“Oh my gosh!” we have more company as Ethne cries out from the other end of the stone dungeon hall, just as I am opening the cell door to Amadahy’s prison, “What happened to her, Luv? I felt your pain, Amadahy!” Ethne runs to us and embraces Amadahy while Lochness opens the cell door to Minx, who comes crawling out on all fours, hissing between her teeth at the Rogue.
“Grateful little beast... I like it,” Lochness growls sarcastically back at Minx, and she just runs behind Amadahy’s legs, hiding from him while gritting her teeth... and then she glances at Summer, unsure of her... before glancing at me and smiling with thanks, even though I did nothing.
“Thank you for not biting him,” I wink at her while Ethne cries holding Amadahy.
“I thought you were going to die, your panic was so great... I could feel it all,” Ethne is eventually pushed away by Amadahy while gasping for breath in between sobs of relief.
“Not now, sweetness,” Amadahy growls, looking down to the ground, “I have to redeem myself.”
“What do you mean by that?” Ethne asks, her hands rising to her trembling lips, “Did you kill someone who tried to hurt MInx?”
“Not quite,” Lochness decides to rain on Ethne’s parade some more, “Your girlfriend is a Shadow Assassin from the Tempest Lands. Sent here to kill and spy.”
“Her memories are gone from a potion she willingly took to take away her memories about that life,” I add in, while Ethne takes a step back with instant betrayal shining through her gaze.
“Shadow Assassin?” Ethne asks in a whisper, before locking gazes with Amadahy, “You’ve been lying to us, all of us, for over three years? Lying to me? How could you do that to me?” Ethne yells the last part, her emotion turning to rage.
Summer grabs Ethne to her, grasping her arm.
“My little cousin is in danger,” Summer cuts her rage off with urgency, “Amadahy knows an attack will happen any moment. Amadahy is going with us to help save my cousin. You all need to stop waiting. Go, check if Madeline is okay.”
“I would reach out to Hael from here,” Lochness murmurs, “But mind links are weak if non-existent down this far into the rock of the mountain. I will mist up now. Luv, Amadahy... you come up more slowly, give me time to check things out. And Roi... what would you like from him... babygirl?” Lochness asks me this and I turn to the man still chained but healed.
“I don’t trust you,” I whisper towards Roi, and his eyes are full of betrayal, “I can’t free you yet. You’ll stay there and I will return for you soon, if I have time, to try and strike some sort of alliance with you before the war starts, if it hasn’t already. Wait for me.”
“Waiting is what I do best,” Roi does not sound convincing even though he agrees with me, “Althor is a murderer. You said you’d kill him, Luvenia. Now he’s just in a cell; a prisoner!”
“My mates will see that justice is brought to their murdered parents. I don’t have time to talk further,” I hiss, “Wouldn’t you want Althor’s nephews to hand out the punishment? I thought you’d be happy with this. Now excuse us, but my mother has a target over her head -” I turn and an empty space where my father once was, is now a sign that he has misted to make sure Madeline is okay, “Let’s walk,” I motion everyone to follow me and I take the lead, “Ethne, you need to forgive Amadahy and trust in her to help us. I can read her intentions, if you can, you will see the same. Amadahy means well, she is on our side. Summer, you can return to your mates and warn them of the impending danger. Ethne, wake mine up. I left them sleeping like rocks. Guest Room 12.”
“I will try to contact Jules and Lex as well,” Summer adds.
“I want to go where Amadahy goes,” Ethne adds, “I don’t want to wake your mates up for you-”
“Her mother is in imminent danger, sweets,” Amadahy murmurs this at Ethne, “I may have relayed all information and mapping of the Requiem mountains to the Tempest Warlords I once worked for, years ago.”
“Are you even a princess?” Ethne asks, raising a brow.
“Unofficially...” Amadahy shrugs, “But my mother is the...” Amadahy pauses and I look over my shoulder as we ascend the stairs to see her hesitating in telling Ethne everything, “My mother is the leader of the army against us. Shai the Blood Raven. She is like a Queen in those lands as one of the most powerful Blood Ravens. Dragons are not rulers there. Blood Ravens are. Dragons are just their warlords and soldiers.”
“What other secrets have you been keeping from me, Amadahy...?” Ethne asks.
“This isn’t the time,” I snap, “We need to hurry, let’s run.”
“I agree,” Summer supports me, “We are wasting time. Lochness needs our help.”
We all start to run and after winding up the dizzying stair case, up to the cave corridors above... we step out to inhale the fresh air with relief. Running up those dank stairs was suffocating.
“Okay, Amadahy... what’s our next move? Straight to my mother’s room?” I turn to her as Summer gets her breath back and Ethne crosses her arms, looking closed off from us and in her own thoughts.
“Everything seems... quiet up here,” Summer points out, while Minx cautiously touches Summer’s hand, as if she is about to hold it... but as Summer turns to Minx in surprise, Minx scampers back, growling.
“I told you, it was just a feeling,” Amadahy whispers to me.
"Just a feeling?” Ethne hisses.
I narrow my eyes... but then a wave of panic slides through my mind. And not just my head, because as I wince, as does everyone else.
Attention, Layla’s strong ability to communicate, rushes through all our minds individually, we have sighted at least three hundred Dragons in flight over the horizon. Deep Cavern has been breached with a portal. Everyone at their posts. Thirty members are already slaughtered inside Deep Cavern where an unknown number of Tempest Dragons, mages, mortals and Fire Spitters currently reside. Everyone stay clear until you are in your fighting groups, or you will be slaughtered for being without company. All vulnerable families, children, and anyone incapable of fighting, go to designated safety areas.
“Get to your mother now,” Amadahy snaps at me and I start to run from the very real truth in her tone.
Dads? I connect with both Hael and Lochness and I get no reply for a few seconds.
Stay out, Hael snarls this at me and I know they are in danger.
“Quick!” I start to sprint with Amadahy, “Something’s wrong, we need to be there to help...!”
We’re already close as we round a corner to Madeline’s bedchamber.
The door is knocked off it’s hinges.
Amadahy and I both sprint forward and turn into the room, with Minx right on our heels and her fingers curled, ready to attack as she slides into the room with us.
“Mum!” I cry out in relief when I see her standing by the end of the bed, wearing a silk night gown, she looks as beautiful as ever. Her hair is freshly washed, her eyes done up with green eyeshadow and her mouth swollen from recent kisses.
However, Hael and Lochness are not kissing her anymore.
They are standing in front of her... oddly... they are not facing her... until I turn and see a blue bird sitting on top of the fire place.
That is what they are focusing on.
As soon as I see the blue bird, it flits off and dives into the fire.
“What did I say, Luvenia?” Hael growls under his breath without turning to me and Lochness turns to glance at me, his expression unreadable as the ashes from the flames, start to rise up dramatically.
Madeline smiles weakly at me, but even she can feel the impending danger.
The ashes quickly solidify into a figure covered in silver Dragon scales from her neck to toes. Shai’s brilliant strawberry blonde hair is almost a match to Amadahy’s brilliant white. Their other features are even more similar now that they are in the same room. And I am surprised I did not connect their similarities sooner.
“I was waiting for you, Luv,” Shai smiles at me and speaks casually, “The war has begun.”
“Why are you here?” I ask.
“Mum,” Amadahy snaps out.
“Amadahy... you’ve grown,” Shai nods at her, “I will make sure no one lays a hand on my beautiful daughter.”
“What, you care about me now, do you?” Amadahy asks, hysterically, “Why are you here? I don’t suppose it’s to negotiate peace?”
“Care about you? Of course, like I care about my other hundred children. And I’m not here to negotiate peace. I’m here to initiate war,” Shai laughs, “Why would I want peace? My sister, your aunt, remains unavenged. Besides, dear Luv... I must say, I am sad that you have not surrendered into a generous slavery... I did think one day we could have been friends again after all this was over,” Shai nods at me, pretending to sound reasonable, “I can’t wait to see this mighty, infamous Horde, known for it’s strength in it’s leadership...to fall so easily.”
“You’ve come to kill my mother,” I growl, “Haven’t you?”
“What? Oh... yes-” Shai hesitates as Hael and Lochness both take a threatening step forward, ”Not yet. Not quickly,” Shai adds, “I’ll do it indirectly. Like this...” she raises her hands and utters a few words.
Madeline gasps as Lochness and Hael, freeze... and starting from their feet... they start to harden and turn orange... into the stone of this mountain.
“Amadahy,” I grab her elbow and look at her, waiting for her to do something.
She just remains still and turns to me slowly, shaking her head.
There was nothing she could do.
“You bitch,” Madeline snarls out to Shai as Hael and Lochness both look at each other and then back at her in a panic.
Just as my father’s torsos harden and still... the rest of them quickly follows suit, until they are both solid stone.
“Indirect?” I whisper, as Madeline dramatically puts a hand to her heart and hunches over, her eyes scrunching up in pain.
“They’re dead in this form,” Shai whispers, her eyes flashing red with menace, “Only I can save them. So now you won’t even attempt to kill me... and I get to see how the Requiem Horde fares - without it’s famous leaders directing them to a victory.”
Shai turns back into ash and disappears, while I turn to see Thaddeus and Sylvan standing with Ethne and Summer, in the entrance where the door was thrown off the hinges.
There eyes are wide... as they had also watched Hael and Lochness turn to stone.
“The war has begun,” Amadahy speaks for me as I am lost for words, “Everyone prepare to fight to the death.”
“Luvenia,” Thaddeus comes into the room and I hold up a hand.
“You heard her, everyone do what you can... we’re at war,” I snap this and my mates hesitate only a second before they disappear into their mist, while Summer runs into embrace Madeline.
“I have a plan to stop the war,” Amadahy heads to Ethne and grabs her arm, “Follow me...” she leaves and I am left still standing in shock.
“I can’t,” Madeline collapses in Summer’s arms and Summer has to hold her up as my mother begins to sob, and it sounds like she can not stop.
“There is still hope,” I murmur, glancing at my father’s stone forms and feeling nothing from them.
“Did you not hear her?” Summer asks me, “They’re dead in that form... which means Madeline feels the severed connection between the mating bond.”
Madeline pushes away from Summer’s embrace with uncontrollable tears running down her red cheeks, which were as red as her hair in her panic.
“Mum?” I ask her quietly, not sure what to do, “Can you find strength? Shai wants you to... give into your... into the...” I can’t make myself say it, “You need to be strong. There is still hope. Can you fight?”
“I can’t feel... anything,” Madeline falls to her knees and tries to push Summer away when she tries to grab her again to comfort her, “Everyone get out.”
“But mum -”
"Get out,” Madeline looks up, lost in a rage as she reaches for her throat and pulls off the leather collar, tossing it aside.
“This way,” Summer grabs my arm and leads me out, “I will ask Aneurin to guard her-”
“Don’t bother,” I whisper, dragging Summer further down the hall so I can explain, “No one will come to slaughter my mother. Shai wants Madeline to kill herself. It is why she said she’ll kill her... indirectly. I need to get Shai to see reason.”
“Madeline is strong. She will not do that. Shai wants to go to war, how will you convince her now if they have the upper hand?” Summer asks me.
I think about Sylvan’s prophecy about Madeline saving us all and dying for it.
Luvenia, Layla connects with me, Luv, we’re being slaughtered. Hael never gave the command to fight back. We’ve been holding them back, but it’s already a blood bath in the lower corridors. Some safe rooms have been compromised. Sylvan and Thaddeus have been suggested to lead, but I need an offical confirmation from someone in the Royal family. Should they lead?
“No,” I whisper aloud, while also replying within my head, “No one else will die. We will surrender.”
Luvenia? Layla asks me, unsure if I mean it.
But I do.
We’re surrendering, right now. Trust me. It’s the only way we’ll gain the upper hand.