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The Diablon Chronicles

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Back home, Lilitha paced the floor, raking her fingers through her long red hair as she tried to decide what to do. She couldn’t just leave. Where would she go? Norfolk was isolated, days away from the next town.

She paused to look through the window. Only a few streets over was the forest, filled with wild animals and dark magic, demons and monsters. There was no way she could go through there. That was where the town’s prisoners went to die. Where she would die if she were caught. As a killer. As a murderer. Besides, she couldn’t leave Clara.


Grabbing up her cloak, she hobbled out of the door, slamming it shut behind her. The streets were deceptively calm. Lightning struck in the distance. Only two hours had passed since her encounter with the Champion and yet it felt like forever.

Lilitha kept herself small and cloaked, her hood pulled far over her head. It was raining steadily but not heavily. She was taking a stupid risk, she knew, but she had to speak with Clara and let her know the serious danger they were in—if she didn’t know already. And to plan. They had to make some kind of plan.

Lilitha stepped aside as a wagon rattled past, the clatter of the horse’s hooves putting her nerves on edge. She whipped her head around at the sound of a shout. She whipped it around again at the sound of a barking dog. Jittery. Too jittery. She would attract suspicion.

Her head turned as she passed another one of those parchments depicting her likeness. This one was stuck to the corner of a building. It was the third one she’d seen. They seemed to be everywhere.

She turned into Clara’s street, keeping to the side of the road as much as possible, hands shoved into her pockets. Again, she looked up at the sound of commotion. Champions. Horses. Clara’s mother was standing on the road, the same blonde hair gleaming in the sun. There came screaming from within her house. Familiar screaming. Lilitha slid into a narrow alleyway and peered around the wall, pulse hammering in her throat.

It was Clara. But even worse was the man holding her tight in his huge-handed grip, golden hair gleaming, handsome sneering face unmistakeable despite the swollen eye. Mandalay—he was alive. And certainly whole. As strong as ever as he lifted her off her feet and onto his horse.

Lilitha fought the urge to scream her name, pulling back further into the darkness of the alley as they rode away, the sound of their hooves like thunder against the pavement. Clara was as white as a ghost, her eyes as big as blue coins. Her mother’s screaming followed her down the street.

Lilitha pressed her forehead to the wall with a moan.

Her journey back home was slow and winding. It felt like a rat was gnawing at her insides. The guilt was worse than the despair. Her life was over but so much worse was that Clara’s life was over. She stopped. A light rain was pattering down upon her head. Her breath was a mist. Maybe she should give herself up too. What did she have to live for anyway? Without Clara? Constant nights of beatings? Gnawing hunger and the freezing cold?

And Clara was stuck with Mandalay. What might he be doing with her? What would he do with her? Lilitha grimaced. Maybe there was a better way than simply giving up. Maybe there was a better way than simply waiting for the Champions to find her. Maybe there was something she could do—anything. She looked up at the grey sky, blinking against the rain. Something that had purpose. Even if she failed. Even if it was close to impossible. It was something.

Pulling her hood further over her face, she picked up her pace.

It was far too early for her father to be home. She had plenty of errands to run but none would be done today. And if none would be done today, then none would be done ever again. And she was certain, as she took the knife from the kitchen drawer, that this was probably her last day in her home. That yesterday’s beating would be the last she would ever suffer from her father.

Lightning flashed, glinting against the blade. She slid it into its leather cover, then tucked it into her boot. The door slammed shut behind her.

A small amount of change jingled in her pocket. It had mostly stopped raining now, though her cloak was damp and uncomfortable. She was shivering as a cool wind turned the backs of her hands to ice. She shoved them into her pockets.

It was close to darkness by the time she entered town. It was trickling with rain again but it had become strangely warm as Lilitha streaked through the marketplace towards the other side of town, back to the place where everything had gone so wrong.

She peeped through the Arrowhead’s grimy windows. As usual, it was almost deserted, half a dozen dreary customers spaced throughout the room. Lilitha pressed in closer to the glass.

She drew back, frustrated. Of course he wouldn’t be here. This was her haunt, not his. She turned away and followed a route towards the more central part of town.

While the marketplace bustled with life during the day, the river was the centre of activity at night. From dusk until dawn, as their wives and daughters slept, peasants and noblemen alike swarmed the darkened streets. With so many taverns, brothels and gambling houses on offer, they sampled to their heart’s content.

The Hook and Catch reared ahead, the most popular tavern in town and a known haunt for the Champions when they wanted to celebrate. And Lilitha got the distinct impression Mandalay would want to celebrate tonight. Pulling her cloak tight and keeping out of sight, Lilitha took up position in view of the front doors, bracing herself for a potentially long wait.

Hours went by. Plenty of customers walked in and out—none Mandalay—shouting and laughing or sidling in quietly as though they weren’t meant to be there. She glimpsed most of their faces with her sharp vision.

Finally, she caught a group of Champions making their way on foot down the street, laughing and shouting and ruff housing. All rugged up in their cloaks, no uniforms or swords. Mandalay’s golden head was instantly recognisable as the light from the nearby lampposts gleamed against it. Unsurprisingly, he was the loudest and rowdiest of the bunch. Lilitha watched as they poured into the entrance, the doors swinging shut behind them.

And so Lilitha waited as the rain turned heavier, the night grew darker and the air became colder. Cold enough that her fingertips froze and she trembled. But she stayed. She would not move. She would not give up. Besides, there was no where to go. She briefly wondered what her father must be thinking about his empty house.

The night was black when they finally spilled out through the door in a staggering group. Lilitha followed, sneaking between the shadows as they caroused drunkenly down the street. Lilitha’s toes felt numb in her cold, wet boots. She could feel the knife pressing against her ankle.

They were halfway down the road when one of them shouted something. Mandalay yelled back, then punched the man in the face with such power that the man stumbled backwards and fell hard to the ground with a burp.

Roaring with laughter, his friends seized him by the arms and hauled him back to his feet. Singing, cackling, they threw their arms around one another and continued on their way. Lilitha stayed well away, heart hammering. Mandalay was looking bigger and bigger by the moment. She had to be quick. She had to be cunning.


When the men reached the next crossroad, Lilitha’s heart leapt—Mandalay was detaching from the group.

‘Where are you going?’ one of them cried.

‘Over to plough some poor wench I bet,’ another shouted, laughing.

While Mandalay staggered one way, his men disappeared down another, and the roar of their drunken banter soon faded into the distance.

As Mandalay steadily pulled away from the crowded river, the streets emptied, and a stark silence descended. Then he started to sing, concealing the sound of her footsteps nicely. The rain stopped, and she slipped the knife from out of her boot.

He tripped on a pile of rubbish with a curse. Stumbling, he caught himself upon a building. Bracing himself against it, he released his belt. Head tilted back, he recommenced his song as he relieved himself.

Lilitha’s heart caught in her throat—it was now or never. Ducking low, she crept towards his swaying figure. He lifted his voice higher and louder as she stepped into his shadow, so close now she could smell the stink of his urine.

Her heart was pounding so hard she could feel it pulsing in her temples. Her hand shook as she eyed the back of his neck and raised her knife. It glinted sharply in a stream of moonlight before coming down in a streak of silver.

There was a blur, a flash and a rush of pain as Mandalay spun around and seized her wrist.

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