Hope in Hell [Dark Staff Series Book 8]
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by Lazette Gifford
Description: Abby's attempt to keep the others from the final battle only makes them more determined to join him--at whatever the risk to themselves. As they face the demon at last, Abby is all too aware that his friends are both his strength and his weakness ... and he knows they cannot all survive.
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, 2008 Double Dragon Publishing
eBookwise Release Date: March 2008
7 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [300 KB]
Reading time: 202-283 min.
Abby turned, looking away from the devastation of the woods to glance back at the ship, a silver tower rising tall and glimmering in the light of morning. His friends would be returning there now. He longed to be with them, and to share those moments of celebrating their victory. There were new friends to introduce to the wonders of the ship, and there would be warm tea and delicious food. Friendship, laughter, and all that he loved and longed for lived in that ship.
"Abby?" Tristan whispered softly, a brush of his fingers on Abby's arm to draw his attention.
"The Gods keep them safe," Abby said, startling his two companions. He meant the words, though, and he felt a little whisper of his mother's power in the breeze that blew past him just then. She had heard.
"Go or stay, Abby?" Tristan asked.
He took a breath, torn--but he knew what he must do.
He looked once more at the destruction the demon and the ship had brought here. The wounds of his world would heal, though; as would the wounds of his friends heal. He had only to go and make certain that he won the final battle.
Rquana stood beside him and when Abby turned to the friend who so inadvertently listened in to what he and Tristan said through the crowns--
"We go," Rqua said and met his look without flinching, even knowing the turmoil in Abby's mind. "Go now or else you two do not go on without the others at all. I have magic enough to disrupt your attempt, you know. And by then the others would be here, and I think you couldn't run from them again, Aubreyan Altazar."
He winced at the use of that name, though he couldn't say why. Perhaps it called back the boy he had once been. "I don't want to take my friends to hell with me, Rquana. Tristan is bad enough, but you--"
"I am the compromise, Abby. Either I go with you now, or we wait for everyone else to arrive."
Abby bowed his head to the inevitable and silently asked Tristan to begin their journey and to be quick in getting them away. He couldn't bear the thought of dragging this out longer, and of maybe having to say good-bye to his friends. He took a deep breath as Tristan wove the spell around them and caught tight hold of Rquana's arm. If the fool insisted on coming with them, then Aubreyan wanted to make certain they didn't lose him somewhere along the way.
"Going," Tristan whispered, his voice already sounding hollow and lost in the void to which they would go.
Rainbow colors swept and curled around them like wisps of smoke as the world faded ... and they were gone again from Brendan's world. Abby would have liked to stay and visit with his friends for a little while longer. Too late now--they were already back in the miasmic swirl of magic so powerful he could have reached out and taken a handful in his fist. He glanced to his left and saw that Rqua's eyes had gone wide, though not in fear. He appreciated the little show of wonder, at least.
The others would know they had gone by now. They would have seen the light and felt the wind, and known Abby and Tristan had left them behind. Abby hoped they understood. This had been no easy choice, to leave his friends again--but far better than to take them to hell with him.
Time to be done with this, Abby thought, and felt a little odd, realizing he was finally headed for the last battle. The long war would be done soon. He would fight to save his friends and keep them all safe--or he could lose and everything would fall. He only regretted how he knew his friends must feel, abandoned after they had worked so hard to get this far.
He feared he would never see their friends again, and that made him ache.
And then he feared something far worse, the fear driving through his heart and taking his breath away. This was not a new thought, but here, in this last part of the journey, it came with a force that set him trembling.
What if I fail?
He closed his eyes, and for a moment he saw everything in ruin; the worlds he had known all gone to death and destruction, and he knew it was his fault because he had failed in the end. Had he failed because he made the wrong decision or took the wrong path, or did something he couldn't even conceive of go wrong, and they'd had no way to correct the mistake? He looked around, frantic to find answers--
Rqua turned to him, startled and afraid, but Tristan's fingers, tightening on Abby's arm, reinforcing their usual contact, brought him back to the right edge of sanity again.
Calm, Abby. Calm.
He took a deeper breath. He had not lost the final battle yet, and he would not allow those fears to influence him now. Tristan was right--he needed calm. He had won the other battles, and against odds that weren't, really, much worse than what he was about to face. He had to believe....
But what if Gix comes back for the others? Will they be able to fight the demon without our help? Tristan!
He won't be back. We are taking the Kiya to hell for him, Abby. The only reason he could possibly come back is to get Tabor, and I think he won't want to deal with his son until after he's done with us. He will only go after them if we fail. This is the best way we have to keep them safe.
Abby nodded again, a movement that sent swirls of color around them. He saw the way Rqua watched the movement, entranced by the beauty of this place. He remembered the first time he and Tristan had taken this sort of path, and how his friend had been so nearly captivated by the magic here. It made him smile to see the same look in Rqua.
He treasured the moment and accepted this for what is was--a little quiet between one battle and the next. He could not go back to his friends so it was time to turn his attention to that next battle and to look onward--
So he looked forward instead of back ... and felt a new chill. Odd. He couldn't see where they were going this time, and on all their previous journeys, he had always had a clear view of their next step. This time saw a wall of darkness ahead, as though something cut off the view and repelled him.
Tristan and Rqua both looked. Tristan lifted his hand and felt out the darkness in the path and frowned, though he didn't seem particularly upset. They were moving forward, but not with any apparent speed. But then ... had they ever? He'd never been able to judge the passage of time in this place.
I can feel it, but it's not anything hostile. I think, Abby, that it's just a manifestation of who you are and where you're going.
I don't understand.
You are a Godling, and a Godling should never willingly seek a journey to a demon's hell. I think the wall between us is the sort that keeps the demons and the Gods apart.
A wall? I've gone through walls meant to keep me out before.
Tristan smiled and seemed unconcerned. Abby had no doubt ... no, no, he would not take doubt with him, on this last crucial step. He also didn't look back again to what he'd left behind.
He saw the end ahead, somewhere beyond that blackness. He saw, finally, the last battle.
He went willingly.