Spark of the Everflame: Chapter 5


“Lily!” the man shouted. His sharp panic carved through me like a scalpel. He gripped the back of her head as her body slumped to the ground. “Something’s wrong. Help her, please!”

I’d missed something—something crucial.

In my mind, the world went quiet. Sounds hushed, lights dimmed, the room faded to black. I saw nothing beyond the girl lying unconscious in front of me.

I dropped to my knees, my hands moving as if by their own free will. Suddenly I was shoving the man away, ripping off his protective grip and checking her pulse, her eyes, her breath. My palms roamed over her clothes in frantic search for signs of injury.

Then I saw it.

A large pool of crimson forming beneath her lower back. It had been hidden by her body, the liquid covertly absorbing into her thick navy gown.

I pulled my dagger from its sheath and sliced at her clothing until it fell away from her skin. Shouts of protest rang out from what felt like miles away, barely audible to my ears.

A twisted metal shard, snapped off from a fallen chandelier, protruded from her back. The pain from her arm must have overwhelmed her for her to not feel an injury this severe.

So much blood—too much blood—had already puddled on the floor. I pulled a jar from my bag and forced a scoop of the mixture under Lily’s tongue, offering a silent prayer to whatever gods were listening that the clotting potion would absorb quickly enough to make a difference.

I took a sharp breath before yanking the hunk of metal from her back. It gave way with a wet, nauseating squelch.

Instantly, a river of scarlet began to ooze. I grabbed gauze from my pack and pressed it to the wound, acutely focused on the quickness with which the snowy fabric faded to pink, then red, then dark maroon. I packed more gauze as the dressing bled through.

Again. And again. And again.

Too much blood.

I shifted her body to spare a glance at her face. Her lips had gone blue, her skin ashen and clammy.

“Come on, Lily,” I growled beneath my breath.

I should have seen this. I’d missed the signs, too wrapped up in my own thoughts while an innocent girl had been bleeding out right in front of me.

I thought of Teller and the way his eyes lit up when he talked about her. She’s really nice, he’d said. So few in this miserable world had ever been nice to him. If she died at my hands…

No. I wouldn’t allow it.

I pressed harder on the wound and leaned down until my lips grazed Lily’s ear. I thought of the voice, whose silent commands had haunted my thoughts these past weeks.

“Fight,” I demanded, willing every shred of dominance I possessed into the order. “I need you to fight, Lily. This is not your time.”

Fight, the voice inside me echoed.

Again, a strange feeling stirred in my chest. My hands tingled with a sensation that was at once freezing cold and scorching hot. It was almost painful, but I didn’t dare pull away.

A soft glow spilled from beneath the blood-soaked gauze at my palms. On some instinct I couldn’t understand, I hunched my body over hers to hide it.

Was this Lily’s Descended magic taking effect? It had to be—didn’t it?

“Yes,” I whispered. “Fight, Lily. Fight.”

The light beneath my hand flared blindingly bright—silver, like moonlight.

Lily’s eyes flew open.

Her chest swelled with a gasp as she jolted upright. Her lips were miraculously pink, her sapphire eyes sparkling.

We stared at each other for an enduring moment, blinking and wordless. As the world around me materialized back into view, I became acutely aware that every face in the room was turned our direction. I looked down at the injury and carefully peeled back the gauze.

My eyes went wide.

The wound was gone. Not closed—not healing.

Gone.

As if it had never happened.

I pulled off the dressing completely, but there was nothing. Not even a scratch.

Without fully knowing why, I clamped the gauze back down to hide the pristine skin.

“H-how do you feel?” I stammered.

Lily’s dumbstruck expression matched my own. “Good, I think. What… what happened?”

I shook my head, struggling to form words. “You were… bleeding. But you—you’re alright. It’s alright now.”

A crowd of Descended surged around us. Their hands scrambled for Lily, stroking her hair, her arms, cooing words of reassurance and murmuring in disbelief. I fell back, confused and lightheaded.

My gaze dropped to my scarlet-drenched hands. The wound had been real. There had been so much blood—enough of it that I had known, in the pit of my soul, the metal fragment had taken out something vital, something no mortal healer could fix. Was their healing ability that strong?

The Descended’s fussing grew louder, bleating out praises to their ancestral goddess.

I stumbled to my feet, lurching backward until I slammed into a firm body. I whipped around and locked eyes with Elric.

“That was incredible,” he gushed. He looked at me in awe, as if I had been the one to save her. “Did you—”

“Is there somewhere I can wash up?” I rasped. My lungs struggled to pull in breath, my body overwhelmed by a tempest of warring emotions.

He recoiled at the sight of my bloody, shaking hands. “Um… yes, of course.” He led me to the hallway and pointed. “Last door on the right.”

I gave a jerky nod in thanks and staggered forward as the palace spun wildly around me. Halfway down the corridor, my knees wobbled, threatening to give. I sagged against a nearby wall and closed my eyes.

I felt weightless in the worst of ways—my stomach falling, tumbling through the air. I could still sense the phantom tingling in my palms, the silvery glow that was somehow cold and hot, ice and fire. The echoes of the voice lingered in my thoughts, still goading at my temper.

After a few long, torturous minutes, my weight settled back into my feet. My breath steadied, my pulse no longer a thunderous gallop.

I pushed off the wall and turned for the washroom when an immense energy enveloped me in its weight. A firm hand clasped around my elbow and jerked me back, bringing me face to face with the mystery man who’d been at Lily’s side.

“Where are you going?” he demanded.

For a moment, I couldn’t move. He was so much closer than he’d been before. Close enough to notice the square set of his jaw, the sweeping cliffs of his cheekbones, his nose—straight as a broadsword’s blade. Close enough to smell the cedar and leather of his woodsy musk. Close enough to see that his icy eyes, stark against his bronzed skin, weren’t just a static blue—they moved, illuminated by a churning swirl of light and veins of shadow.

Gods, he’s beautiful.

I scowled at the traitorous thought. I looked down to where he gripped me, his skin strikingly hot against my own.

“If you value that hand, you’d best remove it from my arm,” I warned.

His gaze dragged over me. I could practically hear his thoughts as he assessed me—my height, my build, my daggers—dismissing the idea that I offered any real threat. The arrogance of it almost made me smile. I had been underestimated by proud men before—always to their downfall.

“Hand,” I snapped. “Off.” I angled my body to conceal my palm as it inched to the hilt of my blade.

He held my stare for a few tense seconds, eyes sparking with some inscrutable reaction, before finally letting me go.

“How did you do that—with Lily?” he asked, his tone deceptively soft.

“I’m a healer. It’s my job.”

He stepped forward, and I stepped back.

“Your eyes—”

“I’m not Descended,” I interrupted, knowing all too well where this was headed. The rehearsed explanation fell off my tongue like a reflex. “I was born with brown eyes. Lost the color in a childhood illness. There’s plenty in town who can vouch for it.”

“The light you made back there…”

“That was Lily. I did nothing. I’m a mortal.”

He looked unconvinced, scanning my face in search of some answer I couldn’t provide.

Here he was, finally standing before me, the man I’d been searching for months to find. My lips parted with the urge to ask him about my mother, but some gut instinct held my tongue.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I brought this man into my life, it would open a door I could never again close. And judging from the knife-blade edge to his voice and the suffocating intensity of his presence, this was not a man I wanted wrapped up in my world. If he’d been willing to kill my mother to keep her silent, what might he do to the rest of my family if he believed we knew his secrets, too?

He glanced over his shoulder at the empty corridor, then dropped his voice to a whisper. “If you’re a half-mortal…”

“I’m not.”

A crease formed between his brows. “Your father—he hails from Fortos?”

My thoughts crashed in a jumbled frenzy. How could he have…? Does he mean the Commander, or does he mean…? Is it possible he knows…?

My expression seemed enough of an answer for him. He lifted his eyes to the ceiling. “Wonderful,” he mumbled.

“What—how did you—”

“You shouldn’t be here.” He jerked his chin toward my daggers. “Mortals aren’t permitted to carry weapons in the palace.” He said the word pointedly, drawing it out like some unpleasant inside joke.

My temper flared anew. The Descended could kill us with a twist of their fingers—but we were the threat?

“What’s the problem?” I bit back. “Scared of a little mortal woman?”

“Hardly.” His tone was emotionless, matter-of-fact. “Mortal or not, you’d be dead before that dagger left its sheath.”

For a foolish heartbeat, I considered putting his claim to the test.

“Why does it matter then? I thought mortal weapons couldn’t pierce your skin.”

“They can’t—except for the children.” Immediately his features tightened, as if chastising himself for revealing such a weakness.

“You think I would hurt a child?” I hissed.

He opened his mouth to respond but fell silent as I stormed forward, not stopping until my face was so close, the warmth of his breath fell on my lips. I poked my blood-coated finger into the solid wall of his chest, getting a small thrill of satisfaction as his eyes grew large in surprise.

“If I wanted to hurt those children, I would have let your darling Princess Lilian bleed to death. We mortals could have stayed home and let all three of those children meet their ends. Instead, we saved them—and this is how you thank us?”

A muscle ticked in his jaw, but he said nothing.

My lip curled. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to wash up. Seems I made a mess while saving your people.” I whipped on my heel and stalked away.

I waited until I was in the washroom and heard the soft click of the lock sliding into place before I slumped to the ground and burst into tears.

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