Authors: Marie Lu
Tags: #Fantasy, #Young Adult
His eyes turn black. He bares his teeth and rushes at me.
The speed at which he moves is dizzying. One moment he stood a dozen feet away—the next, he has reached me and
holds a flashing blade over his head.
I’m going to die.
No one will be able to rescue me in time. I glance at Enzo, but Enzo has hunched over on the ground, barely conscious.
Tristan slashes at me. The blade cuts deep into my shoulder. I shriek—pain blossoms in me and I stagger back. My illusions ache to lash back. But I am so weak, drained from my disguise as Raffaele, that all I can do is throw a thin black veil at him. It vanishes into smoke.
“Enzo!” I reach for him. He stays crumpled in a heap on the platform.
Tristan reaches me. His hands close around my neck. I fall backward and hit my head hard on the platform. Stars burst across my vision. He’s choking me, pushing down hard with blind,
The only thing that saves my life is Maeve. As I struggle, Maeve’s voice reaches my ears. “Do not kill her!” she shouts. There is a frantic note in her words, and in a flash, I realize why.
If they kill me, Enzo’s only link to the living world, then Enzo will return to the Underworld.
Tristan stops immediately at Maeve’s call. Instead, he whirls, his attention shifting to where Enzo lies. The sudden realization that my life isn’t in danger hits me. My advantage. As Tristan turns to pick up Enzo, I stagger to my feet, clutching my bleeding shoulder, and flee off the stone path.
I’m only halfway when a blast of wind hits me hard, then lifts me high into the sky. I struggle in vain. The Windwalker’s work. The world around me spins—I think I see flashes of
dark robes among the arena’s seats, the Daggers moving against me and heading down to where Enzo and Maeve are. Where are my Roses? My mouth opens in a scream as the wind suddenly cuts off, sending me plummeting down toward the arena’s rows.
A new current of wind stops me several feet from the stone seats. It flings me to one side, leaving me to tumble along the stairs. I stop there, breathing hard. As my vision clears, I see a Dagger approaching me, her curls tied back high on her head, her face hidden behind a silver mask that sends a ribbon of fear slicing through me. The only part of her face I can see are her eyes, flashing in fury at me. Lucent.
” she snarls. “What have you done with Raffaele?”
I can’t think. Visions flash before me—I’m not sure if they are real or if they are illusions. Memories of Enzo kissing me in the rain shift into an image of him with his black eyes, staring through me as if searching for his soul. I tremble like a leaf in the wind.
He recognized me through my illusion.
How did I give myself away? How did he know?
Another figure hops nimbly down by my side. He puts a protective arm out in front of me. It’s Magiano.
He flashes his savage smile at Lucent. “Sorry for that rough landing,” he says, tilting his head close to me. “But I have a prince to steal for you.” Then he braces himself and hits Lucent with a blast of wind.
Lucent’s eyes open in surprise, but she manages to catch herself in time. She leaps backward, then rides a current of her own wind to the bottom of the steps. She prepares to
attack us—but Violetta stands up from where she’s crouching nearby. My sister narrows her eyes.
Lucent gasps. She steadies herself, then blinks in confusion. She tries to pull together a curtain of wind, but nothing happens. Fear sparks in her, and I reach hungrily for those threads. They shimmer in a halo around her.
Magiano laughs a little. A dagger gleams in his hand. “Why so surprised?” he taunts. He lifts a hand down toward the arena, where Enzo is still kneeling on the platform, and calls the wind to pick him up. Then he lunges at Lucent with the blade drawn.
I scramble to my feet. Just standing up feels like an overwhelming task. My head spins, and cold sweat covers my forehead. Below, Enzo lifts onto the wind, and I feel the bond between us move with him. It pulls at the insides of my stomach, making me simultaneously nauseated and excited. What does our new connection do?
Lucent pulls two short swords from her belt. She crosses them as Magiano hits her, and the clash rings out over the storm.
A black shadow falls over me. Overhead, Gemma appears on the back of a balira. The balira lets out a sharp, furious cry. I’ve never heard such a sound before from these gentle creatures. Its eyes gleam in the night, and it lunges down toward me. A sharp stab of anger surges through me at the sight of Gemma.
I chose to spare you earlier. How dare you turn on me.
If I had my power right now, I would attack her. The balira’s rage feeds me, returning some of my strength.
The balira spins so that its giant wings swing down toward us, threatening to send us flying through the air. A hand clamps down on my arm. It’s Sergio. “Get down!” he shouts, then shoves me aside. I throw my hands over my head and curl up as small as I can. Above me, Sergio sidesteps enough to let the tip of the fleshy wing swing past him. He grabs its edge. It yanks him into the air, and as the balira starts to soar up again, Sergio glides up from where he dangles from the wing.
I yank out the dagger at my belt. Almost immediately, though, the weapon unfurls right before me and vanishes into thin air.
Michel’s here. I whirl around, looking for him. At the last second, I see him rushing down toward me from the top of the arena’s stairs, my dagger now in his hand.
Energy builds in my chest again. I reach for him and lash out.
I don’t have enough strength to envelop him in pain, but I
fool him with my tricks. A quick replica of myself materializes and lunges at him with a scream. I scramble out of the way as Michel skids to a halt on the stairs, startled by the illusion of me. I rush up to him, take advantage of his hesitation, and grab my dagger out of his hands.
Then I wrap my arm around his neck and hold the blade to his throat. “Move, and I’ll kill you,” I snap at him. Then I raise my voice over the storm. “
” I shout.
Farther down the stairs, Magiano and Lucent break from their duel for an instant. Lucent glances up at me through
the rain. She’s breathing heavily, and one of her wrists looks bent at an unnatural angle. She has her powers back now, but she’s not using them.
Violetta makes her way up toward me. She holds a hand up to the sky, where Gemma’s balira soars by. She clenches her jaw and makes a fist. The creature shudders. Gemma lets out a faint cry as my sister yanks her power away. Her balira shudders—she struggles with Sergio. Then she loses her grip altogether on the balira. I can tell the instant it happens, because the beast suddenly starts to dive toward the water.
Gemma seems to regain control at the last instant. The balira pulls up. It slides one of its wide wings underneath Enzo. Water sprays as the balira’s long tail hits the lake.
“Let him go,” Lucent shouts at me.
I tighten my grip around Michel. Michel stays still. I hold the dagger far enough from his throat so that I don’t accidentally hurt him. The storm overhead shifts into a steady downpour.
“Where’s Raffaele?” Lucent shouts. “What did you do with him?”
I can feel the fear emanating from her. She thinks I killed him, perhaps that I slit his throat the way I’m threatening to do right now to Michel. I find delight in that, her fear of what I am capable of doing. “Find him yourself,” I snap back.
Lucent grits her teeth. She makes a move toward me, but stops when Magiano clicks his tongue in disapproval. He flashes his teeth in a grin. “Careful,” he says to her. “I keep my blades very sharp. It’s a nervous habit.”
She gives him a look full of dislike before turning her attention back on me. “Where’d you get your new crew?” she calls over the rain. “What do you
?” She spreads her arms. “We parted ways! You want your darling Enzo back? Is that what this is all about?”
Her taunt about Enzo hits home. I clench my teeth, then throw an illusion of fire around her. It circles her, mimicking the heat of a real fire, and closes in. She shields her face for a second as the scorching heat hits her. I let her think that the fire singes her, then pull it away. The flames vanish.
“I came to take the throne away from you,” I reply. “From Beldain. How dare you all think you can hand our country over to a foreign power! A foreign queen!”
Lucent looks genuinely confused. “You hated the Inquisition! You wanted to see the
saved as much as we do. You—”
Then why aren’t we allies, Windwalker?
” I yell. “If we all want the same things, why are you my enemy? Why did you cast me out?”
“Because we couldn’t trust you!” she yells back. Her anger returns. “You
one of ours! You betrayed us to Teren!”
“I had no
The tide of rage over her rises. “Enzo died because of
“He died because of
,” I snarl. “Your precious Raffaele wanted me dead too! Have you forgotten that?”
“The throne doesn’t belong to you,” Lucent spits out. She clenches her sword tighter. “It belongs to the rightful king.”
My energy builds with my own fury, surrounding me
in a cloud of darkness. “No—it will belong to your Beldish queen, not Enzo,” I snap. “There
no rightful ruler of Kenettra. Can’t you see that?”
I can be the rightful ruler. I can be the greatest ruler there ever was.
Something in my words hits Lucent hard. I feel a sudden rush of darkness in her, a deep hatred for me, and her lips curl up into a snarl. She makes as if to lunge at me, but her broken wrist suddenly jolts in pain, and she winces, clutching it. I keep my stranglehold on Michel.
A movement in the shadows of the arena behind Magiano catches my eye. It’s the bald boy, the new Dagger recruit named Leo. He darts forward toward Magiano, blade drawn, right as I scream out a warning.
Magiano whirls in time to block the sword—but Leo clenches one hand down on his arm. Magiano lets out a shout of pain. He kicks Leo backward, sending him reeling, but then staggers, falling to his knees. I freeze in terror. Magiano turns pale, then leans over and retches.
Leo scrambles up. He points to the top of the arena, where someone I don’t recognize crouches against the stone. He’s making a gesture with both arms out. “The Inquisition’s here,” Leo shouts. “We have to hurry!”
In unison, we all look to the horizon. There, a fleet of baliras is heading toward us.
Magiano manages to glare up at both me and Lucent. “I’m fairly certain none of us like them, yes?” he gasps, wiping his mouth.
Lucent looks torn for a moment. My stare goes to the top of the arena too. I could slit Michel’s throat right now—take one of the Dagger’s Elites away from them permanently. It’d be so easy.
But the Inquisition is coming, and Magiano is hurt. We don’t have time to fight one another and hold off the Inquisitors.
I make a disgusted sound, let go of Michel, and shove him forward. He trips on the stairs and almost falls, but Lucent manages to catch him on a gust of wind. As she rushes to him, I go to Magiano’s side. Together, Violetta and I manage to hoist him up between us. He sways on his feet, his eyes rolling back, but forces himself forward. “Poisoned, I think,” he chokes out. “That little bastard.”
“We’re getting you out of here,” I reply. Up in the sky, Sergio circles back on his balira. The Daggers turn their backs on me again, and we make our way out of the arena, the tenuous bond between Enzo and me still tugging at my chest.
Maeve Jacqueline Kelly Corrigan
In the alcove off a lonely stretch of Kenettran cliffs, several Beldish ships rock in the choppy waters. The dawn has arrived overcast and windy, the remnants of last night’s storm still on the horizon.
On board and belowdecks, the Daggers gather around Maeve and Raffaele. The normally bold queen is subdued today, slumped against a stack of pillows and impatiently waving away her brothers. Tristan sits some distance from everyone, looking on at his exhausted sister with a straight face, as if not quite seeing her. Still, every time she winces, he twitches, ready to defend her and helpless to do so.
Maeve’s eyes are fixed on Raffaele, who has just woken. His skin is deathly pale, and his hands still tremble. Michel wrings out a warm cloth from a basin, and Gemma places it gingerly on his head. She squeezes his arm.
“What do you remember?” she asks him.
Raffaele doesn’t answer for a moment. His attention shifts to Lucent, who sits beside Maeve, gritting her teeth as a servant binds her broken wrist. Raffaele’s thoughts seem to be far away. “Adelina,” he finally says. “She has progressed rapidly in her illusions of touch.” His voice turns quiet. “I’ve never felt pain like that in my life.”
Michel’s hands tense. He squeezes out another cloth until his knuckles look ready to burst. “I’m surprised she didn’t kill you,” he mutters.
“She let me live,” Raffaele replies, his stare fixed on Lucent’s wrist. “She wanted me to know, so that we are even.”
Maeve’s eyes narrow. “This is your White Wolf, then,” she says. “Your traitor. You told me she had fled the country with her sister. Why is she here? What is she trying to prove by tethering Enzo to herself?”
Raffaele’s eyes stay fixed on Lucent’s wrist. “She’s here for the throne,” he replies. His voice is distant and calm. “The alignment in her to ambition has grown far stronger than I remember. It is a storm in her chest, poisoned by her other alignments. She will have her revenge, or she will die trying.”
“She also seems to have strengthened her relationship with her sister,” Gemma adds. “I’ve never experienced someone wrenching my power away like that. Violetta is learning fast.”
Leo, who leans against the wall and rubs a healing cream
into a jagged cut on his arm, looks up. “Not to mention their mimic. Magiano.”
“Good thing you stopped him before he could try to copy you,” Lucent mutters.