Stricken (The War Scrolls Book 1)

By: A.K. Morgen

Entire floorboards caved inward, dragging him down.

“Dammit!” Dom yelled, the impact of his fall ripping through the decaying building like a rocket blast.

Killian staggered and fell, landing hard on his knees. A second flare slipped from his belt then bounced once before clattering harmlessly through one of the larger cracks in the floor. It landed in the basement below with a distant thump.

The shifter roared.

Killian ignored the defiant, far-too-human screams and dragged himself to his knees in time to see the creature buck against the caving floor, his fangs snapping at the air.

Dom cursed and fell backward, still holding tightly to the scruff of the shifter’s neck.

His grip dragged the snarling shifter half on top of him.

“Dammit,” Killian growled, bounding to his feet to help before the situation got out of hand.

The shifter’s blood would burn his brother worse than the silver blade and hurt like nothing else. And that was before the disease killing the man consumed Dom entirely. There’d be no saving Dom when that happened.

The shifter kicked his hind legs, fighting to tear himself from Dom’s grip. One giant paw smacked into Killian’s knee. The other crunched beneath his boot.

“Son of a—” With a curse, Killian went sprawling across the floor, his own legs tangled in the mess of flailing warrior and animal limbs and splintered wood.

He kicked himself free and leaped to his feet to drag the shifter off Dom. The Elioud thrashed his head back and forth like the possessed thing he was, fangs bared and snapping. Drops of foam flew, wetting Killian, Dahmiel, and the surrounding floor.

“Enough,” Killian growled and jerked the animal’s head back farther, pinning it in place against the rotting floorboards.

Abriel strode forward from his place near the door and swung his leg. His booted foot connected with the creature’s side.

Bone crunched.

The shifter stopped thrashing and started howling, one pained cry after another.

Dom rolled to his feet and tore the sword out of the scabbard across his back. His face was set in stony lines, his blue eyes narrowed. In one fluid move, he hefted the sword high over his head and drove it into the poor beast’s neck. The silver blade thrummed as it bit through the floorboard beneath, sending chunks of rotted wood bouncing into the room below. The shifter’s head separated almost completely from his body.

Dom jerked the sword out, the knives still embedded in his left arm.

Blood spurted from the gaping hole in the animal’s neck, narrowly missing Killian. He scrambled away from the growing puddle, cringing. No matter how many times they did this or what race their blades fell upon, watching their kin die never became any easier to stomach. He gagged as the smell of fresh, diseased blood added to the stench already permeating the room.

Jesus, what he wouldn’t give for a human sense of smell!

He held his breath and eyed the shifter, knowing his desire was useless. Human blood might have run through Killian’s veins, true enough, but he’d lived among the Fallen his entire life. He knew nothing of being human.

The shifter didn’t, either. Not anymore.

The beast’s legs jerked as if he didn’t realize he was dead. And who knew? Maybe he didn’t know. This certainly wouldn’t be the first time Killian had helped kill something that didn’t die easy. Probably wouldn’t be the last time, either. The killing virus infecting the shifter had spread far already, savagely decimating the populations. Elioud, Nephilim, the Fallen, and their demonic offspring…not a single race with angel blood had been spared the rapid spread of the disease, and nothing short of a miracle would stop the destruction now.

Unfortunately, miracles were in short supply.

La Morte Nera continued its deadly march forward, unopposed and damn near invincible. Death was coming for the Fallen as much as for their offspring. And it was coming fast.

The shifter gurgled a final time and then lay still.

Within moments, he’d reclaimed his bloody, battered human form.

Silence hummed through the old building, broken only by Dom’s harsh pants and the ticking of the watch secured on Abriel’s wrist. Killian kept his eyes on the dead man at their feet for long moments, waiting to be sure he didn’t decide to get up and fight again.

He didn’t, thank God.

Killian relaxed the stiff set of his shoulders.

Dahmiel breathed a deep sigh, drawing Killian’s attention. He winced when he caught sight of his knives lying in the puddle of blood spreading across the floor. His earlier fury simmered back to life.

How had one infected Elioud shifter almost overcome three fully trained warriors?

“Frigging shifters,” Dom muttered, easing himself out of the middle of the destruction beside the doorway. He braced himself against the termite-infested wall, his upper lip pulled back in a rictus of pain. His sword clattered when he dropped it to the floor beside him.

Killian hauled himself to his feet and ripped clean strips from his shirt to help bandage his brother’s wounds. “Did his saliva hit you?”

Dom shook his head. “Nah, I think the wounds are clean.”

Killian sent up a silent prayer of thanks before dropping to his knees beside his brother, makeshift bandages in hand. “How the hell did that happen?”

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