Chapter no 6 – ‌‌‌‌‌INSIGNIA

Nightbane (The Lightlark Saga Book 2)

The Insignia glowed faintly as if whispering a welcome. Isla hadn’t stood on the marking since the day she had first arrived on the island. The symbol was simple—a circle that contained illustrations representing all six of the realms. This was a neutral place to meet and speak on the Mainland, with the castle standing watch, a beast of stone, towers, and fortress walls.

Isla shifted on her feet, over the rose of Wildling. Oro was across from her, on the sun. Azul stood on the bolt of lightning.

Cleo emerged in a crashing wave, straight from the ocean. Seafoam still puddled at her feet.

The last time Isla had seen her, Cleo had tried to kill her.

The Moonling turned to look at Isla, and her eyes gleamed, as if she was relishing the same thought. Her white dress had a high neckline and sleeves that ran all the way to the floor, covering the etching of the moon.

Whatever she hoped to find in Isla, she was clearly disappointed, because Cleo frowned and turned to Oro. “How, exactly, did she stop it?” Her voice sliced through the silence and a wave crested high behind her as if to meet it. She commanded the seas. All the water in the world bowed before her.

“I’m standing right here,” Isla said. She was more than capable of speaking for herself.

Cleo only slightly shifted direction to face her again. She smirked. “How did you, once supposedly powerless, now all-powerful”—the ruler made even the word power sound pathetic when related to Isla—“stop the dreks?”

Dreks. Was that what they were called? How did Cleo know what they were?

She probably should have come up with a response to the question if she was going to insist on being the one to answer it. She swallowed. “I—I don’t know. I touched it.”

Cleo said every word like it was its own sentence. “You touched it.”

“Yes,” Isla said through clenched teeth.

The Moonling turned back to Oro. “How many more do you want us to heal?” she asked the king, and Isla understood that she had been dismissed.

Forty-five people were dead. More were still fighting for their lives. She had gotten Wildling healing elixirs from the newland, but they needed more help. Oro had summoned Cleo through Azul, and she had taken her time arriving to the palace.

“Fifty-four are critically injured,” Oro said. “We will provide healers.”

Oro nodded. “You’ve visited the oracle, I presume. Were you able to wake her?”

The oracle was on Moon Isle and only rarely chose to unthaw. The Moonling shook her head no.

Oro would know if she was lying. “We all know this was likely an attack from Nightshade. We need our realms united. Where do you stand?” he demanded.

“I haven’t made my decision to stay or to leave.”

Oro’s expression did not shift an inch. He had been expecting this. “What is the true purpose of your army and ships?”

“To protect Moonling’s interests when I do make my decision.”

“Make it soon,” Oro said. “This is not the time to flee to your newland.” Azul spoke up. “Cleo, you aren’t actually considering leaving.”

Cleo whipped to face him, her dress a white puddle beneath her feet that shifted, liquidous. “We have long been too dependent on this land. The curses are broken. It could be an opportunity for more. Perhaps the island should fall.”

Azul stared, unbelieving. “If Lightlark falls, the realms will follow. Our power is strongest here. Our future is here.”

Isla remembered what Azul had told her during the Centennial—Cleo hadn’t attended the previous one.

This was not a sudden decision. Cleo had thought about leaving for a while. Why? It didn’t make sense.

Oro’s eyes were pure intensity. “If we go to battle with Nightshade, which side will you be on?” Leaving Lightlark for the Moonling newland was one thing . . . choosing to stand against it was another.

Cleo raised her head. Her chin pointed in the king’s direction, sharp as her tone. “The winning one.”

A hundred-foot wave crashed against the cliff, spilling onto its lip, right over the Moonling ruler.

When the water pulled back, she was gone.

The Moonling healers had never seen anything like the drek wounds. They were able to slow the decaying of the skin, but, in the end, her Wildling elixirs were what was able to remove the marks completely. She portaled back to her newland several times throughout the night, and her people had willingly given their own stores of the elixir. They were down to just a small patch of the rare flowers.

Most people were saved. The rest had succumbed to their wounds. Isla walked to her room slowly, Oro at her side. The moon trailed them both through the windows as they made their way up the castle stairs.

She leaned against her door when they reached her room. “Cleo called them dreks. Have you heard of them before?”

“No. Moonlings have always prized their histories and historians. She might have read about them.” He was studying her again. She had caught him doing it, every few minutes, since the attack. It was as if he needed to constantly reassure himself that she was uninjured.

“I’m fine,” she said gently. She looked down at herself and winced. She was covered in blood, after helping the healers. It wasn’t hers.

“I know,” he said, but his brow didn’t straighten. Worry was etched into each of his features, and not just for her, she knew.

“You did everything you could,” she said, reaching up to touch his face, because she was known for giving far more grace to others than to herself. Her fingers were covered in blood—she dropped her hand before it reached his cheek. “Those creatures . . .”

Oro closed his eyes. She would bet he was replaying the events in his mind. When he opened them, she saw guilt in his expression. He blamed himself for every single death.

She wanted to take that pain. She wanted to think of anything that could make him feel better.

Before she could say anything else, he brushed his lips to the crown of her head and said, “Goodnight, Isla.”

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