Chapter no 6

Fourth Wing (The Empyrean Book 1)

Flames of agony engulf my upper arm and chest as Dain carries me through the lower, covered passage out of the Riders Quadrant, over the ravine, and into the Healer Quadrant. It’s basically a stone bridge, covered and sided with more stone, which pretty much makes it a suspended tunnel with a few windows, but I’m not thinking clearly enough to take it in as we rush through, his strides eating up the distance.

“Almost there,” he reassures me, his grip firm but careful on my rib cage and beneath my knees as my useless arm rests on my chest.

“Everyone saw you lose it,” I whisper, doing my best to mentally block the pain like I have countless times before. It’s usually as easy as building a mental wall around the pulsing torment in my body, then telling myself the pain only exists in that box so I can’t feel it, but it isn’t working so well this time.

“I didn’t lose it.” He kicks the door three times when we reach it.

“You shouted and carried me out of there like I mean something to you.” I focus on the scar on his jaw, the stubble on his tan skin, anything to keep from feeling the utter destruction in my shoulder.

“You do mean something to me.” He kicks again.

And now everyone knows.

The door swings open and Winifred, a healer who has been at my side too many times to mention, stands back so Dain can carry me in. “Another injury? You riders certainly are trying to fill our beds to- Oh no, Violet?” Her eyes fly wide.

“Hi, Winifred,” I manage over the pain.

“This way.” She leads us into the infirmary, a long hall of beds, half of which are full of people in rider black. Healers do not have magic, relying on traditional tinctures and medical training to heal as best they can, but menders do. Hopefully Nolon’s around tonight, since he’s been mending me for the last five years.

The signet of mending is exceptionally rare among riders. They have the power to fix, to restore, to return anything to its original state-from ripped cloth to pulverized bridges, including broken human bones. My brother, Brennan, was a mender-and would have become one of the greatest had he lived.

Dain gently lays me onto the bed Winifred brings us to, then she leans into the edge of the mattress, near my hip. Every creased line in her face is a comfort as she strokes a weathered hand across my forehead. “Helen, go get Nolon,” Winifred orders a healer in her forties walking by.

“No!” Dain barks, panic lacing his tone.

Excuse me?

The middle-aged healer glances between Dain and Winifred, clearly torn.

“Helen, this is Violet Sorrengail, and if Nolon finds out she was here and you didn’t call him, well…that’s on you,” Winifred says in a deceptively calm tenor.

“Sorrengail?” the healer repeats, her voice rising.

I try to focus on Dain through the throbbing in my shoulder, but the room is starting to spin. I want to ask him why wouldn’t he want my shoulder mended, but another wave of pain threatens to pull me into unconsciousness and all I can do is moan.

“Get Nolon or he will let his dragon eat you alive, sour face and all, Helen.” Winifred arches a silver eyebrow as she ignores Dain insisting again not to call the mender.

The woman blanches and disappears.

Dain pulls a wooden chair closer to my bed, and it scrapes the floor with a god-awful sound. “Violet, I know you’re hurting, but maybe…”

“Maybe what, Dain Aetos? You want to see her suffer?” Winifred lectures. “I told her they’d break you,” she mutters as she leans over me, her gray eyes full of worry as she assesses me. Winifred is the best healer Basgiath has, and she prepares every tonic she prescribes herself-and has seen me through more scrapes than I care to count over the years. “Would she listen to me? Absolutely not. Your mother is so damned stubborn.”

She reaches for my injured arm, and I wince as she raises it a couple of inches, prods my shoulder.

“Well, that’s certainly broken.” Winifred tsks, raising her brows at the sight of my arm. “And it looks like we need a surgeon for that shoulder.

What happened?” she asks Dain.

“Sparring,” I explain in one word.

“You hush. Save your energy.” Winifred looks back at Dain. “Make yourself useful, boy, and pull the curtain around us. The fewer people who see her injured, the better.”

He jumps to his feet and quickly complies, drawing the blue fabric around us to make a small but effective room, separating us from the other riders who have been brought in.

“Drink this.” Winifred brings out a vial of amber liquid from her belt. “It will handle the pain while we get you sorted.”

“You can’t ask him to mend her,” Dain protests as she uncorks the glass.

“The pair of us have been mending her for the past five years,” she lectures, bringing the vial closer. “Don’t start telling me what I can and cannot do.”

Dain slides one hand under my back, the other under my head, helping me slightly upright so I can get the liquid down. It’s bitter like always as I swallow, but I know it will do the trick. He settles me back on the bed and turns to Winifred. “I don’t want her in pain-that’s why we’re here. But if she’s injured this severely, surely we can see if the scribes will take her as a late admission. It’s only been a day.”

As his reasoning for not wanting a mender sinks in, my anger is able to pierce through the pain long enough for me to bite out, “I’m not going to the scribes.”

Then I sigh, closing my eyes as a pleasant hum races through my veins. Soon there’s enough distance between me and the pain to think somewhat clearly as I force my eyes open again.

At least, I think it’s soon, but there’s a conversation going on I clearly haven’t been paying attention to, so it’s obviously been a few minutes.

The curtain whips back and Nolon walks in, leaning heavily on his cane. He smiles at his wife, his bright white teeth contrasting his brown skin. “You sent for me, my-” His smile falters as he sees me. “Violet?”

“Hi, Nolon.” I force my mouth to curve upward. “I’d wave, butone ofmyarms doesn’t workand theother feels realllllyheavy.” Good gods, am I slurring my words?

“Leigheas serum.” Winifred offers her husband a crooked smile.

“She’s with you, Dain?” Nolon turns an accusing look on Dain, and I feel all of fifteen years old again, being hauled in because I broke my ankle while we were climbing somewhere we shouldn’t have been.

“I’m her squad leader,” Dain replies, scooting out of Nolon’s way so the mender can get closer. “Putting her under my command was the only thing I could think of to keep her safe.”

“Not doing such a good job, are you?” Nolon’s eyes narrow.

“It was assessment day for hand-to-hand,” Dain explains. “Imogen- she’s a second-year-dislocated Violet’s shoulder and broke her arm.”

“On assessment day?” Nolon growls, cutting away the fabric of my short-sleeve shirt with his dagger. The man is eighty-four if he’s a day, and he still dresses in rider black, sheathed with all his weapons.

“Hermotherwasssss. OneofFennnnRiorson’s sepppara-sepppara- sssseparatisssts,” I explain slowly, trying to enunciate and failing. “And I’mmmmmaSorrengail, so I getit.”

“I don’t,” Nolon grumbles. “I’ve never agreed with the way they conscripted those kids to the Riders Quadrant as punishment for the sins of their parents. We have never forced conscripts into that quadrant. Ever. And for a very good reason. Most cadets don’t survive-which was likely the point, I suspect. Regardless, you certainly shouldn’t have to suffer for the honor of your mother. General Sorrengail saved Navarre by capturing the Great Betrayer.”

“So you won’t mend her, right?” Dain asks softly so he can’t be heard outside the curtain. “I’m just asking that the healers do their work and let nature take the time it needs. No magic. She doesn’t stand a chance if she goes back in there in a cast or has to defend herself while her shoulder heals from reconstruction surgery. The last one took her four months. This is our chance to get her out of the Riders Quadrant while she’s still breathing.”

“I’mnotgoingtothesibes.” So much for not slurring. “Sibes,” I try again.

“SIBES.” Oh, fuck it. “Mendme.”

“I will always mend you,” Nolon promises.

“Just. This. Once.” I concentrate on every word. “If. The others. See I need. Mending. Allthetime, they’ll. Think. I’m weak.”

“Which is why we have to use this opportunity to get you out!” Panic rises in Dain’s voice, and my heart sinks. He can’t protect me from everything, and watching me break, watching me eventually die is going to ruin him. “Walking out of here and going straight to the Scribe Quadrant is your best chance at survival.”

I glare at Dain and choose my words carefully. “I’m not. Leavingtheriders. Just so Mom. Canthrowmeback. I’m. Staying.” I turn my head and the room spins as I look for Nolon. “Mend me…but justthisonce.”

“You know it’s going to hurt like hell and will still ache for a couple of weeks, right?” Nolon asks, sitting down in the chair beside my bed and staring at my shoulder.

I nod. This isn’t my first mending. When you’re as brittle as I was born, the pain of mending is only second to the pain of the original injury. Basically another Tuesday.

“Please, Vi,” Dain begs quietly. “Please switch quadrants. If not for you, then for me-because I didn’t step in fast enough. I should have stopped her. I can’t protect you.”

I wish I’d figured out his plan before taking Winifred’s potion, so I could have explained better. None of this is his fault, but he’s going to shoulder the blame just like he always does. Instead, I take a deep breath and say, “I made mychoice.”

“Get back to the quadrant, Dain,” Nolon orders without looking up. “If she was any other first-year, you would already be gone.”

Dain’s anguished gaze holds mine, and I insist, “Go. I’ll findyouat formmmmation inthe morning.” I don’t want him to see this anyway.

He swallows the defeat and nods once, then turns and walks through the separation in the curtains without another word. I sincerely hope my choice today doesn’t end up destroying my best friend later.

“Ready?” Nolon asks, his hands hovering above my shoulder.

“Bite down.” Winifred holds a strap of leather in front of my mouth, and I take it between my teeth.

“Here we go,” Nolon mutters, lifting his hands over my shoulder. His brow furrows in concentration before he makes a twisting motion.

White-hot agony erupts in my shoulder. My teeth slice into the leather as I scream, bearing down for one heartbeat, then two before blacking out.

The barracks are nearly full by the time I make my way back later that night, my throbbing right arm cradled in a light-blue sling that makes me an even bigger target, if that’s possible.

Slings say weak. They say breakable. They say liability to the wing. If I break this easily on the mat, what’s going to happen if I get on the back of a dragon?

The sun has long since gone down, but the hall is lit by the soft glow of mage lights as the other first-year women get ready for bed. I offer a smile to a girl who’s holding a blood-speckled cloth to her swollen lip, and she returns it with a wince.

I count three empty bunks in our row, but that doesn’t mean those cadets are dead, right? They could be in the Healer Quadrant just like I was, or maybe they’re in the bathing chambers.

“You’re here!” Rhiannon jumps off her bed, already dressed in her sleeping shorts and top, relief in her eyes and smile as she sees me.

“I’m here,” I assure her. “I’m already down one shirt, but I’m here.”

“You can get another at central issue tomorrow.” She looks like she might hug me but glances at my sling and backs up a step, sitting on the edge of her bunk as I do the same with mine, facing her. “How bad is it?”

“It’s going to hurt for the next few days, but I’ll be fine as long as I keep it immobilized. I’ll be all healed up before we start on-mat challenges.”

I have two weeks to figure out how to keep this from happening again.

“I’ll help you get ready,” she promises. “You’re the only friend I have in here, so I’d rather you didn’t die when it gets real.” A corner of her mouth lifts in a wry smile.

“I’ll try my best not to.” I grin through the throbbing ache in my shoulder and arm. The tonic has long since worn off, and it’s starting to hurt like hell. “And I’ll help you with history.” I brace my weight on my left hand, and it slides just beneath my pillow.

There’s something there.

“We’ll be unstoppable,” Rhiannon declares, her gaze tracking Tara, the dark-haired, curvy girl from Morraine, as she walks past our bunks.

I pull out a small book-no, it’s a journal-with a folded note on top that says Violet in Mira’s handwriting. One-handed, I open the note.


I stayed long enough to read the rolls this morning, and you aren’t on them, thank gods. I can’t stay. I’m needed back with my wing, and even if I could stay, they wouldn’t let me see you anyway. I bribed a scribe to sneak this into your bunk. I hope you know how proud I am to be your sister. Brennan wrote this for me the summer before I entered the quadrant. It saved me, and it can save you, too. I added my own bits of hard-earned wisdom here and there, but mostly it’s his, and I know he’d want you to have it. He’d want you to live.



I swallow past the knot in my throat and set the note aside.

“What is it?” Rhiannon asks.

“It’s my brother’s.” The words barely make it past my lips as I open the cover. Mother burned everything he owned after he died, as tradition dictates. It’s been ages since I’ve seen the bold strokes of his handwriting, and yet there they are. My chest tightens and a fresh wave of grief sweeps through me. “The book of Brennan,” I read along with the first page and then flip to the second.


You’re a Sorrengail, so you will survive. Perhaps not as spectacularly as I have, but we all can’t live up to my standards, can we? All kidding aside, this is everything I’ve learned. Keep it safe. Keep it hidden. You have to live, because Violet is watching. You can’t let her see you fall. Brennan.

Tears prick my eyes, but I blink them back. “It’s just his journal,” I lie, thumbing through the pages. I can hear his quippy, sarcastic tone as I skim over his words, as though he’s standing here, making light of every danger with a wink and a grin. Damn, I miss him. “He died five years ago.”

“Oh, that’s…” Rhiannon leans in, her eyes heavy with sympathy. “We don’t always burn everything, either. Sometimes it’s nice to have something, you know?”

“Yeah,” I whisper. It’s everything to have this, and yet I know Mom will toss it in the fire if she ever finds it.

Rhiannon sits back on her bed, opening her history book, and I fall back into Brennan’s history, starting on the third page.

You survived Parapet. Good. Be observant the next few days, and don’t do anything to draw attention to yourself. I’ve sketched a map that shows you not only where the classrooms are but where the instructors meet, too. I know you’re nervous about challenges, but you shouldn’t be, not with that right hook of yours. The matches might seem random, but they’re not. What the instructors don’t tell you is that they decide challenges the week before, Mira. Any cadet can request a challenge, yes, but instructors will assign your matches based on weeding out the weakest. That means once the real hand-to-hand starts, the instructors already know who you’ll be up against that day. Here’s the secret-if you know where to look and can get out without being seen, you’ll know who you’re fighting so you can prepare.

I suck in a breath and devour the rest of the entry, hope blossoming in my chest. If I know who I’m fighting, then I can begin the battle before we even step on the mat. My mind spins, a plan taking shape.

Two weeks, that’s how long I have to get everything I’ll need before challenges begin, and no one knows the grounds of Basgiath like I do. It’s all here.

A slow smile spreads across my face. I know how to survive.

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