“The blonde is Hera,” Kai tells me, resuming the interrupted conversation, and when I open my mouth, he adds, “Yes, that Hera, and yes, she posed as a Greek Goddess for a while. She’s vain like that. They all are.”
“And the last guy is Cain. The same Cain who killed his brother—Abel. The same one born to Eve, after Lucifer deployed his plan to corrupt humanity and prove he was right all along, sending his own son into the womb of Eve, just before he was cast from the heavens,” Ezekiel tells me.
They don’t even have to look back to see these people. They just know them, probably have them memorized.
The elephant man looks away when all six heirs give one nod of approval in eerily timed unison.
“The day of the gauntlet begins now!” the man shouts.
Without a second of hesitation, everyone on this platform starts racing through me, rushing toward the drop. My guys are the first to drop off the side. That’s at least a hundred feet worth of drop zone!
I dive to the edge, even as people continue to pass through me en masse.
I watch as they land on their feet, and I curse when they propel themselves into the thick fog cloaking the gauntlet.
The horn is already blowing, signaling a death so soon, and my heart beats in my ears as panic consumes me. Was it one of them?
Before I can even think about it, I’m suddenly dizzy, and I’m spinning around, seeing all four of my guys cut through the fog as they charge right toward me. Shit. I somehow ended up in the gauntlet.
In front of them.
I turn and run with them, easily keeping up, since my spirit body happens to be very fast and nimble. It helps that I can run right through many of the obstacles they’re having to avoid.
The blades shoot out, nearly decapitating Jude before he can dodge it like it’s no big deal. If protective spirits can suffer cardiac arrest, then it damn near just happened to me.
The acid spray mist takes out several of the men behind us, their screams of agony piercing the air as that horn of death blows twice.
Fire shoots up into the air, and Ezekiel barely stops in time. Another man can’t stop so quickly, and a bloodcurdling scream rises into the air as the skin melts from his body.
I cut my gaze away, unable to watch. “That’s hellfire instead of fucking eternal flames,” Jude growls. “That’s supposed to be outlawed.”
“Hell on earth better not happen if I turn whole,” I grumble as I leap through it, trying to find a way to let them pass.
I finally find a boulder and stare at it, because it would be perfect to create a path. It’s just big enough that it would take it a minute to melt, and they’re fast enough to use it before it’s gone.
Now…how do I get it to move?
Ghost girl problems.
Several more screams erupt when more people dive into it. I hear someone shouting, “It’s hellfire! Not eternal flames!”
They came to the conclusion a little later than my guys, it seems.
“They’re trying to kill us all. How are we supposed to break through hellfire?” a woman shouts.
Meanwhile, I’m back to staring at the boulder, wondering if I concentrate hard enough, if it’ll move into the flames. The fire has gotten closer to it, and it doesn’t seem to be affected by the flames.
The ground rumbles under me, and I whirl around and sway a little as I see that giant, scaly, furry worm thing leap out of the ground, a blackened soot color giving it an all the more ominous appearance.
It roars into the air as a spiraled mouthful of teeth protrude from its huge mouth.
Holy deadly centipede.
But the creepiest part is when three more heads suddenly appear, popping out of its neck with gooey strands attached to them. And the new heads are carrying the same razor sharp teeth.
“Hydra!” someone shouts just as the centipede from hell—huh, that might be literal—dives and swallows a mouthful…of people.
My heart almost kicks my chest when I see Ezekiel fly over the top of the centipede’s back, now that it’s blocking some of the flames, and his eyes widen on me.
“That thing seemed a lot more skittish the last time I was here,” I say on a shaky breath.
“You walked through hellfire,” he tells me, but before I can remind him that nothing can touch me, the centipede rears back, and Ezekiel draws his sword.
“E! Just go! We’ll catch up when we find a break in the fire,” Jude shouts.
Ezekiel smirks as he pulls his sword back. “I’ll make you a break in the fire.”
I hear Gage cursing, and Kai calling him a string of names, as the centipede roars again.
But the giant monster thingy suddenly reels back, much like it did the last time it saw me. Three of the four heads slink back inside its body so fast that I almost don’t register the action.
Then it turns and dives into the ground, just as it did the last time, running like it’s fleeing.
“What the hell?” Ezekiel asks incredulously.
“The boulder!” I snap. “The fire is touching it but it’s not burning it, so I assume it’s something special and can block the flames.”
He stares at it, glances at me, then goes behind it. Like he has all the strength in the world, he shoves that boulder hard, and it rolls, cutting through the flames.
Jude is the first to fly over the boulder, but when Gage starts to follow, I see the glint of a red sword as it swings down. My hand flies out so fast as fear pumps through me, and the woman holding the sword is launched backwards.
Her back slams into the wall, and the head of that giant centipede bursts out, snatching her and dragging her inside it as she screams in vain.
Gage’s eyes are on mine, and right behind him is Kai. They’ve made it past the boulder, and they’re just staring at me as others pass them by.
“If you idiots keep staring at me like I’m the centipede monster, you’re going to lose this life-and-death race, and then you’ll get your shot at seeing hell from the wrong side of things.”
Jude’s dark grin slowly grows, resembling the man I met on that first night before he was a total dick. I turn and start running ahead before I forget he threatened me later that night.
“You’re lucky I must be some type of giant bug repellent,” I call over my shoulder.
None of them say anything in response to that. Which they are a little busy dodging more of those blades that I just run right through.
“Right now, I wish we had her ability,” Jude growls as he slices through one of the blades just before it can take his head off.
By comparison his sword is tiny, but it has no trouble splitting the giant saw blade in half. He dives and rolls, putting his sword up and grabbing his two piece bo staff out like he’s about to fight something.
The rest of the people who aren’t them are lagging way behind, struggling with the reemergence of that giant bug from hell.
Again, that might be a literal reference.
I turn around just as Jude leaps into the air. A true giant beast—not exactly a man—with one eye and veiny skin is bringing his fist down.
Jude spins in the air, coming down with just one part of the bo staff, hitting the monster in the face so hard he flies backwards. Dirt scatters into the air, causing some of the fog to lift and make room.
Tingles spread over me as Ezekiel runs right through me, launching himself into the air and coming down with his sword. It slashes the cyclops’s chest, spilling blood everywhere, and then Jude shoves his hand into the fresh hole.
My mouth goes slack as the giant’s eye bulges, and his body turns to ash that Jude breaks through. He walks away like it’s a common occurrence.
They slice through about five more of those, and Jude keeps turning them to ash.
A shot of fire launches out, almost connecting with Kai’s head, and my hand flies up on instinct. The fire diverts, shooting backwards. I hear screams in the background and grimace, but I drop my hold on the fire the second Kai is out of the path.
The fire shoots through me, and I run out to see Kai’s jaw hard while he studies me.
“Feel free to start sharing some gratitude when I save your lives,” I grumble, passing through him and the wall behind him.
It’s all dirt and bugs and holey canals where creatures live, as I run through the wall they’ll have to go all the way around. Surely they can survive while I scout ahead.
Just as I burst through to the other side, my stomach sinks. I can’t see them at first, but I sense their dark presence. Things become more obvious as I stare at the walls, seeing the subtle differences in the rocks.
Ten men at least.
I turn and run back, catching the guys before they’re about to come around the corner.
“Stop!” I shout, and the four of them come to an abrupt halt.
It surprises me so much that they listen that I almost forget they’re waiting on me to tell them why I just screamed stop.
“At least ten men are waiting to ambush someone, likely the four of you because of that conspiracy stuff you were spilling on about.”
The horn to announce deaths blows four times, as though it wanted to make this moment more ominous.
“They blend in perfectly with the walls. There could be more that I didn’t see,” I go on.
“Chameleons,” Jude says to the other guys.
“There’s only one reason why upper level assassins would be in the gauntlet,” Ezekiel groans.
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