We are taking book requests on our companion website. You can request books here. Make sure, you are following the rules.

Nightbane: Chapter 29

I DO NOT DIE TODAY

The outcome of the battle was not set in stone, that was what the oracle had said. Those were the words Isla clung to as her own death replayed in her mind, over and over again, and as she watched Oro rage against the vault.

He had tried to use her power to open the door, but it remained closed.

“Oro,” she finally said, placing a hand against his tensed back. Only then did he stop.

He pulled her into his arms and said, “He isn’t going to kill you. I will rip him limb from limb before he ever hurts you.”

The floor seemed to tremble with his promise. She had never seen him so disheveled, so . . .

Afraid.

She was afraid too. “I need to know. You and me . . . we have a love bond. Does that mean if I die . . . you can take my abilities? You can save the Starlings and Wildlings?”

Oro’s eyes flashed with fear. “You’re not going to die, Isla. But yes. I should be able to.”

Her relief must have been visible because Oro became more distressed. She placed her hands against the sides of his face. “You aren’t going to lose me,” she said. “I’m not going to die.” She would make sure she kept that promise.

Which meant they needed to make sure they won the war.

“I’m going to see the Vinderland with Enya,” she said. “And you need to be okay with that.” The Sunling was waiting for her now. They were going immediately.

More fear and pain had hardened in Oro’s eyes, and she understood, she really did. If he was set to do something reckless, she would feel the same way. She thought of her guardians then, and Cleo with her son.

It was possible to love someone too hard. It was possible to turn love into a prison.

He finally nodded. “You’re right,” he said. He walked her over to Enya, who was waiting beyond the Mainland woods. Before they left, he pressed a hand against her arm. Sparks erupted from his touch, shimmering, covering her entire body from the neck down. It formed onto her as closely as her clothes. Besides the faint sparkle, it was nearly invisible.

“It’s a Starling shield,” he said. “Like the one you’re creating for the battle, but smaller. Can you take it over?”

She focused on the energy. Breathed in and out. Slowly, under her command, it dripped down her fingers, past her skin. Keeping the shield in place took effort, but she was grateful for its protection.

“It’s not invincible,” Oro said, “but it will stop an arrow.”

“Thank you,” she said, before lifting on her toes to kiss him. At first, it was soft, but then Oro grabbed her like he was afraid she wouldn’t be able to keep her promise, like she might be gone any day now. His fingers ran through the back of her hair, tilting her head, giving him a better angle. His other arm curled around her waist, and she felt her shield ripple there. She pulled him closer.

Enya cleared her throat, and Isla tore herself away. The Sunling shook her head at them while Isla drew her puddle of stars and portaled them to the people who had split her heart in two.

Wind howled in her ears. Her cheeks went numb. The air was white, coated in a thin layer of snow. They were on flat land, yet fighting against the current of the snowstorm made every step forward feel like climbing up a mountain.

“What a charming place to live,” Enya bit out, before her body was coated in reddish gold. It wrapped around her like Isla’s Starling shield, then spread beyond, warming the air around them until Isla could feel her nose again. “That’s better, isn’t it?” she asked. The snow below the Sunling’s shoes melted and sizzled.

Isla searched the blank horizon. There were a few monstrous mountains, covered in sharp panes of ice that looked like scales. “I don’t know how they survived out here,” she said. She remembered coming to Vinderland territory with Oro, during their search for the heart. It was hard to imagine, but back then, it had been colder. Ever since the Moonlings left, Moon Isle had increasingly gotten warmer.

“Are you . . . are you afraid?” Isla asked, wondering if she sounded like a fool.

Enya only glanced over at her. “No. Not at all.”

“Why not?” she said. “The Vinderland are warriors. I’ve seen how well they fight”—which was why they so desperately needed them in battle—“They don’t just kill their enemies . . . they eat them.” And not because of a curse. Simply for pleasure.

Enya stared at her for a long while. “I’m going to tell you something only Oro, Cal, and Zed know.”

Isla blinked. She was surprised Enya would tell her anything personal. They weren’t necessarily friends. It had been clear from the beginning that Enya was like a shield around Oro, protecting him at all costs. Her loyalty was to him, not her.

She waited.

“I know exactly when I will die,” Enya said.

Isla stopped and was instantly drenched in cold, now outside of the dome of warmth Enya had created.

She thought of her vision. Her own death.

“What? How—how could you know that?”

Enya motioned for her to keep moving, and she did. “The day I was born, a Moonling sent for my mother. The oracle wanted to see her. She hadn’t thawed in a while, so it was considered important. She visited her, holding me. The oracle told my mother she had seen my death.”

Isla realized they had more in common than she’d thought. For a moment, she wondered if she should tell Enya about her vision. Who else would understand?

In the end, all she said was, “That’s . . . awful.”

Enya shrugged a shoulder. Bits of snow fell above them and melted inches away, raining onto their heads. “Most mothers might think so, but mine wasn’t like that. She said, ‘Well, are you going to tell me?’ The oracle did. When I was old enough to understand, my mother gave me the choice. Know how and when I will die . . . or don’t. I’ve been told I’m a lot like her . . . and you already know which choice I’ve made.”

“Does Oro know?”

“When I die?”

Isla nodded.

“No, though he used to ask me incessantly when we were younger. I think he wanted to know so he could somehow keep it from happening. He’s like you, in that way. He carries guilt around that doesn’t even belong to him.” She lifted a shoulder. “I think of it as a gift. I know when I die, so I can spend every day until then living to the fullest. You and Oro seem to get lost in your minds, thinking about the past, future—I spend most of my time in the present.” She sighed. “The reason I’m telling you this is to explain why I’m not afraid. Not even in the slightest.”

Just as the words left her mouth, a legion of Vinderland appeared on the horizon, wearing metal helmets with massive tusks, fur around their necks, and intricate armor. They were holding swords and axes longer than her limbs.

Enya casually turned to Isla, winked, and said, “I do not die today.”

. . .

A flurry of arrows struck Isla and ricocheted off the Starling shield glittering along her skin, humming with energy. It took every ounce of focus for her to hold it in place, and she winced with every hit. They might not have pierced her skin, but they would certainly leave bruises.

At her side, Enya formed a wall of fire, charring the arrows before they reached her. Her movements were smooth, casual even, as she melted all ice and snow around her and turned their weapons to ash.

There was a battle cry, and Isla leaped to the side as an axe was thrown right at her body. Its blade missed her by inches, and then the warriors descended.

They bellowed words she didn’t understand and rushed forward, moving surprisingly quickly with the heavy armor they wore. Thick furs peeked through the gaps in the metal.

“Red hair,” one of them yelled, staring at Enya. “You’re going to make a lovely stew. Charred and zesty.” He smiled, revealing teeth sharpened into points—better to tear flesh with.

“And you’re going to make a lovely pile of ashes,” Enya replied, her fire bursting forth, burning his beard. The man screamed as the rest of him caught fire. He rolled onto the snow.

A sword came for Isla’s neck, and she ducked, then hit the man in the temple, knocking him out. They needed these warriors—they were worthless in battle dead.

Enough.

She flung her arms to either side, and trees sprung up from the lifeless land, breaking through the ice.

The Vinderland went still. If they didn’t recognize her before, they certainly did now.

One towering man stepped forward, his armor clanking. He took off his horned helmet, revealing a sharp face with a diagonal scar across it. “How dare you come here, after killing so many of us?”

Isla bared her teeth. “You all almost killed me. You tried to eat me. You put an arrow through my heart.”

His eyes narrowed. “Yet here you are. Do you think you’ll be so lucky to escape death a third time?”

She almost smiled. Escape death. That was exactly what she was trying to do.

“With your help, I hope so,” she said.

The man laughed. It was hoarse and made her skin crawl. The rest joined him, their laughs echoing in their helmets. “We would sooner die than help any of you.”

“Then you will die anyway,” she said, stepping forward. “Nightshades are coming to destroy Lightlark. There will be nothing left. Every inch will be decimated. Everyone will perish, including you.”

The man’s eyes narrowed at her. “Lightlark has survived thousands of years, several wars—”

“Not like this one,” she said. “I know the future, and it is destruction.”

“The oracle—”

“She says Lightlark’s fate is in the balance. Everyone must protect it.” She curled her lip in disgust. “I hate you,” she said. “And you hate me. But we have a common enemy, and that is anyone who would destroy Lightlark. I’m sure you’ve noticed Moonling has left.”

He nodded.

“They have joined Nightshade.”

The warriors behind him began talking to each other.

“We need you,” Isla said. “We need every warrior on this island to defend it. Say you will fight alongside us. If we can make peace, then there is hope for the future of Lightlark.”

The man considered. She waited. Finally, he put his helmet back on and said, “No.”

Then, he gripped his battle axe and aimed for her head.

Her focus wavered; her shield fell away. Time seemed to slow down as she watched the axe swing toward her face. Her hand instinctively raised to block herself, fingers half an inch from the metal. In her mind, she knew, logically, her hand would be cut in half, and the axe would bury in her brain. She would die.

But that’s not what happened.

The moment Isla touched the blade, the axe turned to ash.


Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Options

not work with dark mode
Reset