Every instinct in Avon’s body told him to run, but he didn’t. Couldn’t, truth be told. Whatever the golden-haired goddess was doing, it held him as securely as if his boots had been rooted to the ground.

“What the fook did you do to Ly?” he demanded, his drawn blade still in his hand, but useless. That didn’t keep him from trying to struggle against whatever bonds held him in place, though.

Naamah didn’t answer his question. Before he could even blink, she was upon him, clamping his arms to his body with effortless ease. One of her hands corded in his hair, yanking his head back, and a heartbeat later he felt her tongue on his neck, leaving behind a tingling sensation. Before he could even register that thought, her mouth closed on his throat, fangs sinking into the vein that throbbed there.

Avon felt his clothing torn from his body, but it happened so fast his brain couldn’t process that reality for several moments. When he did, it was little more than a fleeting awareness as his head tipped back and his eyes rolled up behind his lids. His mouth opened, emitting a keening sound as every nerve-ending in his body quivered, alive and vibrating, sending jolts of electricity straight to his cock.  

One moment he felt like he was on the brink of the most cosmic orgasm of his life, and the next, a scream worked its way up his throat. It felt as if someone was squeezing his heart in a clawed grip and trying to rip it from his chest. He crumpled to the ground, unable to keep his feet any longer. Avon could feel his heart hammering…thudding frantically…trying to pump blood that wasn’t there, and he was cold. So fooking cold. And then the shaking started. Violent, and uncontrollable.

He was dying. Avon knew that with a certainty that he did not question. His gaze shifted momentarily, finding Ly and Tiggy. Ly’essa was struggling, her naked body convulsing as she retched again and again, gagging and near choking on her own vomit and bile. Tiggy lay beside her.  Very still. Too still. Was she dead then? That thought sent a knife plunging into his heart, and grief nearly overwhelmed him. Then, almost without realizing it, his gaze moved to Kaid, lying so close to him. Surprisingly enough, Kaid’s eyes locked with his. 

Ahhhh, gods, Kaid, he thought, tears stinging his eyes and falling unheeded down his cheeks. Avon saw his brother’s bloody hand scrabbling in the dirt as he tried to reach him. Fighting against the pain, Avon managed to move his arm just enough that he could grasp Kaid’s hand. He felt the gentlest of squeezes, and saw his brother’s head nod almost imperceptibly.

He tried to say something. He needed to tell his brother he loved him–and to say goodbye. Avon tried to suck air into his lungs, but he could not. He gasped, his eyes going wide as he struggled for oxygen. His head swam, and black spots blurred his vision.  Was it over then? Avon gasped, and then sighed, letting go as he gave himself over to that reality.

“Not quite yet, young warrior,” the golden-eyed goddess said, her face suddenly coming into view as she knelt over him, pushing her wrist against his lips.

There was a flash of energy behind Avon’s closed lids as the first drops of the goddess’s blood filled his mouth and slid down his throat. His body trembled uncontrollably. White lightning raced through his bloodstream, igniting brush fires at every synapse, and he felt pressure build in his balls. Though he could not see it,  he knew his member was hard. It throbbed with an intensity that bordered on pain.

What in the fooking hell was happening to him? Just as he thought he could stand it no longer, his body convulsed and his balls emptied their seed in a hot rush that pulsed again and again, but there was no relief in what should have been a joyous experience. Almost immediately, Avon felt his gut seize until he doubled over with the agony of it, and then his bowls began to empty. Cramps clutched his gut like taloned claws, and he began wretching until nothing was left but dry heaves. Was he dying then, he wondered, nearly mindless with the utter misery that gripped him. It seemed so pointless and ignoble. Hell, he didn’t even have his boots on, anymore. He was naked, writhing in the dirt in his own piss and shite and vomit.

Suddenly, a soft golden glow surrounded him, and Avon was certain he’d passed from earthly life. His body stopped shaking. Hell, he couldn’t even feel it anymore. It was as if his conscious awareness had separated itself from its earthly form…but that couldn’t be right. He felt hands on his face…cool against his fevered flesh, and then gentle fingers trailed along the column of his throat. Avon blinked his eyes rapidly several times, trying to clear his vision, and then he saw her. Gaeia! She was leaning over him, caressing his face and neck.

“Shhhh now, young warrior,” she said softly. It took Avon a moment to realize he didn’t hear those words. They formed in his head, like the soft tinkling of a wind chime. “Time for the final turning now. Prepare yourself.”

Prepare himself? For what? How much worse could it be?

Almost without warning, he felt fangs sink into his throat once again, followed by burning agony. It felt as if the goddess injected him with white-hot, liquid fire. He opened his mouth to scream, but the only thing that came out was an unintelligible gurgle of sound. The agony that ripped through him was excruciating beyond measure. It shattered every nerve ending, sending wave after wave of blinding torture throughout his body. Bones snapped, as if made of matchsticks, and his skin stretched until he thought it would rip apart completely. 

And then, suddenly, the pain was gone. 

Avon found he was elevated above the ground, looking down. It took him a moment to understand what he was seeing. His naked body, twisted and broken, still writhing on the ground. Beside him, he could see Kaid, a bloody torn body. He was screaming something, and trying desperately to move toward his brother…but a golden-haired woman wrapped her arms around him, holding him back, cooing softly in his ear, as if comforting a small child in the throes of a nightmare.

Shifting his gaze, Avon saw Ly’essa, lying where she’d fallen earlier. She was in no better shape than he was as she screamed, convulsing in an agony he knew only too well. And Tiggy! The gods have pity, but she was so very still, with blood soaking the dark earth around her. What was happening to them? If it was their time to die, so be it, but why were they being tortured so? What was the point in that? Why not just kill them and be done with it?

Avon looked at the two goddesses below him–one with golden hair, and one with hair the color of pitch. How dare they, he thought. Hate coursed through him as he opened his mouth to scream out his rage, but what came from his lungs was no earthly sound. The howl that shattered the night was primal. A wild animal consumed with anguish. And then the golden-haired woman tipped back her head and echoed that cry. It was followed by similar howls, coming from every direction at once.