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“Even if we beat them to land, they’re going to be right on our asses!” Collette shouted over the wind.

The engine sputtered. She’d practically forgotten how low they were on fuel. She looked up at the winter man. His icy blue eyes met hers and she saw the determination there, the utter sureness, and she wondered what that meant.

Another gunshot echoed across the water.

“Whatever you have planned—” Collette started.

She never finished the sentence.

Frost flowed toward her, half solid and half storm. He gripped her wrist in that icy touch and the world seemed to ripple in front of the boat, the air turning silvery and opaque. Collette felt herself break through the Veil and then the wind and the human world released her. The boat disappeared from beneath her feet. Side by side, she and Frost plunged into the warm ocean.

She kicked to the surface, sodden clothes clinging, trying to drag her down. Spitting salt water, she wiped her eyes and looked around. They were only fifty or sixty feet from shore.

No boats chasing them. No gunshots.

Several fishing boats drifted further out, but these were sailing ships with an antique flair. The spit of land had vanished. The harbor village as well. The landscape of the coast had changed entirely.

“Where are we?” Collette asked as she struck out for shore.

Frost seemed to float in the water without any effort. What he did could not rightly be called swimming. He appeared to glide just underwater, only his head above the surface. “Through the Veil.”

“I know that much. I mean where. Geography is all different in this world, I gather. But I know there’s a loose correlation, right? So we’re still in Yucatazca?”

Frost stood up. Collette put her feet down but could not touch the bottom; not much of a surprise, considering her height. She swam a few more feet and tried again, and in moments they were both slogging toward the rocky shore.

“This place is called the Isthmus of the Conquistadors,” the winter man said. His jagged body glistened as water ran off of him. “It connects the Two Kingdoms. Whatever troops are coming from the south, they have to take this route.”

Collette had been trying to squeeze water out of her shirt, twisting up the bottom to wring the cloth. She dropped it and stared at him.

“So what now? Do we go north a ways and then cross back over?”

Frost shook his head, mist leaking from his eyes again. “The distance on that side of the Veil is too great. We must stay here and make our way as best we can.”

She pushed her fingers through her hair, shedding water. As unwelcome as the news might be, she would not argue. What would be the point? They were behind enemy lines and she didn’t want to stay here a moment longer than was necessary.

“You’re saying there might be troops coming up behind us—”

“Infantry and cavalry,” Frost interrupted. “When the invasion force from Atlantis comes, it will be by sea. But it will be on the eastern side of the Isthmus, so we’d do well to stay here on the western shore.”

Collette took a deep breath, gnawing on her lower lip.

“It sounds impossible.”

“Nothing is impossible.”

“And if we run into the Yucatazcan army from behind? Hell, when we run into them—because eventually we’ll hit the battlefront—I’m guessing you have a plan?”

Nothing about Frost could be construed to look human. She had been trying to remind herself that she wasn’t supposed to like him—he had deceived Oliver, and left her to die, once upon a time. Yet in that moment, his eyes betrayed a vulnerable humanity and a dark humor.

“The word ‘plan’ might be overstating.”

Collette stared at him in horror, and then she laughed, shaking her head. “You’re not exactly reassuring me.”

All trace of humor left him. His expression became grim once more. “We’ll go north as swiftly as we can. If we encounter enemy troops, I will get you past them. And when we catch up with this hideous war, I will carry you over the battle lines and see you safely into the company of friends. You have my word.”

Not even a flicker of a smile remained on Collette’s face.

“I’ll hold you to it.”


Even gods needed to rest.

Kitsune walked along the bank of the Atlantic River in the dark, the moonlight glittering on the rushing water, and felt the tug of its flow. She wanted to hurry on to their destination the way the river did. A knot of anxiety had wound into her gut, and it tightened with every moment they spent camped on the eastern bank.

Bellona had insisted they make camp. The war goddess did not seem to imply that they were tired, so much as that a pause in their march to battle was the natural way of things. They stopped to rest because armies were expected to do such things. It maddened Kitsune, especially since she herself trembled with exhaustion, and yet her mind would not let her rest.

Guilt burned like poison in her blood, and emotions warred within her. She felt shamed by her jealousy and by her behavior with Oliver, even as she hated him for the way he had looked at her and touched her hand, his gentleness and the lust she had seen in his eyes. But had she really given him any choice? Kitsune had played the temptress, had nurtured his lust quite purposefully, even as she pretended innocence. She had hungered for him and so tried to lure him into betraying Julianna.

Kitsune had fallen in love with him.

Yet, though tempted, Oliver had never succumbed. He had wanted her—there could be no doubt about that. But he did not love her, and never could. His heart belonged to Julianna. Confronted with that truth, Kitsune had turned bitter, and her trickster nature had emerged. Had she stayed and fought Ty’Lis with them, she would only have been captured herself. But that would have been better than striking Julianna and fleeing for her life. Better than seeing the pain in Oliver’s eyes.

Now she would reclaim her own self, her pride and passion. War raged, and she had called the gods themselves out from the heart of Euphrasia to aid King Hunyadi. Oliver might be in a dungeon in Palenque, but if she helped to turn the tide of the war, one day soon he would be free. He and Julianna.

They could find happiness.

It tasted sour in Kitsune’s mouth, but she knew their happiness would be the only way she could forget the way she had betrayed them. The war must be fought, the Atlanteans crushed for their deceit and their slaughter of the Borderkind, and Kitsune would do whatever she could to see it happen. She fought for her kin. But if she died, it would be as much for Oliver as it would be for herself.

She’d had enough of hibernating, and enough of guilt.

“Damn you all,” she whispered through sharp teeth, turning to look back at the camp the gods had made. “Let’s just get on with it.”

But they would not. The gods moved in their own time. Perhaps it would have been better had she and Coyote not attempted to recruit them.

A chill went through her, a hint of a long winter to come, though still distant. Kitsune raised her copper-red hood and pulled the cloak of her fur close around her. Immediately, she felt better. More herself. More clever. The fox had none of the heartache of the woman in her; at least, that was what she told herself. But even so, she could not separate the two.

A rumble came from the camp. She glanced over to see dark silhouettes by the fire. Fully a dozen of the old gods of Rome and Greece had joined her, and they were formidable. But they were still shadows of themselves. Once, these few would have turned the tide of the war simply by arriving upon the battlefield. Now they looked to combat as resurrection, a way to make themselves feel young and powerful again.

Notus, the south wind, drifted lazily around the camp. Mercury had gone ahead to scout, unable to stand still. If Kitsune had his speed, she would not be able to control herself—she would have left them all behind long ago and raced to join King Hunyadi on the field of battle. Salacia, Hesperos, and Bellona clung together, like lovers, and she suspected that might be the case. Ares, the Greek god of war, clearly lusted after Bellona despite the nearly incestuous nature of such a coupling. Dark and brooding, old and grim, Ares never spoke except of killing. Kitsune worried that he might not care very much about who or what he was killing, as long as he could make war and spill blood.

Coyote kept mostly apart from the old gods, save for Cronus. The Titan had risen from beneath ruins in the Latin Quarter, destroying what remained of those buildings. Though a lumbering, mad giant, Cronus nevertheless was excellent company. He spoke in a low murmur, gazing into nothingness, rattling off stories about the days before days and the glory of the creation of Olympus. From time to time he spoke to gods and Titans who were not present, as though reliving scenes from his ancient life. He had come along because Ares had summoned him, as though he was some kind of attack dog, and Kitsune wondered what would become of Cronus when they joined the war.

A smile touched Kitsune’s lips—rare, these days. The gods had descended from Titans and they from beings born out of chaos. Perhaps by bringing these faded things to war, chaos would be the result. What a gift to Hunyadi that would be.

Then again, what were she and Coyote but tricksters? It might be that chaos was all that they could ever give to anyone.

Kitsune turned her back on the camp and continued along the river, breathing in the cool night and letting the sound of the Atlantic carry her where her legs, at the moment, could not. It brought her a little peace, and she could ask for nothing else—deserved nothing else.

“Evening, cousin.”

She paused and glanced around to find Coyote behind her. Kitsune could not be surprised that he had caught up to her so quickly, and without her hearing a step. It was their nature.

“Lost in your head again, I see,” he said.

Kitsune nodded. “I cannot seem to escape the predators in there. They wait for me every time I close my eyes.”

Coyote sighed and shook his head. His eyes were mischievous as always, but strangely gentle. “It isn’t healthy for our kind to think so deeply. Caprice is our great fault and our great salvation.”

“Trickster-philosopher, that’s a new one.”

“One of us has to practice a bit of awareness. Usually, I’d rely on you. But you’re not yourself.”

Kitsune couldn’t argue with that.

“How strange to have come to this moment,” she said. “Once, I despised you as the most devious, most cowardly, and least honorable of our kin.”

Coyote executed a courtly bow, half mockery and half sincerity. “And in those times, I worked hard to earn your scorn. But you and Blue Jay put aside caprice and whimsy to focus on the threat to all of us, and though it frightened me, I could no longer deny the truth.”

“Which is?”

“If I let the world die around me, I would be alone.”

A silence fell between them, full of understanding and sudden longing. Coyote wore his lopsided grin, but for once she did not think it foolish.

Then his eyes widened. His nostrils flared and he snarled, gaze locked on something just beyond Kitsune. Coyote bared fangs, ears pricking up, transforming even as he leaped past her.

Kitsune spun.

The Sandman stood on the riverbank, an arm’s length away. Terrible lemon eyes glowed sickly in the dark and the moonlight. His gray-black cloak seemed to swallow the night. The sound of shifting sand filled the air and she saw the way the grit of his substance undulated beneath his cloak. And then he flowed toward her, long, dreadful fingers reaching for her, jaws opening, tongue rasping across his teeth.

Coyote flew toward him, meaning to drive him away.

A hand darted up. The Sandman gripped his throat and Coyote lashed out with his paws, clawing the monster, digging furrows in him.

The Sandman pulled Coyote to him, long, rough tongue poking out, and sucked one of Coyote’s eyes into his mouth.

Coyote’s tortured scream echoed along the riverbank. The monster tossed him away like garbage and turned on Kitsune. His soft, insinuating laughter crept under the fox-woman’s skin, and she felt despair take hold of her heart.

“You turned my brother against me,” the Sandman whispered. “You and Bascombe. I have hunted you, trickster-bitch. Now you die. You, and then Bascombe. And I’ll bring him your eyes so that he knows that you are gone, and that you died screaming.”

Kitsune shook her head, terror shuddering through her. “I saw you die.”

“Destroyed. Not dead,” he rasped. “I cannot die. Not as long as children fight when sleep comes to take them.”

He extended a single, knife-thin finger. “Come. Your eyes are the loveliest green. I hunger for them.”

Coyote struggled to rise, laid back his head, and howled to the moon and to the gods. Kitsune heard shouts from the camp and the ground shook as Cronus began to move. But they would be too late. If she pulled her fur around her and became a fox, the Sandman would catch her easily. As a woman, she could fight for a few moments. They would be all that remained of her life.

I’m sorry, she thought, but couldn’t have said who the apology was meant for. Sand skittered toward her along the ground and then began to rise in a dancing breeze around her, scouring the exposed skin of her hands, face, and throat. She could feel it in the fur of her cloak. And she understood. He would strip the flesh from her bones.

First, though, the eyes.

Kitsune showed her tiny pointed teeth in a snarl. She hooked her fingers into claws.

“Take them,” she dared him.

The Sandman came toward her. She tried to fight him, tore at his body and his cloak, dragged fingers through his sand-flesh, reached for his eyes, but he batted her arms away. His knife-fingers tore her hood back and twisted in her long curtain of hair, and Kitsune screamed.

She hated herself for it, but she screamed.

Halliwell hid deep inside the Sandman. He had a tactile awareness of a body he no longer possessed. Still the sand seemed to flow over and around him. Nearby he could sense the presence of the Dustman, cold and angry and grim. When he had first learned he had become trapped behind the Veil—that he would never see his Sara again—he had felt like Alice down the rabbit hole. But this was far, far worse. This was a churning, rasping Hell.