What was he doing? He wasn't suppose to spasm until he got to Morfran. I turned and saw Morfran, right there, practically next to me. In my spree, I had carved my way to him.

Morfran's hands moved, his lips whispering. His eyes tracked Bran. He was casting a spell.

No, you don't.

I charged up the knoll, screaming.

The attack came, sudden and vicious. Morfran chopped at me in a great overhead blow, moving with preternatural quickness, light on his feet. I leaped aside and launched a barrage of strikes, faster and faster, moving around, flashing my blades. Concentrate on me, you sonovabitch.

The axe whistled past me, once, twice. I kept dancing, too fast to catch, but too precise to ignore. I watched his eyes, I watched his feet, I struck at his face to keep him busy. He swatted my short blade aside and cleaved at my side. I saw the axe come in a great shiny arc, a bright star of reflecting sunlight riding its edge. He had expected me to jump back but I went forward, along with the shaft of the axe, to stab at his throat.

It was a cat-quick stab, but somehow I missed. Slayer's point sliced a red line along Morfran's neck, and then his boot rammed my stomach. The world swam in a watery, painful haze. I crashed into the dirt. He was on me in a second. The axe bit into the ground between my legs.

I rolled and lunged from a half crouch, thrusting both swords deep into his chest. My steel met no resistance. Morfran collapsed in a flurry of feathers. I slashed at them, spitting wordless growls like a dog. The feathers streamed between my feet, flowing into the clearing formed by the Fomorians. I chased them, but they were too fast.

In a blink Morfran re-formed. The axe gleamed in his hands. I charged and saw Bran rise behind Morfran. Bran's head glowed bright white. He bled from a dozen places, where huge gashes split his warped body. The heat emanating from him dried his blood into brown streaks on his skin.

"My tuuuurn!" The Bran thing whipped its arm and backhanded Morfran. The Great Crow slid across the trash. Bran chased after him, swinging and kicking in deranged fury, swinging a huge spear he must've taken from one of the demons.

Morfran's axe ripped through the air with an eerie whistle. The hit split Bran's spear shaft in half and plunged into his shoulder. Blood spurted. He wheeled, unnaturally quick, plucked the axe from Morfran's hands, and snapped the wooden shaft.

Morfran's body fell apart into a tempest of floating black feathers. The feathers sucked themselves upward in a reverse tornado and solidified into an enormous black crow. Cold magic flooded us. Devoid of life, it may as well have spilled from outer space through a crow-shaped hole in the atmosphere. Frost licked my skin.

The crow's claw gripped a huge bronze cauldron.

Bran scooped a handful of metal garbage and hurled it. Jagged metal trash bit into the crow, puncturing his neck and back with a hoarse whine. Dark blood rolled from the jet feathers in fist-sized globules. The spheres detached from Morfran's flesh and hung in the air, shimmering in the light of the dying sun.

Bran hurled the contents of his other hand. A single piece sparkled and bit deep into the crow's back - Morfran's own axehead.

The crow screamed.

Like a drop of molten metal, the cauldron fell from his claws. A wail of pure rage sliced across my mind.

Beneath the cauldron's feet the earth sighed, opened like a hungry mouth, and belched more Fomorians into the light. They swarmed Bran.

I hacked into them. Beside me the shapeshifters tore them to shreds, but there were too few of us and too many of them. I could not longer see Bran - he was buried beneath a heap of Fomorian bodies.

The heap of demons fell apart. Bloody and battered, Bran heaved an ornate lid free of the dirt. It looked so tiny in his giant hand, no bigger than a Frisbee. Enormous pressure clasped me. My chest constricted. My bones groaned. Around me the shapeshifters and the Fomorians fell screaming in pain.

Bran strained. Blood gushed from his wounds and with a terrible bellow he slammed the lid down onto the cauldron.

The pressure vanished. Bran grinned, pulled the lid open, and vanished in a puff of mist. The lid went with him. That's it, I realized. He has returned the lid to Morrigan and now he was done. But we, we still had a field of demons to clear.

"Kate!" The howl made me turn. Thirty yards away I saw Derek pointing a bloody clawed hand behind me. I spun and saw a familiar little figure on the cross, thrust into the ground only yards away. Julie.

I scrambled over bodies to get to her. A shadow fell over me. I looked up in time to see a huge beak the color of polished iron strike at me. Morfran, still a crow. Boxed in by the Fomorians, I had no place to go. I dropped to my knees, ready to plunge Slayer into Morfran's gut. The crow blotted out the sun and froze as huge clawed hands clasped its wings.

With a roar that shook the Fomorians, Curran ripped into the crow. "Go!" he screamed. "Go!"

I went, climbing over bodies, hacking, slashing, cutting, fixated on Julie. To the left, a clump of Fomorians broke from a vampire whose limbs they had torn and charged me.

"Kill the child!" The Shepherd's hiss pierced the clamor of the battle. The Fomorians reversed their course.

Twenty yards separated me from her. I wouldn't make it in time.

Bran materialized by Julie in a puff of mist. He was back in his human form. He hugged the cross and her with it. Mist puffed and all of it was gone. The Fomorians howled in fury.

Bran popped in front of me, his hands empty, grinned...

A swirl of green tentacles burst through his chest. His blood splashed me. His eyes opened wide. His mouth gaped.


He stumbled forward and fell on me, blood gushing from his mouth. Behind him the Shepherd hissed in triumph. I leaped over Bran, and slashed at the bastard's face. Fish eyes glared at me with hate and then the top of his head slid aside and rolled into the dirt. His body stumbled. I cut it again, and again, and the sea-demon fell in pieces to never get up again.

An unearthly cry rang through the field. Curran rose through the carnage, Morfran's huge crow head in his hand. Covered in blood, he thrust the head to the sky and screamed, "Kill them! Kill them all! They are mortal!"

The shapeshifters fell onto the Fomorians. I spun around and dropped to my knees by Bran.

No. No, no, no.

I flipped him over. He looked at me with his black eyes. "I saved the baby. I saved her. For you."

"Mist! Mist damn you."

"Too late," he whispered with bloody lips. "Can't heal the heart. Good-bye, dove."

"Don't die!"

He just looked at me and smiled. I felt a thin line of pain stretch inside me, strained to the breaking point. It hurt. It hurt so much I couldn't take another breath.

Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
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