Elemental Heir : Book 1 Of The Elemental Heir Series

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Chapter 48




Shock.
Horror.
Dread.

I fell to my knees, my lungs unable to function properly, as I stared open mouthed at Ronan’s body. I couldn’t breathe. I tried to gasp in a lungful of air, but it got caught in my windpipe.

I trembled as I knelt in the dirt, still unable to process exactly what had just happened.

His body lay awkwardly among the leaves and foliage. His neck was bent at an impossible angle and one of his arms was twisted beneath his torso. His face looked toward the trees behind me, his vacant eyes open and dull. The breeze ruffled his mousy hair.

Marrok was silent behind me. Dristan stood behind Ronan’s body, his hands fisted furiously at his sides. There was no sound aside from my short, gasping breaths.

No... No, no... It’s all my fault.

Another horrible thing that was all my gods damned fault. I couldn’t handle another person’s fate weighing down on my conscious. The pressure was too much.

I was going to snap beneath it, like a fragile twig.

My wide, tear filled eyes lifted slowly, trailing up Dristan’s legs. Then his arms. Then his torso.

When my eyes locked onto his, and I saw the unapologetic, cold, unfeeling rage inside of them, a part of me broke inside.

The shock of what had just happened vanished. And in its sudden absence, all of the pain came rushing in like tsunami of black, sticky sludge. Every corner of my mind was flooded with it. The sticky tar like substance drowned every other part of me as the anguish took over.

Ronan was dead...

He was dead because of me.

Just like my father was dead because of me. And Marrok and Sylvie’s father. Just like it was my fault that Warrick had lost his wing.

Why did everything I touched seem to die?

Dristan’s eyes widened a fraction as he felt my rush of despair through the bond. His nostrils flared, and he opened his mouth as if he was about to say something. It only lasted a fleeting moment.

An expression of indifference slammed down over his features. He closed his mouth and flexed his jaw as his eyes hardened.

I’d never seen him look so... cold.

It broke me even further.

“You killed him.” I whispered.

He stared at me in silence, his piercing, sapphire eyes like two chips of ice.

“You... You killed him...” I repeated, my voice a ghostly sound.

He remained motionless. His eyes burned into me, scorching the edges of my soul with their fiery rage. I stared back as the wind blew strands of my wild hair in and out of my face.

Still, he made no effort to respond. He only stared at me, as if I were nothing. Less than nothing...

I was looking into the eyes of my mate. And yet I saw no love inside of them.

Panic twisted my stomach into painful, nauseating knots. I hated the way he was looking at me. The pain and disgust in his gaze was the most sobering thing I’d ever seen before. It shattered me.

“Dristan...”

He was silent awhile longer before he finally spoke.

“You look upset, mate... Have my actions upset you?” He asked darkly, cocking his head.

I stared at him, hurt by his mocking tone. Hurt by the lack of love inside of it.

“It must be devastating, to feel so betrayed and appalled by your own mate.” He growled.

His words were like a knife twisting in my gut. I could not respond. I only stared at him, gasping for air as tears rained down my cheeks.

He turned away.

I blinked at his back, my mouth opening and closing dumbly, like a fish out of water. I had no words. No thought process with which to make any.

He took a few slow steps toward the treeline, as if he were about to leave us there. Leave us in the forest...

Leave me...

I held my breath as he suddenly paused.

He turned his head, blinking at the trees over his shoulder. “Ronan is not dead. He will wake in a few hours.” He said without emotion.

I gawked at the side of his face.

“What?”

His jaw flexed. “Have I taught you nothing?”

I narrowed my eyes at his back and shook my head, confused.

“He cannot be killed, aside from silver. He is not dead.”

Relief...

Sweet, cooling, precious relief... It soothed my burning soul like a salve. I gasped, suddenly able to breath properly, and then began to sob, crying now for joy instead of sorrow.

He wasn’t dead... I hadn’t killed someone else...

He wasn’t dead.

Dristan took another step toward the trees, turning his face away. “We must go.”

I felt Marrok’s large, warm hands on my shoulders.

“What of Ronan?” Marrok asked cautiously.

There was a pause.

“Leave him to the beasts.” Dristan growled.


The flight back to the Aviary was long, awkward and silent. I had not shed another tear until we’d arrived. As soon as we landed, Dristan stormed away without so much as a glance in my direction.

Marrok had turned to me, as if he were about to say something, but I’d already slipped away, in desperate search of a private place to break down.

I didn’t know where, exactly, I was. I’d gone down several flights of stairs, wandered through countless hallways, and found myself in a small room somewhere near the tombs.

I'd rushed past a group of brownies on the way here, all of whom were scrubbing the floors and dusting the walls. Their strange voices had followed me down the hallway, chasing me further into the depths of the Aviary.

"That was the princess, she be crying!"
"Princess, you must be doing a come back here!"

I certainly would not be 'doing a come back here'... I'd only run faster, evading their desperate calls.

"Where she be going, all the way downs here?"
"We must be getting helps!"

Faster and faster I ran, delving deeper and deeper into the bowels of the volcano. I prayed that I'd gotten myself lost enough that whoever they'd gone to for help would not be able to find me.

The room was mostly vacant, housing only a worn armchair, a small table, and a desk which was shoved against the wall. There were no windows. Cobwebs clung to the rocky surface of each corner of the room. I watched them in silence as the dim light from the candle cast ghostly shadows behind them.

I sat in the old, torn chair with my knees pulled up to my chest, my arms wrapped around them and hugging them to me. The scent of mold and minerals stung my nose, but I didn’t care.

I’d stopped crying an hour ago, but I couldn’t bring myself to move. All I could do was watch the shadows, and try not to think of what kind of horrible things could be happening to Ronan right now.

All because of me...

And Dristan... Gods, I’d hurt him. I’d never seen him so angry before.

I deserved it.

I clenched my eyes shut as the thought invaded my mind. I didn’t want to cry anymore. My eyes were sore and swollen. My cheeks were chapped from wiping the tears away from them with my sleeve.

“Brenya?” A familiar voice suddenly called from the hallway.

I opened my eyes slowly as a soft knock sounded at the door.

The brownies must have fetched Andromeda. And still unable to mask my scent, she must've followed it through the hallways.

Damn...

“Go away.” I whispered faintly, knowing her keen ears would hear me.

The wooden door creaked loudly as she turned the knob and pushed it open.

I did not have the energy to scold her. I didn’t care enough to protest. I couldn’t feel much of anything apart from guilt and self pity.

I listened to her soft footsteps approaching the back of my chair.

“Brenya... Dristan told me you were upset, and...” Andi whispered gently.

I felt her delicate hand come to rest on my shoulder.

I didn’t respond, just continued to stare blankly into the corner of the room.

“Everyone is very worried about you.”

She waited for me to say something. When I remained unresponsive, she sighed softly.

The warmth of her hand disappeared and she circled the chair, coming into view in front of me. I moved my chin down, avoiding her eyes. I studied her slippers.

Pink, made of something soft and shiny. Satin perhaps...

“Would you like to talk about it?” She asked carefully.

I turned my head away from her and gazed apathetically toward the floor.

“Fine... I’ll talk. You listen.”

As she sat down on the floor in front of the chair, I stole a glance at her. She was dressed in her nightgown and robe. She had no makeup on, and her hair was wet.

She looked different. Natural and raw. It shocked me for a moment, as I’d only ever seen her in fine clothing, her hair and makeup always pristine.

She must’ve gotten out of bed to come find me.

I looked away again before she could notice me studying her.

“As you are well aware, Dristan is a dragon. More importantly, he is a male dragon. And even though right now, you probably feel like no one can relate to what you’re going through, you’re wrong. I have been putting up with male dragons all my life.” She explained, toying with a damp strand of her hair.

“They can be the biggest brutes in the world, especially those who are mated. Any male who is mated has a bigger temper than those who are not, but dragons are especially short tempered and territorial. They can’t help it. They share their thoughts and feelings with their inner beasts, which only makes their aggression stronger. Now that you are mated to a dragon, you must understand that.”

I gritted my teeth as I listened to her. “So I must always bend to his will, do as he wishes, and walk on eggshells to avoid pissing him off, is that what you’re saying?”

She let out a small laugh. “Heavens no.”

I turned my head toward her and blinked at her in surprise.

“You could do everything he wanted you to do and he would still explode like a grenade every now and then. It’s just the way dragons are, Brenya. With the beast trapped inside, the emotions have to come out once in awhile. All I am saying is that you shouldn’t allow yourself to get too upset over it. This is something that you are going to have to live with.”

I shook my head. “How am I supposed to just get over it? He was so cruel...”

She gave me a sad smile. “I’m sure he hates himself for it. He’s probably beating himself up about it as we speak. Listen to me, Brenya... Male dragons may have short tempers, but they make up for it with the depth of their love. Dragons are some of the most caring and nurturing mates... Unlike other species. Sylvie, for example, was horribly mistreated by her mate. Dristan would never treat you that way. Dragons are very loving toward their mates. Once he calms down, I assure you that he will make it up to you. Everything will be fine. When his temper gets the better of him, you just need to give him space and let him cool off. Torryn gets the same way. I used to let it upset me, but now I just roll my eyes and walk away.” She shrugged.

I stared at her.

“Andromeda... He banished Ronan.”

Her eyes widened. “What?”

“He didn’t tell you that part, did he?” I growled.

“No, he only said that you two had gotten into a fight.”

I sighed, and told her everything, sparing not a single detail. The storm, my ability to fly, the Sylphs, my confession, Dristan’s anger followed by snapping Ronan’s neck, and then leaving him there...

She stared at me with empathy. “That all sounds so horrid, I’m so sorry...”

I looked away as the pity in her eyes turned my stomach over.

“So, the Sylphs are coming here then?” She asked.

“Yes. And they’re going to help me save Warrick’s wing. They have a spell I can bind with an original rune. It will restore his wing.”

“Well... Dristan may be angry, but Brenya, what you did was brave. You risked a lot to find a way to heal Warrick. That must count for something. He will forgive you.” Andi said thoughtfully.

“Yes, but from solving one problem, another has arisen. Ronan is gone.” I groaned.

She rose a brow. “Well, it’s not that great of a loss.”

I rolled my eyes at her as she grinned playfully.

“Andi, this isn't a joke. I need his help. He’s the only other Rune Fae. Without his help, I don’t think I can make the original rune. And what of the other rune riddles? I can’t read word runes without the Rune Book of Shadows. Ronan has it on his person at all times. It’s gone, just as he is. So yes, it is a great loss. How can I convince Dristan to bring him back when they can’t stand each other?” I buried my face in my hands.

She tutted her tongue. "Well, he's going to have to get over it. We need the runes to win the war."

I nodded. "Yes, but he puts his anger and jealousy first. It's absurd..."

She nodded slowly and then studied me for a long moment. “May I ask you something that might upset you?”

I laughed sarcastically. “I’m already upset.”

She smiled softly, though her eyes remained serious. She waited for a real answer.

“Go ahead.” I sighed.

She pursed her lips as she delayed whatever question she had in mind. I rose my brows at her.

“Do you... Do you have feelings for Ronan?” She asked quickly.

My eyes widened and a flash of anger corded through my veins. ”No.” I said sternly.

She nodded once and lowered her head before peeking up at me from beneath the curtain of her hair. “Are you certain?”

I scoffed. “Dristan seems to think otherwise, and apparently so do you. I’ve no intimate feelings for Ronan, despite what everyone around here seems to suspect.”

She nodded, studying me.

“It’s just that... The two of you seem to have a very strong bond. Surly you can understand why Dristan might feel jealous or suspicious.” She said, shrugging casually.

“Well, Ronan doesn’t order me around. He doesn’t think I’m a child, helpless and vulnerable. He treats me like an equal. Maybe that’s why I enjoy his company. It’s refreshing after being treated like an invalid half the time.” I hissed.

Her eyes lit up in understanding. “Ah, I see... I suppose that does make sense."

“But I don’t have feelings for him, Andi. I love Dristan... I love him in ways I didn’t know I could love another person. He knows that. How could he ever think that I’d betray him with another man?”

She winced. “Well... You did.”

My brows furrowed. “No...”

“Not physically, Brenya. But you were sneaking around with him behind Dristan’s back. You lied to him. That hurt him. You would feel the same if the situation was reversed.”

I winced as I tried to imagine Dristan lying to me and spending several nights in the library, alone, with another female. She was right.

“I know... But I had to. If I had told him that I wanted to make an original rune to heal Warrick, he wouldn’t have let me. Ronan was the only person who could help me do it. You have no idea how guilty I feel for what happened to Warrick. I had to, Andi...”

Her eyes softened. “I understand that you feel that way. But you still should’ve told him. Yes, he would’ve been angry, and yes, he probably would’ve tried to prevent you from doing it. But as much as he protests some of the decisions you make, they are still your decisions. He cannot stop you from doing what you choose to do. He can only do what all males do for their mates, which is to try to protect them. You should have told him.”

I chewed on my lower lip, considering her words. And again, she was right.

I’d avoided telling Dristan because I knew he would try to stop me. But I would’ve still found a way to get it done, despite his objections. He told me that I needed to be honest with him and tell him about my decisions. He’d promised to try to be understanding about them, even if he disagreed. And I’d still gone behind his back.

“You’re right... I just didn’t want to upset him.”

“And in doing so, you upset him even more than you would have if you’d been honest.” She pointed out.

I sighed. “I made a real mess of things. Again...”

She laughed softly. “Yes, well... We all make mistakes, Brenya. You are young. You will make many, many more mistakes. But what truly matters is what you learn from them. Mistakes are our greatest teachers. They make us wiser.”

I smiled weakly at her. “If that is true, then I will probably end up the wisest woman who ever lived.”

She laughed again, louder this time. “Second only to me! And we will share our wisdom with each other. Together, we will outsmart all of the hard headed men around here."

My smile widened. “I can’t believe I used to loathe you so much. You are the kindest person I’ve ever known, Andromeda Price.”

Her cheeks flushed with color as she smiled up at me sweetly. “Oh, come now... That’s what friends are for, right?”

A tear fell over my cheek. “Right.”

She reached up and swiftly wiped my tear away before pulling me into a warm hug. “Now, chin up, darling. We have work to do in the morning. We must pull ourselves together and be strong, yes?”

I squeezed her small frame tightly before letting go. “Yes, we must.”

She pulled away and stood to her feet, tugging my hand so that I would stand up.

“What work, exactly, do you mean?” I asked, wiping at my eyes as I followed her from the dreary room.

She grinned at me over her shoulder. “We are going to invite the Sylphs into our home, get the rune, and then talk some sense into your mate. What you said was true. You need Ronan in order to help Warrick and to help find the other runes. Well, not just you... We all need him. Winning this war is the most important thing. And if we are going to win, we must all work together. He is part of our team. We can’t do this without him.”

I smiled as we strode through the empty, dim hallways.

“Thank you, Andi... For everything.”

She winked at me. “Anytime.”



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