Chapter 75 - Power
Priest swore viciously as his eyes landed on Catherine. She wasn’t dead as she should have been, but more than that, she wasn’t bleeding anymore. Her eyes glowed bluer than he ever seen before and his mouth twisted into a vicious snarl.
“You should have remained dead, sister, this time I will not allow you to die so easily,” he started towards her and found himself detained.
A small smile touched her lips but never reached her eyes. Those blue orbs were as cold as death itself, and they burned with fury.
“You lost, brother, your champion is dead. This war is over,” the smile on her lips widened, but there was no warmth there.
“Is it?” Priest scoffed, and his eyes glowed with sudden madness.
“Attack!” His voice rang out clearly over the camp but ended abruptly on a gurgle. Catherine moved with a speed that she should not be capable of, not even if she were uninjured, and her foot hit him square in the face.
“Let go,” her command carried so much power that the vampires holding back Priest, obeyed without thought. Even though more than two of them were elders and council members.
Priest barely had time to realize he had been released, when Catherine’s foot him again, and he fell over backward. He skidded back several paces in the dirt.
His fury brought him to his feet, his nose streaming with blood, his lips bleeding from cuts and his left eye dark with blood. He attacked with the skill of a man sure of his victory and found himself confounded.
This was not the woman he fought before. Something wasn’t right, but he only fought harder. Catherine could not keep this up long, she was a female and his sheer power would tire her soon enough, Priest reasoned.
He attacked even more viciously. He managed to land a kick to her shoulder so hard that Catherine fell backward, but she was up and defending herself before he could push his attack. He caught her below her guard several times, and he knew she had to hurt.
Priest snuck the knife from his sleeve. It was dipped in silver. He threw it at her with a force that no vampire could stop and his smile of victory froze as she caught the knife as if it were a toy thrown by an infant.
He could hear the gasp of the crowd. His men had disobeyed. They did not attack. Instead, they watched, because they had never seen anything like this fight before.
He snarled and came at her with all the power of his being. His face was feral as he let go of the last shreds of his control. At the very last moment he glanced up into her eyes and the world came to a standstill.
What he saw in her face broke through the barriers In his head. If he hadn’t hated her, he could have respected her. Whatever had triggered Catherine’s rise from the final death had altered her beyond recognition.
The woman he faced was no mere vampire. The thought registered as her face changed and she let him see the animal inside.
Too late he realized that for once, he was not the one directing the game. He had lost control of the situation, and Catherine played him like a cat with a mouse, except, she was no insignificant cat. She was a jaguar, and she was done playing.
Her hands turned to claws that ripped through his face as if his skin were parchment. The pain was unlike any pain he felt before and even as his own hands prepared to claw at Catherine, he felt a sharp pain in his chest.
He stared down at his own body and found his knife embedded just below his rib cage, deep enough to hurt, but not deep enough to kill, not quickly.
Priest lunged at her and even as he took her down, she turned, and as he fell face first into the dirt, her talons ripped through the skin on his back.
Suddenly he realized that Catherine wasn’t going to kill him until she wanted to and she was enjoying this way too much.
He snarled, and with a massive effort he threw her off and rose to his feet in a defensive crouch. She stood across from him as if she was waiting for him to rise.
His anger turned the world red, and the sound that tore from him was unholy. Catherine had reduced the cold strategist and the murderer of thousands to a snarling, mindless animal.
Priest stormed, but even as he stormed, she vaulted over him and ripped him rearward against his own momentum as if he were nothing, a child.
Then Catherine did the last thing anyone expected from her, she ripped out his throat with her teeth and drank his blood to the last drop.
No one moved. Catherine held the powerful half-breed as if he were a human. No vampire dared approach her. Even the birds in the trees and nature itself was silent as she finally dropped his dead body on the ground with a thud. She breathed heavily as visibly took stock of herself.
Then Catherine turned to face the Eastern army and what they saw on her bloodied face, made them step back from her in fear. Her eyes were blazing, her fangs visible, and the power that came from her in waves cowed them. She was a beautiful, deadly, monster covered in blood and dirt.
“Go home, don’t ever cross our borders again or we will hunt you into extinction. Ever touch one of our people again, and we will kill you all.
We are your masters now, you will never rule yourselves. Now get out of my sight,” Catherine didn’t raise her voice, but every man in that camp heard her, and they all cowered.
“Now,” the voice of Dillon ordering them to comply, seemed to break some spell as he took his place at her shoulder.
The Easterners dispersed into the forest, and behind them, an army sank to its knees at the feet of a woman. She stared down at them with a frown.
“Father, command your men, please,” Catherine did not even realize that her words were a command, nothing happened, and she turned around on her heel. Her frown deepened.
Every last human lord and king, every council member, every vampire, even Goran, Darcon and the Drake himself, were kneeling at her feet.
Dillon stared up into her eyes and the intensity of his gaze brought out something of the woman he knew and loved.
“We are yours to command,” Dillon intoned as he bowed his head and she closed her eyes for a second.
The feeling of power that surged through her veins was still overwhelming. Almost affectionately she put her hand over her heart, where the pierced bag of her mother’s ashes had broken beneath her shirt to mix with her blood and save her life. It altered her very essence.
“Fine then,” Catherine conceded almost irritably, and she didn’t notice the sigh of relief as the coldness left her eyes somewhat.
“Father, get the army to escort our uninvited guests to the border. Make sure they get no time to regroup. Council, we have a country to rebuild.
I suggest we use the little time remaining of summer to make sure our people have food and lodgings. Help our humans to get themselves sorted,” Catherine’s words should have caused a murmur of dissent and didn’t. Her whole world was on its head, and her baby shifted restlessly in her stomach.
“After that, you and Dillon will have some explaining to do. Rise,” she bade absently as she felt a massive fatigue overtake her.
Dillon was at her side in an instant, and no one noticed her steps falter as he led her to her tent. Dillon helped Catherine undress. He helped her bathe, and he put her to bed, all without saying a word. He could almost taste how tired she was.