Chapter no 29

A Dawn of Onyx

Bleeding Stones.

Halden held Leigh at arm’s length, disbelief in his eyes. “Leigh? What are you doing here?”

But too quickly he put the pieces together and scanned the stable for my face. There was no hiding now. I emerged from the stall.

“Arwen,” his face hardened. Leigh looked from him to me, and her face fell. She had always been too perceptive.

Inching her way back, she stood behind me.

I knew I’d have to beg. “Please. Just let us leave.”

He shook his head, as if he was dreading this as much as I was. “Why didn’t you meet me? It was because of him—”


“He’s here, isn’t he?”

“No,” I lied. I knew as soon as it fell from my mouth that it wasn’t convincing. I had gotten better, but not good enough to fool someone who had known me all my life.

“He’d never leave you.”

My stomach twisted, threatening to surge up my throat. Halden stalked toward me, and I drew my sword. Leigh stifled a gasp.

“You’re right,” came Kane’s cold, velvety voice from the darkness. “Clever kid.” Kane stepped out slowly, palms up and open to Halden.

No, no, no.

I couldn’t let Halden take him back to Lazarus. Halden reached for his sword, but Kane shook his head. “I don’t want to fight you.”

I held my sword tightly. “I am begging you. Halden. Nobody would

know. Just let us go.” “I can’t do that.”

I couldn’t tell in the shadows if he felt any remorse.

“Then take me,” Kane said. “Let them go. I’ll go to my father willingly.”

My body shuddered, but I kept my mouth shut. Kane would be fine—he was Fae.

Halden shifted on his feet—an excruciating pause, and then, “I can’t do that either.”

Kane nodded, a horrifying resolve crossing his face. “So, he knows.” “Knows what?” I asked. My voice sounded shrill and not my own.

Before either could answer me, Kane launched himself at Halden with a guttural growl. They flew violently into the bales of hay behind us. Leigh shrieked and I took off running, dragging her with me. But as we rounded out of the stables, I stopped short, whipping Leigh into my hip bone.

A herd of soldiers was walking past, headed for the castle, now a towering bonfire amid the palms. Leigh peered up at me, more fear than I had ever known shining in her eyes.

“Shh,” I said. And we inched back into the stables. It was even worse inside.

Halden’s battalion had found him, and Kane was on his knees, held down by six Amber soldiers.

I could hear my heart break in my eardrums as I beheld his beaten face. Realizing I had nowhere else to run, Halden came up behind me and grasped my arms, forcing my sword to clatter on the ground. Leigh screamed as two soldiers pulled her from me.

“No!” I cried.

“I never thought our last embrace would be like this,” Halden said against my neck. Acid churned in my stomach.

“How can you do this? What happened to you?”

“I don’t know, guess you never—” Fueled by pure rage, and zero interest in hearing the rest of that sentence, I smashed the back of my head into his nose with all the strength I had.

A satisfying crunch reverberated through my skull, and I dug the heel of

my boot into his instep. Halden let out a strangled squeal, releasing me, and I lunged for my sword.

He groaned and grasped at his face as a faucet of blood let loose, spilling between his fingers.

And I relished it. Every last drop.

I hurtled toward the guard that held Kane’s right arm, dodging the other men who dove to catch me. But I was faster—I swung my sword at the one soldier, forcing him to either release Kane and duck, or lose his head.

With wide eyes he chose the former and freed Kane’s hand for a mere, split second to dodge my strike.

Two more guards found me, grasping at my hair, my arms, my waist, and taking me down to the dusty hay of the stable floor.

But it was all Kane needed.

I whimpered, a knee in my back crushing my windpipe, as I watched Kane, with only one free hand, take out the rest of the men that held him down, easily and with ferocious delight. Snapping, crunching, and squelching rang through the wooden barn, and when I wrestled free for the briefest moment all I could see was a heap of unconscious Amber bodies.

Kane pulled the two men off of me effortlessly, and threw them each into the walls behind us with two stomach-turning thuds. I plunged my sword into a third soldier’s thigh and ran for Halden.

“Arwen—” He pleaded from the ground.

I kicked my ashy boot into his temple hard enough to knock him out.

Blood roaring in my ears, I hoped to never hear him say my name again.

Kane got to Leigh before me and the two men that held her let go instantly, backing away from his hulking, terrifying form.

“Smart,” he seethed, and scooped Leigh up in his arms. “Very smart.” Then, to me, “Come on.”

I regarded Halden’s unconscious body with one last look and ran after Kane.

We raced for the castle, but— It…was gone.

My throat constricted as I inhaled pure ash, and hacked a cough.

The entire fortress was ablaze and crumbling. A billowing black fog of smoke and ash like a thundercloud amid the rolling hills. The crackle of wood echoed through the night.

But we didn’t have time to stare.

Two salamanders crawled toward us with menace, Garnet soldiers atop them, guiding them in our direction.

“This way,” Kane bit out.

Sweating, coughing—I peeked back behind us. A mistake.

Another herd of soldiers, these in Amber uniforms, were headed for us from behind the stables. They must have seen us as soon as we left Halden and his men. Marching with purpose and flanked by at least fifty more, we were stuck.

A sob choked out of me.

I knew we needed to keep moving, but there was nowhere to go.

Shit, shit shit.

Kane looked up at the night sky with something like acceptance. He released a long exhale.

“I’m sorry,” was all he said.

With one hand still holding Leigh to him and another pressed outward toward the soldiers, he closed his eyes.

It was hard to see in the dark, and the billowing clouds of smoke had blotted out any moonlight that might have illuminated the scene before me. Still, I watched as a single pitch-black tendril of shadow, as if with a mind of its own, wove through the army marching toward us. Splintering off into vines of black ribbon, silently, every single soldier in front of him was smothered by the dark, twisted specters. Agonized cries for mercy pierced through the night but Kane didn’t relent. He focused harder, conjuring darkness and thorns and shadow and dust. Choking, sputtering, the men fell one by one. Kane didn’t move a single muscle, but his jaw was steel, his eyes ruthless and blazing.

My blood turned to ice, my throat closing with a strangled gasp. I knew what he was. I knew what he must have been capable of.

Still, nothing could have prepared me for the monstrousness of his predatory, fatal power—the instantaneous death of so many men.

I backed away instinctively.

“Run,” he bit out, dropping Leigh to the ground, so he could use both his hands. “Make it to the beach.”

I knew what he was. I had accepted it.

But the vicious, thorned wisps had sprouted from the very earth and destroyed—no, decimated and decayed—each man. One moment, alive, enraged, ready to kill—the next, a pile of ash carried on a wind.

It was enough to seize the air from my lungs and turn my stomach to sloshing water.

“Go!” he roared at us.

I had to move. We had to move.

I whirled, taking Leigh’s hand and did as he said—running as much away from him as toward the hope of safety. The salamanders still blocked our path back toward the castle, and thus the caves to the beach, but a second wave of inky blackness descended on the salamanders in front of us, drowning them in a suffocating tidal wave of shadow. The creatures spit out fire in retaliation and I ducked, shielding Leigh in my arms but it never reached us. Instead the fire turned to ash midair and rained down on the grassy hills like sickly snow, lit by moonlight and darkness and death.

We kept running, past the smoke billowing out of the burnt castle and toward the beach.

Amber and Garnet soldiers were everywhere, reveling in the screams, as they dragged pleading souls out of the armory and the blacksmith. Blood pooled in the dirt and grass in little puddles, our feet splashing in them like a rainy day.

We dodged through shrieking people and burning structures, past warring soldiers, sword fights, and gore I would never be able to strip from my mind, let alone Leigh’s.

Upon passing a dismembered corpse, I whispered to her to close her eyes.

But I knew she wouldn’t.

The Fae King had done this. Had destroyed this peaceful capital of earth

and flowers and saltwater. Reduced it to a bloody, burnt husk.

He had to die.

He had to, for what he had done. Kane would make sure of it.

Finally, we made it to the stone outcropping that sheltered the beach.

“Follow me,” I whispered to Leigh, heart in my throat, as we trudged through the caves surrounding the cove. Our feet were cold, ankles itchy with saltwater and rough sand. Only the sound of crashing waves and faint battle cries penetrated the still caves. That and our ragged, desperate breaths.

Through the end of one cavern, I could just make out the beach. Soldiers warred on the sands, the now abrasive sound of metal on metal like a violent chorus rattling in my skull. On the far edge of the cove the enemies had built an encampment of sorts, surrounded by cannons and fire-breathing beasts, and a row of soldiers behind that.

If we could make it past that we could reach the fully rigged ships, where they were anchored in the shallower water near the cliffs. Except—only ships with Amber’s leafy emblem filled Siren’s Bay. Where were Peridot’s? “They must have sunk the others,” said Kane. I nearly smacked my head

on the stone behind me in my shock.

Where had he come from?

The instinct to wrap my arms around him and rejoice in his safety was tempered by the memory of his strange power. I took a step back. Leigh seemed to feel the same, sliding behind me ever so slightly.

“You’re afraid of me.” He said, face dark. It wasn’t a question, but I still couldn’t fathom a response. He swallowed hard. “We’ll have to take one of their ships.”

“What about everyone else?”

“I’m sure that’s what they’re thinking, too.” If they made it this far. He didn’t have to say it.

I squinted into the darkness. The moon was a pale, glimmering reflection in the ocean waves and a strange contrast to the bloodshed on the sand before us. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed movement near the sea.

Not the chaos of battle, but an anchor floating out of the ocean, moving of its own accord.

“There,” I gestured to Kane. “That’s got to be Mari.” He quirked a brow at me. “The redhead’s a witch?”

Ugh. Now was not the time for this conversation. “Yes, and Briar Creighton’s amulet isn’t in your study anymore. Also, we almost killed your pet strix.”

The shock on Kane’s face would have brought me great delight at any other time. “You what?” He shook his head. “Acorn? He’d never hurt anyone.”

I wanted very badly to tell him a thing or two about keeping secrets but getting to safety had to come first. Lessons on hypocrisy later.

He dragged a hand down his face. “Briar’s amulet doesn’t contain her magic. That’s just a myth.”

“So what is it?”

“A rather lovely and expensive piece of jewelry.”

My eyes went wide. “So all the magic Mari’s done…”

“That’s all her.” He reached down to scoop up Leigh. “All right, come on.

Let’s go.”

But she flinched away.

I stepped in front of her. “I’ve got her.”

Kane’s jaw hardened, but his eyes were focused. “Fine. I’ll be behind you.”

I took a deep breath.

“One more thing,” he said, his voice soft. “Keep your head clear. Both of you. No thoughts in or out.”

Queasy suspicion pooled in my stomach. “Why?”

“I’m not sure if he’s here, but if he is, Lazarus can enter your mind. Don’t give him the ammunition to find you.”

Wonderful. I trembled with panic and fear and fury. We just had to make it to the ship.

I carried Leigh in my arms, and moved slowly, ducking behind rocks and cliffs and branches. We drew closer to the barracks of armed men, in silver

armor I hadn’t seen before. Dread curled low in my stomach.

I cleared my mind.

Clouds, empty space. Nothing. Nobody. Silence.

We were so close. A few yards ahead, a flash of red hair tucked behind a palm tree filled my heart with hope. Just a few more steps…

“Going somewhere?” A voice like silk laced with venom, and far more deadly, spoke to us with peculiar calm.

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