Tears stung Marcus’s cheeks when he raised his sword. “I am so sorry, love. I have failed you. It should be I who dies this day.”
Eliza’s cocoa eyes looked at him but didn’t see him. Dead inside, her soul was lost. She would never again be the woman he loved.
He sucked in a breath and flexed his arms, the sword swung, slicing across her neck. The blade tore through sinew and bone and sent her head rolling across the stone floor. Reality nearly sent him to his knees, but there wasn’t time to mourn the death of his mate. The fighting outside echoed in his ears, the demons were strong and put up one hell of a fight.
Marcus advanced down the corridor of the abandoned castle. The scene played out the same in every direction. Blood bathed the floors, and his brethren’s heartsick screams echoed off the walls as they killed their mates.
A demon jumped out from behind a door. Its claws tearing the flesh on his arm. He wielded his sword and sent another head flying across the room. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a Draki dispatching another demon. The shifter, a friend who also searched for his mate. Not even the dragons were immune to Drayos and his fucking misery.
The dragon turned his head. “Be careful, my friend. My brethren will soon be setting this place on fire.” Caleb’s cerulean body shimmered as he shifted back to human form.
“Have you found your mate yet?” Marcus asked as he searched the adjoining room. Empty.
“Not yet, you?”
He stepped beside his friend. “I killed her.”
Caleb laid a hand on his shoulder. “I am sorry, my friend. Drayos will die this day for what he has done.”
Marcus nodded and moved forward in his search for the demon Drayos. He opened up the psychic path leading to his prince. Aidyn.
Marcus, did you find my sister?
He closed his eyes, so many hearts broken today. She is dead, I am sorry, my lord.
I will kill Drayos with my bare hands.
Aidyn had already lost his brother and father in this battle. His pain ripped through Marcus. No doubt the other guardians felt it. It was a blessing and a curse to be connected to each other.
He tried to pinpoint the prince’s position, but something blocked him. Aidyn, where are you? Do not engage Drayos. The prince would die as well if he tried to kill the Demon Overlord. Aidyn was far too young; his two hundred years were no match against a thousand-year-old demon.
He took our women, used them to carry his spawn. He has killed everyone I love.
Tired muscles carried Marcus up a flight of stairs. He stormed from room to room, kicking in locked doors only to find them empty. I know my lord, and he will pay, but it is not wise for you to confront him. He knew Aidyn wouldn’t listen. Perhaps the gods would help.
“Zarek!” Marcus summoned the god, nothing. No surprise. After all, the gods could have stepped in and saved the women, but they had all been left to fate. Fuck fate, he was sick to death of it.
The sound of clashing swords filtered in from the hallway. He flashed into the room, not caring what he stumbled across. His vision filled with Aidyn and Drayos, they were face to face.
Drayos had morphed into a full demon and stood at least three feet taller than Aidyn. Blood seeped from the wounds that covered the demons blackened skin.
Marcus tried to run toward them but found himself behind an invisible barrier. “What the fuck?”
He balled his hands and banged on the wall. “Aidyn!” The prince ignored him. He was stuck, helpless as he watched the events unfold in front of him. Thoughts of telling Daria, his queen, she had lost her entire family in this battle sat like arsenic in his stomach. He pressed his palms against his prison. Aidyn, my friend, I can’t bear another loss today.
The air behind him shifted, a cool breeze lifted his hair. He moved his gaze over his shoulder and found Zarek towering over him in a Scottish kilt rather than his beloved Egyptian shendyt. His raven hair held a beaded braid on one side. So this is why he ignores us? He is busy playing dress-up with the goddess Quadira.
“Get me out of here!” he demanded.
“You will not interfere, my son.”
Marcus growled; his fangs elongated; he wanted blood. Yes, he would take the blood of his god if it ended the pain and suffering of his brethren. “You would let the prince die?” He tried to lunge toward Zarek but found his feet pinned to the floor. You are our creator, we your warriors. Why would you do this to us?
Zarek gave him a leveled gaze. “What makes you think the prince will die this day?”
He looked back toward the fight. Aidyn had lost his sword; a small dagger was clutched in his hand. Both the demon and the vampire bore bloody wounds.
He turned back to Zarek. “The prince is too young to fight one as strong as Drayos.” Marcus dropped to his knees, he would beg the god if he had to.
“Send me in his place…please.” He was three hundred years older than Aidyn and could defeat the demon. “We have lost so much today.” Death haunted him like a fucking plague. He was a healer, but today, he healed no one. The anguished cries of his brethren still echoed in his ears. They had slain their mates, and then turned on each other to end their misery. Marcus would like to end his suffering as well, but he would continue on; his skills were needed.
Zarek laid a hand on his shoulder. “I am sorry, my son, for all the pain you will encounter this day. However, today must shape the future.” With those words, he vanished.
The future? Aidyn was their future, the line that tied them all together. They all hoped the prince would persuade the gods to find a cure for the curse Drayos had placed upon them.
The curse would devour them, creating an imbalance that would darken their souls. When Zarek created his vampires, he used light and dark, good and evil. The light fueled the guardian of humanity, the darkness the warrior. A perfect balance, but once Drayos’s curse took full effect, the light would fade, the darkness turning them into pure evil, destined to destroy everything in their path. Not even the humans they guarded would be safe.
He jumped to his feet but found the shield still erected around him. Aidyn’s body lie still on the floor, and Drayos stood over him, sword poised for the fatal blow.
He beat on the invisible wall. “Aidyn!” He sucked in a breath, his heart trapped in a vice that squeezed the life out of him. He could do nothing but watch his prince die. A tear slid down his cheek for the death of his mate, his brethren and now his prince, his best friend. I am no guardian. I am a failure. I have failed them all.
Drayos swung his sword. Everything moved in slow motion as Marcus waited for the blade to connect with Aidyn’s neck.
Lightning sizzled from the sky and sent debris flying in different directions. The room crumbled around them as the earth shook. Drayos’s head rolled across the floor. Marcus sensed the shield that encased him drop, and he rushed forward to where Aidyn stood.
“What the hell just happened? Are you alright?” Marcus asked.
“I am not exactly sure. I think I caused the lightning.”
“You?” He looked over the prince, his pants torn and his shirt missing. Dust from the debris covered his bleeding wounds. There was something different about the prince. He seemed stronger. Marcus noticed the dark marking on Aidyn’s chest and reached out to wipe away the gray dirt so he could get a better look. “Sweet deity!” He jumped back.
“What?” Aidyn looked at his chest. His jaw dropped. “I never felt it.”
Like many of the other guardians, Aidyn had been given his mark. An indication of his position and abilities. Marcus bore the Ankh, a pair of angel wings spread out over the top. The ancient symbol meant life or living. A healer, able to repair the sick or injured with his energy.
The naked skin over Aidyn’s left breast bore the mark chosen by the gods. The eye of Ra, the symbol of protection and power, sat atop a pyramid encased by a blazing sun. This could only mean…
His thoughts interrupted by the almost unrecognizable voice. Father?
Come to me, son.
Aidyn touched his shoulder. “I am fine, let us go help your father.”
Together they flashed to the position his father communicated. When Marcus arrived, his father was on his knees holding the bloody, headless body of his wife, Marcus’s mother. His sword lay beside him covered in blood. He knew what had happened. His mother’s belly heavy with child. Drayos’s demon spawn had been growing inside her, and like the other women, her soul had been darkened. There was no cure, Marcus had tried to heal Eliza, but it had proved fruitless. Like him, his father had taken the head of the woman he loved.
“Father.” He knelt next to the frail man and placed his arm around his shoulder, pulling him tight to his side. “I am so very sorry.” Tears welled in his eyes, he refused them escape. He would remain strong for the man beside him.
His father looked at him, his eyes rimmed red. “You will do the honorable thing.”
Marcus closed his eyes, again. He would have to mourn later. “Yes,” he whispered. How much more destruction could he take before he crumbled? Somewhere, he would find the strength needed to end his father’s misery and begin his own.
“Take care of your sister.” It was the last command his father would ever give him.
“I will. I love you.” He kissed the man on the cheek then stood, his sword flashed through the smoke-filled sky and sliced through his father’s neck.
Marcus dropped to his knees, the heartache so severe he nearly passed out. His lungs contracted as he screamed to the heavens. Another failure, so many broken hearts he was unable to heal. Why couldn’t he heal the broken hearts?
Strong arms circled him from behind and held him tight. “I have you, my friend,” Aidyn whispered.