⚠️ WARNING! ⚠️
This is the final chapter. Have tissues and ice cream ready. The release date of the second book is still ‘to be announced’. Follow me for notifications!
"The rain to the wind said,
You push and I'll pelt.
They so smote the garden bed,
That the flowers lay lodged;
Though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt."
My hands shook as I placed the final rune.
I could hear the distant roar of the raging war in the distance. I struggled to focus as Dristan's presence in my mind grew less and less like him, and more and more like his dragon. I could feel his feral instincts, could taste his thirst for blood. There was a wild, instinctual fury down the bond, and it frightened me.
I stood, pulling the piece of parchment I'd ripped from my Book Of Shadows out of my pocket. Hastily, I unfolded the aged paper. The words on the page stared up at me, filling me with anxiety. As soon as I spoke these words, the portal would open.
A strong wind swirled around me as my nerves grew stronger. I inhaled deeply, closed my eyes, and let out a slow breath.
It was time.
This was it. I was standing on the edge of the future, facing the precipice I'd worked so hard to reach, and the time to jump was here. Summoning all of my determination, I squared my shoulders, turned on my heel, and skated on the wind toward the battlefield.
Trees whipped by, the thorns and branches slicing my skin as I went, but as quickly as the small cuts and scratches appeared, they healed. I pushed myself faster, the aid of the wind beneath my feet and at my back. All of this use of my power should have been draining me, but I didn't feel tired. I didn't feel weak. My body was still thrumming with magic.
When the others had brought me back from the brink of death, giving me a portion of each of their magic, it had somehow filled my being with power. At first, the overwhelming feeling of magic had been uncomfortable, like an itch I couldn't scratch, but now...
It felt more like a blessing in disguise. It couldn't have happened at a better time. While the other's were surely running low on magic after this battle, I was still overflowing with it. It had given me the fuel I needed to have an edge in this fight.
I couldn't help but wonder when that gift might run out.
I shook off that thought and picked up my pace. I was almost there. The ominous sound of the battle ground grew louder with each passing second. The scent of blood hung in the air, the stench sticking to the earth and the moss like fresh morning dew. My nose wrinkled.
Suddenly, the other end of the bond erupted with pain and anger.
An involuntary, sharp inhale of breath sucked into my windpipe, lodging in my throat like I'd just swallowed a stale chunk of mutton. I nearly slammed into a tree, but I twirled to the left, evading the impact.
Something was wrong.
My legs worked into overtime, pushing me closer, and closer...
Until I broke through the treeline.
The word left my lips just as I flew out of the forest. I hadn't been fully prepared for the sight that appeared before me. I froze, staring at the scene with wide, startled eyes. I was about fifty feet away from the battle, but I could still see everything in great detail.
My stomach rolled and my bowls turned watery as I stared at the countless bodies littering the vast clearing. The ground was stained crimson. The soil, once dry, had turned to blood filled mud, as if the belly of the earth had been cut open and it's entrails were spilling out.
A wave of dizziness crash over me, drowning me with disorientation, and my skin broke out in a cold sweat. The stench of death was overpowering, too much for my sensitive nose to handle. And the scent, combined with the horrific sight of slaughtered soldiers, both human and non-human, sent bile rising up my throat. Sick didn't even begin to describe how I felt in that moment.
I dropped to my knees and vomited.
My hearing seemed to go in, and out, and in, and out. My vision blurred. Distantly, I was aware I should be taking to the skies instead of kneeling on the ground over a puddle of vomit, but I couldn't seem to command my limbs to move. I was frozen with shock. I could hear someone shouting my name. Wiping the back of my sleeve across my lips, I glanced up.
Warrick was nearby, his dark purple wings on full display as they sparkled beneath the sun. He was watching me as he continued to fight, mouthing something at me that I couldn't hear. I wasn't sure if that was due to the deafening roar of the fight, or the incessant ringing in my ears.
I blinked several times, shaking my head as I finally stumbled to my feet. I glanced around the battlefield. All of the dragon soldiers had sprouted their wings. They were taking to the skies, while frantically trying to lift whatever remaining Fae and Wolf soldiers with them that they could manage.
It was absolute chaos.
The human soldiers balked with panicked expressions, confused at the sudden shift in the battle. Several of them began throwing spears toward the flying dragons, shouting and cursing at them. Most avoided the weapons. Some fell.
I tore my eyes away, cringing with horror, desperate to regain control of myself.
My eyes darted in every direction, searching for familiar faces. But my search was interrupted when a group of human soldiers spotted me. They were only a few yards away by the time I noticed them charging toward me. I'd been too distracted by my shock and by my need to locate my comrades.
I whirled on them as they neared, counting four of them in total. A startled gasp left my lips as the closest two soldiers dove toward me, their long, silver tipped spears aimed at my heart.
I responded out of instinct, no thought process involved. I teleported. The two soldiers fell onto the empty ground where I had once been standing, while I reappeared directly behind the other two soldiers who hadn't caught up with them yet.
The soldiers froze in place, stammering in disbelief at my sudden disappearance. My fingers lifted, gliding along the cold, steel hilts of the twelve, small throwing knives strapped to my outer thigh.
Before any of the soldiers could take another breath, I plucked four knives from the leather strap. Taking two in each hand, I twirled in a tight circle. By the time I'd turned and lowered to one knee, the knives had parted from my finger tips, sliced through the empty air, and found their marks.
My aim had been true. Each blade slammed into the back of their assigned soldier's skull, slicing through skin, tendon and bone as if it were thawed butter.
All four of the soldiers collapsed, instantly dead.
I stood, my eyes latching onto the sky once more. I spotted Torryn in the distance and nearly wept with relief. His golden hair gleamed in the sun, parts of it stained with blood that was not his own. He was desperately trying to help lift soldiers toward the safety of the sky. There was a wolf soldier on his back and a Fae solider clinging to his left calf. He had a Fae hanging from each of his hands, the clothing at the back of their necks clenched in his fists, and was trying to lift them higher into the sky with him.
Away from the danger of the portal that I still hadn't opened.
The clock was ticking.
Tick... Tick, tick, tock... Tick tock.
'Dristan, where are you?!' I shouted down the bond.
Silence answered me.
I turned, searching for my mate. But I found someone else, instead. Warrick was now flying straight toward me, and I thought he might be screaming my name, but I couldn't be sure. Everything was so loud...
Before I could register what he was doing, Warrick dove and scooped me off of the ground. His forearms slammed into me, lifting me into his arms as he ascended higher. If I'd been human, he would've surly bruised the backs of my knees, my upper back, and my ribs.
"Where is he!?" I heard myself shout.
My question was ignored. "You have to recite the spell, Brenya! Now! Hurry!" He answered, avoiding flying spears.
I glanced toward the ground. My stomach dropped. "Warrick, there are still a lot of our men down there!"
"I know." He growled in frustration, tightening his grip on me as he spiraled to the left, avoiding a sudden barrage of arrows. I yelped, gripping his leather chest guard.
"They'll be sucked into another dimension!" I continued, horrified.
"Gods damnit, Brenya!" Warrick snarled, his dark, stormy eyes latching onto mine. Our noses nearly touched. "This is war! Look!" He pointed toward the blood stained field below us, the ocean of men still swarming each other.
He then pointed to the skies before us, where winged men were falling one by one, their wings limp and shredded by arrows and other flying weapons.
"Our men are being slaughtered and with each passing second, more of our brothers and sisters are dying! We must sacrifice some to save what's left! Open the portal, or more of our men will die!"
Tick tock... Tick, tock...
I could taste blood as I bit my lip, my eyes still scanning the crowd below, when a sudden, alarming thought dawned on me. "Is the king down there? Did you see him?" I shouted over the noise.
Warrick frowned, furrowing his brow. "I don't know for sure. I didn't see him, but he must be there. He has to be." He shook his head briefly. "Either way, we have to stop this slaughter!"
So much was uncertain. This plan didn't seem so brilliant anymore. Where was Dristan? Where was the human king? Where was Ronan and his impersonator? How many of our men were dead? How many would be lost in the portal?
Warrick shook me roughly, causing my teeth to sing with pain. "Do it now, Brenya! Now!"
Tick, tick, tock... Tick, tick, tock...
I nodded firmly, reaching for the parchment in my pocket. I pulled it out, eyeing the words on the page while my breathing accelerated.
Here it is. The precipice. And I have no choice but to jump.
I'd never known was true dread and fear felt like until that moment. But when the words left my lips, loud and clear over the commotion below and around us, my voice did not tremble.
"Fi yw'r un pwerus. bydd fy ngair yn cael ei wneud! Daear, dŵr, tân ac aer, dwi'n gorchymyn i chi agor y porth nawr!"
The Dragon Lord's chest shallowly rose and fell as he lay in an unconscious heap at my feet. I'd drained him fully, and before he could fall out of the sky and take me with him, I'd teleported us both a safe distance away from the battle ground.
His breath was labored. He'd been unconscious for nearly five full minutes, now. I frowned as I studied him silently, wondering why I hadn't finished him off yet. Now was the time, and it was a time I had been eagerly waiting for. A time I had imagined fondly, many times.
And yet here he was, still alive, bleeding in the dirt at my feet like a wounded deer ready for slaughter. And I was the butcher, was I not?
Absentmindedly, I tapped my finger against my lips. I had to kill him. Yes... Now was the time. The decision had already been made. He needed to die. He was in my way.
A flash of Brenya's face crossed my thoughts.
A growl of frustration pushed past my teeth as I crossed my arms and turned toward the fight in the distance. When Brenya lost her mate, it would destroy her. And I would be the cause of her pain. She would be torn apart if he died.
Her heart would break. And I would have to live with the knowledge that I was the one who had broken it. I could never take it back. Killing him would ruin her...
The thought was torturing me.
Gods above and demons below, why?! Why the rutting hell did I have to love her?!
I stared out at the scene of chaos, confused. But soon, I rejoiced as my troublesome thoughts were suddenly distracted by a brilliant, growing blue light. The glorious light grew brighter, and brighter, and brighter, as it grew larger, and larger, and larger.
The portal was open.
Dragon's fled higher into the sky, hauling Fae and Wolves with them. They speared through the air toward the forest to escape the growing portal, and I felt my lips stretch into a wicked grin. I watched the earth glow brighter, and the empty space between the light and myself began to shrink. Closer, and closer the portal stretched, covering the land as if it were a massive hand that had reached up through hell.
Immediately, I could feel my body's presence on the other side of the portal. I was there, ready and waiting... Waiting for that split moment when my soul would leave this host, return to my rightful body, and slip back into this realm.
So close... So, so close...
There was a sudden groan from behind me.
I turned, still smiling, and found the Dragon Lord staring up at me in confusion, pain and anger. His hazy eyes sparkled as the light began to reflect inside of them, and he winced, shielding his eyes from the source.
I chuckled, taking a knee to lean close to his ear. "The portal has opened, your grace. The time has come."
I glanced up again, just in time to see the edge of the portal stop only five feet away from where I crouched in the dirt. I had placed us perfectly. I stood, rubbing my hands together in triumph.
But my smile quickly disappeared when Brenya suddenly appeared.
She was flying straight toward us, soaring above the still growing light. The illumination below her gave her an angelic look. She was alone, which was good. I relaxed a fraction. But not fully. She was too close to the light. If she flew any lower, she would be sucked into the portal.
I gritted my teeth, stepping closer to the edge of the glowing, empty hole in the earth. "Get away from it!" I yelled to her.
She arched over me, quickly landing behind me near the treeline. I turned to face her, my back now to the portal. My shoulders sagged with relief, but I instantly felt a pang of jealously when her eyes zeroed in on Dristan.
When her eyes lifted to mine, there was pure fury shining inside of them. She wanted my blood. I'd rather been hoping she would stay away. I needed to kill Dristan, but not in front of her.
But damn it all, the Dragon Lord must've given away our position to her through their mind link as soon as he'd regained consciousness.
"What have you done?" She hissed, taking an aggressive step toward me.
She was still ten feet away, her eyes cautious.
"I see you've gotten rid of those pesky human soldiers." I grinned, ignoring her question. "I killed the king for you... You're welcome."
She blinked in surprise. "You killed the human king?"
I nodded, brushing an invisible piece of dust from my sleeve. "Yes. One less compilation to deal with." I chuckled, nudging Dristan with my boot. He hissed in pain.
"Don't touch him!" She snarled ferociously. She moved toward me, but I was faster.
I teleported, disappeared and then reappearing above her mate before she'd moved three feet. I roughly grabbed him by the throat and dragged him to his feet, holding him in front of myself like a shield. She froze.
I smirked as her expression shifted from anger, to fear. "Keep your distance, mi vida, or I will kill him." I said. "I need you to leave now. It's not safe this close to the portal."
Her brows furrowed with frustration. "Why do you keep calling me that?"
I felt a sad smile touch my lips. "Leave, now."
In truth, I didn't want her to leave out of fear for her safety. She would be fine as long as she didn't walk into the light if the portal. I wanted her to leave so I could kill Dristan. I had to kill him before I went back to my own body, but I didn't want to do it in front of her.
I should've done it earlier, God's damnit.
She bared her teeth as she lifted her hands, palms facing me. They began to glow.
I quickly brought my dagger to her mate's throat. "Ah, ah..." I tutted. "Don't even think about it."
I could feel my body's presence on the other side growing more and more solidified. I had to jump back into my own body, and soon. The portal had already been open for too long...
The consequences would be dark if it stayed open much longer. Not just for Brenya, but for all of us...
Her hands lowered, and tears began to flow down her cheeks, though her expression was pure fury. "I will kill you. Stop hiding behind him and fight me, you coward!"
I grinned. "You want to fight me, do you? You'd like to kill me? Right now, this very moment?"
"Very much so." She hissed.
"Well, you could try..." I shrugged. "But even if you succeeded, I would not die. I would simply return to my own body. Ronan, however... He would definitely die."
Uncertainty crossed her features.
"I don't think you want to kill your friend... So, I'll say it one more time." I continued slowly. "Leave. Now."
Defeat shimmered in her much too large eyes. "Please..." She begged. "I can't leave without him. I've done as you asked. I've opened the portal where you wanted it. Give him to me, and I will go!"
My eyes caught a flash of movement in the skies. My grip tightened on the Dragon Lord, extracting a low groan of pain from his lips, as the dark skinned dragon suddenly shot from the sky and landed beside Brenya. His eyes locked with mine. I smiled at him warmly, pressing the knife more tightly against his comrade's throat.
Closer, closer, closer the time came... I had to leave, soon. But not until I dealt with Dristan.
"Warrick, I told you to go and wait for me-" Brenya began, but he ignored her, pushing her body behind his own, and turned to face my fully.
"Let him go." Warrick growled.
I cocked my head, pouting my lower lip out in mockery. "No."
He took a step toward me, but Brenya pulled him back. "Don't! He'll kill him!"
"I'll cut off his head before he has the chance." Warrick shot back at her.
"And you'll kill Ronan in the process!" She shouted.
He paused, his brows furrowing. He bared his teeth at me, growling deeply.
My grin grew wider. "Good doggy. Listen to your master and run along, now."
"Go..." Dristan groaned. "Take her away from here... Don't forget your promise to me, Rick..."
I could feel his blood trickling down my forearms. He sagged against me, on the brink of passing out again. How he was even conscious, I did not know. I'd drained him completely.
"We're not leaving you." Warrick snarled.
My body tensed when Brenya suddenly fell to her knees behind Warrick. She let out a long, trembling breath. "Oh..."
Fucking hell... The portal had been open too long.
Its draining her. I'm running out of time. I have to kill him, now.
Warrick immediately turned, crouching in front of her and cupping her small face in his hands. "Brenya?"
I yearned to drop Dristan and rush to her side, to comfort her somehow... A fool's dream.
"My magic... It's finally fading..." She breathed, blinking slowly. "Keeping the portal open is draining me.... The book... It says the portal is not supposed to stay open for longer than thirty seconds."
"Then close it! The soldiers are gone." Warrick snarled, shaking her face gently.
"No." I said. Their eyes both lifted to mine. "You are to keep it open until the body I am possessing collapses."
"Fuck you!" Warrick snapped, jumping to his feet. "She'll be drained!" His hands curled into fists at his sides as he stared me down, his chest heaving. "Close it Brenya."
"Don't." I warned.
Pain suddenly exploded in my left side. I grunted in surprise before glancing down. There was a sharp, jagged branch protruding from my ribcage. I cursed, tasting blood, as my eyes slid to the Dragon Lord's. He smirked, his eyes hardly open.
The bastard stabbed me.
With a fucking stick.
How did he pick that up without my noticing?
Anger boiled in my veins.
Everything that followed happened very quickly.
My mind went blank.
"Rutting prick." I grunted, pulling the dagger away from his throat and toward his chest. I grabbed the front of his shirt, turning him toward me. He sagged, his feet unsteady against the ground. Rage continued to pour into me as I stared into his half shuttered eyes. This has gone on long enough.
He has to die...
My arm reared back, ready to plunge the dagger into his heart, ready to be rid of him, ready to end his gods forsaken life.
"NO!" Her voice halted me.
I turned my head to glare at her, my head waging war against itself.
No, don't hurt her like this.
He needs to die.
Don't hurt her.
But I love her.
Her mismatched eyes softened me, so large and luminous in the light, swimming with tears. "Please, don't kill him." She whispered.
It was then, that very moment, I decided that love was a wretched thing. It complicated things. It got in the way. I needed this man dead, but how could I kill him in front of her eyes?
But that didn't mean that I couldn't get rid of the bastard. I bared my teeth at her, defeated. "Fine. Have it your way."
Her eyes bulged with horror as I dropped the knife and then shoved the Dragon Lord backward, right into the light of the portal. The blue light welcomed him with open arms, ready to devour him as it had once devoured me.
I smiled as he fell.
Just before he disappeared completely, his eyes locked onto Brenya... And those three, horrible words left his lips, wiping the smile clean off of my face.
"I love you." He whispered.
And then the light swallowed him whole.
Brenya's blood curdling scream was the last thing I heard before my soul left Ronan's body.
I'd never heard such screams.
Brenya launched herself toward the portal, her face a feral mask of grief and terror. When I caught her in my arms, holding her back from being swallowed right along with him, I thought she might kill me.
I had to keep my promise to Dristan. Our words from earlier today came back to me, stinging my eyes.
"Promise me, Rick."
"She comes first. I swear it."
The sound coming from her lips felt like a blade against my heart. My own pain felt like an echo in comparison. My closest friend had just vanished. I stared at the blue light in horror, searching for any trace of Dristan. But all I could see was that gods damned light.
Dristan was gone.
Ronan's body collapsed onto the ground.
I lifted Brenya into my arms, caging her body in. She continued to scream as she pounded her fists against me. She kicked her legs out in front of her to try and throw me off balance. But her power was dwindling. Her strength was no match for mine.
"Brenya." I heard myself say again.
I sounded like a ghost.
I supposed I should be consoling her right now. I should share some words of comfort. I should tell her that everything would be okay.
But I couldn't form my mouth around the words. How could it ever be okay? I, more than anyone, knew how devastating the loss of a mate was. I could console her until my face turned blue, but it would never ease her pain. There were no words.
All I could do was get her to safety. All I could do was keep my promise to Dristan.
"Let go!" She screeched, reaching toward the light. "Let go of me!"
"I can't do that." I said, my voice low and somber. Bleak. Lifeless. I pulled her backward, toward the treeline. "You must close the portal."
"No! We have to go in there and bring him back!" She protested, her nails leaving trails of fresh blood down my forearms.
"If you go into that portal, you wont come back out." I said, my voice robotic and monotone. "You said the portal wasn't supposed to stay open longer than thirty seconds. It's been several minutes, now. You're power is almost gone. You have to close the portal."
"No! Let go of me!" She screamed, still kicking at the air as I dragged her away.
"I promised him." I said, not sure if I was truly talking to her or myself anymore.
Her strength continued to wane as she held the portal open with what little magic she had left. I felt my heart sinking as I realized she would probably hold it open until her power fully ran out, risking her life once again.
Dristan wouldn't want that...
"Close it." I said once more.
She ignored me, her hands still reaching toward the light. Realizing what I had to do, I lowered my head in shame. Hesitantly, I lifted the hilt of my dagger, and with it, I hit her in the back of the skull...
Knocking her unconscious.
The light faded...
And the portal closed.
Ominous silence settled over the deserted, blood stained land. I felt a shiver run up my spine.
My eyes settled on the place where Dristan had disappeared. There was nothing but mud and upturned grass left there. A lump formed in my throat as my eyes began to burn.
I spoke the only words I could.
"I will never break my promise, my friend. Goodbye,"
Silently, my heart a stone in my chest and Brenya cradled in my arms, I kicked off the ground and took to the skies.
~ Epilogue ~
...Three months later...
It was the Eve of Yulemas.
Everyone had gathered at the newly reconstructed palace in the Fae lands. Wolves, Fae, Dragons, Sylphs, and several other species that I hadn't even known still existed, were all in one place. And not because they were forced to be. We were all gathered together for the sacred holiday by choice.
For many, this was their first visit to the Fae palace. They swooned over the lovely architecture. The village surrounding the castle was quaint and bustling with life and the scent of food. At the heart of the town sat the palace, which was made up of enormous towers that were adorned with crystals and sea shells of all shapes and sizes. There were walkways and bridges made if iridescent Dragons Glass, intricate stained glass windows, and countless colorful gardens on the palace grounds.
But it wasn't my first time here. I was used to the grand sights and the growing number of Fae that resided in the villages surrounding the castle. More and more Fae had settled here, and the growing numbers showed no signs of stopping. They were finally back in their home lands and at peace.
Andi, Torryn, and Sylvie has visited a few times, but we're still in awe of the new structure. I had been visiting twice a week for the last several months. I still lived at the Aviary, now first in command and standing in as Dragon Lord. But this place had become my second home.
It had all been built for the new Queen.
Brenya Avery Alemaund Draconian. The Elemental Heir and the Queen of the Fae.
It had been quite a shock, finding out that she and Dristan had decided to become legally married in secret the night before the great battle. According to Brenya, they planned to hold a public ceremony after the war was won. However, they'd wanted to marry before the war and they wanted it to be private. We had all felt a bit betrayed at their secrecy, but I was glad they had done it.
They hadn't known how important it would be. They hadn't known what horrible events were coming... If Brenya hadn't married Dristan that night, he would have disappeared not as her husband, but as her betrothed. Their engagement would've been voided, and she would've had to marry someone else to claim her title...
Those were the laws of our land.
But because Dristan was technically not dead, Brenya's title held strong. But he was still gone, and there was no way of bringing him back. There were no more elemental runes...
Despite the ceremony we had held for him, and our people mourning his loss across the lands, Brenya refused to believe he was truly gone for good.
She claimed that she could still feel flashes of him on the other side of the bond now and then. Although most of the time, she couldn't feel him at all...
But she clung to the hope.
She had good days and bad days.
And I worried about her all of the time. She was in such denial. She'd become obsessed with finding a way to bring him back. It had come to consume her so fully that her duties as Queen were being ignored. I had been forced to pick up her slack, and I had grown tired.
"Where is she?"
I turned, blinking the sleepiness from my eyes, to find Ronan standing behind me. Brenya was supposed to be here. She was supposed to accompany Ronan with welcoming everyone at the Yulemas Eve dinner celebration, but she still hadn't arrived in the grand dining hall.
I yawned, stretching my arms above my head and my wings behind my back. "I don't know." I admitted. "Probably in that damned library of her's again..."
"Well, go get her. I've been trying to entertain the guests, but they're hungry. They've all traveled quite far." He paused, blinking at me. He sighed. "You look like shit."
I rolled my eyes. "Yes... I was up all night signing paperwork for Brenya again."
He grumbled, running his hands over his face. "Gods..."
Ronan had also been taking care of Brenya. We were a sad, two man team of the 'do the Queen's job while she slowly slips into insanity' club.
Ronan remembered nothing of his possession. He had no recollection of what he'd done while the unknown psychopath possessing his body had used him as a puppet. All he remembered was Brenya nearly killing him the night Dristan had nearly been poisoned. Then, he'd woken up on the deserted, blood stained battlefield with no clue as to what had happened.
As for the psychopath possessing him...
We still had no clue where he was, who he was, or what he had planned. He'd been silent for three, full months.
"Fine, Fine... I'll go." I sighed, tipping the remains of my whiskey back. "Don't ruffle your perfectly pressed tunic."
He scowled at me, but didn't retort.
"I knew you'd be here." I mumbled, leaning against the entry way of the gargantuan library outside of Brenya's quarters.
Two eyes, one mossy green and one ocean blue, peeked at me over an opened book titled 'ancient runic practices'.
There were dark circles beneath those eyes. Her hair was piled in a knot on top of her head and it looked as if it hadn't been washed in a week. She'd lost weight again... her cheeks were gaunt, her skin dull.
Her face quickly disappeared behind the cover once more, extracting an exhausted and frustrated groan from me. "Brenya, you can't stay in here all night."
"I'm onto something, Warrick." She muttered, licking her finger and turning the page of her book. "Leave me alone."
"It can wait. You are needed in the dining hall."
"They'll manage without me." She said softly, not bothering to meet my gaze.
I pushed off the entry way and walked toward her chair. "It's Yulemas Eve." I begged. " Andi and Sylvie are here... They're anxious to see you. Don't you want to visit with them?"
"Not particularly." She answered vaguely, turning the page again.
Her eyes were vacant as they skimmed the page. I felt my heart sink as I stared at her. I'd been searching for traces of her old self for months, praying for a spark of life, for a laugh, for anything other than the shell she had become.
And now she didn't even want to celebrate Yulemas? My lashes lowered as my gaze traveled to the floor. A wave of fatigue and sadness enveloped me. I'd gladly curl up on the rug, right here, right now, just to sleep for a few moments.
She glanced up at me, lowering the book. "Warrick, you know I don't want to face anyone..."
I lifted my eyes to hers, not responding.
She sighed, leaning her head back on the chair. "I hate it when you make me feel guilty." She grumbled.
"It's Yulemas Eve." I repeated blandly.
She sighed again, draping an arm over her face.
"I miss him too, you know." I said softly.
"We all miss Dri-"
"Don't!" She snapped, sitting up sharply. Her book clattered to the floor. She lifted her palm, closing her eyes and shaking her head. "Don't... Say his name."
I suppressed my instinct to shout back at her, my dragon stirring with irritation. My hands curled into fists at my sides.
She leaned forward in her chair, burying her face in her hands. "Just go... Leave me be."
My jaw ached as I struggled to remain calm. I waited five heartbeats, slowly dragging in each breath. Finally, I turned and headed for the door.
I paused beneath the archway, feeling a cloud of depression encircle me, heavy and numbing. "Happy Yulemas, Brenya."
When she didn't respond, I moved to step over the threshold. But her voice stopped me, flooding me with surprise.
"Warrick." She said. She sounded strange... Different. Almost hopeful.
I turned, confused.
She was staring down at the book she'd been reading, which was laying open on the ground at her feet.
"Warrick!" She gasped, louder now, as she jumped to her feet.
I turned to face her fully, my brows furrowing. I watched as she scooped up the book and rushed toward me. When she looked up, there was a small spark of life in her eyes. It stunned me so severely that I was rendered mute.
"Look!" She pointed to a passage near the end of the book, her eyes alight with excitement as she stared down at the page.
My gaze was still on her face, stunned at the sudden life I could see in her. I gaped stupidly when she lifted her face and smiled.
"Gods, how could we not have realized it before?! Oh, I'm a rutting idiot!" She rambled, lifting her face to the ceiling and laughing softly. "It's so obvious!"
I blinked at her, still shocked and confused. I lowered my eyes to the page, curious.
'Chapter Forty Two, Runic Myths and Legends; Long ago, there were said to have been rare runes capable of transporting one to another realm. This myth has never been proven factual, much like the legend of Atreyu, the creator of these mysterious runic myths. His bloodline is unknown and there has never been documentation of his existence. Atreyu's history is not currently known, along with answers to why he disappeared, though some speculate that he perished in another realm and never returned.'
My eyes slid to hers, dread uncurling in my belly. She was truly losing her mind. She gripped my arm tightly.
"The one possessing Ronan was Atreyu! How could we not realize that before?!"
"Atreyu isn't real..." I frowned, closing my eyes.
"Thank about it!" Her grip grew tighter around my arm. "He wanted the portal opened in a specific place... He was knowledgeable about portals... He said that he was the one who created the runes in the first place! Is has to be him!"
My eyes widened.
"And that means..." She dropped the book. It bounced twice on the rug. "That means he can create more... That means he can open the portal again! We can get Dristan back!"
I felt myself sway a bit, my head swimming.
"Warrick!" She gasped, throwing her arms around me. "We can get him back! We can get him back! Oh, Gods!"
She let go of me and began to pace in front of the fireplace. She ran her hands through her matted hair, her eyes crazed and shining with tears.
I watched her, stunned.
"I have to find him... I just have to find him, that's all... And he can help me... I can get him back... I just have to find him..."
I slumped against the wall, both horrified and slightly hopeful. It couldn't be... How could he be real? Atreyu was a myth, a scary story whispered around campfires. He just wasn't real....
But what if he was real? What if Brenya was right? What if some myths weren't myths at all? If it were true, perhaps we could rescue Dristan...
But there was a problem. A question I couldn't bring myself to answer. A question that had my dragon shifting inside of me with unease...
What would it cost us?
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