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

The War of Two Queens: Chapter 28


Poppy

 

I want to see every Atlantian dead.

A cold press of unease slid down my spine as I locked eyes with the Blood Queen. “Even Malik?”

“Even him.” She sipped her champagne. “That doesn’t mean I will see him dead. Or your beloved. I need you to work with me. Not against me. Killing either of them would only hinder what I want. He”—she pointed her glass toward the cluster surrounding Malik—“and his brother will survive my wrath. I have nothing against the wolven. They too may live on as they please, but the rest? They will die. Not because I blame them for what was done to me. I know they had no role in Malec’s entombment or our son’s death. I don’t even truly blame Eloana.”

“Really?” I said doubtfully.

“Don’t get me wrong. I loathe that woman and have something very special planned for her, but she’s not the one who allowed this to happen. I know who is truly responsible.”

“Who is that?”

“Nyktos.”

I drew back, stunned. “You…you blame Nyktos?”

“Who else would I blame? Malec wanted the heartmate trials. He called for his father. Even asleep, Nyktos would’ve heard him. He answered, and he refused,” she told me, and another wave of disbelief crashed through me. “Because of that, Malec Ascended me. And you know what happened next. I don’t just blame Eloana or Valyn. I blame Nyktos. He could’ve prevented all of this.”

Nyktos. He really could have. But for him not to grant his son something like that after seeing what’d happened when he refused it before, and the god had died, didn’t make sense. “Why would he refuse?”

“I don’t know.” She glanced down at her diamond ring. “If Malec knew, he never shared. But the why doesn’t matter now, does it?” The skin at the corners of her mouth tensed. “Nyktos caused this.”

Preventing what had happened and being the root cause were two very different things. Isbeth blamed others for everything she did. Her ability to avoid accountability was shockingly impressive.

“I don’t see how you think you can actually achieve revenge against the Primal of Life,” I said.

Her laugh was as light as chimes as she brushed a thick ringlet from her cheek. “Nyktos appreciates all manner of life, but he is particularly fond of the Atlantians. Their creation was a result of the heartmate trials—the product of love. Malec once told me his father even saw the Atlantians as his children. Their loss will deliver the kind of justice I seek.”

I thought that, perhaps, she was far more out of her mind than I had previously believed. “And you think I will somehow help you kill hundreds of thousands of people? Is that what you want from me?”

“You already have.”

“I have done no such thing—”

“You haven’t?”

Clutching the arms of the chair, I leaned toward her. “What exactly do you think I’ve done or will do?”

“Your anger. Your passion. Your sense of right and wrong. Your love. Your power. All of it. At the end of the day, you are just like me. You will do what you were born to do, my dear daughter.” She raised her glass to me. “You will bring death to my enemies.”

All you will liberate is death.

Sucking in a sharp breath, I jerked back from her. She spoke as if I had no choice. As if this were preordained, and some words spoken eons ago outweighed my free will.

Energy pulsed in my chest, charging the air around us. Her smile didn’t falter—not once as she flicked a long look around the Great Hall—a room packed with mortals. I knew then this was why she’d waited until now to tell me that she wanted to see Atlantia burn. She’d already begun to use the people as a shield.

Then again, when had she not?

But she was wrong. My anger. My sense of fairness. My love. My power. They were strengths. Not fatal flaws that would result in the deaths of untold innocents.

“You’re wrong,” I said, hands trembling as I grasped the arms of the chair again. “I’m not you.”

“If that’s what you need to tell yourself,” she replied with a smile and a wink. “But if you had to cut down everyone in this room to save what you hold most dear, you would without hesitation. Just as I have.”

My breath stopped. My heart stuttered. I wanted to deny what she claimed. I needed to.

But I couldn’t.

And that struck every raw nerve in my body. “You may have given birth to me, but blood is the only thing we share. We’re nothing alike. We never will be. You’re not my mother, my friend, or my confidante,” I said, watching that smile fade from her face. “All you are is a Queen whose reign is about to come to an end. That is it.”

The faint glimmer of eather appeared in her eyes as her grip tightened on her glass. Her lips thinned. “I don’t want to be at odds with you, daughter. Not now,” she said, and the sudden bitter taste of grief pooled in my throat. “But force my hand, and I will force yours and prove just how much we are alike.”

Casteel.

She was threatening Casteel.

My skin went as cold as that hollow, aching place inside me, and when I spoke again, my voice sounded like it had in Massene. Smoky. Shadowy. “I could kill you right now.”

Her eyes met mine. “Then do it. Unleash that power, child. Use that rage.” Eather glimmered in her eyes. “But before you do, remember that you’re not sitting before an Ascended.”

A short, shrill scream pierced the Great Hall, followed by the sound of shattering glass, and then silence. I twisted in the direction of the shout, stomach dropping when I saw the couple that had stood by the statues fall to their knees, blood raining from their eyes and ears—their mouths and noses. Louder, longer screams rang out as mortals scattered from the couple as they shrank into themselves, collapsing into nothing but skin and bones held together by silk and satin.

Malik and Millicent whipped toward us as people cried out, moving farther away. But Isbeth…she hadn’t taken her eyes off me. Not once. But she’d done that, and that kind of power was…

It was horrific.

I didn’t know if I was capable of such a thing. I didn’t ever want to find out.

The Blood Queen sat back, her head tilted as she studied me. “I believe you will benefit from some time alone. And then tomorrow, we will speak further.” She motioned one of the knights forward. “Escort her to her chambers and make sure she remains there.”

I rose as several of the knights left their stations to surround me.

There would be no tomorrow.

No more discussions.

Turning from her, I walked the edges of the alcove, my hands steadying. Instinct told me that we had run out of time. It didn’t matter what she thought I’d do, nor did I believe that I could quell my temper enough to halt her hand—to stop her from senselessly harming others. Instinct also told me that Isbeth wouldn’t go for Casteel immediately. She had two others to slaughter before resorting to that.

Kieran.

And Reaver.

She would do it to prove that I was as unstable and cruel as she was.

All you will liberate is death.

Though maybe she knew me better than I knew myself. Maybe the prophecy was exactly as she and others believed. Perhaps Willa was wrong, and Vikter had been sent to guard something evil. Perhaps I was the Harbinger.

Because if she did as she threatened, I would drown in the blood I spilled.

That meant I was out of time.

I searched for Kieran’s imprint and sent him a quick message. We need to make our move tonight.

His response was immediate and full of resolve. At the entrance to the Great Hall, I looked over my shoulder, finding the Blood Queen standing beyond the alcove, the fine crystal glass still in hand as she watched me like the predator she thought she was.

I looked away, my will forming in my mind. The eather pulsed in my chest.

The glass the Blood Queen held shattered, reminding her that no afraid, submissive Maiden had sat next to her.

 

 

The moon had found its place in the sky over the city, its light drenching the rolling waters of the Stroud Sea. I stood at the window. Beyond the inner walls of Wayfair and the Temples of Nyktos and Perses, the Rise loomed.

It was the tallest Rise of them all, nearly as high as Wayfair Castle. Hundreds of torches lined the land just beyond the Rise, their flames vibrant and steady, serving as a beacon of safety and a promise of protection. They were all aflame.

A distraction.

A big one.

I thought of the mist—how it swirled around the Craven and blanketed the Skotos Mountains. It was Primal magic. An extension of their being and will. Which, I figured, meant it could be summoned.

I didn’t know if this would work. I wasn’t a Primal, but I was the Primal’s descendant. His essence coursed through my veins. The draken answered my will. The Primal notam connected me to the wolven.

Placing my hands on the stone window’s ledge, I closed my eyes and called the eather to the surface. The essence answered in an exhilarating rush as I pictured the mist in my mind, thick and cloud-like as it was in the Skotos. I saw it seeping out from the ground, growing and expanding. My skin warmed as I imagined it rolling across the hills and meadows outside the capital, thickening until it obscured everything in its path. I didn’t stop there as I opened my eyes.

Silvery sparks crackled across my skin as I stared at the Rise and waited, reminded of a different night and city, a different me who believed in the protection of the Rise. That safety.

A flame beyond the Rise began to ripple wildly. The eather swirled through me, over me as I continued calling the mist forth. Summoning it. Creating it.

The flame beside the first began to dance, and then another and another until the whole mass rippled in a frenzy, spitting embers dozens of feet in every direction. The two torches at the end of the line were the first to go out, and then they all went out in quick succession, plunging the land beyond the Rise into utter darkness.

Flames sparked all along the wall. Burning arrows were lifted and fired. They arced through the night and then plummeted down, slamming into the trenches of tinder that traveled the entire length of the eastern wall. Fire erupted, casting an orange glow over the land…

And over the thick, swirling mist seeping toward the trenches. Mist that slipped under the tinder and over the flames, blanketing it until its thick weight choked the light from the fire.

Mist that any on the Rise or in the city would believe to be full of the twisted forms of the Craven.

Horns blew from the Rise, shattering the night, but I didn’t stop there.

I continued calling the mist forward and I…I felt it answer, rushing to the foot of the Rise. It spread out along the massive structure. I heard shouts as I saw the mist climbing in my mind, billowing until it reached the battlements and towers along the Rise.

And then I saw it before me, becoming a cloudy, milky-white curtain against the night sky.

My breath caught at the sight of it. There would be no Craven in that mist. It wouldn’t cause harm. That wasn’t my will. It would only incite chaos and confusion.

It had already started as another horn blew.

The Primal mist crested the Rise in a great wave, spilling over and streaming down the sides. Distant, panicked screams rent the air as the fog poured into Carsodonia and filled the streets. The shouts of fear sounded closer and louder as the mist flooded the districts and bridges, swamping the hills and valleys until it swallowed the inner walls of Wayfair.

I stepped back from the window, lifting the hood as I turned. Sliding the strap of the satchel under my cloak and across my body, I unsheathed the wolven dagger.

It was time to fight our way out.


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