The Savage Grace Page 72

“Sirhan’s dying!” Gabriel screamed.

He and Daniel pulled Sirhan’s shriveled body from the back of the car. If I’d thought the ancient alpha looked old before, it was nothing compared to how he looked now. Like leathered skin pulled tight over a skeleton.

Gabriel cradled Sirhan’s head in his lap as he lay in the hay in the middle of the barnyard. “Sirhan,” he said. Tears streamed from his eyes into his red beard. “Sirhan, I am here. I will keep my promise. I’ll cure you before you die.”

“Doesn’t he have to be in wolf form?” I asked, looking at Sirhan’s half-beast, half-human body.

“This is it,” Gabriel said. “There is no separation between his two forms anymore.”

“It’s now or never,” Daniel said, holding Sirhan’s limp wrist.

“Deal the final blow,” I said. “Let him die by the hand of the one who loves him most.”

With a great scream, Gabriel slammed his hand down on the hilt of the silver spear that protruded from Sirhan’s chest. It sank deep into his hollow rib cage, sending a gush of blood rolling into his already saturated fur. The body convulsed, but then with a final gasping wheeze, Sirhan’s head lulled back in Gabriel’s lap—dead.

We all knelt quietly in the mud, while Gabriel held Sirhan’s body and cried, until right in front of our very eyes Sirhan’s dead body began to transform. His short fur melted away, and his gray, withered wolf skin shifted into an olive human tone. The snout of his face shortened into a normal human nose, mouth, and dimpled chin. I couldn’t help thinking, as I looked at the purely human version of Sirhan in the light of the moon, that I now knew what Daniel would look like if he ever lived to be a very old man.

“It worked, my brother,” Gabriel whispered. “You are cured.”

“Um, how do you know if the cure worked?” Slade asked.

“The transformation,” Gabriel said. “Normally, when an Urbat dies, his body transforms into that of wolf. I always assumed it was a symbol that the man would remain a demon forever. But Sirhan’s body has reverted to his human form. I have to believe that means his soul is free of the wolf.”

“I think you’re right,” I said softly. “When I cured Daniel, his body turned human.”

Without a word, Daniel leaned over his grandfather’s body and crossed the old man’s arms over his chest like a mummy I once saw of an ancient king.

Gabriel rocked back and forth until he flung his head back, looking up at the moon, and a great howl ripped out of his throat. The sound of it made my whole body shudder.

Daniel stood, his head arched back as well, and picked up the cry. Slade followed suit. And soon more and more voices—dogs or wolves somewhere in the distance—joined in, creating an unearthly chorus, filling the early-morning sky with sorrow.

The Death Howl had begun.

It would spread, like a wave in a stadium, until every Urbat knew it was time.

Forty-four hours.

In about forty-four hours, the Challenging Ceremony would start in this exact spot.

Chapter Thirty-one



Slade drove us back to the parish, slower this time, though I could feel him itching to take the car at top speed again. When Gabriel got there, Sirhan’s pack, looking groggy and ill from coming to from the knockout gas, were waiting for us in the parking lot.

“The Death Howl,” Jarem said to Gabriel. He had an accent that made it sound as if he’d grown up somewhere in Africa. “We heard the howling and carried the cry. What became of Sirhan?”

“It is finished,” Gabriel said. “He was cured.”

The others bowed their heads in reverence.

“His body is in the car. We should take him and the two dead guards into the woods and give them the send-off fitting of warriors.”

Gabriel had explained to me on the way back that meant building a pyre and burning their remains.

They’d disintegrate completely in the flames.

A few of the Elders gathered together and left with Gabriel to take care of the dead. They had just pulled away when two cars came into the parking lot. April’s red hatchback and Talbot’s blue truck.

Lisa and April got out of the red truck. Talbot followed a few seconds later.

“We heard the howling,” Lisa said as they met us on the parish lawn where we stood.

“So did I,” Talbot said. “What happened?”

Daniel told them about the attack on the parish and what happened to Sirhan. Lisa wiped tears from her face. Talbot’s green eyes grew stormy with what I presumed was anger as he listened to the details.

“Where’s Jude?” April asked, her eyes flitting to the faces of Sirhan’s men, who milled about in the parking lot, still groggy from the gas. “Did he go with the Elders or something?”

I hesitated, not sure what to say. “No,” I finally said. “He asked to sleep at the parish, but we haven’t seen him since the attack. I don’t know if he ran away, or if the Shadow Kings took him prisoner.” It may even be possible he’s the one who brought them here.

April covered her mouth; she started to sink to the ground, but Talbot caught her up in his arms. She rocked a bit, clutching her hands close to her chest. “Tuesday is his birthday,” she said. “I thought … finally—” Her voice broke off with a high-pitched yelp.

“We’ll figure out what happened,” I said.

“We need to be open to the possibility that Jude was the one who orchestrated this attack,” Daniel said.

“Do you really think that’s true?” I looked down at my hands. I know I’d thought the same thing just now, but I just couldn’t accept it.

“Think about it, Grace. The door of his cage was ripped open from the inside. I could tell by the way the hinges were bent. The Shadow Kings knew exactly where everyone in the building would be. They had a plan of attack before they even got here. How would they know unless they had an inside man?”

“You’re saying that Jude broke out of his cage and then let the SKs in?” April asked. “I just can’t believe it.”

“He asked to stay here last night, didn’t he, Grace?” Daniel asked. “When he could have stayed in a comfortable bed at home?”

I nodded.

Source: www_Novel22_Net

Prev Next