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Darkbeam part i, p.15
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       Darkbeam Part I, p.15

           Adrienne Woods
 
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  He trained hard again. Every day a new trainer came. They closed off the Parthenon just for him and he trained for eight hours a day.

  Part of me wanted him to succeed. I didn’t want to end up as Goran’s dragon. But I knew that no matter how hard I hoped, the beast would be ready too. Something was going to happen, another ability, maybe. Or perhaps I would just kill him this time.

  That last part didn’t bother me as much as it used to. It scared me. It was as if the human part, the sane part, was slowly giving up this.

  I couldn’t. Who I was now, I must keep going. I had to fight. I needed to hold on.

  I ended up in Irene’s tower again. It was late at night and a storm was acting up. It felt amazing to have her in my arms as lightning lit up the sky. Irene got riled up from each bolt. Moon-Bolts were suckers for lightning storms. She was such a great distraction.

  “Blake.” She lay on my shoulder.

  “Yeah?” My chest shifted her weight fractionally with the word.

  “I know about the Fire-Cain. Lucian…” I closed my eyes and ground my teeth.

  “Stop doing that. He’s just worried. I’m worried. How long have you been using?”

  “I can handle it.” I got up and pulled on my pants.

  “Said every junkie in this world.”

  “Irene, don’t.”

  “I’m concerned.”

  “It’s the only way I can hold on.”

  “Where do you get it?”

  I pursed my lips. “It doesn’t matter.”

  “It does to me!” Her voice broke and she grabbed my hand. “Don’t go, please.”

  “I can’t stay.” I pulled on my shirt.

  “Please, I’m not here to judge you.” She got up and touched my cheek. I pulled her hand away. “I just need you to look after yourself. Fire-Cain isn’t…”

  “I know, Irene,” I said. I knew why Lucian had told her. Payback.

  I couldn’t meet her eyes. I let go of her hand and walked to the door. I didn’t even say goodbye or look back. I just left. I couldn’t stay. That look in her eyes. I didn’t want anything to change. She was the last person who ground my balls about anything.

  But the fact was that I felt the darkness within the storm. I felt every lightning strike vibrating through my scales. It made me scared. Too close.

  I need more Fire-Cain.

  Otherwise I was going to kill Lucian.

  My knuckles were raw and I felt Dimi’s hold finally disappearing.

  My pocket was filled with Fire-Cain. I didn’t even care about cash anymore. I needed the Fire-Cain. I was still in control and I didn’t care if Lucian understood that or not.

  I wasn’t a junkie, not yet. This was mainly for me to hold on.

  Right?

  I reached the Academy around three in the morning and took a long shower.

  The echoes of screams and vivid images of what I’d done to that Moon-Bolt played in my mind.

  Guilt. I was their alpha, I was the one who was supposed to protect them. And I was the one tearing off their limbs, ripping them apart.

  My body shook as I sobbed. Where was this going to end? When? When I was dead, when I lost, when the darkness won?

  It wasn’t going to end. It would never end.

  When I got out, I lined up three thin rows of Fire-Cain nicely next to each other and rolled a piece of paper into a tube and snorted them one after another.

  The burn came as the last line disappeared. I screamed and clutched my head.

  It only lasted for five seconds and then it was gone. My head spun before my entire body relaxed.

  The last thing I remembered was laughter. My own. I sounded so evil.

  Lucian’s date was set. Two weeks from now.

  As the days went by and the Fire-Cain wreaked its work on my body, a second claiming, Lucian’s claiming, became real. Each morning when my eyes opened, more pressure rested on my chest.

  Do not kill him. Do not kill him.

  The days sped by. Fourteen days became twelve. Twelve became nine.

  His claiming brought on the dreams again.

  I tried. I tried not to use anymore, but I needed the Fire-Cain. I needed my demons tamed.

  Still, I needed the human to be in control and I wasn’t when the Fire-Cain took over.

  I found myself in the cage again. I was in my dragon form. The dragons I’d killed were all begging me. I was their leader, their protector, the only one they would give their lives for, and here I was taking their lives.

  It filled me with rage. Not at them, at myself. I breathed fire.

  It consumed me.

  I deserved it.

  I woke with a startle. Sweat dripped off my face as my breathing came fast. I couldn’t hear my heart, but the tingling sensation and the nausea told me its pace was fast.

  I tried to calm down. I went to the bathroom and looked into the mirror.

  I was becoming hollow. My eyes weren’t as bright as they were even a year ago. My soul was deteriorating. Nobody could help me, not even Irene.

  I didn’t think. I opened the loose tile in the bathroom wall by the sink, took out the packet of white powder, and closed it before Lucian woke up. I cut out a line on the basin and snorted it. The fire burned through my skull.

  I started seeing it as burning the darkness out of me. That was why it hurt so fucking much. Plenty of darkness

  It spread to my core. I doubled over but no sound left my mouth. And then everything slowed down. I saw clearly again, even though I knew I was not in control. I saw everything as it was.

  I was the evil that the night brought. No matter how hard I tried, or how much I didn’t want it. It is who I am.

  I am the darkness that evil brings.

  My skull throbbed as if someone was banging on the inside.

  I heard the sunlight before I saw it. It streamed in through the window. I struggled to open my eyes.

  I was still on the floor with a mother of a headache and the banging wasn’t coming from my head; it was coming from the door.

  Lucian was banging on the door.

  “Give me a second,” I growled.

  “What the hell are you doing in there?” he yelled.

  “None of your business.” I got up and washed the powder off my face.

  When I opened the door, he faced me off with defiance. I ignored him and pushed him hard with my shoulder as I passed. He closed the door.

  I went to get dressed. My head throbbed and the loneliness took over. Why was I doing this? I should just cash in now and get it over with. If I weren’t the Rubicon, I would’ve killed myself a long time ago, but I was the Rubicon and it wasn’t going to be that easy to check out.

  The Academy was filled with Lucian’s banners again. There were a few of me, too, but it was more a Dragonian sport than it was a dragon one. No, if we dragons wanted our fun, it happened in the dark hours of the night and underground.

  I ignored people who tried to start conversations with me and slept in most of my classes. I didn’t care anymore.

  One afternoon, the loneliness really set in and I found myself in the library, fucking Ash. She really wasn’t that great, but Irene wasn’t on the premises, and Tabitha was just crazy.

  “Seriously, Blake,” she spoke when I was done and buckling my pants. “We should make this a bit more exclusive, don’t you think?”

  “No, I don’t,” I said flatly.

  I wasn’t exclusive with anyone, not even Irene.

  I found myself leaning against the wall.

  Lucian was training in the Colosseum. They usually kept his moves a secret, but I guessed this was a different tactic. A tactic to what, scare me?

  He should have been the scared one. He wasn’t close to being ready. The beast was going to eat him alive in seven days

  My Cammy rang and I saw Phil’s name. I picked it up and his figure appeared.

  “Blakey,” he sang.

  “When?” I sounded empty.

  “This F
riday. It’s the last day of the tournament.”

  What? It had been that long already?

  Phil smiled. “Everything comes to an end. Eventually.”

  I nodded.

  “Don’t be late. Be at Sam’s around four.”

  The connection broke.

  I turned to watch Lucian again.

  This call came just at the right time. I had the option of killing someone I didn’t know, as opposed to killing someone who mattered to my world.

  The only way Lucian would get out of that ring alive would be after a fight that calmed the beast. Maybe it would be so calm that Lucian could stand a chance to claim me.

  “My brother said you should remember not to be late.” Tabitha sat down on the pillow next to mine in the cafeteria.

  “Noted.” I smiled stiffly.

  She frowned. “Where are you going this Friday?”

  “Thank you for the message, but the rest is none of your business,” I said and got up.

  “Okay, sorry. I get it. I don’t want to fight.”

  “Noted.”

  “There’s a party on Thursday night in my room. A little get-together. Will I see you there?”

  “I’ll see,” I said and walked away.

  Back in my room I took a fingernail of Fire-Cain. It was every day now, but a little bit didn’t cause too many problems.

  The human was still in control.

  It was just enough to get me through the day.

  Thursday night, I stood in front of Tabitha’s room. I didn’t know what I was doing there, but a party might be what I needed before the big fight.

  I knew the tournament was coming to an end and Hansel was among the favorites.

  She opened the door, looking exceptionally hot in her too-short skirt and fishnet stockings. She wore calf-high boots and a plunging V-neck shirt.

  “My eyes are up here, Blake,” she said. “They are pretty, blue, and not blind.”

  I gave her my lopsided smile and pinched my nose as she stepped out of the way.

  I hated the feeling that the Fire-Cain left me with. Too little made me feel weird, like the tip of my nose was numb. I’d developed this stupid habit of pinching my nose every few minutes. Too much made me do fucked-up things I couldn’t remember.

  The door closed behind me and George greeted me with a beer. Brian was bouncing around like an idiot. The music was loud and the curtains were drawn shut.

  Longwei sure hadn’t had this in mind when he built the soundproof rooms.

  I downed my beer and grabbed another.

  “This is going to be fun,” I said in a dull voice. Tabitha grabbed my arm and pulled me toward the bathroom.

  I hated that a part of me was weak when I was alone with her.

  She didn’t grab me when she closed the door but took out a joint from the cupboard against the wall. She lit it and took a deep drag.

  Weed.

  It was doing little to nothing for me anymore, but seeing Tabitha taking chances like this, well, that was a first for the Snow Dragon. Usually she sat out things like this.

  I accepted the joint and took a deep drag. With the Fire-Cain flowing in my veins, the weed enhanced my high nicely. I chuckled.

  “What?”

  I shook my head as I blew out smoke. “Nothing.” I smiled and pushed her against the wall.

  Our lips met. I knew later on I was going to regret this, but that was later Blake’s problem.

  “I’m glad that you made up with Tabitha, Blake,” Irene said as I shared a cigarette with her.

  I chewed on my lip. She made me so confused and I didn’t know why it bothered me so much.

  She pushed herself up onto her elbow. “We need her and if you occasionally have to sleep with her to make her feel special, then so be it.”

  “You’re not jealous?”

  “Not as much as I used to be. Oh, believe me, two hundred years ago, the Snow Dragon would’ve been ashes by now.” She bent over and kissed me.

  I chuckled against her lips. She was so hot.

  The kiss escalated to another round. I could feel her energy like an electric storm. It didn’t hurt, though. It just made me want more.

  Sex with her was out of this world.

  I slept over that night.

  I’d slept with two girls on the same day. That thought wasn’t that awesome anymore. I wondered why.

  Why did I feel like the biggest asshole on the planet? Sleeping around had never bothered me until now.

  What did it mean?

  Did I love someone other than myself?

  I opened my eyes and was in the Colosseum again. The wind howled. I had to cover my eyes as insidious particles of sand attacked and pricked my skin, my face, my mouth, everywhere.

  The sky rumbled with thunder. Flashes of lightning lit the inky sky. I’d never realized how creepy the Colosseum was in the darkness of night.

  My eyes caught on someone in the crowd. Just one. Then another appeared. It seemed to be the same guy. The first figure sat on the sidelines to my left and met the gaze of the one on my far right.

  He was either fast, which made me think of a Night Seeker, or he was multiplying.

  A third one popped up in front of me.

  Then they appeared all over the place. It seemed to be the same person.

  What was this?

  The wind shredded at my being and a soft drumming vibrated against my feet. Something was coming.

  I closed my eyes. Wake up, Blake.

  The fear weighed me down to my core. It was heavy. My breathing quickened.

  I searched at the crowd again. The crowd of Lucians. They all lifted their arms and pointed in my direction.

  What did this mean?

  The vibration grew stronger. A humming noise droned in my ear. My skin crawled; I hated feeling so afraid and vulnerable.

  The gates opened and as one, a legion of knights in white armor came marching out. They poured straight for me, a sinuous, bristling serpent. They struck their shields and the ground in perfect tempo.

  I drowned in their presence. I couldn’t breathe.

  I woke up to my own screaming.

  My senses were alert. Sweat soaked my body. I breathed hard and fast.

  A cold hand touched me. I startled.

  “It’s just me,” Irene said and our eyes met.

  Mine welled up.

  “It’s just a dream, Blake. It’s not real.”

  I didn’t know if she saw it, or if she just said those words to calm my soul, but she held me tight as I succumbed.

  I didn’t want to be dark. I didn’t want to be claimed. I was stuck in the middle and it seemed life was pulling me inexorably in all directions.

  Friday night, I was in the ring again.

  I made it to the final round.

  We’d been fighting the entire night, with the finale being a gruesome last-man-or-dragon-standing.

  Three remained. Two humans (me included, so not in reality) and a dragon.

  He was a Night Villain and had been a favorite for years. He was huge, old, and undefeated.

  The humans who went up against him had all failed. It looked like I might have to face him.

  I didn’t want to kill my kind anymore, but I needed to hold on. What I was going to do when the tournament was over?

  At least the limelight was diminished. Only the crowd here knew my name—or the one I had portrayed. One I could shed.

  I could hear the officiator, the crowd cheering. It was a hard fight. They’d been grappling viciously for the past hour. It exhausted me just watching them.

  I tried my hardest not to get involved with the Dragonians. This particular group loathed dragons. I could swear sometimes they smelled me.

  Then it was as if Luke, the dragon, had enough. I heard Syd’s screams. I heard how his bones crushed and limbs shredded.

  Half the crowd cheered; the others screamed in agony.

  Like Samuel said, no money was bet on the dragons. Many gamblers had lost
big tonight on Syd.

  I tuned out and could hear the officiator announcing Luke as the winner.

  He must have blown acid or something, because the crowd went mad again.

  They started cheering my name: “Hansel! Hansel! Hansel!”

  Dimi and Samuel entered the changing rooms.

  “Kill him fast. Don’t try to wear him out. That Night Villain has no off button. The more he kills, the stronger he grows.”

  I nodded.

  He touched the back of my neck hard. “Do this, and everything is over. No more debt. Nothing.”

  “You will leave my family alone.”

  “It’s in the contract Blake. I can’t touch them every again. You will be free.”

  I squinted.

  “You have my word. Just kill him fast.”

  Dimitri was close by.

  They were giving me another half an hour.

  Kill him fast, Blake.

  Later, I’d wish that I could say it was an easy fight. It should’ve been easy. I was the Rubicon. But this turned out to be the hardest battle I’ve ever fought.

  Part of me knew I wasn’t going to escape this ring alive. I was scratched many times. Blood poured in rivers down my body. I was tired and sticky and slowing down.

  No matter what I did, Luke was like a machine. He didn’t fail and he didn’t weaken.

  I was tiring myself out.

  He gripped me tight around the waist and I could feel my bones crushing like chalk. I was blacking out and then, suddenly, the darkness inside me roared. The beast woke up.

  I wasn’t conscious for what happened next. I was, how did people put it, out of body. I didn’t know if I gave up and the darkness took over, or whether the beast just came out to play, but my human part checked out.

  Luke didn’t stand a chance.

  Only when I was sputtering, literally drowning, in his blood did I come to. I was covered in it. I was panting hard and my body ached immeasurably. I wanted to burst and I wanted to get away.

  The crowd went crazy.

  They screamed and cheered.

  I was tired, but I got up. I focused in on Dimitri for the first time.

  His nose was bleeding. He’d struggled.

  Seemed fair.

  The officiator lifted up my hand as I held the a gash closed on my stomach.

 
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