Dawn of War End
I had not intended to love either of them.
I covered my mouth with my hands, looking between both Paeris and Cage as my brain spun. I knew Lorelei was probably watching from a distance, waiting to see how I would react and ready to swoop in as soon as I had made my decision.
Why did she choose me?
I had asked myself this same question to Paeris the night before. It was then that he decided it would be safest if she stayed behind, safe. She was only a warrior a few months, while I had been a Champion my whole life.
We sealed our own fate.
I moved behind them, untying their binds one at a time and backing up to let them jump to their feet. It was Cage that embraced me first, tears staining his dirty cheeks. "I thought you were dead."
It was strange to feel claimed and connected to him in such a primal way, like animals. It felt like I had already been caught and trapped long ago by him, leaving me to swim through my feelings, anxiously waiting for the moment when he decides to act on our connection.
"Still kickin'." I hissed through clenched teeth, allowing some of my weight to balance on him versus my throbbing leg. My brain buzzed, trying to decide what to do. Who could I live without?
Who couldn't I?
I covered my face again in thought as Paeris crouched to look my leg over. His strong warm hands assessed the cut gently and I could almost feel the anger radiating off his skin.
It hit me then: they both could walk out of here alive and safe. They both could go back to their lives and I would be the martyr that brought the Guardians and Elders together. I knew if we all tried to leave together, I would only slow them down and everything would be lost. But I also knew I couldn't choose to go dark or let one of my friends die. I had such a connection with both Cage and Paeris, losing either of them would be like killing a part of myself.
Almost as if both the men had pieced the plan together already - or maybe Lorelei had told them, knowing I would have no choice - Paeris looked down at the ground while Cage seemed to only hug me tighter.
"I love the light inside of you that I know is there. The part of you that fights for me. The part that loves me. I will learn to embrace the darkness, if I must, because I will always love you." Paeris whispered. "Do what you need to do. I will be happy with whatever decision you make."
"You know, I was not happy as a kid to know you were coming to the Enclave. But the second you looked at me, I knew. I knew you were either going to be the death of me or be the one who brought me back to life." Cage said softly, kissing my cheek and causing a tingle to roll over my skin.
"Just stop it, both of you. I'm not doing this. You both need to get out of here. I'll just slow you down. This is between me and Lorelei anyway." I insisted, pulling away from Cage's warm embrace.
"I'm not leaving you!" Paeris demanded, attempting to hold me by my shoulders.
"Then you will die!"
A cackle came from the area behind us, all of our bodies tensing as the air chilled, signaling her arrival.
"Go!" I yelled to the men, shoving them forward before turning to face the woman who threatened my future. "Show yourself, Lorelei! This is a fight between you and me!"
"Run!" I heard Paeris scream from somewhere behind me, relief flooding through me as I realized they were leaving. Leaving me to face Lorelei alone.
Fear ran through me again as flames enveloped my arms, preparing to take her head on.
"Now now, Alaray. You know this isn't how the game works!" I heard Lorelei's voice behind me, my ears almost hurting from how evil she sounded. As I turned, I couldn't help but choke at the sight.
Lorelei stood with an arm from both men clasped between her bony fingers.
"I can't choose! I won't!"
"You won't have to, child! You can bring him back, if you would like!" She said in a way that would have come off as a caring mother to others, but to me, it was much more threatening. "Choose or I will!"
I screamed in defeat, plopping down onto the ground as the pain in my leg and haziness from my head injury became overwhelming. I looked at Cage, his face frightened and angry, fighting against Lorelei as she dug her nails into his flesh and blood ran down his forearm. In that moment, I thought of every good memory I had ever had with Cage:
Explaining my nightmares to him while he held me and let me cry, skipping training together to go exploring in the woods, watching the stars and sharing our deepest secrets, giving a piece of my heart to him that I could never give to anyone else.
My heart broke into pieces as I looked at Paeris, remembering the dreams we shared together, the way he had looked at me with nothing but love even when everyone else feared my lack of control, and the way I my heart felt so full when we kissed. He held just as much of my heart as Cage did, but he knew parts of me that Cage never had. While I shared a childhood and learned who I was as a person with one of them, the other had grown with me and helped me discover a part of myself I hadn't known existed.
"I can't." I whispered, tears free flowing down my cheeks.
Lorelei rolled her eyes, moving in the blink of an eye to stand behind Paeris and ripping his head to the side in an unnatural angle, a snap filling my ears and breaking my heart. Twin screams filled the air as Allie ran from the edge of the clearing toward Lorelei and Paeris' now lifeless body. I sprang to my feet and swayed with disbelief.
I felt hollow as Cage ran to my side, attempting to help me to my feet.
"You can bring him back, Ray. You are strong enough." Lorelei coaxed, a devious smile on her dark lips. "If you don't, Jonas will never forgive you. Alanor will be mated with Cage and you will be alone."
The words hit me harder than I wanted to admit, my stomach clenching as Allie shot daggers at me, cradling Paeris' head in her lap.
"Don't, Ray. You will go dark. This is what she wants." Cage warned gently, studying my face like he had plenty of times in the past. "You didn't do this. We won't let you be alone. Jonas will understand!"
"Darkness is power! I can show you power you can't even imagine!" Lorelei boasted. "You know you will be dark eventually! The Prophecy foretells of it!"
"There are isn't just one type of darkness! There is the dark that scares children with a bump in the night, and the darkness of sleep. There is the darkness of death and the darkness of secrets. I may be darkness, but I'm not all bad. Paeris and I met in darkness!" I stood my ground, flames dancing behind my eyes and the earth shaking around me. "I choose what kind of darkness I am destined to be. But I will never be like you!"
As Lorelei opened her mouth, a shiver ran up my spine and darkness filled the sky above us. The boom of thunder crashed above us.
"Allie, no!" Cage screamed, lurching forward toward my sister and Paeris, throwing me off balance. My knees sank into the ground and my teeth clenched as pain shot through my leg, but as I looked up and into my sisters dark eyes, I knew that it wasn't me that the Prophecy foretold as dark.
While I was distracted, Allie had brought Paeris back from death.
A cackle filled the air once again as my sister moved to Lorelei, joining hands with her before a mirrored dark smile covered her face.
"Clearly you aren't as special as everyone thought."
And with a final devious laugh, they were gone.