Elemental Heir : Book 1 Of The Elemental Heir Series

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Chapter 56

They are going to kill them... They are going to kill them....

Ferrin’s words echoed in my mind.

In the silent trees around us.

I thought I might be sick as my stomach turned. A wave of clashing emotions washed over me, drowning me in confusion. First, a deep sorrow burned in my chest. Sorrow at Ferrin’s betrayal. I thought he was my friend, my ally... But he’d turned on me. On Dristan... On the crown that he knew belonged atop my head.

Second, I was filled with boiling rage, directed both at Ferrin and at the human soldiers. Ferrin’s actions had put my friends and my mate in immediate danger. The soldiers had not only tortured Dristan, but they were holding Ferrin’s family hostage. They were manipulating him in the most abhorrent way I could imagine. How could anyone, human or otherwise, be so cruel?

Third, I felt an overwhelming sense of empathy. What Ferrin had done was unacceptable... But how could I not empathize with his motivation? His family was going to be killed if he did not betray us. Would I have chosen any differently had I been in his position?

Andi, Torryn, Marrok, Ronan, Warrick and... and Dristan.... If their lives hung in the balance, would I choose to save them rather than upholding my loyalty to the crown? In theory, of course I would like to think that I would put my crown and my people before anything else. But if it was not a theory... If it were real, the choice literal, what would I choose?

My throat bobbed as I swallowed. The answer was obvious as it loomed over me. And I knew...

I knew I would choose to save them, without a doubt, without a moment of hesitation in my mind. If I could look Ferrin in the eye and declare him a traitor, then I was a traitor, too.

But, despite the empathy I felt for him, the fact of the present matter overruled it. Ferrin was aiming a silver filled arrow at my back, one that if released, would end my life.

And that fact scared me...

But mostly, it angered me.

“Drop the knife and back away from him.” Ferrin said, motioning with the arrow.

I glared at him over my shoulder.

He drew the bow tighter. “Do it, now.”

A low, dangerous growl sounded from the cage behind him. Despite the cloth lodged in his mouth, Torryn’s message came through, loud and clear. Ferrin ignored him.

It didn’t matter how intimidating Torryn sounded. He, nor the others, could help me from inside the cage, especially with all of their magic drained by the night-bane and iron.

My eyes flicked to Ronan, who was lying on the ground behind Ferrin, the heavy iron net caging him to the ground. He stared at me with wide eyes, the cloth in his mouth keeping him silent. I furrowed my brows at him, silently begging him for help. He shook his head subtly, his serious eyes burning into mine.

The iron and night-bane weakened him substantially, but I knew if he wanted to , he could probably manage to lift the net from his body. But I doubted he could do it without being heard or noticed.

If he tried, Ferrin would shoot me... And Ronan knew that.

There was no way out.

“I will not ask you again. Move away from him, now!” Ferrin snapped.

A low growl crept up my throat as I lowered my knife and reluctantly stepped away from the soldier. I turned slowly to face Ferrin.

“Drop the blade.” Ferrin hissed.

My fist opened and the knife fell to the ground with a soft thunk. I stared at Ferrin from beneath my brows, my expression blank. Inside, I was frantically searching for even an ember of magic still left within me. I found nothing but cold, empty, black waters.

I could dive into that chilly water... I could force the magic out of me... But it would cost me, greatly.

Images of what happened the last time I drained my magic flooded my mind. The memory of being beneath those icy, black waters, unable to find the surface... The memory of dying...

I inhaled a small breath as fear answered the memory. Internally, I backed away from the waters. I continued to stare at Ferrin. I couldn’t fight him. Perhaps I could bargain...

“Good. Now, unfreeze him.” Ferrin demanded.

“Ferrin, please. You don’t have to do this.” I said evenly, masking my anger and fear.

His eyes tightened at the corners. “Yes, I do.”

“I know that you don’t want to do this, Ferrin. You are not a traitor, you are a man of honor.”

“I am a man scorned!” He snarled, raising the bow slightly. "And I am losing my patience.”

“I can help you find your family.” My voice somehow remained steady. “Together, we can find them. I am your friend, Ferrin, let me help you.”

A bitter laugh escaped him. “You can’t help me.”

“I can... I will force the answers from this human filth. You’ll find that I can be very persuasive.” I answered, a faint smile on my lips.

He seemed to consider my proposal for a few fleeting seconds. His bitter expression fell, his eyes flashing with uncertainty. But all too quickly, his determination returned, and he drew the bow string further.

“No. Even if you got the answers, my family is being heavily guarded somewhere... You cannot guarantee me that they wouldn’t be killed before we could save them. I cannot risk my wife and children. I won’t.”

My eyes closed briefly as I let out a sigh of frustration. “Ferrin, please-”

“ENOUGH!” He bellowed, taking an aggressive step toward me.

I held my ground. “I cannot allow you to lead them to my people!”

His small, sharp teeth bared in frustration. “It would seem that your people are more important to you than your life is, your grace.”

Suddenly, he side stepped to his right. The arrow that had been aimed at my heart moved with him, jerking to the right, lowering just behind me.

“I wonder if they mean more to you than his?”

My eyes flared in instant terror and fury as Ferrin aimed the silver filled arrow at Dristan’s unconscious body behind me. Every muscle in my body tensed, my teeth slamming together as my jaw set into a hard line.

A vicious sound left my lips, startling even me, as every instinct in my body screamed at me to protect my mate. My teeth ached as they elongated out of my gums. My fingertips burned as my nails turned to claws. Without thinking, I crouched slightly, about to fling myself at Ferrin’s body and rip him to shreds.

“Ah, Ah!” Ferrin scolded me, stretching the bow’s string more tightly.

I froze.

All it would take was a millisecond. All he would have to do was release his fingers and the arrow would murder my whole, entire world.

“Make one more gods damned move, disobey me one more gods damned time, and he will die. I am finished talking, I am finished listening.” Ferrin whispered, turning his eyes on me.

His too large, forest green orbs pinned me to the spot, igniting dread and anguish deep inside of me. I knew that he was not bluffing.

I nodded quickly, lowering my eyes from him in submission. “Okay... Okay.”

With trembling knees, I straightened my spine and turned to look at the faces of my dear, dear friends. Ronan’s expression was one of outrage. Probably because I was yielding, allowing Ferrin to lead the humans to our people in exchange for my mate’s life. I tore my eyes from him.

Torryn, Andromeda, and Marrok watched me from inside of the iron cage. They each looked almost as conflicted and horrified as I felt.


My breath hitched in my throat as a sudden realization hit me. The force of it took my breath away, igniting a small flame of hope within me.

Wait a gods damned minute...

How had I not noticed his absence before? I’d been so fueled by anger, so worked up about seeing my mate being tortured in front of my eyes, that I hadn’t even realized that someone was missing.

Warrick... Where the hell is Warrick?!

“I want you to un-immobilize the human and then let him bind you in iron chains. Then, he is going to gag you and put you and the Dragon Lord into the cage with the others. After that, you’re going to show the soldier where the Aviary is located.” Ferrin instructed slowly.

Slowly, I turned toward the frozen soldier, my eyes desperately scanning the treeline surround us. If Warrick wasn’t here, he’d somehow managed to get away... He had to be close by. He wouldn’t leave his family.

“Hurry up!” Ferrin snapped.

My hands shook as I raised them, pointing my palms at the soldier. His eyes stared into mine, shining with arrogance, and I knew that if he could move, he would be smiling at me in triumph.

But the arrogance in his eyes quickly disappeared, turning to confusion, when the ground suddenly shook beneath our feet. Silence stretched around us. I gasped quietly as the subtle vibration began to grow stronger.

“What are you doing?!” Ferrin snarled. “Stop, or I will shoot him!”

I turned to face him, my eyes wide with horror. “Don’t! It’s not me! My magic is drained, I have none left, I swear it!”

My eyes lifted above his head and toward the treeline as the rumbling ground grew more violent, and the sound of breaking branches grew closer. Something was coming. Something big.

“Make it stop!” Ferrin shouted, bringing my eyes back to his.

I stared at him in horror, my mouth gaping. "It's not me!"

"Liar! Stop it, now!"

I can’t... I can’t make it stop, and he is going to shoot Dristan.

The world around me grew very quiet and time seemed to slow down. A faint ringing grew louder in my ears as Ferrin’s eyes bulged at me with warning and fear, his intention obvious. I could hear muffled shouts of protest from somewhere behind me as Ferrin flexed his arm, drawing the bow back a bit further, the arrow aimed at my mate’s vulnerable, blood stained back.

A deafening snap sounded as something gargantuan broke through the trees. Ferrin jumped at the sharp noise, his face frantic with surprise and terror, and I screamed as his fingers slipped from their hold on the arrow.

The entire world seemed to fall away from beneath my feet, and I thought hell might reach up and swallow me whole as that silver filled arrow sliced through the air and toward the person I loved most. I had never known such trepidation in my life.

I had also never known such repose, such relief, as a gigantic, wooden arm intercepted the path of that arrow. The arrow slammed into the Kadoma’s arm with a soft, harmless thud. The relief that washed over me was so great that I fell to my knees and began to weep.

Ferrin fell as he stumbled backward, staring up at the animated tree in stunned disbelief, and the bow scattered away from him.

The Kadoma growled as I looked at the arrow. Then, it plucked it out of it's bark and crushed it into dust with it's spindly fingers.

I heaved in and out, choking on sobs of gratitude, as my eyes traveled away from Dristan and up to the face of the Kadoma who had just saved his life. Perched on the tree’s branch-like shoulder, was Warrick.

His hands were chained together in front of his body and he was covered with wounds. Judging from the fact that the wounds weren’t healing, they’d been given to him by iron weapons. Blood stained his fighting leathers, and sweat glittered across his bruised and swollen face.

We both panted in exhaustion, both physical and emotional, as we stared into each others eyes. After a few moments. He cracked a weak smile, and I’d never wanted to embrace anyone as much as I did in that moment.

I did not know how it happened. I did not know how he’d managed to escape the human soliders, or when, or how he managed to get the help of the Kadoma. Right now, it didn’t matter. I would find out later.

What mattered right now was the traitor in our midsts.

My eyes flitted to Ferrin, who was blubbering in the dirt, his hands over his head. As a woodland creature, he certainly knew what the giant, tree-like creature towering over him was. And he was right to be afraid.

With renewed rage, which burned in more strongly than ever before, I snatched my knife, shoved myself off of the ground, and walked toward the traitorous Bakru. He glanced up, watching my approach, and held his hands up in defense.

“Please!” He cried.

I ignored him. ]

The edges of my vision went red.

I slammed my knee down onto his chest and knelt down, shoving the sharp edge of my knife against his throat. I held my face two inches from his as I screamed at the top of my lungs, “YOU ALMOST KILLED HIM!”

“I didn’t mean to! I was never going to actually shoot! It was an accident, my hand slipped! I was afraid! I was afraid! Please!" He cried as the knife cut into his skin. Blood dribbled down his neck.

The sudden pressure of a hand on my shoulder made me growl defensively. I threw a cold look over my shoulder, my teeth bared, and found Warrick staring down at me with a pained expression.

“Brenya...” He said softly.

“Don’t, Warrick.” I warned, shaking my head firmly. “I was going to have mercy on him... But what he just did... I cannot forgive that.”

His head tilted to the side slightly. “The last time you killed a magical being, the guilt tore you apart. I know you are angry now, but if you act on emotion alone, you will regret it later.”

I continued shaking my head as I stared up at his face. Denial... I knew that was what this feeling was called. Somewhere within me, I knew he was right. But I didn’t care. I was enraged, blind with the fury that still consumed me.

“You say you were going to have mercy on him. Tell me why.” Warrick said softly, squeezing my shoulder slightly.

My brows furrowed as I tried to see past my anger.

I’d felt... empathy. Ferrin betrayed us because the human soldiers were holding his wife and children hostage. The fog of rage clouding my mind suddenly lifted enough for me to think clearly for a moment. I closed my eyes.

“B-because... Ferrin only did this because the humans have threatened to kill his family if he doesn’t lead them to the Aviary... And I knew that if I was put into that situation, I would’ve done the same.” I whispered.

When I opened my eyes again, Warrick smiled at me gently. “That is the Brenya that I know and love. Let go of your anger... It will poison you. Besides, Dristan is alive.”

I turned my head to look at Ferrin again. He was staring up at me, his eyes shining with guilty tears. I frowned down at him as I slowly withdrew my knife from his throat. “Move a muscle, Ferrin, and I will kill you.”

“Yes, your grace...” He let out a breath of relief as his eyes closed.

I stood, sheathing the blade at my hip, and turned to Warrick again. I shook my head slowly at him as he smiled down at me.

“How did you...?”

“I’ll explain later. There are more important matters at hand...” He said, his eyes drifting toward the immobilized soldier.

I followed his gaze as my hands balled into fists at my sides. “Yes...”

“What do you want to do with him?” Warrick asked darkly.

My eyes fell on the whip, still lying on the ground beside the soldier’s feet. “First, I want you to help the others out of the cage and unbind them while I check on Dristan.”

He nodded.

“Then, I am going to un-immobilize the soldier and bind his wrists and ankles...”

He nodded again.

“And then, I want you to beat him with that gods damned whip until he tells us where Ferrin’s family is.”

I stood with my chin held high, unflinching, as the whip cracked through the air and into the soldier’s flesh for the fifth time. The sound, along with the blood flowing from his back, did not register an ounce of guilt within me.

I enjoyed it.

Torryn stood silently beside Warrick as he delivered the brutal lashes. Marrok and Ronan sat nearby, regaining their strength as they watched with blank expressions. Andromeda knelt beside Dristan’s still unconscious body behind me, slowly stitching the wounds on his back together with a thorn and loose thread from her sleeve.

The Kadoma was long gone, after a long and heartfelt thank you from me. Ferrin was tied up with rope, sitting near Marrok and Ronan by the treeline.

The whip snapped against the soldier’s back a sixth time, and he cried out in anguish.

“Tell us where Ferrin’s family is and this can stop.” Warrick said evenly, pausing.

A strangled laugh left the soldier’s lips.

Warrick glanced at me, his eyes questioning. I nodded.

The whip lashed him a seventh time.

“Fine! Fine, I’ll tell you!” The soldier screamed.

We waited, the forest silent and still around us. Ferrin shifted on the ground, his green eyes glued to the soldier’s back.

“Speak.” I demanded.

Another pained laugh left the soldier’s lips.

We waited...

“You know, your kind truly are stupid. Incredibly easy to manipulate...” He said, turning his head to smile at Ferrin.

Ferrin blinked at him.

“You pathetic moron... We never had your family.” He laughed, spitting blood on the ground. “They died in the fire, just like the rest of your filthy kind. I only regret that I didn’t do it with my own, bare hands...”

He continued to laugh maniacally as the rest of us stared at him in horrified disbelief.

How could anyone be so gods damned heartless? This human soldier was the most vile, evil thing I’d ever laid my eyes on. Bile rose in my throat as I listened to his laughter.

Ferrin stared at him in silence, his face void of emotion, though tears were sliding down his chubby cheeks. I couldn’t imagine the slew of emotions that were wreaking havoc inside of him at this moment. I couldn’t fathom the sense of emptiness... the mournful sorrow that he must be feeling.

Tears began to roll down my cheeks as I watched Ferrin, watching the soldier, who still would not stop laughing.

Without another thought, I stalked straight toward Ferrin. Only when I came to a stop at his feet did he rip his eyes from the soldier and turn to stare up into my watery eyes.

His own eyes widened and I suddenly pulled the dagger from my hip and squatted down in front of him. My mouth was a hard line, my breath raged and uneven, as I suddenly cut the ropes that had been binding him and then handed him the knife.

He stared at the handle of the blade for a few moments, unsure of what I was doing. When he finally lifted his face to mine again, I saw gratitude swimming inside of them.

He did not hesitate another moment as he took the blade from me, charged towards the soldier, and shoved the knife straight through his cackling mouth.

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