Chapter no 49

The Serpent and the Wings of Night


My Nightfire withered away.

Raihn’s head had rolled back into the sand. His

eyes were half-open, staring sightlessly to the crowd. That stupid little smile still clung to his lips.

I had just gotten everything I’d ever wanted. All my greatest dreams fulfilled.

And all I could think was, No.

No, he wasn’t dead. I hadn’t done that. I knew I hadn’t— I hadn’t pushed that blade in. My mind grasped desperately at those last few crucial seconds.

He couldn’t be dead. He couldn’t.

Distantly, as if in a whole other world, the Ministaer’s voice echoed through the arena.

“The twenty-first Kejari has its victor!”

The delirious cheers of a bloodthirsty populace thrilled by their blood-soaked victor filled the colosseum.

I didn’t move.

I had to force my fingers to relinquish their grip on my blade. They ghosted over Raihn’s lifeless face. His skin was still warm. My thumb swept that curl at the corner of his mouth.

“Raihn,” I choked, half expecting him to answer me.

He didn’t.

He didn’t move. I had killed him. I had killed him.

Oh, Mother, what had I done.

I gripped his face with both hands. My breath came in deep, painful gasps. My vision blurred.

I didn’t cry when Ilana died. I hadn’t cried since the last time I stabbed my lover. I swore to myself—and to Vincent

—that night that I never would again.

But I had been wrong. I had been wrong about so, so much. The world had just lost an incredible force. And my presence here was not enough to make up for that.

In this game, only one of us would win. And it shouldn’t have been me. It shouldn’t have been me.

Nothing existed except for him and the light I had just snuffed out of this world.

Not even the sounds of the crowd. Not the Ministaer’s voice, reverberating through the stands, as he said, “Rise, victor. Rise to greet your goddess.”

No, I heard none of that.

I only raised my gaze when it all went silent. A shiver passed over my skin. I looked up—up to the sky. It was clear and bright, stars stark against the velvet night. My sight was so blurry with tears that they flared like little supernovas.


My brow furrowed.

No. It wasn’t my tears. The stars did indeed brighten, as if fed with fresh kindling. Silver wisps, like torn scraps of gossamer, swirled in the sky above the colosseum. The air grew very, very still, like every breeze had been stolen for the breath of a greater being.

A greater being like the Goddess of Night, of Blood, of Shadow herself. Heir to the Crown of the Dead.

Mother of vampires.

The hair rose on my arms.

“Bow,” the Ministaer whispered. “Bow for our Mother of the Ravenous Dark, Nyaxia.”

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