Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(88) by Ilona Andrews
Men stood behind the throne, brandishing swords. Some were dark skinned, some lighter, some clothed, others mostly nude, but each was a perfect, handsome male specimen. I did a quick head count. At least forty. She had her own private army of male models.
I reached forward with my magic and met the familiar resistance. That was a hell of a lot of magic and it was wrapped around her like a shield. Using power words directly against her would be out of the question. Attacking her right now was out of the question, too.
“She’s shielded,” Luther said behind me.
“What he said,” I confirmed. “The djinn is pouring every drop of his power into protecting her. We don’t have enough firepower to break through it. We have to get her to transform so she’ll stop shielding and start attacking.”
“That means she’d have to make a wish,” Luther pointed out. “If she wishes for the ceiling to crush us, there isn’t much we can do about that.”
“The ifrit is an old power,” I said. “They’re not complicated and they respond well to drama. The ifrit will want to break us himself and see us suffer. We need to nudge her toward a fight.”
Bahir pulled the hood of his cloak over his face. “Two-thirds of her belongs to the djinn. Leave it to me.”
“Not until I talk to her,” Nick said. “She is a knight of the Order.”
I glanced at Curran. He shrugged. We could wait a couple of extra minutes in our rush to die to make sure Nick’s conscience was clear.
“Remember, he will cover her in metal,” Curran said. “The faster we hit, the better.”
“Can your sword slice through metal?” a female knight asked me.
“We’ll find out,” I told her. I’d had just about enough of giants. I had a surprise for the djinn and I couldn’t wait to show it off.
We reached the throne. The woman gazed at us. Flames rolled over her eyes and died down.
“You should fire your interior decorator,” I told her. I couldn’t help myself.
The woman gave no indication she heard me. That’s the trouble with ancient powers—no sense of humor.
“This is nice,” Nick said, stepping forward. “You had your fun, Sam. Time to come home.”
“I am home,” the woman said, her voice rolling through the cavernous hall.
“This isn’t you. This is not what we do,” Nick said. “You have a job and a duty to the Order. You swore an oath.”
“This is me,” she said. “I spent years examining objects of power and resisting their call. Now it’s my turn. I’ve earned this. I am worthy.”
She sounded distant, the emotion in her voice muted, as if she’d been sedated. Right. Samantha was gone.
“What happens when the magic ends?” I asked, slipping the backpack off my shoulder. I had brought the last of my undead blood supply for this. Here’s hoping it would be enough.
“The magic will never end here,” she said. “All of the pleasures are mine in this place. Forever. But you don’t belong here. This place is for me alone. Leave and I will spare you.”
“Hey, bitch,” George stepped forward, her voice sharp. “Where is Eduardo?”
Samantha stared at her, her eyes unblinking.
The skin on Nick’s arms burst open. Two green whips shot out of his arms and bounced off Samantha’s magic shield. The former knight of the Order opened her mouth. Her teeth didn’t belong in a human jaw. She rolled her head back and laughed.
“Laugh all you want.” Bahir drew back his hood.
“You!” Samantha hissed. The djinn had to have felt his presence, but seeing him must’ve pushed the ifrit over the edge.
“I live, creature. I am here. I’ve come to reclaim my son.”
The magic around Samantha surged up, twisting into an invisible tornado. Her face turned dark, her eyes glowing like two embers.
“You have no power to defeat me!” Bahir screamed.
Samantha shrieked, her voice slashing my ears. “I wish for the power to destroy my enemies!”
Wind slammed into me, hurling me backward. I flew, fell, and slid across the floor and rolled to my feet. To my left Derek caught Bahir in midair and set him on the floor.
On the throne, caught in the funnel of a magical tornado, Samantha’s body grew. Her legs thickened, her spine reached up, her arms grew massive like tree trunks. Her lips drew back, exposing a forest of teeth; her ears lengthened; her eyes pivoted in her skull, turning into pools of orange fire. The ceiling parted above her, revealing a cage suspended by a thick chain. In the cage Eduardo grabbed the bars and recoiled. He looked like a ghost.
Samantha raised her enormous arms to the sky, her black claws glowing at their tips, and bellowed.
The gaggle of men behind her shivered, morphed, and a pack of leonine creatures snarled in unison, spreading massive leathery wings. Manticores. Shit.
“Clan Heavy,” Curran roared. “Take out the manticores.”
The werebears went furry. The manticores charged, screaming and gliding above the floor.
“Take your places.” Curran’s voice cut through the snarls and growls. “Remember the plan.”
I dashed toward the giantess. A manticore swiped at me from above. I dodged to the side. The claws scraped my scalp and then a thousand-pound polar bear leaped above me, ramming into the manticore. They rolled across the floor, snarling. I kept running.
Samantha’s enormous feet loomed before me. A manticore crashed into me. Its claws pinned my right arm to the floor, piercing my bicep. The huge ugly maw gaped over me, trying to swallow my entire head. I stabbed my throwing knife into the side of its neck, freed the blade, and stabbed it again. Hot blood spurted over me.
Suddenly, the manticore vanished, jerked aside. I rolled up and saw Adib bite through the beast’s neck with his jaws. Fire dashed down his mane. His claws glowed and bright sparks fell off his furry sides.
I ran for the giantess. On the other side, three knights were moving together, trying to get in position.
I pulled the small vial of my blood out of my pocket as I sprinted. The second giant had healed his injuries. This one would heal even faster, and I probably had only seconds before the ifrit regenerated her body, so this maneuver had to be done fast. I wouldn’t get a second chance.
A black viscous liquid coated Samantha’s skin, emerging from her pores like sweat. A slightly sweet odor saturated the air. The djinn had covered her in crude oil to keep us from climbing her. The sonovabitch was learning, but not fast enough.
I drew Sarrat. A huge foot rose above me, its sole glowing-hot, the first hint of metal forming in long scales over the skin. I dashed to the side and spun about as she stomped and crushed the vial of my blood onto Sarrat’s blade. My magic sparked, reacting to the saber’s magic, forming a second edge, crimson and unnaturally sharp.
Above me, Bahir screamed. “Face me!”
Amal swooped down at the giantess’s face, like a hawk, and he sliced her cheek with his burning blade. I caught a glimpse of George climbing up the column toward Eduardo’s cage.
The giantess swatted at Bahir, trying to grab him with her clawed fingers, forgetting I was even there.
Thank you, Bahir. I charged forward and slashed across the back of the giantess’s leg. The crimson edge sliced through the thin fledgling metal and Sarrat cut into the springy mass of tissue just above the heel, severing it. Bye-bye, Achilles tendon.
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