Copyright © 2012 by Sherrilyn Kenyon
December 10, 2012
Las Vegas, Nevada
"The feathers are forming in the heavens and the Cold Moon is almost upon us. Soon Father Snake will open his eyes, and with them, the seven gates."
Ren tilted his head down as he heard Choo Co La Tah's deep proper British accent disturbing the solemn darkness where he sat, listening to the silence around him. Those feathers were the crown on the head of the Snake constellation that ruled their ancient calendar. When the feathers were in full plumage and the winter solstice aligned, the gates between this world and others would open. And into this world would spill all the evil that had been driven out by not only his people, but those from the other six continents as well.
12/21/12. 11:11 A.M. At that precise instant the heart of the universe would cross through the tree of life. The head, heart, and body would be aligned for the first time in centuries.
How perfect was that? If anyone had ever doubted the balance and cycles of the universe, that should be proof enough to convince them that while everything might seem random, it wasn't. No one, except the Great Creator, could have timed this so perfectly.
Eleven days to the Reset.
Ren could hear the clock ticking. Every heartbeat brought them closer to the inevitable. Closer to all hell busting loose.
Be a good time to call in sick to work.
If only. But such luxuries belonged to humans, not to immortals such as he. For creatures like him, there was never a sick day or even a lazy one. Win, lose, or draw, they would fight to the bitterest end and take as many of their enemies with them as they could.
United we stand.
United we die.
And for an immortal, death was much scarier than it was for a human. When you died without a soul, it was utter agony for all eternity.
Hell had nothing on the existence that would become his should he fall.
Ren inclined his head respectfully to Choo Co La Tah. "I've been watching the signs." During which he'd had a vision that still haunted him. Even with his eyes wide open, he saw her clearly. Felt her presence as if she were here, right now.
But he had no idea who she was. A mere slip of a woman with the courage of the cliff ogre, she'd come to him through the darkness. Dressed in yellow buckskin, she'd twisted up her dark brown hair and laced it with white feathers. Like the goddess who'd taken his soul, she'd knelt by his side while he lay wounded on the ground. Her sweet voice had soothed him as she sang in a language he hadn't heard a woman speak in over two thousand years.
Death had held him tight until she'd laid her tiny hand to his bloody cheek. Leaning forward, she'd continued to sing, her breath falling against his skin. Her kind touch and soothing voice had driven away his pain until he felt nothing except the heat of her flesh against his. Her gaze had held his as she brushed a kiss to his lips. One so light, it felt like the wings of a hummingbird.
"I'm here for you," she'd whispered an instant before she stabbed him straight through his heart. As the pain seared him, she'd laughed, then left him there to die alone.
He'd barely finished that vision before Choo Co La Tah had appeared in his backyard. For the last half hour, he'd been in solemn observance of the sky above, watching for something to belie what he knew was coming for them.