A wendigo wouldn’t just show up in Atlanta on its own. We were too far south, and even if it had somehow arrived, once it turned, it would have gone on long eating sprees. We would’ve heard about it. This was Hugh’s import. A special present just for the Pack.
“Faster, faster!” Robert snarled.
I couldn’t go any faster. I glanced over my shoulder. The wendigo was closing the gap.
Ahead Cuddles stopped and brayed.
Ascanio dashed forward and whipped around. “It’s blocked!”
A massive industrial Dumpster lay on its side, blocking the path. At least eighteen feet long and filled to the brim with bricks and concrete. One of the Warren’s gangs must’ve set it here to trap passersby so it would be easier to rob them. We had to go around.
The wendigo opened its jaws and let out another scream. It was barely two hundred yards away.
I grabbed Cuddles’s reins and pulled her, trying to get her up the trash slope. Cuddles brayed and stopped dead.
Robert grabbed the reins next to me and pulled. “Come on.”
Derek slid off the saddle and screamed, “Stop, you moron!”
I whipped around.
Ascanio was running toward the wendigo, his knives out.
No, no, no, you stupid idiot!
My body had moved before my mind realized I was running after him.
The wendigo paused, scooped something from the trash, and shoveled it into its mouth. The huge teeth scissored and a piece of a wooden beam fell from its mouth, sheared clean.
Ascanio leaped and carved at the wendigo’s legs, his knives a whirlwind. The creature howled.
I sprinted so fast, I was almost flying.
Ascanio whirled around the wendigo’s legs like a dervish, slicing and cutting. Pink blood sprayed the trash piles. The wendigo’s left ankle gave out and he dropped to one knee.
Run faster, damn it, I had to run faster.
Ascanio backed up toward me to avoid being crushed. The wendigo’s hand snapped, shockingly fast, and closed about the boy. He jerked him up and smashed the bouda against the ground.
Robert shot past me and leaped onto the wendigo’s face, his claws slicing.
The wendigo jerked Ascanio up, oblivious to the wererat clawing its face, and smashed him against the ground again. Bone crunched. The wendigo raised its hand. It was blood-red. The claws raked Ascanio’s prone body. If I didn’t stop it now, it would kill him.
I stopped to inhale some air.
The creature bent down . . .
The power word tore from me in a rush of agony. The wendigo froze. Robert froze too, the claws of his left hand buried in the wendigo’s face, his right arm raised to claw at the creature’s human eye.
Four seconds. That was how long the spell would hold them.
A furry shape leaped from the right above me, sailing through the air, arms raised, a tomahawk in his right hand. Derek landed on the wendigo’s face and carved at its neck with his axe.
I shot forward and sliced the tendons on both hind legs.
Desandra swept Ascanio up and staggered back, stumbling.
The wendigo shook. Derek chopped into it again and again, casting off a pink mist of blood.
The spell broke. The wendigo crashed down and I carved its side open, thrusting through the ribs into the spongy lungs within. Regenerate that, you sonovabitch. Slayer thrust through thick muscle, and a wet pop announced the stomach rupturing. The reek of acid and sulfur washed over me. Blood wet my hands, gushing down the wendigo’s side.
The massive creature shuddered, trying to rise.
Robert cut and gouged his way to the wendigo’s back. Bright human blood stained his fur. The alpha of the wererats sliced the translucent flesh, planted his feet, bent down, locked his fingers on an exposed rib, and pulled. Bone broke. He tossed the rib out, shoved his hand into the hole, pulled a handful of organ tissue out, and hurled it into the night.
I scrambled the wendigo’s human-looking heart with my blade. I minced its liver. I hacked its lungs into bloody paste. I severed its arteries. Pink, almost transparent blood sprayed me again and again, its taste burning on my lips. Above me Robert threw intestines onto garbage. I caught a glimpse of Desandra ripping into the wendigo’s body next to me.
Suddenly the massive horrifying head sagged over, hanging from the stump of the neck by a thin thread of flesh. With one final blow, Derek sliced through it, and the head fell to the ground. Derek landed next to it, kicked the skull, sending it rolling down the trash-choked street, and fell like a chopped-down tree.
His body shivered and shrank back to human.
A few yards away Ascanio cried out on the ground, naked, human, and bloody. Everything inside me went cold. Their injuries were so bad, the Lyc-V had shifted them back to human as it strained to heal them.
I knelt by Derek and pulled his head up. He was out, but he was breathing. The wounds on his hands had stopped bleeding and I couldn’t tell if it was good or bad.
“Kate!” Desandra called, her voice shaking.
I ran to her.
Long gashes carved Ascanio’s chest and stomach. Wet intestines gaped through the gashes, weeping blood. His skin split where shards of broken ribs had punctured it. His face was bloody. He breathed in short sharp gasps. Oh God.
“Fix him!” Desandra looked at me.
I couldn’t. He was gone too far. We had to get a medmage. We had to get one now.
Ascanio’s gaze fastened on me. “So . . . sorry.”
“Don’t talk now.” We couldn’t load him onto the donkey. There was no room.
“I . . .” Ascanio swallowed and coughed out blood. He looked so young. “I don’t . . . Want to die. Please.”
“You’re not going to die.” I was getting much better at lying.
“Sorry,” Ascanio whispered. “Sorry.”
“Yes, you are. When we get to the Keep, you’ll be even sorrier. What the fuck were you thinking?”
He tried to smile, his teeth bloody. “. . . buy Broody . . . some time.”
Oh, you young fool.
A loud howl came from behind the wendigo, a wild human shriek. Hugh’s Iron Dogs were hunting us down.
Desandra vomited again.
My guts turned into a cold twisted clump. Three people down. I couldn’t let them die. They had come to protect me. I had to find a medmage even if I had to conjure one out of thin air. Derek would not die on my watch. Ascanio and Desandra would not die. I wouldn’t stand before Aunt B’s grave and tell her I let one of her bouda kids throw his life away. I wouldn’t tell Curran that I got the boy wonder killed.
I pictured the area in my head. I knew this part of the city well. I’d covered just about every square inch of it during my tenure with the Order.