Daemon wiped his face with his sleeve. A little longer. He had to hold on a little longer. But he felt so empty, so terribly alone.
The sounds of fighting got closer. Closer.
Cassandra burst into the room. "There's no time left."
Daemon slid from the Altar and collapsed.
Ignoring him, Cassandra rushed over to the Altar and brushed her hand over Jaenelle's head. "You didn't bring her back."
Her anger sliced through the thin skin of power holding the chalice together, leaving weak spots.
"The body is healing," Daemon said hoarsely. "If you keep it safe, it will mend. And—"
Cassandra made a sharp, dismissive gesture.
Daemon cringed. The Altar room blurred. Sounds became muffled. He struggled to focus. Struggled to stand up.
By the time he was braced against the Altar, the bloody sheet was lying on the floor, Jaenelle was wrapped in a clean blanket, the black candles were lit, and the wall behind the Altar was turning to mist.
"How much time do you need?" Daemon asked.
Cassandra cradled Jaenelle in her arms and glanced at the mist. "Aren't you coming through the Gate?"
He wanted to go with them. Sweet Darkness, how he needed to go with them. But there was Surreal, who would keep fighting until he gave her a signal or she was destroyed.
And there was Lucivar.
Daemon shook his head. "Go," he whispered as tears filled his eyes. "Go."
"Count to ten," Cassandra said. "Then get rid of the candles. They won't be able to open the Gate without them." Holding Jaenelle tightly, she stepped into the mist and disappeared.
A male voice shouted, "There's a light!"
Surreal rushed into the Altar room. "I threw up a couple of shields to slow them down, but nothing short of blowing this place apart is going to hold them."
. . . four, five, six . . .
The Sanctuary rocked as the combined power of several Jewels blasted through one of the shields.
"Sadi, where . . ."
Another blast of power.
"Damn," Surreal hissed, pulling her knife from its sheath.
The angry voices came closer.
. . . eight, nine, ten.
Daemon tried to vanish the black candles. Not even that much power left. "Vanish the candles, Surreal. Hurry."
Surreal vanished the candles, grabbed Daemon's wrist, and hauled him through the stone wall just as Briarwood's uncles reached the Altar room's wrought-iron gate.
He wasn't prepared for a long pass through stone walls, and Surreal's attempt to shield him wasn't quite enough. By the time they finally got through the outside wall, his clothes were shredded and most of his skin was scraped raw.
"Shit, Sadi," Surreal said, grabbing him when his legs buckled. Using Craft to keep him upright, she studied his face. "Is she safe?"
Safe? He desperately needed to believe she was safe, that she would come back.
He started to cry.
Surreal wrapped her arms around him. "Come on, Daemon. I'll take you to Deje's. They'll never think to look for you in a Chaillot Red Moon house."
Before he could say anything, she caught the Green Web, taking him with her, first heading toward Pruul, then doubling back on other Webs, and finally heading for Chaillot and Deje's Red Moon house.
Daemon clung to Surreal as she flew along the Winds, too weak to argue, too spent to care. His heart, however . . . His heart held on fiercely to Jaenelle's soft, sighing caress of his name.
Everything has a price.