The Beautiful Ashes Page 68

The stone hit the blond minion in the chest, denting his armor right in the middle of its elaborately embroidered ’’A.’’ Then it dropped to the floor, which is what I expected the blond minion to do. In fact, I expected all of them to drop dead on the spot, but the blond minion only stared at me. Then he stared at the stone and his friends, his expression changing from fear to bewilderment.

’’That\s it?’’ he asked in English.

My exultation turned to ashes, which is what the minions should have done. Yet they stood there, a dent in Blond Minion\s armor the only sign that I\d hit him with the famed, long-sought-after weapon.

I grabbed another chunk of stone, desperation making my fingers tremble as I slid it into the slight pouch. This has to work, it has to! my mind roared. No way was this the wrong weapon. Not only had it been hidden in a wall within a demon realm, its power made my arm ache. So why wasn\ it killing everyone like it was supposed to?

I whipped the stone toward them without really aiming this time. It hit Muddy Minion, and he let out a yelp that gave me a wild flash of hope before I realized I\d only pissed him off.

Then the three minions lunged toward me, all their former wariness gone, and I did the only thing I could do.

I ran.

Chapter thirty-six

Trying to hide while looking like a half-ton demon lizard would be impossible. That\s why I ran straight to the tunnel in the lower courtyard where I\d seen the other Hounds disappear to. As expected, it led to the mud room and I submerged myself into the warm, stinky water along with the rest of them. I even took off my leather bikini since I\d noticed that none of these Hounds wore straps, but I kept the slingshot. I intended to choke Zach with it as soon as I saw him if I managed to live through this.

All for nothing! I kept inwardly howling. I\d risked my life repeatedly based on the promise that if I found the slingshot, I\d be able to save my sister. Now I had the stupid, ancient weapon, and it couldn\ even help me save myself.

After about ten minutes, the Hounds decided they were warm enough to patrol again. I got out with them, intending to run straight for the B and B as soon as I cleared the castle grounds. When we rounded a corner in the stone hallway, however, a barricade of minions blocked our path, lined so deep that I couldn\ count them all.

The other Hounds turned, deciding this must mean they got more time in the mud bath. I followed them, hoping like crazy that there was another way out except the one that was blocked. Just in case, as soon as we were back in the small room, I slipped the slingshot under a pile of animal bones in the corner. Much as I wanted to throttle Zach with the useless weapon, I didn\ want to get caught because I was the only Hound that appeared to be carrying its own leash.

It took just a few seconds to realize there was no exit down here. Out of options, I got into the water with the other Hounds, feeling as naked and helpless as I was. Why\d you run to the only place that didn\ have another way out? I silently lashed myself. So much for my plan to blend in.

My situation went from bad to worse when Demetrius strode into the underground room. The demon\s shadows filled the small space, brushing across my head and shoulders like tiny, icy fingers. I sank farther beneath the water, suddenly glad to be covered by the smelly, muddy liquid.

Three more people filed in after him. With sinking spirits, I recognized Blond Minion, Muddy Minion and their friend, whom I now dubbed as Scowling Minion for obvious reasons.

Demetrius said something to them in Demonish. Muddy Minion came up to the edge of the water and barked out one word. The Hounds sprang forward like he\d yelled ’’Lunch!’’ I did, too, standing at attention as they seemed to be doing.

Demetrius walked along the length of us. Whatever word the Hound handler had used, it kept all of them in perfect formation like dutiful lizard soldiers. So much for my hope that they\d charge anyone moving and I could slip out in the ensuing melee. No, I had to stand in line with them, all the while feeling like I had a neon sign over my head that flashed ’’Davidian.’’ Terror slithered through me, making me almost oblivious to the fact that I was stark naked in front of Demetrius and a few other men. If Demetrius could tell I wasn\ a Hound, I was dead.

Or worse.

Demetrius spoke sharply to Muddy Minion, who looked at the other Hounds and me with such obvious confusion that I almost whooped in relief. He couldn\ tell us apart! Okay, I wasn\ going to strangle Zach if I got out of this. I\d only punch him in the face. His Hound disguise was so good, not even their handler could tell me apart from the others


Willpower alone kept my head from snapping up at the sound of my name. Demetrius wasn\ getting me to out myself that easily. My fortitude must\ve surprised him because he went to the nearest Hound, petting it in apparent bemusement.

’’I know you\ e here,’’ Demetrius went on, flashing his cruel smile as he fondled the beast. ’’No Hound would use an ax to smash through a chimney, so it\s obvious you came to this realm looking for the weapon. Very clever of the Archons to disguise you as one of our pets. We\ e so used to having Hounds run about, we don\ even notice when we have an extra one.’’

I said nothing, of course. Didn\ even breathe loudly. My continued pretense was just staving off the inevitable, but what was I supposed to do? Serve myself up with a smile?

’’Clever also of you to soak yourself in here,’’ Demetrius continued, leaning in to smell the next Hound in line. ’’That mud bath reeks so much, I can\ pick up anything that might give you away, like the lingering trace of perfume.’’

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