Dragonbane(Dark Hunter,book 24)(18) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
“And what is this object he protects?”
“The Sa’l Sangue Realle.”
She frowned. “Never heard of it.”
Kessar scoffed at her ignorance. “It’s a bowl his mother stole from his father that can grant immortality to any who drink from it. And take immortality from those who have it. Any weapon that is dipped into a liquid held by it can kill anything it pierces. More than that, it grants total omnipotency and omniscience.”
“And you’re sure he has it?”
Kessar backhanded her. “I know the creature I seek.” He gestured to the bodies on the floor. “And I know how rare a species it is that can render three gallu dead with this kind of ease, especially in adolescence.” He grabbed her by the throat and yanked her closer. “Find their bitchtress mother. We have to leash them and their father, and find that bowl. If you fail, I’ll take great pleasure in spending the rest of eternity making you my own personal bitch.”
Brace yourself, Deenie. I can’t go any farther.”
Edena held tight to her brother’s neck as Hadyn lost altitude and headed for the burned-out ground far below them while they flew out of the reach of the demons they’d escaped. Wounded herself, she wasn’t able to take dragon form at all. And as they crashed and he hit the ground hard, she felt for him. But true to his nature, he coiled himself around her to protect her as best he could.
When they finally stopped falling and rolling, he was flat on his back, his wings spread wide with her tucked in tightly between his massive claws and nestled against his chest. She heard his heart pounding beneath her bruised cheek. They were in some kind of valley underneath a vast, dark sky that was filled with bright stars. A sky she didn’t recognize at all.
“You alive, little brother?”
“No,” he groused with a light, pain-filled laugh. He loosened his hold so that she could slide out from between his massive talons and check on his wounds. Panting and weak, he tilted his massive spiked head to the side and stared at her with those eerie gold serpentine eyes. “Did they bite you?”
She shook her head. “Are you turning gallu?”
“I don’t think so.” He hung his huge tongue out the side of his mouth like a dog that was playing dead. “But at this point, I wouldn’t mind so long as it stopped hurting. Ugh! Braaaiiinsss. Me neeed…” He paused to stare at her. “Ah, crap. I’m here with you. If I need brains for sustenance, I’m going to starve.”
Rolling her eyes, she shoved at his claw. He had a twisted sense of humor, but she appreciated him trying to cheer her in the midst of their dire predicament. He was always good at that. Always precious to try and make her see the better side of things when it definitely wasn’t her nature to do so.
It was why she loved her brother so much. Why she would kill or die for him.
Thank the gods Hadyn was all right and still Hadyn, not some horrid gallu slave.
Oddly enough, when the gallu had gone to feed on him, instead of becoming one of them, the feeding had thrown him into his real body in spite of the collar he’d worn. Something he’d needed badly since being trapped as a human for so long had been slowly killing him.
Little had they known, her brother was a Katagari Drakos – like their father – who needed to be in his dragon form more than his human one. A secret the two of them had kept from everyone, even their own mother, for fear of what their tribe might do to Hadyn should they ever learn the truth. Both of them had grown up with the horror stories of how their father had been driven from their tribe over his animal birth.
She would kill before she allowed them to drive her brother away. Or harm him in any way.
And as they lay there, she realized how ragged and raspy his breathing was becoming. Instead of clearing, it was worsening.
Edena cupped his dragon cheek. “Slow your breathing before you hyperventilate.”
“Hade? Look at me.” She stroked the scales of his snout to soothe him. “Focus and breathe. In… out… in… out.” She repeated the steady and slow rhythm until his ragged breathing returned to normal.
Since the hour of their birth, he’d always had trouble with his lungs. No one was quite sure why. And the condition had only worsened when he became a dragon at puberty. It left his voice very deep and raspy. Barely more than a whisper that required others to listen very carefully in order to hear him whenever he spoke.
Nala had wanted their mother to abandon him to the elements and not waste valuable resources to raise such a weakling. But their mother had refused and fought a hazard to keep him with them. He was her son and she refused to let anyone harm him.
Over the years, Seraphina had taken the heads of any who went after or insulted Hadyn in any manner.
At least, whenever she heard it.
Only Edena knew the real heartaches her brother endured on a daily basis. Since there was nothing their mother could do, he kept most of it from her, and begged Edena to do the same. He was far stronger than anyone knew.
Even stronger than she was. Without him, she doubted she would have made it through the misery of their lives.
Coughing, he rolled to his side so that he could breathe more easily.
She patted his back, taking care to avoid the cuts the demons had left behind. “Where do you think we are?”
“I don’t know.”
It was so dark here. And cold. But at least they were no longer frozen in stone. They finally had movement again.
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