Hey there! We have the next chapter of Assassin's Retirement where Zane has been made keeper of the mantles. Now, it is time for Anatha to deal with Ella. *evil cackle*
What had he gotten himself into?
Zane stared at Myranda, understanding that Medusa the Wise stared at him through Myranda's eyes. A shiver gripped him. Very little information survived history on the true Medusa. There was no question she was powerful, and even dangerous, but to whom exactly? She just laid some goddess mojo on him, and though he wasn't ungrateful for the trust she placed in him, he was 'weirded out'. He never actually understood the phrase until just then.
Alonzo's warmth covered his back and Zane immediately rested against him, taking shelter in the comforting embrace. The relief Alonzo's touch provided was something Zane would have to look at later, but for the moment, he was relieved his fear had been momentarily swept away.
"You are generous, Medusa," Alonzo intoned reverently. "We will strive to be worthy of this boon."
"I have no doubts," Medusa replied, her voice sounding like the hiss of scales rubbing together. The pouch at her waist writhed, something thumping against the hard leather several times. Zane did not want to know what was in it and was pretty sure he was all right with his lack of knowledge. "Now, we must deal with Ella and see how deep this corruption goes."
Zane swallowed thickly. He had to ask. "And if the corruption goes beyond the House of Oden's—Bal—uhm, Runes?"
"Then we will dig it out. They will not be able to hide from me." Even with the veil obscuring the majority of Myranda's face, what he could see of her smile made Zane's blood run cold.
Alonzo stepped around Zane and offered his arm to her. "Shall we?" he inquired formally.
Without a word, she slipped her hand into the crook of his elbow. Zane hurried to the door, leading the way back to the main room. He sensed the power of the goddess pushing at him as she and Alonzo followed. Everyone else must have felt the goddess riding Myranda because they were on the opposite side of the room, away from the dining area and the door to the garage where Ella was being held. The Valkyrie were lined up against the wall, their gazes trained on the floor. Strangely, all the bandmembers, as well as Skyld, had their backs to the room. Not one of them glanced over their shoulder. Upon seeing that, Zane didn't feel so bad about his own instinctual fear. Obviously they knew something he did not.
He opened the door to the mud room. Behind him, Medusa told the room that Zane was the protector of the lost and stolen mantels. Saja said something, but Zane didn't care. He opened the door to the garage.
Ella, hands and feet still bound, was attempting to hoist herself up onto a workbench in order to get to the window over it. Zane said nothing, crossing his arms as he waited to be noticed. She was oblivious, the duct tape over her mouth muffling her whimpers. Behind him Medusa's power flowed into the room. Ella must have sensed it because she frantically scrambled, knocking tools over that clattered loudly onto the concrete floor.
"That is enough." Medusa's command was said softly, but the result was if she had shouted. Ella startled and fell over backwards off the bench, landing hard on her back. "Alonzo, keep Zane back. Neither of you are to touch me. Do not attempt to look at my face for any reason. I will allow Zane to ask questions, if he has any. But know this, Ella's fate is in my hands. I will not be contradicted. Do I make myself clear?"
Zane's affirmative reply did not give away how he trembled. Any other time with anyone else, he would've been annoyed with himself. Very few things threw him, scared him. But then he had never been in the presence of a deity. He completely understood why worshipers would supplicate themselves. Who wanted to draw the ire of the being that could crush you in every way possible?
Ella whimpered pathetically, scrambling as best as she could away from Medusa. Zane felt no compassion for her. Turning so that her back was to Zane and Alonzo, Medusa stooped, yanking the gray tape from Ella's mouth.
"Whatever they have told you, Myranda, it is a lie," Ella exclaimed hurriedly. "We were attacked as soon as we landed. We have done nothing to provoke his ill-treatment." Ella's dark hair fell into her eyes and her once pristine pantsuit was dirty and wrinkled, yet as she groveled and cowered she had an almost regal bearing.
Zane moved closer to Alonzo. Even though Medusa faced away from him, the moment she tugged her veil free the power tripled. He was brought to his knees, but Alonzo was there, immediately wrapping his arms around Zane, pressing Zane's face into his chest. "Don't even look at her back." Alonzo counseled softly. "The goddess is nearer to the surface than normal. She must be very angry."
Zane wouldn't argue. He had never felt the like before and hoped to never again.
"Medusa!" Ella gasped. "I have done nothing to deserve your attention." Real fear was in her voice now.
"Child, you forget that I am the Wise One. Goddess of death and rebirth, destruction and creation. As such, I cannot only see your future but your past."
Zane couldn't help himself. He needed to see what was going on. He turned his head until he could see the garage from the corner of his eye. Ella truly cowered now, shaking her head furiously until the dark strands flew about her face. "You have no right to judge me. I am an Oracle and deserve to be heard by my sisters. Only they can condemn me. And… And they won't. I have only been doing what my house has commanded."
"Did your house sister, Peony, did she not deserve to be heard by the others before you killed her?" Zane wasn't sure how Medusa's raspy voice could turn more deadly, but it did, sending chills over his skin.
"Peony was an accident. We only wanted to discipline her for going—" As if realizing she'd said too much, Ella clamped her mouth shut so hard Zane heard her teeth clack.
"Like I told you, I already know. Just as I know that you weren't aggrieved when she died from her wounds. I also know that in order to get back at Skyld, you killed his brother when you discovered Mikael had not died but lived as a human. Peony planned to go to the fledgling organization I.O.N. to report the theft of the mantels. Her action would have taken away the power the House of Oden's Runes enjoyed, as well as freeing those the house had enslaved. I know exactly how you planned to ensnare Zane. You weren't sure if he was a scion. You've been watching his human mother for a year and only saw her mundaneness. But if Zane's father had lied about his death, you wondered if he lied about Zane's parentage. Even if Zane was no more remarkable than his mother, at least you would have an assassin at your beck and call."
Silence reigned. Ella looked past Medusa to where Zane knelt on the floor with Alonzo. "Was I right? Is he a scion?"
Zane was floored. Ella was before an executioner of overwhelming power, and she was looking for what? Vindication?
Medusa loosened the mask at her waist and slipped it over her head. Ella screamed and turned, trying to scramble away, but she didn't get far with her hands and feet tied.
"Is Zane Snow Cortese"—Zane's very bones vibrated. He threw his hands over his ears but could not block out Medusa's great and terrible voice—"a scion? Yes, he is, but he is also a patrón, a servant of Tezcatlipoca, whether he knows it or not. If you had attempted to ensnare him, you would've awakened the sleeping god. He is not forgiving. Your death would have last a hundred years for attempting to steal what belongs to him." Medusa reached into the writhing purse at her belt, pulling out a fistful of squirming colorful snakes. Ella mewled like a wounded animal, begging for mercy.
Medusa cocked her head, listening to what, Zane didn't know. "I think your arrival here has awakened him anyway. One more mess you have made that I will have to clean up. Perhaps if I give him your house, his wrath would be satisfied."
She threw the snakes onto Ella, the sound of rubbing scales growing louder with each passing second. Ella screamed. When the snakes landed on her, Ella writhed. They didn't fall off but found openings in her clothing to burrow underneath. One wrapped around her bound hands… everywhere it touched, her skin turned a dark, granite gray. It dawned on Zane, they were turning Ella to stone. She screamed louder and when she looked at him with pleading eyes, Zane flipped his middle finger at her.
Alonzo tugged him to his feet, and Zane didn't fight to stay. Quickly, he was led back into the house. The garage and mud room doors closed behind them with a boom. Still clinging to each other, he and Alonzo staggered to the dining table. The effects of Her presence lessened the further they were from Medusa.
"Holy shit," Zane gasped in a full breath, pressing a hand to his roiling stomach. How long had he been breathing shallowly? Ella screams cut off sharply.
"Come, let us help you," Saja took Zeus's free arm. "Sit down for a moment."
"I have never seen men walk through her power so easily." The other Valkyrie helping Alonzo sounded incredulous.
Zane snorted. She had brought him to his knees. He probably would have face-planted if Alonzo hadn't caught him. When he looked to Cord and the guys, he was shocked to see them on the floor, out cold. Huh? Medusa's power had been awesome, but not that aw— well, maybe it was. Zane shivered.
Table of Contents
Chapter Two - Normal is not supposed to be this hard
Chapter Three - Caught
Chapter Four - Crimson Comet
Chapter Five - Mountain Magic
Chapter Six, Part 1 - Harbinger of a Nightmare
Chapter Six, Part 2 -
Chapter Seven, Part 1 - Stolen Answers
Chapter Seven, Part 2 -
Chapter Eight, Part 1 - No such thing as heroes
Chapter Eight, Part 2 -
Chapter Nine, Part 1 - Dead is supposed to be... dead
Chapter Nine, Part 2 -
Chapter Ten, Part 1 - Gathering Allies
Chapter Ten, Part 2
Chapter Eleven - Combustible
Chapter Twelve - Standing His Ground
Chapter Thirteen - Choices
Chapter Fourteen, Part 1
Chapter Fourteen, Part 2
Chapter Fifteen, Part 1 - To kill, or not to kill
Chapter Fifteen, Part 2
Chapter Sixteen - Maricoxi Guardians
Chapter Seventeen - Coincidence?
Chapter Eighteen, Part One - Guns Ablazin'
Chapter Eighteen, Part Two
Chapter Nineteen, Part One - Reckoning
Chapter Nineteen, Part Two
Chapter Twenty - Mercy
Chapter Twenty-Two, Part One
Chapter Twenty-Two, Part Two
Chapter Twenty-Two, Part Three
Chapter Twenty-Five, Part 1