It was only darkness around me, but I could feel —
— the hardness of stone under my body, a jagged piece of stone digging into my cheek. I could feel my arm going numb, splayed out behind me, my other awkwardly angled under my belly, pressed against the stone. My legs were splayed, knee pressed into a pocket in the stone, making me sure I lay on cobblestones.
I could hear —
— muffled shouts of many kinds. Some in anger, some crying as if in grief. I could barely tell the difference between the two tones as there were —
— no words, only sound as if listening through water, but growing sharper and clearer at every passing moment as I lay on the cobblestone... why was I laying on the cobblestone?
“Meira? Can you hear me?”
I knew that voice. It was close. Standing out above the others. A voice in my head. A siren in the water. Meira, the voice had called me Meira. That’s right, I am —
Help me, Meira!
— Meira Greyov. And I was laying on the ground because I was dead.
No, wait, that didn’t make any sense.
A fog rushed by me in the blackness, ragged and rotting. Help me! it screamed. I then realized I had been hearing it all along. I knew that voice, it was the fog in Eastwood. The ghost. I could hear the ghost because was dead.
No. That didn’t make sense either.
Then understanding came and if I could have nodded, I would have. Nightmare, I stated in my mind. I was having a —
— nightmare and so I was hearing the —
— ghost in my head.
Except... how could I be having a nightmare when I was dead? And how did I die?
“Meira,” said Jovian more firmly. “It’s time to wake up now. I know you can hear me.”
Jovian. That was his name.
The muffled cries became even clearer. One of those cries I was able to hear the best, shouts of rage and madness - another familiar sound.
All at once I felt it, the anger and rage that was my own. The blackness surrounding me swirled with red and I felt a trickle in the back of my mind that was the Bloodstone. This was where the ghost had some from, but how that could be was something I would put to my mind for later. For now, I was too busy going over flashes of what had happened. The messy fight, the pain, the power of the Black Stone...
My death on the Grey Stone.
He’d killed me. Marqis had killed me on the Grey Stone. I remembered my thoughts as I lay there dying. My final thoughts. The rumbling.
My father had been wrong. Orro had been wrong. The Grey Stone did not kill all of the bloodline as they suspected, but somehow it had brought me back to life. It had to be, unless it was the Bloodstone?
No. It had been the Grey, I was sure of it somehow, and judging by Marqis’ fit of rage, it must have taken away his link to the Grey Stone even as it strengthened mine.
Shut up! I screamed mentally at the ragged ghost.
The face of fog disappeared, and light began to come into my eyes, slowly with shapes I could not understand at first but soon found those shapes were feet and legs and ankles moving past. People were running. Here was a wing of a dragon, white and flitting by as fast as an imagined dream.
“That’s a good girl. Wake up now.”
Redness still spotted my vision like a haze I could not understand but could ignore. Again, those flashes of me dying. Of hanging above the Stone. Of being dropped.
Rage. All I could feel was rage. I suddenly craved blood even more so then ever before. I wanted Marqis dead.
He would die today. Not me.
I blinked, everything coming into sharp focus, the sound of my heart beating, the details of the cobblestone under my cheek as well as the blood that was my own. I was no longer on my back over by the Grey Stone but down in the Viewing Square, so I must have been thrown or kicked off it after I died.
That only made me angrier - how dare my dead body be treated with such disrespect!
I felt aches in my spine and head, my side, my arm, my leg, and ankle. I felt it, but I ignored it. So angry I was at this man that I shook off the pain in a way Jovian had never been able to teach me, and I moved.
It was slow at first, with my arm pulling out from under my belly, scraping across the stone to do so, then carefully putting my palm flat on the ground before moving my other arm to do the same. Slow, yes, but I did it.
Once on my hands and knees, it became easier.
I sucked in a breath and realized it was my first breath. It was not like my last where it dwindled but was instead sharp and filled with scents. I felt someone pull me to my feet and knew it was Jovian.
He looked at me, worry still creasing his face, but pride too. There was no surprise. Somehow, he had known or suspected. I would speak to him on that later.
I turned, each step an obvious movement to me. I was aware of each flex of muscle, each soft scrape of leather over my feet, each tiny pebble beneath my leathers, each wisp hair across my cheek from the spring breeze.
But I did not move slowly, instead quickly, it only seemed slow as I had joined my three minds as easily as one would cross their fingers.
He had dared to kill me?
The sun was still setting, not yet over the horizon. I had not been dead long.
This was the first thing I noticed in my turn.
The next was that people were running. The exits blocked by dragons under the order of the king. Most were fighting to get out, but others were screaming, screaming in terror, or in pain brought on by the Black Stone which was wielded by a very, very angry King Marqis.
Kill him! Kill the king!
King? I nearly scoffed at the voice. This pathetic excuse for a man was no king!
My shout was loud, but also, I could hear it was amplified by pure power. The Bloodstone and the Grey Stone alike. Both were swelled to full and working together to create a power fueled by my fury.
He heard me.
He swiveled away from his current outlet that was a dirty man of previous wealth, his eye wide in fear. As the power of the Black Stone left him, the screaming stopped and there was a silence as all saw that I was standing.
“No,” he said in the silence that I could barely hear over my raging heartbeat. “You’re dead. I killed you.”
"You did,” I agreed and turned enough to take Jovian’s knife from his belt. I flipped it in the air once, everything seeming slower than usual, as if my minds were still working together but speeding up so I would not get impatient with them. ”Now it’s my turn to kill you.”
No. No, impossible, he thought, the Grey Stone told me, but he said, ”Kill her!” He pointed to me and shouted it again. “Kill her!” When no one moved, he lashed out with his Black Stone magic and the knights that did not fall prey to it quickly rushed for me. “I said, kill her!”
Kill him! The ghost screamed, fueling my own rage.
"Again,” I corrected as I began to walk toward him. ”You meant to say: kill her again.”
A knight came at me, his sword high, it looked so slow I nearly laughed as I ducked under it, letting him go by. I kept walking, but another came, and another. They attacked with as much speed and skill as they could, but I flicked my fingers out, letting the Grey Stone kill them both, carelessly, then stepping over their bodies.
More came at me. I used the Grey Stone to rip the swords from their hands and they each went flying as I used them as a weapon toward the man that dared call himself the king of Nahdiera. Marqis ducked them, scrambling back toward the gate, his eyes filled with terror at the sight before him that was me.
A knight – weaponless, one hand raised to show he meant no harm – grabbed me with his other hand by my arm to stop me. Like the instinctive urge to blink—
— I pushed the magic of the Bloodstone out of me, into him, and he burst apart as if every bone had exploded inside him, splashing me with blood, hot and wet on my arm and neck as it seeped through the cloak I wore. It smelled of rust and tears.
I reveled in it.
“Close the gates close the gates!” Marqis was screaming, his voice sounding much like a squeaking, trapped mouse as it scented a hungry snake. I ripped stone out from beneath his feet and he fell back on his back. It forced him to scramble on his elbows and feet, not daring to turn his back to me to get up and run.
I threw more stone at the gates, breaking the mechanism that closed them before they could even try, then I stepped through, my feet passing across the dust and rubble that had been the casing of the Grey Stone. Passing over what had been the sight of my death, my leathers making the smallest of splashing sounds in my lifeblood.
"Marqis Beoworth,” I said as he shuffled, squirming like a worm. ”I am Meira Greyov. Nahdiera is my kingdom, not yours."
He threw out his hands, and in his mind, I could tell he was throwing the magic of the Black Stone at me, but I felt it not. Jovian cried out in pain behind me, and I understood that he was protecting me with a ward and so he suffered the pain instead.
But I did not need a shield ward to protect me. I was not Marqis. I would fight my own battle.
I used the power of the Grey Stone to erase the ward with a casual thought.
The pain infulged me, making every lingering injury so very, very painful, but I flicked my wrist out and broke both of Marqis’ wrists, distracting him with my own brand of pain.
He cried out and fell back.
Kill him! Scattered! Buried! Blood.
"As Queen of this land,” I stated as I stood over him, ”I find you guilty of murder and of treason. For your crimes as well as the crimes of your father, I hereby sentence you, Marqis Beoworth, to death."
“No, no please—” he slapped his hand over his open mouth, silencing himself only a moment before I did that for him.
With a bloodthirsty grin upon my blood-splattered face, I slammed the knife down into his chest. The blade went between his ribs, through his lung, pushing through the rib on the other side, then cutting through muscle and skin until the tip slammed into the stone behind him, cracking the tip.
I yanked it out and he looked up at me as he coughed and gasped and gagged, his eyes wide with surprise that he was still alive. That I had missed his heart. Tears were in those eyes as he swallowed audibly. He was terrified.
He was terrified because he knew I had missed his heart on purpose.
I put the broken tip against his stomach and grinned at him. ”Die slowly,” I commanded and pushed the blade into his belly.
With my vision still reddened by the power of the Bloodstone, I laughed at his gurgling screams until he died.
Then the power of the Bloodstone left me as quickly as it had come, and I collapsed atop him.