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

Nightbane: Chapter 49

REUNION

Isla didn’t want to remember anything else. He had stolen her people. He had forced them to his territory. How afraid they must have been. How unwilling.

It was time to bring an end to this.

At midnight, Isla sneaked back to her room. Oro would hate her if he knew what she was about to do. Everyone would. None of them would trust her again, because what she was planning was so traitorous, so foolish—

She stood in the center of her room, the moon wide as a judgmental eye through the window in front of her.

She pulled her necklace.

If she had feared he wouldn’t come, that he wouldn’t drop anything he was doing and rush to her, she was wrong.

Barely a second after her fingers left the black diamond, she heard a step behind her. Then, “Hearteater.”

She turned and he immediately swept her into his arms. He looked crazed, hungry, relieved, so relieved. He was an inch from pressing his lips against hers, and she was an inch from letting him—she was confused, she told herself, the memories were messing with her—before he saw her expression. Sensed her emotions. There was no thread between them. From her side, anyway.

He went still.

“You heartless demon,” she said.

Grim’s eyes had been pleased, delighted, but now he looked devastated. “You don’t remember.”

“I remember plenty,” she said, stumbling away from him. Her eyes glimmered with tears. Angry, angry tears. “How could you?”

“You got my note.”

“Yes, I got your note,” she said, spitting the words out with disgust. “How could you take them? How could you make them go with you?”

Grim raised a hand. “I didn’t make them do anything,” he said. “They chose to come with me.”

No. Liar. “Why would they ever go with you?”

At that, Grim went silent.

He wasn’t telling her something. But he didn’t have to. Pieces came together, questions finding answers.

She shook her head, unbelieving. Hoping she was wrong. “You have Poppy and Terra,” she said, her voice a whisper. “You took them in.”

Grim nodded, and her tears fell freely now. The betrayal . . .

“You know what they did to me. What they did to my parents—”

“It is unforgivable,” he said. “But you need them. You need—”

“I don’t need anyone!” The words exploded out of her. The vines on her balcony rushed through the open door, spreading like fingers, devouring the room. Shadows leaked from her feet, from her hands.

Grim’s face broke in half, into the biggest smile. “Heart, you are radiant,” he said.

Her shadows lunged at him, but he stopped them with a simple wave of his hand.

Her voice shook. “You are a monster.”

Grim frowned. “Am I?” He took a step forward. “Tell me why I’m a monster. Because I brought your people to a place with more comfort, more options, more chances of survival? Because I have them all waiting for your return?”

Her return. He made it sound like a certainty, and she nearly laughed in his face.

“Because I helped them forget what they did?”

Isla froze. “You . . . what?”

“Some of your people were suffering from endless guilt. They couldn’t get past the actions they had committed during the curses. I . . . took their memories away.”

Shadows exploded out of her. She heard the mirrors in her room shatter, but they were just white noise compared to the anger that surged through her. “How could you? Haven’t you learned?”

“They asked me to,” he said. “Are you denying your people their own choices?”

She shook her head. “Why would anyone ask you to do that?”

His face hardened. It seemed he wanted to tell her something, but instead, he changed the subject. “We made a deal . . . remember? Wildling help with nightbane, in exchange for a very vague assortment of whatever your people needed.” He shrugged. “I was simply making good on it.”

Isla curled her lip in disgust. “I suppose you think that makes you generous, don’t you? Helping my people? You are not. You are a monster. You portaled the dreks here. They killed dozens of people, innocents—”

Grim bared his teeth. “I did no such thing. I told you before, dreks were buried below Lightlark and Nightshade. They must have started rising up, the same way they did on Nightshade.”

“They went to your land, like they were called—”

“I didn’t call them. They must have sensed their kind.”

“You control them,” she said. “I know you have the sword.”

At that, Grim studied her. “I do. But I did not order them to attack Lightlark. I swear it.”

Her mouth went dry. There it was. Confirmation that Grim had gotten the sword. And, somehow, he had found a way to use it.

Even if he didn’t order the attack, she had endless reasons to hate him. “You are coming to kill everyone on the island. You will murder thousands of innocents just to get it. You sent a message of ruin, of destruction—”

“No. I’m not. I warned everyone here, which is more than they deserve. They can either leave . . . or join us. It is their choice. No one has to die.”

It was almost heartbreaking how he really believed this. If only he knew what she had seen. All the death that would result from his own hand.

Her own death.

“Do you really think anyone would give up their home without fighting?”

“When fighting is futile . . . I do.”

Isla was filled with rage. Hurt.

“Heart,” he said gently. “If I wanted to take the island by force, I could. Right now. Destroy all of it and everyone, in a matter of seconds. The curses are over.” She could feel the power of him, especially now. Every ounce of it, so much waiting to be unleashed.

His eyes dipped to her neck, where her necklace had become visible, where her fingers had instinctively gone, and she ripped her hand away. “Take this off,” she said.

A wicked grin spread across Grim’s face. “You remember, do you? No . . . No,” he said. He prowled closer. Closer. “If you did, you would know I cannot.”

Talking to him wasn’t working. She could see in the set of his mouth, his eyes, he was intent on invading Lightlark. She shook her head. “Grim, please. If you care about me at all, please don’t do this.”

Grim smiled softly then. He reached out. “Heart,” he said, his voice as gentle as she had ever heard it. His fingers traced her cheek, from her temple to her lips. She was trembling—why was she trembling? “It’s because I care about you that I’m doing this.”

And then he was gone.

. . .

Isla knew what she needed to do.

Remlar was having tea in his hive. A tree grew beneath her, taking her to its highest floor, and she walked through the gaps, right to his makeshift throne. Vines were crawling in her wake, mixing with shadows.

“You look determined, Wildling,” he said, putting his cup down. “You look ruinous.”

“I want you to train me in something wrong. Something treacherous.”

“Oh?”

“I want you to teach me how to cut off someone’s power through a love bond. At least, for a few moments.”

Remlar’s lips crawled into a wide, wide smile. “It would be my pleasure,” he said.

Grim had the Wildlings. Three days remained. She convened everyone in the war room once more.

“I summoned him,” she said, and Oro turned to look at her. His expression was unreadable.

Zed stood roughly. “You what?”

“I thought I could reason with him,” she said. She knew it was risky. Stupid. Still, at any moment he could have portaled into her room and taken her. He hadn’t, which meant Grim wanted her to remember everything. He wanted her to go back to him willingly.

And he needed something from Lightlark, beyond her. She just needed to figure out what it was.

Zed’s look was incredulous. “That . . . that’s treason,” he said. “You summoned our enemy to the Mainland castle. The person who is hell-bent on destroying all of us.” He looked to Oro, whose expression had hardened.

“Let her speak,” he said, though his voice did not have any hint of the warmth it had developed over the last few months with her.

“When I was with him, I could feel . . . I could feel that he still loves me.”

Azul leaned forward. “You felt the connection?”

She nodded.

Zed still glared at her. He wouldn’t ever trust her, she knew that. If she were him, she wouldn’t trust her either.

Still, he was wrong about her. She loved Oro. She was loyal to Lightlark. She closed her eyes and said, “I know how we can win.” They waited. No one moved an inch. “Grim is too powerful. It makes him nearly impossible to defeat. Especially with the sword. But he loves me—I can use the link and take away his powers long enough for us to overpower him.”

Silence.

Enya was the first to speak. “Have you ever tried doing that before?” Isla shook her head. Not that she remembered. Yet. “Have you ever tried . . . even accessing his powers?” Again, she shook her head. Not that she remembered.

Yet.

She turned to face Oro. “But I’ve done it before . . . Accessed powers through the link.”

It wasn’t easy to do. Especially for someone like her, who had only recently wielded power at all.

“It requires an intense . . . connection,” Oro said. He wasn’t looking at her. He shook his head. “It would be too big of a risk. If you couldn’t steal his powers immediately, he would know what you were trying to do and would portal away.”

Calder said, “Oro. This could change everything. It could change the entire tide of the war. Though . . . we would be sentencing all Nightshades to death.”

“Maybe not,” Enya said. “If Isla took all his power, it would spare his people, wouldn’t it?”

“It should in theory, though something like that has never been tested through a love bond,” Azul said. “This is a very . . . unique circumstance.” Azul studied her. “You would be willing to kill him?”

The words hit Isla like a stone in the chest, even though she had been the one to suggest it.

Kill Grim.

The thought sounded poisonous in her mind, but she remembered her vision in front of the vault. If she didn’t stop Grim, he would kill innocent people. He would kill her. Oro had been right. Grim’s words in her room had confirmed it. It’s because I care about you that I’m doing this.

Grim was really going to war because of her. She didn’t know his main reason for destroying Lightlark, but his purpose was clear. Which meant every death would be her fault.

He had stolen her people. Her memories. Her happiness, the last few months.

She wouldn’t allow him to steal anything else.

“Yes,” she said.

Oro met her eyes. She expected to see relief, but all she sensed was concern. He reached across the table for her. She watched Azul track the exchange. By now, he must have known. Oro didn’t seem to care that everyone else was watching as he said, “You don’t have to do this.”

Isla remembered Enya’s words. She saw her meaning clearly now. Oro was putting her own well-being above that of the entire island.

She wouldn’t let him. “Yes,” she finally said. “I do.”

She was going to kill Grim.

Remlar taught her the basics of taking power. It required a complete hold. Pinching the thread between her and Grim between her fingers and being strong enough to stop the flow of power within him.

“It will be painful,” he warned. “And difficult. Grimshaw is a most talented wielder,” he admitted. Isla wondered if Remlar had ever met him.

They had almost run out of time. Only two days remained. Grim clearly needed something on Lightlark. If she could remember what it was, they could shift their plan to make sure he didn’t get it.

She just needed a shortcut.

“I need you to help me speed it all up,” she told Remlar. He had warned her it would be dangerous to force the memories. It could break her, mentally. At this point, she didn’t care.

“Are you sure?” he asked. “Even knowing the risks?”

“I’m sure.”

Remlar began making tea.

Isla’s mind was a battleground.

She didn’t want to remember—she had to remember. She didn’t want to feel anything but disgust at the Nightshade—she had felt everything with the Nightshade.

The more she saw, the more she knew . . .

“What is the opposite of night, Wildling?” Remlar said, as he poured the tea into her mug.

Isla frowned. She was convinced Remlar just liked to hear himself talk. “Day?”

Remlar shrugged. “If you say so.”

Isla narrowed her eyes at him. “What do you mean? What’s the answer?”

Remlar took a sip of his own tea. It looked scalding. “Very few questions in this world have only one answer.”

Isla wondered what the point of this conversation was.

“What is your answer?” she asked. She watched as her tea became more saturated in color.

He didn’t say a thing. These were mostly one-sided conversations. “What does power feel like to you?”

She lifted a shoulder. “Like a seed. Behind my ribs.”

Remlar nodded, excited by her response. “A very pretty way of seeing it,” he said. “Very fitting, for a Wildling.”

“What does it feel like to you?”

This time, he answered. “Like nothing,” he said. “I’ve been alive for so long that my power is as much a part of me as my blood and bones.”

She dared ask a question she had wondered since the first moment she had seen him. “Are you truly Nightshade?”

“Labels are so unproductive,” he said. “Though, I suppose you would call me a Nightshade. In terms of my power.”

“You wield darkness?” Isla asked. “How have the islanders not banished you?”

“They fear me too much,” he said.

“Why?”

“Because my knowledge surpasses theirs. I have survived when kings have risen and fallen and died. I have remained. We, the ancient creatures, remain. And some of us remember.”

“Remember what?” she asked. She finally took a sip of her tea. That was all it took. Within seconds, her mind began to slip away from her. The past bled into the present. She blinked and watched Remlar fade far away.

The last thing she heard him say was, “Home.”


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