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Tome Series Book 3

By AJCulpepper All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy

Izumrud & Malinovyy

“I hope you think it was worth it.”

At the sound of his voice, Izumrud lifted her head. Evidently her shadow-sense was off. She should have sensed his approach long before his arrival. The sound of her fighting to drag air into her lungs with every labored breath echoed through the chamber and he wondered if lack of oxygen to her brain had something to do with it.

“Malinovyy?”

“Who else would it be?” Dousing the lantern, he set it on the ground and vaulted over the walkway's narrow railing. Bending his knees to absorb the impact of his landing after the ten foot drop, he smoothly rose into an easy walk toward her. “Well, you got what you wanted.”

“To serve my shadowmancer.”

“There's no light here, Izumrud. Cut the crap.”

Shoving his hands in his pockets, he stared down at her. She was covered in blood still seeping from her skin. It covered her face like a mask, drying on her uniform and in her hair. Her entire body shook from shock and uncontrollable spasms of pain. It was a rarity to see a Tien so broken. Especially a female. Especially IzumrudLezviye.

He held a hand out to her. “You look like you're dying.”

“I feel like I'm dying.”

She turned her head toward his voice, but didn't look up. Instead, she blindly reached out with shaking hands and he could feel her weak shadow-sense struggling to read her surroundings.

For the first time since Teni interrupted them, Malinovyy's expression changed - confusion briefly flickering across his handsome features.

“What's wrong?”

“I...can't see very well.”

Crouching down in front of her, he took her head in his hands, tilting her face toward him. The whites of her eyes were completely dark. If there had been light to see by, he was certain they would have been solid red.

“The blood vessels in your eyes have ruptured...a lot of them.” Gently opening her eyes wider, he could see the whites were bloody all the way back. “Maybe all of them.” He snapped his fingers in front of her eyes. She didn't even blink. “Your vision should clear in a couple of hours.”

“And if it doesn't?”

“Don't be ridiculous, we're Tien. We're not defeated by a little bit of our vis being torn from us.”

Izumrud smiled weakly as he took her by the upper arms and helped her to her feet. Her legs failed to support her and she nearly collapsed, forcing him to catch her much to her irritation. Her pride was taking as much abuse as the rest of her had.

Putting her arm around his shoulders, Malinovyy kept a firm hold on her wrist while he gripped her under the other arm. Taking her weight on him, he easily held her up and started for the stairs leading up to the walkway and the corridor to the barracks of the shadow fortress.

“It hurts, Malinovyy...”

Izumrud's voice was softer, a childlike whisper that he knew all too well. Tightening his hold as if that might somehow keep the shadow guard with him, he kept his irritation to himself. Anger from him would only tilt her the other way. Not that it was such a terrible thing, but there was nothing they could do about it at the moment.

“It won't stop.”

“I know, Iz'.” His gazed fixed on the dark corridor ahead of them, Malinovyy kept his tone even and tried to erase any trace of annoyance. “I know it hurts. But keep it together.”

“I can't see. It’s so hot...and it's so dark.” Her childish voice tinged with a frightened sob, Izumrud closed her eyes and rested her head against his chest. “I'm afraid of the dark...”

Malinovyy could feel her trembling. He was losing her and time was running out. There were torches in the next hall and where there was light, there were shadows – the eyes and ears of a shadowmancer.

“If you're so afraid of the dark, why are you going towards it? It would make more sense to retreat to where it's light than to stand around complaining about the dark.”

Izumrud fell silent. She continued to shuffle her feet alongside him, so she was still conscious, but she didn't lift her head or open her eyes. Start writing here ...

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