Book Two of the Best-Selling Novel, The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld
Not all vampires are created equal...
Koa is a half-blood vampire with not only the ability to fly, but survive in the sun's light. She will do anything to protect her mother, and break her curse. The demon, Bund, wants more than her mother's life. He wants something from Koa, a power that she doesn't even know she has, and will rip through as many humans as he can to get her to surrender.
Agent Koa Ryeo-won, and her boss, Halston, formed a crew of supernatural agents to stop Bund. But is a prophet, a temptress, a War-Breeder, a half-blood with an enchanted sword, and a few angels enough to stop what Bund has planned?
In the midst of a war between the humans of the mortal world, and the creatures of the Netherworld, Koa discovers the truth of her past. She finds herself torn between two men, and in the center of everything. Faced with all of her returned memories, Koa also finds herself more powerful than ever. Being a half-blood is hard enough, but what exactly is Koa's other half?
The truth can save...or destroy everything.
Will the Netherworld Division stand behind Koa once they learn her secret?
Chapter 1 of K.N. Lee's young adult fantasy, Academia of the Beast!
Koa frowned down at her body. A red dress. Koa hated red, but she did not have a choice. Like the blood that Koa had spilled the night before when she had been cut with a glowing dagger, the dress was dark and rich.
Ceremonies such as this were normal in the Netherworld. The wound on her white wrist healed before her eyes. Within minutes, the ceremony was complete, the tests were run, and it was confirmed that she was indeed the daughter of Alsand Vangelis, the vampire king of Elyan.
Only hours ago, Koa was awakened by a team of violet-eyed women tugging at her limbs. They washed her in scalding hot water, scrubbed her raw with oils, and slathered creams onto her snow-white skin. They straightened her thick black hair and painted her face with colors that Koa only thought older women were allowed to wear. Then, she had been dressed.
In a gaudy red wedding gown… at the age of twelve.
Koa wanted to run from the black temple that she and her father had slept in. On the side of a mountain, the temple faced the back of the dark kingdom that was meant to be her prison for an eternity. She wanted to break free from the parade of attendants sent to accompany her and fly home.
The human world seemed so far away.
No one understood just how much she did not want to do this. This wasn’t to be a human wedding, but a Netherworld wedding… a vampire wedding.
Koa scrunched up her nose as she looked down at the billowing gown, littered with sparkling crystals and black taffeta. She looked like a gothic spin on a Disney princess.
Vampire Barbie, she thought to herself.
Even at such a young age, Koa knew she did not fit the role of such a character. She was not a doll or a character from the books she read. She closed her eyes and tried to calm her nerves.
Like boiling acid, anxious feelings churned within her stomach, making her feel like she might faint, or worse… vomit at any moment.
How embarrassing that would be, Koa thought as she chewed her lip. She grimaced. Her lips tasted horrible, like tar. She’d almost forgotten that she was covered in makeup like a clown. Her small hands shook and she wanted to cry. It took all of her strength to keep the tears from escaping and causing an even bigger scene. With hot cheeks she held her breath, and prayed for an escape.
Koa was afraid of this dark place, where neither the sun nor moon existed. The entire population was composed of millions of creatures that would have given normal girls nightmares. “Nephilim” is what her father called them. The spawn of fallen angels. King Alsand was a nephilim. Koa was as well.
She was glad that her father was by her side. He never let go of her hand. With her free hand, Koa tugged at the high collar of her gown. She groaned. The black lace made the skin on her throat itch.
Koa looked up at her father. She was small, and her father always looked like such a giant to her. King Alsand walked regally by her side. He commanded such attention. With his head held high, his face depicted an air of authority. Together, they walked at the head of the procession through the wide streets of Lyrinia, while the citizens watched in uneasy silence.
Netherworld vamps, War-Breeders, Jems, Syths, and even ghouls came out of their hiding spots to catch a glimpse of the mysterious half-blood princess.
Koa tried not to stare back at the horrific creatures all around. The sound of metal and robotic buzzing noises caught her attention as a quad of Scayors entered the crowd. Everyone stepped aside to let them through to the front. Like metallic giants, slim, and sleek, the Scayors patrolled the event like silent police. Their eyes cast a dim green glow over what they scanned.
She shuddered when their gaze lingered on her. She feared that they were reading her thoughts and knew that she was afraid of them. That was one thing that Koa hated, the admission of fear. Even the monk-like Syths scared her. They were big, pale, creatures with bald heads and faces covered in tattoos.
Lightning broke out and everyone looked up to the sky. Koa clutched her father’s arm and paused.
He smiled down at her. “Don’t worry, Koa. It’s not a real sky, my love. That is simply the ground of another Netherworld level. I believe they are having a battle up there.”
Koa’s eyes narrowed as she looked at the dismal black sky. Lightning struck again, but it wasn’t the kind of lighting that she was used to. It was green and took the shape of various symbols as it faded into the dark. To think that they were only on one of the many levels of the Netherworld, and that entire civilizations and kingdoms were going about their business with little to no care about what an important day this was for Lyrinia was too much for young Koa to grasp.
When she looked back down, she saw that everyone had returned their attention to her. Vampire women and men stared at her. They were the only creatures that she wasn’t fearful of. Father had various vampires over at the manor from time to time, but none of them looked as picturesque as these Netherworld vamps.
Painted faces stared at her. The vampire women were the most beautiful women that Koa had ever seen, and yet none compared to her mother’s simple and natural beauty. These women were like painted dolls who she imagined tipping over and watching crack into pieces of porcelain.
Koa noticed how they seemed to be separated into groups. The red lipsticks on the left and the black lipsticks on the right. Koa didn’t know if it was simply a fashion trend or something more, but all of the women wore the most elaborate gowns and jeweled arrangements on their perfectly sculptured hairdos.
They watched her, unblinking, unsmiling. She could see the judgment in their eyes.
“Father,” Koa breathed. She looked away from their violet eyes and clutched her father’s arm.
King Alsand looked down at her. His green eyes were serious today. “What is it, darling?”
Koa looked ahead at the sparkling golden palace before them. The golden plates along the palaces walls shimmered and reflected all of the light from the Disc Moon, the artificial moon of the Netherworld. Her voice was caught in her throat. Something felt odd and yet she felt drawn to the palace. It stood out like a candle in the dark and pulled her in, as if by magic, like a moth to a porch light.
Koa’s face paled. This was the place that would be her new home. King Greggan’s teenage son, Prince Jax, would be her new husband.
Koa stopped. The guards that were leading them looked back and seemed ready to seize her and force her forward.
King Alsand leaned down to her ear. “What’s wrong?”
“I want to go home.”
Her father patted her hand and when one of the Syth guards stepped forward, he whipped out the Lyrinian sword with lightning speed. Everyone drew in a breath and stepped back as they beheld its power. The ring of steel rang throughout the air. It pulsed, audibly, and visibly as the red glow made the air heat and crackle.
Even Koa held her breath as her eyes shot to the Lyrinian blade.
King Alsand’s raptor-like glare burned into the guards, warning them to keep their distance. He didn’t have to say a word. The red glow of the black blade was enough to make the large brutish creatures rethink their actions.
King Alsand waited a moment longer, making sure that they knew how serious he was. Koa had only trained with that sword once. The power was too great for her now, but one day it would be hers.
She flinched when her father’s glare landed on her. “Koa, this is your home.”
Koa shook her head, but avoided his eyes. She looked around. The air was stale, not like the fresh, fragrant air of France. The sky was dark, lit only by the Disc Moon that cast different colors across the land whenever the hour changed.
She missed the moon of Earth. She missed the sun, the trees, and the flowers. The Netherworld felt like a nightmare from which she would never awaken. No matter what color the day was in the Netherworld, it was always too dark for her. Koa’s father didn’t understand her love for daylight, for he had never seen real daylight.
The sun’s rays would kill him just as surely as it would kill any vampire, Netherworld or New World. Koa was the only exception and she wished that he would at least try to understand.
“You are half Netherworld vamp, Koa,” her father gave her hand a squeeze. “This is where you belong, amongst your people.”
“I am also half human.”
King Alsand looked down at her and pursed his lips. His eyes hid something from her.
Koa tried to soften her voice and sound as sweet as possible. “Bring mother here, and maybe I won’t feel so homesick,” Koa reasoned, her green eyes hopeful.
King Alsand shook his head, but his features softened for her. “My darling girl. You will see that this is the place for you. You belong here with your people. The treaty has already been signed.” He leaned closer to her ear and whispered. “Your mother cannot come here Koa. She is safe in the mortal world. If we do not fulfill our side of the treaty, she will be in danger. Now, is that what you want?”
Her lips trembled. She shook her head quickly. Just the thought of someone harming her mother made her feel sick. She didn’t know what she would do if she lost that sweet, loving, woman.
She looked into her father’s eyes.
“Do you understand what I am telling you?”
Koa nodded. She understood, but she still didn’t agree with what was happening.
Alsand smiled and stroked her pale white cheek.
“But I don’t want to do this,” Koa whispered.
Alsand’s smile faded, but his eyes didn’t turn cold on her as she expected. He knelt down to her level and cupped her cheek.
“I know, my dear girl, but sometimes we have to do things that we don’t want to… to protect those that we love.”
“May I?” Faun asked of Alsand.
Alsand nodded and Faun gathered her white skirts in one hand and scampered over to fix Koa’s long black hair. Koa didn’t take her eyes from her father’s. She hoped that he would see how miserable she was.
Koa ignored Faun as she examined her face with violet eyes. She was adamant about making sure that Koa’s part was perfectly straight and that her hair fell in long ringlets.
“Smile,” she said.
Koa twisted her mouth. “I don’t want to.”
Faun put her hands on her bony hips. She scrunched up the space between her thin brows as she narrowed her eyes at Koa. “Just do it. It’s only for a second.”
Koa rolled her eyes and faked a quick smile.
“That wasn’t so hard, now was it?” Snickering, she gathered her skirts in her hand. “You have red lipstick on your teeth,” she said and returned to her place in the procession behind Koa and her father.
Frustrated, Koa rubbed her teeth with her finger. She knew just how ridiculous she looked. Black liner, red lips, and rosy cheeks.
Alsand locked arms with Koa. He leaned close and gave her a kiss on the cheek. He lowered his voice into a whisper. “Remember, never mention that you can walk in the sun. Never.”
Koa swallowed and squeezed her eyes shut. “I know, father. You don’t have to keep reminding me.”
“Good,” he stood back to his full height. His eyes widened and he leaned down again. “Or that you can fly.”
Koa nodded, her head down. “Yes, I know.”
He pinched her cheek. “Good. Shall we continue, darling?”
“I don’t know, father.” Koa couldn’t bring herself to look at her father again. “Is there anything else that you want to remind me not to say or do?” Her eyes were burning from the tears that threatened to gush forth.
Alsand noticed and simply shook his head. He patted her hand.
She hung her head. Once again, they were walking down the black stone walkway that led to the gate and stone doors of the Lyrinian palace.
Koa’s heart pattered against her ribcage. She felt like she might have an anxiety attack. So many eyes staring. So much anticipation in the air.
Those golden gates that she’d been staring at for the past hour, as they walked through the entire kingdom, were held open for them and heavily guarded.
When Koa stepped through the gates and entered a massive courtyard of stone. Their path was lit for them. On either side of the carpet were artificial trees of stone and black clay. They weren’t real, but they were beautiful. Art.
Even Koa could appreciate the mastery. She examined the sculptures as she followed her escort through the courtyard and to the stone doors that led into the palace. Once inside, light seemed to fill every dark space. Chandeliers, torches, candles, mirrors reflecting the light, and light discs were positioned all over the wide corridor.
It was then that Koa contemplated flying away. She’d thought of it often. It would be her last chance. She took a peek over her shoulder. She could still see the door. She’d just promised her father that she would keep her abilities a secret. She wasn’t sure why such things were so important.
She could simply lift herself into the air, and head for the Gate, but visions of her mother being harmed kept her firmly planted to the purple carpeted floor.
Koa felt numb, like she was walking to her prison cell.
Each corridor led to another corridor of a different theme. From one of light and mirrors they stepped through grand archers to a corridor of dim candles and artificial flowers in vases painted with paint that seemed to have a light of its own. There was a corridor with walls filled with paintings and soft music played by a small creature that resembled the one at the Gate. Tunes was what her father called him, but all Koa remembered was how creepy he was. She shuddered as she recalled Tunes’ bulbous eyes.
Koa watched it buzz around with short black wings as it blew eerie melodies out of its flute. She tapped her chin and furrowed her brows as she tried to remember what kind of creature it was.
With bat-like wings and rubbery, yellowish skin, she was sure she’d seen that creature in a book from her father’s study. Koa spent hours in there, reading anything that she could get her hand on. The Netherworld tomes always intrigued her. Now she was faced with the creatures she’d studied.
“An imp!” Koa shouted triumphantly. She covered her mouth with her hand and looked around in horror. She hadn’t meant to say that aloud. Everyone glanced at her with disapproval, but the imp continued playing its flute until they went into the next corridor.
Koa was relieved to find that the maze of corridors had finally ended, and that they were finally in the main ballroom where the prince and the royal family awaited them.
She stepped into the room, from carpet to shiny granite floors and a flood of light and decorations overwhelmed her senses. She didn’t want to admit how beautiful it was, but her eyes widened at the spectacle. Hundreds of chairs draped with gold silk lined either side of the alleyway that led to the dais where the thrones stood.
Her heart thumped. She felt something she hadn’t expected. Koa’s face flooded with blood as her eyes met those of the prince.
No one else mattered. Nothing else existed as Koa’s eyes cut through the crowd and down to the set of five thrones as Koa and her father stopped before the platform.
“Princess Evina, 1st Queen Katya, 2nd Queen Lera, your highness, King Greggan, and Prince Jax, behold King Alsand of Elyan and Princess Koa.”
Koa heard the introductions but something odd was happening. She stared at Prince Jax with her mouth agape.
He was the most attractive person she had ever seen in her life: piercing dark blue eyes, dark blood-red hair, and a perfectly sculpted chin and nose. Koa felt her face flush as he looked her up and down. Then, he did something that made her grin, despite her previous fears and doubts.
Prince Jax winked at her.
Koa’s grin widened. A weight was lifted from her shoulders and she felt light as air.
Excitement flooded her small body. She held her head a little higher and practically beamed.
Everyone in attendance could read her expression. Whispers swept through the room as the guests watched the exchange of looks between Koa and Prince Jax. Jax sat at the edge of his seat, his youthful face bright with surprise. Koa wondered if he’d been imagining her as an ugly troll. She never even considered the prince actually being attractive.
Maybe this isn’t so bad, she thought as she admired Prince Jax’s perfect face. She’d never seen anyone that looked like him, and from the citizens of Lyrinia that she’d encountered so far, Jax probably never saw anyone like her. Growing up in Korea, Koa was kept from others, but everyone had the same dark eyes and black hair.
Koa saw something familiar in Jax’s dark blue eyes. She saw mischief, even as he sat beside his father who looked like an evil statue. Koa liked that look. She shared the same craving for mischief. Mischief meant fun was in store. She took her hand from her father’s and found herself drawn to the prince. She wanted to speak with him, to share stories, and play games.
He’s cute, she thought as she smoothed her dress. Koa never thought she’d be married at the age of twelve, but she suddenly wasn’t so opposed to it. I’m a princess, she thought. He is a prince. Isn’t it every girl’s dream to have a fairy tale wedding?
Koa didn’t try to hide her admiration and her father smiled down at her. “I told you that everything would be all right,” he whispered.
King Greggan stood. The entire room quieted. Koa’s smile faded. She looked at the man’s face and felt instant warnings flood her mind.
He was pale like his son, and shared the same shade of blood-red hair, yet his was long and in a single braid while Jax’s was short and messy. King Greggan had a long red beard as well, that he stroked as he looked down at them, as if in thought.
Koa couldn’t help thinking that he looked like one of those Vikings that her tutor had taught her about. All he needed was a helmet with horns.
There was something different in the king’s eyes and Koa identified it immediately. She swallowed.
Evil. There wasn’t another word to describe what she saw.
Koa saw it, and she hoped that her father did as well. She did not trust that Netherworld vamp.
While everyone bowed, Koa and King Alsand were allowed to simply nod their head to the king.
King Greggan clasped his hands before him and looked at the Lyrinian sword.
“Come to bind our kingdoms and return the sword your ancestors stole?”
King Alsand looked up at King Greggan and tilted his head. Koa noticed that this was a heated topic, but her father, being the diplomat that he was, would play this like a game.
“Stole?” King Alsand repeated, feigning ignorance.
King Greggan did not reply, but his dark gaze held a deep hatred for her father that didn’t need words. That look made Koa uncomfortable. She’d never seen such hatred before.
King Alsand grabbed the hilt of the Lyrinian sword and withdrew it. King Greggan flinched, but it was such a tiny action that most wouldn’t have caught it.
Her father ran his finger along the black blade. “I do believe it is my family name engraved into the sword’s metal dear friend. The angels passed it on to my line. You may forget your history,” he tilted his head. “I don’t blame you… history can be terribly boring at times. But,” he raised a finger, “the House of Vangelis once sat on the throne of Lyrinia.”
King Alsand looked at Greggan with innocent eyes, but Koa could see the fury silently building behind them. Her eyes went to the Lyrinian blade. It started to glow.
“That is, before the House of Tulach started that little squabble that led to the great divide and forced my family into the Eastern Dominance.”
King Greggan’s mouth twitched. “Little squabble,” he said and nodded his head. He stroked his beard as he regarded her father with silent hate.
“That’s right,” King Alsand replied. “As I am King Alsand Vangelis, and you are King Greggan Tulach, we should remember our history, lest we repeat it.” He slid the sword back into its scabbard. “And my family will keep what is rightfully ours.”
“Rightfully ours? You sound like such a human.”
King Alsand shrugged. “So be it.”
King Greggan’s gaze went from the sword to young Koa. His eyes lingered on her pale face and she felt herself grow self-conscious. She struggled to keep a straight face and not look away.
She would not show fear. She would not let the vamp king see that she wanted nothing more than to hide behind her father like a little girl. Instead, she held her head high, just how she’d been taught.
Never show fear, her father would say. Never.
King Greggan nodded then. Koa wasn’t sure why. Maybe he was agreeing with what her father had just said. Perhaps he was admiring her. She feared that both options were false.
“Yes. I believe you’re right.” His eyes lifted to her father’s and he mocked an innocent look of his own. His bushy red brows rose. “So, you wouldn’t mind if I marry your daughter, rather than give her to my son, would you?”
Koa’s jaw dropped. Her stomach sank. Even Prince Jax was visibly surprised by his father’s words. The only person who wasn’t surprised was King Alsand.
To Koa’s horror, he nodded. She yelped. “No!” She covered her mouth with her hand as her plea seemed to loudly echo throughout the ballroom.
Her father put out a hand to silence her. He looked up at King Greggan.
“If that is your wish, my daughter, Princess Koa of Elyan in the Eastern Dominance will be glad to be your bride. As it states in the treaty—that the angels comprised, mind you—the first born female of the House of Vangelis will be offered to the House of Tulach for peacekeeping. So, the male counterpart is of little concern.”
Koa felt her face go red with fury. She shook her head. She bit her lip as she looked into his eyes. Her eyes stung from tears and she risked whispering to him, “Please, father.”
King Greggan showed his first smirk then. “Are you sure, dear friend? I’d hate to have to break the treaty ‘that the angels comprised’ due to a misunderstanding and start the war up again.”
Koa was nudged forward. She resisted her father’s nudge. She didn’t want to go. Such an unjustice did not sit well with her. She could have screamed but she knew what would happen if she didn’t go willingly. Many people would die. She whimpered and stood before the vamp king.
“Let the wedding begin.” King Alsand said and Koa knew that her entire world would end. It was official.
Childhood was over.
“Just one second, friend,” Greggan sneered. His eyes were twinkling with malice. “Don’t you want to check with the angels first? We have our very own referee here. Let’s ask him, if this is agreeable to the treaty.”
Koa dared to hope. She’d never seen a real angel, and her interest was thoroughly sparked. Perhaps the angels could save her from this horrible fate. Everyone went silent, and the entire room turned to look towards the back of the room.
Koa followed their gazes. There, in the back, stood two men. One was as tall as a giant and muscular. He didn’t wear a shirt, only an iron breastplate that covered his right shoulder and chest, dark pants under armor, and iron gauntlets on each wrist. Scars covered nearly every inch of his bronze colored body.
Koa had never seen anyone with so many weapons. An axe, a dagger, shiny weapons she couldn’t identify, and a spear. He looked like a warrior god, but it was the man beside him that held her attention.
The man with the bright blonde hair was tall, but not as tall as the other. He wasn’t as flashy either. Only a silver gun peeked from a holster at his side. He was quiet and reserved, but Koa sensed that he was calculating, and perhaps the most powerful being there.
And she was right.
King Greggan’s voice boomed. “What do you say, Master Halston?”
Master Halston gave a single nod. Everyone waited in silent anticipation. “I’ll allow it.”
Koa almost didn’t hear the words that came from his mouth, for their eyes locked and she suddenly doubted everything she thought she knew. It was as if he spoke to her with that one look. He urged her to be brave, to trust, to be patient.
Koa had never seen that man before in her life, but somehow she felt inclined to obey. But at twelve, she couldn’t help but resist.
And she did.
She turned to run, and before she could get even two feet, her body was held immobile by silver bands. Tears stung her eyes as she looked at her father. His face was paler than she’d ever seen it. His eyes were glossy with tears of his own. But what hurt her more than anything was that he did nothing to stop it. He raised a hand, but withdrew it, and stood by in silence.
Koa’s face heated. “You liar,” she growled at her father. “I hate you.”
Now, at twenty-one, Koa remembered the day her life had changed with stunning clarity. Childhood was no longer a blur. The pain returned with full force. When Koa had broken him out of the prison in the Ivory Tower, Prince Jax had returned her memories to her, and now she would have to deal with what she’d always wanted.
Her vision of the dark world before her was blurred by hot tears. The truth truly did hurt. Halston had warned her for years. He’d told her that she was better off not knowing what had happened to her during her time in the Netherworld. Koa shuddered at the memories of what Greggan had done to her back then.
Koa wanted to rip herself free and fly after Halston. The look on his face when they’d parted made her ill. She needed to be certain that he would survive. Even though she had her Jax back, she knew that she would not be able to handle the death of the angel that doomed her, and yet became her best friend.
Jax’s grip on her waist tightened as they approached the first cavern that led out of Lyrinia. The deafening howls of the Wraith made Koa squeeze her eyes shut and cover her ears with her hands.
“I want to go back!” Koa shouted and tugged her body from Jax’s grasp.
Jax wouldn’t let her go. He held on and wrapped his other arm around her. “Koa, listen. You cannot go back. This is our only chance to make it out.”
“He’s right,” Evina, his sister, shouted over the howls. “Let Halston do his job. He can handle it.”
Koa wiped her cheeks of tears and turned to face the first set of caverns.
“Shadows,” she breathed. Memories of the Shadows reaching out to her with their cold hands pulsed in her mind. Halston was not there to protect her from them with the power of his angelic glow this time.
Jax gave her a tender squeeze and whispered into her ear. “I won’t let anything happen to you, Koa.”
His warm breath made her shiver, and she glanced up at him. His face was so close that they could kiss. If she wasn’t fearful for her life, she might have kissed him, just out of the passion she felt from having his body pressed to her. His eyes met hers, twinkling in the dim light of the Netherworld’s Disc Moon.
With a wry smile, he looked ahead. He gave a nod to the entrance of the first cavern. “Don’t worry. We will make it.”
The howls of the Wraith were cut off the second they flew into the cavern. The cold seeped through her skin and into her bones. Koa shivered. She wrapped her arms around Jax’s neck and buried her face into his shoulder. Black, with a dimly lit path below, the cavern reminded her of an eerie forest at night. The smooth black stone that covered the floor was littered with perfectly spaced discs of yellow light.
A flying beetle the size of her fist buzzed before her face. It examined her. Koa smacked it away and cringed when it let out a loud bellow of pain that sounded like an old man. She watched it dart away and wiped its blood onto her jeans.
Jax kissed her forehead. He spoke softly. “We’ll make it. I promise.”
Koa nodded but bit her lip to keep from sobbing.
The look in his blue eyes as they parted wouldn’t leave the forefront of her mind. The Ivory Tower could not be the end of him. She needed him.
Koa looked over at Evina. She rode her disc with mastery, as if surfing along the air. Her red hair flew behind her, and she stood with perfect balance with her arms crossed under her large bosom.
“Watch out!” Koa screeched when she saw a glowing arrow cut through the dark.
Evina veered out of the way just in time. Koa’s eyes widened when she looked ahead and saw that there was a squad of guards from the city. Battle-worn soldiers hovered in the air in battle formation. No Scayors or Syths, just vampires that had vowed allegiance to King Greggan.
Jax held her close. “You have any more of those vials from the Alchemist?”
Koa swallowed. Her throat was dry. She shook her head. “No,” she whispered. She tensed as she watched the soldiers.
A woman used her disc to fly ahead of the formation. Koa paled. “Second wife,” she breathed.
Queen Lera, Greggan’s second wife, held her daggers in her hands. “What do you two think you’re doing?” She spoke to Evina and Jax. “Traitors to your own kingdom!” She was not their mother. With her black hair and gray eyes, she was covered in the tattoos of Netherworld dialect with the only ink that could permanently stain a vampire’s flesh.
No, this vampire woman was not the motherly sort. With her hair pulled into a bun at the top of her head, and wrapped in chains of vampire fangs that she had pulled out from her victims, she was a warrior who lived for battle.
“Just get out of the way, Lera.” Jax was calm. He took his arm from around Koa and she stepped off the disc to fly by his side. He took out his daggers, clinked them together, and ignited a red glow that caused the air to sizzle. “I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if I have to.”
Evina snorted a laugh. She pulled her large curved sword from its place along her back and pointed it at Lera. “Oh no, no. Unlike my brother, I would love to make you bleed,” she hissed. She waved Lera on. “Just come a little closer.”
Lera grinned, but her eyes were not filled with joy, but hate. She clinked her dagger’s hilts together and they glowed red as well. She held them ready at her sides. Her eyes went from Evina and back to Jax. “The king doesn’t want you dead, but I have been given clearance to stop you at all costs. Do not expect me to show mercy, because I won’t.”
Koa glanced at Jax and Evina. Neither seemed surprised that their father would have them killed, just to rule in the human world. Koa didn’t like how this was going. Her jaw clenched. Fury started to rise within her belly. She did not know if she would be able to control herself. Her hate for Lera was stronger that her patience.
Koa drew her Lyrinian sword and waited. She counted a dozen soldiers, took stock of what weapons they carried, and prepared for an inevitable battle.
Her stomach bubbled with anticipation. The heat and power of the sword coursed up her arm and filled her veins. She felt strong. The sword gave her courage. She wanted their blood to cover the blade. The sword begged her, like an impatient child.
Gimme! Gimme! Koa imagined it saying to her. It did have a mind of its own, and when drawn, it had an unquenchable thirst for blood.
Lera’s dark gaze landed on Koa. Her grin faded and her lips curled into a snarl.
“You,” she growled. Lera’s face seemed to grow dark as she glared at Koa.
Koa flinched at the look of evil in that woman’s eyes. Her mouth couldn’t form the words that she wanted to say. She wanted to say something snarky like Evina, but her history with the vampire queen was a traumatic one. Instead she looked down at the blade and to Jax.
Jax sensed the tension and moved to put an arm out. Koa looked confused as he pushed her behind him.
Koa raised a brow as Lera licked her daggers. The sharp blade slit her tongue and she let the blood increase their power. “Out of my way, Jax. The half-blood and I have unfinished business.”
Koa’s heart quickened as Lera flew forward. Lera was so quick that Koa barely saw her form cut through the dark.
Koa simply reacted.
And Koa… was quicker.
Koa didn’t mean to do it. It was purely instinctual, but she gripped her sword’s hilt with both hands and ducked beneath Jax’s outstretched arm. She sliced across the air and through both of Lera’s legs with all of the strength within her body. Bone was sawed through and blood sprayed into the air and onto Koa’s white face.
The smell of burning flesh wafted into Koa’s nostrils, and the sound of Lera’s scream thundered in her ears. The Lyrinian sword’s blade glowed brighter, redder.
Koa looked up. There were still at least a dozen more bodies to let it feast upon.
Koa ground her teeth as she flew past and looked back at the screaming vampire queen as she reached for her bloodied knees in horror.
The soldiers, Jax, and Evina, watched Lera fall down to the black ground below.
Jax’s eyes slowly rose to meet hers. His jaw still hung in surprise.
Koa cleared her throat and nodded to the soldiers. “Well, are we killing them and escaping or not?” Drunk off of adrenaline and the intoxicating power of the Lyrinian sword, Koa dove into the frenzy of battle.
She never looked back, but she heard Evina’s battle cry and the clashing of steel against steel behind her.
Koa was never a tidy fighter. She was more of a wild animal, uncaring about how she killed a foe, only that they died as quickly and effectively as possible.
And so, her sword was used as merely an extension of her arm. With wide movements, she flung her arm in a circle and sliced through one soldier’s belly. She grabbed the next closest soldier by the back of his head with her free hand and kneed him in the face, shattering his jaw. He fell from his disc and went crashing to the ground.
Koa grinned almost evilly. How dare they try to fight her in her element? No other vampire could fly, and their discs were not as reliable as her body.
She grunted as a dagger stabbed her in the side. Eyes wide with rage, she caught a female vamp’s arm and twisted it out of its socket. The soldier cried out. Then, Koa grabbed her by her long hair and flew with great speed higher into the black sky. The soldier’s flying disc hovered in the same spot below.
She grabbed Koa by the jaw and shouted at her in a language that she only understood vaguely. Netherworld dialect was burned somewhere in the dark recesses of her mind that she’d tried to forget, but she understood one word.
Like a cruel executioner, Koa sliced through her neck with her sword. She held the vamp’s head by her hair and watched her body fall lifeless below. Then, in Netherworld dialect she spoke to her severed head, bringing its empty eyes close to her face.
Then, alone above the carnage of what Jax and Evina did to the remaining soldiers, she tossed the head far off like a ball. Hot tears burned her eyes again. Images of what she’d suffered threatened to drive her mad. She tried to push them back into the box of unwanted memories, but they refused to go back. Koa growled and covered her eyes. How many times had she cried for mercy and King Greggan ignored her?
She shivered, cold and exhausted. She wrapped her arms around herself and spoke to the quiet that followed as Jax and Evina looked up at her, done with the battle.
“Halston,” she whispered between sobs. Her dagger wound throbbed, but not as much as her head. It threatened to make her black out, but for some reason Koa knew that she could not let herself go. She feared what would happen if she let herself go into that dark place. Sleep was not an option. Not until she and the others were free from the horror of the Netherworld. Not until she knew her loved ones were safe.