The light had gone mad, the twin beams of white from our guides’ flashlights warred with the strobing purple of the light from the Other Side, creating a nightmare of color and shadows, but I caught sight of three shapes flitting off into the darkness, flickers of streaming black cloaks and pale, long-fingered hands with too many fingers. I shoved my hand into my pocket and yanked out the Libro Nihil, almost dropping it. I whispered power into it and the book flipped open in my hand, its pages coming to life with a bright, liquid luminescence that grew into a sphere of yellow light around me and my companions.
Something began buzzing behind my eyes and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end and then something went crashing into the windshield of the Caddy with a pained screech. I shouted and swung around to see a red smear on the glass and a crow lying on the hood, twitching.
“Swift move it,” I said in a rush, eyes going wide.
He never had the chance.
A barrage of black, feathered bodies hit the windshield. Dozens of crows were throwing themselves at the car, and then scores of them were surrounding the car and going for the windows, cawing and shrieking, leaving bloody messes on the glass. I saw a little fracture like a spider web appear in the windshield and my brain howled at my body to do something.
I was in the middle of raising my arms up to shield my face when Swift dropped the car into gear and punched the accelerator, which was the same moment that every window in the car exploded inwards and then the whole world was filled with sharp, angry edges as glass and talons and beaks came flying at me from all sides. I couldn’t see, I could only hear the atrocious din of the crows croaking and beating their wings.
“You faced a sliver of what the Sleeper can bring to bear,” Hack said. “Henry was an imperfect vessel, mortal flesh, spellslinger or not. Bloch? An immortal, celestial being?” He screwed his face up at me, eyes searching for something. “You would be an ant before the sun, boy.”
My brain heaved at that and my mouth began moving but the only sound that came out of it was a pained gasping. I clamped my mouth shut and took a deep breath. “So what are you telling me? That there’s nothing I can do?” I turned to glare at Swift. “I can’t do nothing. You already took a royal beating, so what’s left? Sit back and let Bloch wreak merry hell across town?”
“Town?” Swift cocked his head to the side in a gesture that reminded me of crows. “Thomas it will only start with Hanford. The Sleeper wants corruption, Bloch wants annihilation and he won’t stop until this entire planet is dead.”
The Libro Nihil was in my hand faster than I could process even having taken it out of my pocket and I thrust it out like a blade or a gun. Swift took a step back and I heard Hack choke.
“No,” I said and sounded a lot calmer than I felt, “I seem to remember hearing a lot of the same talk when Henry and the Sleeper were after this ugly little thing.” I smacked the Libro Nihil against my palm and its ancient leather cover made a solid, sharp cracking sound. “I’m pretty far past the point of being scared at every jerk of the week with a genocide complex.”
“And what is it you plan on doing?” Swift asked.
“I’m going to kill an angel,” I said and headed for the door.
Riderless, the belrion drops into a low, wary stance, massively muscled back hunched, head low, eyes and mouth glowing hot, as before it lowers into view a monstrous dragon, a twisted mockery of something that might once have been a dragon, hovering as if by magic mere inches above the track.
Hamagorr the Blind.
Hamagorr the Dread.
Hamagorr, the fastest, most vicious dragon to ever race the Western Circuit, and its rider: Redgar, the Uncrowned King, Most Wanted Man in the Telluran Empire.
The world slows to a liquid crawl as the strings of reality are plucked by the will of a desperate man as he lunges to intervene between death and a lady. Indeed, the world holds its breath in that infinite moment - and in that moment everything changes.