Chapter no 2

Iron Flame (The Empyrean Book 2)

I shut the tall door behind me before moving toward Brennan. This meeting is definitely not open to the public.

“Did you eat enough?” He rests on the edge of the table like he used to when we were kids. The move is so…him, and as for the question, I ignore it entirely.

“So this is where you’ve been the last six years?” My voice threatens to break. I’m so glad he’s alive. That’s all that should matter. But I can’t forget the years he’s let me grieve for him, either.

“Yes.” His shoulders drop. “I’m sorry I let you believe I was dead. It was the only way.”

Cue awkward silence. What am I supposed to say to that? It’s all right, but not really? There’s so much I want to say to him, so much I need to ask, but suddenly the years we’ve been apart feel…defining. Neither of us is the same person.

“You look different.” He smiles, but it’s sad. “Not in a bad way. Just… different.”

“I was fourteen the last time you saw me.” I grimace. “I think I’m still the same height. I used to hope I’d get a last-minute growth spurt, but alas, here I am.”

“Here you are.” He nods slowly. “I always pictured you in scribe colors, but you look good in black. Gods…” He sighs. “The relief I felt when I heard you’d survived Threshing is indescribable.”

“You knew?” My eyes flare. He has sources at Basgiath.

“I knew. And then Riorson showed up with you stabbed and dying.” He looks away and clears his throat, then takes a deep breath before continuing. “I’m so damned glad you’re healed, that you’ve made it through your first year.” The relief in his eyes takes some of the sting out of my anger.

“Mira helped.” That’s putting it mildly.

“The armor?” he guesses correctly. There’s something to be said for the delicate weight of my dragon-scale armor under my flight leathers.

I nod. “She had it made. She gave me your book, too. The one you wrote for her.”

“I hope it was useful.”

I think back to the naive, sheltered girl who crossed the parapet, and everything she survived in the crucible of her first year to forge me into the woman I am now. “It was.”

His smile falters, and he glances out the window. “How is Mira?”

“Speaking from experience, I’m sure she’d be a lot better if she knew you’re alive.” There’s no point mincing words if we only have a short time.

He flinches. “Guess I deserve that.”

And I guess that answers that question. Mira doesn’t know. But she should.

“How exactly are you alive, Brennan?” I shift my weight to one leg, crossing my arms. “Where is Marbh? What are you doing here? Why didn’t you come home?”

“One at a time.” He holds up his hands like he’s under attack, and I glimpse a rune-shaped scar on his palm before he grips the edge of the table. “Naolin… He was-” His jaw flexes.

“Tairn’s previous rider,” I suggest slowly, wondering if he was more than that to Brennan. “He was the siphon who died trying to save you, according to Professor Kaori.” My heart sinks. “I’m sorry your rider died saving my brother.”

“We will no longer speak of the one who came before.” Tairn’s voice is rough.

A corner of Brennan’s mouth lifts. “I miss Kaori. He’s a good man.” He sighs, lifting his head to hold my gaze. “Naolin didn’t fail, but it cost him everything. I woke up on a cliffside not far from here. Marbh had been wounded, but he was alive, too, and the other dragons…” His ambercolored eyes meet mine. “There are other dragons here, and they saved us, hid us in the network of caves within the valley, then later with the civilians who survived the city being scorched.”

My brow furrows as I try to make sense of his words. “Where is Marbh now?”

“He’s been in the valley with the others for days, keeping watch on your

Andarna with Tairn, Sgaeyl, and-since you woke up-Riorson.”

“That’s where Xaden has been? Guarding Andarna?” That makes me a little less pissed that he’s blatantly avoided me. “And why are you here, Brennan?”

He shrugs as though his answer is obvious. “I’m here for the same reason you fought at Resson. Because I can’t stand by, safe behind the barriers of Navarre’s wards, and watch innocent people die at the hands of dark wielders because our leadership is too selfish to help. That’s also the reason I didn’t come home. I couldn’t fly for Navarre knowing what we’ve done-what we’re doing-and I sure as hell couldn’t look our mother in the eye and listen to her justify our cowardice. I refused to live the lie.”

“You just left Mira and me to live it.” It comes out a little angrier than I intend, or maybe I’m angrier than I realize.

“A choice I’ve questioned every single day since.” The regret in his eyes is enough to make me breathe deeply and center myself. “I figured you had


“Until we didn’t.” My throat threatens to tighten, so I turn to look at the map, then walk closer to take in more of the details. Unlike the one at Basgiath, which is updated daily with gryphon attacks on the border, this one reflects the truths Navarre is hiding. The region of the Barrens-the dry, desert-covered peninsula in the southeast that all dragonkind abandoned after General Daramor ruined the land during the Great War-is completely painted in crimson. The stain stretches into Braevick, over the Dunness River.

What have to be newer battle sites are marked with an alarming number of bright red and orange flags. The red ones mar not only the oceanic eastern border of the Krovlan province along the Bay of Malek but are heavily concentrated north into the plains as well, spreading like a disease, even infecting dots of Cygnisen. But the orange ones, those are heavily concentrated along the Stonewater River, which leads straight to Navarre’s border.

“So the fables are all true. Venin coming out of the Barrens, sucking the land dry of magic, moving city to city.”

“You’ve seen it with your own eyes.” He moves to my side.

“And the wyvern?”

“We’ve known about them for a few months, but none of the cadets did. Until now, we’ve limited what Riorson and the others have known for their own safety, which in retrospect may have been a mistake. We know they have at least two breeds, one that produces blue fire and a faster one that breathes green fire.”

“How many?” I ask him. “Where are they making them?”

“Do you mean hatching them?”

“Making,” I repeat. “Don’t you remember the fables Dad used to read to us? They said wyvern are created by venin. They channel power into wyvern. I think that’s why riderless ones died when I killed their dark wielders. Their source of power was gone.”

“You remember all of that from Dad reading?” He glances at me, bewildered.

“I still have the book.” It’s a good thing Xaden warded my room at Basgiath so no one will discover it while we’re here. “Are you telling me you not only didn’t know they’re created but have no clue where they’re coming from?”


“How comforting,” I mutter as electricity prickles my skin. I shake my hands, pacing in front of the large map. The orange flags are awfully close to Zolya, the second most populous city in Braevick, and where Cliffsbane, their flier academy, is located. “The one with the silver beard said we have a year to turn it around?”

“Felix. He’s the most rational of the Assembly, but personally I think he’s wrong.” Brennan waves his hand in the air in a general outline of Braevick’s border with the Barrens along the Dunness River. “The red flags are all from the last few years, and the orange are the last few months. At the rate they’ve been expanding, not only in their numbers of wyvern, but in territory? I think they’re headed straight up the Stonewater River and we have six months or less until they’re strong enough to come for Navarre- not that the Assembly will listen.”

Six months. I swallow the bile fighting to rise in my throat. Brennan was always a brilliant strategist, according to our mother. My bet is on his assessment. “The general pattern is moving northwest-toward Navarre. Resson is the exception, along with whatever that flag is-” I point to the one that looks to be an hour’s flight east of Resson.

The desiccated landscape around what had been a thriving trading post flashes in my memory. Those flags are more than outliers; they’re twin splotches of orange in an otherwise untouched area.

“We think the iron box Garrick Tavis found at Resson is some kind of lure, but we had to destroy it before we could fully investigate. A box like it was found in Jahna, already smashed.” He glances my way. “But the craftsmanship is Navarrian.”

I absorb that information with a long breath, wondering what reason Navarre would have to build lures besides using one to kill us in Resson. “You really think they’ll come for Navarre before taking the rest of Poromiel?” Why not take the easier targets first?

“I do. Their survival depends on it as much as ours depends on stopping them. The energy in the hatching grounds at Basgiath could keep them fed for decades. And yet Melgren thinks the wards are so infallible that he won’t alert the population. Or he’s afraid that telling the public will make them realize we aren’t entirely the good guys. Not anymore. Fen’s rebellion taught leadership it’s a lot easier to control happy civilians than disgruntled

-or worse, terrified- ones.”

“And yet they manage to keep the truth hidden,” I whisper. Sometime in our past, one generation of Navarrians wiped the history books, erasing the existence of venin from common education and knowledge, all because we aren’t willing to risk our own safety by providing the one material that can kill dark wielders-the same alloy that powers the farthest reaches of our wards.

“Yeah, well, Dad always tried to tell us.” Brennan’s voice softens. “In a world of dragon riders, gryphon fliers, and dark wielders…”

“It’s the scribes who hold all the power.” They put out the public announcements. They keep the records. They write our history. “Do you think Dad knew?” The idea of him structuring my entire existence around facts and knowledge, only to withhold the most important of it, is unfathomable.

“I choose to believe he didn’t.” Brennan offers me a sad smile.

“Word will get out the closer those forces come to the border. They can’t keep the truth hidden. Someone will see. Someone has to see.”

“Yes, and our revolution has to be ready when they do. The second the secret is out, there’s no reason to keep the marked ones under supervision of leadership, and we’ll lose access to Basgiath’s forge.” There’s that word again: revolution.

“You think you can win.”

“What makes you say that?” He turns toward me.

“You call it a revolution, not a rebellion.” I lift my brow. “Tyrrish isn’t the only thing Dad taught us both. You think you can win-unlike Fen Riorson.”

“We have to win, or we’re dead. All of us. Navarre thinks they’re safe behind the wards, but what happens if the wards fail? If they’re not as powerful as leadership thinks they are? They’re already extended to their max. Not to mention the people living outside the wards. One way or another, we’re outmatched, Vi. We’ve never seen them organize behind a leader like they did at Resson, and Garrick told us that one got away.”

“The Sage.” I shudder, wrapping my arms around my middle. “That’s what the one who stabbed me called him. I think he was her teacher.”

“They’re teaching each other? Like they’ve set up some sort of school for venin? Fucking great.” He shakes his head.

“And you’re not behind the wards,” I note. “Not here.” The protective magical shield provided by the dragons’ hatching grounds in the Vale falls short of the official, mountainous borders of Navarre, and the entire southwestern coastline of Tyrrendor-including Aretia-is exposed. A fact that never quite mattered when we thought gryphons were the only danger out there, since they’re incapable of flying high enough to summit the cliffs.

“Not here,” he agrees. “Though funnily enough, Aretia has a dormant wardstone. At least, I think that’s what it is. I was never let close enough to Basgiath’s to compare the two in any detail.”

My eyebrows rise. A second wardstone? “I thought only one was created during the Unification.”

“Yeah, and I thought venin were a myth and dragons were the only key to powering wards.” He shrugs. “But the art of creating new wards is a lost magic, anyway, so it’s basically a glorified statue. Pretty to look at, though.”

“You have a wardstone,” I murmur, my thoughts spinning. They wouldn’t need as many weapons if they had wards. If they could generate their own protection, maybe they could weave extensions into Poromiel, like we’ve expanded our wards to their max. Maybe we could keep at least some of our neighbors safe…

“A useless one. What we need is that godsdamned luminary that intensifies dragonfire hot enough to smelt alloy into the only weapons capable of defeating venin. That’s our only shot.”

“But what if the wardstone isn’t useless?” My heart races. We’d only ever been told there was one wardstone in existence, its boundaries stretched as far as possible. But if there’s another… “Just because no one knows how to create new wards today doesn’t mean the knowledge can’t exist somewhere. Like in the Archives. That’s information we wouldn’t have wiped. We would have protected it at all costs, just in case.”

“Violet, whatever you’re thinking? Don’t.” He rubs his thumb along his chin, which has always been his nervous tell. Amazing the things I’m remembering about him. “Consider the Archives enemy territory. Weapons are the only thing that can win this war.”

“But you don’t have a working forge or enough riders to defend yourself if Navarre realizes what you’re up to.” Panic crawls up my spine like a spider. “And you think you’re going to win this war with a bunch of daggers?”

“You make it sound like we’re doomed. We’re not.” A muscle ticks in his jaw.

“The first separatist rebellion was crushed in under a year, and up until a few days ago, I thought it took you, too.” He doesn’t get it. He can’t. He didn’t bury his family. “I’ve already watched your things burn once.”

“Vi…” He hesitates for a second, then wraps his arms around me and pulls me into a hug, rocking slightly like I’m a kid again. “We learned from Fen’s mistakes. We’re not attacking Navarre like he did or declaring independence. We’re fighting right under their noses, and we have a plan. Something killed off the venin six hundred years ago during the Great War, and we’re actively searching for that weapon. Forging the daggers will keep us in the fight long enough to find it, as long as we can get that luminary. We might not be ready now, but we will be once Navarre catches on.” His tone isn’t exactly convincing.

I take a step back. “With what army? How many of you are there in this revolution?” How many will die this time?

“It’s best if you don’t know specifics-” He tenses, then reaches for me again. “I’ve already put you in danger by telling you too much. At least until you can shield Aetos out.”

My chest constricts, and I sidestep from his embrace. “You sound like Xaden.” I can’t help the bitterness that leaches into my tone. Turns out, falling in love with someone only brings that blissful high all the poets talk about if they love you back. And if they keep secrets that jeopardize everyone and everything you hold dear? Love doesn’t even have the decency to die. It just transforms into abject misery. That’s what this ache in my chest is: misery.

Because love, at its root, is hope. Hope for tomorrow. Hope for what could be. Hope that the someone you’ve entrusted your everything to will cradle and protect it. And hope? That shit is harder to kill than a dragon.

A slight hum tingles under my skin, and warmth flushes my cheeks as Tairn’s power rises within me in answer to my heightened emotions. At least I know I still have access to it. The venin’s poison didn’t take it from me permanently. I’m still me.

“Ah.” Brennan shoots me a look I can’t quite interpret. “I wondered why he ran out of here like his ass was on fire. Trouble in paradise?”

I flat-out glare at Brennan. “It’s best if you don’t know that.”

He chuckles. “Hey, I’m asking my sister, not Cadet Sorrengail.”

“And you’ve been back in my life all of five minutes after faking your death for the last six years, so excuse me if I’m not going to suddenly open up about my love life. What about you? Are you married? Kids? Anyone you’ve basically lied to for the entirety of your relationship?”

He flinches. “No partner. No kids. Point made.” Shoving his hands into the pockets of his riding leathers, he sighs. “Look, I don’t mean to be an ass. But details aren’t anything you should know until you master keeping your shields up at all times against memory readers-“

I cringe at the thought of Dain touching me, seeing this, seeing Brennan.

“You’re right. Don’t tell me.”

Brennan’s eyes narrow. “You agreed entirely too easily.”

I shake my head and start for the door, calling over my shoulder, “I need to leave before I get someone else killed.” The more I see, the bigger of a liability I am to him, to all of this. And the longer we’re here… Gods. The others.

“We have to go back,” I tell Tairn.

“I know.”

Brennan’s jaw flexes as he catches up to me. “I’m not sure going back to Basgiath is the best plan for you.” He pulls the door open anyway.

“No, but it’s the best plan for you.”


‘m nervous as hell by the time Brennan and his Orange Daggertail,

Marbh, as well as Tairn and I, reach Sgaeyl-Xaden’s enormous, navyblue daggertail, who stands under the shade of several even taller trees as though guarding something. Andarna. Sgaeyl snarls at Brennan, baring her fangs and taking one threatening step in his direction, her claw fully extended in a series of sharp talons.

“Hey! That’s my brother,” I warn her, putting myself between them.

“She’s aware,” Brennan mutters. “Just doesn’t like me. Never has.”

“Don’t take it personally,” I say right to her face. “She doesn’t like anyone but Xaden, and she only tolerates me, though I’m growing on her.”

“Like a tumor,” she replies through the mental bond that connects the four of us. Then her head swings, and I feel it.

The shadowy, shimmering bond at the edge of my mind strengthens and pulls gently. “In fact, Xaden’s walking this way,” I tell Brennan.

“That’s really fucking weird.” He folds his arms across his chest and looks behind us. “Can you two always sense each other?”

“Kind of. It has to do with the bond between Sgaeyl and Tairn. I’d say you get used to it, but you don’t.” I walk into the copse, and Sgaeyl does me a solid favor and doesn’t make me ask her to move, taking two steps to the right so I’m in between her and Tairn, directly in front of… What. The. Fuck?

That can’t be… No. Impossible.

“Stay calm. She’ll respond to your agitation and wake in a temper,” Tairn warns.

I stare at the sleeping dragon-who is almost twice the size she had been a few days ago-and try to get my thoughts to line up with what I’m seeing, what my heart already knows thanks to the bond between us. “That’s…” I shake my head, and my pulse begins to race.

“Wasn’t expecting that,” Brennan says quietly. “Riorson left out some details when he reported in this morning. I’ve never seen such accelerated growth in a dragon before.”

“Her scales are black.” Yeah, saying it doesn’t help make it feel any more real.

“Dragons are only gold-feathered as hatchlings.” Tairn’s voice is uncharacteristically patient.

“‘Accelerated growth,'” I whisper, repeating Brennan’s words, then gasp. “From the energy usage. We forced her to grow. In Resson. She stopped time for too long. We-I-forced her to grow.” I can’t seem to stop saying it.

“It would have happened eventually, Silver One, if at a slower pace.” “Is she full-grown?” I can’t take my eyes off her.

“No. She’s what you would call an adolescent. We need to get her back to the Vale so she can enter the Dreamless Sleep and finish the growth process. I should warn you before she wakes that this is a notoriously… perilous age.”

“For her? Is she in danger?” My gaze swings to Tairn for the length of a terrorizing heartbeat.

“No, just everyone around her. There’s a reason adolescents don’t bond, either. They don’t have the patience for humans. Or elders. Or logic,” he grumbles.

“So, the same as humans.” A teenager. Fabulous.

“Except with teeth and, eventually, fire.”

Her scales are so deeply black they glimmer almost purple-iridescent, really-in the flickering sunlight that filters through the leaves above. The color of a dragon’s scales is hereditary-

“Wait a second. Is she yours?” I ask Tairn. “I swear to the gods, if she’s another secret you kept from me, I’ll-“

“I told you last year, she is not our progeny,” Tairn answers, drawing up his head as if offended. “Black dragons are rare but not unheard of.”

“And I happened to bond to two of them?” I counter, outright glaring at him.

“Technically, she was gold when you bonded her. Not even she knew what color her scales would mature to. Only the eldest of our dens can sense a hatchling’s pigment. In fact, two more black dragons have hatched in the last year, according to Codagh.”

“Not helping.” I let Andarna’s steady breathing assure me that she really is fine. Giant but…fine. I can still see her features-her slightly more rounded snout, the spiral twist carved into her curled horns, even the way she tucks her wings in while sleeping is all…her, only bigger. “If there’s a morningstartail on her-“

“Tails are a matter of choice and need.” He huffs indignantly. “Don’t they teach you anything?”

“You’re not exactly a notoriously open species.” I’m sure Professor Kaori would salivate over knowing something like that.

That shadowy bond wrapped around my mind strengthens.

“Is she awake yet?” The deep timbre of Xaden’s voice makes my pulse skip like always.

I turn around to see him standing beside Brennan, with Imogen, Garrick, Bodhi, and the others flanking him in the tall grass. My gaze catches on the cadets I don’t know. Two men and one woman. It’s more than awkward that I went to war with them and yet I’ve only seen them in passing in the halls. I couldn’t even chance a guess at their names without feeling foolish. It’s not like Basgiath is made to foster friendships outside our squads, though.

Or relationships, for that matter.

I’ll spend every single day of my life earning back your trust. The memory of Xaden’s words fills the space between us as we stare at each other.

“We have to go back.” I fold my arms across my chest, preparing for a fight. “No matter what that Assembly says, if we don’t go back, they’ll kill every cadet with a rebellion relic.”

Xaden nods, as though he’d already come to the same conclusion.

“They’ll see right through whatever lie you’re going to tell, and they’ll execute you, Violet,” Brennan retorts. “According to our intelligence, General Sorrengail already knows you’re missing.”

She wasn’t there on the dais when War Games orders were handed out.

Her aide, Colonel Aetos, was in charge of the games this year.

She didn’t know.

“Our mother won’t let them kill me.”

“Say that again,” Brennan says softly. He tilts his head at me and looks so much like our father that I blink twice. “And this time try to convince yourself that you mean it. The general’s loyalties are so crystal-fuckingclear that she might as well tattoo Yes there are venin, now go back to class on her forehead.”

“That doesn’t mean she’ll kill me. I can make her believe our story. She’ll want to if I’m the one telling it.”

“You don’t think she’ll kill you? She threw you into the Riders Quadrant!”

Fine, he has me there. “Yeah, she did, and guess what? I became a rider. She may be a lot of things, but she won’t let Colonel Aetos or even Markham kill me without evidence. You didn’t see her when you didn’t come home, Brennan. She was…devastated.”

His hands curl into fists. “I know the atrocious things she did in my name.”

“She wasn’t there,” one of the guys I don’t know says, putting up his hands when the rest turn to glare at him. He’s shorter than the others, with a Third Squad, Flame Section patch on his shoulder, light-brown hair, and a pinkish, round face that reminds me of the cherubs usually carved at the feet of statues of Amari.

“Seriously, Ciaran?” The brunette second-year lifts a hand to her forehead, shielding her fair skin from the sun and revealing a First Squad, Flame Section patch on her shoulder, then lifts a pierced eyebrow at him.

“You’re defending General Sorrengail?”

“No, Eya, I’m not. But she wasn’t there when orders were handed out -” He cuts off the sentence as two eyebrows slash down in warning. “And Aetos was in charge of War Games this year,” he adds.

Ciaran and Eya. I look to the lean guy, who pushes his glasses up his pointed nose with a dark-brown hand, standing next to Garrick’s hulking build. “I’m so sorry, but what is your name?” It feels wrong to not know them all.

“Masen,” he replies with a quick smile. “And if it makes you feel better”- he glances at Brennan-“I don’t think your mom had anything to do with the War Games this year, either. Aetos was pretty loud about his dad planning the whole thing.” Fucking Dain.

“Thank you.” I turn toward Brennan. “I would bet my life that she didn’t know what was waiting for us.”

“You willing to bet all of ours, too?” Eya asks, clearly not convinced, looking at Imogen for support and not getting any.

“I vote we go,” Garrick says. “We have to risk it. They’ll kill the others if we don’t return, and we can’t cut off the flow of weapons from Basgiath.

Who agrees?”

One by one, every hand rises but Xaden’s and Brennan’s.

Xaden’s jaw flexes, and two little lines appear between his brows. I know that expression. He’s thinking, scheming.

“The second Aetos puts hands on her, we lose Aretia and you lose your lives,” Brennan says to him.

“I’ll train her to shut him out,” Xaden responds. “She already has the strongest shields of her year from learning to shut out Tairn. She only has to learn to keep them up at all times.”

I don’t argue. He has a direct link to my mind through the bond, which makes him the most logical choice to practice on.

“And until she can shield out a memory reader? How are you going to keep his hands off her if you’re not even there?” Brennan challenges.

“By hitting him in his biggest weakness-his pride.” Xaden’s mouth curves into a ruthless smile. “If everyone is sure about going, we’ll fly as soon as Andarna’s awake.”

“We’re sure,” Garrick answers for us, and I try to swallow the knot forming in my throat.

It’s the right decision. It could also get us killed.

A rustling behind me catches my attention, and I turn to see Andarna rise, her golden eyes blinking slowly at me as she clumsily gains her newly taloned claws. The relief and joy curving my mouth are short-lived as she struggles to stand.

Oh…gods. She reminds me of a newborn horse. Her wings and legs seem disproportionate to her body, and everything wobbles as she fights to keep upright. There’s no way she’s making the flight. I’m not even sure she can walk across the field.

“Hey,” I say, offering her a smile.

“I can no longer stop time.” She watches me carefully, her golden eyes judging me in a way that reminds me of Presentation.

“I know.” I nod and study the coppery streaks in her eyes. Were those always there?

“You are not disappointed?”

“You’re alive. You kept us all alive. How could I be disappointed?” My chest tightens as I stare into her unblinking eyes, choosing my next words carefully. “We always knew that gift would only last as long as you were little, and you, my dearest, are no longer little.” A growl rumbles in her chest, and my eyebrows shoot up. “Are you…feeling okay?” What the hell did I say to deserve that?

“Adolescents,” Tairn grumbles.

“I am fine,” she snaps, narrowing her eyes at Tairn. “We will leave now.” She flares her wings out, but only one fully extends, and she stumbles under the uneven weight, careening forward.

Xaden’s shadows whip out from the trees and wrap around her chest, keeping her from face-planting.

Well. Shit.

“I…uh…think we’re going to have to make some modifications on that harness,” Bodhi remarks as Andarna struggles to maintain her balance. “That’s going to take a few hours.”

“Can you fly her back to the Vale?” I ask Tairn. “She’s…huge.”

“I’ve killed lesser riders for that kind of insult.”

“So dramatic.”

“I can fly myself,” Andarna argues, gaining her balance with the aid of Xaden’s shadows.

“It’s just in case,” I promise her, but she eyes me with deserved skepticism.

“Get the harness done quickly,” Xaden says. “I have a plan, but we have to be back in forty-eight hours for this to work, and a day of that is needed for flight time.”

“What’s in forty-eight hours?” I ask.


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