Home > Day Zero (The Arcana Chronicles #3.5)(12)

Day Zero (The Arcana Chronicles #3.5)(12)
Author: Kresley Cole

It’ll catch me, then I’ll fall straight to hell!

The pavement disappeared beneath me. I lurched in midair and latched onto the side of the crevice, digging my fingers into the crumbling asphalt.

Choking on ash. Heart thundering. Legs flailing to find a foothold.

As I scrambled for a better grip, I glanced over my shoulder. The rift went so far down I’d never stop falling. Just go on forever.

A gust of steam shot up, wetting my skin. My fingers started to give way. Hold on, Richter! Hold on, you bitch-ass!

One finger slipped . . . two more . . . One hand.

’Bout to die. A yell ripped from my lungs. I was dangling from three fingers when another gust hit me from below.

Game over—

I dropped.

Inches? What the?? I frowned down at my feet. My body was . . . rising?

All around me lava bubbled up, wrapping me like a soft blanket.

It didn’t burn. No, the lava just carried me along.

Like a gift from hell. . . .

The Hierophant (V)

Guthrie, He of the Dark Rites

“We go now to our bloody business.”

A.k.a.: The Sacrificer, the Consecrator

Powers: Mind control, mesmerism, pathokinesis (emotion manipulation).

Special Skills: Genetic memory. Has an innate knowledge of sacrificial rituals. His mind control can last even after he’s dead.

Weapons: His brainwashed followers.

Tableau: A robed male holding his right hand high, two fingers raised, blessing his white-eyed followers.

Icon: Two raised fingers.

Unique Arcana Characteristics: Pale from cannibalistic diet. Teeth filed into sharp points. Eyes turn white when he uses his mind-control power.

Before Flash: Miner.

The Lovers (VI)

Vincent and Violet, Duke and Duchess Most Perverse

“We will love you. In our own way.”

A.k.a.: The Milovníci twins

Powers: Pathokinesis and love manipulation (can warp and pervert any who love). Replication (can create carnates, living duplicates of themselves). Command inducement and sense scrying (can command carnates and borrow their senses).

Special Skills: Torture.

Weapons: Their carnates. Also, torture implements, pistols, booby-traps, explosives.

Tableau: Look-alike twins, a male and a female, stand hand in hand with a bloody windmill spinning in the background and dead roses at their feet.

Icon: Two overlapping triangles, bisected with arrows.

Unique Arcana Characteristics: Violet is part of Vincent, an absorbed twin.

Before Flash: Lived their entire lives in the Shrine, their father’s doomsday bunker, studying their line’s chronicles.

The Centurion (VII)

Kentarch Mgaya, Wicked Champion

“Woe to the bloody vanquished.”

A.k.a.: The Chariot, the Wanderer, the Phantom

Powers: Teleportation. Ghosting (intangibility, can phase rapidly between corporeal and incorporeal.). Ghosting extension (can make objects and other people intangible). Superior aiming.

Special Skills: Covert operations, intelligence collection, tactical satellite communications, target acquisition, and offensive raiding. Marksmanship.

Weapons: Whatever’s available.

Tableau: A warrior in a horse-drawn chariot, dressed in a red tunic and a helmet with a red-feather crest. Waterfalls and waves appear in the background.

Icon: Horse’s head.

Unique Arcana Characteristics: When intangible, a faint outline of his body remains.

Before Flash: Newlywed Kenya Special Forces soldier, training an elite anti-poaching unit. Descended from a long line of Maasai warriors.

In the shadow of Mount Kenya

Day 0

Outnumbered and outgunned.

At least a dozen poachers fired on me with automatic rifles, their bullets chewing up the side of my truck. On the other side, I hunched down, taking cover, my own rifle in hand.

I’d already used most of my ammo, was down to my last four bullets. Sweat dripped into my eyes as I awaited an opportunity to return fire.

To think I’d once complained that my new assignment here would be too soft! When my superiors had dispatched me to this park to train rangers, I’d wondered why they would punish me.

I wasn’t simply a soldier in the KSF; I was the best, breaking records so thoroughly they would stand forever. I’d learned from my father, an unmatched lion hunter, that there was power in excellence.

Then I’d quickly discovered that a conservation ranger’s job was not only dangerous—it was a widow-maker. Every animal was a target of poachers, but especially the rhinos, with horns worth more than their weight in gold. This park had become a frenzied war zone.

Though my wife had been afraid a lion would get me, a far more dangerous predator had me in its sights.

One shot rang out above the others, echoing over the plain. It blasted straight through my truck, inches from my head. A high-caliber hunting rifle. Gasoline began to pour from a hole in the tank.

The gunfire ebbed. “You don’t belong here, soldier!” one of the poachers yelled. “You never should have come!”

They wanted revenge for the deaths of their men during an earlier shootout with my conservation rangers. Today this gang had caught me driving alone to retrieve gear I’d used for a drill, my last task before my leave began.

“Surrender, and you’ll live,” another one shouted. “Stay and die. This is your last chance to walk away.”

A lie. They executed anyone who laid down arms.

But surrender still beckoned. My beautiful Issa was expecting me home tonight. My yearning to get back to her played tricks on my mind, whispering, “These men are telling the truth. Of course they will let you go home.”

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