As always, Jewel's visions never told of her own danger.
Jewel and Grace had sneaked atop the palace parapet, hoping to catch a glance of the battle. Jewel paced. Her nerves refused to settle, and she couldn't rid herself of a sense of apprehension. Was Gray all right? Had he been hurt?
She couldn't see the battle in her mind. What good were her gifts if she could not help the man she loved? Constantly her fingers rubbed the armband Gray had given her, trying to take strength from it.
"Tell me again that they will return to us unharmed," Grace said, her nervousness as great as Jewel's. "This is what I hate most about being a warrior's wife. I love Darius with my whole heart. He's a part of me, but he fights these wars and I almost die of worry every time."
Jewel paused and gave her a half smile. "Your husband will live a long and healthy life. As will you and your children."
Grace studied her for several minutes, then breathed a sigh of relief. "I'd rather die myself than have anything happen to him."
"I understand. I love Gray with all my heart." She sighed. A gentle night breeze danced around her, tangling her robe and hair. "But I am destined to lose him, it seems."
"Why? There's no reason for two people in love not to stay together."
"I would die on the surface, and if he stays here, humans will continually come through the portals, plaguing our land in an attempt to steal or destroy me."
"Okay, that's a reason. I'm so sorry." Grace gave her a quick hug before Jewel continued her pacing. "Distract me. Tell me of you and Darius."
"My favorite subject," she said with a grin. "I remember when he and I were first dating." She laughed. "I call it dating, he calls it duty."
Somehow, Jewel couldn't picture the fierce dragon courting anyone. Demand she wed him, yes. Bring her flowers and ask her on dates, no.
"He was determined to kill me, you see."
"What!" Jewel stopped midstep and faced the delicate-looking woman. "He wanted to kill you?" She paused. "I don't know why I'm surprised. That is Darius for you, a man who does his duty no matter the circumstances."
"Darius even had his sword raised, ready to strike. I had just passed through the portal, and it was his sworn duty to silence me permanently. But he didn't. He couldn't. He helped me find my brother instead, and in return, I like to think I've filled his life with emotions and love." Her head canted to the side thoughtfully. "Gray needs that, too, I think. He's got that same hard look Darius sometimes wears."
"What am I going to do?" Jewel asked dejectedly. Neither of them had an answer.
"Do you think the battle is over yet," Grace asked, her hands wringing together. "I won't be able to rest until Darius is in my arms again."
Jewel closed her eyes and once more tried to send her consciousness outside of the palace and through the forest. Just as the scene was at last forming in her mind, a sense of being watched flittered over her. A menacing shadow covered her mind, and a sense of danger rocked her.
"Grace," she said, looking to her new friend. "We're in trouble."
Grace paled, making her freckles all the more obvious. "What do you mean?"
"There are demons here in the palace. They stole a dragon medallion from one of the fallen and with most of our men gone were able to breach the walls." Jewel glanced around for a weapon, intent on using anything, just as Gray had showed her. She found a long stick and several fat rocks. She handed the rocks to Grace, her hands shaky. "They cannot die without their throats cut, but we can try to hold them off until help arrives. Come on, let's go down and warn - "
It was too late.
Six demons swooped onto the parapet, their wings flapping furiously. Their claws were elongated and their teeth glistening with saliva. Without their queen around, they would not be concerned with keeping Jewel safe and unharmed.
Death gleamed in their eyes.
Grace raced beside her, determination hardening her expression and washing away her fear. "You take the three on the right, and I'll take the other three."
All at once, Jewel heard their thoughts. I've wanted a taste of Dunamis for a long time. The human smells sweet, and so does the babe in her belly.
"You're pregnant," Jewel told her. "Just stay behind me."
Grace gasped and her hand went to her belly. She hadn't known she was pregnant, Jewel realized, not wanting the woman to fight now. "Stay behind me," she repeated.
Grace hesitated only a moment before shaking her head. "No. We do this together."
Jewel leapt into action. Grace didn't heed her words, but was right beside her. The demons realized what was happening and their eyes widened. Jewel swung her stick, aiming for its nose. She heard it snap and watched the creature's head whip to the side. Blood poured down his face. Grace threw one of her rocks and it slammed into one of the demon's temples. He hissed in pain and shock.
Grace threw another rock and it slammed into his same temple. This time he flew backward and into the wall. Two others tried to fly at her, but Jewel jumped in front of her and swung her stick.
She aimed for their groins. Demons might not look like humans, but they procreated the same way. Contact. The bastard howled. She continually swung the stick, keeping the creatures at bay.
In English, so the demons couldn't understand, she told Grace, "Back up. If we can reach the door, we can run to a room and hide."
"Step with me."
"Okay." Together, they backed up. The demons followed, lashing out with their claws and legs, but Jewel managed to fend them off, never letting her swing grow lax.
"We're at the door," Grace whispered. "I'm wearing my medallion so it opened on its own." The dragon medallions acted as sensors, opening and closing all the doorways.
"When we cross the threshold, cover your medallion so the doors will close quickly. On my count. One, two. Three!"
Jewel spun around and stepped past the door, right beside Grace. The doors slammed closed behind them. She heard the demons grunt as they knocked into the thick wood. "Run! Faster," she shouted.
All too soon, the demons burst past the barrier. Anything in her path, she threw behind her, and heard it thump against their pursuers.
One of them reached her and grabbed her by the shoulders, jerking her backward. As she fell, she lifted her stick and stabbed upward. Her momentum gave her added strength, and her impromptu weapon imbedded into the demon's throat. He hissed and jerked, then collapsed.
Grace was nowhere to be seen; she'd disappeared beyond the staircase. The remaining demons hovered around her, growling low in their throats.
"You will pay for that," one of them said.
In a flurry of movement, Grace suddenly appeared at the bottom of the stairs. "Use this," she shouted, tossing a dagger.
Jewel caught it just as a demon spun and launched himself at Grace. The other flew at her. She kicked out and nailed him in the stomach, and while he gasped for breath she finished him off. He fell at her feet and she searched the bottom of the stairs for Grace. The petite woman was holding off the remaining demon with a long sword.
Jewel leapt on top of him, wrapping her hands around his throat. Her blade sliced. He was dead within seconds.
And then it was over.
She stayed where she was, panting, while the dragons who had remained behind to guard them pounded into the room. "What happened?" one of them shouted. "Why didn't you call for help?"
"I thought my scream of terror was enough," Grace snapped. She doubled over, gasping for breath.
Jewel gazed at the blood on her hands. She'd done it. She'd proven she could protect herself, no matter her enemy. That knowledge should have made her happy, but it didn't. Gray would leave her now.
A few seconds later, Gray, Darius and the dragon army strode inside. They wore expressions of smug victory... until they took in the scene of blood and death. Darius rushed to Grace and Gray rushed to Jewel, and both men jerked them into their arms, holding tight.
"What happened?" the two men demanded at once.
"You're safe," Jewel said, tears filling her eyes. Her knees weakened with relief. "You're safe. Thank the gods."
His hands trailed over her, searching for injuries. "Are you hurt? Tell me you're not hurt." "This isn't my blood." She locked her arms around his neck.
Beside them, Darius was running his hands over Grace, kissing her and scolding her and shouting orders to his men to clean up the mess and kill the demons all over again.
A sense of urgency rose inside Jewel. Her time with Gray was at an end; she felt it all the way to her bones. She should inquire about the battle, she should allow him time to rest. But she did neither of those things. "Take me to our room, Gray. Right now. Please."
He didn't hesitate; he felt the urgency, too. He swooped her up and into his arms. "Don't come looking for us," he said over his shoulder.