Chapter no 24

A Dawn of Onyx

I was being cooked alive. The Onyx summer was relentless, and the warmth was intensified inside our stuffy carriage. Mari and I had been

assured by Griffin and the four other soldiers with us that Peridot was only a week’s ride away, but by day two it already felt longer.

When I asked Griffin why we weren’t traveling by dragon again, he had said the dragon was ‘more of a symbol for Onyx power than a mode of transport’ in that signature dry way of his.

Still, the dragon would have been less hot.

I watched Onyx’s landscape pass by through the carriage window while Mari slept. I was shocked to find myself missing Shadowhold. Maybe it was the constant smell of lilac in the air, or the gothic library and its wrought iron chandeliers. Gardenia against stone. Velvet chairs and Kane’s grin.

I missed my work in the apothecary and all the faces I’d likely never see again. Dagan’s furrowed brow. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I had fought a Fae creature and won with everything he had taught me. I wondered if I’d ever get to tell him of my battle. He would be so proud. I hadn’t even gotten to say goodbye.

The moments after Kane left had been a blur. Griffin sent soldiers with me as I threw the few belongings I had in a sack, whirling around my room like a tornado. The burrowroot was still safely lodged in my satchel, and I gathered the remaining ingredients for the concoction from the apothecary before we were rushed out of the keep for good.

On our first night in the carriage, I confessed everything to Mari, who played a masterful game of catch up. We covered the impending doom of

the continent, Fae history lesson, horrific wolf-induced wound, Kane’s immortality and overall not-humanness, and the deeply inappropriate corners of my mind that despite all of the above wanted to strip him bare and lick him from head to toe.

Mari wasn’t her usual sunshine self, of course. Upon hearing the news of the war’s advancement—Fae-related details were kept under wraps—her father rode for a small town outside of the capital to gather his sister and her six children. Mari didn’t know if he’d meet her in Peridot, and she was trying to keep the thought from her mind entirely.

Mostly though, I missed Kane. It had only been two days, and I knew I wasn’t missing him as much as preparing to miss him. It seemed very unlikely he would come hide out in Peridot with me anytime soon with this kind of war against his father on the horizon. A chasm had opened in my heart, and I felt like I was drowning inside of it.

The carriage slowed to a halt, shaking me from my longing, and Mari from her sleep. The sun had gone down and we pulled off in front of a strange, lopsided inn with a thatched roof.

“Where are we?” I called out of the window.

“Serpent Spring, and keep your voices down,” Griffin said, before tying up his horse and heading inside.

“He is so bossy,” Mari said, shaking out her red curls. Sleep had set them askew, and she looked like a frayed edge. “Hand me my books? And that cloak? Come on, hurry up,” she added, as she climbed outside into the dull evening heat.

I rolled my eyes.


The inn was sweltering and disconcertingly empty. Griffin, Mari, and I ate a late supper at a rickety wooden table. We were alone, save for a snoring older man with a handlebar mustache and two rowdy local boys well into their fifth drinks of the night.

“In this one, I found a few mentions of Fae society, but nothing about a power source,” Mari continued, poring over the leather-bound tome on the

table beside her stew. She was over the moon about the new insight into the history of the Fae, and had spent all subsequent waking hours on the journey thus far researching.

“Quieter, please.” Griffin’s jaw tightened as he rubbed at his temples. He was not a fan of Mari’s, it seemed. Even less so when, after needing his expertise on a few Fae related questions, we had admitted to him that she knew about Lazarus and the Fae Realm. I wondered if he resented babysitting the object of his king’s affection and her best friend when a battle such as this one was brewing.

“I know, I know, the whole concept of a book is so hard for you.” Mari said. “These are words,” she enunciated slowly, before turning back to me. I covered my laugh with a bite of potato.

“All I’m asking for is discretion. You weren’t supposed to know any of this,” Griffin shot a pointed look in my direction. “And you never know who could be listening.”

Mari nodded in a fake display of sincerity, her brown eyes big and innocent. “You’re right. I think Sleepy behind us is working for the enemy. Good eye, Commander.”

Griffin stared down at his stew, possibly contemplating all of his life choices. I shot him my best thank you for bringing her along smile. He got up from the table, leaving his dinner behind.

“Mar, why do you antagonize him?”

Mari looked back at her book while she shoveled a spoonful into her mouth.

“I don’t mean to.” I glared at her.

“Anyways,” she continued, lowering her voice. “I’m not sure why lighte is what interests you the most out of what Kane told you. There’s nothing in here about it.”

Damn. “That’s the whole issue. Even if by some unlikely odds we defeat this king—”

“Which I don’t see happening.” I shot her another glare.

“Sorry,” she added.

“Even if we did, there are tens of thousands of mortals and Fae living in a hellscape realm. It isn’t right. And we can’t save their lands or bring them here without learning more about Lighte.”

I pushed my plate away from me. My stomach had soured and suddenly nothing sounded worse than the starchy, grainy mush.

Mari eyed me suspiciously. “Since when do you care so much? About a realm you only learned of five days ago?”

I couldn’t really answer her. I wasn’t sure. The feeling of helplessness was an all too familiar one. One I had experienced every day of my life until I came to Onyx. But I had learned to live without my family. To sword fight, to be bold. I had survived an attack from a fae mercenary. And now Kane was leaning on me, counting on me—he had called it relentless positivity, but despite all the helplessness, there was another feeling blossoming inside me.

And maybe it was hope.


The patchwork blanket was rough against my skin and the bed smelled of mothballs and sour laundry. I turned to my other side to see if somehow that configuration would be more comfortable.

It wasn’t.

The pillow was hot against my cheek no matter which way I flipped it, and the stagnant air of the inn was suffocating me. I threw on my boots and made my way down the stairs before I knew where I was going.

Outside, the cool air was like a caress against my face. I took a deep inhale of obsidian wheat and cut grass. I had fallen a bit in love with the rough Onyx land. Lemongrass, lilac, lavender. The sticky, sweet fragrances of my childhood town now felt cloying in my memory.

I poured water from the inn’s well into my cupped palms and splashed my face. The sound of metal on metal surprised me, and I turned to see two men fighting in the distance. When one called out for mercy my legs began moving of their own accord.

It wasn’t yet morning, so I rubbed my eyes and squinted into the dim light, looking for some kind of weapon to stop them. All I saw was a long piece of wood.

That would have to do.

I ran toward the men, prepared to break up the fight with a branch, when I heard a deep peal of male laughter.

The exhale that puffed out of me was almost comical.

Griffin was shirtless and dripping sweat. His blond hair was matted to his forehead. Across from him, a mop-headed young soldier that we had been traveling with lunged. Griffin parried the overhead blow with ease then clocked him in the head with his pommel.


“Less talking, more focus on your distance. You’re getting too close,” said Griffin. His eyebrows perked up when he saw me.

“Morning, healer.” Griffin ducked under the next attack and hit the boy in the stomach with his other hand.

“If I had my dagger, Rolph, you’d be dead.”

Rolph dropped his sword and flopped down on a nearby bale of hay. “All right. I’m dead.”

“What kind of attitude is that?” Griffin asked, but Rolph had already stalked back toward the well, surely for water and to tend to his bruised ego.

“You could go a little easier on him,” I said, picking up his discarded weapon.

“And then what would he learn?”

I turned the sword over in my hands. “You could be a little easier on Mari, too.”

Griffin’s playful energy shifted. “Did she say that? That I was hard on her?”

I shook my head. “No, I’m saying that.” Griffin hummed a non-answer.

I had missed the feeling of steel in my hands. The power I felt when I wielded a sword.

“Care for a wager?”

Griffin raised a sweating brow at me. “You’ve been spending too much time with our King,” he said. Then, after a moment, “Try me.”

“If I can land a single blow on you, even one, you have to say something kind to Mari. A genuine compliment.”

Griffin rolled his eyes. “What are we, school children?” I grinned.

“Fine. If you can’t though, what do I get?”

I thought for a beat. “Griffin, I don’t think I know anything about you. At all, actually. What would you want?”

“A silent dinner tonight. If I have to play sitter for you two until we reach Siren’s Cove, at least make it tolerable.”

“You’re terrible. And boring.”

Now it was Griffin’s turn to grin. “It’s the little things.”

Before I could respond he came at me, sword flying. I parried as many blows as I could, but a few hits landed on my arms, abdomen, and back. Griffin had experience teaching, it seemed, as each blow was harnessed with such skill they would hurtle toward me with speed but land with nothing more than a sting. Griffin’s style was much faster and scrappier than Dagan’s, tossing his sword from right hand to left and jumping over my attempted low blows.

Ten minutes later, my legs could barely keep me standing up. “All right, all right,” I panted. “Enough.”

Griffin shot me an infuriating grin. I blew the hair out of my face like an aggravated horse. Griffin laughed. “Don’t be too glum. You’re much better than I expected. The old man taught you well.”

“Did Kane tell you?”

Griffin nodded, but behind his eyes was something I couldn’t place. “Get cleaned up. We head out in an hour.”

I huffed. So much for strong, powerful, Fae-slaying Arwen.

“You could be decent with a bit more practice. Let me know if you want to keep working on it.”

I paused. “I thought you hated me.”

Griffin’s expression barely changed, but his eyes had grown solemn.

“No, healer. I don’t hate you.” He heaved a sigh and sat down on the barrel of hay beside me. The sun was just beginning to rise, and the flickers of light picked up golden strands in his hair.

A thought dawned on me, something I had been wondering for months now.

“Griffin, why did you chase after Kane that day in the infirmary? He wasn’t really an escaped prisoner.”

A rueful smile tugged at the commander’s cheeks. It was still strange to see him grin.

“He needed to be healed, but didn’t want to tell you who he was just yet. We argued about it,” Griffin’s jaw tightened at the memory. “He gave me the slip.”

A laugh popped out of me. “You chased him down?”

Griffin’s grin was gone, though. “My job is to protect my king. You are

—” He scratched at his chin, trying to find the words. “Dangerous for him.”

I scoffed. “Right. The great Kane Ravenwood taken down by Arwen from Abbington. I’m terrified.”

Griffin stood. “It is no laughing matter. He cannot have a single weakness when he goes up against Lazarus, and yet, you are his. Nothing could be more perilous for Evendell.”


That night, after yet another suffocating carriage ride, we sat down at a different little inn. This one was owned by a sweet, plump family, and smelled strongly of pork.

Dinner was an awkward event. While the rest of the guards we traveled with sat around the inn’s dormant hearth—it was far too warm for even a single flame—drinking ale and telling stories, the three of us sat in aggressive silence, picking at our food. Mari was displeased, to say the least, about my silent dinner bargain. I had to sway her with the promise of three new books when we arrived in Peridot.

The silence was deafening, but the looks between my two dinner guests

were even worse. Mari glared at Griffin with the fury of a soaked cat. Griffin was the embodiment of smug calm, which only made Mari angrier.

The minutes ticked by torturously. I ate as quickly as I could. Mari stared at Griffin until her anger seemed to shift into something else altogether. Her eyes shifted and his peace turned into suspicion.

I didn’t dare ask what was going on.

Suddenly Mari turned bright red and looked down at her food. It seemed the poorly cooked pork had become very fascinating in the last minute. I looked from my pork to hers but didn’t see anything of note.

I peered back up at Griffin. He was watching Mari’s averted chocolate eyes, with something like remorse.

He cleared his throat.

“Your hair is radiant. Like sunshine after a storm.”

Mari’s mouth fell open, and Griffin stood up abruptly, his too-long legs banging the table and making the cutlery jump. He left the table early for the second night in a row.

“What…was that?” I asked her. She looked even more shocked than I did.

“I have no idea,” Mari said, for the first time since I’d known her. Maybe in her life. She ran an idle finger through her curls and went back to her dinner.

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