Chapter 47.1


Resuming the precautionary measures agreed upon with the others, I was avoiding the main roads, cutting through untamed terrain. I pushed myself as hard and as fast as I could go, but the bag of supplies I carried had fragile items. I was just clumsy enough to spill down a rocky cliff face at this pace, so I had to go on safer, but longer, routes through the low valley. There was the danger of finding wandering daesce the further north I went, but it was a risk I had to take–both for the supplies and for the harrowing news I needed to deliver.

The champion of Njord was in the region. Jack. Quincy’s father.

Who could say why we had failed to hear this until now? I supposed if I were a powerful and legendary agent of a major deity, I would also strive to keep a low profile so as to do my work undisturbed. But like anyone of such stature, his presence had become known to certain circles. Bounty hunters were one of those circles, apparently, but they were exactly the sort of people we had been avoiding all this time.

Oh, what sorry luck that we couldn’t have known sooner!

I needed to hurry back and tell everyone. We needed to flee this place. We couldn’t stay here. If Tobias’ accounts were anything to go by, Jack’s power was immense. We were in no shape to defend ourselves against such a being. His legendary moniker, “Wind,” was appropriate. He could blow away whole armies with just his breath if any of the stories were to be believed.

This is what I thought of as I raced through a copse of trees. My limbs shook with fatigue from not having slowed down for a little over three hours.

My foot hit a root. I stumbled, and fell to a knee, skinning it.

I tried to catch my breath.

Kali’s voice buzzed with frustration in my head: Don’t be a fool! Get up!

“I just need a moment,” I gasped.

We don’t have a moment! We need to get back and tell the others!

“I’m trying!” I whined.

A growl. Then let me take the lead! I’m long overdue my turn in the world!

My face screwed up. “What makes you think you’ll do any better?”

Perhaps you’re right… Very well. We’ll transform into Eikadi.

My eyes widened. “Now? But–”

We’ll have enough energy to get there, and when we revert, I shall be in control. Is this acceptable or not?

My lips thinned. Could we hold the form long enough to get to the tower? We were weak, running on little sleep. I had already pushed our body hard, trying to make up time for using the longer way.

We can do it, Kali insisted.

I sighed. “Very well.”

The change came in a flash of pain, and it didn’t end until my cries had shifted to a primal scream that echoed long into the mountains.


Quincy sat in the kitchen, her head in her hands. The hour was late, and the space was dark. From the study, a fire could be heard crackling, light trailing in through the entryway. She didn’t bother lighting a candle. The dark was a nice veil to the anxiety etched across her face.

“…I can say that the man you think is your husband is not, and that the real Hakeem is alive and somewhere safe.”

Over and over, the words repeated in her head.

She didn’t want to believe it… and yet, the doubt was enough. Hakeem’s gaze now made her wary, his touch made her tense.

Tears pricked at her eyes, but she fought against them. If she let so much as one drop, she’d break down into a sobbing mess. She had felt proud of the fact that since returning to their realm, she had held it together. Her young heart, now freed from Tonatiuh’s parasitic leeching, reacted strongly and without restraint. But here, the pressing needs of their group had steeled her nerves and kept her from giving in to the rage and depression that so pushed on the inside.

That, and having Hakeem back.

But now this one comfort was lost. In the wake of Elmiryn’s epic intervention, she had to sit very still, in the dark, to keep from cracking.

Especially if she was going to be in the proper state of mind to break the news to Nyx.

Lethia couldn’t do it because, despite her protests, her weak body hadn’t even managed to stay up long past sunset. Paulo was busy keeping watch on Elmiryn. Daedalus had gone to town for much-needed medicines. And Hakeem…

Quincy’s hands curled to fists against her temples.

The door banged open. Quincy jumped, her eyes snapping to large circles as she took in the very massive shadow now cutting a swathe through the light that fell against the opposite wall.

Her breath caught, and she eyed her lightning staff, which had been sitting propped against the table. It hadn’t gone far from her since that afternoon.

Slowly, Quincy picked up her chair and attempted to set it further back as quietly as she could. It made the tiniest thud against the hard floor, making her wince. Her sweaty hand reached for her weapon–

There was a growl, closer now. Quincy froze, sweat trailing down the side of her nose. Her head was facing the cooking pit, opposite the entryway. Slowly, she turned.

A giant black cat person stood in the entryway, one large bag slung over their shoulder. The firelight from the study lit their tawny eyes.

Quincy relaxed, though just a little. “Nyx!”

Another growl, lower this time. Ears pinned as the cat person set the large bag down onto the floor, musical tinkling coming from its contents.

Quincy’s brow tensed. “Nyx?”

She received a spitting hiss, fangs showing. The tawny eyes glowered.

Then the woman finally understood. Her lips thinned. “Kali.

Kali made no more utterances, her body slouching as it turned and stumbled back the way it came, out of sight. Quincy, startled, followed after the Ailuran to the chill outside. 

There she found Kali had collapsed on the ground, writhing as she underwent her transformation back to her sapien form. Quincy grimaced, but her eyes did not leave the girl. Perhaps it was morbid fascination, but seeing her bones morph, twist, and snap to new shapes and dimensions–skin, muscles, and sinew tearing with wet ferocity–was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. Not many humans got to live to see an Ailuran shapeshift. 

Fewer still got to see a Marked Ailuran suffer their transformation. It would never cease to arrest the woman’s attention.

My gods… The agony! How do the twins endure this every time?

When the transformation completed, Kali lay on her back, her face glistening as she stared up at the stars, panting.

Quincy leaned on the doorway, the cool night air chilling the sweat on her face. “Would you like water, or…?”

“No,” Kali said. She grimaced as she raised herself up into a sit. Her back slouched as she scowled at Quincy. “I need to know something.”


“Please explain to me…” Her gaze narrowed and she pointed at the churned crater not far behind her. “What in the nine hells happened?”

Quincy’s eyes slipped shut as she hung her head. “That’s why I waited up for you.” She gestured for Kali to follow her. “Come inside. Sit. This isn’t easy for me to say.”

After a bit more coaxing, Quincy had a cup of water in front of the Ailuran. They sat across from each other in the kitchen, two small candles washing them in scant light on the table between them. Their shadows danced largely on the walls.

Kali drummed her fingers loudly on the table, a tight fist tucked under her chin as she glowered with obvious impatience. Quincy shifted uncomfortably under that searing tawny gaze as she tried to find the words to say. Moments ago she’d had it all planned out, but it was funny how that crumbled away at the precipice of the telling.

There isn’t any way to ease the sting of this, Quincy finally thought with a sigh. I just… need to out with it.

“Elmiryn’s currently in the basement in a containment ring.” Quincy’s hands clenched in her lap as she tried to keep a steady gaze with Kali. “She’s agreed to let us help her break her addiction to alcohol.”

The news had an immediate effect.

Kali’s face, which had been tensed in a soft scowl that suggested irritability and exhaustion, suddenly went as smooth as a river stone. Her tucked fist slowly unclenched and laid itself flat on the table.

With exaggerated slowness, Kali murmured, “Elmiryn… agreed?

Quincy blinked for the first time. She hoped the sweat she felt breaking on her brow wasn’t so noticeable in the weak candlelight. 

“Let me clarify…” she licked her lips and pushed a finger into one side of the table. “She agreed.” She lifted her hand and pushed her finger into the other side of the table. “Then violently disagreed…” She returned her finger to its original place. “And then agreed again.”

Kali’s cheek twitched just as her hand flexed, then relaxed against the table. “She’s just going to… stay… in that freezing cellar?” Her words were clipped, and her lips quivered like she was holding something back.

Quincy swallowed nervously.

Nyx… Kali is barely keeping her sister’s emotions from spilling out.

“It was the only space big enough for us to do the alchemy spell. Elmiryn isn’t affected by the cold and she doesn’t sleep,” Quincy said, her eyes tensing with sympathy. “But we made sure she has blankets and pillows. Paulo talked about bringing hay down to her. He’s with her now, on the first watch.”

A muscle moved in Kali’s jaw. “First watch?” she half-growled.

I wonder how much of what I’m seeing is Kali’s reaction or Nyx’s…?

“She’ll never be alone,” Quincy went on. “We’re going to take turns, staying down there with her. Not just to keep her company, but also in case… in case of health complications.” 

Quincy turned over her hand, her brow knotting tight. “Daedalus believes Elmiryn will manage with what tonics he gave her for tonight, but he made an emergency trip back to Belcliff for medicines she’ll be needing later. With luck, he should be back after sunrise.”

Now Kali was speaking through clenched teeth, her face quivering from… restraint? Rage?

“And just how long… were you people… going to keep her down there for?” Her nostrils flared as her breathing became shorter and shorter.

Quincy took a steadying breath, her eyes growing.

“Kali…” She paused, wondering if what she would say next would improve or worsen the situation. “Nyx

Kali actually hissed, her mouth twisting into a harsh sneer that bared fangs– real fangs.

Quincy snapped back into her chair, her heart jumping in her chest.

Right. Never, ever, try to speak directly to Nyx when Kali is in control.

“I’m sorry,” Quincy said quickly, her hands going up. “That was rude of me, you’re right. You’re here, Kali, and I should speak to you. I only meant–”

“You only meant to stick your nose in our head,” Kali spat with narrowed eyes. “As if you could possibly understand us!” She thrust a thumb at herself. “It is my face you see. Speak to me. So long as I’m in control, what goes on in our shared mind is none of your concern until I say otherwise! Do you understand me, human?

Quincy pursed her lips. “Completely…” She crossed her arms and added coolly, “Ailuran.”

Kali snorted. “I’m going to ask one more time. Just how long is Elmiryn meant to be down there?”

“As long as it takes.” Quincy heaved a sigh and rubbed a sweaty temple. “Which… could be weeks.”

Kali’s brow tightened. “Weeks?”

Quincy nodded once. “Yes. Weeks.”

Kali’s breathing stuttered suddenly, her gaze dropping to the table. Her eyes ticked back and forth, lips moving with indistinct mutterings. Quincy watched, bewildered, as the Ailuran flinched, one hand going to her head.

“I know!” she snapped.

Quincy’s eyebrow arched, and she opened her mouth to respond, but she quickly swallowed her words when Kali went on, still not looking at her, expression flashing from stark fear to tense anger and back.

“Idiot!” Kali snarled at the table. Her eyes were unfocused. “What do you want me to do about it? I said I know that, I– Rrgh, just calm down! I can’t think!”

She isn’t accustomed to being in the lead like Nyx is. Hopefully she’ll get better at it. Seeing her like this… Quincy grimaced. It’s disconcerting to watch!

Quincy cleared her throat loudly. “Kali.”

Kali looked at her sharply, her lips thin as a single curly lock fell into her gaze.

Quincy threaded her hands together and rested them on the table. “Elmiryn needs to get over her fae addiction while there is still human left in her. She still has a chance to overcome this… but it will not be easy, and she will need time.”

“We don’t have time,” Kali huffed, her shoulders rising like hackles.

Now Quincy frowned, her mind tickling with a sense of danger. “Kali, what is going on? What do you and Nyx know?”

Kali exhaled harshly, her mouth turning down at the corners. “We are not safe here. In Belcliff, we ran into Karolek–”

Quincy’s eyebrows shot up. “The metal sorcerer?”

“Yes.” Kali looked at her solemnly. 

“And when you got away from him, you ensured you weren’t followed?”

“Of course!” Kali pouted, as if the question itself was insulting. “But before we parted ways, Karolek told Nyx…” She took a breath and said with a shake of her head. “Quincy, he told Nyx that your father is in Albias.”

Quincy sat back, her face going slack.

“My…father?” her voice sounded small.

She felt cold and faint. Her breath came with struggle, cutting in jagged, uneven takes.

She laughed without warning. “You don’t mean–”

It couldn’t possibly–!

“I mean Jack, Quincy. The man known as Wind.” Kali’s forehead wrinkled with worry. “Karolek couldn’t tell us for sure what he’s doing in the region, but apparently Jack’s been retracing the effects of our experiences in the Other Place for the last year or so. That journey has led him here. Now.”

“That is not good news.” Quincy’s voice was just a shaky whisper. The muscles in her neck corded as every part of her screamed to run. Run into the night and not look back. “We are in no shape to face him!”

Another snort from Kali. “An understatement. He could kill us all.” Her gaze turned lidded. “Well. Almost all of us. It’s hard to say what he would do once he realizes he’s finally found his fledgeling.”

Quincy leaned onto the table and dropped her face into her hands. “If he even recognizes me. It’s been years.”

“Can we move Elmiryn? Is that an option?”

Quincy lifted her face from her hands enough to see Kali over her fingers. Into her palms, she intoned, “No. That is not an option.” She buried her eyes back behind the shields of her hands. “Elmiryn’s fae nature is awakening, and it is ravenous. Releasing her before she is free of her addiction would invite our destruction… and possibly hers as well.”

“So we’re stuck here.” Kali’s voice was flat.

Quincy only nodded. She’d delivered the news. She wanted to drop the burden of the day. The weariness had penetrated her bones, casting shadows under her eyes. Sleep was needed.

Jack is coming. Jack will find me.

Quincy’s body started to coil.

Jack will find me and kill everyone

Quincy lifted her head and jabbed a finger at the bag near the entryway. “What did you bring for us, Kali?”

Focus on something smaller. The supplies.

Kali seemed taken aback by the question. She looked askance at Quincy. “New things to liven the meals. At least, Nyx hoped they would.” Her expression tightened as she looked at the bag with sudden worry. “Actually… We bought some drinks.” She looked at Quincy with what could almost be called apology. “Nyx thought Elmiryn would need it.”

Quincy waved a hand, sitting up. An idea was coming to her… “No one could have predicted what happened today.”

Kali rubbed her chin. “Hmm… Nyx says the wine could be used for cooking. The sake and absinthe we could dump–”

“Wait.” Quincy held a hand up, her eyes sharp. “Just… wait. Let’s not waste a perfectly good drink.”

Now Kali looked at her with one eye squinted. “Quincy, Elmiryn can sniff out a drink like a hound. We cannot keep any of it if she means to quit alcohol!”

Obviously,” Quincy snapped. She pointed at herself. “But in twenty-four hours I’ve nearly been suffocated to death, informed my long-lost-hated-father is about to complicate my life, and–” she dropped her voice to a hot whisper, “–apparently my husband is not my husband at all!”

Kali’s eyes widened. “Elmiryn told you?”

A caustic laugh. “Oh my, did she ever!” She swiped her hair back with a rough hand. “I suppose it’s no surprise that you and Nyx knew! Of course you two knew!”

“We weren’t sure–”

Shut up. Just… shut up. I don’t want to hear excuses!” Who else had known? Lethia? Paulo? Daedalus? Hell, Argos?

Was it really true? Had she been clinging to a lie this whole time? Was she that big a fool?

Quincy leaned back, her nose tweaked and her scowl fierce. “If I feel I need a nightcap just to drag myself to sleep in these wee hours, then I’ll help myself to the spirits my gold purchased!”

She threw her hands up and laughed bitterly. “I’ve been mustering on for fucking days–cooking and cleaning like some common servant–all while bearing the weight of teenage hormones, elven crankiness, unwashed lunacy, and whatever the blazes has been going on with your gods’ damned twin! I’m entitled to one bloody drink!

Quincy slammed her hands into the table and stood, her chair scraping back loudly across the floor. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try and lose consciousness for a few hours before I have to start mothering everyone again.”

Kali glared but didn’t move to stop Quincy. She only watched as the wizard went to the large bag, rummaged for one of the drink bottles, then stalked out the entryway and out into the night.

As Quincy ripped the stopper from the bottle, she felt a lump form in her throat, but she swallowed it down with a quick swig. She’d grabbed the sake, by the taste of it.

Hakeem isn’t here.

She succumbed to the fact. She didn’t want to, but she believed it. What reason did Elmiryn have to lie? Knowing her love was “somewhere safe” did little to ease her despair.

Hakeem isn’t here and Jack is coming.

Quincy took another swig, then headed for the barn. She’d find a haystack of her own to sleep in. Tears stung her eyes… and she let them fall because there was one burden she couldn’t get out from under, still.

Hakeem isn’t here, Jack is coming, and I…

She sobbed, pausing at the corner of the barn to lean against the weathered wood.

I may have to kill my friend. I may have to kill Elmiryn.

Quincy took a longer guzzle from the sake–ignoring the harsh burn as the liquid wound its way to her stomach.

Gods have mercy on me. Gods have mercy on us all.


I didn’t get up from my seat.

We should rest, I thought. A frown still marred my features, like a smoldering fire.

Just a word. A quick one— Nyx. The emotional fool.

I closed my eyes with suffering as I felt my sister’s cloying desperation and guilt.

I tried again. We should rest. You’ll be of a better mind–

She already knows we’re here, Nyx cut in. Waiting till morning will only hurt her!

My lip curled back to bare fangs. This isn’t fair. This is MY time–!

Please. Please! Don’t make me hurt her anymore than I already have. Nyx’s voice sounded tinny in my head.

I sighed. Five minutes. No more.

Oh, thank you! Thank you, sister!

My nose tweaked to the side as I stood.

Don’t thank me yet…

I made my way to the cellar, my steps feeling heavy as I descended down the stairs. My nose wrinkled as the dank stench of the underground space reached me. It wasn’t just that, though. There was a rancid sweat that permeated the air.

The lantern light bloomed into view, and passing over the final steps, I rounded through the entryway into the cellar proper.

Paulo turned in his seat to look at me, at first looking bored, before his eyes widened with surprise. He was sitting at a small makeshift table using an old wagon spoke and strapped pieces of old lumber. In front of him was a moldy book on enchanting that he’d no doubt scrounged from the corner of the study.

He hurried to his feet. “Nyx!”

“Kali,” I snapped. This was going to be very annoying to deal with, I could already tell. “I’m here to let Nyx speak with the Fiamman. Briefly.”

Paulo ran a hand through his hair, as we both looked to the rear of the cellar.

Curled up in a ball lay Elmiryn, her back to the entryway. She was resting on a modest stack of hay and a dark blanket, a pillow squeezed tight under her head. Her fiery red locks weaved in tight, chaotic knots behind her. Her exposed neck gleamed with a sheen of sweat.

“Speak with her?” Paulo mumbled with a shake of his head. “More like at her. Ever since Quincy gave her medicine for her fever, she’s been huddled there, not moving.”

I crossed my arms. “Nevertheless, my sister wishes to try. Give us the room.”

Paulo crossed his arms and arched an eyebrow at me. I rolled my eyes.

Please?” The word fell from my mouth, flat and heavy.

Paulo held up his hands. As he passed us, he paused to say, “Do not cross the containment line. She’s already tried escaping once.” He peered over his shoulder at Elmiryn. “If she starts gasping or convulsing, scream for help. Quincy and I will be down as quick as we can.”

His eyes returned to my face. “But no matter what, do not try to handle her on your own.”

We’ve missed terrible things… Nyx whispered with dread.

I only gave a terse nod of my head. I just wanted to get this over with. This place… it felt thick with sickness and desperation.

I waited until Paulo’s footsteps faded to the floor above. Then I closed my eyes, preparing to slip back into the depths of our shared consciousness to give room for Nyx to regain control. I could feel my sister rushing forward, eager to speak.

“Kali…” Elmiryn croaked. Her voice sounded weak and phlegmy.

I froze. Nyx halted her advance. My eyes eased open.

After a long moment, I murmured, “Yes?”

“I’ve never treated you fairly, have I?”

My chin lowered a little as my shoulders tensed. “That’s a stupid question.”

“I suppose it is…” The woman rose slowly, one arm propping her up from her hay bed. She still didn’t turn around. “Nyx is giving you a chance to be in control… But you’re still letting her speak with me. Why?”

My lip curled. What was this? Some stupid human game? This wasn’t a mystery! “Because she begged me to. Obviously.”

Elmiryn’s head lowered. “It means that much to her, huh?”

My patience was running thin. This was between Elmiryn and my sister. I just wanted to go to sleep. “You have five minutes with her,” I said brusquely. “And then I’ll be on my way.”

“Just five? Will you let Nyx come back again?”

My jaw clenched. “Maybe. If I feel like it.”

Elmiryn gave the slightest nod. “Thank you.” 

I could feel my cheeks burn. I didn’t like this sudden sincerity from the woman. “Don’t waste our time with a heart attack,” I snapped. “That would be annoying.”

Elmiryn chuckled dryly as I hastily retreated into the sanctuary of my mind. 

“Sure thing,” I heard the woman say.


I slipped to the forefront of our mind, the dream-like vision giving way to clear sight.

My expression softened as I beheld Elmiryn’s pitiful form.

“Hullo, Nyx,” she murmured, no doubt sensing my presence. It seemed the containment circle didn’t stop her strange ability to sense others life energies.

“Hello, Elle,” I said softly.

Elmiryn finally turned her body, her gaze lifting to meet mine.

Neither of us said anything for what felt like ages. I struggled to think of something worthwhile to start with.

Should I congratulate her for this bold step to reclaiming her health? Or apologize for her misfortune? Could I ask for her version of events? Perhaps it would be better to start off with a simple mention of the supplies we’d managed to acquire?

But Elmiryn beat me to it.

“I never wanted you to see me like this,” she said. Her gaze slipped down to my boots. “It was my job to care for you…” She turned her face away. “Now I can’t do anything for anyone.”

I took a little step forward. “You just need time!” I said earnestly. “Healing is necessary. You can’t be ashamed of that.”

“Like you needed healing?” Her eyes slid sideways to me meaningfully. “For your heart?”

I crossed my arms over my stomach as my chin fell to my chest. “I… I suppose.”

“And do you still need healing?”

I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out.

Did I need more time? It was Kali’s turn to experience the world, and I had lagged terribly in giving her this freedom. Her five-minute allowance was strict but understandable. Could I say what I needed to say now? Should I? Elmiryn was a wreck of a being. Her unwashed body clouded the air. Her voice was like a miserable swamp, slimy, and slow.

And her eyes… gods, her eyes!

How they pierced into me, pitifully dark and yet sharp with an unnatural hunger. They wanted so much from me. Some of it I could probably give her. The rest… I wasn’t so sure about.

“I don’t want to give you more excuses, Elle,” I said carefully. “But if I’m being honest, I don’t know that the truth I’ve been holding back is something you should hear right now.”

“This may be the last time I’m capable of hearing it, Nyx,” Elmiryn whispered. To my alarm, her eyes seemed to gain a strange rosy glow.

I bit my lip and hugged my stomach tighter. I was starting to feel ill. What should I do? Surely this wasn’t the time to be talking about this?

It will never feel like the right time, so just out with it, Kali said. Though her words were harsh, her voice was soft. Sympathetic. Furthermore, the woman has a point. If she loses her mind or dies from this effort, you won’t have another chance.

My throat tightened and my chin crumpled. Tears quickly flooded my eyes, and I couldn’t see anymore.

“It’s hard,” I sobbed.

I know, Kali murmured.

“I know,” Elmiryn replied.

Wiping hastily at my eyes, I tried to stiffen my lip, but it wouldn’t still. 

I could say it. I could. I just needed to force it out. I just needed–

“Izma raped me,” I gasped.

There. The first step taken. Better yet, without all the hemming and hawing that I’d stumbled through when trying to tell Lethia. I’d just said it, and the damn thing was out. But there was still more.

Before Elmiryn could respond, I barreled on, frantic to reach the end. “Izma did. She raped me, and, and sh-she used your face whilst doing it!”

And the whole thing was finally laid bare. Every terrible inch of it.

“I’m so sorry!” I moaned. “But every time I saw you… I… I could only think of Izma! I could only feel her violating me, again and again!”

I buried my face in my hands and turned away, shivering.

The cellar rang with silence.

“That’s why you couldn’t face me…?” Elmiryn’s voice was faint with shock. “That’s why you… You couldn’t talk to me anymore?”

I nodded but didn’t uncover my face. Maybe if I just hid here behind my hands, I could wait out this horrible moment. I just couldn’t bear to see the look on Elmiryn’s face. My body burned with shame. I felt weak. Filthy.

Another long stretch of silence came. Our time must have been running short, but Kali didn’t insist. I could feel her hovering close, but she said nothing, and I felt no ire from her.

It was selfish and awful, but I had to ask. No, beg

Kali, please, could we have more time? If this is truly the last time Elmiryn will be lucid enough to speak, then–

“I’ll kill her,” Elmiryn hissed.

Something in her voice startled me. It… rang with something, more than just venom. A humming energy.

I lowered my hands to my mouth and looked over my shoulder at her, my body tight with apprehension.

Elmiryn was on her feet. She was barefoot, her soles black. Her gaze was glassy and unfocused.

“I’ll kill Izma, Nyx,” Elmiryn said, stronger this time. “I’ll cut off her head and give it to you. For all the hurt she’s caused you–no! Us!

Elmiryn’s fists clenched and she bared her teeth. The glow in her eyes became stronger, burning a strange pink light. “She has to die! I can make her pay!” 

Her lips twisted into a crazed smile. “Just… let me out.”

I turned and took a step back toward the staircase, my eyes widening.

Elmiryn held her hand out and approached the containment line. Her dirty matted hair started to rise again in that dreamy, underwater fashion. “All you have to do is let me out! Let me do this for you! Let me kill Izma!”

Fresh tears came to me as I shook my head slowly. “No…”

“Do it, Nyx! Please!” Elmiryn’s outstretched hand began to curl like a claw. “I can find her! I can unmake her! Just let me out! A quick drink and I’ll be on my way!”

A quick drink…

I sobbed. “Elmiryn, this isn’t you! I’m sorry! I’m sorry I was too late!”

Elmiryn’s face morphed into a dark mask of rage. The hay behind her began to stir. The blanket and pillow toppled to the floor as the straws rose and began to whirl around Elmiryn. 

“Let me out! Let me out! LET ME OUT!” she screeched.

My stomach clenched with fear… but it wasn’t nearly as powerful as the wrenching agony in my heart. This was my fault. I’d allowed this to happen. 

“I can’t!” I wept as I turned and fled up the stairs. “I’m sorry, Elmiryn, but I can’t!

Behind me, I heard the woman scream. The sound tore through walls, sending dust raining down on me.

I tripped and fell on the final step leading into the foyer, landing hard on my hands and knees. Paulo had been waiting, leaning against the archway. He came to my side quickly, his face tense.

“I was afraid she’d do this,” he murmured. “I’m sorry, lia. I should have warned you better. I guess I’d hoped you’d get through to her.”

I was crying so hard words were difficult to form. When I found the strength to look at him, I managed to gasp out, “She’s gone. I can’t reach her. Sh-she’s gone!”

“Nyx, you must be strong,” Paulo said firmly. “This is only the start of her withdrawals. She’ll get worse before she gets better. But she’s still in there somewhere. You have to believe it!”

With effort, I reigned in my body-wracked sobs. I nodded once jerkily. Paulo gave me a kind smile, then helped me to my feet.

“I’ll be trading with Kali, now,” I said trying, and failing, to keep my voice steady. “If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask her.” I wasn’t just saying this either. Through a wordless understanding, my sister was conveying her willingness to help… even if she may be prickly about doing it.

“All right, Nyx. Rest. We all want Elmiryn to recover,” Paulo said gently.

I touched his shoulder, my expression sad but grateful. The boy was growing, and he was stepping up to help. I couldn’t put into words the relief I felt knowing I wouldn’t have to face this alone. The others had already done so much for Elmiryn. For me.

As I let myself fall back into the colder reaches of my mind, I felt Kali… caress me in passing.

You may speak with Elmiryn again when you are ready, sister. Your Meaning may reach her, yet.

I closed my eyes as the sweet cradle of darkness enveloped me.

All I could do was hope.

Continue ReadingChapter 47.1

Chapter 47.2

Author’s Note: First new update to the new website! Here you’ll see the pace of the story shift a little bit as I try out a new format. In an attempt to get back on the horse and make updates easier, I’ve decided to do shorter segments twice a week for a time. Because of this, the story may adopt an almost “slice of life” feel to it. Please let me know what you think!


I slept in the room Nyx had been using since arriving at this blasted tower.

The bed felt strange. Uncomfortable. After wasting what precious little night I had left tossing and turning, I gave up and moved to the floor with just a pillow and my back against the wall. 

I only remember shutting my eyes. When I opened them again, the suns had traveled far across the sky and the shadows in the room had grown long. It must have been late afternoon.

I rose and reached my hands high up over my head in a stretch. I paused as I looked up.

My hands

I had hands.

I lowered these before my eyes and furrowed my brow.

So seldom had I assumed this form, and yet I moved with a familiarity that came second-hand from Nyx. It took only a little self-awareness to recognize how foreign this actually was. 

I also felt tall. Not just that. Exposed, too.

As a beast, I walked on all fours, with my belly turned to the ground. Baring my stomach to anyone was a sign of trust. Or, when fighting a threat, a highly defensible position. You could use all four paws to claw and kick with. 

Right now, I didn’t feel particularly trusting of anyone, but I didn’t really want a fight either. My exposed belly fostered uneasy aggression in me, even standing alone in this room.

I wrapped my arms around my stomach to try and quell the feeling as I descended down the spiral stairs to the kitchen.

From my dream-like observation through Nyx’s eyes, I knew that Quincy was usually here, preparing the meals for the day. She wasn’t anywhere to be found. 

Annoyed by her absence, I next crossed the foyer to the study, but she still wasn’t there. Hakeem was, however. He was sitting in a chair in front of the fireplace with his back to me, reading a book.

My nose flared from the archway, and after sorting out the ashy aroma of the fireplace and the moldy stench of the old shelving, I picked out the man’s scent. 

He smelled like the Hakeem I remembered. But Elmiryn was certain he was a pretender. Some evil creation sent by Izma.

It was clear that Quincy didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t really know what to make of the man before me. He didn’t appear to be an immediate threat, but my instincts still murmured to be on my guard. I listened.

I made a point of dragging my feet on the floor as I approached the man. “Where is your wife?” I asked.

Hakeem turned his head. “Oh! Good morning, Nyx. You slept in quite a bit. Arrived late, did you?”

“Not Nyx,” I growled. “I’m Kali.”

Hakeem’s dark eyes went wide. “I see.”

“Where is Quincy?” I asked again.

The man’s gaze cast down and a worried crease appeared on his strong brow. “She’s… ill from overindulging. Quincy has never been a heavy drinker.”

I rubbed my stomach, trying still to make calm my crackling nerves. Even as I did this, I couldn’t help but snap, “I didn’t ask about her wellbeing, I asked where she was!

Hakeem looked at me, clearly startled. “I think she is still in the barn.”

“And has Daedalus returned yet?”

He shook his head. “No. I confess I find it odd. With luck the old elf is safe. His medicine will be needed soon.” The crease in Hakeem’s brow deepened as his eyes took on a shadow of worry. “I went down to relieve Paulo of his watch, but the boy refused. I tried to insist, but he said Elmiryn would react badly to my presence…”

Hakeem looked at me and I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as his dark gaze became uncomfortably focused. “Do you have any idea why she would dislike my help?”

I pretended to think about it by placing both hands on my hips and turning my eyes up in thought. I had to be careful. The vermagus powers I shared with Nyx could give away the truth. 

After a short moment, I gave a small shake of my head. “No.”

The man hummed. His eyes turned down to his book again.

I didn’t want to stay here and continue pretending everything was normal. I turned on my heel and started for the front door.

Outside the air was so fresh and pleasant that I couldn’t resist stopping and taking a deep breath. The tension in me eased, and I finally let my arms fall away from my stomach.

I looked out over the swaying field, then to the gray-blue mountains beyond. The peaks cut up into the azure sky, some reaching so high as to vanish into the scattered clouds.

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Nyx mused quietly from her place in my mind. Since arriving here, all we’ve done is fret and bicker, and we haven’t paused to take in what a wonderful place this once was.

My lips curved down as my eyes narrowed. “Wonderful, save for the mind witch who allowed herself to be led astray.”

My sister sighed. Yes… Poor Lethia.

I snorted. Of everyone, the young enchantress probably had the least of my sympathy.

I crossed the short distance from the tower to the barn and entered to find Lethia standing at one of the stalls, gazing down. She turned when she heard me approaching. Her eyebrows lifted.

“Kali?” she asked.

I blinked at her, stopping short. “Yes. How did you know?”

Lethia tapped her temple, a slow grin forming on her peach lips. “I can usually sense the top layers of people’s thoughts. It’s like a mental signature. Yours is distinct from Nyx’s.” She shrugged. “I’m not actually familiar with your patterns, but when I sensed it was so different, it was easy to guess who you were.”

I nodded. Despite my reservations, I had a grudging respect for Lethia. She was smart and to the point. But she was still naive, and her ambitions were dangerous. I couldn’t stay blind to that.

Nyx may have been quick to forgive the girl for the crimes she was party to, but I was not. Even being unaware of Izma’s exact intentions, the girl knew the demon was a threat. My sister had suffered much because of their brief collaboration, and I shared in that pain. Every aching part of it. 

Until I saw Lethia do more to repay her debts, I would keep my dealings with her short and my eye wary.

“Oh…” Lethia frowned in the wake of my brooding silence. “You dislike me.”

Every muscle in my body clenched. I hissed at her. “Don’t read my thoughts!”

The girl flinched and held up her hand. “Sorry! Sorry. Even without hearing your thoughts explicitly, you bleed more of your emotion than Nyx does.” She blushed and shrugged uncomfortably. “It’s, um… not unlike my readings from Argos.”

My lip curled. “Did you just equate me to your stupid dog?”

Lethia placed her fist on her hip as her gaze took on a sharp glint. “Do not insult Argos!”

I crossed my arms and shifted my weight to one foot. “Then stop drawing ridiculous parallels! I’m nothing like him!”

“Both of you shut the hell up… I’m trying to sleep!” Quincy groaned from the stall.

We glared at each other for a moment before I approached and stopped at Lethia’s side. Looking into the stall, I saw Quincy lying on her side on a bed of hay, her arms covering her head. 

She was in a state of undress. She’d pulled off her boots, but she’d only managed to remove one of her socks, the other only half-pulled off her foot. Her tunic lay discarded on the ground behind me. Quincy’s blouse was sloppily untucked, the front strings loosened to reveal she’d done away with her chest brassiere as well. 

The worst of it was the bucket she’d failed to vomit into completely. Its rancid stench, mingled with Quincy’s desperate sweat, burned my nose and made my stomach turn.

“You fucking moron,” I said. “I told you drinking was a bad idea!”

“Oh, fuck off, Kali,” Quincy groaned. “Leave me alone…”

“You’re a stupid bitch, and I’m not leaving you alone,” I snarled back.

Do you have to curse? Nyx whined.

I rolled my eyes. “I’ll curse if I fucking want to, Nyx.”

Actually, I quite enjoyed it. It made it easier to voice my contempt.

It’s a lazy way to voice it

“Piss off. I said I’ll do what I want!”

When I looked at Lethia and Quincy, the pair were giving me weird looks. My cheeks grew hot and I snapped, “I’m obviously talking to my sister! Don’t judge me!”

“Nyx is looking like a beacon of normalcy compared to you, Kali,” Quincy chuckled weakly. She stopped almost immediately, giving me a blip of satisfaction as the wizard clutched her head. “Ugh…”

“Don’t tease,” Lethia chided softly. “Kali needs time to get used to being in control.”

“I don’t need your pity, Lethia,” I growled.

Lethia turned a cool eye on me. “When you have my pity, I’ll let you know. For now, all you have is my disdain. May we refocus, please?”

My eyes turned to slits. 

Then a smirk slowly unfurled across my lips.

Yes. I disliked Lethia Artaud… but she had my respect.

Continue ReadingChapter 47.2

Chapter 47.3

Author’s Note: In case you’re wondering, the navigation buttons will always be done ahead of time. This basically means that if you see the latest chapter linked to a non-existing post, it’s because I’m trying to save myself the effort of logging back on. You are, in fact, not going crazy.



Quincy groggily lifted her head. “Do you two have to loom over me?” she muttered, before letting her head fall back.

I kicked her foot. “Get up! We have to come up with a plan to deal with Jack.” I looked at Lethia. “She’s told you, hasn’t she?”

Lethia bobbed her head with a little shrug. “After some wheedling, yes.”

“There is no plan when it comes to Jack,” Quincy intoned. She stared forlornly into space. “The only power we possessed that could have possibly resisted him was Tonatiuh, and he was destroyed in the spirit realm.”

Lethia leaned on the stall post. “You’re forgetting something.”

Quincy snorted and curled up into a fetal position. “What’s that?” she asked sarcastically.

Lethia pointed at me. “Kali and Nyx are champions of Lacertli.” The girl blinked at me. “At least I assume you both are? Technically he chose Nyx, but I suppose since you both occupy the same body…?” she winced as she trailed off.

I gave her a sour look. “Of course I have all the same powers as my sister!”

Lethia smiled and waved a hand as if to say, There you have it!

“Just because I’m a champion, doesn’t mean I have what it takes to go up against a Legend.” I argued. “Jack has far more experience than I do! It’s why he’s a Legend with a capital L!”

“Exactly,” Quincy said flatly.

I hissed at her, my cheeks burning. “You needn’t agree so quickly!”

“Do we have to fight him, though?” Lethia asked. Her head tilted to the side and her green eyes turned up. “We’d only need to if, for some reason, he found our dealings punishable in some way. But haven’t we done enough to earn a fair hearing, at least?”

My eyes turned down as I considered this. The girl had a point.

Quincy muttered, “First of all, it’s not like we’re going to be given a Higashan court hearing—”

Higashi is the only country with a judicial system that assumes the accused is innocent until proven guilty, Nyx chirped eagerly.

“Second of all,” Quincy continued, “Jack is the champion of Njord, god of wind. Njord’s domain includes a father’s wrath.”

Quincy paused to let loose an unrefined burp before resuming weakly, “Elmiryn has done enough to earn such wrath. And when Jack finds out about me being involved with you all…” Her expression took on a look of disquiet.

Lethia’s eyebrow tilted up. “Njord’s demesne also includes change—”

Demesne. For mortals, it refers to property, usually of an estate, but for gods, it refers to—

My face twisted in irritation. I don’t need play-by-play for everything! Our knowledge is shared, remember?!

I could feel Nyx wilt. I was just trying to help… 

I tuned back just in time to hear Lethia say, “—Our collective efforts have cleared obstacles that kept many parts of the Sibesona stagnant. Those places are starting to flourish. Shouldn’t that count for something?”

I waved my hands, impatiently. “This is stupid conjecture!” I reached down and grabbed Quincy’s foot, pulling her off the hay bed roughly.

“Hey!” Quincy shouted as I dragged her into the middle of the barn. Her azure eyes became large circles as she dug her hands into the dirt and tried to sit up. Her fingers left deep gouges in the ground and her unkempt hair shed hay with her struggles. “Let go!”

“Get up!” I snarled back. She kicked at my hands and I finally released her. “Until Jack gets here, we must assume he’ll be aggressive!” I pressed hotly. “If he is, we need a plan!

“Fuck you!” Quincy spat, crawling pathetically back to the stall. She moaned and collapsed back onto the hay bed. “Stupid crazy cat…”

I spat a hiss from the back of my throat, my hands curling like claws before I stalked forward—.

Lethia blocked me with her body, her head shaking quickly.

“She needs time,” she whispered. Then she grimaced. “And she needs to finish sobering up.”

My lip curled. I paced in front of her a few times before I growled and stomped back to the barn entrance. The girl followed me. 

Once outside, I turned and asked, “Did you at least take away the gods-damned bottle?”

Lethia nodded. “I did. I poured what was left of it far out into the field.” She glanced over her shoulder before asking me seriously, “Is there any more?”

I sighed. “Yes. Two. Some wine and absinthe.”

Lethia’s look darkened. “Kali, we must get rid of it. All of it.”

I gave her an annoyed look. “Obviously!” I sighed roughly and crossed my arms. “I would have done so last night, but… I was tired.”

That wasn’t actually the reason. I could feel Nyx squirm with discomfort.

Lethia waved a hand behind her. “I’ll work with her.”

I nodded. “Do that. Meanwhile, I think I’ll go relieve the boy. Paulo needs rest.”

We started to part… But then I saw Hakeem running out of the tower. My eyes narrowed. What now?

He ran up to us with a deathly serious expression. “Is Quincy well enough to stand?” He asked in a rush.

My stomach clenched.

Oh no… Nyx murmured.

“What is it?” I asked.

Hakeem pointed back toward the tower. “It’s Elmiryn… Paulo told me she’s having a heart attack!”

Continue ReadingChapter 47.3

Chapter 47.4



Of course…


Of course this would happen while Daedalus was gone and Quincy was completely hungover! What was wrong with these people?! How in the world did they even survive this long?


I turned on the ball of my foot and charged into the barn. “Quincy, Elmiryn needs you!” I yelled.


At her stall, Quincy looked up with evident surprise and dread. “What? Now?


“Yes!” I snapped.


“Can’t someone else—?” Lethia started, suddenly pale and big-eyed.


“Do you know revival methods, or how much tincture to give?” I hissed at her.




“Well, neither does anyone else, so at the least, this cajeck needs to be there!”


Without waiting to hear Quincy’s reaction, I stood over her body, grabbed her under the armpits, lifted her up, and hefted her over my shoulder. The wizard yelped, but I didn’t pause. If this fucking warrior died on account of someone else being too drunk to help her…


Let’s just say Quincy’s body would have multiple resting places.


“Kali, I can walk!” Quincy shouted, pushing against the small of my back.


“Don’t care. You’re slow!” I grunted back.


I cleared the barn doors and charged for the tower, Hakeem and Lethia following close. 


“It’s a heart attack, wizard. What do we need?!” I asked between puffing breaths.


Quincy gasped in pain. No doubt all this jostling was torture for her head. “Um, um— There’s a small case in the kitchen, to the left of the entryway on a shelf! There should be a vial of digitalis tincture that we can use


“Lethia!” I shouted as we came through the tower entrance.


“I’ve got it!” The girl exclaimed breathlessly as she veered a hard right into the kitchen.


“What about me?” Hakeem asked.


“Bring two buckets, one filled with water, the other empty. Also, whatever cloth you can find!” Quincy hollered as I carted her down the cellar steps. Her voice echoed on the narrow walls. “Leave it at the top of the stairs!”


“He can’t be involved, Quincy,” I growled.


“I know. We don’t need any of that,” she muttered. “I’m just trying to keep him busy.”


When we arrived at the bottom, it was to find Paulo kneeling at the edge of the containment circle.


“It’s all right, lia. Just hang on!” He said urgently to Elmiryn.


Lethia arrived a short moment after us. “Here is the vial,” she huffed, holding the small bottle up.


I set Quincy on her feet and the wizard reeled a little with a grimace as she tried to keep her balance. Lethia handed her the vial.


Paulo turned to us, and the weariness of a long night was evident on his glistening face. “She says her arms hurt and her chest feels tight! She’s having trouble breathing!”


I pointed at Elmiryn. “Help her, Quincy. Now!”


The wizard shook her head vehemently. “Are you mad?! I can’t go in there! She can smell the sake on my breath! Just my being here is problematic!”


“Your weakness was problematic,” I snapped. “This hesitance is dangerous!


“Kali, she’s right,” Lethia said quickly. She gestured at Quincy. “She reeks of indulgence. Better that she guides from a distance. In fact…” She looked earnestly at Quincy. “May I borrow your knowledge?”


Quincy’s eyebrows lifted. “You can extract it safely?”


Lethia scowled. “I’ve had more training, you know!”


While they talked, I stepped closer to the containment circle, looking over Paulo to where Elmiryn lay, just near her sloppily reassembled hay bed. Her eyes were squeezed shut as she clutched at the front of her sweat-drenched shirt, her breaths coming in quiet but unnervingly quick takes. Her hair was a messy halo about her head.


“Are you sure?” Quincy asked Paulo next. “Did she seem lucid to you when she told you how she felt?”


“Lucid enough!” he snapped. “Just look at her!”


“I need to know for certain!” Quincy snarled. “Lethia will be at risk the moment she steps inside. She’s still healing herself!”


She had a point. Was this a ruse?


Quincy looked sharply at Lethia. “Can you read Elle’s mind?”


Lethia shook her head once. “No. Since the last time, her mind has become an impenetrable maelstrom!”


My nose flared, trying to sift through the sweaty, musty, vomit tainted air. Humans had a certain smell to them when they were in severe distress or suffering from illness. Elmiryn was still part human. Could I pick out that fresh scent of body failure, or would her fae nature deceive my nose?


If she smells differently from the last time we saw her, then we know this is true.


My jaw clenched.


But if she doesn’t…

Continue ReadingChapter 47.4

Chapter 47.5



The longer we took, the closer Elmiryn was to possible death. Maddening obstacles kept us from making quick decisions.


Was the warrior lying to us or not?


I inhaled again, slowly. I needed to pick out a distinct shift in Elmiryn’s scent. A true sign of malady. If I didn’t find this, then I knew this was an act. 


I could sense so much… but there was too much interference. Elmiryn’s specific scent was lost in the cloud of our fear-reeking bodies.


We need to get closer, Nyx urged.


I knelt by Paulo and went as close to the containment line as I dared. I tried to take a whiff again—


“I can’t… I can’t breathe!” Elmiryn wheezed. Her legs kicked weakly along the ground… Then stilled.


Her eyes rolled up, showing their sickly yellowness, blotched with angry crimson veins that had burst from her distress.


“Get in there!” Paulo shouted waving frantically at Lethia. “Get in there now!


I pressed my eyes closed and tried to block out the ruckus…


Elmiryn smelled… She smelled…


Nyx’s horror jolted down my limbs like frigid ice.




My eyes flew open and I jumped to my feet, just as Lethia’s foot crossed the containment line.


“Don’t! It’s a lie!” I screamed.


My arms wrapped around the girl, just as Elmiryn shot up, quick like a striking panther. The Fiamman’s hand grabbed Lethia’s ankle, wrenching it so hard the girl lost her balance. She pulled her back, deeper into the containment circle, but I held on, shouting incoherent denials as my boots scraped along the cellar floor.


“Don’t break the line!” Quincy shouted. “The salt, Kali, the salt!


I spared a quick glance at the floor. Fuck. The containment line was made of salt. If we broke it in our struggle…


My eyes lifted up and met Elmiryn’s over Lethia’s shoulder, and I could see the crazed vehemence in Elmiryn’s gaze as she bared her teeth at me like an animal.


I slid further over the floor and barely raised my right foot in time over the boundary. I felt Paulo grab onto my waist.


“Pull!” he shouted in my ear. “Quincy, pull!


A frantic look over my shoulder informed me that Quincy had also grabbed the boy’s waist.


Lethia screamed as Elmiryn’s dirty hands traveled up her leg. The girl tried to kick her away with her other foot, but the Fiamman only used this as an opportunity to catch her other leg. Now the enchantress was horizontal over the floor, caught in a sick game of tug-of-war.


How was the warrior able to keep her grip? Surely the three of us could outmatch her!


Kali, look down!


With effort, I craned my head to the side and did so. My eyes widened.


Elmiryn had used her fae powers to morph the stone to encase around her feet.


My head snapped up again, my lips squeezed into a grim line. If Elmiryn’s powers had progressed to such a point, then we were all in very grave danger.


“Elmiryn, let go! Please!” Lethia squealed.


“Why should I?!” Elmiryn spat. She looked up, her face twisting with her torment. “I see those drinks you’re hiding! I can see the weave of everything from here!”


She pushed back against her makeshift footholds, causing Lethia to whimper as we all slid a harrowing inch along the floor. I spread my stance wider, trying to keep my left foot away from the containment line. 


I could pull harder. I could use my full therian strength and end this… but doing so would seriously injure Lethia. Maybe even break the containment line. 


I couldn’t risk it. 


A thick vein appeared in Elmiryn’s forehead as she screeched, “Quincy reeks of spirit, yet you keep me trapped here like some fucking animal and share nothing with me!”


“I was stupid, Elmiryn, I’m sorry! I was upset!” Quincy wheezed.


I pulled, my arms linked tightly just under Lethia’s armpits, and the others pulled with me. We didn’t budge.


“I succumbed to my fear!” Quincy went on. “My fear of losing you! My fear of seeing my father! My fear that what you warned me of is true!”


“Nyx bought the drinks on our outing, not knowing what you were trying to do!” I gasped next. It wasn’t that I was getting tired, but Paulo’s hold on me was so intense it was making it harder to breathe.


“We should have thrown it all away!” I said. “But…” 


I clenched my teeth, wrestling with my own pride to say the rest. 


“But Nyx and I both felt the same temptation Quincy did! We wanted to numb our feelings! Her for her pain! Me for my nervousness of this new world!” Every word came haltingly through tight lips.


I wanted to seem capable. I wanted to seem confident. I hadn’t even had an entire day out in this sapien form, and already I was admitting my weakness. I could feel my gorge rise.


There was still more to say.


My eyes closed. I wasn’t good at this sort of thing. Fortunately, I could feel my sister guiding me gently. I suppose I needed the play-by-play after all. 


“There was a bottle of absinthe that was meant just for us,” I said. “It was… selfish and wrong. We should have known we couldn’t support you fully if we gave a pass for ourselves!”


Shut up! I’ve had it!” Elmiryn barked. Her voice sounded off. Thick.


I opened my eyes and was shocked to see the warrior’s face had crumpled, tears streaming down her face. She looked at me, a pitiful creature swept up in sickness, rage, and dogged addiction.


“You fucking idiots, it’s all just noise!” She screamed next. “Every single word! I don’t care about what you have to say! It means nothing to me! Understand?! FUCKING NOTHING!


She pulled on Lethia again, this time sliding her right leg back. I could hear the stone crackle as it morphed to follow her movement. We slid three more inches. 


The inside edge of my left foot dangerously nudged the salt. 


At this rate it was clear that we couldn’t win through brute strength. We had to try something different. Drastic, even.

Continue ReadingChapter 47.5

Chapter 47.6


An idea leaped into my head, but Nyx recoiled from it.

Kali, wait—!

“Was what Nyx said yesterday nothing too??” I asked through clenched teeth. “Hmm? Did my sister’s pain make a dent in your greedy mania, or are you that far gone, Elmiryn?”

Elmiryn’s eyes fluttered. “What Nyx… What Nyx said yesterday?” Her expression gradually smoothed to blank confusion. “What did— What did she say?”


“What Izma took away. What she did. You honestly don’t remember?” I pressed.

Elmiryn’s brow creased slightly as her eyes started to tick rapidly side to side. “Izma… hurt Nyx?”

Her grip on Lethia weakened. 

I let out a sharp kai, signaling my intent to the others, then together, the three of us pulled in unison. The enchantress was wrenched out of Elmiryn’s slack hands with ease.

We crashed in a heap on the floor, each of us panting. I sat up quickly and was glad to see that—though the salt had been harrowingly moved, the line of the circle was still complete. The containment spell held.

Elmiryn hadn’t moved, her hands still up like she still had Lethia’s legs. “What did Izma do…?” she mumbled. “What did she—”

Slowly…very slowly. Her eyes grew large. Her features slackened.

“No…” Elmiryn whispered. More tears slipped from her shocked sickly eyes. “No… no! She stole my face! She stole my face and—”

The stone retreated from Elmiryn’s feet, melting back to the floor as though it were water rolling off of glass. The woman gripped her head and fell to her knees.

I stood up carefully and went back to the line, my boots nearly touching the salt. I stared down at Elmiryn as she pressed her forehead to the floor and wept silently. She punched the floor hard once. Twice. 

Within, I could feel Nyx’s fury with me. She paced inside, sending aching waves along my skull. I sighed. I’d have to hash it out with her. For now, however…

Without turning around, I said, “Paulo, go get some rest. Quincy, check to make sure Lethia’s wounded arm is all right.”

I sat cross-legged next to the circle, my eyes turned away from Elmiryn’s sorrow to the floor. “I’m taking the next watch.”


Quincy didn’t want to linger. The shame and queasiness demanded a hasty retreat. 

She and Paulo helped Lethia up the stairs where they found Hakeem waiting with a bucket of water and two scraps of cloth.

He looked at her eagerly. “Should I take this down, or–?”

“No,” Quincy said quickly. “No, just… leave those. Kali will fetch them later.”

Paulo gestured for the man to take his place supporting Lethia on one side. “Can you help Quincy? I’ve got to sleep.” He sounded weary beyond words. Heavy dark bags hung under his eyes.

Hakeem nodded, and when Paulo slipped out from under one of Lethia’s arms, he slid in quickly and held the girl by the waist.

“I trust you’ll tell me what happened?” Hakeem said to Quincy as Paulo lurched out the front door to find his usual sleeping spot.

She nodded mutely.

Quincy pulled Lethia and Hakeem toward the kitchen. There they sat Lethia down in one of the chairs.

The young girl was sickly pale and trembling, tendrils of her long wavy hair sticking to the sides of her sweaty face. Her eyes stared glassily forward.

“Lethia,” Quincy said as she pulled the pine box of bandages and salves they’d been using for the enchantress off a shelf. “Lethia, say something.”

“Something,” the girl mumbled.

“Good girl,” Quincy said, trying to feign strength. Trying to feign control.

But they didn’t really have a damn thing under control, did they? Not Elmiryn. Not themselves. And certainly not the dangers that sought them out.

Hakeem watched at the end of the table with arms crossed as Quincy sat next to Lethia on the right and placed the box down.

She gently took hold of Lethia’s amputated arm. “I just want to check your stitches.”

“Of course,” Lethia said quietly. She still didn’t look at Quincy. “Don’t want any setbacks on the road to recovery, do we?”

Quincy frowned at Lethia’s numb response. Being in shock was understandable, but the more Lethia spoke, the less the woman believed this was the case. There was something lurking in the girl’s words. Some muted emotion she couldn’t name.

Carefully, Quincy undid the bandages over Lethia’s stump. They’d been changing it regularly with a steady application of fresh salves, and so far the wound had been healing just fine. Daedalus had been confident that the stitches could be removed in just a few more weeks barring any setbacks.

Too bad they’d just had one.

Still, if the stitches held, then all Quincy would have to do was reapply the elf’s salve (comprised of secret ingredients he refused to divulge) and redress the wound. Otherwise, they’d need to have another painful round with the needle and thread again.

As the last of the bandage wrap came off, the pungent stench of the healing salve filled the room. Quincy’s nose wrinkled a little, but she leaned in and used the sunlight from the small kitchen window to inspect the integrity of the stitches.

She smiled. “Thank the gods. Everything appears all right.”

Continue ReadingChapter 47.6

Chapter 47.7


Obviously. She grabbed my legs, not my arm,” Lethia grumbled. “Why did we even wonder?”

Quincy paused in her opening of the salve jar to lean back in her seat and eye the girl warningly.

“Better to check and be certain,” Hakeem said with a soft frown.

He placed a hand on Quincy’s shoulder. The woman resisted the urge to shrug it off.

“Forgive me,” Lethia murmured. Her lips barely moved. “I’m upset.”

“As we all are,” Quincy said, keeping her stern eye steady. “But you have something on your mind, girl. Just say it and be done with it.”

Lethia took a deep intake of breath. Then she turned and said with steel in her voice, “I’m upset that I had to step in for you.”

Quincy stilled, letting that sink in. Eventually, she said, “Understandable.”

Lethia tilted her head. “You must have been aware that you being drunk left us open to this.”

“Lethia…” Hakeem rumbled, but Quincy held up a quieting hand.

“I understand why you did it,” Lethia continued. “You were scared of what was coming. But I’m…”

Quincy exhaled harshly through flaring nostrils, trying to resist the natural urge to defend herself. “You’re angry,” she murmured through tense lips. “Go on. Say it. I won’t deny that I failed.” 

Lethia’s left hand clenched in her lap. Her green eyes augured into Quincy’s. “I am angry. Since the incident with Paulo, I’ve fought against my frustrations with everyone because I was the one who helped the demon’s pet. I had no right to judge.”

Her lower lip pushed up hard in self-disgust, wrinkling her chin as her eyes misted. “I had to bear the brunt of everyone’s anger and suspicion, and in no way did I have room to say how I really felt about anything.”

“Do you want us to feel sorry for you?” Quincy asked with a squint.

Lethia laughed caustically and shook her head. “Of course not.” She leaned in, her eyes widening. “But I can see the anger in you too, Quincy. You know that you’ve messed up, so you’re refraining from saying what you really feel. I’m saying I know what that’s like.”

“And what do I really feel, Lethia Artaud?” Quincy snapped, feeling the thorns of her frustration tearing from her skin. “You’re so fucking smart and saavy? Then tell me, what’s on my mind?”

Lethia snorted and sat back in her chair. She averted her eyes to the window. “We both know you and Hakeem have excellent thought protection.”

Her eyebrow arched. “But I don’t need enchantment to see that you’re sick of playing den mother. Pretending we’re almost like a family. Now your true family is coming, and the charade feels unbearable. You couldn’t carry on for even one more day.”

The girl looked at Quincy sidelong and hissed through her teeth. “If you’re tired of that, then I’m tired of being the last fucking resort.”

Now Quincy’s face twisted in confusion. “What do you mean?” She paused to look back at Hakeem, who only shrugged.

Lethia sighed roughly, her eyes turning up to the ceiling.

“Everyone holds on to something that hurts them. Nyx’s trauma. Elmiryn’s drinking. Paulo’s guilt,” she cut a penetrating look at Quincy. “Your fear.”

The girl shook her head. “For the last few weeks I’ve had to take it upon myself to step in when no one else would. Paulo backed out of his promise, so I did what had to be done. Elmiryn nearly kills everyone, and I break through to her. Today, I thought I was the only one who could administer aid to Elmiryn…”

Quincy sighed heavily. “And then you were placed in harm’s way…”

Lethia pressed her lips together, lifted both eyebrows, and turned over her hand. 

The enchantress closed her eyes and her throat moved in a silent swallow. “I see how everyone thinks and acts. I can’t help but apply my teaching and see solutions. I know that can make me a bit insufferable. Maybe meddlesome.”

Hakeem laughed. “Maybe?” 

Lethia cut him a weary look. “I just… I want to help you all.”

Quincy scoffed. She stood and went to the bucket out by the cellar stairs and used the water to wash her hands. She returned to her seat and began to apply the salve on Lethia’s arm.

“Don’t act like you’re so perfect,” Quincy muttered. “Your principles are radical. Your ambition is self-destructive. You’re also annoyingly arrogant.”

“Don’t forget impertinent,” Lethia added with a little smirk, before that was quickly followed by a wince of pain from Quincy’s sudden firm hand.

“That too!” Quincy snapped. 

She picked up the bandages and started to wrap Lethia’s stump. “You have a serious savior complex, Lethia Artaud, and for your information, we are not the side characters in your story! Stop placing the burden of our progress on yourself! It’s ridiculous!”

Lethia considered this quietly. When Quincy finished and began to put away the supplies, the girl held out her hand.

“Wait,” she said.

Continue ReadingChapter 47.7

Chapter 47.8


Quincy paused, her hands holding the medical box.

Lethia looked at her, chagrined. “You’re right. About me. I lose sight of that.” She shrugged awkwardly. “I’m waiting to heal so that I can do what I have to. I feel like I’m going mad, waiting to resume my life, that I can’t help but get overly involved with everyone else’s. That… that doesn’t mean I don’t actually care.”

She ran her hand through her hair, her forehead wrinkling. “And what I said earlier… about your playing den mother being a charade…” 

Lethia shook her head and placed a hand on Quincy’s wrist, making the woman’s eyes grow a little. “It’s true that we’re not a real family. But thanks to what you’ve done to make everyone feel comfortable here… We’ve all started to get along! That means something! It could even make the difference between us surviving what’s to come or not!”

Lethia took her hand away and stood. She looked steady on her feet. “So, please. I hope you won’t pull away. And know that I’ve already forgiven you. I’m sure the others will be swift to do the same.”

She squinted one eye and held up her hand. “When it’s all said and done, we’ve all almost killed each other several times now!”

Hakeem laughed suddenly at that, and Quincy was startled enough to allow for a grin.

Lethia started for the front door. “I’m going to rest in the barn if you need me,” she said over her shoulder.

Quincy watched the girl leave before rising and putting the medical box back onto its shelf. “She’s hard to keep up with, that one,” she mumbled.

“Yes,” Hakeem said, taking a seat.

He leaned his cheek on a fist and asked, “Now… about what happened below?”

Quincy turned to regard him.

The man before her looked so much like her Taika. He moved like him. Smelled like him. Tasted like him.

“Of course I’ll tell you what happened,” Quincy said, making herself smile. She sat down at the table, but frowned like something had occurred to her. “Though I fear the elf should have been back by now…”

She looked at Hakeem. “Taika, could you tell me how long it’s been since he’s left? Perhaps it’s all in my mind.”

Her husband frowned hard in thought. Quincy’s heart lifted with hope.

But then the man pushed back his chair, stood up, and went to the window. He looked out at the suns. Quincy felt her throat clench as a fierce ice seized her heart.

“Hmm…” He looked back at her. “Judging by the suns movement, I’d say it’s been… nearly ten hours? It’s hard to say,” he chuckled. “Seems we should have asked Nyx to bring back a clock!”

Quincy conjured the spirit of her smile back onto her face, but it was a ghost. Dead and lifeless–

For now she knew that Hakeem was truly gone, and this thing in front of her needed to be destroyed.


After everyone had gone, and Elmiryn’s tears had subsided, I finally dared to lift my eyes from the floor.

Elmiryn was now lying on her side, back to me, curled up into a fetal position.

Nyx’s anger was so thick, I could feel it bleeding into my thoughts. The growing heat in my veins spurred me to confront my sister.

I did what I had to do, Nyx.

No, she hissed in my head. You didn’t have to use my pain as a weapon against her!

Our pain,” I snarled aloud.

In my head, I continued, You know as well as I do that just because one of us sinks out of sight from the world, that doesn’t mean we do not experience some of it!

Izma put you to sleep! You weren’t even there for it!

I pressed my hand to my heart and ground the heel of my palm into my breast till it hurt. Tears clouded my eyes. You think I didn’t hurt, going over the memories?

My eyes squeezed shut.

I may as well have been present for every awful moment!

That didn’t give you the right to use it against Elmiryn! My experiences are not your weapon to wield!

I covered my face with my hands and exhaled harshly into my palms.

Against her? AGAINST her? Nyx, remembering your rape was the only thing that got THROUGH to her!

I dropped my hands and looked up at the ceiling, a pleading expression on my face. You’re right. I wasn’t there. I didn’t suffer through it, as you did. But if there is one thing I understand, it’s that Elmiryn cares for you!

No matter how far gone she is, she will ALWAYS respond to your suffering! And right now? We are far past the point of polite decorum!

My eyes turned back to Elmiryn, still curled up on the floor.

I am trying to keep the one you love alive, Nyx. Please forgive me if I resort to uncomfortable measures.

Nyx said nothing to this. I waited a long time for her to respond, but she never did. She felt distant. Her feelings and thoughts were hidden from me.

I chewed my inner lip and leaned back on my hands, my eyes roving over Elmiryn’s form.

This woman… My history with her was fraught. She’d cursed me and hurt me. Her opinion of me had never been high, and neither had mine been for her.

But she had returned me to my sister. We were whole thanks to her. And whatever my thoughts, Nyx loved Elmiryn. She was just too foolish to say it aloud.

So I had to keep the woman safe and alive until she could.

Continue ReadingChapter 47.8