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Huntress (Chapter 18)

Jez heard herself scream, but only faintly.

There was a roaring in her ears as if the BART train was coming at her again. And a pain that engulfed

her whole body, sending agonized spasms through her limbs. It centered in her chest, though, where

something white-hot was lodged inside her, crushing her lung and dislodging her internal organs and

burning right beside her heart.

She'd been staked.

What she had done so often to others had been done to her.

She hadn't realized anything could hurt like this. She was glad none of her victims had lived long to keep

suffering.

The wood of the stake was poisoning her heart, she knew. Even if it were removed, she would die.

No vampire could survive contact between living wood and its undead heart.

Still, she would live for a little while-in unimaginable agony as the poison ate through her.

A voice was screaming in her mind. Jez-JezJezJez… Over and over, incoherently.

Morgead, she thought. And she hoped he wasn't feeling any of what she was feeling through the silver

cord that connected them.

Hugh and Claire were sobbing. Jez wished they wouldn't. They had to stay calm; to think of a way to

save themselves.

Because she couldn't help them anymore.

Over the sobbing she heard a shrill and angry voice. Lily.

"What is wrong with you?" Lily was saying. "Don't you see what's happening to her? Don't you want to save her?"

Through the red haze that filled Jez's vision, she felt dim approval. They were doing what she'd told

them. Whichever of them was the Wild Power was suppressing it

Good. That was what mattered. Although she couldn't really remember why any longer….

Suddenly a face broke through the red haze. It was Lily, bending over her.

"Don't you understand?" Lily yelled. "You can stop this right now. Ill have him kill you cleanly-all the pain

will be over. All you have to do is tell me who it is."

Jez smiled at her faintly. She couldn't breathe to answer, and she didn't want to try.

Would you believe that I don't know? she thought. No, I don't think you would. …

The pain was getting less by itself. It was as if Jez was moving farther and farther away from it.

"How can you be so stupid?" Lily was screaming. Her face was twisted, and to Jez's vision, floating in a

scarlet mist. She looked like a monster. Then she turned and seemed to be screaming at someone else.

"All right. Get the other vampire down here, too. Morgead." She was looking at Jez again. "We'll just

have to stake your friends one after another until the Wild Power decides to reveal itself."

No. No…

Suddenly everything was much clearer around Jez. She could see the room again, and she could feel her

own body. There was still the roaring in her ears, but she could hear Claire's sobs over it.

No. Lily couldn't mean it. This couldn't be happening….

But it was. They were shoving Morgead down on the floor beside her, and Claire and Hugh beyond

him. The thugs with spears were getting into position.

No. No. This can't happen.

Jez wanted to scream at them, to tell the Wild Power to do something, because everything was lost now

anyway. But she didn't have air to scream. And she felt so adrift and confused anyway…. Her universe

had become disjointed. Her thoughts seemed to be unraveling at all once, past memories combining with

flashing sensory impressions from the present, and with strange new ideas….

If it was involuntary, why didn't the Wild Power work magic more often? Unless there was some other

requirement….

I can't let this happen.

The dampness of blood spreading around her heart. …

Claire's nails digging into her arms.

"When there's no physical way to escape …"

Power in the blood.

Claire on the floor there. Screaming and screaming…

Something building inside her, hotter than the stake.

Morgead beside her whispering, "Jez, I love you."

Pierce with the stake over him. Morgead looking up unafraid….

Hotter than the heart of a star.

Hugh in the distance saying almost quietly, "Goddess of Life, receive us; guide us to the other world. . .

."

Hotter than the sun and colder and bluer than the moon, like fire that burned and froze and crackled like

lightning all at once. Something that filled her with an energy that was past rage and past love and past all

controlling and that she recognized in her soul even though she'd never consciously felt it before. It was

swelling Jez to bursting, a pure and terrible flame that was never meant to be unleashed like this….

"Do it!" Lily shouted.

And Jez let it free.

It came roaring out from her in a silent explosion. Blue fire that streamed from her body and blasted in all

directions, but especially up. It came out and out and out, engulfing everything, flowing from her in a

never ending torrent. Like a solar flare that didn't stop.

It was all she could see. Blue flames, streaked with blue-white lightning that crackled almost soundlessly.

Just like the fire that had cocooned her on the BART tracks.

Except that now she could tell where it was coming from, even if she couldn't direct it. She knew how to

let it out, now, but once out it did what it wanted.

And it wasn't meant to be used this way. That was the only thing she knew clearly about it. She'd been

letting it slip out when she was desperately upset-when she was worried for someone's life, and she knew

that she couldn't do anything else to save them. That was forgivable, because it had been unconscious.

This wasn't. She was probably violating some law of the universe or something. The blue fire was only

meant to be used in the last battle, when the darkness came and the Four were called to stand against it.

I suppose that means I should try to stop now, Jez thought.

She wasn't sure how to do it. She guessed that she needed to call it back, somehow, to draw it down

into her body again.

Maybe if I sort of tug….

She did-something. A gathering-up with her mind. It was harder than letting the fire go had been, but it

worked. She could feel it returning, flooding back inside her, as if she were sucking it in. …

And then it was gone, and Jez could see the world again. Could see what it had done.

The house had disappeared.

Or most of it, anyway. There was about a foot and a half of ragged wall left all around, with charred

insulation spilling out. Blue energy like electricity ran along the edges here and there, fizzing.

Other than that, no house. Not even chunks of wreckage lying around. There were fine bits of debris

floating down, making the sunlight hazy, but that was all.

It got… vaporized, Jez thought, searching for the right word.

No Lily. No Azarius. No Pierce. And none of the ugly thugs.

Goddess, Jez thought. I didn't mean to do that. I only wanted to stop them from hurting Morgead and

Claire and Hugh. …

What about them? she thought in a sudden panic. She turned her head, painfully.

They were there. And alive. They were even stirring. The cords they'd been tied with were lying on the

carpet, sizzling with that same blue energy.

It's so weird to have a carpet without a house to go with it, Jez thought fuzzily.

She was going away again. And that was too bad, but at least it didn't hurt anymore. The pain was gone

completely, replaced by a warm and sleepy feeling-and the sensation of gently floating outward.

Her eyelids felt heavy.

"Jez? Jez!"

It was a husky whisper. Jez opened her eyes to see Morgead's face.

He was crying. Oh, dear, that was bad. Jez hadn't seen him cry since… when was it? Sometime when

they'd been little kids….

Jez, can you hear me? Now he was talking in her mind.

Jez blinked again, and tried to think of something comforting to say to him.

"I feel warm," she whispered.

"No, you don't!" He said it almost in a growl. Then he looked behind him, and Jez saw Hugh and Claire

crawling up. They were all shining with golden light.

"You're so pretty," she told them. "Like angels."

"This isn't the time for your weird humor!" Morgead shouted.

"Stop it! Don't yell at her!" That was Claire. Claire was crying, too, lovely tears that shone as they fell.

She reached out and took Jez's hand, and that was nice, although Jez couldn't exactly feel it. She could

see it.

"She's going to be all right," Morgead was snarling. "She's lost blood, but she'll be okay."

Someone was stroking Jez's hair off her face. She felt that; it was pleasant. She frowned slowly at

Morgead, because there was something important to tell him, and talking was difficult.

"Tell Hugh…" she whispered.

"Tell Hugh your freaking self! He's right here! And you're not going anywhere."

Jez blinked with the difficulty changing focus. Yes, there was Hugh. He was the one stroking her hair.

"Hugh… the prophecy. I figured out what the two eyes watching were. They're the sun and the

moon-get it? Two eyes… for somebody who belongs to both worlds."

"The Day World and the Night World," Hugh said softly. "You got it, Jez. That was so smart."

"And blood," Jez whispered. '"Power in the blood'-that's why I couldn't do it anytime I wanted. Blood

has to flow before you can let out the power. The first two times Claire was scratching me. And this time

. . ." Her voice died off, but it wasn't important. Everybody could see the blood this time, she knew.

Hugh's voice was thick. "That was smart, too, Jez. You figured it out. And you saved us. You did

everything just right."

"No… because there's only going to be three Wild Powers now…."

"No, there aren't," Morgead raged. "Listen to me, Jez. There's no reason for you to die-"

Jez couldn't manage a smile anymore, or a sentence. But she whispered gently, "Wood… poison."

"No, it isn't! Not to humans. And you're half human, Jez. You're vampire enough to survive something

that would kill a human, but you're human enough not to be poisoned by wood."

Jez knew better. She couldn't see much anymore. Only Morgead, and he was getting indistinct. It wasn't

that the world was dimming, though-it was getting brighter. Everything was golden and shining.

Four less one and darkness triumphs, Jez thought I'm so sorry about that. I hope they can manage it

somehow. It would be so sad for everything human to be lost. There's so much good in the world, and so

much to love….

She couldn't even see Morgead now. Only gold. But she could hear. She could hear Claire whispering

to her in a voice broken by tears, and feel wetness dropping on her face.

"I love you, Jez. You're the best cousin anybody could ever have."

And Hugh. He was crying, too. "Jez, I'm so proud to be your friend…."

And then, through the mist and the gold and the warmth and peace, came a voice that wasn't gentle at

all. That was roaring in sheer outrage and fury.

"DONT YOU DARE DIE ON ME, JEZEBEL! DON'T YOU DARE! Or I'll follow you to the next

world and KILL you."

Suddenly, in the pretty gold mist, she could see something else. The only thing in the universe that wasn't

golden.

It was a silver cord.

"You come back and you do it right now," Morgead bellowed in her ears and in her mind. "Right now!

Do you hear me?"

The peace was shattered. Nothing seemed quite so warm and wonderful anymore, and she knew that

once Morgead got into one of his Excited States, he wouldn't stop yelling until he got what he wanted.

And there was the cord right in front of her. It was strong, and she could feel that the other end was

somewhere in. Morgead's heart, and that he was trying to drag her back to him.

All right. Maybe if I just grab on….

Somehow, she was holding on to it, and bit by bit, pulling herself back. And then the golden light was

fading and she was inside a body that hurt and Morgead was holding her and kissing her and crying all at

the same time.

Claire's voice came from beyond him. "She's breathing again! She's breathing!"

"I love you, you stupid human," Morgead gasped against Jez's cheek. "I can't live without you. Don't you

know that?"

Jez whispered, "I told you never to call me Jezebel."

Then she fainted.

"Time for a nice bath," the nurse said. "And then we can have a visitor."

Jez eyed her narrowly. The woman was kind, but she had some mania for sponge baths, and she was

always putting strange-smelling ingredients in the water. Which was actually not that surprising since she

was a witch.

"Skip the bath," Jez said. "Let the visitor in."

"Now, now," the witch said, shaking a finger and advancing with the sponge.

Jez sighed. Being a Wild Power in a Circle Daybreak sanctuary meant that she could have pretty much

anything she wanted-except that everyone was still treating her like a little kid. Especially the nurses, who

spoiled her and flattered her, but talked to her as if she were about three.

Still, she was glad to let the Circle take care of some things. Keeping her relatives safe, for instance.

Although she was almost fully recovered, thanks to a strong constitution and a lot of healing spells from

the witches, she wasn't up to that yet. Uncle Bracken and the entire Goddard family needed constant

protection, since Hunter Redfern and the Night World Council were all undoubtedly after them by now.

The Circle had imported some experts from back East to take care of it. A rival vampire hunter, of all

things, named Rashel something. Plus her soulmate, a vampire-turned-Daybreaker called Quinn.

At least they were competent. They'd gotten Jez's uncle Bracken, as well as the remnants of the gang out

of San Francisco, a city that was going to be bad for their health for a while. Morgead was trying to get

the gang to join Circle Daybreak for their

own good, and he said that Raven, at least, was showing some interest. Val and Thistle were being

stubborn, but that was hardly surprising. What was important was that they were alive.

Pierce, on the other hand, was simply gone. No one had seen a trace of him or Lily or any of her people

since Jez blasted them. Apparently they had truly been vaporized, and Jez couldn't bring herself to feel

too badly.

"All done!" the nurse said brightly, straightening Jez's pajama top. Which was just as well because at that

moment a black head came poking in the door.

"What is going on in here? You getting ready to go to the opera or something?"

Jez raised her eyebrows at Morgead. "Maybe. Are you telling me I can't?"

He snorted and came in as the nurse went out "I wouldn't dare tell you that. You're the princess, right?

You can have anything.''

"Right," Jez said, with huge satisfaction. "So how*re Hugh and Claire?"

"Claire's fine; she fits right in with the witches here. I think she's trying to get them to put up a Web page.

And Hugh's just his same stupid self. He's off saving chipmunks from toxic waste or something."

"And how about the kid?"

"The kid," Morgead said, "is living it up. The Day-breakers are crazy about her; something about one of

the oldest Old Souls ever found:-I dunno. Anyway,

they're trying to talk her mom into letting her live here. She says thanks for saving her life and she's

drawing you a picture."

Jez nodded, pleased. It would be nice if Iona came to live at the sanctuary; it meant Jez could see her a

lot. Not that Jez planned to live here all the time herself-she and Morgead needed their freedom. They

couldn't be penned in; they had to be able to come and go. She just hadn't gotten around to telling the

Daybreakers that yet.

With the people she loved taken care of, she could turn her attention to other matters. "Is that

chocolate?"

"It's the only reason you like to see me, isn't it?" Morgead said, allowing her to take the box. He sat

beside her, looking tragic.

"Nah," Jez said with her mouth full. She swallowed. "Everybody brings 'em." Then she grinned. "I like to

see you for a different reason."

He grinned wickedly back. "I can't think what that could be."

"Hmm… you're right… maybe there is no other reason."

"Watch it, Jezebel," he growled and leaned forward menacingly.

"Don't call me that, idiot."

"You're the idiot, idiot."

"And you're-" But Jez never got to finish, because he stopped her mouth with a kiss.

And then his arms were around her-so gently- and the silver cord was humming and everything was

warm and there were only the two of them in the world.

One from the land of kings long forgotten; One from the hearth which still holds the spark; One from the

Day World where two eyes are watching; One from the twilight to be one with the dark.

[The End]

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