Wicked Winter

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Chapter 5

Large fangs dripped with clear saliva as I stared into the maw of something born out of nightmares. It had two terrifying heads: both wolves with midnight fur and eyes the color of bleached stone.

I flipped onto my back and used my elbows to put as much distance between me and the monster as possible. One head nipped at my ankle playfully while the other cackled into the night sky, scraping the ground with its paw. “The Queen will be pleased,” the head that had nipped at me earlier grunted. My spine knocked into something solid, and I risked a glance up to see a towering evergreen, it’s foliage casting me in a dark shadow.

I was trapped. The monster dog crouched low, both heads snarling with gleeful triumphant as they caged me in. “No where to go, little prin-”

“Sorry mutts, but she’s my cargo. You can’t have her.”

The wolves turned with a snarl, their lips pulled back to reveal razor sharp teeth. “A witch,” they spat in disgust. Sebastian stood with his back to the moon, his form silhouetted against the luminescence.He flicked his arms downward, and two small blades appeared with a zing of metal on metal by his wrists, a flash of iron in the night.

Hidden daggers, I thought with awe.

“Now which head shall I decapitate first?” he asked while flicking his blades, and I heard the smile in his voice.

One of the wolf heads gave a short bark of warning while the other snapped its jaws together, as if imagining how Sebastian’s blood would taste rolling off its muzzle and through its teeth.

“Sebastian,” I wheezed through clenched teeth. My breath came in ragged gulps. “Just go, don’t risk yourself for me.”

He chuckled, rolling the blades in his palms. “I’m not doing this for you, sweetheart.” He sunk into a crouch, and soon the beast and the witch began a small dance of death. They circled each other, daggers and fangs flashing in the moonlight.

The wolves hunches rolled with tension as it sunk lower, its large chest skimming the frost covered grass as it moved. With a roaring battle cry it launched itself into the air, both jaws snapping towards Sebastian’s throat. He danced away, slashing with his blades as he spun. The silver edge bit into the monsters flank, drawing a human-like howl from the the creature’s throat. Dark blue blood exploded in a fine spray, and I cringed away as the beast stumbled in my direction.

I watched in fascination as Sebastian danced out of another powerful blow, his iron blades slashing.

Despite the huge laceration still dripping a deep cobalt, the wolves spun with a shriek, their front paw raking across Sebastian’s upper arm. He tried to jump away, but he wasn’t fast enough. The witch sank away with a hiss of pain, his hand coming up to cup his wounded arm. Dark red blood, black in the night, welled between his fingers and dripped onto the lawn.

“You are no match for us, witch,” the monster dogs hissed, their lips curved into a hideous, spite filled smile. “Surrender, give us the girl, and we will make your death quick.”

Sebastian’s eyes simmered with golden fury. “Over my dead body.”

One head tilted back, and a deafening howl ripped through the air. “Very well,” the other wolf cooed, it’s teeth snapping. “Prepare to die!” And it lunged.

Both launched themselves into the fray, and it finally dawned on me that they were both occupied, completely oblivious to the small, seventeen-year-old girl standing not ten feet away. They wouldn’t even know if I crept away into the night, tail between my legs. No pun intended.

I pushed myself to my feet, a little unsteady, and bolted in the other direction.

Finally! I was free! My knees wobbled a bit as I ran, but I was too high on sweet taste of freedom that I didn’t mind. Wind tore at my ponytail as my boots pounded the moist earth, muffled thumps and growls rising into the air behind me.

My mind flew to Lucy, Lucas, Buddy, Steevy, Emma... Were they alright? Was three, four days away all it took to kill them? No, no it wasn’t. I wouldn’t think like that. Maggie was their legal caretaker, and she wouldn’t let them starve, would she?

An agonized shriek sounded behind me, so loud it rose goosebumps over my arms and legs. It didn’t sound animal-like...

I spun on my heel, horror-struck when I saw the monster dog pinning Sebastian to the ground, fangs inches from his throat. Its large paws forced his shoulders into the ground, and large, razor sharp claws sunk into his skin.

I couldn’t let him die... Could I? I mean, he would very well kill me if given the chance. And he was the one to get me in this mess in the first place. But, perhaps if I could help him, he’d feel so indebted to me that he would have to let me go without a second thought. And it would surely beat wondering around the Core without a clue on where I was going.

My mind was set.

With a ragged breath that I was praying wouldn’t be my last, I sprinted back towards my captor and the monster with two heads.

Sebastian had managed to keep the pair of jaws away from his throat, but I could still see the panic sunken into his golden eyes. Where were his daggers? The wolves snarled and snapped their muzzles, spittle flying and sticking on Sebastian’s face as he struggled.

“Your mortal flesh will feed us for days,” one head barked while the other continued to lunge for the witch’s throat. “We’ll grind your bones to dust between our teeth!”

“Use your magic!” I yelled, and the wolves paused long enough to swivel their massive heads and pin me in their milky white glares.

And then they called me something that made my heart stop beating.
“Neva Scotts,” they hissed, bounding off of Sebastian and landing gracefully a few feet in front of me. “You will be ours.”

“How do you know my real name?” I whispered.

The demon dog sunk low to the ground, circling me, smiling. “The Queen-” they began, but were cut off by the deafening crack of lightning in the sky. It streaked and forked, and I was momentarily fascinated. It looked as if the sky had veins. Thunder grumbled through the sky soon afterwards, and I felt the vibrations in the chest.

Since when did we have lightning storms in October?

Another bolt of lightning cut open the sky, and it was then that I saw him, illuminated by the eerie yellow-white glow.

Sebastian stood behind the hound from hell, and I hadn’t even seen him wiggle out from under the wolves weight, his hood pushed back to reveal his stern, contemplative features. His dark hair and cloak swirled around him like a wraith of shadow, probably mirroring the darkness writhing within him. Even a blind man could see, even feel the power pulsing off him in powerful waves, buzzing like a livewire.

Something tugged in my chest just as the rain began to fall, small, plump drops kissing away the grease and grime from days without a bath. I could feel the magic, just within my grasp, but something was different. I couldn’t just feel the water around me as if it were a living thing, it was as if I had become it. I could feel every molecule as they split and broke apart, the blades of grass acting as tiny spears.

The wolves snarled in disapproval, their eyes now wide with terror as they stared up at the witch with the moon tattoo. Sebastian cocked a small grin, one side of his mouth curving upward. The storm around us began to swell and feed off of itself, becoming a whirlwind of rain, thunder and lightning. The trees around us groaned as the wind ripped at their leaves, nearly tearing them from their roots. White bolts split and forked through the sky above us, and I tilted my head to see Sebastian’s eyes glow an unnatural, fierce gold.

It dawned on me. He was creating this storm. It was all him.

The demon dog crouched low to the ground, one head whipping in my direction with a snarl as my fingers began to glow with an icy radiance, the other pinning Sebastian in a hateful glare.

I could feel the water around me, the small cells rolling on top of each other as they plummeted through the sky.

The wolf head facing me eye’s narrowed, and I watched with detached surprise as a decision flashed through it’s milk colored eyeballs.

It took all but three seconds, but for me it felt like eternity. With a shriek the heads swiveled on its shoulders, fangs bared murderously at the Count of Night. I watched as muscles coiled under their ebony fur, tension rippling as they gathered their hindquarters under itself. A human like scream ripped from its throat as it pounced, curved talons and fangs slashing.

Across from me, Sebastian’s eyes flooded with sickening dread. He lifted his arms over his head in attempt to shield his face from the raging monster - maybe he was trying to use his magic - but it was then that I realized I couldn’t just watch him die.

He may have brought me here, and he was a witch, but all witches were human. Or at least I thought they were. Perhaps Sages and Counts were different. I didn’t know magic well, and maybe if you used it so much it actually affected your genetic code..

Eve! Focus!

Oh, right.

With a battle cry of my own, I raised my arms just as a flurry of glistening ice shards exploded from my fingertips in a blue, sparkling light. The mutant mutt howled in pain and fury, spinning in mid air as the ice cut deep into its hide, spilling dark blue blood onto the lawn. It tumbled into Sebastian, who now, was about as shocked as I was, staring wide-eyed at my glowing fingers and palms.

Thunder boomed above, raking across the land in heavy vibrations that made me feel like a buzzing bumblebee.

Both witch and hound plunged towards the bottom of the steep hill, grunts, curses and snarls following as they went.

“Sebastian!” I screamed, my heart pounding in my throat. I ran to the edge and watched in devastating horror as the two finally came to a rolling stop... And the mutt was on top, his giant paws grinding into Sebastian’s shoulders once more, ice sparkling from his side.

A cold fist squeezed my insides as Sebastian struggled beneath the monster, blue blood dripping onto his dark cloak. I hadn’t even realized I was running until I stumbled down the steep incline, fighting for footing on the slippery grass.

One wolf head turned in my direction, angry triumphant shining in it’s dull eyes as the other’s jaws opened, ready to tear Sebastian’s throat open.
Just as I watched the wolf’s jaws streak towards the witch’s jugular, something snapped inside me. Like a broken bone, or a damn. Cold fire licked through my veins, consuming every ounce of power I had and then more, rounding it up until I felt as if I would explode. I let the blistering, chilling flames of power gather in my chest, building and building. When the hounds incisors were millimeters from Sebastian’s throat, I just... Let it go.

With a chilling wail, the power broke free from my chest in a icy blue light that was as bright and as just as powerful as the lightning forking across the sky.
The wolves flew off of the pinned witch, tail and claw-tipped paws flailing, a pained shriek spilling from its lips. Long, jagged spears of ice glinted, imbedded in its fur between its ribs, spilling cobalt blood that glistened in the moonlight. Wailing, it struggled to rise, clawing desperately at the ground while its tail thrashed.

White orbs rolled in its massive skull, pinning me in the most spiteful stare I’d ever experienced. But... At the moment I didn’t care. My body felt weak, limp, heavy - as if my entire body weighed over a thousand pounds but I didn’t have the muscles to hold it up.

“You will pay for this,” the heads hissed, the labored falls of it’s chest becoming more shallow. With great effort, the dying monster lifted a head to stare at Sebastian. “The Queen will not stop until the girl is hers. No power on Earth will keep her from the Winter Court.”

Gasping, it laid there until its lungs stopped influxing, and its eyes rolled back into its head.

“We need to go,” Sebastian ordered, his eyes still trained on the dead two-headed mutt. “I can guarantee you the queen’s hellhound isn’t the only faerie in the surrounding area.” He sounded far off now, as if he was in another room, talking to me through a wall.

“Eve?”

I tried to reply, I really did, but I didn’t have the energy to open my mouth, to make my vocal chords work. The world tilted, as if I was in a cardboard box that was roughly lifted off the ground. I blinked, desperate to keep my eyes open, but the energy seemed to leave my body as if I had a leak somewhere, and as much as I wanted, I couldn’t patch it.

“Eve?” And he reached towards me. I think he reached towards me.

But it was too late. The ground seemed to rush up at me in an alarming rate, and I couldn’t even stick my arms out to break my fall.


I woke to a pounding in my skull, a powerful thump-thump that sent chills spider-walking down my spine. I felt as if I’d been kicked in the head by steed - and I was pretty sure its hoof was probably still stuck in my skull.

“Good Lord,” I mumbled, attempting to sit up but giving up when my spine barked a protest. “Ugh.”

Something shifted next to me, and I straightened. “You took a nasty fall there, sweetheart. I would just stay where you are for a little bit longer. Wouldn’t hurt.”

When my eyes snapped open and I saw Sebastian standing above me, his golden eyes flooded with mild amusement, I groaned. Everything came back in a rush. The demon dog. The storm. Ice and lightning. And the freakishly tall castle standing off in the distance.

The castle!

I looked at my surroundings. I was laying on some folded up towels as a makeshift mattress right the middle of a large corridor made of tall ceilings and marble floors. A large oak door stood proud and tall at the end of the hallway, taunting me. Small chandeliers hung from the ceiling, the crystals embedded in their trimming twinkling like the night sky or ice.

This wasn’t the dormitory. And this sure as hell wasn’t my little shack back home.

Slowly, I drew my eyes back down to the boy sitting beside me, his midnight hair ruffled and thrown into his eyes. “Where am I?” I asked, my voice quaking a little more than I’d like it to.

The crescent moon under his eyes twitched as one half of his face quirked up into a cocky grin. “Right where you should be.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Sebastian, seriously. Where am-”

“By the way, I never really imagined you as a Neva.”

Shit.

He continued: “Maybe an Abbey, or even Sophia, but never a Neva...”

I’d forgot about that. The damned wolf-mutt-thing had known my real name. I’d kept it a secret as long as I could remember... And now he knew. Somehow...

But I had bigger and more serious things to worry about. One being, now Sebastian knew. Out of all people in the entire universe, the freaking Count of Night knew my biggest secret.

“You’re not going to tell anyone,” I growled, my voice low and deadly. “You’re not.”

He tilted his head to the side, the crooked smile never leaving his face. “Are you sure about that, little girl?”

I’d known I told him to stop calling me sweetheart, but “little girl” was so much worse. I seethed on my thin, fabric mattress.

“I’m positive,” I snapped back, my skull pounding.

A small chortle rumbled in his throat as he played with hem of his cloak. He nodded, and I could practically see the comeback he was contemplating, rolling around in his head like a smooth marble. He chewed on his lip playfully. “Fine,” he finally said. “I won’t tell anyone as long...”

“As long as what?” I practically moaned. Of course there was a catch.

Triumphant flashed in his eyes; a predator cornering his prey. “As long as you tell me why you hate your name so much.”

I groaned internally just as well externally, jamming the heel of my palm into my eyes in frustration. I’d never had to do this before. “Why can’t you just be a good guy and leave it alone and not tell anybody?”

This caused him to chuckle; a sound I found pleasing... charming, much to my own dismay. “Because I’m not a good guy. I tend to embrace my darker side. More fun,” he chortled with a shrug.

I glared at him, trying to throw annoyance, hate, and attitude at him with just one look. But honestly, what would it hurt? If he wouldn’t tell anyone, what was the harm? It was stupid anyway.

I could feel my steel will bending under the weight of his bargain. “Fine,” I muttered. “I’ll tell you.”

And I did.

“As you already know, I’m an orphan,” I started, trying not to look at him, so instead I trained my eyes on the dangling lights above. “Not much to really say besides I was born the night the War officially started, and my parents left me on a woman’s doorstep with nothing but a blanket and a note.”

“What did the note say?” he asked, and I brought my eyes to meet his. I expected to see mockery, disbelief. But instead I saw nothing but complete fascination.

So I shrugged. “My name, I guess. It just had my birthday and my name. Neva Marie Scotts. Nothing special.”

He raked a hand absently through his hair. “But why do you hate your name?”

I took a deep breath. “Because Neva is stupid. Do you even know what it stands for?” I waited for an answer, but when he didn’t give me one I continued. “It means snow. That’s it. Just snow. It doesn’t have a pop, and ever sense I could talk I’ve requested to be called Eve. That’s it, that’s final.”

Sebastian nodded, almost to himself. “Alrighty then.”

I huffed, rubbing my temples with my forefingers. “Yeah. I know, such a stupid reason to hate my name, but I don’t care. Eve sounds cooler anyway.”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I kind of like Neva.”

“Whatever.” I just didn’t want to talk about it any longer.

Suddenly the large oak doors swung open with a groan, making me jump, only to reveal a beautiful young woman with sleek black hair and piercing golden eyes. She wore black silk like a second skin, a dark contrast against her bronzed - and perfect - flesh. She too shared the small crescent tattoo under her right eye like Sebastian. The closer I looked, I realized the similarities didn’t end there. They both had the same golden eyes rimmed with black eyelashes, high, hollow cheeks and even the same square jaw, though her chin was slightly more pointed. The only difference I really saw was their noses. The woman’s was small, petite, and curved upward slightly; almost like a casts, and a small golden hoop glinted in her nostril. She looked my age, maybe a few years younger.

“Akan wishes to see the girl,” she said in a velvety, honey sweet voice. “Bring her to the Throne Room.”

Sebastian sighed. “Can’t you stall for a little while?”

“You’ve stalled enough, Sebastian,” she hissed, and the hair on my arms stood on end. I didn’t know her, but judging from the similarities between the two - they were siblings. Which meant she too, was a Count of Night, but she didn’t hold the easy going presence her brother held. No, there was something dark and dangerous about her that made my intestines turns into a wriggling pile of worms. Maybe it was the way the corner of her mouth pointed down into a permanent but beautiful snarl, or how her eyes seemed to hold and evil light that could send the Devil running for the hills. I didn’t know what it was, but all I knew was that I was terrified of her.

I gulped.

“She was unconscious!” he rebutted. “What was I supposed to do? They weren’t going to just stare at her until she woke.”

The girl sneered, flipping perfectly straight strands of ebony hair over her shoulder. “Mother could have woken her. You know this.” She turned on her heel, her gown flowing around her bare feet like a cloud of black mist. “Just bring her.” And then she left.

I stared at the oak doors, awestruck that I’d just been in the presence of two Counts of Nights, one being the most terrifying being I’d ever seen.

“I’m sorry,” Sebastian said, ripping me out of my small little trance. “I don’t have a choice.”

My heart turned to stone. “Please,” I muttered. “Don’t.”

His eyes turned almost sad as he pulled me up by my armpit, using his other arm to steady me when I wobbled. “I won’t disobey Sage Akan,” was all he said.

He led me down the large corridor and as the double doors grew closer, my terror grew larger in my chest; like a snowball rolling down a hill. It just built on itself until my knees knocked together and a cool, thin veil of sweat coated my entire body.

Maybe I could reach within myself, call the ice magic like I did with the wolves. But when I tried, there was nothing. I just felt like normal me. Nothing. I couldn’t even feel the water around me.

“Please,” I whispered when Sebastian reached for the door handle. Something had taken a hold on him because he didn’t even look at me when he said he was sorry and continued to open up the door.

I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe more hallways, of a kitchen filled with bustling servants, but the Throne Room wasn’t it. Had I really been sleeping only a hundred yards from the Order of the Seven?

And it was exactly, if not more grand than what I imagined.
The Throne Room was absolutely massive, at least three hundred feet wide and two hundred feet long. Giant marble pillars, as thick as I was tall, towered on the sides of the rooms to hold up the canopy of plaster above. The ceiling looked as if a pack of angels had descended from Heaven and puked flowing rivers of reds and golds - all twisted together in intricate floral arrangements that seemed to dance when the light hit them just right.

The door that Sebastian and I had come out of must’ve been a backdoor- or maybe a servant’s because we emerged from behind the thrones. My combat boots thudded in time with my heartbeat as we closed in, Sebastian’s tight grip on my arm a steady reminder that I wasn’t here by choice.

The seven thrones were positioned in a half circled, all surrounding a large representation of the Order’s symbol on the floor, and they all sat at least five feet off the ground - a small set of steps leading up to each throne. And to make it even more grand, a window - almost as long and tall as the back wall itself - stood behind the thrones, overlooking a grand courtyard of stone statues and yellowing plants. I couldn’t say I wasn’t surprised. I guess I always thought the Sages kept everything nice. That nothing ever died here and it was always green. It was almost kind of a relief to see that even the Sage’s couldn’t outrun the approaching winter.

Sebastian dragged me through the room, his face stern with determination as he refused to look my way.

We were in front of the thrones now. I couldn’t look.

“Eve Scotts.”

I looked up and there was...

Akan, if I had to guess. He sat with his fingers clasp tightly in his lap, his knuckles turning white with force as he gazed down upon me. He was very tall and slender, much to my surprise, with platinum hair that flowed to his waist and eyes of blue fire. A tattoo sat below his right eyes, a triangle made of swirling lines. No crown sat upon his head like I imagined, but he wore robes stitched from ritch blue fabrics that seemed to gleam like the oceans I’d heard about in stories. Power radiated from him, a steady purr in the air... Slight vibrations; as subtle yet powerful as a thunderstorm rolling off in the distance.

He stared at me, his gaze a demanding weight on my chest, as if expecting an answer but I couldn’t find my voice.

“Sage Akan,” Sebastian murmured, his eyes resting solely on his booted feet. He bowed at the waist, and I hurried to follow, though my curtsy was pathetic and unrehearsed compared to his. I could feel my cheeks heating like I had just worked hours in the sun on a hot June day. “I’ve brought you Eve Scotts, your highness, just as you requested.”

“Good. Very good,” the Sage commenced. Though his tone was soft, the swirling undertone made me think of volcanoes erupting, or large storms. “You may leave us now, Sebastian.”

Sebastian cast one more glance my way as he bowed once more. “Yes, your majesty.” And he was gone.

My legs felt weak, and my mouth was dry, but I forced myself to keep standing. I was a broke girl that lived in a shack in the Village outlining the Core. I stole, gambled, and fought in underground battles to feed my family. The only thing left I had was my dignity, and I wasn’t going to let him take that away from me too.

I reached the foot of the throne, cold sweat dripping down my spine as my heart hammered louder in my ribs. I didn’t bow, or curtsy again. I simply stood there, my palms clammy and forehead slicked with cool sweat.

His hard blue eyes bore into me, his stare so icy cold I thought they would fracture and break. That, and it felt old and ancient, though he didn’t look a day over thirty-five. And then he said something that made me cringe.

“I’ve been watching you, Neva Scotts. You were surprisingly hard to track down.”

I wasn’t breathing. “I’m sorry,” I wheezed.

The Sage blew off my apology with a flick of his pale wrist. “Regardless, you’re here now. And I assume that’s all that matters. Wouldn’t you agree?”

No, I definitely did not agree. So much more mattered. My life, for instance. Lucy, Jack’s... Everyone’s life back home mattered. “Yes, your highness.”

“You may look me in the eye, Neva Scotts. It’s not going to offend me.”

“Eve,” I said while looking up, but instantly regretted it when I saw an eyebrow lift in question.

“Eve,” he said with a small headnod. “You’ve been practicing magic without the consent of the Order. You’ve gone against direct laws of the Core to practice magic, and not just any magic but ice magic. Why?”

What should I say? That I’m starving and that’s the only thing there was to do to feed my family? That it’s a pass time? Not knowing anything else to say, I told him the truth. “It that only way to survive, sir.”

Akan clasps his hands and rests his head on his knuckles. “Very well. I understand that it can be hard to survive, but you do realize that practicing magic without the birthright is punishable by death.”

I would be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t scared. In fact, I was absolutely terrified. Like, I just peed my pants terrified. I was going to die today because I tried to live yesterday. I tried to nod. “Yes,” I squeaked.

“But,” he continued, “with your special... talents, you could be of great value to the school and to the war itself.”

My skin tingled with dread. And here I’d thought Sebastian was kidding when he said I’d become a student here. I felt a twinge of annoyance. Who was he to take me from my home and force me into something I wanted nothing to do with?

You know that’s not true, another part of me denied. The logical part of me.

I don’t care, I snapped back. Yes, I wanted to fight in the Great War. I had since the day I could intelligently comprehend what the people were talking about. Why women shielded their children and why even the broodiest of men cowered in corners when the Order’s troops marched through the streets.

The relationship between the Order’s men and the people was a strained, envious one that was mostly one sided. Villagers were a majority of the land forces, who were either brave enough, stupid enough, or cocky enough to enlist in the Order and lay down their lives for the witches who ruled over us, or even some combination of the three. They were just like us, yet completely different in a single way that made every non-enlisted envy them with a raging force.

They were fed. An entire family would be given small portions of coin and food to pay for supplies of everyday life. The more members of your family you had fighting in the war against the fae, the more prosperity to your name.
So it was either you starve at home with your entire family, or sacrifice your security so they could eat.

Either way, there’s a chance you’ll die.

“In exchange for your life,” the Water Sage continued, “you will participate and take classes in the Witches Academy and learn vital skills you’ll need when fighting fae in Knavesmire-”

This startled me. “Knavemire?”

Akan’s mouth twitched subtlety into a faint smile that was almost completely inconspicuous. “Yes, Eve Scotts. The fae have now traveled to Knavemire where they have attempted to take control of one of our most productive iron mines. If they do manage to take control of Knavemire and the Knavemire Mine, our cities iron production will be cut in half. With no iron, we cannot make or repair weapons. So you see our reason for wanting you?”

I nodded numbly. Knavemire was one of the smaller mountains that
made up the Skeldergate Mountain Range, or as its better known for - the Great Mountain, or the Mountian for short. It was the only thing that stood between us and the ever relentless faeries. Knavemire just happened to be on our side of the range, which meant the fae had someone gathered enough strength to make it over the Mountian.

Knavermire was also known for its jagged terrain, freezing weather, and fearsome wildlife.

I gulped.

Akan waited for a verbal response, but when I didn’t give one he cleared his throat which made me look up. Our eyes met and something passed like a shadow over his features. Amusement? Pity? Eagerness? I didn’t know.

“Every Friday you will report to me and give me a brief summary of what you’ve learned the previous week, and you and I will have some private lessons that will cater to your more... exquisite abilities.” Akan, the Sage of Water wanted to train me? In ice magic? Could he see me shaking? “I will assign you your own personal guard for extra precautions. I think that’s a fair trade. So do we have a deal, Eve Scotts? Do you agree to my terms?”

“What if I don’t?”

His blue eyes flashed. “Then you will die for disobeying The Order’s laws.” He took a quiet breath, as if calming himself as he flattened his clasp hands on his lap. “So do we have a deal?”

What else could I do? It was either die today, or wait to fight another day. I glanced down at my black combat boots and stared at mud-caked hands. I stared at the lines, so prominent in the Throne Room’s light. I took a shaky breath.

“Deal.”

Akan smiled, a terrifyingly beautiful sight that made my body shiver. “Then welcome, Eve Scotts. Welcome to the Palace of Bairfell.”


Sebastian came back to take me back to my room. Or dorm, as he called it. No words were exchanged between us, but I couldn’t bring myself to care. I was now officially a student of the Witch Academy. I was going to fight in the Great War.

I guess I wasn’t that shocked that I was going to fight against the fae, because prior to all of this I was planning the same thing. It was the fact that I wouldn’t become just any other village solider. I was going to become a witch.

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