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33.) astra inclinant, sed non oblicant

“My dad said he’s on his way,” Nova said, wiping the cold cloth on our friend’s forehead.

“He needs to get here now!” I barked back, and she flinched. Ember needed a powerful warlock to heal her, the one they had here was not effective.

‘Poison,’ the ineffective healer had said, ‘not curable.’ Over my dead body, so I told Nova to get her dad. For Ember I will put aside how much I am mad at that man, for her to be ok I will put my emotions aside.

We laid her on her own bed, her room different shades of pink, and we tried to keep her body temperature down. Ember, who is naturally pale, looked unnaturally discolored. Even her lips are near white, her eyelids blue, her hair damp with perspiration.

I ran a hand down her hair, trying to not let my tears flow, I’m not letting her go. “Where is he?” I demanded, feeling as though hours have passed. She looks peaceful, like she’s sleeping, but I know that’s not the case.

So we would get Alatar, which I would not let irritate me. Even though the fact he will come now, but wouldn’t prior puts me in an agitated state.

“I can feel him here, he’s on his way up.” Nova says, climbing off the bed to give room. I don’t move, I stay right next to her and stroke her hair gently.

“Help is coming, Ember. Please hold on a little longer,” I whispered to her soothingly, tears catching in my throat. Her breathing is slow and ragged, coming in gasps from her pale lips, my heart aches watching my best friend pass.

“Where is she?” Alatar demanded as he entered the room, Phoebe at his heels. Her face is masked in worry, but I notice she doesn’t dare out Ember in front of Alatar.

“Parallax poisoned her somehow, by DreamWalking, the healer said there’s no cure…” I trailed off, internally begging for him to tell us that it’s not true. Alatar crossed the room, his brown cloak sweeping boldly around his thin body.

“How long has it been in her system?” His voice is soothing, I can’t tell if it’s for me or for himself.

“Maybe close to an hour, you can fix this right?” I’m talking frantically, not trying to match his soothing manor. I just can’t lose her, after it seems I’ve lost nearly everyone else.

I wouldn’t even be here were it not for Ember, her kindness and lovely heart being what drew me here. She’s protected me, and saved my life countless times. Giving up a life of happiness, just to stay by my side. Lost a life with her brother, because of my existence. I won’t stand by and watch her perish after all of that, not when she hasn’t even had a chance to love yet.

“I will try my best,” Alatar started, placing a hand on her clammy forehead.

“And then some,” I warned, but he didn’t respond as he closed his eyes and furrowed his brow. After a moment his hand began to glow, as it had when he healed me, it grew brighter than it ever had with me though.

We all held our breaths in torment as we waited to see if he would succeed, a bead of sweat started to drip down his temple, and he seemed to grit his teeth. As he tried to expel the poison from her, I noticed a bit of color beginning to return to her pale cheeks.

From this close I can see the genuine struggle on his face, and can hear his breathing growing ragged as he pulled it from her. “Just a bit more,” he gasped. Then his eyes shot open, and he ripped his hand from her forehead; at the same moment her own eyes snapped open and she took a long inhale.

“Oh, Ember!” I cried, wrapping my arms around her warm body. She coughed into my shoulder, her whole body wracking with the process. I don’t think I’ll ever let her go again, not as her small hands go to my back and comfort me.

“Why are you crying?” She asked, her voice ragged. I pulled back from her, looking into her face to make sure she really was looking at me; that I wasn’t dreaming. The part of me that had ripped as she died, feels glued and whole again.

“You were poisoned,” I replied, and her eyebrows formed a V, before shooting up into her hairline.

“It was a-a message, he told me to tell you…” she paused, her eyes filling with tears at the thought. I rub her arm, not pushing. “He said you and Beckett made a big mistake and that he was going to make you pay.” I gasped, my heart plummeting into my gut, and anxiety pressing onto my chest.

“Punish me?” I whispered, and she nodded. “How?”

“I don’t know, but he told me to tell you that we need to assemble a meeting. With all of us, Alatar too,” she looked at him as if just noticing who saved her. “And with the Somnium Court, to discuss a possible truce.” There’s no way Parallax would ever actually call for a truce, no way in hell. This is a trap of some kind, but we could flip the tables and make one in return.

“And if we don’t? What happens if we don’t have this meeting?” Nova asked, her voice small, I’d almost forgotten she stood in the room with us. But there she is, Phoebe holding her arm, both of them seeping relief.

Ember’s eyes did spill with the tears then, she sobbed and leaned into me once more, her sadness soaking my dress collar. “He said, if we didn’t oblige, he would just kill Beckett, then kill Astra himself.”

It took a while to sooth Ember, a mixture of hugging and warm teas made by Nova seemed to do the trick. She sits there now, on the couch, seeming so small wrapped in a thick quilt. Phoebe holds her hand now, at Embers request, Alatar didn’t bat an eyelash.

“We need to convince the king to attend this meeting, if not then all of this would have been for naught.” Alatar said, “further we need to convince him to hold this meeting.” I shivered at the idea of Parallax and his shadows in this realm.

“Good luck managing that, he’s just a showman at heart.” I muttered, but at that point it almost clicked in my head. “Except maybe that will be where we get him,” this got everyone’s attention. So I talked quickly, “what if we got him to believe this is a publicity stunt? Sympathy for the dark weapon, turn him good, wield his power? Only the strongest leaders could do that.”

“Would it work? What if Beckett goes dark while he’s here?” Ember asked, her voice still a bit hoarse.

“That’s the beauty in it, Parallax seemed to have magic suppressing handcuffs on Beckett, so when he comes over there’s a chance he won’t have any power.” Alatar didn’t have the same convinced look as the three women, so I turned to him and pushed on.

“Beckett doesn’t want to be on his dad’s side, I know that in my soul. He’s only there because of you,” Alatar flinched at that. “If we get him over here, he will fight with us. Beckett fought through his own instinct to save us once, he’d do it again.”

Finally, Alatar nodded. “It’s worth a shot, I suppose.” I don’t tell him it’s the least he could do, especially when he seems to still be weakened by pulling the poison from Ember. “You ladies rest, I’ll go tell the king we want to have a meeting in the morning.” As Ember leans against Phoebe, and Nova switches to cat form to nap on the couch, I follow the warlock into the hall.

“Is there something you need?” Alatar asked, not even turning back to me as he started down the hallway, his long hair and cloak swishing with his strides. Anger bubbles and bursts to my chest, coming out my lips.

“Yes! Answers, from you. Why the hell did you do what you did to Beckett? He was just a teenager, not even old enough to drive, and you’ve had him going into a dangerous court in order to be a spy for you? Where’s the logic?” I try to whisper, but my voice still echoes in the halls.

“The stars wrote the prophecy of your birth, and his. Not me-” he defended himself, not even turning to acknowledge me. So I grabbed him, shoving his shoulder so he would turn to face me.

“But you did nothing to help him! Instead you sent him to the dark side, suppressed his powers so he couldn’t even learn to control them, you even shoved me in his face! Imagine living down the hall from the person designed to end you!” Alatar raised an eyebrow, looking down at me.

“Are you telling me you regret meeting Beckett?” His tone condescending, I blanched and resisted punching him in his mouth.

“How dare you!” Alatar smiled softly, his eyes knowing. “You know,” I murmured, my rage slipping away. “You know I…” I don’t finish.

“That you fell in love with his icy soul? Of course I do,” his tone is warm as he talks to me now. I sighed, slumping my shoulders.

“The stars wrote that we would kill me, that makes me quite stupid, doesn’t it?” Alatar laughed quietly, resting a hand on my shoulder.

“Astra inclinant, sed non oblicant.” Alatar said, his voice all knowing in the way it had been the first day I met him, and he turned to leave.

“I don’t speak Latin!” I called out to him, but he went down the stairs and was gone. With a long sigh, feeling very alone in that hallway, I made my way back to my room. I only hope Alatar is smooth with his words, that he’s able to convince the king for the meeting. Otherwise, I’m not sure how we will save Beckett, or prevent Parallax from attempting to kill my best friend once more.

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