Chapter no 10 – ‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌FAVORITE

Nightbane (The Lightlark Saga Book 2)

Isla awoke soaked in sweat and panting. Oro was there, hand behind her head. The rest of her was draped across his lap. They were still in the forest, framed by life and decay. She imagined Remlar was lurking, watching.

She pressed her forehead to Oro’s shoulder and cried. Her Nightshade powers had been awoken, and they had begun to unravel her mind. Undo what had been done. She thought of what Grim had told her, weeks before, after the Centennial.

Remember us, Heart. You will remember. Then you will come back to


She would never go back to him. Nothing would change his betrayal.

Nothing would change the fact that Grim seemed intent now on killing innocent people. One thing was for sure, however.

She was starting to remember.

Her powers were detangled, and Isla wondered if they would have been better left alone.

She had been going in and out of consciousness, but now all her senses came flooding back, far too sharply. They were in the Mainland woods. Oro must have flown them here. Her memory still clung to the corners of her vision, as if it had claws.

A blink, and she saw Grim again, his hands curled beneath her—

No. She pushed the image away. She wouldn’t tell Oro about it. It was the past. It didn’t matter. She had been vulnerable while her power had been unleashed, she told herself. It wouldn’t happen again.

She felt Oro’s hands smoothing down her back. “There you are,” he was saying, meeting her eyes, frowning as he checked her temperature with the back of his hand. “How are you feeling?”

Her head pounded like the sea against the cliffside, and there were

voices. Whispers everywhere, from every direction. Something had filled

her body to the brim. She was an overserved goblet, wine spilling down the sides.

“I feel everything,” she said. Tiny threads all around her, waiting to be pulled. Whispers from the vines beneath her hands, from the towering trees around her, from the shadows beneath them. “There are a million voices, all fighting for my attention.” Power was like a seed in her chest she had swallowed whole, and it was growing roots within her.

All her life she had wondered what it would be like to have power. All her life she’d had it, hidden deep inside. Now, it was free.

“We can find you a Wildling master,” Oro said, his voice a blade through the chaos. “I can get your portaling device. We can take you to the Wildling newland.” It made sense to train there, with her own people, but— “No,” she said quickly. “I don’t want to risk harming them. I—” Her touch had killed an entire forest. It was just like her Starling power exploding out of her. She had no control. Panicked, her eyes darted around.

“Take me somewhere else. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

With three separate powers—Wildling, Nightshade, and Starling—the abilities seemed to be battling. When she had gotten her Starling abilities, she had felt strange but nothing like this.

In an instant, she was in Oro’s arms, and they were in the air. When they landed, she immediately stumbled away, afraid that if he touched her for too long, she might hurt him.

“You can’t kill anything here,” he said simply. “Everything is already dead.”

He was right. They were on Wild Isle. The voices had quieted, just a little. Still, the skeletal trees called to her, the dirt beneath her feet hummed, and she could still hear the Mainland woods even from far away.

She needed those voices out of her head—it was already a crowded place to begin with. She needed to stop feeling pressure against her ribs, like the seed of power was going to burn right through her chest. “It’s too loud,” she said. “I can’t—I can’t escape it.”

“When you gain a hold on your power, you won’t hear them anymore,” he said. “Right now, you are inadvertently summoning everything—the world is simply answering your call. It will get better as you begin to gain control.”

She shook her head. How long could that take? “I can’t, I can’t—”

One more step, and she sank to her knees and said, “I think I’m going to be sick,” before she did just that. Her throat was still coarse and sore from the ocean water; it burned like a skinned knee.

He was behind her, his heat a welcome warmth, his hand gathering her hair in a single fist. “It’s going to be a rough few days as your body adjusts,” he whispered. “I’ll be right here with you.”

“Please don’t leave me,” she said, her voice frail and pleading. For just a moment, she wanted to cry out for Terra, her teacher for her entire life. She was the one who should have been teaching her this. But Terra had betrayed her, and besides Oro, she was alone.

“Never, Wildling,” he said. She retched again.

The Place of Mirrors became their temporary home. Avel and Ciel moved in as well. They helped coordinate getting furniture, food, and supplies, alongside Ella, who brought clothing and Starling soup. The Skyling twins took turns guarding the entrance to Wild Isle. No power other than Wildling could be used in the Place of Mirrors; she had learned that during the Centennial.

It gave her an added layer of protection. Isla was more vulnerable than ever, but she felt safe here against the rebels—and with Oro sleeping right beside her.

She wished she could enjoy that fact a little more, but for the next few days, she was always either clenching her teeth against pain, being sick, or sleeping.

A fever turned to chills. She felt nauseous all the time. Oro fed her pieces of bread and soups and got her to drink water even when she cried, because everything hurt, and would he please make it stop?

He looked as pained as she felt.

She fell asleep holding his hand every night, and every morning when she awoke, with a headache worse than the last, he was already there, looking like he hadn’t slept at all.

“You can go,” she said weakly one night, as he very badly attempted to brush her hair and tie it with one of her ribbons. Ella typically helped her, but she had sent the Starling home early that night, since she had been working around the clock for days. “I’m sure you’re needed elsewhere.”

Oro just looked at her, the corners of his lips twitching in amusement that didn’t reach his eyes. “I was given strict orders not to leave your side.”

Isla managed to smile, before grimacing as a new wave of pain washed over her. “Oh? I didn’t know the king of Lightlark took orders from anyone.”

“Not just anyone.”

She stared at him, her pain abating just a little. A wavy lock of hair came loose, and Oro cursed, starting over.

“You have many skills,” Isla said, a faint laugh escaping her even as every part of her ached. “Doing hair isn’t one of them.”

Oro began to smile in earnest. “Here I thought I had another talent.” He brushed through her locks again and said, “I like your hair.”

“You do?”

He nodded. “It . . . shines nicely in the sun. I didn’t know that until after the curses.” She smiled, despite the pain. The fact that he noticed something that specific about her, that he was paying that close attention . . . it made her feel warm inside, for just a moment, before the nausea returned.

“I like your eyes too,” he offered, studying her face, as if wanting to make her smile again. He quickly returned his attention to her hair. “They’re my favorite color.”

She raised an eyebrow at him. “My eyes happen to be your favorite color?”

Oro paused, looking a little like he regretted starting this conversation in the first place. He stared intently at the ribbon between his fingers, and it looked almost physically painful for him to get the next few words out. “No. It . . . it became my favorite, after . . . after—”

He was flustered. Isla couldn’t believe it. The king of Lightlark, the cold ruler of Sunling she had heard about her entire life, was flustered. It was adorable. Isla’s chest felt like it was being cracked in half, but she couldn’t help but tease him. “Really?” she said. “Please. Tell me everything you like about me, slowly, in detail.”

Oro gave her a look that made her certain he knew she was reveling in his discomfort.

She pressed her lips against another smile. “Do I encompass any other favorites? Am I your . . . favorite liar? Favorite incapable ruler?” Her tone slowly became bitter, because in truth, she couldn’t imagine being anyone’s

favorite anything. “Your favorite weakling who can’t go a few hours without retching?”

Oro turned to her, then. He looked her right in the eyes as he said, “Isla.

You are my favorite everything.”

Her lips had been parted with another self-deprecating and annoying statement, but she closed them.

That couldn’t be true.

What was there to like about her? She was weak. Foolish—

She looked away. Suddenly, she was the one who was uncomfortable. Oro didn’t lie, but she couldn’t imagine anyone saying good things about her, when her mind told her the opposite. “I feel better,” she lied. “You can leave for a bit, if you want.”

“Is that so?”

“Better than ever, actually.”

“Right.” He lightly brushed away another strand that had come loose— because he was truly hopeless at tying her hair—and she knew he was also subtly checking her temperature. “Well, Wildling, even if I couldn’t naturally tell that you’re a liar, your skin is so warm, you could pass for Sunling.”

Oro should be with a Sunling. Someone more like him. Someone who wasn’t such a mess. “Do you wish I was?”


She nodded, and it didn’t do anything to make her head feel better. Before he could respond, she added, “Do you wish I wasn’t . . . everything I am?”

He was quiet for a moment. Her eyes slowly began to close, suddenly heavy. Fighting against sleep was useless in this state. “No, Isla,” he finally said. “It’s the parts you don’t seem to like about yourself that I love the most.”


She wanted to accept it, savor it, clutch it, let the word swallow her whole and make her happy. But instead, she drifted off, into the waiting arms of sleep.

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