One of the other wolves, a bigger one, stopped beside him. Another, this time black. Another. They collected behind and around him, pushing back any enemy combatants who ran at our group.
For one solid beat, I stared into the striking hazel eyes of the boy whom I’d helped shape into a teen, and whom the Six would help shape into a man. He nodded solemnly, if a wolf can be said to look solemn, and joined the others. Snarling, they raced off toward the vicious battle on the sands, then slammed into the enemy warriors, tearing them to the ground.
“No! How did—”
“Let him go,” Henry shouted and urged me on. “His pack will protect him. The youngest wolves will be shepherded out should the worst happen. They protect their future generation.”
“They didn’t do a whole lot to protect him last time.” I would have run after him, but Donovan grabbed me with his magic and yanked me behind him.
“Trust,” I heard Henry say as he followed.
The fresh group of warriors met us, swords or magic held at the ready. I slashed, punched, and cut, making them stagger, but my impact was waning. Clearly the tales of yore were grossly exaggerated. My magic was crazy, but I was still human.
“Save your strength.” Donovan pointed, then fist pumped the air. “Yes!”
Henry gave a shout of glee. “They made it!”
A ball of fire punched a sudden hole through the fighting, throwing five black-clad people aside like dolls, and a petite woman with blond hair and a fearsome expression ran in the fireball’s wake. The ground rumbled beneath me as fear once again swallowed me whole.
Right behind the petite blonde, dressed in black spandex and heavy boots and carrying two knives, ran my ward. Daisy.
“Get out of here,” I screamed, running at her with abandon. I pulled a big surge of power from the Line, momentarily infusing my weakened body, and yanked a soul from a woman in red running at her with a glowing ball. I infused the soul with my desire, stuffed it back into the body, not bothering with a prong, and grabbed Daisy with a desperate grip. “Get out of here! There are too many of them!”
“Lexi, right?” the blonde woman said in an Australian accent. She said it casually, as if we weren’t in the middle of a raging battle. “I’m Dara, the ruler of magical Sydney. Great to meet ya. I’ve heard so much about you.” She smiled a flawless, white smile.
Something exploded on the ground—no, wait, exploded up from the ground—catching the fresh men who’d almost reached the steps. Rocks, it seemed, of all sizes, blasting up through flesh.
“I got your ward’s note, and I have to say, she’s very persuasive.” Dara smiled down at a fierce-eyed Daisy, who held her knives at her waist, her gaze constantly moving. “She reminds me a lot of me when I was her age.”
“But Kieran… Daisy? What?” I asked, out of breath and torn.
“Sorry, Lexi,” Daisy said, finally looking at me. “But we needed more people, and Zorn wouldn’t listen, so I contacted Sydney on my own. Mordie helped. I told him that we’d make sure Kieran won this, and we needed more people to make that happen.”
“We have to go,” Henry yelled in my ear. “Valens will be too much for Kieran!”
“Yup, you definitely need to head on.” Dara grabbed my arm and helped Henry hurry me along. Donovan caught a collection of darts in the air and hurtled them back the way they’d come. “We need Demigod Kieran to win this. Our whole way of life is on the line. Don’t worry—I’ll watch Daisy. She’s much too special to let anything happen to her. And non-magical! Amazing. Go on—you’ve already cleared the way for us. We’ll just tie everything up.”
Air blasted the warriors who’d survived the rock attack, throwing them over the barrier and onto the sand below. Ten people ran out from around Dara, on the chase. Another group peeled away from behind her, taking off after the lingering clusters of Valens’s people farther back in the parking lot.
“Good to have you,” Donovan said to Dara, wrapping me up in his magic and dragging me behind him.
“I couldn’t miss an opportunity to fight beside a Soul Stealer, now could I?” Dara shouted at our retreating backs. “I want to be in the history books with you!”
“That little gremlin saved the fucking day,” Henry said, running beside me as I bobbed along. “She has balls of steel and a way with words. I have no idea how she did it when not even Demigod Kieran could, but she saved our fucking asses.”
“No shit, right?” Donovan stopped at a sign post that showed a dog on a leash. He bent and half of his body disappeared into what must’ve been a hideaway concealed by Boman or Zorn. I hit the ground and staggered away, not ready for his magical hold to drop, and four small wooden boats lifted into sight. “She’s a keeper, that’s for sure.”
We took off running back to the beach, the boats floating behind us. Once we were on the sand, a yelp tore my heart anew. I looked frantically for some sign of Mordecai. The wolves attacked with teeth and claws, taking down two to their one. Mordecai fought between two of his kind, both larger than he, but neither of his companions displayed the sheer fearlessness that came with an enhanced ability to tolerate incredible pain.
Arms wrapped around me and I found myself slung across Henry’s wide shoulders.
“He’ll be fine,” Henry said as we ran. “You took down the people who wanted him dead. The people who were dragging that pack down. They’re here for you, because of what you did, and they’ll protect him as one of their own.”
My chest throbbed at the thought of leaving the kids behind in the middle of a battle.
“You raised survivors,” Donovan said as we raced toward the water. “When things go sideways, always put your faith in a survivor.”
Zorn and Boman waited for us amidst a pile of bodies. Zorn cleaned a large, curved sword on the shirt of one of the downed men before sheathing it in an invisible scabbard on his back. The sword disappeared with it.
“What took you so long?” He grabbed one of the boats and pulled it closer. “Valens has the upper hand in both magic and experience. Kieran is running out of time.”
“Dara showed.” Donovan jumped into one of the boats.
A small smile pulled at Zorn’s lips as he lifted me into one of the boats and jumped in after me. The rest of them each boarded a boat.
“You owe me a hundred dollars,” Zorn said. “Now let’s go. We don’t have time to lose.”
“Wait a second,” I said, clutching the sides of the flimsy boat. There weren’t even oars. “Are they magical or something?”
“No, but we are,” Donovan called out and the boats rose off the ground.
Just beyond the waves, huge tentacles rose out of the water. They waved in the air until Donovan set us down. Four of the tentacles disappeared and suddenly we were moving, racing across the water.
“What’s the plan?” I yelled over the rush of air. “How can we help—”
A stab of pain bled through the soul connection, and then the connection itself dimmed. Kieran was in serious trouble.
“Any way possible,” Zorn shouted over the wind.
I could barely breathe, staring at the limitless ocean in front of us.
Would we even be in time to help?
“Oh shit,” I thought I heard before Zorn’s words were ripped away by the wind and a roar I couldn’t identify.
The boat slowed and slowly started to spin. I blinked tears out of my eyes, the result of hard, cold wind pounding into my face for twenty minutes, and leaned around Zorn. My mouth dropped open.
An enormous whirlpool, nearly a half mile in diameter, spun around a large central point. Way in the distance, a creature jumped out of the water, the shape resembling a mermaid. She landed farther away than she’d started, trying to get away from the funnel. She wouldn’t be able to get in there and help Kieran.
“Valens is blocking everyone away.” Donovan’s boat rose up into the air and drifted closer to us. He hovered for a moment before the large tentacle took hold of the bottom of his craft and lowered him back down. “He knows he’s stronger than Kieran one on one.”
Pain drummed up through my middle. My connection to Kieran lessened a little more. We’d taken too long on the beach. He was drifting away. I had to do something—anything—or I knew without a doubt that he would die.
Steeling my courage, I pointed to the gigantic, terrifying pit of water. “Okay.” I took a deep breath. “What’s on the bottom of that funnel? Ocean floor, right?”
The guys exchanged looks and shrugged. Clearly no one had been at the bottom of an enormous sea tornado before.
My fingers gripped the edges of the tiny boat, my knuckles turning white as my mind conjured a mad plan. “That’s usually how it works, though, right? The funnel goes to the bottom? And what’s on the bottom? Rocks ’n’ shit, right?”
“You’re not thinking—”
“You’re not jumping in there,” Henry said over Boman. “That’s suicide.”