Home > Bad Lands (Savage Lands #4)

Bad Lands (Savage Lands #4)
Author: Stacey Marie Brown

 

For everyone calling me names,

I bathe in your curses…

with Jason Momoa.

 

 

Bad Lands

 


I heard the last bell of the midnight hour strike in the distance.

An explosion popped behind my lids, funneling from the nectar, tangling with the thick magic still in the air. Electricity scorched up my throat and down my veins, burning everything in its wake. Energy surged my spine, the nectar’s force powering through me.

It did not speak the words, but it told me what I was.

I was nothing and everything.

The bridge between life and death.

The in-between.

I was The Grey.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

The slight sweetness of magic seared up my nose, the taste of decay coating my tongue while life shot through my veins, leaving charred marks in its wake. Lightning fractured the sky, rolling and spearing my body with electricity.

It crackled in my ears, and screams of agony echoed in the night with the ringing of the midnight bell.

The nectar pulsed in my real hand while my shadow hand rested over my uncle’s chest miles away through Scorpion’s link. The power consumed me. Dominated. Piercing me so deeply, my insides twisted as if they were burning into ashes.

The nectar had been waiting years to be united with me again. It was overzealous and eager to be let free.

It was so familiar, marking my bones, but at the same time so foreign, like a twin I never knew about and just met for the first time. Awkward. Stumbling as if I was a newborn, I had no understanding of how to control it or what it did. My emotions were the only things swimming up to the surface, directing my focus to Uncle Andris.

His dead body lay crushed under the wreckage, his blood smearing over the rubble. The small underground base was now in ruins, with dozens and dozens of other corpses scattered around. I could feel their souls cry, confused and scared in death. But only one held my focus, tapped on my grief and fear. Andris was my family. He protected me, loved me, and had been there for me growing up. Even my blood uncle, Mykel, could not claim the same.

I would not lose him.

“Nagybácsi… Please, don’t leave me.” The plea bubbled in my gut, panic shooting down my arms, while Maddox and Wesley reached for Andris, trying to remove him from the rubble. To them, he was already dead. They could not hear or see me, but instinct dug into my bones, pushing through the connection I had with Scorpion.

Wind swept through, whipping up my hair and brushing energy across my skin.

A possessive snarl clashed through my teeth. “Don’t touch him!”

White light flared from me.

A roar ripped from Warwick, echoing through the thick night air surrounding the castle while Scorpion bellowed beside my shadow, each one feeling the link sizzle and blister. Lightning continued its dance through the sky, striking with savagery. Wind tunneled through me like a conduit.

It burned.

It shredded.

Andris’s eyes burst open as his heart sputtered with life, the thump of it vibrating against my palm. His body seized with a harsh scream as I tore him away from death’s grasp.

The group surrounding him stumbled back with a cry as the human they were certain was dead stared back at them with wide, confused eyes.

It was a split second. A moment hung in time, where physical distance between us did not matter. I was in the room with him, not miles away in a rundown castle on sacred fae land.

My uncle turned his head, his eyes finding mine. He looked right at me.

Then the light around me snapped off. Darkness grabbed my legs, yanking me back. Pain wrenched through every fiber of my being as blackness swallowed me. My mouth opened to scream, but instead, Warwick’s roar thundered through the night, and Scorpion cried my name.

Warwick! I reached for him, but consciousness slipped through my fingers and let me fall into the darkness

Devouring and cauterizing what was left of my remains.

It scorched.

It destroyed.

Magic tore from my body, leaving behind a vicious throb of pain spearing my muscles, gnawing on my nerves. My lids fluttered, and the shallow breaths that pulled at my lungs locked me in place, frozen in torment.

I swallowed the bile down, trying to keep it from rising back up, slowly becoming aware of my surroundings. Of myself.

On my hands and knees, I shuddered, the agony so deep, my body instinctively tried to numb me, to not let my brain understand the true depths of its pain.

Cold air burned my heated skin, and the silence pulsed in my ears. Not even a cricket or lap of water from the river below. Dead silence.

I pulled my lids open slowly, staring at my hands, the crumbling cobble path denting my palms. I was fully back at the High Castle. I sensed the figures around me, but emptiness still burrowed deep past the pain I felt, pounding in my heart.

Something was wrong.

Licking my lips, I lifted my head, turning to see a massive figure on his knees right behind me.

Warwick heaved in and out, sweat dripping down his face. His expression was stone, but his aqua eyes searched mine like he was trying to communicate something. Something deep in my gut coiled, and if he was, I couldn’t feel or hear anything.

Glancing away from his penetrating gaze, I saw Ash, Kek, and Lukas standing there, their faces a mask of horror, awe, fear, and confusion.

Kek’s regard went to the group in front of me, her lips parting, her eyes widening. Her response snapped my head back to the seven necromancers. Their faces were still disguised by their hoods, capturing the darkness under the fabric, but I watched the six behind their leader move, lifting their hands with awed reverence.

Terror hitched in my lungs.

Their hands were still slim and boney, but now plump with flesh. Necromancers weren’t skeletons, but their physiques were so pallid, skinny, and mummy-like they could almost appear so. They needed to feast on dead souls to keep themselves strong and powerful—the rulers of the in-between.

All but the leader lifted the hoods from their heads.

A guttural noise tore from my throat as I scrambled to my feet. I rammed into Warwick as he rose. He gripped a gun with one hand, the other curling around my hip protectively.

“Holy shit.” Lukas balked, shuffling back, pointing his gun at them.

My blood pumped so hard my ears only heard the pulse echoing in them.

Tall and short, light to dark skin, their faces were distinguishable. Almost human. Emaciated, but alive.

“What the fuck?” Warwick growled, pulling me tighter to him.

The leader stared at her hands, the hood hiding her face, flipping her palms around with astonishment.

“I don’t understand.” Kek’s lips were parted with shock, a look I had never seen on her, and it unsettled me. “What the fuck just happened?”

“She did this.” The leader’s voice came out soft and broken, as if she wasn’t used to speaking.

Necromancers didn’t talk as far as I knew.

My head jerked to her as I watched her skinny fingers reach for her hood. The dark hair, which had been dry and lifeless, now shined in the bright moonlight. Slowly, she tugged the large hood from her head, the moonlight reflecting off her pale skin and dark eyes.

“No…” My head shook, knocking back harder into Warwick. He held me firmer as my legs dipped, panic and terror dimming my senses and spinning my head. There was no way. It wasn’t possible.

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