Every Last Breath (The Dark Elements 3) - Page 56

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“Wraiths,” I gasped, stepping back.

They swarmed across the ceiling, like something straight out of a horror movie, and then dropped to the floor, among the benches.

But that wasn’t all.

We could see the wall now, could see that there were several statues lined up. They looked like the stone gargoyles perched atop so many of the city’s buildings, but cruder, more grotesque than the real thing. Some looked like goblins. Others were part lion and a few looked like birds. Not the happy, dove kind. More like pterodactyls. There were about twenty of the statues.

“They created them out of stone.” The Lilin gestured at the bodies in the pews. “So bizarre. They used them as a reminder of the evil they so badly wanted to fight. Ironic.”

A heartbeat passed.

The first row of pews shot up straight in the air, shattering apart and sending bodies in every direction. The second row followed and then the third, the fourth...

Boards were flying, along with pieces of those left behind. Each burst of pews was a crack of thunder.

“Somebody better call the Ghostbusters,” Roth muttered. “Because we don’t have time for this.”

I would’ve laughed, wanted to, but a piece of wood winged its way in my direction. I dipped down, narrowly avoiding getting plowed over. The board smashed into the wall behind us.

I shifted immediately, welcoming the change. Roth did the same as he jumped, snatching a rather large piece of board out of the air. Snapping it in half, he tossed it down.

Sparks flew and flames rose from the farthest corner as the knocked-over candles started a fire among the debris.

Reaching down, I withdrew the dagger from my boot, and then started down the center aisle, toward the chancel. The wraiths didn’t like that. They came at me. Shaped like humans, but no more substantial than smoke, they were tricky beasts to fight. One managed to get a hold of my hair, yanking my head back. I hissed as I twisted out of the wraith’s grip.

The Lilin shouted something in an ancient, guttural-sounding language that meant nothing to me, but the wraiths responded. They pulled back, and then darted to the walls.

“Oh crap,” Roth said. “It’s about to get ugly.”

I didn’t have to wait long to see what he meant. The wraiths hit the statues, draping themselves over them like a blanket. I didn’t know what they were doing, but every instinct told me I wasn’t going to like it.

The shadows pulsed, and then they disappeared, seeping into the statues, wiggling their way through the cracks and openings. Some wraiths remained near the ceilings, their forms twisting and trembling.

A great and terrible shudder worked its way through the building, scattering the broken boards and bodies, and the shudder turned into a groan cut off by the sound of stone grinding against stone.

Then the statues moved.

“What in the...?” I said.

Roth growled low in his throat as the things straightened and stretched, as if waking up from a slumber. The lion-shaped gargoyle threw its head back, letting out a deafening roar that was so realistic.

A goblin-like gargoyle pushed away from the wall. Only about five feet tall, its footsteps thundered as it raced toward Roth, cackling in a low-pitched voice.

Roth stepped to the side, spinning around. He grabbed the goblin’s arm, and then shot to the ceiling. Arcing swiftly, Roth flew back down at a harrowing rate, slamming the goblin into the floor.

The floor dented as the stone creature shattered into large chunks, releasing the wraith. The black shadow poured out of the remains, knocking Roth back several feet.

My familiar shifted on my stomach, peeling itself off before I could stop it. Robin appeared, at first the size of a fox and then he grew, taking on the size of a Doberman, and boy, that was freaky.

Robin darted up the aisle, his overly large but sleek body moving incredibly fast. He jumped, snatching the tail end of the wraith, dragging it back down. My mouth dropped open. I had no idea that familiars could touch wraiths, but Robin wasn’t just touching. He was shaking his head like a pit bull with an evening snack, whirling the wraith from side to side.

The other statues converged on us, and in a minute, I lost sight of Roth. Knowing that the blade would do nothing against these things, I sheathed it back in my boot.

Shrieking from the ceiling, the pterodactyl-type gargoyle dive-bombed me, its beak opening as if it planned on swallowing me whole. I jumped to the side, but the bird twisted, and that’s when I saw its tail. It caught me in the hip, knocking me over.

I hit the ground, my hands landing in something wet and sticky. I so didn’t want to think about that as I pushed myself off the floor and stared through the curtain of my hair. The creature dived at me again, and I rolled onto my back. Using my legs, I pulled them up, and then swung them back down, popping up in a crouch.

The bird came at me again, but this time I was better prepared—I launched up and caught one of its wings. Tapping into the strength I’d always had in me, but never really used, never truly understood, I broke the wing near the small horn.

Screeching, the bird spiraled down to the floor, crashing into the destroyed pews. Picking up a board, I followed it to where it rolled to a stop, at the foot of the chancel. I raised the board and as the stone creature rose to its hind legs, I smacked the board into its head. Wood broke and stone shattered from the neck up. The rest of the statue toppled over as black smoke poured toward the ceiling, reminding me of that TV show Sam had gotten me addicted to.

Spinning around, I caught sight of Roth kicking one of the statues into the wall, and then twisting to catch the one behind him. He moved with brutal grace, destroying everything that came within touching distance of him.

Robin had cornered another wraith, so I turned to the raised platform, where the Lilin stood surveying the carnage. He smiled down at me, so much like Sam that I wanted to get up there and beat the ever-loving—

A statue slammed into me, throwing me several feet into the air. My wings expanded, stopping me from being thrown against the wall like one of Roth’s statues. I hovered for a moment, spying the lion creature.

It was massive, its powerful muscles coiling and tensing as it stalked toward me, mouth open to reveal stone fangs.

That was one creature I did not want to get a hold of me.

Turning toward the Lilin, I landed on the chancel, and as I expected, the lion didn’t come toward me. It backed away just as the double doors exploded open.

Wardens were here.

“Perfect,” the Lilin said, its smile spreading.

I shot toward it, but the Lilin dodged me, jumping off the platform. Cursing under my breath, I followed. I made it two steps before Roth appeared beside me, grabbing my arm and spinning me to the left, out of the way of another goblin-looking creature.

“Thanks,” I muttered.

“My pleasure.” Roth shot up, and then drew back from the thickening cloud of smoke from the fire. “We need to get out of here before this whole place goes up.”

Fire was licking its way up the walls, hungry as it consumed everything it touched. A section of the ceiling had already come down.

Stalking toward the Lilin, I stopped and dipped as another one of the possessed stone creatures made a run at me. Its meaty hands snagged my shirt, but I jerked back, breaking its hold. Spinning around, I kicked out, planting my foot into its chest and knocking it back.

Arms flailing, it fell back into the flames, but immediately came back out, this time on fire.


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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