The Guardian (Page 14)

The Guardian (Dark-Hunter #21)(14)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

"I’m not sure. I’ll be back as soon as I can." The Guardian left them, then slammed the door closed, and bolted it from the outside.

Like the Guardian’s, this room was dismal and bleak. Only Jaden had a fire blazing in his stone hearth, and his bed looked like he actually used it.

Jaden’s gaze darkened as he scanned her from head to toe in a less than friendly manner. One that made her hackles rise.

"Seth doesn’t know, does he?"

She scowled at his question. "Who’s Seth?"

Jaden twisted his face up into an expression that questioned her mental capacity. "Hello? The Guardian who was just here, the big-ass guy with red hair, holding your hand and stupidly threatening me? Did you miss seeing him somehow?"

So that was the Guardian’s name … Seth.

Strong and sinister, just like the man who bore it.

Jaden rolled his eyes. "He never told it to you, huh? Typical … Just typical."

"He said no one used it."

"They don’t."

"Then how do you know it?"

Jaden laughed cruelly. "I know everything. Unlike Seth, I have my full powers most of the time. And you’re really lucky he doesn’t."

"How so?"

"’Cause when he finds out you’re a jackal, he will kill you where you stand and bathe joyfully in your blood."

Chapter 10

Lydia scowled at Jaden and his dire prediction for her death at Seth’s hands. One thing was certain. Even without her powers currently working, she wasn’t about to describe any of them to an unknown being. "I don’t know what you’re talking about."

He tsked at her. "Yes, you do, little girl. And you can’t hide anything from me so don’t even try. I will know it for the lie that it is even before it forms in your thoughts."

Yeah, he was every bit as scary as Seth, but in an entirely different way.

Jaden crossed his arms over his chest and gave her a smile that said he might be considering her for lunch. "You’re a Kattagari jackal. The scent of it is so strong on you that if Seth had recognized it, he’d have already cut your throat. The only reason why you’re in human form right now, and can maintain it even when you sleep, is that you’re also a Dream-Hunter. Lucky you. Unlike the rest of the Kattagaria, you have complete control over your animal half regardless of your physical stresses. I’ll bet you’re even immune to losing them when you’re shocked."

That was all true. It also helped that Seth had taken her powers, including her ability to shift.

"I heard that, and you’re right." He laughed low in his throat. "Fascinating mixture of blood, isn’t it? I wouldn’t have considered it possible, but then it does make sense in a weird way when you think about it. Dream-Hunters are gods. Different genetics entirely than a human or Were. They’ve been able to impregnate everything from insects to trees to every species known. Given that, it makes sense that a god could impregnate a Were-Hunter even without the Fates mating them." An evil gleam sparked in his bicolored eyes. "That must have seriously pissed off those three bitches."

Lydia was stunned by his mini rant. How could he possibly know all of that? She had never breathed a word of her mixed heritage to anyone. She knew better. People didn’t like things that were different and she was about as different as anyone could be. Her birth had been so unusual that, in human form, her mother had worn gloves to the day she died so that no one would ever learn she’d given birth without mating. There was no telling what the other members of her pack would have done had they discovered it. They might have been elated. Or horrified to the point they killed them.

Her mother had never been willing to find out the answer.

To Lydia’s knowledge, only Solin had ever known the truth of her birth. And he would die before he told it.

Maybe Jaden was only bluffing or guessing.

Jaden’s smile was so patronizing she wished she had some way to knock it off his face. "Don’t bother denying it. I told you. I’ll always know the truth no matter how deep you think you have it buried."

A chill rushed down her spine. She was desperate to know what she was dealing with right now-why he had the powers he did. "What are you?"

"Fubar."

She’d never heard of such a creature. Had his mother mated with a piece of steel or something? "Fubar?"

He wiped his thumb down the corner of his mouth as if he’d heard that thought, too, and was trying not to laugh about it. At least he had a sense of humor.

"Fucked up beyond all recognition." His features sobered back into the deadly sincere expression. "Kind of like you, only worse. I at least had a choice … Chose wrongly, big understatement there, but I did this to myself. You…" He let out a long bitterly amused breath. "Yeah. You were born screwed … just like Seth."

Which brought her back to one of many questions she had yet to have answered about her surly jailer. And this time she might actually get an answer-Gods love the chatty.

Thank you, Seth, for bringing me here.

"What is Seth, exactly?"

Jaden shrugged. "Like you, a demigod. Only in his case, his mother was human."

"And his father?"

"The Egyptian god, Set."

Well, that explained how he knew ancient cultures so well. Interesting that he’d neglected to tell her that himself. Most people would have bragged about having a pedigree that impressive.

But if his father was a major Egyptian god, especially one as powerful and feared as Set …

"What’s he doing here?"

Jaden’s answer made her blood run cold. "A pack of Katagaria jackals sold him to Noir when he was thirteen."

She sucked her breath in sharply. That explained why he’d kill her if he found out what she was. And who could blame him? There wasn’t a hole in hell deep enough to even begin to make them pay for what they’d done to him.

Thank the gods, he’d taken her powers from her when he first saw her. Otherwise she would have transformed to fight him.

And he would have killed her for it.

But she still didn’t understand why he was a slave here. Why would his father have allowed him to be sold to Noir, of all beings?

If anyone could have saved Seth from this horrific existence, surely it was his father. As a god of war, chaos, and total evil and destruction-which explained so much about Seth’s personality and nature-Set hadn’t been the kind of god to play around with anyone. He’d been known as the embodiment of total aggression, another thing Seth shared with his father. So much so that Set had killed his own brother, Osiris, and scattered his remains throughout Egypt.

If that wasn’t bad enough, during an eighty-year war against his nephew Horus, he’d torn out the god’s eye. Neither Horus nor Osiris were known for their weaknesses by any means. They’d both been strong gods, too.

Set’s reputation had been one of lethal vindictiveness and the kind of cold brutality that only someone as sick as Noir could envy.

Even given all of that, she just couldn’t wrap her mind around Set doing this to his own son. Her parents would have torn down Olympus to protect or save her.

The jackals must have had some nerve to risk Set’s wrath by selling Seth. "Why did the jackals do that?"

"For the money Noir offered them. Why else? Greedy stupid bastards. And the sickest part? It really wasn’t all that much. Barely more than pocket change and they spent every bit of it in less than a week."

She felt ill over that. Not that the amount mattered, really. But a low one would have kicked Seth’s esteem down a lot harder than a fortune. "Why was he with them?"

Jaden let out a tired breath. "You sure you want to go there? Think long and hard before you answer. ‘Cause once you start down this path, there’s no turning back. No way to unsee the painted landscape that comes straight out of the lowest level of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery."

Now there was an analogy. And maybe he was right. Maybe she should turn back before she heard any more. Because the more she learned about Seth, the more she was drawn to him.

I’m out of my mind. He would never accept kindness. And yet …

"I want to know." Actually, it was more than that. She had to know the truth.

Jaden moved to stand behind her. Before she could ask him what he was doing, he pressed his hands to her head. Suddenly, she was in another world. Another time and place.

A place bustling with activity. There were old carts being pulled by donkeys while men and women dressed skimpily in linen and flax rushed about to do their daily business. Most of the women had on black wigs with vibrant colored beads woven into them, while the men wore various styles of linen and braided headdresses. Almost all of them had their eyes rimmed in black and wore more makeup than a runway model. The higher ranking men had fake braided beards and wore all manner of jewels that sparkled in the bright sun.

So this was the ancient Egypt Seth had called home …

She saw him as a child around the age of six. There was no chance of missing him. His blue eyes glowed with innocence and a happiness she wouldn’t have thought possible. His ringlet hair was longer back then … all the way down to his thin, frail shoulders.

Unlike the other children of that time and place, his hair wasn’t shaved or concealed because of its unique color that he’d inherited from his grandmother. A slave who had been captured in a far northern land and brought to Egypt, then freed. A mother she had adored and still mourned. He shared his eyes with his own father and his mother considered their celestial color a gift from Set so that she would always remember their brief time together.

And that hair, along with Seth’s vivid blue eyes, made him stand out from those in the crowd around them as they walked quickly away from a temple.

His mother had painted his eyes black, very similar to the makeup he wore on his face here in Azmodea. Around his neck was a thick reed circlet that held the same colors as his swallow tattoo … and in the same order. He was dressed in a thin linen wrap that had been belted around his waist. And in his left hand, he carried a small carved lion toy.

He was so adorable and sweet that it made Lydia’s eyes mist.

"Mwt?" he breathed, trying to get his mother’s attention. "I can’t keep up. Please slow down."

She walked even faster.

He ran beside her. "Please, Mwt, you’re hurting me."

"Shut up," she snarled at him. "I don’t want to hear another word from you."

His face stricken, he cuddled his lion as if it might protect him from her wrath. "Did I do something wrong?"

She jerked him to a stop and slapped him hard, then yanked him forward again. "I said shut up."

His lips quivered as tears welled in his eyes, but he didn’t cry out loud. Instead, silent tears streamed down his cheeks as he did his best to keep up with his mother’s angry strides that carried them through town.

He didn’t understand what was going on. First his father had insulted him when they’d gone to make an offering to the god, and now his mother was being mean, too. While his mother had never been the most loving of parents, she had never been quite this cruel either.

What did I do? He was only trying to understand.

Once they made it home, she slung him into the stable, then forced him up on a donkey. She was so rough with him that his toy slipped from his hand. He reached out for it, but couldn’t reach it where it lay in the hay since he was so small. "Mwt? I dropped my toy."

She hit his arm so hard, she left an angry red handprint there that stung long after she’d walked away. "Do not speak to me. Do you understand?"

More tears fell as he nodded. He wiped at his nose with the back of his arm while his mother gathered several strange items and then secured them to the donkey in a satchel she hung behind Seth.

Her black eyes glittered with hatred as she mounted her own donkey, then led him from the stable.

They traveled for miles outside of the town where they lived until they were deep in the desert. The heat was so oppressive and painful. Seth leaned over the donkey’s neck, trying to keep the sun from blistering his skin. "I’m so thirsty, Mwt. Please may I have something to drink?"

She ignored his question.

His lips were so chapped and dry, they had started bleeding. Still his mother refused to take mercy on him.

It seemed like hours and hours had passed before she finally stopped and dismounted, then pulled both Seth and the bag down.

The hot sand went over and through his sandals, blistering his feet and legs. He tried to keep it out, but nothing worked. Even worse, he was starving. "Mwt, I’m so hungry. Do you have something for me to eat?"

She paused to glare at him. "I have nothing for you, do you understand? Nothing. You disgust me, you pathetic little dog."

"What did I do?"

She curled her lip. "You were born."

"But-"

She slapped him again. This time hard enough to knock him to the ground. Seth screamed in pain. The sand was as hot as lighted coals. And everywhere he tried to go, he felt more of it.

Ignoring his cries for help, his mother pulled a large hammer from the bag she’d packed and returned to his side.

He looked up at her with a blistered angelic face that would have touched the heart of anyone who had one. His lips were covered with sand and blood while his red cheeks were streaked by his tears. "I’m sorry, Mwt. Whatever I did to make you angry, I’m so sorry."