Elemental Heir : Book 1 Of The Elemental Heir Series

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Chapter 49


(Dristan’s POV)

Golden morning light and the sound of blissful song birds woke me. The sound was irritating. So happy and warm, the opposite of how I felt. I growled as one of my eyes opened slightly. My head immediately began to pound as the bright sunlight pierced my eyes.

I groaned and glanced around myself, unsure of exactly how I ended up outside the Aviary.

I sat up, holding my head in my hands, as flashes from the night before came trickling back to me. Fragments of bourbon, self loathing, and flying through the night skies flashed across my mind.

There were two empty liquor bottles beside me.

Ah, yes... I remember.

I’d been binge drinking since we’d arrived home yesterday. And apparently, at some point in my drunken fit, I’d left the Aviary and flown to the outskirts of the forest surrounding it.

Nausea suddenly hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. Throwing my head to the side, I vomited into the brush. Blood, chunks of fur, and bone came out. The sharper fragments cut my throat and my tongue as they forced their way out of my belly. It hurt.

Apparently, my dragon had been out last night, too. And he’d had a grand time hunting whatever animal I’d just regurgitated.

Rutting hell...

The sound of trickling water became more clear to me as I gathered myself. Standing on wobbly legs, I stumbled my way toward the scent of the fresh stream.

I fell to my knees and used my hands to splash the cool liquid onto my face and neck, cleaning the blood from my mouth. I drank deeply, until my sides hurt, until it felt like I’d throw it all back up again.

Brenya... She must be worried...

I scowled at the thought, shook it out of my mind, and began to look for my weapons belt. I wasn’t wearing it, which was strange, because I never left the Aviary without it. But when I got back to the tree I’d passed out by, searched the area in which the empty bottles were discarded, and combed the surrounding area, they were nowhere to be found.

I must’ve been quite drunk...

I growled with irritation, highly disappointed with myself for being so foolish. Passing out drink in the woods, alone, without my weapons... It did not get any more idiotic than that.

“Looking for this?” An infuriatingly familiar voice asked from behind me.

I snarled as I whipped around to face Ronan. My eyes widened slightly as I instantly realized that he was holding my sword. My weapons belt was slung over his shoulder as he leaned against a tree. He grinned at me as he held my sword lazily in one hand.

“I thought I’d hold onto it for safe keeping, seeing as you’ve been out cold for well over ten hours now. Wouldn’t want the wrong person to come along and take advantage of you in such a weak and helpless state, would we?” He mused, twirling the hilt of my weapon idly.

“Give me my sword. Now.” I said with lethal calm.

He pursed his lips. “So you can kill me for real this time? I don’t think so.”

I bared my teeth slightly. “If you’re going to threaten me with my own weapon, then you’d best be sure that you kill me. Because if you fail, I will not show you the mercy I did before.”

He rolled his eyes. “I’m not going to kill you. I’m just ensuring that you don’t kill me.”

My eyes flicked to the sword, and then back to his face. “If I wanted to kill you then I would’ve done more than just snap your neck, you rutting fool.”

He nodded slowly as he gazed off toward the Aviary. “True enough... Though, you did leave me in the forest, where I could’ve been killed, or found and tortured by some gods damned beast.”

I huffed a sarcastic laugh. “Well, the way I saw it, if you weren’t strong enough to defend yourself out there then you didn’t deserve to live anyway. If you’d died out there, it would’ve been no fault of mine.”

His grin faltered. “Like how my parents weren’t strong enough to defend themselves against your elders? Like it is no fault of yours that they were murdered in cold blood?”

I stared at him. He stared back.

For a long while, the breeze rustling the leaves in the trees above us was the only sound.

“I’ve told you before, Ronan, and I will tell you for the last time.” I said evenly. “What happened to your parents was horrible. But I had nothing to do with it, and I am not at fault.”

“It was an act of hate. Hate against my people. A hate that you obviously still harbor.” He said, his eyes burning into mine. His body remained relaxed as he leaned against the tree, but his eyes told another story.

“No. I have no hate for the Fae.” I argued.

“And yet you hate me. You wanted me to die. I’d wager my life that you’d give anything to kill me, right now, so long as your precious mate didn’t hate you for it.”

“My hatred for you has nothing to do with your race!” I snarled. “You were going to force the woman I love to marry you, and when our matehood became known, you still wanted to keep her for yourself. I see the way you look at her. I know that you covet what is mine.”

He remained relaxed against the tree as he stared at me blankly.

“I will not deny that I care for Brenya.” He said calmly. I snarled, but he ignored me and continued. “But I also respect her. I know that she loves you, though I cannot fathom why... But it doesn’t matter. She is happy. That is what matters. As much at you hate to see it, Brenya and I are friends. She needed help, so I helped her. She was breaking apart inside, tortured by the guilt she felt for what happened to Warrick. And if you love her as much as you claim to, then helping her relieve that grief should’ve been more important to you than your childish jealousy.”

I took an aggressive step toward him, but stopped when he raised the sword and pointed it toward me.

“She could be killed if she cannot handle her magic! She nearly died the last time!” I roared.

He bared his teeth as he growled. “Because you failed to warn her about the dangers of her magic! Your fault! YOURS! She is a thousand times stronger than you think she is. She is not a gods damned child for you to coddle! She is the future queen, and she deserves some respect, especially from her mate! You constantly make her doubt herself, constantly hold her back, and I am rutting sick of it! Her magic is not the problem, Dristan, YOU are!”

I hid my wince with a low growl. My hands were fisted so tightly at my sides that my fingernails were cutting into my palms. I could smell the tangy scent of blood in the air.

I hated him for his words. I hated him because deep down, I knew that he was right. I knew that it was my fault.

I told Brenya to be honest with me, but I also warned her that I would intervene if I felt that she was risking her safety. She knew that even if she was honest with me, I would’ve tried to stop her. It was my fault.

I was overprotective. I worried too much. I didn’t give her the freedom she needed, and I didn’t believe in her as much as I should.

Shame reared up on its hind legs before me and trampled me beneath its hooves. I could not think of what to say as shame and self loathing enveloped me.

Ronan watched my demeanor change and a slow smile spread over his wretched lips.

“You know I am right.” He said softly.

I looked away from him, too angry to withstand the arrogance on his face.

“And where is your mate now? Why are you here, alone, hung over and looking like shit? She must be very angry with you.” He added mockingly.

My eyes snapped back to his. “That’s enough. Shut your gods damned mouth before I shut it for you.”

“You don’t want to kill me, Dristan.” He said, his smile growing.

I stared at him, my nostrils flaring.

Oh, how wrong you are...

“You need me.” He smirked.

He pulled a worn, leather book from his back pocket with his free hand. I immediately recognized it as the Rune Book of Shadows.

“You will never find the remaining runes without this. I am the only one who can help Brenya decipher the runes. I am the only one who can help her find them. How do you plan to win the war without the runes? Hm?”

I gritted my teeth, unable to answer.

He pushed himself away from the tree and took a few slow steps toward me.

One step. “You...”

Another step. “Need...”

One more step. “Me.”

He smiled at me as I willed my eyes to ignite his entire being into flames.

“So... What’s say we let bygones be bygones, yes? Let me return to the Aviary.”

My eyes drifted to the sword, still gripped tightly in his hand. “Give me my sword.”

He tutted his tongue. “Not until you agree to let me return... And swear not to kill me, of course.”

I dragged my eyes back to his. “You are not to see my mate alone.”

He grinned. “That is not a good start to undoing your controlling ways, Dragon Lord.”

I glared at him from beneath lowered brows, wanting nothing more than to rip his head from his body. Perhaps snapping his neck had been to kind...

When I did not respond, he scoffed and turned his head to the side, gazing off toward the Aviary.

“I wonder how Brenya would-”

He didn’t have time to finish his sentence.

I took his momentary lapse in attention to teleport myself behind his body. In less than a second, my arm was locked around his neck while my free hand clamped around his wrist. He gagged as I flexed my arm and cut off his air supply.

I squeezed and twisted my hand on his wrist, breaking the bone. It snapped audibly.

My sword fell to the ground with a soft thump.

I brought my lips an inch from his ear and snarled. “You. Are. Not. To see my mate. ALONE.”

He nodded fervently in my grasp, clawing at the arm that was choking him.

I shoved him and picked up my sword as he fell into the dust before me, grasping at his neck in pain. I stood over him, glaring down at him in disgust.

He stared up at me with widened eyes.

I cracked my neck as I secured my weapons belt around my waist. “Perhaps we do need you... But do not ever confuse your place, Ronan.... It’s right here, beneath me, cowering in fear. You’d do well to remember that.”

I shoved my sword into its hilt as I turned away from him.

He continued to cough and gasp for air as I strode away. And just before I was about to take off and fly back to the Aviary, I turned to him once more.

“Oh, and Ronan...”

He looked up at me with hatred.

“If you ever touch my sword again... I will drive it through your heart without a second thought.”

And then I took to the skies.


(Brenya’s POV)

I sat at the head of the council table, drumming my fingers on the table top with impatience. Dristan’s seat was vacant and no one had seen him since last night.

Andromeda and I had searched for him for hours last night, hoping to talk to sense into him and reconcile our argument, but he was just... gone.

The only thing stronger than my irritation toward him at the moment was my worry.

Where is he? Is he okay?

Andromeda and Torryn sat in their usual places, while Aella sat in Ronan’s old spot. Her presence here was strange and out of place. She stood out in the room, like a peacock amongst chickens.

We’d been sitting in the council room for well over an hour. Marrok had gone to look for Dristan again. He was certain that his keen wolf nose could sniff him out, even with his scent masked. Wolves had amazingly sensitive noses. I could feel a set of large, black, almond eyes on the side of my face.

“Is it truly necessary for Dristan to be present?” Andromeda asked, breaking the long, awkward silence. I nearly jumped out of my skin.

Aella had insisted that we wait to speak further until the entire council was here.

“It is necessary, yes.” Aella responded in her strange, wispy voice.

“Brenya, can you try to find him through the bond?” Andromeda asked impatiently, turning toward me.

I sighed heavily. “I tried all night, Andi. He’s completely shutting me out. I can feel him there, but I can’t send thoughts to him. It’s like he’s put up a barrier or something.”

She growled in frustration. “I have things to do today.”

Aella turned toward her. “Interesting...”

Andi’s brows pulled together in confused. “What?”

“Your soul is quite conceited.” Aella said bluntly.

Andi’s mouth fell open and I could’ve sworn I saw Torryn grin.

Excuse me?” Andi scowled, crossing her arms as she narrowed her eyes.

“Aella...” I said softly. “It is considered rude to call someone conceited.”

She turned toward me, blinking her alien-like eyes. “Why?”

I glanced between her and Andi, who’s face was growing pink.

“Er... Well, it’s not very polite to point out other people’s... uhm... flaws.” I stuttered.

Andi shot me a cold glare. I widened my eyes at her, trying to silently explain to her that I wasn’t agreeing with Aella, only trying to explain manners to her. She rolled her eyes and looked down at the table.

“How can one expect to improve themselves if others do not point out their flaws?” Aella asked, her voice like the wind.

I gaped at her. “Er... Well, I suppose... They have to figure it out for themselves.”

Aella looked toward Andi, and then back at me. “Your kind are strange... I don’t know that I will ever understand your ways... It is much easier to become your best self when you have the help of another’s perspective. Yet you let your own pride get in your way.”

“Listen here, you creepy-” Andi started to explain, but I cut her off.

“I think what Aella is trying to say is that she didn’t mean to offend you, Andi.” I said, leaning forward.

Andi scowled at me. “Well, she did.”

“I apologize.” Aella said, bowing her head.

I widened my eyes at Andromeda again, and gestured toward Aella with my head.

Andi pursed her lips before smiling sweetly and looking at Aella. “It’s fine... Don’t worry about it.”

Aella lifted her head to meet Andi’s gaze. “Why would I worry about it if you said it is fine?”

I was preparing to reel Andi in again, before she could bite Aella’s head off, when Marrok strode into the room.

“Marrok!” Torryn said loudly, throwing his hands into the air. “Another male. Thank the gods... What news have you?”

“Well, I found him.” Marrok said, rubbing the back of his neck. “And someone else, too.”

My brows furrowed in question. “Who?”

“Hello, princess.” A familiar voice said from behind me.

I stood from my chair and whipped around to meet Ronan’s eyes as he strode through the doorway. “Ronan! You’re alive! You’re here!”

He sent me an easy grin. “Of course I am.”

“H-how? When? What the hell is going on?” I stuttered in a rush of confusion mixed with relief.

“Well, I ran into someone out in the woods this morning. I think he might belong to you.” Ronan drawled, waving a hand.

He walked further into the room, and Dristan came in behind him. His hair was dirty and there was blood on his shirt. His eyes looked tired and haunted in a way that made my stomach turn.

“There you are!” Andromeda scolded. “We’ve been searching everywhere for you!”

He ignored her and walked across the room, toward his chair.

He did not look at me.

Did not acknowledge me.

My eyes burned as I watched him sit down.

I sank slowly into my chair as everyone got situated around the table.

“Would you mind explaining where the hell you were? And why the hell Ronan is with you?” Andi asked acidly.

I stared at my mate as he slowly lifted his eyes to hers. “I got drunk and passed out in the woods. Ronan found me there on his way back to the Aviary. We shared some words and now everything is fine. That’s all you need to know.”

The room fell silent. I waited for him to look at me.

He didn’t.

“Well, now that we are all here, let’s get down to business.” Torryn proposed, breaking the awkward silence.

I buried my hurt and anger toward my mate, doing my best to focus on the task at hand, as I turned toward Aella.

“I would like to discuss the most important matter, first.” I said evenly. “You said that you could help me heal Warrick’s wing.”

Aella nodded, her inky hair falling over her slim shoulders. “Indeed, I can.”

I smiled. “Wonderful... H-how... exactly?”

She cocked her head at me. “'Tis an ancient Sylph secret. We are healers. I will heal him, but I cannot give you the spell for reuse.”

I narrowed my eyes at her. “I thought you were going to help me fuse the spell with an original rune?”

She smiled sweetly and shook her head. “It is not necessary. I do not need a rune to heal his wing, child.”

I blinked at her, dumbfounded.

Then shame poured in. I never needed an original rune to heal Warrick... I’d gone behind Dristan’s back for nothing. I’d snuck around with Ronan, risked my relationship, for nothing. If I’d only focused on the riddle and finding the Sylphs, I could’ve avoided the entire mess.

Her eyes lit up as my expression changed. “Now you understand, don’t you?”

I could not answer.

“You were hasty and foolish in your quest to heal your friend and it cost you greatly. All you needed to do, young one, was stay true to your path and favor truth and honor. Because you let your guilt consume you, you created a bigger mess than you’d already made.”

I winced, but held her gaze.

“Sometimes, one must think with their head instead of their heart, Elemental Heir. Your emotions can lead you astray if you let them cloud your judgement. This is the lesson you must learn from your mistakes.”

I nodded, swallowing the lump that had formed in my throat. A single tear slid down my cheek.

Aella cocked her head. “Am I being rude again? I am pointing out your flaws, which you said was impolite... I am sorry.”

I laughed softly and shook my head. “No, it’s okay... Like you said, Aella, it is easier to grow into the best version of yourself when other’s point out your flaws. I am grateful for the lesson and for your help.”

She smiled, trying not to flash her sharp teeth at me. “I am glad you can see past your pride, young one. You will make a fine leader.”

I blushed as I looked away and wiped at my tears.

When I looked up, Dristan was staring at me. He held my gaze for a brief moment before looking away again. But in that small moment, I’d seen a clear emotion in his eyes.

Love.

Hope swelled in my chest.

He still loves me...

I turned back toward Aella, desperate to distract myself before my emotions got the better of me. Something that they tended to do... Something I needed to work on.

“You promised the rune. May I please have it?” I asked Aella calmly.

Aella bowed her head slightly. “I stay true to my promises, Elemental Heir.” She pulled a small bag from her robes. It was light blue and looked to be made of silk. She extended her hand toward me, presenting me with the small pouch.

I reached toward her slowly and plucked it out of her hand. “Thank you, Aella.” I said sincerely.

She nodded once. “A pleasure to assist you.”

Everyone except Dristan watched me warily as I pulled the drawstrings open and peered into the bag. And though we should’ve learned from past experience, none of us were prepared for what happened when I reached into the bag and pulled out the rune.

As soon as my skin touched the smooth rock, I felt it’s power weld with my own. It seeped through my skin and merged with my magic... Just as the flame rune had. It took my breath away.

I gasped as my hand clenched around the air rune. Like the wind itself, I felt the power of the rune rushing through my veins, whispering ancient secrets to my soul. I could feel something in-explainable building inside of me with each passing second.

And when that strange sensation reached the crescendo, an explosion of wind erupted outward from the rune... From me... From our magic.

The blast of air blew my hair back, causing it to whip wildly around my face. I was distantly aware of a scream, followed by several exclamations, as papers, pens, and ink pots were blasted off of the table as the force sent them flying. Every candle in the room was instantly extinguished, throwing the room into sudden darkness.

It only lasted a few moments.

As soon as I felt my power of the air snap fully into place, the wild wind died out. Papers drifted through the air and settled onto the table and floor as the wind settled.

I lifted my eyes, widened with alarm, and gaped at the shocked faces that were staring at me.

“Gods above...” Torryn said softly, brushing his wild hair out of his face.

“I’ll get the lights.” Andi offered. She stood and walked around the room, relighting various candles that had gone out.

“That was very interesting.” Aella said, staring at me with her giant eyes.

I smiled weakly at her. “It wasn’t as bad as what happened when I held the flame rune for the first time.”

She blinked at me. “Oh, dear...”

“Aella... Was there something else that my parents left with you? The other rune had a riddle to accompany it. A riddle that led to the next rune.” I asked.

She shook her head slowly. “Everything that your parents gave me was in that bag. I have never opened it. If there is a riddle, it would be inside.”

I furrowed my brows as I picked the silk bag up again. I reached into it, fishing around, and sighed in relief when I felt a small piece of paper brush against my fingertips.

“There is something here.” I said with relief.

I pulled the paper out. It was folded into a small square, the parchment creased and discolored with age. It looked as if it might fall apart if I wasn’t careful.

Slowly, I unfolded the paper.

“Here is the drawing of the next rune.” I said, studying the sketch.

“Let me see.” Ronan said, extending his arm across the table.

I expected Dristan to growl at his motion toward me, but he remained still, his eyes glued to the table. I swallowed the lump in my throat as I passed the paper to Ronan.

He flipped open his Book of Shadows, his eyes switching between the sketch and his book. After a few minutes, he closed the book again.

“Earth... That must mean the final rune is water.” He said.

“Good... Thanks, Ronan.” I smiled.

He nodded at me while returning my grin. “Of course.”

“Pass the paper back, I think the riddle is on the other side of the paper.” I said, stretching my hand outward.

He dropped the paper into my palm, careful not to touch my skin.

I took a deep breath as I readied myself to read the riddle aloud. I felt several pairs of eyes burning into me as I stared at the wrinkled parchment.

“I hide among the living wood. Who always, yet have never, stood. Those who seek them surly could, though death will follow if they should.”

Eerie silence followed as I finished reciting the riddle. I lifted my head, gazing around at the blank faces of my companions.

Andi looked as if she might vomit. Torryn’s jaw was locked. Ronan sat as still as a statue. Marrok stared into my eyes. Aella sat motionless. Dristan stared at the wooden table before him.

No one spoke.

I waited.

“Well?” I said, breaking the silence.

Still, no one spoke.

“Someone say something.” I whispered.

“You’re not going to like it.” Marrok said, his eyes piercing as he stared at me.

“Tell me.” I said evenly.

“The riddle is obvious... But it is going to be the most difficult rune to obtain. That riddle can only mean one thing...” He said seriously.

“Tell me.” I repeated.

“The rune is with the Kadoma...”



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