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House of Sky and Breath: Part 1 – Chapter 24

Ruhn drifted.

One breath, he’d been talking to Bryce about gods and fate and all that shit. The next, something cold and rotting had breathed in his ear and he’d found himself here in this black void, no up or down.

What the fuck had happened? Something had jumped him and fuck, Bryce—


The female voice flitted in from everywhere and nowhere.

Night, open your eyes.

He twisted toward the voice. Daybright?

Open your eyes. Wake up.

What happened? How did you find my mind? I don’t have the crystal.

I have no idea what happened to you. Or how I found your mind. I simply felt … I don’t know what I felt, but the bridge was suddenly there. I think you’re in grave danger, wherever you are.

Her voice echoed from above, from below, from within his bones.

I don’t know how to wake up.

Open your eyes.

No shit.

She barked, Wake up! Now!

Something familiar echoed in her voice—he couldn’t place it.

And then she was there, burning flame, as if the link between their minds had solidified. Bright as a bonfire, her hair floated around her head. Like they were both underwater.

Get up! she roared, flames crackling.

Why do I know your voice?

I can assure you, you don’t. And you are about to be dead if you don’t wake up.

Your scent—

You can’t smell me.

I can. I know it.

I have never met you, and you have never met me—

How can you know that, if you don’t know who I am?


There was blackness, and the bellow of pouring water. That was Bryce’s first, pathetic assessment of the sewer as she plunged into the subterranean river rushing beneath the city.

She didn’t let herself think of what swam or floated in the water as she splashed for the stone path running along its side, hauling herself up as she scanned for the Reaper. For Ruhn.

Nothing but dimness, the faint trickle of light from the sewer grates overhead. She peered inward, to the star in her chest. Inhaled sharply. And when she exhaled, light bloomed.

It cast the sewer in stark relief, silvering the stones, the brown water, the arched ceiling—

Well, she’d found her brother.

And five Reapers.

The Reapers floated over the sewer’s river, black robes drifting. Ruhn, unconscious, dangled between two of them. The Starsword was still strapped to him. Either they were too stupid to disarm him, or they didn’t want to touch it.

“What the fuck do you want?” Bryce stepped closer. Water poured from the grates above, the river rising swiftly.

“We bear a message,” the Reapers intoned together. Like they were of one mind.

“Easier ways to send it than this,” she spat, advancing another step.

“No further,” they warned, and Ruhn dropped an inch for emphasis. Like they’d dump his unconscious ass into the water and let him drown.

One of the Reapers drifted closer to Ruhn as they caught him. The hilt of the Starsword brushed against its robes. It hissed, recoiling.

Okay, they definitely didn’t want to touch the sword.

Yet that became the least of her worries as five more Reapers drifted out of the darkness behind her. She reached for the phone in her back pocket, but the Reapers holding Ruhn dropped him another inch. “None of that,” they said, the sound echoing from all around.

Wake up, she willed Ruhn. Wake the fuck up and rip these shitheads apart.

“What do you want?” she asked again.

“The Prince of the Pit sent us.”

Her blood chilled. “You don’t serve him. I doubt your king would be happy about it.”

“We bear his message nonetheless.”

“Put Prince Ruhn down and we can talk.”

“And have you use the star on us? We think not.”

She pivoted, trying to keep them all in her sights. Ruhn might survive being dumped in the river, but there were limits. How long could a Vanir who’d made the Drop go without oxygen? Or would it be a torturous process of drowning, healing, and drowning again, until even their immortal strength was spent and they finally died?

She didn’t want to find out.

“What’s your message?” she demanded.

“Apollion, Prince of the Pit, is ready to strike.”

Her blood iced over to hear the name spoken aloud. “He’s going to launch a war?” Aidas had said something like that yesterday, but he’d indicated that the armies would be for her. She’d thought he meant to help in whatever insanity Hel had planned.

The Prince of the Pit wants a worthy opponent this time. One who will not break so easily, as Prince Pelias did so long ago. He insists on facing you, Starborn, at your full power.”

Bryce barked a laugh. “Tell him I was literally on my way to training before you half-lives interrupted me.” But her bones quaked to say it, to think about who they represented. “Tell him you just knocked out my tutor.”

“Train harder. Train better. He is waiting.”

“Thanks for the pep talk.”

“Your disrespect is not appreciated.”

“Yeah, well, your kidnapping my brother is definitely not appreciated.”

They seethed with ire and Bryce cringed. “The Prince of the Pit already hunts through the Bone Quarter’s mists to find the other one who might be his worthy opponent … or his greatest weapon.”

Bryce opened her mouth, but shut it before she could blurt Emile? But fuck—Apollion was hunting for the kid, too? Was the Bone Quarter what Danika had meant after all? Her mind raced, plan after plan spreading out, then she said, “I’m surprised the Under-King lets Apollion wander around his territory unchecked.”

“Even the caretakers of the dead bow to the Prince of the Pit.”

Bryce’s heart sank. Emile was in the Bone Quarter. Or at least Apollion thought so. What the fuck had Danika been thinking, telling Sofie it was safe there?

Before Bryce could ask more, the Reapers said as one, “You sold your soul away, Bryce Quinlan. When it is your time, we shall come to rip it to shreds.”

“It’s a date.” She had to find some way to grab Ruhn, to be faster, smarter than them—

“Perhaps we shall have a taste of you now.” They surged forward.

Bryce flared her light, falling against the curved wall of the tunnel. Water lapped over the edge of the walkway, spilling toward her neon-pink sneakers.

The Reapers exploded back, but despite their threats, kept Ruhn between them. So Bryce rallied that power inside her, let it crest in a blink, and then—

Another blast. Not from her, but somewhere else. A blast of pure night.

One moment a Reaper stood close to her. Then it was gone. Vanished into nothing. The others screeched, but—

Bryce shouted as Cormac appeared out of nothing, hovering over the river, arms around another Reaper—and vanished once more.

Again, he appeared. Again, he took another Reaper with him and vanished.

What was already dead could not be killed. But they could be … removed. Or whatever the fuck he was doing.

Cormac appeared again, blond hair shining, and yelled, “USE THE FUCKING LIGHT!

She caught the direction of his stare: Ruhn. The Reapers who still held him aloft.

Bryce punched out her power, flaring bright as a supernova. The Reapers screamed and made good on their threat, hurling Ruhn toward the raging water—

Cormac caught Ruhn before he hit the frothing surface. Vanished again.

The Reapers whirled, screeching and hissing. Bryce flared her light anew, and they scattered into the darkest shadows.

Then Cormac returned, and tossed something to her—the Starsword. He must have taken it from Ruhn. Bryce didn’t stop to think as she unsheathed it. Starlight erupted from the black blade. Like its metal had been kindled with iridescent fire.

A Reaper lunged, and Bryce swept the sword up, a blind, unwieldy block that she knew would have horrified Randall.

But blade met cloth and rotting flesh and ancient bone. And for the first time, perhaps the only time in that world, a Reaper bled.

It screamed, the sound as piercing as a hawk’s cry. The others keened in horror and rage.

The Starsword sang with light, her power flowing into it. Activating it. And nothing had ever felt so right, so easy, as plunging the blade into the bony chest of the wounded Reaper. It arced, bellowing, black blood spurting from its withered lips.

The others screamed then. So loud she thought the sewer might come down, so loud she nearly dropped the blade to cover her ears.

The Reapers surged, but Cormac appeared before her in a plume of shadows. He grabbed her around the middle, nearly tackling her, and they were gone.

Wind roared and the world spun out from beneath her, but—

They landed inside the Aux training center. Ruhn was coughing on the floor beside her, the polished pine scrubbed clean except where the three of them dripped sewer water.

“You can fucking teleport?” Bryce gasped out, twisting to where Cormac stood.

But Cormac’s gaze was on the Starsword, his face ashen. Bryce peered at the blade she clenched in a white-knuckled grip. As if her hand refused to let go.

With shaking fingers, she put it back into its sheath. Dimmed its light. But the Starsword still sang, and Bryce had no idea what to make of it.

Of the blade that had slain that which was unkillable.


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