Chapter no 50

The Serpent and the Wings of Night

I did not need to bow. I was already on my knees, and I couldn’t bring myself to stand.

I felt her before I saw her.

I had always been a bit of a skeptic when it came to the

gods. As much as everyone in Obitraes liked to moon over Nyaxia and her incomprehensible power, I wondered if perhaps some of it was exaggeration or myth.

In this moment, those doubts disappeared.

Because the entire damned world bowed to Nyaxia. Not just the people, but the air, the sky, the earth. The sand shifted beneath my palms, as if inching to get just a little closer to her. The night writhed, as if aching to be in her lungs.

Every part of me called to her. Turn, turn, turn, the wind whispered.

Still, I could not tear myself away from Raihn. “Look at me, my child.”

Her voice was a million shades of a million sounds, painted over each other in exquisite layers. History, power, grief distilled.

I forced myself to let go of Raihn’s face, allowing him to slump to the sand, sickeningly lifeless.

Numbly, I rose. Turned. Nyaxia stood before me.

She was not a person. She was an event.

My mind emptied of thought, my lips parting. She floated just above the ground, delicate bare feet pointed to the sand. Her hair was long and black, tendrils of night floating around her as if carried by an ever-present breeze. Stars glinted in its darkness—no, not just stars, but every infinite shade of the sky. Dappled streaks of distant worlds. Purples and blues of galaxies. It was nearly to her knees, a curtain of night around her. Her skin was ice-white, her eyes midnight-black. Her naked body looked to have been dipped in melted silver, a thousand shades of platinum playing across every dip of her form. Shadows caressed her curves with dancing fragments of darkness.

Her mouth was bright red. As she smiled, a drop of blood dripped down her elegant pointed chin.

I ached to touch her skin. Ached to lick the drop of blood from her mouth. I had learned long ago that vampire beauty was dangerous, a trap set with silver teeth. Their allure was made to draw in prey.

Nyaxia’s allure dwarfed it, and it terrified me.

I recognized this, and yet in this moment, when the full force of her presence hit me, I would have died for her. I would have killed for her. I would have shivered in ecstasy if she had offered me agony by those stunning blood-dipped fingertips.

I struggled to steady myself. The rawness of my grief had opened me, the tear it had cut in my armor too wide to patch.

Nyaxia stepped to the sands, each footfall silent. She bent down and cradled my face in her hands. Her eyes, all black, held the waning glow of a dying sunset, revealing a different shade of the sky every time she turned her head.


She said my name the only way it was ever meant to be said.

A smile twisted her lips. She looked over her shoulder.

“She has your eyes,” she laughed.

Vincent. She was looking at Vincent. I tore my gaze away from her. He had pressed up against the rail, unblinking. Pride and anticipation warred over his face. His eyes shone.

“My daughter, Oraya of the House of Night,” Nyaxia said. “You have fought hard and fought well. Tell me, my champion. What might I grant you as your gift?”



Those words destroyed the temporary haze of Nyaxia’s presence. The reality of where I stood—of what I had done to be here—crashed down around me.

The grief was unbearable. A million jagged edges of a million decisions I could have made differently. The burn of Raihn’s blood on my hands.

Nyaxia’s devastating face went thoughtful. Those night-hewn eyes fell to Raihn’s lifeless body.

“You grieve, my child.”

I could not tell if it was sympathy I heard in her voice.

I didn’t answer aloud, but she heard my response anyway.

“I know grief,” she said, voice soft. “I know what it is to lose half of one’s soul.”

Half of one’s soul. It did feel that way. He had taken more of me than I thought he would when he went.

Storm clouds swirled in the night of Nyaxia’s stare. “To have such a thing stolen from you is a great loss indeed.” Lightning faded as they turned back to me. “But perhaps, too, it is a blessing, my child. Such a pure love, distilled forever in its innocence. A flower frozen in bloom.”

Her fingers caressed my throat, drifted down to my chest, lingering there—as if feeling for my human pulse. “A dead lover can never break your heart.”

Was that how she felt about her dead husband?

If so, I envied her. Because she was wrong. My heart was already broken. It had cracked in a thousand moments over the last twenty years. The first blow came the night my family died. Only now, by my own hand, did it shatter.

Everything I had ever wanted was within my grasp.

Power. Strength. I could never be afraid again. I could make myself the predator instead of the prey, the hunter instead of the hunted, the ruler instead of the subject. I could make myself a monster to fear. I could make myself something to remember, instead of another fading mortal life to forget.

Everything was right here.

Two hundred years ago, Vincent had made this decision.

He had sacrificed everything.

And so had Nyaxia. Her grief became her power. She forged it into a weapon sharp enough to carve a whole new world.

I understood now. It always happened this way. Love was a sacrifice at the altar of power.

My gaze found Vincent’s. He was not blinking, was not breathing.

My father who had taught me how to survive, how to kill, how to feel nothing. Perhaps I didn’t share his blood, but I was his child in every other sense of the word, and he loved me the only way he knew how. At the edge of a blade.

I swallowed the sudden, desperate desire to know how he had felt when he stood in my place, two hundred years ago. Did he swear that he would be better than the one who came before him?

Nyaxia’s smile rolled over my cheek like the cold light of the moon.

“They always have dreams,” she murmured, answering the question I did not ask. “And his were the grandest of all. Tell me, what is yours, my child?”

I cradled my wish in my weak mortal heart. Perhaps I was more human than Vincent thought, after all.

My father taught me to look them in the eye as I slid the blade into their heart. And so, I did not look away from his as I told Nyaxia, “I wish that Raihn had won.”

Vincent’s face went white.

Nyaxia’s laugh sounded like the shifting of fates.

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