Elemental Heir : Book 1 Of The Elemental Heir Series

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Chapter 72



(Brenya’s POV)

Queens weren’t supposed to be afraid. They were supposed to be bold, and courageous, and strong. They were supposed to be wise, and knowing, and prepared. They were supposed to be fearless.

But as fear choked its way down my throat, I didn’t feel like a Queen.

Terror like I had never known had wrapped it’s arctic fingers around my throat and squeezed so tightly that I couldn’t even scream. I felt barren and cold, as if winter had crept through my pores, latched onto my bones and kissed my blood with her frosty lips.

Rich, earthy colors zoomed by me as I sprinted through the trees, my body somehow still able to function despite my frozen mind. I tried focusing on the damp, chalky scent of the dirt beneath my feet, if only to distract my growing dread and center myself in some way.

But that plan backfired when the growing scent of night-bane gas wrinkled my nose. I cursed under my breath and pushed my legs harder.

Hurry...

The pit of dread in my gut deepened as I ran. I wasn’t afraid for myself. I was afraid for my people, for my soldiers. For my friends. I hadn’t wanted things to unfold like this. I wanted to prevent a fight. I never wanted anyone to have to shed blood.

I never wanted anyone to die.

But the world didn’t care about my plans. It never had. The world didn’t stop for me, change for me, or listen to my hopes and dreams. I couldn’t control what was thrown at me.

All I could control was how I reacted. There were no other options. My reactions were my only choices...

Something clicked into place in my brain, in my heart, as that thought settled into me. Those three words repeated themselves in my mind as I sprinted through the trees and leapt over exposed roots. The ice in my veins thawed a bit, clearing my mind, as a sudden calm came over me.

React.
Control.
Choice.

Being queen had never been a choice for me. It was my destiny, it was in my blood, it was my inescapable circumstance. But being afraid wasn’t an inescapable circumstance... It was a reaction. It was a choice. A choice I could control. A choice I had to control.

There were lives at stake, a future that hung in the balance, and I was the one responsible for reacting accordingly and making the right choices.

That was what being a queen meant.

Choices.

So many choices had led me here.

Every breath I had taken, every day I had lived, every tear I had cried, every choice I had ever made, had led me here.

To this moment.

To this day.

To this choice.

I couldn’t choose fear. I had to choose courage. I had to choose wisdom. I had to choose strength. I had to choose things that no one else could, because this was my purpose. My responsibility.

My destiny.

I am Brenya Avery Almaund of the Elemental and Rune Fae bloodlines, the lost Fae princess, and the heir to the throne.

Dristan and Warrick were on my heels, running right behind me. I held out a hand in warning before skidding to a halt and whipping around to face them. Warrick nearly barreled into me, but stopped just in time.

“What are you doing?” He panted, chocolate eyes blazing.

Silently, I looked down and ripped off a long piece of dark fabric from the hem of my undershirt. “Cover your mouth and nose.” I ordered, lifting the cloth to my face.

I tied the two ends of the material behind my head as I watched the two dragons follow my lead. They each ripped off a strip of their own clothing. Dristan covered the lower half of his face and then met my eyes. Warrick did the same, giving me a nod.

“I need to get to the entrance of the Aviary and running is taking too long.” I said. “I need to fly there so I can place the runes. In the meantime...”

This was it. There was so much at stake, so many swift decisions to make, so many things that could go wrong. I had to choose wisely...

I turned my gaze on our first in command. “Warrick, get to Torryn and Marrok and brief them as fast as you can. Be prepared for a fight. Hold them off as long as you can and tell the soldiers to listen for my word. On my word, all of the dragons need to get into the sky immediately, and as far away from the portal as possible. They can carry the wolves and Fae on their backs, or in their arms in they don’t shift fully. As many as they can hold.”

Warrick hesitated a moment, his onyx eyes sparkling gravely at me. With the rest of his face covered, he looked ominous and even more dangerous than usual. “And if they can’t get away fast enough?” He asked.

I held his gaze, not answering, feeling the pain cross my face.

We all knew the answer to that question. If the portal was opened and our soldiers couldn’t get away quickly enough, they as well would be sucked into it’s unknown destination. But with these last minute hitches in our plan, casualties were likely, and there was not a rutting thing we could do about it.

He closed his eyes. “It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.”

“None of us are thrilled about this, but more will die if the portal is not opened.” Dristan reminded him. “Our woman and children are counting on us. If the humans get to the entrance and storm the Aviary...”

He didn’t have to finish his sentence for his meaning to take hold.

“I understand.” Warrick nodded, his lashes lifting. He turned to face Dristan fully, his expression forlorn. “And what will you do?”

“I’ll hold the wards as long as I can.” Dristan answered.

“No.” I took a step forward.

They turned to me, confusion and surprise flirting across their features. “What do you mean, no?” Dristan growled, suddenly angry. “We need to buy time.”

“Think about it.” I urged. “Our advantage is our magic and our supernatural strength. Holding the wards will buy us time against a physical fight, but it will cost us greatly in more important ways.” I held up my pointed finger. “One, it will rapidly drain your power until you’re too weak to hold it, let alone fight or shift to your dragon form.”

Dristan lifted a brow, the anger on his face vanishing. Warrick nodded, following my train of thought and listening attentively.

“And two,” I said, adding a second finger. “They just threw thousands of those grenades past the ward. If we keep the ward in tact, the gas will fill the entire dome in less than ten minutes, and all of us will be drained. We’re sitting ducks! But if we drop the wards, and I can create a strong enough wind, I can push all of the gas away. I can’t do that with the ward in tact. The gas will have nowhere to go with its barriers in the way.”

Dristan ran a hand over his covered face. “You can’t place the runes if you’re busy getting rid of the gas, love.” His voice was low and frustrated. I understood his anxiety, but what choice did we have?

“I can’t place the runes if I’m breathing in night-bane and too weak to move, either.” I argued.

As I spoke the words, the scent of the gas became stronger, as if to enunciate my point. I held my breath as best I could. We didn’t need to breathe to stay alive, though it was extremely uncomfortable, and impossible to speak if we held it too long. Extended physical motion was not possible with such lack of oxygen, otherwise I would’ve suggested everyone simply hold their breath, but it wouldn’t work to our advantage.

“She’s right.” Warrick admitted.

“Wait...” Dristan said, holding up a hand and using his other to pinch the bridge of his nose. “I can do it.” He said, lowering his hands and meeting my eyes with determination.

“What?” I said, my brows furrowing.

“I can get rid of the gas. I’ll drop the wards and shift to my beast form. I can fly to the center of the contamination and use my wings to push most of the gas away from our soldiers.” He explained.

Fear shot through me. “But they have silver filled arrows, Dristan. If you’re in the sky, you’ll be exposed to them!”

He smirked. “No, I wont. Our dragon’s are naturally armored with scales as solid as stone. If they’re stupid enough to waste their arrows on me, they’ll simply bounce off my armor.”

“I don’t see why we don’t just have all of our dragons shift, take to the skies, and burn every last soldier alive. It would be so easy...” Warrick growls.

“I know, but have promises to keep, Warrick.” I said, closing my eyes with frustration. “Aella and the other Sylphs are our allies because I promised them we wouldn’t use violence to win this war. I want to use as little violence as possible out of respect for the Sylphs. If I can get the runes placed quickly enough, there won’t be a fight long enough to end in much bloodshed. Maybe none at all, if we’re lucky... We just have to lure the humans into the right spot. It'll be right in front of the entrance to the Aviary. We just have to get them there."

No casualties was doubtful, but I had to try. “Besides,” I sighed. “If the dragons are in the skies, the wolves and Fae will be even more outnumbered than we already are. They’d be slaughtered on foot if they were on their own. We’re just too outnumbered...”

“Fucking hell.” Warrick complained, pacing the forest.

“It’s a good plan, Dristan.” I said, turning to my mate. “The best one we’ve got. Warrick will instruct the soldiers and lure the humans toward the entrance. You’ll drop the wards and deal with the gas and I’ll prepare the portal.” I tried to keep my voice from trembling. “But we must act now. Time is running out.”

He nodded, stepping closer and pulling me into a tight embrace. “This will work.” He whispered into my hair. “I know it will. I believe in you, Brenya. We all do.”

I buried my face into his neck, forcing back the hot tears that pricked my eyes. This was the one fear I couldn’t choose to ignore. The fear I had for my mate. The fear that something might go wrong, that he might end up hurt, or....

“I love you, Dristan.” I whispered onto his skin.

He stiffened and then pulled back, tucking his finger beneath my chin and lifting my face to meet his gaze. With his lower face covered, his eyes seemed even more captivating than ever. Those two, deep pools of fierce ocean shimmered at me with such strong emotion that my breath hitched in my throat.

“Don’t do that.” He whispered.

My answer was even quieter. “Don’t do what?”

“Don’t say that as if it’s a goodbye.”

“Dristan-”

“This isn’t goodbye, love. Not even close. We’re going to give them hell, win this war, and do what we were born to do by leading our people into a better future. Together.” His eyes lowered to my mouth, his expression softening. “You’ll be back in my arms before you know it.”

His words meant everything to me, but they couldn’t mask the unease that boiled like lava between our bond. We were both scared to death, and we both knew it.

“Promise me.” I said, drowning in his eyes.

He leaned in, brushing his lips against mine. “I promise.”

He kissed me and I melted against him. I pulled myself closer to him, savoring his taste, his warmth, his love...

“We must go.” Warrick said. “Now.”

Dristan pulled away, running the backs of his knuckles down my cheek. He stepped away, and with him, he took his warmth. I felt a shiver creep up my spine as I watched him back away. I prayed, prayed to the gods more intently than I’d ever prayed before, asking them to keep him safe for me.

“Good luck, princess.” Warrick said, nodding at me.

“Be careful.” I said, to both of them.

Warrick turned on his heel and took off, disappearing into the trees. Dristan hesitated a moment longer, his eyes still locked with mine. I held my breath as I watched my own pain flicker through his eyes. Then, without another word, he turned away.

He disappeared into the trees.

And I was alone.



(Unknown POV)

I paced in front of the warded wall, my hands clasped behind my back, my mind racing.

He’d been so close. So damned close, and yet so far away. Had it not been for the ward, I could’ve easily wrapped my hands around his throat and squeezed, just as I’d always wanted to do.

Seeing him with her... Beside her, touching her...

The memory of it disgusted me. My nose wrinkled and I spat on the ground as I paced. I’d known seeing her in person would hit me hard, but I never imagined it would be this unbearable. Her beauty was so striking, her face so much clearer than it had ever been in the blurry images of the scrying mirror.

And her scent...

Fucking hell... She was perfect.

And I was so close... So gods damned close...

I hated the idea of hurting her in any way. I knew the gas grenades would cause her pain, would burn her lungs, would hinder her power... But it was necessary. I also knew that losing most of her soldiers in this battle would hurt her, but their sacrifice was necessary, too. She would suffer, but I wouldn’t let her die.

I would never let her die.

But the fact remained that the portal had to be opened here. It was the only way...

The only way for me to slip through and return to this world. I’d been stranded in that horrid dimension for too many years... When I’d opened the portal last, it had been in this exact location. If the portal wasn’t opened here again, it wouldn’t open in the exact place where I had been stranded.

Where I waited, in my true body...

Waiting, waiting, waiting... Always waiting...

This was the only opportunity I had to get back. The runes that she had were the only ones left in this world that were capable of creating a portal. Once those runes were used, there would be none left.

And I was the only one left who could create them.

But I couldn’t create them in the dimension I was currently stuck in. Magic was severely limited there. Thank the gods I’d had the scrying mirror in my pocket all those years ago...

Otherwise, I would’ve never gotten out. I would’ve had no way to watch things here, to keep an eye out for an opportunity of escape.

I would’ve never known who she was...
Would’ve never spent all those years watching her.

In a world where I was completely alone, with nothing but my growing insanity and the monsters outside my walls to keep my company. She had been my only companion. The only thing that had kept my mind from breaking anymore than it had in the years before she was born.

Eighteen years.... Eighteen years, I’d watched her. I’d watched her grow up, watched her take her first steps, watched her break her arm when she was five, watched her mourn her adopted mother’s death, watched her learn to hunt, watched her take care of her adopted father, watched her struggle, watched her become a young woman, watched her change, watched her evolve...

I’d watched her live her entire life.

At first, it was only about the runes. It was all I cared about. I knew she would one day learn of what she was, find the runes, and use them to open the portal. I knew she was my only chance at returning to this world.

That was why I’d watched her so closely.

I’d never planned on falling in love with her.

How strange it was... To know someone so well, and yet, for them to not know you at all. To love someone so deeply, when they’d never even laid eyes on you. To know how much they would come to hate you, once they realized everything you’d done...

And I had done so many, many terrible things...

But she didn’t have to know.

No, she would never... Never have to know...

“What’s taking so long?” The human king shouted from behind me, disrupting my tumbling thoughts.

Oh, how pleased I was that I would no longer have to deal with him when this was over. The fool was lazy, ignorant, spoiled, and smelled of mutton and stale cigars. How he’d managed to hold his throne for so long, I would never understand.

Humans were such vile, nasty little things...

I halted my steps. Grimacing, I sighed, plastered on a smile, and turned to face him. “Your grace, we only just released the grenades three minutes ago. It will take a few more minutes for the gas to release completely and for it to take effect.”

His eyes narrowed. “You try my patience, Fae. I have trusted you thus far, but I still don’t understand what happened back there. It was...” He frowned. “Disturbing. I couldn’t move my body. And then, my hearing went out. I was deaf. I watched you make your exchanges with the Fae bitch, but I couldn’t hear what you were saying. That doesn’t sit well with me.”

Brenya had immobilized the soldiers, which had been mighty impressive... But I couldn’t have them overhearing our conversation. So, while she’d frozen them in place, I had made it so that they were temporarily deaf. I couldn’t have them knowing my schemes...

I smiled. “I’ve already explained to you that she has great magical abilities, your grace. She enchanted you and your soldiers so that she could try to get information out of me and threaten me. When I showed her the grenades, she and her mate went running scared. You’ve nothing to worry about. Once the gas drains their magic, we will easily overtake them.”

He grumbled beneath his breath, turning to gaze at the nearly invisible wall of the ward. The only indication that it was there was the subtle shimmer it gave off when you looked at it at the right angle. It was almost imperceptible, otherwise.

I studied the side of the kings face as he glared at the ward, wanting nothing more than to crush his jaw beneath my boot. Something in his expression shifted after a moment.

“Wait...” He said, taking a step forward.

My eyes narrowed on him as he suddenly reached out. Where his hand should’ve met with the wall, it went right through. He stumbled forward, nearly falling flat on his face.

A wave of shock went through me.

“The wards are gone!” He exclaimed, whipping around to face me and his soldiers. “The wards are gone!”

A slow smile crept across my lips.

He lowered his wards early? Hmm... This should be interesting.

“The time has come!” The king exclaimed, drawing his sword.

The other men followed his example, drawing their swords and letting out cheers of excitement and promises of violence. Two heartbeats later, the king lifted his face to the sky.

“CHARGE!” He bellowed, so loudly that there was no way his soldiers on all sides of the ward would not hear him.

The soldiers took off, running past their king and toward the treeline that led to the Aviary. The king did not move. He stood in place as the soldiers whipped past him, his eyes sliding to mine.

“Your plan has worked. My men will reach them in mere minutes... " His tone was approving, but a moment later, I sensed his shift in attitude.

His eyes narrowed at me suspiciously. "What will you do now that the wards are down?”

I cracked the knuckles of my left hand, chuckling. I glanced toward the treeline that the soldiers were disappearing into. I waited until they were all gone before before turning my back on the king.

I took a few steps toward the treeline and paused. I could feel the king’s eyes on my back. I could smell his unease. It made me smile.

“First...” I said, pulling a large, jewel encrusted dagger from my belt. "I think I'll kill you."

I twirled, throwing my arm around my body. I flicked my wrist and let go of the handle at the perfect moment. The blade flew through the air with lithe grace, aimed skillfully at the king’s exposed throat. There was a soft, wet thudding sound as it found it’s target.

The king’s eyes flared as his hands flew to his throat, blood already spilling down his neck. The ruby at the end of the dagger’s handle glinted in the sunlight, nearly as stunningly red as the blood it had drawn. The king fell to his knees, his face screwed up in shock and pain.

"R-Ronan..." He rasped.

I cocked my head, smiling at him. "It's Atreyu, actually..."

He groaned in pain, his eyes swimming with confusion.

"You see, I've not been entirely truthful with you, your grace." I laughed softly. "Not truthful at all, actually. Oh, my, and how easily you believed my lies. Quite pathetic, really."

Fury flashed in his eyes. He opened his mouth to speak again, but coughed instead. The sound was wet, and weak. Bubbles of dark red blood oozed from his lips. Seconds later, his eyes squeezed shut and he fell to the ground.

He would bleed to death in less than one minute. So fragile, so weak... So human. Too pathetic for my darling queen to waste her time dealing with. I'd spared her the effort by ending his life.

Now there were only his followers left to send into oblivion.

I shook my head as I turned my back on him. “I almost feel sorry for you...” I spared him a glance over my soldier. ”Almost.” I grinned.

“T-t-t-” The king sputtered. “Tr-traitor...”

“Yes...” I agreed, nodding sadly. “I am. And you are a fool.”

He began to tremble as he dragged his eyes from mine. I could see the life draining from him by the second. I sighed and dusted my hands off on my pant legs.

“This has been fun, your grace. Truly, it's been a pleasure working with you, but you’ll have to excuse me.” I stepped into the trees, leaving him to die. “I have a dragon lord to dispose of, after all.”



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