Bitter Bite(Elemental Assassin #14)(3) by Jennifer Estep
He was certainly right about that. The other bosses were plotting against me, and many of the city’s criminals were waiting to see how my underworld reign played out—or how short-lived it might be—before they officially took sides. Still, it was kind of sad when even the local grave robbers didn’t respect you.
I opened my mouth to tell them to stop being idiots, but Don kept on talking.
“Enough chitchat. It’s freezing out here, and we need to get to work, which means that your time is up. But since you found that box for us, I’ll offer you a deal. Turn around, and I’ll whack you on the back of the head.” Don swung his shovel in a vicious arc. “You won’t even know what hit you. I’ll even plant you in that grave, so you get some kind of proper burial.”
I palmed the silverstone knife hidden up my right sleeve and flashed it at them. “As charming as your offer is, I’m going to have to decline.”
Ethel glared at me. “So that’s how it is, then?”
“That’s how it always is with me.”
The two dwarves looked at each other, raised their shovels, and charged at me. I reached for my Stone magic, hardening my body again, then surged forward to meet them.
I sidestepped Ethel and sliced my knife across Don’s chest, but he was wearing so many puffy layers that it was like cutting into a marshmallow. I slashed through his down vest, and tiny white feathers exploded in my face, momentarily blinding me and making me sneeze.
Don yelped in surprise and staggered back. I sneezed again and went after him—
A shovel slammed into my shoulder, spinning me around. But since I was still holding on to my Stone magic, the shovel bounced off my body instead of cracking all the bones in my arm.
I blinked away the last of the feathers to find Ethel glaring at me again.
“Look at that gray glow to her eyes,” she huffed. “She’s a Stone elemental. We’ll have to beat her to death to put her down for good.”
Don brightened, his blue eyes twinkling in his face and adding to the Santa Claus illusion. “Why, it’ll be just like our honeymoon all over again,” he crooned. “Remember robbing that cemetery up in Cloudburst Falls, hon?”
The two of them smiled at each other for a moment before coming at me again. Well, at least they still did things together.
Instead of trying to saw through their winter clothes and their tough muscles underneath, I reached for my magic, raised my hand, and sent a spray of Ice daggers shooting out at them. Ethel threw herself down onto the ground, ducking out of the way of my chilly blast, but Don wasn’t as quick, and several long, sharp bits of Ice punch-punch-punched into his chest. But dwarves were strong, and he only grunted, more surprised than seriously injured. He did lose his grip on his shovel, which tumbled to the ground.
I dropped my knife, darted forward, and snatched up his shovel, since it was the better weapon in this instance. Then I drew back my arms and slammed the shovel into his head, as though his skull were a baseball that I was trying to hit out past center field.
Don stared at me, wobbling on his feet, his eyes spinning in their sockets. His dwarven musculature might be exceptionally tough and thick, but a cold metal shovel upside the head was more than enough to put a dent in his bowling ball of a skull. Still, it was just a dent, and he didn’t go down, so I hit him again.
And again and again, until the bones in his skull and face cracked, and blood started gushing down his head, face, and neck. A glassy sheen coated Don’s eyes, and he toppled over, more and more of his blood soaking into the frozen ground.
“Don!” Ethel wailed, realizing that he wasn’t ever going to get back up. “Don!” She tightened her grip on her shovel, scrambled back up onto her feet, and charged at me again. “You bitch!” she screamed. “I’ll kill you for this!”
Ethel stopped right in front of me and raised her shovel over her head, trying to build up enough momentum to smash through my Stone magic with one deathblow. But in doing so, she left herself completely open; it was easy enough for me to palm another knife, step forward, and bury the blade in her throat.
Ethel’s eyes bulged, and blood bubbled up out of her lips. She coughed, the warm drops of her blood stinging my cheeks like the snowflakes had earlier. I yanked my knife out of her throat, doing even more damage, but Ethel wasn’t ready to give up just yet. She staggered forward and raised her shovel even higher, still trying to gather herself for that one deadly strike.
The shovel slipped from her hands, and her body sagged and pitched forward. She landed facedown in the mound of loose earth that I’d dug up, as though it were a giant pillow she was plopping down on. Well, I supposed that was one way to take a dirt nap.
While I caught my breath, I watched and waited. More and more blood poured out from the dwarves’ wounds, but Don and Ethel didn’t move or stir. They were as dead as the rest of the folks here.
So I retrieved my first knife from the ground, wiped Ethel’s blood off the second one, and tucked both of my weapons back up my sleeves. I looked and listened, but the night was still and quiet again. No one was coming to investigate. The cemetery was located off by itself on one of the many mountain ridges that cut through Ashland, and I doubted that the sounds of our fight had been loud enough to attract any attention. Still, I needed to do something with the bodies. I didn’t want anyone to know that I had been here, much less whose grave I had been digging up.
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