Dylan tugged hard on the ropes tying him to a metal post at the back of the cave. He leaned forward, using his weight to put stress on the rope. He'd been working on breaking the rope ever since Mimi and Kingsley had started fighting over fifteen minutes ago. Dylan knew that Mimi and Schuyler would need help fighting Mephistopheles and Semael, and he knew the Silver Bloods wouldn't stay out of the fight for long.
Suddenly, the Silver Bloods started shouting, their guttural voices echoing off the walls as they pointed to the altar. Dylan looked up to see Jack struggling his way free of his chains as Kingsley turned towards him, murder written all over his face. Dylan used the distraction to give one more hard pull, and he hissed in triumph when the rope snapped.
All of the Silver Bloods were now facing the altar, salivating as they watched the Apocalyptic Angels face off against each other. Mimi and Kennedy were pacing in a slow circle around each other, while Jack and Kingsley feinted back and forth, neither landing a blow, building themselves up to their fight.
Dylan smiled grimly. This was just the distraction he needed.
With one eye on the altar, Dylan dropped off the stone where he'd been tied, crouching low as soon as he hit the ground. The Silver Bloods growled and stamped their feet as Kingsley suddenly lunged for Jack, his knife narrowly missing the other boy's ribs. Dylan used the moment to dart around the outside of the cave, scampering quietly over the dirt floor as he made his way around the altar.
Keeping low, Dylan ran until he reached the other side of the cave. He now stood directly behind the pillar where Bliss and Oliver were bound. All that stood between Dylan and his friends was fifteen feet of ground—and four Silver Bloods. The Silver Bloods were still focused on the fight between Mimi, Jack, Kingsley, and Kennedy, but Dylan was pretty sure they'd notice if he tried to run up and free his friends.
Dylan reached down and felt around on the ground until he found a sharp piece of stone. Once he reached Bliss and Oliver, he'd probably have only a few seconds at best before the Silver Bloods attacked, so he knew he needed to cut their bonds as quickly as possible.
Stone in hand, Dylan prepared to make a run for the altar, when he noticed movement to his left. He glanced over and realized Schuyler was waving to him from where she lay sprawled at the edge of the altar. Dylan glanced around, nervous that the Silver Bloods might have noticed Schuyler signaling him, but they were all focused on the fight.
Dylan nodded slowly to show Schuyler she had his attention. Schuyler slowly raised her hand and held up three fingers. Dylan nodded again, showing Schuyler he understood. He crouched down, prepared to run.
Suddenly, the Silver Bloods started growling, their feet pawing the ground as they stared at the altar. Dylan looked up to see Mimi had Kennedy in a headlock, and as Dylan watched Mimi easily drove the other girl to her knees, holding her in place as Kennedy tried to struggle.
"Go ahead, Jack," Mimi said. Skin gleaming with sweat, long hair flowing around her shoulders, blood painted on her cheeks, she looked at once wild and beautiful as she pinned Kennedy to the ground. Jack smiled at her, eyes sparking with passion and heat, before turning to face Kingsley.
"Come on, Mephistopheles," Jack said. He waved his arm. "You and me. Just like before. Let's go."
Kingsley snorted, rolling his eyes. "Oh please. You couldn't beat me even before I drank your blood. You think you even have a chance against me now, Abaddon?"
Kingsley reached out and shoved Jack, clearly meaning to knock him back, but Jack didn't move. Kingsley's eyes widened. "That's impossible. You—you should be—"
"Weak?" Jack asked. He rolled his shoulders, smirking at Kingsley. "That's your problem, Mephistopheles. You think you can calculate everything, every facet, and through those calculations control everyone around you. It's why you were the last of us to follow Lucifer, and why you refused to turn back to the light. You've always been afraid of what you can't control. You never take risks." Jack crossed his arms. "You're a coward."
Kingsley's eyes narrowed, and out of the corner of his eye, Dylan saw Schuyler drop her first finger.
"None of that matters," Kingsley snapped, but Dylan could see two spots of color growing on his cheeks. "I beat you before, and I'll do it again. Then we'll see who's the coward."
Jack shook his head, his face tight with anger. "You won't beat me again. I underestimated you before. I failed to see the truth of who you are. Before, I just wanted to repay you for the things you said and did at school. That was silly, and petty."
Jack stalked forward, and before Kingsley could move, grabbed the other boy by the front of his shirt, hauling him up so they were face to face. With his free hand, Jack twisted Kingsley's wrist, cruelly bending his arm until Kingsley dropped his switchblade to the ground. Without looking, Jack kicked it off to the side.
"Now it's different," Jack said, even as Kingsley's face twisted with rage. Dylan saw Schuyler drop her second finger. "Now I'm not looking to even a schoolboy grudge. Now I want your blood drained and your body burned to ash."
Jack leaned forward until his nose almost brushed Kingsley. "You touched my mate. Now you die."
Kingsley yelled in rage, his fist driving into Jack's gut, and several things happened at once.
Mimi twisted to hold Kennedy in place as she reached for Kingsley—
Jack dodged to avoid Kingsley's blow and threw the other boy to the ground—
Even as he fell, Kingsley was waving his arm, screaming in Latin—
The Silver Bloods howled and charged the altar—
And Schuyler dropped her third finger.
Dylan sprinted forward, desperate to reach Bliss and Oliver before the Silver Bloods climbed onto the stage. He sprang up with all his might, landing with his knees on a Silver Blood's shoulder. The Silver Blood howled and reached for him, but Dylan was already on his feet. He kicked off the Silver Blood's shoulders, making the monster stumble and fall, and landed on the stage right in front of Bliss and Oliver.
Even as Dylan began hacking at Bliss and Oliver's bonds, Schuyler was at his side, fending off an attack from the first Silver Blood to reach the stage. She twisted under the Silver Blood's enormous arm as he swiped at her, driving her fist low into its gut. She followed up with a vicious kick to its head as it stumbled, and before it even hit the ground she was spinning to look for her next opponent.
Dylan managed to free Oliver, but before he could reach Bliss, Oliver collapsed against Dylan, making them both sway dangerously against the edge of the altar.
"Sorry," Oliver gasped. His face was white, blood dark and congealed on his cheeks. "Sorry. Just feeling a little—aah!" Oliver's face twisted in pain, and Dylan put an arm under Oliver's shoulder, trying to support him.
"Go!" Oliver said, shoving Dylan away. "Free Bliss, I'll be fine," he said, actions belaying his words as he sank down against the base of the pillar.
Dylan glanced around, but the Silver Bloods were all occupied, scrambling to reach Kingsley in the center of the stage. Schuyler was doing her best to fend them off, aided by Mimi, who had released Kennedy as soon as the Silver Bloods rushed the stage, but the two girls were badly outnumbered.
Dylan squeezed Oliver's shoulder before darting to the other side of the pillar.
"Dylan!" Bliss gasped. She'd been so focused on the fight she hadn't even noticed when he'd reached the stage.
"Hey, beautiful," Dylan said, grinning madly at her. "Having a good time?"
Bliss laughed, her tone edged with hysteria. Dylan had to push back against the rage that rose up in his throat when he saw the deep cuts against her pale cheeks. He owed Kingsley for that, and the best way to pay Kingsley back was to free Bliss and then go help Jack.
"Are you ready to run?" Dylan asked quietly as he worked on Bliss's bonds.
Bliss shook her head. "No!" she hissed. "I'm not leaving Schuyler and Mimi to face the Silver Bloods alone." She reached out and grabbed Dylan's hand as he cut the bonds around her wrists. "I'm not leaving you."
Dylan dropped to his knees, working on the ropes around Bliss's feet. "Listen, Oliver doesn't look so good," he said. "You have to get him out of here, get him to a hospital. If he loses much more blood…"
Dylan slashed through the last of Bliss's bonds, keeping his face down so Bliss couldn't read the truth in his expression. Dylan was pretty sure that it was too late for Oliver even if, by some miracle, they managed to get him to a hospital. But he needed to give Bliss a reason to run.
Dylan would stand by Abaddon's side until the end—that was his duty. He was Marchosias, the Angel of Truth, and he wouldn't abandon his general. Marchosias had sworn an oath to follow Abaddon into battle, an oath he'd gladly renewed when Abaddon and Azrael turned back to the Light. Dylan couldn't turn away now, but he couldn't let Bliss die.
"Okay," Bliss said. She reached down and pulled Dylan to his feet. Dylan started to turn away, but Bliss gripped his hand tight. He turned to look at her, praying she couldn't see his misery on his face. "I'll go help Oliver," Bliss said, "but promise me you and the others will run as soon as you have the chance."
"Dylan—" Bliss glanced around, wincing when a Silver Blood sent Mimi crashing to the ground across the stage. "This isn't the time. It wasn't supposed to be like this. But I saw. I saw the past. We're meant to be together. You and I—we're bond mates."
Dylan shuddered. He'd assumed as much, but hearing the truth confirmed shook him to his core. Now more than ever he wished he had more time.
Bliss gripped his shoulders tight, her eyes boring into his. "So when I say run as soon as you have the chance, you run, do you understand?"
Dylan nodded, his throat too tight to speak. Bliss leaned forward and kissed him hard, her hands digging into his arms.
"Good," Bliss said, her eyes fierce. "Now go kick some Silver Blood ass. I'll see you on the other side."
Dylan squared his shoulders, shaking his head to clear the sweat out of his eyes as he turned towards the fight. A cry from Schuyler drew his attention, and he ducked and dodged his way through the Silver Bloods on the fringes of the fight until he reached Schuyler's side.
Schuyler was facing off against three Silver Bloods at once, dancing back and forth as she tried to keep them from getting past her and reaching Jack and Kingsley. She was putting up a good fight, dodging blows on one side before striking a hit of her own on the other, but Dylan could see she was exhausted.
"Here, let me give you a hand," Dylan said, grinning at Schuyler when she turned to look at him in surprise.
Dylan waited until one of the Silver Bloods lunged for him, then grabbed the monster by its forearms and flipped it over his head, sending the beast crashing down to the floor of the cave. Schuyler stared at him in shock, and Dylan grinned.
"What? I eat my Wheaties."
"Clearly," Schuyler said, rolling her eyes. She stepped back a foot or so and then darted forward, scaling a Silver Blood's back and wrapping her arms around its neck. The Silver Blood staggered, growling as it tried to throw her off, and Dylan turned to assess the situation.
Mimi seemed to be holding her own against three Silver Bloods who were trying without success to dodge her vicious kicks and punches, but Dylan could see Kennedy was prowling towards Mimi, her hands curled into fists.
In the center of the altar, Jack was exchanging blow after blow with Kingsley, but he was hindered by the stray Silver Blood that kept breaking past Schuyler and Mimi. Jack was dealing with the Silver Bloods as they reached him, but it was keeping him from facing Kingsley full on, and Dylan knew that Kingsley was just waiting for an opening to strike Jack down.
Dylan grappled with another Silver Blood as it tried to charge for the center of the altar, his mind only half on the fight as he looked for Bliss and Oliver. He kneed the Silver Blood in the groin and then pushed himself up on the Silver Blood's shoulders so he could see the whole cavern.
He saw a flash of red, and caught sight of Bliss and Oliver making their way around the side of the cave towards the tunnel through which they had entered. Bliss was half-carrying, half dragging Oliver, who was limping along as fast as he could.
Dylan looked around nervously, but as far as he could tell none of the Silver Bloods had noticed Bliss and Oliver's escape.
A growl behind him was Dylan's only warning before a Silver Blood seized him by the waist, hauling him back against the Silver Blood's chest and pining him with its giant arms. Dylan's heart pounded in his chest as the Silver Blood lowered its head towards his neck. Dylan yelled and struggled as hard as he could, thrashing in the Silver Blood's grip. He would not be bitten again.
Suddenly, the Silver Blood howled in pain and dropped Dylan. Dylan had to scramble out of the way to avoid being crushed as the Silver Blood went crashing to the ground next to him. Dylan looked up to see Schuyler standing next to him, her black hair flying around her face as she panted for breath.
"Thanks," Dylan gasped. Schuyler offered him a hand and he hauled himself up.
"No problem," Schuyler said, but Dylan could see the worry written in her eyes.
"They're good," Dylan said, flicking his eyes towards the entrance of the cave.
Schuyler breathed out a sigh of relief. "Thanks," she said.
Dylan nodded. "Let's do this thing," he said, trying to project courage he didn't really feel.
"Schuyler! Dylan! You want to stop chit-chatting and start fighting?" Mimi executed and impressive roll under a Silver Blood's arm, kicking another one in the gut before coming to a stop next to them.
"Sorry," Schuyler said, rolling her eyes at Dylan.
"Less talk, more ass-kicking," Mimi said. She glanced around, eyes sharp as she assessed the situation. "Come on. Let's go make a stand with Jack. Maybe if we can take out the Silver Bloods then we can take down Kingsley and Kennedy."
Dylan scrambled to follow Mimi, ducking and dodging his way through the remaining Silver Bloods until they reached Jack. Dylan took a perverse pleasure from kicking Kingsley hard in the shins as he darted by. Kingsley staggered and almost fell, scowling when he turned to face his new opponents.
"CROATOAN TO ME!" he yelled, voice echoing off the walls of the cavern. The Silver Bloods howled and scrambled for Kingsley, their eyes made with bloodlust.
Mimi quickly turned to she was back-to-back with Jack, and Dylan did the same with Schuyler, the two of them to Jack and Mimi's immediate left. The four of them now stood at the center of the altar, the stone basin at their backs.
Dylan did a quick head count, wincing when he realized that there were still about fifteen Silver Bloods left, even though between them they'd already taken down a little more than half the group. In addition, Kingsley and Kennedy stood next to each other, their movements mirroring Mimi and Jack's.
"Listen to me!" Kingsley said, yelling to be heard over the howling of the Silver Bloods. "Abaddon and Azrael you can drain, but you must leave them alive. The same goes for the half-blood," Kingsley said, jerking his head at Schuyler. "We need them alive to complete the ritual." Kingsley's eyes flicked to Dylan, contempt on his face. "As for Marchosias, rip him limb from limb and share his blood amongst you."
Dylan felt his heart seize in his chest. Everyone spun towards the sound of the voice. Bliss was standing about fifteen feet from the tunnel leading out of the cave. Her eyes were wide and her face horrified as she stared at Dylan and the others surrounded by the Silver Bloods. Oliver was leaning against the wall next to her, his face white and pinched.
"What in the…" Kingsley turned to look at the pillar where Bliss and Oliver had been tied. Kingsley growled and shook his head. "Stop them!" he snapped. "Kill them if necessary—we already have their blood."
"Oliver, run!" Schuyler screamed. She was already running for Kingsley, but he turned and threw Schuyler to the ground with one vicious hit.
"Bliss, Oliver, GO!" Jack yelled. He and Mimi had started shoving their way through the Silver Bloods as soon as Kingsley spoke, and they put themselves between the Silver Bloods and the edge of the altar.
Out of the corner of his eye, Dylan saw Schuyler step into Kennedy's path as she started towards Mimi and Jack. Although it went against every instinct he had, Dylan turned away from Bliss and planted himself in front of Kingsley.
Kingsley growled and tried to throw Dylan down the same way he'd taken out Schuyler, but Dylan anticipated the move. He ducked under Kingsley's arm and stamped on Kingsley's instep in the same move. Kingsley yelped in pain and jumped back, and Dylan bowed his head and head-butted Kingsley in the stomach, throwing his whole weight behind the blow. His body throbbed with pain and exhaustion, but he knew now wasn't the time to give into the pain.
Kingsley fell to the ground with a crash, and Dylan started to charge him again, but Kingsley's eyes widened in horror, staring at something behind Dylan.
Even as Dylan turned, Kingsley was up and running, shoving roughly past Dylan as he ran for the entrance of the cave. Dylan turned to see Bliss and Oliver dodging past a Silver Blood who had fought its way past Jack and Mimi. They reached the entrance of the cave, and Dylan breathed a sigh of relief.
Kingsley jerked to a stop, and at first Dylan thought he was letting them go, but then Kingsley twisted his hands in the air. The blood drained out of Dylan's face. He recognized that move.
"Oliver, Bliss, watch out!" he yelled, but it was too late.
Kingsley raised his hands in the air. "ABDANNO!" he screamed, and the world fell apart.