Authors: H.D Gordon
When a hand fell on my shoulder,
I jumped a little in surprise, having been snapped out of the conversation in
my head. I looked up to see Arrol standing there, and I couldn’t help but
notice that he looked a little worse for wear. I stopped myself from giving
into the impulse of hugging him, not failing to notice that Kayden, who was
standing on my other side, was giving the Fae a look of burning hatred. I
wouldn’t have admitted it to anyone, but I was glad to see that Arrol was
alright, that he had returned unharmed from the mission I had sent him on.
“Arrol,” I said, careful keep the
relief out of my voice for Kayden’s sake. No reason to add insult to injury.
“You’re back. What happened? Did your Queen agree to let us pass through her
Arrol ran a hand through his
silver hair, smoothing some of it back into place. His lips pulled up a
fraction, and I did my best not to shift under the weight of his silver eyes. I
could see that he was thinking about the kiss we had shared. Talk about
“I always hold up my end of a
deal, Warrior,” he said. “You and your army have until nightfall to get in and
get out. The Queen gave me her word that no one will bother you along the way.”
I nodded slowly. This was it
then. There was nothing left to do now but go. “Thank you,” I said.
Arrol’s smile would have broken
my heart had I any of it that was left intact. I wondered again what he had had
to do to secure this deal for me, or what he would be expected to do in the
future. No one had ever told me if I was good at kissing or not, but I sure as
hell hoped that the one we shared had been worth it for him. Enough people had
been dragged into this fight and hurt for it already.
“I will accompany you through the
Forest, but when we get to the edge, where the border lies between it and the
Silver City, I will have to leave you,” Arrol said.
I nodded my understanding,
secretly glad that there was someone out there who wasn’t willing to walk this
death march with me. “Got it,” I said. “When do we leave?”
Arrol gave me a look that I chose
not to interpret. “As soon as possible would be best. You don’t want to still
be in the Forest come nightfall. I guess we can go as soon as you’ve said your
I almost said that there was no
one for me to say goodbye to, that everyone I cared about was either gone
already or coming with me, but as I thought about it I realized that there were
some people that I wanted to tell farewell. Really, just
I took Kayden’s hand and told
Malcolm to get the people ready to go. He nodded and turned to address them.
Kayden and I began heading away from the crowd down the red dirt path that led
back to Silvia’s cottage. When I got there, I found more people than I would
have wanted waiting for me in the sitting room. Some of them I wished that I
could have snuck out without seeing again. Namely, Camillia, Silvia, Sasha and
Olivia. But I was glad that Catherine, Soraya and Akira were here. Seeing them
was worth having to see the others. I had never had both of the little girls
who had stolen a piece of my heart in the same room before, and looking at
their little faces, I could
remember what I was doing all of this
Akira came to me first, her long
dark hair shielding some of her little face. I picked her up and kissed her on
the cheek, and the sad smile she gave me was enough to melt the ice caps. “Will
I ever see you again, Alexa?” she asked.
I held her close and rubbed my
cheek against her soft hair, reminding myself that I was not going to let
myself cry again. But in all the bad questions that I had ever been asked in my
life, this was by far the worst. I let out a heavy breath. “I’ll do my best,” I
said, giving her the best smile I could manage.
Her tiny hand came up and touched
my face, and I could tell that she was trying to take some of the pain from me,
trying to lessen the fire inside, the same way that she had the very first time
we’d met. I pulled my mental walls up gently, blocking out her Search. I shook
my head. “Thank you, Sweetheart, but I can’t let you touch that again,” I said.
“Too hot this time. You’d get burned.”
Akira’s little voice cracked when
she said, “So you’ll just burn for all of us, then.”
I shrugged, even though it wasn’t
a question, struck speechless for the millionth time on this day. I had never
heard the truth of my situation summed up so simply and horribly.
From the mouths of babes…
“Don’t worry,” I said, and then
set her down on her feet before I could get too wrapped up in my emotions. In
the past twelve hours I had come to hate goodbyes almost as much as I hated the
Soraya was next. Kayden had been
holding her in his arms, whispering things in her ear that made her giggle, and
hiding his reluctance to leave her better than I would have expected, even from
him. Somehow, seeing the look in his eyes as he held his niece was worse than
anything else at the moment. It made me feel for the first time in my life that
I was in serious danger of going straight to hell after I died, and it was
pretty amazing, considering all of the things I had done in my life. Kayden was
leaving this little girl, the only blood relative he had left alive, for me,
knowing good and well that he may never be coming back. If that isn’t hell-worthy,
I just don’t know what is.
I picked Soraya up when she came
to me, brushing away tears from her little cheeks with my thumbs. I bit my
tongue hard enough for blood to fill my mouth to keep my own tears at bay. Such
a little person should not know such pain and loss and hurt in their life.
Sound like someone you know,
“The things I have faced in my
life don’t hold a candle to the things that this little girl has had to face.
And if it is the last thing I ever get to do, killing the man who put her
through those things…I’m good with that.”
My Monster gave no response to
this, and I snapped back to reality to see that Soraya was staring up at me
with those golden eyes that were so much like her uncle’s. I bent down and
pulled her into my arms, happy that she seemed to be a little heavier than the
last time I had held her. It was a wonder what a little food and being able to
keep your own blood could do. She already looked and felt like a whole new
child, the bruises on the crooks of her arms fading and the hollowness to her
“Good luck,” Soraya whispered,
and I could tell by the tone of her voice that fresh tears were falling down
Okay, Warrior, we need to go
now. Shit, if we don’t,
may start crying.
“I wasn’t aware that you were
capable of such things.”
I meant it as a figure of
I set Soraya down and nodded at
her, hoping that it conveyed the same thing I’d said to Akira, that I would do
my best. I didn’t trust my voice not to waver right now. I gave all the others
a nod, too, and had to stop myself from rolling my eyes when Sasha jumped up
from her seat and came over to me. I hadn’t wanted to say goodbye to the people
that I actually cared about. I certainly didn’t want to have to do it with the
ones that I didn’t. Enough was enough.
I opened my mouth to tell Sasha
this, but she brought a box out from behind her back that was all black and
topped with a silver bow. I stared down at it a moment before taking it,
wondering if she always went around giving people she barely knew presents, or
if I just happened to be the lucky one. “Uh, thanks,” I said.
Sasha smiled widely, the look in
her crystal blue eyes making me as uncomfortable as it always did. “It’s really
cold in the Silver City,” she said. “You’re going to need it.”
I opened the lid of the black box
and saw that an all black cloak with a hood was folded neatly inside. When
Sasha pulled it out and slung it over my shoulders, I made no move to stop her.
The cloak latched together in the front with what I had to assume were several
tiny magnets, and when I looked down at myself, my entire body from feet to
neck swathed in death’s color, I found that the gift was oddly appropriate for
me. Especially today.
Surah is going to think we’ve
stolen her style, Warrior.
“Well, then I guess that it’s
a good thing that I don’t give a shit what Surah thinks, isn’t it?”
I guess so.
I thanked Sasha again, and Kayden
and I left without another word.
When we returned to the spot
where we had left our small army, we found that most everyone was wearing black
cloaks and gloves and boots. Apparently, I was the only one who hadn’t known
that this was the required attire for the Silver City, and seeing them all
gathered this way made a terrible image of black and red against white flash
through my head, and then it was gone.
Arrol found us and came over to
stand next to me, his eyes running over the people who were going to be
following us. He looked almost as nervous as I felt, and I realized that this
was the first time that I had ever seen the Fae man look so. “You ready,
Warrior?” he asked.
I nodded slowly, Nelly’s fallback
answer to this question falling from my lips as though she had left it there
“As I’ll ever be.”
I stumbled and fell hard on my knees,
catching myself with my hands to keep from doing a full nose-dive into the
green earth. I stared down at the rich color through blurry eyes, my shaking
fingers identifying the blades and grass, running over them the way a mother
might stroke the cheeks of her newborn baby. I looked up, and there was blue. I
had never seen a sky so beautiful. Slowly, the whole world came into focus and
I was blinded by color, the same way I had been blinded by white in that other
world I had just come from.
I was out. I was
And unless I was my mind was
mistaken—which it never was—an entire day had gone by in the few hours I had
spent in the White World. I had to give it to my sister. Her plan had been
I tried to find my feet too
quickly and my knees gave out beneath me. I forced myself to take deep breaths,
kneeling on the ground like an injured animal, to push past my boiling panic
and wait until enough strength found me that I could move forward. After what
seemed like several eternally long moments, I stood, smoothed my hair back, and
I passed several people, and I
didn’t miss the fact that fear filled most of their faces and they cringed away
from me as I zipped by. I had to stop myself from gripping their shoulders and
demanding the whereabouts of my sister, as though everyone in the Outlands was
keeping constant tabs on her. A light bulb went off in my head, as I remembered
who and what I was, and that there was never any need for me to question
I threw my mind out without a
second thought, blanketing the entire city beneath it. I came to a halt and
closed my eyes as the presence and possession of so many souls filled me, and
couldn’t help a small sigh at the wonder it induced to feel them once again. It
took me no time, no time at all to dig out the information I needed.
It was true then. My sister had
lied to me. The army had moved out. Alexa had gone to fight my battle in my
Unacceptable. My eyes flew open
and I was running again, moving faster than most anyone can move, and yet dreadfully
not fast enough. The colors of the world blurred as I passed by, the shapes of
the red maples and brown cottages and creatures becoming nondescript. In only a
few heartbeats, I was leaping over the invisible border of the Outlands, and
racing into the human world which blurred and streaked with my movement as
The Silver City, that bit of
information had come to me from Camillia’s mind when I had blanket-Searched the
Outlands a moment ago. I saw where it was located on an image of a map that had
been in her memory. My sister would reach this place by nightfall, but what she
didn’t know, is that someone close had given up her plans to the other side.
What she didn’t know, was that when she reached this city that was painted all
white on the map in the Queen’s mind, she would be walking into an ambush.
King William knew that she was
coming, and he would be waiting for her.
My mind was running a mile a
minute, and in the space between heartbeats I rejected so many options that it
was a wonder that they didn’t burn a hole right through my head. There was only
one way I could stop this. There was only one thing I could do.
I set out in Search of my
sisters. I was going to need their help.
The light was different here. My
army and I had followed Arrol to the very edge of the Outlands, a part of this
world that was not accessible through the human world. I had gotten to see the
ocean that I had heard in the distance, and it had been unlike any ocean I had
ever seen. We had just been going along, with me wondering just how big the
small territory of the Outlands was, when the red dirt paths ended, and the
world fell away and ended with it. And there had been the ocean.
It was not blue or gray or
foaming with white, as every other ocean I knew of was, but instead, a rainbow
of soft colors, like a perfect sunset in a skilled artist’s painting. I stood
atop the ledge of rock that marked the edge of the Outlands, staring down and
the gently rolling sea of color; turquoise, pink, electric purple, royal blue.
Even the birds that flew over its waters were not the same as the gulls that
you would find on any shore back home. They were as painted as the ocean over
which they ruled, brilliant with color and ranging in sizes from large to
small. Their cries were more like the tinkling of wind chimes than the squawks
of the seabirds. Looking down into the depths of the water, I wondered what
kind of horrors were wrapped in this deceptively beautiful box.