In this sequel to Where Oblivion Lives, the first entry in the Los Nefilim series set during the Spanish Civil War, a coded notebook containing the identities of Los Nefilim’s spies falls into enemy hands, and Diago must nurture the daimonic song he has so long denied in order to save those he loves.
Catalonia has fallen. Los Nefilim is in retreat.
With the Nationalist forces hard on their heels, the members of Los Nefilim—Spanish Nephilim that possess the power to harness music and light in the supernatural war between the angels and daimons—make a desperate run for the French border.
Diago Alvarez, a singular being of angelic and daimonic descent, follows Guillermo and a small group of nefilim through the Pyrenees, where the ice is as treacherous as postwar loyalties—both can kill with a single slip. When a notebook of Los Nefilim’s undercover operatives falls into a traitor’s hands, Diago and Guillermo risk their lives to track it down. As they uncover a pocket realm deep within the Pyrenees, Diago discovers his family is held hostage.
Faced with an impossible choice: betray Los Nefilim, or watch his family die, Diago must nurture the daimonic song he has so long denied in order to save those he loves.
15 February 1939
la retirada (the retreat)
Near the Tavascan Pass, Spain
Winter hit the Pyrenees hard with ice as treacherous as postwar loyalties. Both could kill with a single slip.
Dark clouds smoldered over the jagged peaks, threatening a storm before the twilight ended. The wind blew in savage gusts, ready to rip all four nefilim from the old chamois trail and toss them into the valley far below.
As Guillermo navigated a difficult climb to the summit, Diago waited on a narrow ledge with Feran and Carme. Barely sixty centimeters separated the trio from a sheer drop. Three hundred meters below, coniferous trees hid the valley’s floor. At their backs was a wall of stone that offered them no cover from either the wind or their enemies.
Feran, a Galician with light brown hair and fair skin, shifted his weight from one foot to the other as he stood between Diago and Carme. On the other side of him, Carme crouched and watched the opposite ridge with the studied gaze of a professional killer.
Above them, Guillermo caught hold of the ridge’s crest. He pulled himself upward, digging the toe of his boot against the sheer wall.
Feran twitched and tightened his grip on his rifle’s strap. Diago followed the lanky nefil’s gaze, half expecting to see soldiers on the opposite ridge. To his relief, the trail remained empty. Fucking Feran is infecting me with anxiety.
Not that the younger nefil’s skittishness was entirely unfounded. If the Nationalists caught up with them now, they made perfect targets.
A smattering of loose stones tumbled down the incline. Diago looked up in time to see Guillermo’s heels disappear over the ledge. Finally.
Feran shifted his weight left again. In doing so, he managed to step on Carme’s last nerve.
“If you’ve got to piss, Feran, just whip it out and go.”
“Looking for a golden shower?” he shot back, terror sending his voice and his bravado soaring into the higher registers.
Not even the wind could tear the menace from Carme’s words. “Just one nudge.” She pointed down. “A quick push and over you go.”
Feran’s cheeks paled. “You wouldn’t dare.”
Carme’s cold smile said otherwise.
“Don’t test her,” Diago warned. “From this height, your skull will burst like an overripe melon.”
Feran squeaked, “Fuck you, Carme.”
She lifted her finger in an obscene gesture and half-heartedly waved it in his direction while never taking her gaze from the opposite ridge. “Fuck Diago. He likes men.”
“Are you crazy?” Feran’s flush had nothing to do with the wind. “Seriously, Diago, no offense—”
“Jesus Christ, you two, pipe down,” Diago muttered. He tuned out the bickering pair and wondered if his husband, Miquel, had reached France.
With communications cut, news had grown as thin as the mountain air. Rumors and carrion birds were all that followed battlefields. Their last missive from Queen Rousseau indicated Republican soldiers were being taken to an internment camp at Argelès-sur-Mer, although it was just as likely that Miquel might be in Paris when they reached the French border.
One step at a time. They would be together again soon . . . another week, maybe two.
Guillermo tossed down a rope. “Okay, lovebirds, Diago is next.”
With a deep breath to steady his own jangled nerves, Diago stepped around a puddle of ice and pressed himself against the wall. Fissures zigzagged over the limestone beneath his feet. A small section near the toe of his boot crumbled and vanished into the thin air.
Diago froze. Fear sent a trickle of sweat down his back. He remembered dying in his last incarnation, a lingering death wrought by an insane angel. At least this will be quick.
Behind him, Carme’s voice rose over the howling wind. “Keep moving, Diago.”
The command snapped him out of his daze. He shuffled along the trail again and removed his gloves. The wind threatened to tear them from his hands before he could stuff them into his pockets. The incline grew steeper. Reaching up, he sought a handhold in the crevice between two stones. The icy rock leached the feeling from his fingertips.
He pictured his son, Rafael, waiting for them in Paris. I promised him that I’d join him there. Gritting his teeth, he dragged himself upward, bringing his body a few centimeters closer to the French border and his family.
As soon as he was within reach, he seized the rope and pulled himself upward. When he neared the crest of the hill, Guillermo reached down, grabbed his pack, and hauled him onto level ground.
“Do you think we’ve lost them?” Guillermo asked.
Rolling free of the precipitous drop, Diago scrambled to his knees and unshouldered his rifle. The scree bit through his worn trousers and into his knees. He scanned the opposite ridge, looking for any sign of movement, and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw none. Jordi’s squad still hadn’t caught up to them.
“No. We haven’t lost them. They’re just being more cautious after Carme shot one yesterday. Besides, it’s almost dark. They may have decided to camp for the night.”
Guillermo coiled the rope. His lips barely moved with his reply. “They’ve had multiple chances to take us down and they haven’t. They’re herding us, and that means they have a plan. The question is, where? And why?”
“Not for anything pleasant, I can assure of you of that.”
“No argument there.” Guillermo returned to the ledge and tossed down the rope. “Move it, Feran!”
Diago surveyed the area with a glance. A few pines clung to the stony ground in defiance of the wind. The trees and rocks gave them a smattering of cover. Otherwise, there wasn’t much to distinguish this hill from the one they’d just left.
Diago took shelter behind a wide outcropping. Dropping to his stomach, he balanced his Mauser’s barrel on the rock’s rim.
Through the scope, he observed a male figure creeping wraithlike along the thin trail on the opposite ridge. The man’s red-tasseled infantry cap and the heavy wool poncho belted tight around his waist identified him as a Nationalist soldier.
Diago didn’t need to see his eyes to know he was a nefil. The grace of his movements gave him away.
“We’ve got company.”
“How many?” Even as he continued to pull Feran upward, Guillermo lowered himself to his belly to make a smaller target.
“One. Looks like a scout.” Diago lined up his shot and squeezed the trigger. Just as he fired, the Nationalist skidded on a patch of ice and crouched to keep his balance. The bullet skimmed the top of his hat. The nefil dived behind a nearby boulder.
Goddamn it. “I missed. Get them to hurry.” He chambered another round just as Feran reached the top of the ridge.
Feran wasted no time crawling behind a half-dead pine a meter away from Diago. He lifted his rifle and peered through the scope. “Position?”
“Ten o’clock,” Diago answered.
“I see him.”
Diago squeezed another shot. The Nationalist cowered behind the rock.
“You’re wasting ammo,” Feran snapped.
“I’m covering Carme.” He noted a second Nationalist rounding the bend. Another nefil. Fur on the collar of his poncho indicated he was an officer. The man threw himself behind his comrade’s outcropping just as Feran fired.
“Fuck,” the Galician muttered. “I missed.”
Two shots came from the other side. Carme shouted. Shock and pain collided in her cry.
A bullet struck the earth beside Guillermo. He twisted his head. “Hit them!”
Unperturbed by the thunder in Guillermo’s voice, Diago watched the Nationalists through his scope. He almost had one in his sights. “Just a little more to the right . . .”
The nefil moved. Diago fired. His target’s head jerked backward and sent a spray of blood across the mountainside. His comrade moved to catch him. Diago worked the bolt with supernatural speed, lined up the shot, and fired again. His next bullet caught the second Nationalist in the throat.
Diago focused on the nefil’s face. Blood ceased to gush from the man’s torn artery. The tempo gradually slowed until the nefil’s heart no longer beat. As it did, his aura—slender threads of light the color of cream mixed with merlot—slipped through his lips. Soon, the second nefil’s soul emerged in sepia vibrations to join that of the first.
Although Diago was too far away to hear them, the frequencies produced by the violent deaths manifested as dark sounds that clung to the mortal realm. As he watched, their auras faded into the coming dusk. Nefilim’s souls rarely lingered on the mortal plane. To do so meant they might become trapped between lives—unable to be reborn into their next incarnation.
It was a fate he wouldn’t wish on anyone, even his enemies.
Diago bowed his head. Half angel and half daimon, his dualistic nature enabled him to kill with precision and to see the souls of those who suffered from violence. In times of war, the talent became a curse.
For the benefit of his angel-born comrades, he announced, “They’re dead.”
“Good,” Guillermo grunted as he dragged Carme over the ledge.
Her long face was the color of whey. She got to her knees. The left arm of her coat was wet with blood. “I’m okay,” she gasped.
Guillermo didn’t buy her stoicism. He helped her to Diago’s side. “See to her.”
Shit, shit, shit. Everything was going sideways at the worst possible time. First with Jordi’s squad picking up their trail, and now this.
Diago eased Carme to the ground as he slid free of his own pack. He rummaged through his dwindling supplies and withdrew his medical kit.
Guillermo turned to Feran, who surveyed the ridge through a pair of scuffed binoculars. “Is that all of them?”
But the others won’t be far, Diago thought as he peeled back Carme’s jacket.
“It’s the healing that hurts,” she whispered.
Diago knew the truth of that statement from his own experience. And the older the nefil, the faster the healing. But that speed worked against them, too, especially in cases of shattered bones. The body’s natural ability to form blood clots and new cells around the fracture accelerated. Unlike mortals, who took months to heal, an old nefil’s body shaped new threads of bone cells within days or weeks. If a thread of cells reached any bone splinters that were embedded in the muscle, the result was the creation of new bone structures. Untended, the new bones had the potential to leave a nefil deformed, or dead.
“Is it bad?” She twisted her neck, trying to see.
“Be still.” Using his knife, he cut away a portion of her shirt. Fibers from her coat were pushed into the entry wound, leaving her at risk for an ugly infection. But that’s the least of our worries, he thought as he examined her. Bone shards embedded in muscle and skin dotted the gory mess. From the rapidly swelling tissues, he guessed the shot broke her humerus.
She’ll be in constant agony until I can operate. “Damn it, damn it, goddamn it,” Diago muttered. “We’ve got to get her under shelter.”
She ground her teeth and glared at him. “I’ll heal.”
“Yes, but until you do, you can’t depend on this arm.” Maybe not even afterwards. The roughest climbing lay ahead of them. He had no idea how they’d get Carme over the high mountains in Ariège.
We’ll worry about it when the time comes. He just wanted to get her through the first twenty-four hours intact. Using her blood, he sketched sigils over both the entrance and exit wounds, and then charged the glyphs with a note made high by his anxiety. The viridian lines of his song pierced her flesh and sewed the loose skin shut. Between his spell and the icy air, her bleeding slowed.
“Thank you.” Her dark eyes sparkled with an angel’s fire. “The pain isn’t as bad.”
Diago didn’t immediately call her on the lie. If there was a path into friendship with Carme, he hadn’t found it and sincerely doubted he ever would. She carried the baggage of grudges from one incarnation into another and never forgave him for the transgressions of his firstborn life. He’d managed to prevent creating a deeper rift between them in this life by shutting his mouth and letting her believe in her own infallibility.
Times like these, he wasn’t entirely sure that was a good idea. He exchanged an uneasy glance with Guillermo and parted his lips.
Guillermo merely shook his head and mouthed, Let it go.
Diago exhaled and released his warning on the wind. I’m barely hanging on to my own sanity. I can’t fix her—neither emotionally nor physically.
Feran nodded at the trail. “There is a cave nearby. One I’ve used in the past. We can camp. Diago can stay with Carme until she stabilizes. Once Guillermo is safe beyond the Estany del Port, I’ll come back, and then together we’ll get Carme over the worst sections of the mountains.”
Carme’s grimace told Diago what she thought of that plan. Her voice made it even more apparent. “Who put you in charge?”
“It’s not a bad idea,” Diago said. Once Guillermo passed the lake, he would be in France. But not safe. None of us will be safe until we’re out of the mountains and well past Jordi’s reach.
Diago met his old friend’s gaze. “Your safety is the priority.”
“Exactly.” Feran sniffed and wiped his runny nose with the back of his hand. “Although I don’t understand why Jordi wants the ring. You still hold the blessings of the Thrones without it, don’t you?” His voice cracked beneath the weight of his hope.
And that explains his agitation—he’s terrified. If Guillermo lost the blessing of the Thrones, any members of Los Nefilim that supported him would be considered stateless. Without the protection of the Inner Guard, they would be hunted by their enemies.
Guillermo didn’t hesitate to reassure him. “Of course I do. The Thrones have ordered me to join my forces with Rousseau’s nefilim in France. This is merely a retreat so we can regroup.”
Feran seemed somewhat mollified. “Then even if Jordi steals the signet, he obtains nothing but a symbol.”
Guillermo drew his lighter from his pocket and thumbed the lid as he stared back the way they’d come. “Symbols are potent, Feran. They’re emblems of rank and power. All Jordi needs to do is send me into my next incarnation. Then, with the ring on his hand and enough pressure, he can force my daughter to abdicate. He’ll become king and take command of Los Nefilim again.”
“And the Thrones will recognize him?” Feran asked.
Guillermo nodded. “In the case of abdication or death, yes.”
And that was the crux of it. If something happened to Guillermo, then the danger to his teenage daughter, Ysabel, multiplied tenfold.
Carme glared at them. “Leave me behind. As soon as I’m well, I’ll join you.”
“No.” Diago refused to consider her request. “If the Nationalists find you, they’ll make sure the Falangists have a go at you.” He didn’t need to elaborate. Carme had been with him when they’d found the women’s bodies a week ago. Two had been raped and then murdered with grenades pushed between their legs. Others bore the Falangist symbol of yoke and arrows branded on their breasts.
The Falangists referred to all Republicans as “Reds,” regardless of their actual political affiliation, and all Reds were seen as less than human—women doubly so. The luckier victims were given a bullet and a shallow grave. The less fortunate felt the dirt beneath their backs and suffered cruel indignities. At times, the mortal capacity for violence surpassed even that of the daimons.
A flicker of doubt touched Carme’s eyes before her irises grew dark with rage. “Let them try. I’ll give them something nasty for their trouble.”
Diago had no doubt she would. Carme’s sigils were nothing short of malevolent. He helped her to her feet.
“The cave is a good idea,” Guillermo said mildly as he continued to examine the trail below their perch. “But we can’t keep running. It’s time to go on the offensive.” He turned and faced Feran. “How far away is it?”
“About fifty meters.” Feran pointed to a lip of rock shaped like a heavy brow. “See that shelf overhanging a bed of scree? There.”
“Okay, get Carme under shelter, make her comfortable, and wait for us.”
“Me?” Feran huffed and looked around. “Why me? Diago is the medic. Let him go. I’ll stay here with you.”
“I said go.”
Feran lowered his voice, as if to keep Diago and Carme from hearing. “You want to keep the nefil who is most likely to betray you—”
Guillermo raised his finger. “You don’t want to finish that sentence.”
Feran lifted his hands in a gesture of peace. “I’m just saying he’s daimon.”
Carme’s glare should have sliced Feran in two. “He’s angel, too.”
Diago couldn’t believe what he was hearing. That was the closest she’d ever come to actually defending him. “Thank you, Carme.”
“Shut up, Diago, I’m just stating a fact.”
Christ, why do I even care what she thinks of me? But he did. Although he’d be damned if he intended to let her know it. His response mirrored her retort. “Good,” Diago snapped. “I worried you’d become delirious.”
Guillermo pointed at Feran. “We’re not Communists. This isn’t a committee decision. I gave you an order,” he said in a way that made the air even colder. “Take Carme to the cave and wait for us. Now.”
Feran locked stares with Guillermo and fingered the trigger guard of his gun. For one scary moment, he looked as if he might keep arguing.
What the hell is wrong with him? Is he staging a mutiny? Diago’s fingers drifted closer to his pistol’s holster. If that was the case, Feran was about to find out exactly whose side Diago intended to take.
With one finger, Carme traced the first line of a deadly indigo sigil.
Feran glanced at the darkening sky. He shouldered his rifle and surrendered to Guillermo’s command. “Come on, I’ll babysit you.”
The wicked light drifted close to her palm. “I don’t need your help.”
“You need help,” Diago muttered.
“Shut up.” She started for the cave with slow, hitching steps. Feran hovered by her side, prepared to catch her when her pride could no longer hold her erect.
Guillermo waited until they were out of earshot. “Give me your pack.”
“Technically, he’s right,” Diago said as he passed his rucksack to Guillermo. “I should be with Carme right now. What have you got planned?”
Guillermo retrieved his length of rope and then hid their gear behind an outcropping well away from the edge of the summit. “Assholes like Feran are why I can’t let them see you using your daimonic song.”
Diago grimaced. Using his daimonic nature wouldn’t endear him to any of his comrades, even if it meant saving their lives. “Carme is no different.”
“She clings to the memories of your betrayals from our firstborn lives. You and I, we’re a long way from that incarnation. We’ve worked hard and moved on. Carme will, too.” Guillermo spat. “In another couple hundred years or so.”
“Swell.” His tone indicated it was anything but.
“Forget Carme. How much longer do you think we have before the rest of that squad gets here?”
“Those were scouts. The others are probably a half hour behind. They should be here any minute. I’m sure they heard the firefight.”
“That will make them careful. They’ll send another scout.” Guillermo pointed back to the chamois trail. “Did you see the fissures in the limestone as we came up?”
“I worried they’d break beneath us.”
“Can you move the stone and shatter that portion of the trail?”
“Short answer: yes. But once a spell of this nature is set into motion, it’s impossible to control. I might not be able to move away in time to avoid going down with them.”
“I won’t let you fall.” Guillermo tied the rope around Diago’s waist, cinching it tight.
Guillermo gripped Diago’s shoulder. The fat signet bearing the fiery tear of the Thrones bulged beneath his glove. “I wouldn’t ask you to do this if I thought there was another way, but I’ve used every trick I know to evade them.”
“Okay, let’s say I destroy the path. They’ll simply find another way around the break.”
“What if they’re standing on it when you hit it?”
Diago didn’t need to look over the edge. “They die.” And I’ll have another nightmare to add to my queue. Yet he couldn’t think of another way. Guillermo was right: their backs were to the wall.
A light rain began to fall. An idea formed.
“If I work enough moisture into the cracks, I can widen them until the ledge breaks.”
Guillermo’s grip tightened on Diago’s shoulder before he released him. “Where do you need me?”
Diago scanned the area. A nearby outcropping provided a clean view of the trail. If I’m very careful, I can keep it outside the radius of my spell. “There.”
Guillermo played out the rope and settled behind the boulder. He leaned his Mauser against the rock and withdrew his binoculars.
Diago followed the ridge until he stood over the fractured trail. Squatting, he touched the ground.
His silver ring caught the fading light. Similar to Guillermo’s signet, but not nearly as powerful, the wide band was adorned with sigils carved into the metal. The setting held a crimson angel’s tear, which was marred by jagged streaks of silver.
The hoary veins within the stone glittered as Diago moved his palm from one spot to another. Close to the ledge, he finally located the faint pulsation of soil shifting deep below the surface.
He eased himself onto the ground until he was prone. Vibrations from the falling rain colored the air in shades of gray. He gathered the deeper tones and shaped them into sigils.
As he worked, a slender line of silver emerged from the angel’s tear in his ring. With no effort on his part, the magic entwined with his song, strengthening the timbre of the chant.
This spell called for darkness. Terror and hate. Not difficult emotions for Diago to draw forward. He thought of hollow-eyed children, wandering the ruins of their homes—their mothers taken to prisons, their fathers dead on battlefields. He knew their despair and fear. It wasn’t hard to personalize those feelings, owning them so that they burned hot in his chest.
When he was barely five, he’d run after his father, begging him not to leave . . .
I’ll be good, I’ll be good, I’ll be good . . .
Diago’s gut clenched. His eyes burned. That was what he needed. Resurrect the horror, give it teeth, and let it bite. He allowed the emotions to crawl up his throat, where they emerged as a choked cry. The sound twisted and became a scorpion—the manifestation of his daimonic clan’s song. The arachnid scuttled toward a crack between two rocks.
Diago nurtured the memories. Fear matured into hate, which easily splintered into the longing for revenge.
The darkness around his soul pulsed, glad to be awakened from its long dormant sleep. From the back of his mind, he heard Miquel’s voice, chiding him with an urgency born of love: These emotions are poison. Don’t let them control you, or one day they will eat your heart . . . How can you live without a heart?
Diago banished the memory. Restraint would come later. Guillermo’s order took precedence, and this job called for poison. He traced another sigil.
As he retched the short, harsh notes of his pain and rage onto the ground, the scorpions grew in number. Strands of silver from the angel’s tear outlined the shadowy forms and made them glow in the fading light. They dripped from his mouth and worked themselves into the earth, pushing the top layers of grit downward to compress the lower layers. Cracks spread through the sediment and extended through the limestone.
Diago joined a line with two ligatures and four large circles while digging deeper into his past, gouging every old wound until his song bled first seven scorpions . . .
. . . do as you’re told and you will eat . . .
. . . then twelve more passed his lips, one for each lash he endured that first day . . .
. . . they forced him to fight for his bread, and though he was small, Diago soon discovered viciousness trumped size . . .
. . . then twenty, one for each boy who beat him for being different . . .
. . . and in the brothel, he learned not to cry when strangers touched him, burying his hate deep where it smoldered, ready to burst aflame at the slightest provocation . . .
. . . and a hundred thousand scorpions poured from him into the ground, turning into a stream, a lament, a torrent, a dirge . . .
“They’re here,” Guillermo whispered, momentarily bringing Diago out of his trance.
He glanced up. Across the gorge, a soldier skulked around the bend at a crouch and wasted no time taking cover. They’d definitely heard the firefight.
Guillermo lifted his binoculars. “He’s checking this side of the pass. Shit. Recon by fire.” He hunched low behind the rock. “Keep your head down.”
A bullet lifted the dust before the sound of the shot drifted across the gorge. The objective wasn’t to hit a target but to instigate return fire so the Nationalist could clock their position. Four more shots followed. From the pattern, Diago guessed the sniper used the corpses’ positions to estimate where their killers might have roosted.
Another bullet struck the rock Diago had initially used for cover. He’s good, too.
Thirty seconds passed with no fire. Guillermo risked a look. He scowled through the glasses. “He is signaling his comrades . . . here they come.”
A drop of sweat slid down Diago’s brow. “How many?” He croaked the words, barely recognizing his own voice.
“There are only four left.” Guillermo lowered the binoculars. “It’s our friend Gunter Sitz.”
Diago remembered him: a wiry little German with a face like a hatchet and a large mole on his cheek.
Guillermo stowed his binoculars and lifted his Mauser.
Returning to the spell, Diago checked the lines of his ward and then began to work again, conjuring the grisly events and broken pieces of his early life. He passed his childhood and moved into adolescence, when he’d murdered his first daimon-born keeper at the age of fourteen. The same age as my son. He shut Rafael’s face from his mind. Like his husband, his son was a source of light and love. And here I must have darkness.
Guillermo whispered, “They’re here.”
Diago blinked and examined the sigils. Close, but close only counts with hand grenades, and this isn’t one. “I’m not ready. Draw them nearer and stall them.” He lifted himself on his elbows until he could peer over the edge.
When the squad was half a meter from the trail’s fissure, Diago nodded. Guillermo stood. He angled himself so the rope around his forearm remained out of sight. Raising his Mauser, he aimed it at their point man. “Halt.”
The soldier swung the barrel of his gun in Guillermo’s direction. Sitz put his hand on the man’s shoulder and motioned for him to lower the rifle. The soldier obeyed him.
The point at which they’d stopped was wide enough to allow Sitz to ease around his man. It was tight maneuvering, but the German managed to keep his heels on the ledge. “We just want to talk, Herr Ramírez. Please, join me.”
“I’m fine up here.”
Diago eased himself back to the ground and resumed his work, shaping triangles within the circles, panting through dry lips as he vomited more scorpions into the ground. The sounds he made were so low, the howling winds covered the throaty growl of his song.
Gunter’s voice floated up to them. “Your brother needs you.”
The image of Jordi’s smug face filled Diago’s mind. He hacked a fresh round of rage into the spell. The ward’s lines shimmered to life, plunging deep into the earth. More silver threads from the angel’s tear snaked behind the scorpions.
The rock answered with a growl. A few pebbles clattered beside him.
Sitz made no sign he heard or saw the minor disturbance. “I’ve offered to negotiate on Generalissimo Abelló’s behalf.”
Generalissimo Abelló, my ass. Enraged by Jordi’s pomposity, Diago coughed a fat scorpion into the crevice.
Guillermo mouthed, Now.
Diago shook his head. Not yet. The sigil needed time to reach its destination. He’d spent his fury on these stones, and between his hunger and exhaustion—and my sanity—he’d only be able to execute this spell once. He drew his knife and motioned for Guillermo to keep talking.
Guillermo’s lip curled, but he complied. Again, he moved from his cover and glared down at Sitz. “Give me my brother’s terms.”
Diago risked another look over the ledge.
The German licked his lips and sidled closer. With him came his men.
Sitz craned his neck to look up at Guillermo. “Come back with us and renounce forever your right to rule Los Nefilim. Pronounce your brother as the true king. Then he will call back his assassins. He swears never again to make another attempt on either your life or that of your daughter. Refuse, and you’ll condemn that child to the constant shadow of death.” Stepping forward again, Sitz led his men onto the ledge. “Your abdication for your daughter’s future, Herr Ramírez. Those are the terms.”
This is as good as it gets. Diago slashed his palm with his knife and allowed his blood to fall into the crack, doubling the sigil’s power. He sang the glyph to life with a furious shout.
Sitz turned toward Diago, and his mouth dropped open. Recovering quickly, he drew his pistol, but he was too late.
The ward flamed, striking the limestone’s fractures with short hard bursts. A cascading avalanche of ruptures spread through the sediment.
Diago’s chest vibrated with the earth’s groan. Beneath that noise, he heard another sound. Nefilim. It’s nefilim, and they’re singing, their voices bound together, rising in pitch . . .
A loud crack thundered beneath him. The edge of the ridge shook with the force of his spell. Too weak to rise, he pushed himself backward.
Too slow, I’m too slow.
I’m going down with them . . .