A line of light announced Raine’s entrance as the door opened from the hallway.
Every god and human turned to him as he walked into the room. Raine’s eyes flashed and the tension increased.
No one noticed the decrepit man as his eyes flashed as well.
Raine strode into the room, searching the darkened faces.
Then he noticed the network of red veins.
“Is that him?” a hulking man asked. Scars covered his body.
“Yeah, that’s him,” the man from the Carnivorous Flamingo stated. Now Raine recognized him: Theon. Keir had told many stories about him. The other gods took a step back from him, as if he were some kind of disease. No, not from him.
A woman stood in the middle of the room, straightened, as designs on her hands glowed with a brilliant light. Raine gaped, whispered, “Marise?”
Marise stood there, watching.
“This is not good,” one of the gods whispered. Raine recognized the guard from the docks.
His mind reeled as he took a step backward, away from all the faces. Most he didn’t recognize, but he’d come in contact with the majority of them over the last few days. To be that close to so many gods . . . the room spun around him.
The teen with blue hair gathered herself up, planting her hands on the ground next to the stained vein, careful not to touch the tainted water. “You sent her here?” Oki’s furious eyes locked on his, the color changed to a vengeful violet.
Raine’s gaze shot to Pryor, but the wrapped god shrugged. A smile spread across his face as blood seeped from his cracked lips.
“It was a mistake to come here,” Dion whispered.
Oki stood, stumbled. Her hair trailed her as she pressed on. She came to a stop a few feet from Raine and her hair draped her face. She brought a hand to his jaw. It shimmered in the light, pulsed with power. Heat poured from her fingers as it neared his flesh.
Dion moved, but Marise knocked away Oki’s hand. The symbols on the backs of her hands glowed red inside the stark black lines. Raine stared in confusion, his senses coming back to him. He retreated to the edge of the room.
“What are you?” Oki’s voice faltered.
A strained chuckle leapt from her throat. “Nothing consequential.” Marise’s hand shot out before Oki had a chance to move.
Dawber appeared between them. Grabbing Marise’s arm, he twisted. His gnarled nails cut into her flesh and he tossed her back a step. The scar along the side of his face split as he grinned, lips cruel and thin.
Marise came to an abrupt stop and her body jerked like a marionette as she righted herself. Her head titled upwards, a faint trail of darkness mirroring her movements, then she closed the distance.
Her hand went up, struck his. He swung, she deflected, ducked under the next punch, slammed her hand into his chest. The crack of his ribcage snapping filled the chamber. His body shuddered, then his face fell slack. A wisp of light poured from Dawber’s mouth as the breath escaped his lungs.
With a savage jerk, she pulled a thick glob of brown viscera from his chest. Cerulean light poured from the fresh wound, highlighting the ripped veins in her hands. Dawber gasped, his breath coming out as light itself, and he hit the ground with a thump. She dropped the writhing mass and took three steps away.
Light swarmed him, thin beams wrapping around his wounds. A hiss whispered in the gods’ ears as they stood shocked, alone.
Journey moved forward, but caught herself as the blood-tinted vein boiled, the glass warping. As the shell of Dawber crumpled, deflated, an explosion of light ripped through his husk. Flung from the blast, Marise struck the pews, disappearing into the darkness between. Oki flew backward, but caught herself, landing in a three-point stand, her hair drifting down to her shoulders.
The whole building shook, awash in the blue light of the deceased god. It crept from the foundations up, glass shattering in the chamber as water poured from the swirling veins. Sandhyanen seemed to expand, then contract just as quickly.
The bubbled up vein exploded, bathing the remaining gods in darkness.
All at once the gods retreated, disappearing as if they were never there.
“We need to leave. Now.” Dion seized Raine’s arm, dragged him toward the door.
Raine tugged from his lead, anger flooding his senses. You didn’t just drag him around. He shoved a finger toward Marise. “What about her?”
“Are you fucking daft? She just killed one of us!” Dion shouted.
“She protected me! Oki would’ve killed me otherwise.”
Dion tugged him close. “Leave her.” He tightened his grip, holding Raine steadfast as he closed his eyes, meaning to retreat like the rest of the coward gods. Raine recognized the sensation of the world losing its quality again. “Fuck off.” He ripped his arm from Dion’s deathly hold, then darted across the room, through the geyser of blood red water and gripped Marise. Her tattoos had dulled. “Marise? Wake the fuck up,” he was near screaming into her ears, “We’ve got to go.”
She didn’t respond. Her eyes had shifted glassy, unresponsive. His hold tightened, unrelenting. Turning to find Dion gone, he growled, annoyance and anger blending into an unholy mixture. He lurched her to her feet, all but heaving her toward the exit.
Raine recognized the voice, the rage. He turned to see Carrick at the elevator flanked by half a dozen guards, gun raised, smug smile spread across his face.
“I’ve got you, you little shit.”
“Fuck off, Carrick. This isn’t the time.”
Carrick’s face tightened, a mask of anger. He took sight, released a shot.
Raine pitched to the side, dragging down Marise with him. He struck the ground.
A scream leapt from Carrick’s throat as he crumpled to his knees, cradling his hand. Raine saw the tendrils of flesh spread onto the cold metal, filling the shaft. Carrick’s eyes bulged as he stared after Raine. His skin pulsed with blood as it leapt, veins on fire, expanded, and assimilated to the revolver.
Raine scrambled to his feet, yanking the girl with him. They’d made it to the door when explosions rocked the building.