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Darkbeam part i, p.16
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       Darkbeam Part I, p.16

           Adrienne Woods
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  I didn’t know which blood was mine and which was my enemy’s.

  Soon, I found myself in the showers. Even this far removed, the crowd’s distant cheers echoed painfully in my eardrums. Nobody in the victory room but me. We’d started out as twenty-four players. I was the only one still standing.

  I’d killed my own kind. I’d damaged my soul. I’d given into the darkness. But why did I still feel like me? Why did I still grieve like me?

  The contract was finished.

  No more fighting. No more.

  I had enough stash to last me a good while. I just had to pace myself. A tiny bit whenever I needed it. That was the plan.

  I partied Saturday. We stayed over at Samuel’s mansion. Tabitha even came. She hated it at Samuel’s because of all the drugs and girls.

  Everyone was having a great time, including me. We were in the study on the top floor. It was off-limits and Tabitha had to stay below.

  Samuel was different. Someone I could actually see as a friend. Maybe what he’d done was just business.

  We used, and after that I didn’t remember much.

  When I woke, I was with girls who weren’t Tabitha next to me. I knew whatever happened last night, I was going to hear about it till doomsday came.

  My head was killing me. The loneliness was so bad this time, I just wanted to cash out again.

  The rest was a blur. I didn’t know how I got back to the Academy or how I got through Monday.

  The cut on my stomach throbbed, but my healing ability seem to be kicking in and when I woke up on Tuesday I was healed. I really hoped that it would’ve lasted longer. It would’ve given Lucian a fair chance to claim me, to succeed. But it seemed that it wasn’t in me to yield.

  The darkness was just too strong. My mother was wrong. She had this saying: no matter how dark things seemed, hope was just around the corner.

  Hope wasn’t meant for guys like me.

  Members of the press interviewed Lucian, a steady stream of cameras and journalists. Somehow I managed to escape all of them. I hated the limelight, even though I loved the stage. I felt different up there, like someone else and not this evil being who had to fight to stay good.

  Staying good shouldn’t be so hard.

  My family had arrived. My father was hopefully somewhere in the crowd. Why I was even hoping for it, I didn’t know.

  Tabitha wasn’t there. She was pissed off with me for whatever happened at Samuel’s. I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t help anything when I was drugged out of my mind.

  I got up. I stood in front of the gate, waiting for it to open.

  For a split second, that dream about the legion of white-armored knights flashed through my mind. The scales beneath my skin shivered.

  The beast wanted to get out. It needed to stretch its wings.

  I doubted another ability would show itself today.

  The gate creaked open.

  “The Rubicon!” Alex’s voice echoed over the microphone and bounced off the walls.

  I stepped out and the crowd cheered like crazy, especially the dragons. The dragons. I was a dragon killer.

  I lifted up my arms when I felt I couldn’t breathe and air filled my lungs.

  You want to sit this one out? the beast offered.

  No, I thought. You are not taking his life.

  Then stop being a pussy, Blake.

  I hated these confrontations.

  I growled. The crowd misunderstood, thinking I was trying to get them excited. I wasn’t; I was furious. He shouldn’t try to claim me.

  His father and mother sat on two thrones right next to Arianna’s parents. The rulers of Paegeia. A pity that none of them were royal enough to claim me, none worthy enough to walk out of that gate and face me.

  Lucian was brave, but not the right one.

  His name was called, and like clockwork, when he stepped out, so did the beast.

  His form grew small in a matter of seconds, and I felt myself slip away.

  Hang on, Blake. You can’t kill Lucian.

  “Thunderstruck” started to play and the crowd sang along.

  I hated that fucking song.

  Stop! I yelled. My internal voice sounded deranged to me. Lucian’s lifeless body lay on the floor. He had dodged countless acid balls, but it was the chlorine that ended it. It poured out of me, suffocating him.

  I could still smell it.

  The beast loved every single moment.

  Enough! I yelled again and forced my human form to appear as the beast went to spit out another acid ball.

  You weakling. He doesn’t deserve… I pushed his rantings to the back of my mind.

  “Lucian!” I cried.

  Still, he didn’t say a thing. I heard ribs cracking and bones breaking. Flesh almost tearing.


  “Blake!” Mia was one of the professors holding me back. “Go calm down. Now!”

  I frowned. But I listened to her and ran through the gate and out the door to my dressing room.

  I ran until my lungs felt as if they were going to burst before I jumped into the air.

  My wings took over and took me straight to my mountain.

  I think I just killed the Prince of Tith.

  I went straight to Irene when I came back. She was waiting for me.

  I broke down. “I killed him,” I said over and over again. “I killed my best friend.”

  “Blake, calm down. You haven’t killed him. It’s just his lungs. The chlorine burned his lungs, but Constance was close. He will be fine.”

  I started to laugh. It wasn’t because of relief. I was hanging on by a thread. I was close to losing it, to joining the darkness, to giving up.

  Why me?

  “Why not make anyone else the Rubicon? Why my egg?”

  “Cause you are the only one strong enough to carry this burden.” She got up and went into her bathroom. She came back with a blue velvet coin purse. She opened it and took out a silver tool. At the end it was a tiny spoon. “I know about the fights.”

  My body froze.

  Tears glistened in her eyes. “No more, Blake, please. It’s only going to destroy you faster.”

  A tear traced the length of my cheek.

  She put the spoon-like tool into the bag and scooped up a fine white powder. “This is the only way. I will monitor it, and you will get through this. Just promise you won’t go back into that ring.”

  She must have seen it. But she didn’t see the contract. It was no longer. I nodded.

  She held the spoon to my nose and I snorted. Fire burned into my head. I grunted and doubled over.

  I felt her lips on the back on my neck. They scorched my skin. It didn’t took long before the tingling sensation took over and I found myself lost in Irene’s arms.

  Lucian wasn’t dead, but his lungs suffered badly.

  The Green-Vapor in me was strong. Green-Vapors were liars and loved to play games. I despised lies, yet it was all I’d been doing the past few months.

  I lied to everyone. Maybe it was why the part of me was so strong.

  The coolest part of a Green-Vapor’s gift wasn’t breathing chlorine gas, but being able to persuade humans. They said the older the dragon became, the better this gift of persuasion got.

  Henry was a Green-Vapor. Jeff too. He was more Brian’s buddy than mine and had the ability to irritate me even worse than Brian did.

  Still, none of them had the persuasion gift yet. I had a feeling that mine wasn’t going to work quite the same as anyone else’s. I had to figure it out, how to persuade someone’s mind.

  Thoughts of animals flashed through my mind. It was cruel, but the safest way.

  I need to learn how to harness all my abilities. It had to become like breathing air.

  The acid of the Night-Villain used to scare me. I was sixteen when it appeared. Then the lightning showed. The Pink Kiss was after that and in between all of the above, somewhere, I started to heal preternaturally fast.

  How long wa
s he going to take to heal?

  I had really hoped he would forget about it, and never try to claim me again. Now we were back here. When was he going to stop thinking that he had it in him to claim me? I didn’t know how long he’d be out this time. His lungs had been scorched from the inside.

  The gas had almost suffocated me too, but after the sixth time inhaling it, I couldn’t tell the difference between breathing in fresh air and chlorine. I was immune to it.

  The abilities came to me in stages. I wasn’t like the other dragons. Sure, I was born one, but I didn’t get my abilities at the age of thirteen like they do.

  I got my first one at the age of sixteen. And here I was at nineteen. With the ones I have.

  The worst part was that I had to keep my fire as far away from claimings as possible.

  My pink fire, the Rubicon’s fire, or what I like to call the Pink Kiss, was different from the other dragons’ fire. It carried a pink flame. It was like a virus. Once it touched its victim, it destroyed them.

  My flame scared me at times. I didn’t want it. It only made me indestructible.

  Two weeks later, Lucian was still MIA.

  I hated how long he took to recover. It had been stupid to argue like that. Another mountain had risen to stand in front of me.

  An acid wielder had sought the Council’s permission to try and claim me. They had approved his petition, and I was going to face him inside the ring. I didn’t know why these idiots kept trying. They always failed, would always fail.

  It was going to be held in the Colosseum of Tith.

  It wasn’t as big as the one in Dragonia Academy, but it was upper-class and the total opposite of the one in Dragonia.

  They said that the one in Etan was a combination of the one in Dragonia and Tith.

  I felt a bit of unease at the prospect.

  This wasn’t Lucian, and I didn’t really care for the guy. I saw his name: Aaron Mendez. I shouldn’t look at it. It was like naming a dog; you get attached and you wouldn’t want to kill it.

  Kiiiillllllll, the beast said. The beast hated the fact that Aaron Mendez had the guts to even consider this.

  I spent the night before the claiming up in Irene’s tower. I used again. She monitored me. At length I passed out in her tower.

  She was my salvation. But I knew Master Longwei would make sure that she never told foretellings ever again if he caught us in the act. I couldn’t let that happen. The fear of it chased me in the unsettled recesses of my mind. Getting caught.

  I flew all the way to Tith while Master Longwei, Irene, and Tabitha took the elevators. It took me more than six hours to get there. I had to leave early in the morning. My head was still a bit clouded, but at least I felt better than I had yesterday.

  I went to the hotel that Master Longwei had booked for us and crashed on one of the beds. I needed some sleep before this evening.

  Tabitha, Irene, and Master Longwei waited with me in the dressing room. The chamber wasn’t as cold and unforgiving as the one in Dragonia Academy, which resembled something ancient.

  No this one was revamped. Lush red carpet lined the walls and the floor. An ornate steel gate showed parts of the arena. It was highlighted with huge spotlights.

  Tabitha sat next to me and Irene was sitting right next to Master Longwei.

  “You’ll be fine.” Tabitha patted my hand. I really didn’t want her to hold it, not with Irene watching, but I had no choice with Master Longwei here. My fingers were entwined with hers.

  I took a deep breath without looking at Irene. It was weird having both women in my life in the same room.

  My mother had wanted to come so badly, but I’d told her no. She shouldn’t. I didn’t want her or my sister to see the day I killed a Dragonian.

  “You ready?” Master Longwei asked.

  “No,” I replied. I was never ready for this. We dragons didn’t have a choice.

  He touched my shoulder. Probably trying to show some encouragement.

  Then a voice echoed my name.

  The door opened.

  “Good luck,” Irene said.

  I wished I could grab her. Instead, I pulled my hand through my hair.

  “Go get ’em,” Tabitha wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed me before I even realized she was zeroing in.

  I felt bad for Irene, but Master Longwei had to believe that Tabitha was my girl. So I pretend it was Irene and I kissed her back.

  I walked out onto the arena. Bright lights shone in my face. It was a covered Colosseum. Big affairs and big claimings had been held here since it was constructed.

  After Etan was lost to us, they had used this one more for the adult claimings and the one in Dragonia for the students.

  The crowd cheered.

  Déjà vu rested heavily on my shoulders, images from the tournament haunting me.

  I wasn’t the Dragonian this time. I took a few deep breaths. I lifted my arms and the crowd cheered. I wasn’t much of a show pony.

  I came here to do one thing: not get claimed. This Aaron was going to discover that, fast.

  I could feel my limbs stretching. Deep red and purplish scales formed on my arms and ran all across my body as I grew. Horns and tendrils sprouted around my face. The crowd grew smaller. I was growing. I was already taller than I had been the day of Lucian’s claiming. I was getting indestructible.

  It wasn’t good, but the dark in me loved it. It wanted it. You idiot, you’re going to end up with Goran if you don’t stop.

  Then the dream flashed through my mind. The one about the thousand knights. I didn’t know why I was having these thoughts.

  The beast was going to take over. I could feel it.

  A song played.

  The darkness started to laugh. It was some stupid metal song, nothing scary or anything. This wasn’t the day.

  My scales started to vibrate. They made that funny rattle sound. I hated it.

  Then Aaron walked out. He was at least ten years older than me.

  The darkness in me just sized his ass up. Not worthy, it surmised.

  “You and me, let’s give them something to remember,” he said as he threw an acid ball my way.

  You want the crowd to remember this? They won’t.

  I struck.

  It was over in less than half an hour. It could’ve been more.

  It showed up. My fire. I’d never used it before now. I didn’t want it to and the minute it had, the cameras flashed like crazy. Nobody alive had seen the pink flame except in history books. So seeing it tonight was a huge deal.

  A speck of it touched Aaron and he screamed. We all watched in horror as it spread like a virus.

  Numerous doctors rushed into the arena, but none of them could stop it. His screams rushed deep into my soul to the black recess where all the other screams of my victims had lodged themselves.

  Master Longwei came out and I pushed myself back into my human form. At the horror-struck look on my face, he said, “Blake, it’s okay. It’s a claim. It’s not murder. Calm your mind.”

  I tore my gaze off Aaron’s body. It was starting to disintegrate. As I watched, Aaron turned to ash.

  “It’s a claim. He wasn’t your Dragonian.”

  I felt empty. He misunderstood my emotion. I was slowly losing the battle. And I knew new nightmares were on the horizon.

  The crowd was silent.

  Flashes of the dream came again.

  My throat was dry.

  Then someone screamed, more horror voiced.

  Master Longwei was already guiding me back to the locker room.

  I killed him.

  The thought should make me feel a bit guilty at least... but it didn’t. He should’ve never tried to claim me.

  Irene didn’t say anything, but Tabitha just had to open her mouth.

  I didn’t focus on what she said. In my mind’s eye, I was fixated on the pile of empty clothes and the ashes of what was left of Aaron Mendez blowing away.

  “He wasn’t your Dragoni
an, Blake. It happens. You did nothing wrong.” Master Longwei’s voice was close by. I nodded mutely.

  I’d killed the first Dragonian who had faced me with my Pink Kiss. I feared it wouldn’t be the last.

  Part II

  Month’s flew by and Summer was around the corner.

  Lucian didn’t try to claim me again. He kept his distance. I guessed I’d really broken a part of him when I’d slept with Arianna. How big of a part, I didn’t know. Not to mention the whole almost-killing-him thing.

  I didn’t want to go home. I managed to avoid it since Aaron Mendez’s claim. This would be the first time that I would see my family again.

  My mom had tried to call me a couple of times, but I couldn’t face her. To see that disappointment in my mother’s eyes and watch her trying to hide it would have been unbearable.

  I’d already seen it in my aunt’s eyes. I’d gotten a little bit of a preview.

  I wouldn’t be able to see Irene this summer. She lived in one of the dragon cities in Areeth. It was so far; to be honest, I had no idea where she lived. All I knew was that I would be caught and I would have nothing to say. What would my excuse be for visiting her in Areeth, or, hell, going to Areeth at all?

  All I knew was that I was going to miss her like crazy.

  When Tabitha asked if she could visit over the summer, I reluctantly nodded. Even though it was Irene I wanted.

  A knock came at the door. George’s figure stood in the frame. “See you next term.”

  I nodded, gave him a faint smile.

  “Have a good one, and say hi to Sammy.”


  He laughed.

  When it came to my family, I was like a dog. Their watchdog. I had been since King Albert died, rendering my father useless. He’d forced me to step up and be a man. Well, maybe now he would be a little bit better. Maybe not. Like I said, I hadn’t spoken to my mom in ages.

  I had to admit, I missed the way my dad used to be. He had been so majestic. When I closed my eyes, I could still see him with the king on his back.

  They used to come to the manor, our first home, before missions. I would look up in awe and want that bond so badly.

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