*If you haven’t yet read Tricked Into It, then be warned, there are spoilers below.
“The hell I am!”
Tegan slammed his glass on the table. The amber liquid splashed over the rim, but he barely felt it soak his hand; the fury inside him boiled too bright. It physically crawled beneath his skin, the slithering Rage a clear sign that he was seconds away from exploding.
Gripping the table’s edge, the berserker’s eyes flashed a dangerous red.
In two seconds, the room was going to get ripped apart. In six, he’d be going for his agents. And once they were down, there would be nothing to stop him from ravaging the city. He had to get control of himself. And fast.
The table splintered beneath his fingers.
“Look,” he growled into his earpiece. “I realize –”
“I’m not talking about this anymore.”
Her voice was as lovely as silk as it flitted through his mind. It wrapped around his heart, all delicate and soft – right before baring its teeth with all the venom of a pissed off viper.
Swearing, Tegan released the table. With an ominous creak, it split in two, then crashed to the ground.
His lips pursed. His eyes narrowed. Fighting the urge to release the entirety of his anger, Tegan clenched his fists with a snarl.
“Dammit! I don’t have time –”
“You never have time!”
Tegan almost bit back that wasn’t true, but the denial lodged tight in his throat. Swearing in frustration, he stalked around his suite.
He glared at the stone walls that made up the castle. They were a dark gray, a perfect match to his current mood. In three hundred years, Tegan hadn’t lost control of his Rage outside of a fight, but just hearing Phoebe’s voice…
Just hearing what she wanted him to do…
The wall cracked beneath his fist.
To hell if he was going to comply.
“I have to go,” he snapped.
“Don’t you dare –”
Yanking the earpiece off him, Tegan tossed it on the table. He remembered too late that it was no longer there. Snarling, he snapped the phone back up and threw it at the far wall.
He hadn’t seen Phoebe for nearly twenty years.
He’d even fooled himself into believing he’d managed to put her behind him. Placed her in a forgotten box that he’d never have to deal with.
She was much safer that way.
He was much safer that way.
And since he was the head of the Elv’ve’Norc, an organization tasked with protecting the Seven Planes, all the fucking worlds were safer that way.
Picking up the chair, Tegan slammed it into a wall. The Rage clawed at his heart, demanding that he give in to his most primitive desires. He threw the remaining pieces of the chair at the other side of the room, then clenched his fists with a snarl.
Taking a deep breath, Tegan struggled to regain his control. But the stud in his ear demanded his attention, burning with the weight of its significance. He wanted to reach up and touch it, to find comfort in it like he always had. Only this time, he knew it wouldn’t bring any peace. Nothing would. Not after Phoebe had requested what she had.
Growling, Tegan exited his suite and stalked into the hall. The polished obsidian walls cast back his reflection, showing that the Berserker Rage still slithered beneath his skin.
It rippled across his broad shoulders, the very soul of temptation. There was nothing more addictive than listening to its call and feeling the power of the gods coursing through his veins. It made him feel unstoppable, invincible, and completely at peace – at least until he came back to his senses.
Then the truth of his destruction, the faces of the dead…
Eyes narrowing, Tegan glared at his reflection. Slowly, his tattooed flesh settled back to normal. The Rage inside him quieted to its normal pounding.
Striding towards the stairs, Tegan lowered his mental guard just enough for Galvanor, one of his telepathic agents, to notice.
<i>Get everyone to the control room</i>, Tegan commanded. He frowned when there wasn’t an immediate reply.
Galvanor had contracted the Duesychosis Plague a few days ago and it had nearly killed him. Only the man’s quick reactions had stopped the disease from sinking deep into his brain. The angels had cured him within a few hours, but that had still been long enough for the disease to greatly weaken him. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, Galvanor had contracted it a second time in less than forty-eight hours. He’d slipped into a coma. It had taken him days to recover.
Galvanor had since assured him that he was fit enough to continue with the mission. And Tegan, wanting to keep the specifics of this operation as secret as possible, hadn’t pushed. But maybe he should. If Galvanor was struggling to even read his thoughts, then it was time to –
Tegan slammed into the wall as a monstrous roar ripped through his skull. His head split open in a blinding migraine and he punched the cold stone to combat the pain.
Clenching his teeth, Tegan growled past the sheer agony in his mind. He ignored the blood dripping from his nose. Drawing on his power, he then shoved himself upright and took a heavy step forward.
<i>Galvanor!</i> he snapped.
The energy that took, the pain it caused, almost made him collapse back against the wall. Control yourself! he shouted as he stalked down the hall.
He’d barely passed the room next to his when a roar and a crash sounded from inside it. A moment later, the door flew across the hall, quickly followed by the body of an enraged demon. The beast hit the wall, smashing out chunks of stone. As Pyro crumbled to the ground, a growl erupted deep from his throat.
Tegan snapped his head to the doorway. His Rage boiled to the surface in preparation for a fight. Even the strongest of beasts would hesitate to cross a berserker in full power.
But the man in the doorway wasn’t phased. Gabriel stepped into the hall, his hands down at his sides in complete relaxation. His pitch black hair fell in front of his eyes and with a single toss of his head, he put it back in place. Power rippled from him with the energy of an alpha. Even Pyro, the reckless demon whom Gabriel had just tossed through the air, didn’t dare retaliate.
Glowering, Tegan forced his Rage back down.
“You’re needed upstairs,” Gabriel said nonchalantly. His large black wings ruffled behind him as he turned down the hall. It was a clear dismissal, a warning that they should go quickly despite any questions.
Clenching his teeth, Tegan turned to Pyro. Before he could say anything, another scream ripped through his head. His growl of frustration was lost beneath the roar’s ferocity.
But then Tegan realized his folly. The sound wasn’t coming from inside his head this time.
The castle walls shook. Dust dropped from the ceiling. Another roar echoed through the hall, coming from the floor above.
They were under attack.
Pyro’s gaze crashed with his. Moving as one, the two jumped into action, rushing towards the stairs. Both of their beasts crawled beneath the surface, but only Pyro changed forms as they ran.
His horns elongated. His bulk increased. Each footfall echoed with his anger. When he yanked the stairwell door open, he accidentally ripped it from its hinges. Tossing it behind him with a growl, Pyro rushed inside, taking the stairs four at a time.
Tegan was quick behind him. His skin rippled with his Rage, but there was a danger to pulling on its power. A Berserker’s Rage did not always stop when the threat was over nor did it always discern friend from foe. To use it could destroy more than it saved.
A haunted memory started to rise. Tegan promptly squashed it.
<i>Galvanor, report,</i> he commanded. Although he’d find out for himself in a few seconds when he burst onto the next floor, Tegan didn’t like going in blind. If there was something he needed to react to immediately upon entry, he’d prefer to be prepared.
<i>There’s a – Matakyli, no!</i>
Tegan crashed to the ground. Pyro screamed as he fell through the door. Galvanor’s power was out of control, ripping through their minds like acid.
Gritting his teeth, Tegan pulled himself up the stairs. Blood dripped from his ears. A single red tear ran down his cheek. When he got to Pyro’s limp form, he scanned the room for the threat, but he needn’t have bothered.
Standing in the middle of the living room, its back brushing the ceiling, was a monstrous wolf. Its fur was made up of smoke and embers. Its red eyes glinted in a dangerous challenge. Blood soaked its mouth, dripping from canines which were fully bared.
Limp against the wall, her body torn and unmoving, was Matakyli. Galvanor crouched protectively over her, his face twisted in agony. Lowering its head, its black fur rising, the thing let loose a terrible growl.
Tegan rushed forward to meet it. He ran a hand down his bare arm, tracing the intricate tattoo that covered him from his shoulder to his wrist. As soon as his fingers glided off his skin, a ten foot claymore appeared in his hand; the tattoo now gone. The sword sang with power, its hilt embedded with the magic of his people.
The wolf focused on the blade in an instant, a growl erupting deep in its chest. Familiarity flashed in its eyes at the weapon, causing Tegan to bellow in anger.
There was only one species that wielded blades like his – and Tegan’s family was it. They were the only berserkers, the only ones with tattooed swords on their bodies. If the beast had harmed any of his sisters…
With a warrior’s cry, Tegan swung the claymore at the wolf’s head. One cut was all it would take to cleave through anything, regardless of how thick or strong.
Snarling, the wolf dodged with an uncanny speed. It countered even faster, its teeth sinking into Tegan’s arm before he could so much as blink. Jerking him off the ground, the wolf tossed him through the air.
Tegan dropped his sword before he crashed down the stairs and impaled himself on it. The tattoo etched itself onto his mangled arm. As soon as he hit the ground and regained his feet, he pulled the claymore back off his skin.
He lunged through the broken door, sword leading,
only to quickly dive to the ground. Pyro sailed above him, barely missing taking him down with him.
Jumping to his feet, Tegan’s eyes narrowed. The beast was no longer facing him. A knife was stuck in one of its hind legs, thrown by one of the many people that had now arrived on scene. The dagger looked more like a needle in a pincushion than anything damaging though, but it had done its job. The wolf was no longer focused on him. Now all Tegan had to do was sneak up on it and he could kill it in one fell swoop.
Ignoring the cries of his agents as they fought off the creature’s snapping jaws, Tegan inched forward.
<i>Where is she?</i> the beast roared.
Tegan froze as the demand ripped through his brain. He knew that voice, the one coming from the wolf. And unfortunately, as much as he wanted to rip the man a new asshole, he wasn’t about to kill one of his best agents. Not without knowing why he had attacked them in the first place.
Still, Tegan didn’t sheath his sword. And he didn’t stay frozen for long, inching forward once more.
<i>Jack?</i> Galvanor asked slowly. He’d opened his mind a little, letting everyone listen, but no one speak. <i>Can you hear me?</i>
<i>Tell me where she is,</i> Jack growled.
Tegan’s grip on his sword tightened. If Galvanor didn’t know where Charlie, Jack’s mate, was, then all hell was about to break loose.
After a strained silence, Galvanor confirmed his fears.
<i>She’s not in the castle and I’m not strong enough yet to find her.
You would have heard her thoughts.</i>
Jack growled. Tegan raised his sword.
<i>Where did she go?
I’m still recovering,</i> Galvanor said. <i>I haven’t been able to listen –
Tegan swung, aiming for a leg. The attack would cut it clean off, but it wouldn’t be lethal. With luck, the pain would distract Jack enough that they could bring him down.
But the plan was all for nothing.
The blade missed, swinging through a cloud of smoke and ash. Tegan’s eyes widened as the wolf became an ethereal form. Jack was a trickster, capable of physically mimicking various species, but the one thing he couldn’t do was take on new powers. No trickster could.
No mortal could.
Tegan’s heart rate sped up. But if Jack wasn’t a mortal, then why wasn’t Gabriel up here? As an archangel it was Gabriel’s duty to police the gods.
Before another thought could form, Tegan pivoted to avoid snapping teeth. Claws slashed towards his neck and he met them with his sword. Relief swamped him when the paw went flying, severed as if Tegan had been cutting butter.
Whatever Jack was, they could still fight him. They could still bring him to his knees.
Pivoting, Tegan went in for another swing. The blade sliced through a cloud of embers. Before he could shift his direction, a paw slammed into the side of him. The sword went flying. His tattoo reappeared on his arm as the blade vanished into thin air.
Tucking fluidly, Tegan rolled into the fall. He ended back up on the balls of his feet, sword in his hand. His mangled arm bled profusely. His head pounded with a killer migraine. His chest ached from broken ribs.
Ignoring the pain, his eyes narrowed on Jack. The wolf seemed to be smiling as it lifted a paw to show its claws. Tegan’s eyes widened. That was the same limb he’d hacked into; the one whose paw he’d just severed. For Jack to regenerate a whole new part that quickly…
Racking his claws across the ground, the wolf lunged. Tegan raced towards it with a yell. He dove onto his knees as Jack’s teeth ripped through the air where he’d just been. Sliding between its legs, Tegan lifted his sword and sliced clean through the wolf’s chest. He’d barely cut more than a foot deep before he was engulfed in a cloud of smoke.
A snarl warned him too late that Jack had reappeared in front of him. Bloody teeth filled Tegan’s vision. He couldn’t stop his slide. The Rage crawled beneath his skin, ready to erupt in a show of glory in order to save his life.
Before Tegan could embrace the Rage, a spout of water whipped past his head. It slammed down Jack’s throat, causing him to snap his jowls shut before he could swallow Tegan whole.
Jumping to his feet, the berserker aimed another swing. Rogan aided his attack this time, shooting water at the beast’s eyes and mouth so it couldn’t fight back. Kasem and Kaide, two teleporting swordsmen, appeared beside him. They vanished just as quickly, phasing in and out just long enough to slice at Jack in a tornado of blades.
Together, the seven of them worked as one. Adriel attacked from the front with Aisla, their blades and arrows tearing into Jack’s flesh in a thousand cuts. Pyro, having stormed back up the stairs, now had demon fire pouring out of his palms. The two swordsmen phased high and low, left and right, never lingering long enough to be attacked.
Tegan ducked as a fireball singed his hair. It flew through the cloud of smoke and exited the other end. Aisla barely managed to dodge out of its way, but by avoiding the fire, she’d stepped right into the line of razor sharp claws.
Her scream ruptured the air. A demon’s bellow soon followed. As Jack jumped on top of Adriel, Tegan’s eyes narrowed. If they didn’t finish this soon, they wouldn’t be able to.
As if sharing his thoughts, Xeno arrived on scene with her hands burning in a holy light.
<i>Get back, now!</i>
Galvanor’s command screamed in their heads. All but the two drazic demons obeyed in an instant. When Xeno hesitated because Pyro stepped into her line of vision, Tegan tackled the demon to the ground. Xeno might be weakened due to her fall, but her light could still burn the soul of a demon. It could still kill one that was already on the verge of collapse.
As they fell to the ground, Pyro went to elbow Tegan in the face. His attack floundered as a blinding beam stole his vision.
Prepared for it, Tegan had already closed his eyes. He tucked his head to protect them further. As soon as the light faded, he jumped to his feet and rushed Jack with his sword.
The way was clear. Jack was momentarily blind. It should have been a done deal with Tegan’s blade ending the fight in one fell swoop.
But right as he began his swing, a powerful energy slammed into his chest. He was hurled back, his arms and legs leveling out in front of him. His sword flew wide. A man screamed. And then Tegan crashed through a wall, his temple slamming against the rubble.
Searing pain exploded inside his skull. The world went dark. Instantly, the Rage jumped to the surface, bringing him back to sharp awareness.
With a feral growl, Tegan’s eyes snapped open. They glowed a bright red, the color of blood, the color soon to paint these walls. Pushing himself into a sitting position, the berserker shoved his dislocated shoulder back into its socket. He stood, unsheathed his sword, and kicked through the crumbling wall with a warrior’s yell.
The wolf’s head snapped towards him. Jack growled low, his fur on end, but he didn’t move. For standing in the middle of the storm, one hand holding his paw in mid air, was what looked like a child ballerina.
She was dressed in a bright blue tutu, baggy unicorn leggings, and knee high boots. A crop top shirt hung from her shoulders, creased by the elastic bands of her angelic costume. Glittery fabric wings hung limply on her back, an odd contrast to the real ones, leathery and red, peaking above her head.
Lost in his Rage, Tegan didn’t register her identity. With a bellow he rushed forward. The ballerina turned to face him. A sincere smile lit her face. Digging a blade out from between her boobs, she tossed it at his face.
He leaned his head to the side, felt the knife whistle past his ear. A sneer of triumph curled his lips. Two steps later though and it was gone.
As a deafening crack split the air, dust rained down on him like hail. He threw his arms up automatically. Tried to dodge out of the way. But as he did so, a piece of loose obsidian slid out from under him. And as the ceiling crashed down upon him, Tegan’s roar was lost beneath the rubble.
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