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House of Sky and Breath: Part 3 – Chapter 74

Tharion ran—or tried to. The mech-suit blocked his exit with a giant gun.

The pilot inside grinned. “Time to fry, fish.”

“Clever,” Tharion ground out, and leapt back as the cannon-gun fired. Only a smoking pile of rubble remained of the concrete where he’d stood.

Go!” Cormac yelled again, and Pippa’s rifle thundered.

Tharion twisted to see the prince collapse to his knees, a gaping hole in his chest.

He had to get him out. Couldn’t leave him like this, where recovery would likely be thwarted by a beheading. But if he stayed, if he wasn’t killed outright …

He had four hours to reach water. The rebels would use that against him. And he might have sold his life away to the Viper Queen, but to live without his fins … He wasn’t ready to lose that piece of his soul.

Cormac’s eyes rippled with fire as he met Tharion’s stare. Run, that gaze said.

Tharion ran.

The mech-suit behind him fired again, and he rolled between its massive legs. Shooting to his feet, he sped for the hole the mech-suit had made in the wall. Daylight poured in through the billowing smoke.

That tether in his chest—the Viper Queen’s leash—seemed to whisper, Get to water, you stupid bastard, then return to me.

Tharion dared a glance back as he leapt through the opening. The mech-suit was advancing on Cormac. Pippa marched beside it now, smiling in triumph.

Beyond them, row after row of half-made mech hybrids slumbered. Waiting for activation and slaughter. It didn’t matter which side they fought for.

Cormac managed to lift a bloody hand to point behind Pippa. She drew up short and whirled to face the five glowing beings at the far end of the space.

The Asteri. Oh gods. They’d come.

Cormac gave no warning as he erupted into a ball of fire.

Pippa was consumed by it first. Then the mech-pilot, who burned alive in his suit.

But the ball kept growing, spreading, roaring, and Tharion began running again, not waiting to see if it could somehow, against all odds, take out the Asteri.

He ran into the open air, following the tug of that leash back to the water, to Valbara, dodging the wolf guards now racing to the building. Sirens blared. White light rippled into the sky—the Asteri’s rage.

Tharion cleared the trees. Kept running for the coast. Maybe he’d get lucky and find a vehicle before then—even if he had to steal it. Or put a gun to the driver’s head.

He was half a mile away when the entire building exploded, taking Cormac, the suits, and the rebels with it.

Slumped on the cell floor, Ruhn’s body ached from the beating he’d taken. Mordoc had surrounded him with dreadwolves—no shadows would have been able to hide Ruhn from the bloodhound anyway. He’d have been sniffed out immediately.

Had Day betrayed him? Pretended to be captured so he’d come here? He’d been so blind, so fucking blind, and now—

The door to the cell far beneath the Asteri’s palace opened. Ruhn, chained to the wall with gorsian shackles, looked up in horror as Bryce and Athalar entered, similarly shackled. His sister’s face was wholly white.

Athalar bared his teeth at the Harpy as she shoved him in. Since Mordoc still lurked by the cell archway, grinning at them both, Ruhn had no doubt that the Hind was somewhere close by—that she’d be the one who got to work on them.

Neither Athalar nor Bryce fought their captors as they, too, were chained to the wall. Bryce was shaking. With fear or rage, Ruhn didn’t know.

He met Mordoc’s stare, letting the dreadwolf see just who the fuck he was tangling with. “How did you know I’d be here?”

The dreadwolf captain pushed off from the archway, violence in every movement. “Because Rigelus planned it that way. I still can’t believe you walked right into his hands, you stupid fuck.”

“We came here to assist the Asteri,” Ruhn tried. “You’ve got the wrong idea.”

From the corner of his eye, he could sense Bryce trying to catch his attention.

But Mordoc’s face twisted with cruel delight. “Oh? Was that the excuse you were going to use in that alley? Or with the mystics? You forget who you’re speaking to. I never forget a scent.” He sneered at Bryce and Hunt. “I tracked you all around Lunathion—Rigelus was all too happy to hear about your activities.”

“I thought you reported to the Hind,” Athalar said.

The silver darts along Mordoc’s collar glinted as he stepped closer. “Rigelus has a special interest in you lot. He asked me to sniff around.” He made a show of smelling Hunt. “Maybe it’s because your scent is wrong, angel.”

Athalar growled, “What the fuck does that mean?”

Mordoc angled his head with mocking assessment. “Not like any other angel I’ve scented.”

The Harpy rolled her eyes and said to the captain, “Enough. Leave us.”

Mordoc’s lip curled. “We’re to wait here.”

Leave us,” the Harpy snapped. “I want a head start before she ruins my fun. Surely you know a thing or two about that, if you’re sneaking around her to report to Rigelus.” Mordoc bristled, but stalked off with a low snarl.

Ruhn’s mind raced. They should never have come here. Mordoc had remembered his scent—and tracked them these past weeks. Had fed every location to Rigelus. Fuck.

The Harpy grinned. “It’s been a while since I’ve played with you, Athalar.”

Hunt spat at her feet. “Come and get it.”

Ruhn knew he was trying to keep her from going for Bryce. Buying them whatever time he could to find a way out of this shitstorm. Ruhn met Bryce’s panicked look.

She couldn’t teleport, thanks to the gorsian shackles. Could Cormac get back here? He was their only shot at getting out of these chains—their only shot at survival. Had Dec seen the capture? Even if he had, there were no reinforcements to send.

The Harpy drew a short, lethal knife. The kind so precise that it could carve skin from the most delicate places. She flipped it in her hand, keeping back from Athalar’s reach, even with the chains. Her focus slid to Ruhn. Hate lit her eyes.

“Not so cocky now, are you, princeling?” she asked. She pointed her knife toward his crotch. “You know how long it takes for a male to grow back his balls?”

Pure dread shot through him.

Bryce hissed, “Keep your fucking hands off him.”

The Harpy laughed. “Does it bother you, Princess, to see your males so roughly handled?” She approached Ruhn, and he could do nothing as she ran the side of the blade down his cheek. “So pretty,” she murmured, her eyes like blackest Hel. “It will be a shame to ruin such beauty.”

Hunt growled, “Come play with someone interesting.”

“Still the noble bastard,” the Harpy said, running the knife down the other side of Ruhn’s face. If she came close enough, he could try to rip out her throat with his teeth, but she was too wary. Kept far enough back. “Trying to distract me from harming others. Don’t you remember how I cut up your soldiers piece by piece despite your pleading?”

Bryce lunged against her chains, and Ruhn’s heart cracked as she screamed, “Get the fuck away from him!

“Listening to you squeal while I carve him will be a delight,” the Harpy said, and slid the knife to the base of Ruhn’s throat.

It was going to hurt. It would hurt, but because of his Vanir blood, he wouldn’t die—not yet. He’d keep healing while she sliced him apart.

GET OFF HIM!” Bryce bellowed. A guttural roar thundered in the words. As Fae as he’d ever heard his sister.

The tip of the knife pierced Ruhn’s throat, its sting blooming. He dove deep, into the place where he’d always run to avoid his father’s ministrations.

They’d walked in here so foolishly, had been so blind—

The Harpy sucked in a breath, muscles tensing to shove in the knife.

Something golden and swift as the wind barreled into her side and sent the Harpy sprawling.

Bryce shouted, but all the noise, all the thoughts in Ruhn’s head eddied away as a familiar, lovely scent hit him. As he beheld the female who leapt to her feet, now a wall between him and the Harpy.

The Hind.


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