My heart jumps and shifts, warmth spreading through me, and my breath shallows out as Damian touches my face to pull me closer. One kiss and I’ll be his Queen. But is that such a bad thing?
I don’t want the warmth to stop. Completing this is the only way for this feeling to stay inside of me. Plus, it’ll save my tribe. Maybe he’ll use his and the rest of the One-Hundred’s magic to make the world turn again.
There’s a crack of clarity in my mind, much like opening a door and having the light spill out onto the floor. I pull away slightly, looking past his hand and at the circle of light around us. The whiteness has dimmed, darkening the room we sit in.
Damian had stopped the world from moving, endangering every living being on the Earth. He’s a One. One in a million. And…
“One’s are all evil,” I whisper, my eyes still focused on the ground.
“What?” Damian asks. His breath brushes my cheek.
I look back over at him, and see his eyes flash green. I resist. Slap away his hand.
“Are you kidding me?” I shout, standing up and walking to the edge of the light. He throws his hands up in defeat, his face clearly angry.
“What do you want me to do, Cressa-la?” He bursts. “I want you but you don’t want me. We’re meant to be!”
“You don’t know that,” I growl. “No one knows who they’re supposed to be with.”
“We One-Hundreds do. Or, at least, who’s compatible.” Damian stands and makes an arc as he walks toward me. “But that doesn’t mean wehaveto be with that person. We have the free will to take anyone we want as our spouse.”
“What are you talking about?” I ask as he gets closer. And then a thought dawns on me. “Match. Is that what everyone means when they say that word? That it’s really who we’re supposed to be with?”
Damian smiles. He stops right before me. His face is dark with untold secrets as I stare at him. He lifts his arms to rest his hands on my shoulders, but I jerk away into the darkness.
The shadows dance eerily on his face as he takes a slow, deep breath. Fear finds its way into my heart as it crescendos, becoming all I can hear. I wonder if I can get to the door before him.
“I’ll give you one last chance, Cressa-la,” he breathes, lifting up a glowing hand. “Marry me or I will destroy your tribe.”
I stare at him. An icy smile slips over his face, his eyes glowing green as his veins begin to project their own light. My heart sinks as the gravity of his threat reaches it. But if it’s to save my tribe, to save Lily-flor…
“Fine.” I straighten my back and lift my chin. He may be taking my freedom, but he can never have anything else of me, especially not my heart. I know it belongs, or will belong, to whoever my match is, the boy I will never really know because of Damian and his freakish nature.
The shuffling of my feet echoes beneath the laughter of Damian. He’s won and he knows it. But his hand still glows, as if he’s expecting me to do something. But I can’t. I’ve no idea how to use my powers except for the little Tamir taught me the week he sheltered me.
The door bangs open.
We both snap our heads around to see Dametria, her hand glowing bright green, making her face shine. Her hair is wet, as if she drenched herself before entering. Her shoulders rise and fall beneath her tight clothing, and she stands with every muscle clenched and her teeth bared.
“That was supposed to be me, Damian,” she growls.
“Leave, Dametria. I already told you that I don’t want you.” Damian’s voice is vile and every syllable penetrates into her heart. I can see it in her eyes. Love. That small word radiates from her every fiber, although it is laced with the poisons of jealousy and anger.
“I was supposed to haveherpowers.Iwas supposed to be standing there next to you as the Queen of the Unwea Clan, not her. I didn’t track her down for two years to lose you to her.”
“Go away!” He yells.
Dametria’s eyes switch from Damian to me, the green around her growing brighter as I stare. But her glare doesn’t scare me. I’m not threatened by it.
“She doesn’t want you, Damian! I know you see it,” she snarls, her eyes locking back onto Damian’s. “And that’s why you want her so badly.”
“No, I want her because I love her.” His voice has dropped and his tone has become hostile.
“You wouldn’t know what love was even if it slapped you in the face.”
That’s the final straw for Damian.
His body ripples as scales appear. He bursts into a large snake, one of the ones I had seen the night of my seventeenth birthday. Dametria lifts her hands as green orbs fly from her fingertips. They land on Damian’s body, fizzling out as they leave burns on him.
Dametria sprints over to me after throwing Damian off balance with a headshot and takes hold of my arm. She begins to pull me, but I struggle against her grip. She looks back at me.
“Don’t pull away, I’m saving you.”
The six words confuse me, but nevertheless I follow her deeper into the darkening room. Damian is back up and slithering toward us at top speed, venom dripping from his fangs. We duck out of the way just as his head collides with the wall.
“Come on,” Dametria calls to me over her shoulder.
We sprint to the doorway and exit, a slight shiver crossing over my skin as we pass through. The vibrations pass through my body quickly, seeming to multiply each time my foot collides with the ground beneath me. It shakes my bones, my muscles. It’s not exhaustion or fatigue—that’s a different feeling. I can barely run anymore.
Damian comes crashing out into the hallway, hissing as he smashes into the wall opposite of the door.
Dametria and I sprint down the slope of the inside of the mountain. I try to keep my feet from tripping over each other. Damian closes in.
“We won’t make it all the way down,” Dametria breathes, craning her head around to look at me as she stops running. “Don’t let go of me.”
Before I can ask her what she’s doing, she hugs me. We rise quickly off of the floor, leaving Damian careening into the ground. He looks up and jumps just as we disappear into the rock.
The wind howls in my ear as my feet stick to the ground. Dametria is still holding onto me, the violent breeze trying to throw her from the grass. She whimpers.
“Can’t you cast a spell?” I shout to her. She’s still hugging me, holding on for dear life.
I feel her lift her hand and slip a little. She shakes her head.
“My hair is dry!”
“Well maybe I can! What is it?”
“I don’t know!” She yells. “Damian’s better at all of that. I’m better at morphing and potions! I was never into the spells thing!”
I groan and start down the island. Several trees are beginning to uproot themselves, leaning at insane angles. The rest are leafless and close to snapping in two.
The muscles in my legs scream at me to stop, but I lean forward and keep going.
It’s almost impossible to walk without sliding backwards, without almost losing my grip on Dametria—why am I helping her anyway?
Because I can’t just let her die.
I collapse to my knees, Dametria almost disappearing with the wind as it whips by.
“Get back up!”
“I can’t!” I shout back at her. “My body is…”
I groan as a sickening feeling washes over me, making my body clammy. All of the blood drains from my face and my stomach turns over. My bones, however, feel hot as they quiver violently inside of me.
My hands release Dametria.
“Go back under!”I tell her, my chest heavy. “Get the Earth and moon moving again! It’s the only way we can stop him!”
“Whatever it takes to get him back, I’ll do it!” She gives me one more look. “But this doesn’t mean we’re friends.”
Her body sinks into the ground and my body grows cold. I begin to cough, the wind smashing against me as I fall on my back. The dress I wear is now torn and tattered as it stays wrapped around my legs, desperately trying to free itself. Breathing doesn’t come easily as the air forces its way into my nasal passages. It’s all too much. I’m too weak. But why am I so weak?
Through the trees I can see the eclipse, frozen in place. I try to feel the power of the moon, try to feel the coursing of the magic as it runs through my veins. Numbness is the only thing that responds to my reach.
But I need to get up. I have to move. For my tribe. For Lily-flor. For them, if not for me. I pray to find strength in what I have, even if there is none, even if the moon won’t share.
I flip myself onto my belly, pushing up with my arms. The wind makes me stumble once, but I catch myself. I grunt in frustration as I quickly turn to face the wind and lean into it.
I’m not giving up this time.
I take one step, my bones vibrating in my body. Another makes my muscles shake. But I have to keep moving.
My skin starts to glow. Water hasn’t touched my skin. Or maybe it’s sweat. Could possibly be tears. Am I crying? I’ve no idea.
One foot after the other, as I will myself forward and my skin glows brighter and brighter, the muscles in my legs seem to have grown stronger. It becomes easier to make my way through the sturdy wind. Soon I can see my tribe, walking around, talking, planning, strategizing.
I fall on my face.
I’ve reached the dome.
Ignoring the soreness in my body, I sprint down to them. I leap over the fallen Wall of the Dead and into the opening where the Tribe Leaders houses used to be. Rai-si is pointing and instructing people to building houses as I come up behind him, panting hard. He turns around, his eyes widening as my body sways.
“Everything will be back to normal soon,” I tell him, possibly a little too loudly. My ears ring with the shrieking of the wind, making everything else sound dull and soft. I hold my body up by placing my hands on my knees and breathing.
I want to sit down. Scratch that—I want to sleep.
“Cress,” I hear as arms wrap around me. Tamir’s touch sends chills down my body, helping wake up my senses. “You’re okay.”
His hand cups my cheek as he smiles. In his eyes, I can see the genuine worry he had had for me, and, for a moment, I wonder if he and I match.
“Cressa-la!” Lily-flor crashes into my legs, knocking Tamir and my heads together. He chuckles lightly as I groan from pain and exhaustion, and crouch down to embrace Lily-flor.
“Are you okay?” I ask urgently, still trying to catch my breath.
She nods swiftly, crying. “I was scared you would never come back.”
“Oh, Lily-flor,” I breathe into her hair. “I’ll always find my way back to you.”
And for the moment, aside from everything else happening around me with Damian and Dametria and the Revli Tribe and the world and the moon, everything is as it should be. Or maybe as I want it to be. Because then everything comes back, and I have to let her go. I have to face the problems at hand.
I stand up. Out of the corner of my eye, Tamir is watching me, a troubled smile on his face. Rai-si opens his mouth to say something, but then the ground begins to shake. It glows red, green, blue, orange, pink, yellow, and every color in between, the moon mimicking it.
And then it shudders.
I feel it start moving.
“Hold on to something!” I shout before realizing there’s nothing to hold onto. Dametria did it. She got the world to move again.
Crossing my fingers, I hope that we’re still protected by Jackie’s being hurt. I close my eyes as I grab on to Lily-flor. Tamir wraps his arms around me. Rai-si bends down and he holds all of us. And then everyone joins in, the Wurn tribe near the center, just in case.
The winds die down as everything is yanked in the opposite direction. The sky slows, and we slide towards the cliff. Our feet are still planted to the ground, the spell still casted over us. He hasn’t lifted it yet.
A few of the Wurn Tribe members lift into the air, but only a tiny bit, because my people pull them back down. The moments of holding onto each other for dear life pass, and then everything is still. The world is back to normal.
We let go of each other, everyone cheering. I look up at the sky as the moon shifts a tiny bit. I smile. Dametria did it.
A bright blue beam explodes from the part of the sun that was revealed, and it falls onto me, my body lifted into the air only a few feet from the ground. I scream. Pain worse than what I had felt in the chair Damian had put me in wraps around me like the wind. It’s like every bone in my body is breaking and healing at once. Like my muscles are both ripping and growing within a single moment. Torture. From the inside out.
And then I feel the energy, the power surging through me like a thousand animals charging. The tingling of magic touches every part of me, inside and outside as sparkles dance all around. And I realize why all of the Ones are evil. The addiction to power. The craving of the adrenaline and the itch of the magic only they possess. It’s like a drug.
The light flashes out and it lets go of me. Two arms catch my body, cradling me like a baby. Tamir. His face is only inches from mine as he wipes a stray tear from my face, making his skin glow. The clouds begin to thicken overhead.
My body aches.
My eyes fall upon Damian, his eyes shining and his hands shimmering with the magic he’d received at the top of the mountain.
“That wasn’t for you to take!”
He fires a ball of light. I cringe, throwing my hands in front of me to protect myself. When it doesn’t hit me, I look up.
It’s frozen before me, its shape wavering. It grows small then large, over and over, pulsing. I stare at it, mesmerized. DidIdo that?
“That power was mine!”
Damian squats down quickly and hits the ground with his fist, standing right back up. The One-Hundreds that had been below the ground rise from it, not a single pebble displaced, their bodies ready to fight. The Revli tribespeople show no sign of the loving tribe I once knew. They literally have no idea what they have been tossed into.
I take a shaky breath. Cross my fingers.
“Let me go,” I speak quietly to Tamir. He doesn’t question me. My feet touch the ground, the dirt shivering as I do, the trees rustling as I do, the clouds rolling over us as I do. How much power do I possess?
Damian glares at me, lifting up an arm. The air shivers around my tribe, as if the promise Damian had made me has worn off.
Lightning cracks overhead.
Damian’s minions begin to aim and shoot various colors and sizes of balls of light at us, my army charging at them. How small we are.
I glance at Tamir, who looks up at the sky impatiently.
The two sides reach each other, the One-Hundreds glowing. There’s no way we can win at this rate. But I know something Damian doesn’t. It’s magically about to rain.
I smile as the first of the drops fall. And then they pour down. The One-Hundred’s glowing fizzle out and we begin to win. Damian and I glow brightly as Tamir smiles, taking off in Damian’s direction and beginning to glow himself.