by Eric Asher
((Vesik #5) )
It’s been three years since we failed Vicky, the child once known as Elizabeth Gray. Three years she’s lived as something not quite alive, but far from dead. Her path grows darker, even as she spreads light and hope through a tortured world. The Destroyer has come to claim her, and I can’t fail her again. I won’t. Elizabeth’s fate lies in the Burning Lands, and we will storm the gates.
It felt good, right even, to be stocking and straightening the shelves again. I pulled a snow globe, of all things, from the top shelf and frowned at the broken Gateway Arch inside. We’d need to return that to the supplier. I shook the glass orb and watched the silver pieces swirl around the cityscape, clicking and tumbling as they went. A vision flashed through my mind, a torrent of power unleashed by the Old Man and the Fae, sending entire cities into oblivion. I shivered and my knuckles whitened on the base of the globe. Falias had appeared in that maelstrom, before the souls had swarmed Vicky and before I had peeled them off her with my necromancy.Vicky.
I was sure Happy would have let me know if he’d learned anything new about Vicky, but I closed my eyes and pushed my aura out anyway. The experience didn’t give me a sense of travel like it used to. The slightest effort told me where the bear was.
“Have you heard anything?” I asked.
The panda raised his head and looked directly at me from his perch inside the birdcage. From Mike? His voice boomed in his panda form. I have not heard from the Smith in days.
“Do you think he’s okay?”
I can’t fully express the unnerving oddity of having a ghost panda laugh at you. Happy’s skull-rattling chuckle faded. He is a fire demon within the Burning Lands. I am certain he is well.
“How’s Vicky?” The question died on my lips and turned to a scream as golden light blinded me.
Damian! Damian, answer me!
The bear’s voice cut through the storm of screams and terror in my head for only a moment, and then chaos reigned. Gold turned to ash, and ash to darkness, as a monstrosity that could not be real blasted my mind. Hunched and looming, with long, silver teeth. Its entire body squirmed and writhed, promising death to all who dared near it.
Light swallowed the awful vision. The nightmare of a thousand dying souls replaced it. The fire, the loss, the light. I didn’t know if it was flames or tears that burned my face, but it felt like my skull was coming apart at the seams. And then the vision was gone. Only darkness remained.
And here he is. . .
Eric is a former bookseller, guitarist, and comic seller currently living in Saint Louis, Missouri. A lifelong enthusiast of books, music, toys, and games, he discovered a love for the written word after being dragged to the library by his parents at a young age. When he is not writing, you can usually find him reading, gaming, or buried beneath a small avalanche of Transformers.
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