Frost and Flame (Gods of War)

By: Gena Showalter

Morning had arrived.

Both males spoke in their native languages. Languages Bane had never learned. Because of the translator embedded in his brain, he interpreted every word. They had translators, too, and understood when he answered in Adwaewethish. “I’m sure your brother was a worthy adversary,” he said. “For others.”

A dark scowl replaced Valor’s grin, the taunt hitting its mark. The time for words had ended. With a ragged war cry, the male lunged and swung his sword. Target: Bane’s throat.

He dodged, and a savage dance ensued. He punched, kicked, blocked and clawed, went high, went low. The two allies worked together in a constant flow of motion. When one man attacked, the other adjusted his position, preparing to deliver the next blow.

Bane deflected a particularly nasty blow, then slammed his palms against Malaki’s armor. The spikes embedded in his hands, as hoped. Despite the pain, he tossed the male into a tree. The trunk split, shards of bark volleying in every direction. Leaves rained down, beams of sunlight spotlighting Bane. He hissed.

Eyes stinging, his skin blistering, he slashed, punched and kicked to herd the pair into a shadowed alcove. When Malaki’s armor grazed his gut, his intestines spilled out. A flare of pain. Dizziness. The beast protested, razing more of his control as he put himself back together.

Valor thrust the sword at Bane, but Bane jumped up and latched on to a hanging vine. He soared overhead, landed directly behind the bastard and kicked him into Malaki’s path. The two collided, the armor doing its job, skinning one side of Valor’s chest.

Valor wailed in agony, and Malaki staggered back, his features contorting with horror.

In a quick one, two motion, Bane swung to Valor a second time, cupped the man’s forehead and jaw—and twisted. Valor went limp, his spine severed.

Down but not out. Must remove the head or heart before he heals.

“You’ll pay for that,” Malaki snarled, diving into him.

They careened backward, those metal spikes nicking an internal organ or two. More pain, more blood. When they hit the ground, the spikes cut deeper, earning more protests from the beast.

Careful. If the beast shredded the sword and the armor...

But “careful” got him pinned to the ground, with Malaki’s knees digging into his shoulders. The warrior raised a gauntleted fist, ready to whale, but Bane acted fast, slamming his knees into his back, unseating him. The punch landed in the dirt.

The other man struggled to regain his balance. Bane slid out from underneath him, turned and kicked. A mistake. Valor had healed—and snuck up behind him.

Pain ricocheted through Bane’s shoulder, the blade going in one side and coming out the other. His vision blurred.

Valor hopes to kill me, to deny me the right to avenge my wife. He dies today. Now!

Rage overtook Bane. Blood screamed in his ears, his heart thudding against his ribs. Finally, the beast broke free. Bones elongated. His gums burned, his teeth lengthening and sharpening. Flesh hardened, dark green scales sprouting from his pores. Darkness eclipsed his mind.

He heard anguished wails in the distance...

Pleas for mercy...

Pop. Whoosh. Thump. Then, silence.

When next he blinked, carnage surrounded him. An ocean of blood soaked the ground, body parts scattered here, there, everywhere. Bits of skin and muscle dangled from tree limbs. Pieces of Malaki’s indestructible armor lay on the mossy grass. Damn it! The sword...where was Valor’s sword? There! The hilt had sustained some damage, but the blade itself remained intact.

Heaving a sigh of relief, Bane labored to his feet. A sharp ache drew his attention to his shoulder, near the tree of life tattoo on his chest. A tattoo every combatant possessed. The mystical ink infiltrated their blood, allowing an Enforcer to track their every move.

The wound caused by The Blood Drinker hadn’t healed, the cut just as raw and red as before. He massaged his nape. There had to be a way to reverse the damage.

Think! A combatant carried a sword with healing properties. Another owned a magic wand able to manipulate energy. Perhaps one of the two could mend the unmendable.

Very well. Bane had his next targets. Once he’d completed his tasks, he would end Aveline’s tyranny at long last...

Then, I will join you, my darling Meredith. We will be together again.

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