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“Is it?” Zorn asked.

Henry lifted his open palm to face me. “He’d kill us if she died, Zorn, think it through. We should send Jack in. He’s got the best shot of any of us.”

“Valens will cut Jack down without a thought,” Boman said.

“He’ll cut Alexis down without a thought,” Henry retorted.

“No, he won’t,” I heard myself say, dread filling me. I ignored it. “Valens has seen what I can do. He stopped fighting with Kieran to watch. He won’t kill me—he’ll want to capture me. That gives me time and security, at least in the short term.”

I shook my head, and this time, it wasn’t the wind causing my tears. I’d been scared a lot today, but never like this. This terror settled deep into my bones, freezing me from the inside out.

I heard my mother’s voice. Fear is but a speed bump on the road to greatness.

“Let it take you,” Zorn said urgently, leaning toward me. “Let the water take you. Don’t resist it. You’ll be able to see in it now. You’ll be able to hear in it, too, like marine life does. But you still have to hold your breath. You should have…an hour, an hour and a half tops.”

“This is madness,” Henry yelled. “The waters will rip her apart.”

“They don’t rip, they pull.” Zorn’s eyes didn’t leave mine. “You should feel a little rejuvenation. You’re connected to him pretty tightly, so hopefully more than a little. That’ll help. Wait until you get close. Work with Kieran. Between the two of you, you can bring Valens down. It was never supposed to be just him. It was always supposed to be the two of you. There can be no other explanation for how you found each other at the perfect time. You can save him, Alexis. I believe that. With you, we can win this.”

I nodded with each point he beat into me. I held on to each word for dear life.

“It was always meant to be the two of you,” he reiterated.

I nodded again and looked away from the whirlpool, out over the amazingly tranquil waters. The guys argued around me—Henry and Donovan yelling and Boman peppering the conversation with swear words.

Without a word, I stood, took a deep breath, and let myself fall.

Immediately, the cold water of the ocean sucked me under. I closed my eyes, scared I would swim wildly to get back if I could see the boats. The Six. A feeling like hot tub bubbles drifted by my left side.

If I get bit by a shark before I do my part, I’m going to be so pissed.

Finally, I opened my eyes…into the deep blue of nothingness. Little fragments drifted around me, and some kelp, but other than that I was alone and adrift, hoping to hell the current would take me close to Kieran before I ran out of breath.

I closed my eyes again, wondering if I should swim. And then, just for kicks, and because I didn’t have much else to do, I went into a trance. A deep trance. As I drifted down in the ocean, and I did the same within my own consciousness, wondering if the jerk in that other plane had any words of wisdom for my extremely stupid and half-baked plan.

Spirit swirled around me and a blurred form moved through it, shoving me. I smacked into my body and almost gasped.

Apparently the jerk did not want to be disturbed.

I continued to drift. And drift.

Don’t fight it.

And drift.

A shock of pain nearly made me gasp again. The soul connection bled away even more, almost gone.

My heart sped up. Adrenaline dumped into my body.

I’d had to fight all my life, why would this situation be any different?

I oriented myself with the pull of the current and swam, cutting through the water like an Olympic swimmer. Strength coursed through my limbs. The harder I worked, the more it increased my energy. Zorn clearly hadn’t known what he was talking about, and I was glad I never followed directions for too long.

The current pulled harder as I swam.

Now we were getting somewhere.

Another few strokes and a sea creature came into focus. It reached me, and thank heavens, it kept on going. With four heads and a beastly though serpentine body, I did not want to mess with that thing.

I swam farther, registering the dizzying effects of the whirlpool. That was good. It meant I was getting closer.

A hairy little sprite drifted toward me, swimming merrily, without a care in the world. I wanted to ask it if it was lost. It shot me a curious look as it passed by, and on impulse, I reached out and grabbed its foot. It thrashed, increasing my forward momentum.

Water streamed past my face as we rocketed around the funnel. I yanked the sprite, pointing him toward the center of the whirlpool. He cut through at an angle, unhappily dragging me behind him, so much faster than I could’ve swam.

Water sucked at us, turbulent now. The sprite finally realized what sort of mess he’d gotten himself into, and tried to turn in the other direction. A creature zipped by behind us, and another was pulled along over our heads. Currents dragged us, pulling us closer. We were near the vortex.

I yanked on the sprite and pointed in the direction I needed to go. It kicked at me, trying to get me off. I’d have to steal its soul to get it to help.

I paused for a moment…and let go of its foot.

It was an innocent. It wasn’t right to kill it.

Pain ached through my middle, and the feeling of Kieran drifted away until I could barely feel him at all. I swam for all I was worth, fighting to get closer to that ripping and tearing water at the edge of the funnel. It was just there, right up ahead.

A strange high-pitched noise from the right grabbed my focus, and I turned just in time to see a huge gaping mouth with long, spindly teeth headed my way.

I screamed into the water and slashed out with my magic. The creature jerked and made that high-pitched sound again, but it kept on coming, slithering like a snake. When it tried to pull around me to attack from another angle, I caught sight of the rest of it. It looked like some sort of dragon from the blue lagoon, with sad excuses for wings, a dragon head, and a long shiny body.

It roared, a dismal sound compared to its land equivalent, and flowed forward to chomp on me. A spear cut through the water, zipping in front of me and skimming the beast. It recoiled and I magically dug through its chest, feeling for its spirit box. It roared again and rushed me, but I had it. I ripped out its spirit, held it for a moment, and stuffed it back in.

Another spear sliced through the water. A merman down the way with long red hair and a mustache fought the pull of the water, trying to get closer to the dragon-thing.

I waved my arms at him, trying to tell him to stop, and pushed my will on the dragon’s soul. It jerked in confusion, but it had no choice but to obey. The merman threw another spear, retrieved from a pack on his back, and this time his aim was right. It skewered the dragon-thing’s middle.

I didn’t need a living body to work my magic. Thank you, Bria, for your excellent training.

I grabbed the thing’s slimy tail, securing my hand against its fins, and held on as it moved into that funnel. Another spear poked through it, and I punched the merman’s spirit box. He was probably on my side, but I didn’t need him to accidentally stick a spear in my back.

The water churned, aerated as it slid against my skin. Messy white water announced the edge of the funnel. My energy still wasn’t top notch, but the water had greatly replenished it. It was good enough to get the job done.

Summoning my courage, I urged the dragon-thing faster and closer, keeping us right next to that funnel, and then stuck my head through the side into blessed air.

Down about fifty feet, Valens and Kieran fought atop a surface of calm water, so flat it looked like glass. Their limbs moved at inhuman speeds, though Kieran was noticeably slower and clumsier. Blood smeared his chin and wet his clothes. He’d taken a lot of hits.

Valens whipped a pronged staff around and, as I watched in horror, stabbed it through Kieran’s middle. Pain ached through the soul connection and Kieran sagged. His presence inside of me winked out, too dim to feel.

“What a fool, thinking you could best me.” Valens ripped out the pronged staff and Kieran bent forward, panting. He put his hand to the glassy bottom, struggling to stay up. “I created you, in all senses of the word. Without me, you’d be nothing.” He hefted the staff. “And because of me, you’ll be no more. Say hello to your bitch mother.”

Kieran struggled to get up as Valens took a step toward him, and I slashed out with everything I had, ripping through Valens’s middle. He grunted and staggered backward, hitting the edge of the whirlpool. Water sprayed around him. Kieran didn’t even look up.

“Hey dickface, up here,” I yelled, pulling power from the Line and readying for another attack. I already knew he’d be too strong for me to best. Felling a Demigod was beyond my capabilities, something I knew from practicing with Kieran. But if I could just give him time to heal… “I got a little something for ya.”

I wrapped spirit around his spirit box and gave it a good shake before trying to seep in.

A blast of power hit me that was so mighty it shoved me back into the water. Various sea creatures, including the spear-throwing merman, who apparently didn’t hold a grudge, treaded water in a semi-circle around me, facing away. Guarding me. They were clearly Kieran’s people, and had obviously figured out I was trying to help. Good news.


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