Chapter no 31

Iron Flame (The Empyrean Book 2)

I slip another precious inch as the soldier is yanked backward, then thrown forward, over my head, disappearing into the darkness.

It’s Eya. It has to be. Maybe the wound isn’t—

Blond hair and icy-blue eyes appear above me, and my heart plummets with the assassin’s body. Jack Barlowe.

“Sorrengail?” He lunges forward, grasping my wrists with an unbreakable grip.

“I’m so sorry,” I tell Tairn and prepare myself for the weightless moment that will be my last.

“I’ve got you!” Jack shouts, holding my wrists tight as he throws himself backward and hauls me up and over the edge.

My ribs hit stone, and he lets one hand go, then grabs my leathers and pulls, heaving me the rest of the way onto the tower wall.

I don’t waste time, scrambling forward to safety. As soon as my boots land inside the turret, he backs up a few steps, his chest rising and falling quickly with exertion as he gives me space, dodging the fallen body to the left as fire rages to the right.

“You saved me?” I scurry backward, leaving my hands at my sides and close to my daggers.

“I didn’t know it was you,” he admits, falling back against the tower wall and catching his breath. “But yeah.”

“You could have let me fall, but you pulled me up,” I say, like I’m trying to convince myself.

“Do you want to climb back up there and we’ll do it again that way?” he offers, gesturing to the wall.


Wingbeats sound overhead, and we both look up as Tairn soars by. He would have been too late, and we both know it. The relief coursing through my body isn’t just mine; it’s his, too.

“Look.” Jack shakes his head and peers over at Eya’s lifeless form. “I was on the dorm’s watch for First Wing and ran when I heard the screams. And…well… riders don’t die at the hands of infantry.”

“I killed you. You have every right to throw me off the tower.” I reach behind me one hand at a time and collect two of my daggers, sheathing them slowly, bracing myself for anything.

“Yeah.” He rubs his hand through his short blond hair. “Well, that death was kind of a second chance for me. You don’t know who you really are until you face down Malek. So, the way I see this is I just gave you a second chance, too. We’re even.” He nods once, then walks away, exiting into the tower.

I move slowly around the edge of the turret, stopping to roll over the body of the first assassin I killed and remove my daggers, cleaning them on his uniform before sheathing them at my thighs. The fire slowly sputters in the barrel, and I lean against the hard stone wall before letting my back hit every ridge on the way down as I slide to sit.

I stare at the tips of Eya’s boots—they’re all I can see from this angle— and let my head fall back against the wall. Then I breathe and wait for the adrenaline to pass, for the shock to wear off, for the trembling in my aching hands to cease.

Eya’s dead. That’s half of us who flew into Resson. Aetos isn’t going to stop until we’re all gone. He’ll pick us off one by one. I hug my knees to my chest. Who will he come for next? Garrick? Imogen? Xaden? Bodhi? We can’t go on like this.

“Holy shit.” I hear Ridoc’s voice a second before I see him. “What happened?” He falls to his knees beside me, looking me over in obvious appraisal. “Are you hurt? Stabbed?” His glance skitters sideways. “Burned?”

“No.” I shake my head. “But Eya’s dead. Assassins. Aetos.” “Fuck.”

I laugh, the sound tripping out of my lips hysterically. “Jack Barlowe saved my life.”

“Are you kidding?” Ridoc rises up and cups my face, checking my eyes for signs of concussion.

“No. He said this makes us even, and I really think he failed math, because by my calculations now I owe him two lives: the one I took from him, and the one he just gave me.”

“I should have come with you.” His hands fall away.

“No.” I shake my head, and my vision swims. “They could have killed you, too.” Shivers rack my frame.

“What do you need?”

“Just wait with me while it passes.” Silence stretches between us.

“I saw Jesinia,” he says quietly. “The good news is she knows where the vault is. There are wards, but she knows how to get through them, too. But the bad news is we need someone in King Tauri’s bloodline to do it. They’re not just in some sublevel vault. They’re in the royal one.” His shoulders dip in defeat. “I’m sorry, Violet.”

I look over at Eya’s boots. There’s nothing I can do to protect her now, but I can protect what she fought for. “Then it’s a good thing we have access to a prince who happens to hate his father.”

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