Chapter no 15 – ELIXIR

Lightlark (The Lightlark Saga Book 1)

Isla had given them an hour.

Instead of a trial focusing on the power of their ruler—for obvious reasons—Isla wished to test the ability of their realm. Her people might not be on the island, but it was a chance for her to show Lightlark all they were beyond their bloodthirsty curse.

Her guardians had wanted the demonstration to be something different.

An opportunity to further their own strategy.

Isla had convinced them that showing that her people could heal just as much as they could kill might convince the other rulers of Wildlings’ value, especially over Nightshade, who only destroyed.

Her warning Grim of the demonstration negated some of that strategy.

Complicated everything.

They were back in the arena. Isla wanted as many islanders as possible present to see what she had brought from her newland.

She had already announced her trial to a wary audience. Her voice had been surprisingly smooth, no hint of her nerves peeking through.

The rules had been stated as well. The audience would vote for which demonstration of a realm’s abilities was most useful in securing the future of the island. No one could vote for their own ruler—though Isla was under no illusion that it would give Wildling a fair shot. She wouldn’t win. But she didn’t need to. All the crowd needed to know was that Wildlings were more than wicked seductresses.

The rulers stood on the sidelines. She wondered if an hour had been enough time to prepare—for the ones who didn’t already know about the demonstration, anyway.

Their expressions gave nothing away, waiting for her to call out their names.


The ruler swept into the center of the arena, followed by a trail of other Skylings, who were aiding in the demonstration. “Our realm has been working on a form of communication that uses wind. Easier communication

means more efficiency, streamlined processes . . . faster invitations to parties.” The crowd laughed. Azul certainly knew how to present himself. Isla thought back to what he had said about Skyling’s government the day before. His people did seem to adore him. Was it because he had given them choice? She of all people could understand the importance of freedom . . .

He grabbed a piece of parchment from an interior pocket of his cape and wrote a message on it. Then he folded it carefully into a square and used his power to fly it across the arena, right into Isla’s hand.

All eyes were on her. She folded open the page and read the words the ruler had scrawled: Of course, we also have our music . . .

Isla couldn’t help but smile.

“This can be replicated on a grand scale,” Azul added. He motioned to the rest of the Skylings who had joined him. They carried stacks of sheets of parchment. Without warning, they threw all of it into the air. Before her eyes, each page folded neatly, then set off, one after the other, on dozens of paths the Skylings had created in the sky, wind currents for the messages to use as trails to their recipients. A true infrastructure for mass communication.

It was a grand display. An innovation that would surely make an impact on Lightlark.

The crowd certainly seemed to think so as well.

Isla wondered what the pages Azul had distributed even said. Perhaps an invitation to a festivity the Skyling was throwing in the agora after this.


Isla hoped that the lack of time to prepare had flustered the ruler. She imagined the Moonling struggling to put together a demonstration and nearly smiled.

Cleo only radiated confidence as she strolled toward the center of the arena. She had no helpers. No tools . . . or anything visual to display.

Her words were simple. “We have ships,” she said. “For the past two centuries, we have built many, many ships.”

That was it.

The Moonling walked back to her place, and Isla felt a tinge of anger in her chest. She wondered if the crowd would be silent. Confused. If the other rulers would balk at her lack of display.

But no one did. Moonlings cheered, all but confirming that they had spent decades making the fleet Cleo had so casually described.

She could be lying. But Oro looked like he believed her. He looked like he hadn’t known about the ships at all.

Interesting. Celeste was right. There was tension brewing between some of the Lightlark realms.

Though a navy wasn’t logical while the Moonlings were still haunted by the deadly full moon, it would be useful in a postcurse world. The ships could be used to bring the thousands of Moonlings, Starlings, Wildlings, and Skylings back to Lightlark, to unify the realms in one place once more. They could explore distant lands beyond the island and the realms’ newlands.

They could also be used for war.

“Celeste,” Isla said, wondering if the way she spoke her friend’s name was different than she had said the others. Wondering if saying a person’s name thousands of times made it sound different coming from a mouth.

The Starling was prepared, of course. A dozen of her subjects joined her. “My realm has been developing a way to manufacture tools and

weapons, using solely our power,” she said, gesturing to her people, bidding

them to begin.

The crowd watched in wonder as they demonstrated the way they pooled their energy, making it so concentrated that, before their eyes, a sword was created in just moments. They had turned energy to metal, almost like Oro had turned the table to gold.


This took a dozen Starlings and much effort. For one sword. The king could likely gild them all in a single breath.

Celeste took the finished sword in her hand and lifted it up, to the endless cheers of all the Starlings in attendance.

Isla wanted to smile, wanted to say something to her friend. But all she did was call out the next name.


The king did not meet her gaze as he took his place. He had always looked at her with disdain. Now, after likely knowing she’d let him win the duel and using him as a prop for Azul’s demonstration, it seemed he deemed her below his notice.

“We have found additional ways to spread light and heat throughout the island.” He lit a fire in front of him with a curl of his fingers. Then he dipped his entire hand inside it before dragging it out again quickly, fingers splayed. The flames came apart, the fire like spatters of paint, flying across the room. There were screams—some islanders blocked themselves using their power.

But the flames had been contained in dozens of orbs. They landed harmlessly in hands and laps. “They will not go out, as long as the original flame is lit.”

Between the endless hearths inside the castle, torches across the Mainland, and this demonstration, the king clearly had an obsession with making sure flames were everywhere. Was it because they represented his rule? His realm?

He allowed the crowd a few more moments of inspecting the orbs of fire, throwing them in the air, marveling at their warmth, the light like a hundred fireflies lighting up the arena, before curling his hand. Smothering his flames.

The lights shriveled and died, just like he said they would.

Applause seemed to follow everything Oro did, and this demonstration was no different.

“Grimshaw” was the next name Isla spoke.

The Nightshade brushed past her. A stripe of chill danced down her arm at his slightest touch.

She needed to get herself together.

The crowd was silent. But they were clearly curious about what the Nightshade would show them. His realm had been a mystery ever since they had created their own stronghold. They were the enemy during the war. Even with a peace treaty, his kind weren’t trusted at all. Many, Isla imagined, still believed Grim’s people were responsible for the curses.

And maybe he was.

Grim stopped at the center of the arena. He gazed right back at the curious faces, turning to face them all to allow them to get a clear look at him.

“My realm has nothing productive to offer you,” he said. Then he left.

Silence. Whispers.

Isla felt her face go hot. With rage? With surprise?

She had given him more than enough time to prepare for her demonstration. Against her better judgment. Behind her friend’s back. And he had made a mockery of it.

He had arrived empty-handed on purpose.


The Nightshade had the nerve to walk right toward her on his way back to the wings and say, “You’re next, Hearteater,” before becoming one with the shadows.

Demon. Monster.

She straightened. She wouldn’t let him unnerve her. That was surely what he was after.

Isla didn’t bother announcing herself as she readied for her turn. There was one thing she needed.

From the king.

“Would you make me a fire?” she asked him.

For a moment, he just frowned down at her. She wondered if he might ignore her, or refuse her, and she would have to ask some other Sunling for help. As if they would.

Then, with the smallest whip of his wrist, a column of fire appeared in the center of the arena.

“Thank you,” she said tightly.

He did not nod, or even acknowledge her, before she walked toward the flames he had created.

All eyes on her. She should have been used to it by now, but their scrutiny was like a thousand knives, all turned in her direction.

Isla pulled a vial from her pocket, glass in the shape of a heart. It held a liquid thick and crimson as blood.

“Wildlings have developed advanced healing remedies,” she said, holding the container up for all to see.

Now, she just needed to demonstrate its potency.

Before she could lose her nerve, the same way she had done a half dozen times before in preparation, Isla took a deep breath.

And put her entire arm in the flames.

Yells. Cries of horror. The crowd gasped, horrified, as Isla’s skin charred. Melted.

She did not flinch. Even though the pain threatened to swallow her whole. Her arm shook in the fire. Her other hand was curled so tight, her nails drew blood in her palm.

Just a little longer.

Tears welled up in the corners of her eyes, and she lifted her head, willing them not to fall. She must have looked triumphant to the audience. Pain-free.

She was not.

Not being able to take it any longer, not without falling to her knees and breaking like an egg in front of them all, she removed her arm.

The skin had peeled off in coils, leaving only angry red.

It was sickening to look at, to smell. Her stomach turned—a moment more and she would retch.

She took the vial’s top off with her teeth, lip quivering uncontrollably.

Then she poured every drop of the liquid across the burns.

Before her eyes, and everyone else’s, the skin calmed. Knitted itself back together. Grew back, until her arm looked just as it had a few moments prior.

There was no mark of the fire.

The pain was not gone—not even close—but she kept it off her face as she bowed her head, signaling the end of her demonstration.

No one clapped. But they didn’t need to. Isla could see the wonder in their faces.

Moonlings were the only ones on Lightlark who were supposed to be able to heal, using water. If Celeste’s intel from her nobles and Ella were to be believed, they had begun making their skills scarce on the island. Charging too much. Healing less and less.

Almost wanting the rest of the island to be weaker.

Isla had just proven someone else could do what they did. Perhaps even better. Which, she knew, would only make Cleo hate her more.

In the end, Azul won.

Some would say the decision wasn’t fair, but neither was the game.

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