Cold again, a cold that now chilled her bones but didn’t make her stop. She kept walking, following Agate’s voice once more. The dream was the same, just like the one before. The water once again reached her bare feet, feeling the temperature drop and the Autumn leaves sink into the water.
The hut resurfaced again.
“Concentrate, Daphne. Don’t look down. Open the door.” Agate’s voice was like an echo.
Daphne once again pushed open the door to find herself in deep darkness. And that same fear of what it held made her hesitate to move on. And Agate could see it.
“Don’t be afraid. I am here.”
“Agate?” There were traces of fear in Daphne’s voice. And with hesitant steps, she finally went inside.
“Come closer,” the witch demanded.
Pure darkness cloaked her. Creating a sense of emptiness all around her. And, at the same time, the impression that she was being watched by someone else. She was not alone.
A dim, warm light illuminated a familiar presence.
“Agate,” Daphne spoke.
“I finally managed to find you here.” The witch said.
“What is this place?”
“It was the only way I could talk to you, Daphne. I’m in your sleep.”
“Why are you here?”
“I’ve come to help you.” Daphne scowled, wary of Agate’s true intentions. Sensing that they weren’t as good as they seemed. “Many years ago, I contemplated the future of the Kingdom of Demons, and that is why I decided to help you back then. But fate is taking another path, and I fear you will lose everything if you don’t act now. Even him.”
“Agate, what’s in it for you? And why come to find me now?”
“I just told you-”
“There’s something else,” Daphne stated. “I want to ask you something. How come you knew Rothvaln from that time? How is it that you knew where Lorcan was hidden? How is it that you, Agate, had in your possession the ring that opened the door to that prison?” And Daphne saw how Agate, for the first time, had an uneasy twinkle in her eyes. “Tell me the truth, tell me what it is you really want.”
And Agate decided to confess. Because it was the only way to get what she wanted. And because Daphne was her last hope.
“It was I who locked your demon in that place,” Agate confessed.
“You? Wasn’t it Nebula Barclay?”
“Nebula Barclay is the name I was born with.” Daphne was the first person Agate had ever revealed her secret to. Not even her descendant, Queen Evanora, knew about it.
“Why would you hide it?” Daphne asked.
“I have had many enemies. And it wasn’t good for them to know I was still alive.”
“What did you gain by helping Rothvaln?”
“Time,” Agate replied.
“But by helping me, weren’t you breaking the pact-?” Daphne didn’t continue speaking as the pieces of the puzzle began to assemble themselves in her head. "You want to make another pact. You want more time.” She said, hitting the nail on the head. Remembering what James had said about the effect of breaking a pact. It was clear that Agate was trying her best to hide from Rothvaln, but the witch was no longer enjoying the time she had been granted. That’s why she had come looking for her.
Agate, or rather Nebula, made no attempt to hide her true intentions. There was no need to.
“I want to make a pact with you. I offer you my help in exchange for more years.”
“I cannot make Pacts.”
“The Realm of Demons has chosen you as its Queen. Of course, you can.”
“First, tell me how you would help me, and then we make the Pact,” Daphne said defiantly. Having no idea if she could actually offer a Pact to the witch as she claimed.
“Let me show you.”
Agate’s face disappeared, and Daphne felt as if she were in another dream within the one she was already in. And the images the witch was showing her filled her with misery, fear, and sadness.
As she returned to that dark hut with Agate, Daphne put a hand to her cheek when a tear escaped from her.
“It’s true,” Agate said with a tone of sympathy.
“If he gives up everything for me, Rothvaln will end up for-”
“That is why you must act with haste. Rothvaln cannot remain on the throne. You saw how to overthrow him yourself.”
“There is no guarantee that I will succeed.”
“You will,” Agate assured her. “Why do you think I’ve come to find you Queen of Demons?”
“I suppose you want your Pact now?”
Daphne wasn’t sure if making a deal within a dream was valid or if even feeling the wound’s pain in her hand would be real, but it was. Agate, also known as Nebula Barclay and she sealed their deal: the witch promising to help the Queen of Demons and Daphne granting her, if anything, years of life so long that it might well be mistaken for immortality.
“When the time comes, I will help to heal your mind.”
“What do you mean?”
“I will be there, Ragothara. I promise.” The witch’s voice sounded like a distant chorus, and her face darkened as the words faded.
Daphne opened her eyes sharply, feeling pain in the palm of her hand. Seeing how the Pact with the witch was as real as the place where she now stood. The wound closed on its own, making her skin look intact.
It was still very dark, and with only a few hours until dawn, Daphne looked for Lorcan in bed, but he wasn’t beside her.
These visions of the future were alarming but necessary to execute a plan in the shortest possible time. Daphne knew she would be alone in this. And that in the process, she might lose Lorcan forever.
There was no other way out. She saw it herself. If she didn’t do something soon, Lorcan, the Demon King, would give up everything for her. He would rescue Sorana, yes.
But Rothvaln would remain King and bring the Kingdoms into more significant conflict. And many lives would perish during the years that a War would last.
After dressing, she left the palace and emerged in the middle of the night. On one of the cliffs, she had spotted during one of her walks with Raven.
The air was colder now than it had been during the day, though there was no sign that the low temperature affected her. She couldn’t feel the temperature of the weather, not anymore.
If what she saw in the future was true, then the Dragon Queen had what she needed to end Rothvaln. She had to play her cards wisely, to do what was necessary to prevent the destruction of the Realm of Demons, to prevent Lorcan’s destruction. The thought of him made her chest tighten with grief. Because what she was willing to do would drive Lorcan to hate her, and it was precisely what she needed him for him to let her go.
“I was wondering where you were?” Lorcan made her smile.
“I didn’t see you when I woke up” She moved closer to him, letting herself be wrapped in the warm embrace of his arms.
“I was with Teias and Sunnia.”
“Have you heard about Eve?”
“We don’t know where she is exactly.” And there it was again: the feeling that he was hiding something. She, however, did not question him either. She sought to relish the Present with him because she would probably never have it again.
Daphne rose on tiptoe and brought her lips to his. Tentatively at first, then deepening. Lorcan kept pace with her, enjoying her mouth.
Being embraced by this demon. This cruel and relentless Demon King led her to feel what she had longed for so many years and never had, until now: love.
And she was not willing to lose him. At least not in the way fate had foreseen.