vampire speed, rushed her and tried stabbing her under the armpit—which is typically a weak spot in armor.
Unfortunately she was wearing elven chainmail under her plate armor, and my strike glanced off without any harm.
She plucked a string on her harp, but I leaped back before her black magic could reach me. “Don’t you want to know why we’ve done this? Why we will endlessly hunt you for the shame you brought upon me when you revealed—”
I interrupted her before she could go any farther. “I am not interested in your motivation. I don’t care about how you feel about me. You are deluded and foolish, which is all I need to know about you.”
Queen Nyte released that awful, high pitched shriek that made her sound like a harpy.
I glanced back at Hazel, confirming she stood a little behind me with one of her wizards—Leslie, I think—guarding her back with a blue shield.
As ordered, our forces had broken up the enclosed oval shape, and were now scattered around us in a crescent moon formation, keeping the nobles and soldiers from interfering.
Two or three vampires worked with a single wizard, as we had decided in our strategy meetings. The wizard provided protection while the vampires orbited around them, taking out targets and retreating back to safety while another took their place.
It appeared to be working, but we were almost out of sunlight, and I knew all the wizards didn’t have Hazel’s stamina. Some of them were approaching their limit.
I needed to end this fast.
When the fae queen finished her temper tantrum, I shifted my gaze back to her. “I suggest you guard yourself.”
I lunged for Queen Nyte again, this time aiming my dagger at her throat.
She plucked another string on her wretched harp—it was her source of royal magic, if I remembered correctly—and misty black magic surrounded her.
“No plea for our surrender?” Consort Ira sneered as he raised his sword—which was wrapped in red colored magic.
I shrugged. “You won’t listen until I have my hands around your throat.”
Since I had no desire to attack Nyte while she was sheltered by magic, I cut around to Ira’s open flank and kneed him in the side.
Slamming into the plate armor made my knee bones grind, but he staggered, so when I kicked him with my heel in the same spot he went flying, smashing into his queen.
Ira recovered first.
He ran at me with his sword raised and mouth open in an entirely unnecessary battle cry.
I zipped around to his back and hit him at the base of his skull with the hilt of my dagger.
He dropped, but before I could pounce on him, Queen Nyte played a few notes on her harp, and the ground beneath me swirled black.
I jumped back, but not before a tendril of the black magic flicked against my leg.
Pain shot through my entire body, setting fire to my muscles. It thankfully didn’t last long. By the time I landed it was back to a dull ache, but I needed to avoid getting hit by that in the future.
Ira made another wild charge at me, swinging his sword.
When he raised his blade over his head I dropped my dagger and caught his wrists. I twisted one to the side, and forced the other painfully behind his back in a way that would do some serious damage if he didn’t drop to his knees.
His moans of pain almost drowned out the melodic tune Queen Nyte plucked on her instrument.
I shoved Ira to the ground, snatched up my dagger, and backed away as fast as I could, narrowly missing the thorny vine that sprouted where I’d been standing.
In that moment I wished I’d brought a sword, but I was most skilled at a two-handed sword, and I’d need both hands for what we had planned.
So I exchanged my dagger for my handgun, racked it, clicked off the safety, and shot Queen Nyte in the chest.
As expected, her armor was a level above that of the Night Court’s nobles. The bullet didn’t punch through, but it startled her so she screamed.
She used her harp to raise a barrier, blocking any shots I might take at her head.
I emptied a magazine; the bullets ricocheted off her shield, but it kept her distracted as I approached Ira—who was still down.
He finally revealed his fighting skills, though. Ira waited until I was almost on him, then sprang up, stabbing me in the shoulder with a dagger while I was watching Queen Nyte.
Pain stabbed through my muscles. I grimaced, but I didn’t move, even when he pulled the dagger from my shoulder.
I slammed my head into his, granting me the satisfaction of hearing the tell-tale crack of a broken nose.
Ira toppled with a whimper.
I slipped my gun back in my suitcoat as Queen Nyte screamed “Ira!” and dropped her shield in her dismay.
I tried rushing her, but she got the dratted thing back up just in time. I slammed into it, and for a second my vision was hazy before my vampire abilities kicked in, healing both the stab wound and whatever head injury I may have sustained.
Ira must have finally learned his lesson. When he staggered to his feet—blood dripping from his nose—rather than attack me, he flicked a dagger at Hazel.
I shot across the battlefield, catching the dagger midair. But when he used what appeared to be a thumb-sized rock sculpture to shoot a bolt of yellow magic at her, I dove to the ground to avoid getting hit.
Hazel had promised her people would protect her in case Queen Nyte and Consort Ira used a spell or charm that was one of the rare ones actually capable of harming a wizard. I could only hope her wizards would be as diligent as she believed.