Lucian turned back to Telly. “The proof is in his own words. Isn’t it, Head Minister?”
Telly lifted his head. “It is true. I went against the majority vote and ordered the assassination of Alexandria Andros.”
There were a few stunned gasps. I knew it wasn’t for my benefit, but more so that Telly would admit to it so easily. They didn’t know what I did—that Telly’s brain was most likely fried from a powerful compulsion.
An argument broke out among the Ministers for several minutes. Some immediately wanted Telly impeached. Those were the ones who’d smiled earlier. Others, those who I doubted knew what Lucian was up to, didn’t see how what he’d done to me was a crime. There were very few laws protecting halfs.
“There will be no impeachment,” Lucian’s voice silenced the arguing. “Head Minister Telly will be dealt with today.”
“What?” Several of the Ministers demanded at once.
“It has come to my attention that the Head Minister is involved in the Order of Thanatos and several of those members are en route to free him.” There was another pause. Lucian knew how to shock and awe. “There is no time for anything else. Alexandria’s safety is of the upmost importance.”
And now I understood Seth’s nervousness—all the Guards this morning. Lucian couldn’t have the Order ruining his plans. He’d strike first. And my safety? It wasn’t about my safety. Lucian was worried that I’d misbehave before he went out on the dais because Seth didn’t have full control of me… yet.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen now, was it?” I whispered.
Seth said nothing.
My mouth was dry. “You all wanted to wait until after I Awakened, but you’re doing this because of the Order.”
Because wouldn’t that suck for Lucian if the Order arrived before I Awakened and ended up killing one of us? All of his plans for nothing,
Lucian motioned toward where we were hidden. “This is a time of change. That change starts now.”
“That’s us,” Seth said, his hand tightening around mine. “And dear gods, please behave.”
I didn’t have much time to respond to that. Seth started walking, and I had no choice but to follow him out into the session room.
Silence so thick it choked me descended when we appeared. All eyes were on us as we made our way up the marble steps. We stopped just short of Lucian and Telly.
Everyone started talking at once.
The Council quickly grew uncomfortable, shifting in their seats. A murmur swept through the crowd, escalating as the seconds ticked on. Some were standing, their faces showing shock and terror. “No reason to fear two Apollyons,” my happy butt. They knew—some out there in the audience recognized the danger.
My heart was trying to come out of my chest, and even though I tried to stop myself, I looked for Aiden. He had gone still. I wasn’t sure he was even breathing. Our gazes locked, and in an instant, there was relief and then rage in his steely eyes as his gaze dropped to where Seth held my hand tightly. Then he moved, taking a step forward. Marcus threw out an arm, stopping him. I wasn’t sure Aiden was going to pay him any heed, but he did.
I let go of a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding.
“What is this about?” cried a Minister. I’d stopped trying to keep track of them.
Lucian just smiled. I hated that smile. “It is our time to take back what is rightfully ours—a world where we rule and do not answer to a sect of gods who do not care whether we prosper or die. A world where half-bloods are not enslaved, but stand beside us—” several startled gasps cut him off there, go figure “—but where mortals kneel at our feet like they should. We are gods in our own right.”
And that was right about when half of the audience came to their feet. Words like “blasphemy,” “treason,” and “insanity” were tossed around. Some of the half-bloods watched Lucian curiously; his words held a certain appeal to them. But they’d be fools to believe him.
Lucian’s Guards and some I recognized from around the Covenant moved to the back doors, blocking anyone from escaping. I almost laughed. We’d thought the Order had infiltrated deep within the Covenant, but Lucian had really outdone himself. It was he who had infiltrated the Covenant and Council.
“This is a time for a new era.” Lucian’s voice resonated through the large courthouse. “Even the lowest half-bloods who stand with us will flourish. Those who do not will fall.”
Several members of the Council stood and stepped back. Five of them—the five who supported Lucian—and at least two-dozen Guards… and Sentinels.
I caught a glimpse of Aiden and the stranger moving closer to the dais, but then I lost sight of them. Focusing on what was going on in front of me, as I felt anger and alarm take hold.
“Seth,” Lucian said quietly. “This man has attempted to end Alexandria’s life several times. Is he worthy of life?”
The elderly Minister came to his feet, leaning heavily on the cane. “He has no say in this matter! Apollyon or not, he does not decide life or death. If Head Minister Telly has gone against the Council of Twelve’s wishes, then he is to be tried by that very Council!”
He was ignored.
I stared up at Seth. “No,” I whispered. “No. Don’t answer that question.”
And I was ignored.
Seth tipped his chin up as the marks of the Apollyon broke out across his face, swirling and moving down his neck, under the collar of his shirt. “He is not worthy of life.”
Pride filled Lucian’s eyes. “Then he is yours to deal with.”
Panic punched a hole straight through my chest. I pulled away from Seth, throwing my entire weight into breaking his grip. He only held on tighter. I knew what he intended to do.
“No!” I cried out, still trying to pull free and break the contact. “Telly is a douche, but we don’t decide who dies, Seth. That is not what we are—not what the Apollyon is.”
“Silly girl,” Lucian murmured loud enough for only us to hear. “That is not what an Apollyon decides, but what a God Killer does.”
“Don’t listen to him,” I pleaded, and jerked as his mark burned against mine. “You’re not like this. You’re better than this. Please’’
Seth glanced at me. There was a moment—brief but there. Hesitation and confusion flitted across his face. Seth didn’t fully believe he was doing the right thing. Hope seized me.
I clutched his arm. “Seth, you don’t want to do this. I know you don’t. And I know this isn’t you. It’s the akasha—I get it. And it’s him. He’s using you.”
“Seth,” Lucian urged. “You know what you have to do. Do not fail me—do not fail us.”
“Please,” I begged, holding his gaze while wanting to leap over Telly’s defeated, hunched form and snap Lucian’s neck. “Don’t do this to us—to me, to yourself. Don’t become a killer.”
Seth’s lips quirked up and then he turned away from me, facing Head Minister Telly. “He cannot live. That is my gift to you.”
Horror stole my breath. And it struck me then. That was the difference between Aiden and Seth. No matter how badly Aiden would want to strike back or how much he wanted something, he would never risk me. And dammit, Seth would.
His hand tightened around mine. My body snapped inward as he tore akasha right out from underneath me. I doubled over, catching only a flash of amber light as it enveloped Telly. The last I’d seen Seth use akasha, it had been blue, but that was before the four marks, before he could pull the power of the fifth from me.
Shrieks filled the air—not from Telly, but from the Council and the audience. Telly didn’t have a chance to make a sound. Once akasha hit him, charged from both Seth and me, he simply ceased to exist—obliterated.
Glass shattered from the dome overhead. Shards of glass rained down, slicing through the air and those not quick enough to move out of the way. Three winged shapes came through the opening, howling in rage.
The furies had arrived.
THE FURIES WERE IN FULL-OUT UGLY MODE. THEIR SKIN was gray and milky. Snakes snapped from their heads. Fingers extended into sharp points. Those claws could rip through tissue and bone with ease.
They were headed straight for us.
Only a second or two had passed from the moment Seth had charged up and taken out Telly. One furie broke free from her sisters, arcing over the audience, emitting shrill screams.
Seth raised his arm. Akasha streaked from his hand, streaming through the air at incredible speed. He hit the first furie in the chest before the amber light sputtered out. Shock flickered over her monstrous face and then her jaw slackened. The furie dropped, spinning like a downed bird as her wings sliced through air. The furie landed in a lifeless pile of white chiffon, gray skin, and unmoving flesh a few feet in front of us.
The remaining two furies hovered by the broken window. Their mortal skins slipped over the monsters inside, and horror pinched their beautiful features.
“It’s not possible,” one shrieked, pulling at her blonde hair until strands hung from her clawed fingers. “It cannot be!”
“But it is.” The other grabbed her sister’s arm. “He has killed one of us.”
Weak in the legs, I straightened and swayed unsteadily. Seth’s actions had weakened me, leaving me no match for a groundhog, let alone one of the furies, if they attacked. Realizing Seth had released me, I stumbled to the side of the dais. I was going to die. I was sure of it. My screams would join those of the audience… except the furies didn’t attack.
“You’ve made war against the gods,” one hissed. Her wings cut through the air noiselessly. “Make no mistake they will make war against you.”
The other spread her muscled arms wide. “You risk them all to gorge yourself with power that never was yours. What a path… what a path you have chosen.”
And then they were gone.
Chaos reigned supreme below the dais and on it. Telly was gone. There wasn’t even a pile of ashes. Bile rose in my throat as I turned away from the spot where he’d knelt.
Toward the back, I heard sounds of fighting as Guards and Sentinels went after the ones blocking the doors. A Guard near us was overtaken. One of his daggers hit the floor. I lurched for it, wrapping my numb fingers around the hilt. I had to stop this—stop Lucian. He was pulling Seth’s strings.
I whirled around, finding Lucian speaking to the Council, spouting more crazy stuff that was going to get us all killed.
Seth was on me before I could even take a step toward Lucian. Our eyes met before he wrenched the dagger from my hand. He tossed it aside as he advanced on me. Coldness had crept upon his features. I didn’t recognize the look in his eyes. They glowed violently, nearly luminous. That awe was there again. But it wasn’t awe… I’d mistaken that look.
It was a craving, a greed for more. The same thing I’d seen time and time again in the eyes of a daimon.
Weaponless and weak, I knew when to retreat. My spine hit the wall. Desperately, I searched for something and found a titanium candelabrum. I grabbed it and threw it at him using both arms.