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Darkbeam part i, p.17
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       Darkbeam Part I, p.17

           Adrienne Woods
 
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  What did I know?

  It was one of the worst things that could happen to a dragon. I’d learned that the hard way. I was still learning it.

  With their riders, dragons were perfect. The shit came when the riders didn’t make it, and that was why I hated the Dragonians so much.

  We turned to nothing the day our riders died. It was why dragons did stupid things like bequeath them their essence. I didn’t know what the process was, other than the fact that it wasn’t easy.

  No, it was one of the hardest things dragons could do, presenting their riders with their essences. But the bond didn’t make it look that hard.

  They gave it without thinking twice.

  That scared me. I was glad that I didn’t have a true rider.

  The redhead flashed through my mind. I hadn’t thought about her for such a long time. She was my Never-Breath. A figment of my imagination. A wish that I’d conjured to, what, cope with all this?

  I struggled to hold on. It was getting harder by the day.

  Part of me wanted her to ease everything, to make all of this go away. But she didn’t exist and I had to make peace with it.

  “You’re here!” Sammy jumped into my arms.

  I frowned as she’d grown at least a head taller since the last time I had seen her and yep, her boobs had gotten a size bigger too. She’d blossomed.

  I pushed her away.

  “What?” she asked.

  I shook my head. “You look different.”

  “As in how?” She squinted.

  “You’re hot, Sammy.”

  “Ew, ew, ew,” she said and I laughed. “You’re my brother.”

  “I didn’t mean it like that. I’m just saying, I’m going to have a hard time at Dragonia keeping the guys off you.”

  She blushed and hooked her arm with mine. “I missed you.”

  “Yeah, I haven’t been around lately, have I?”

  She shook her head and clung to my arm as we walked to the house.

  I dragged my feet. I still feared the look on my mother’s face.

  “Mom,” Sammy said. “Look who’s here.”

  My mother walked out of the kitchen. Her face was inscrutable for a moment. Then a huge smile covered her face and she ran to me. Her arms folded around me. “I missed you,” she whispered.

  “I’m here,” I spoke softly too.

  She didn’t mention the Dragonian or try to coddle my feelings with empty observations that he wasn’t my true rider. As if that somehow changed what I had done. I hated when people told me that. It reminded me how not guilty I felt about killing him. How vacant and inhuman I really was.

  There wasn’t an ounce of disappointment in my mother’s eyes. This was one of the reasons I loved my mother so much. I should have known. She never saw the darkness. It wasn’t because she was naive or anything; it just didn’t matter with her. There had been no reason to avoid her all these months after all.

  “Want some coffee?” Sammy asked and I nodded.

  “I got a job,” my mother sang.

  “You did?” I asked.

  She nodded. “It’s not as glamorous as Constance, but I’m teaching little ones at daycare.”

  “You’re a teacher?”

  “It’s a job, Blake. And I never thought I would enjoy it so much.”

  “I’m working too, believe it or not,” Sammy said.

  “Who would give you a job?” I teased.

  “Ha, ha. The coffee shop at the mall.”

  “I see. They’re lucky to have you, Sam.”

  “I know, and I make good tips, so stop worrying about us, okay? I know you want that little purple number at Andy’s.”

  I roared. “That is not just 100 pagoleans, Sam. I’m fine. Besides, the only thing I care about is you and Mom.”

  “See?” She looked at my mother. “Still fine.”

  I laughed. It was sure good to be home.

  Summer turned out to be a really good time. The darkness was still there, but I’d made peace with it, sort of. It had backed off, just a little.

  Maybe this was like my goodbye summer. I was giving my family something to remember me by. Before I drowned in darkness.

  I hadn’t seen my father. Mom told me that he had gone to see a shaman, to help him cope with his demons and to be a better man. I hoped he wasn’t going to turn into one of those tree huggers who loved to eat only from their own harvests and found inner peace and shit. It didn’t fit with Night-Villains.

  Tabitha spent some time with us.

  It was no surprise that Sammy didn’t like her.

  She wasn’t that bad. I got why Phil didn’t want his sister to get hurt. She was funny, made us laugh. She only stayed for like four days and then went back to her parents.

  I had mixed feelings for the Snow Queen.

  I reflected on the poem I’d written for her. Those words were still as real now as they were then.

  Before I knew it, it was time to return to Dragonia Academy. I was in my fourth year, and Lucian was starting his third. I hoped that this trying-to-claim-me bullshit was over.

  Sammy turned some heads on her first day.

  “Brian likes.” He sniffed the air.

  “Don’t even fucking dream about it,” I said.

  “Blake, c’mon.”

  “That Fire-Tail is off limits, Brian.”

  His eyebrows rose as I walked faster. “No way, that’s your sister?”

  I didn’t answer. George chortled.

  “Fuck, she’s hot!” Brian exclaimed. I shook my head. He would listen; all of them would listen. My sister’s virtue was so not going to belong to any of these fuckers.

  Sammy waved at me as I passed her.

  They were standing right in front of the stairs waiting for orientation and were being sorted into their rooms.

  George growled softly as we walked past them. I frowned as a huge smile sprawled on his face. What was that about?

  We went up to my room.

  “Hey,” Lucian said. He was already unpacking his clothes.

  Guilt washed over me, but I didn’t dare ask him how his summer was. Instead I stalked in to the bathroom and splashed cold water on my face.

  Brian greeted Lucian. “Your Highness, how was your summer?”

  “Fuck off,” Lucian said. George and Brian burst out laughing.

  “So when is the next claiming date, Your Highness?” George teased.

  “Soon.”

  I sighed as I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror. Water droplets clung to my dark eyelashes, making my peacock-blue eyes pop. Lucian was going to lose his life.

  “The Pink Kiss doesn’t scare you?”

  “The Pink Kiss?” Lucian asked as I hadn’t shared my nickname with many people. “No. Losing him scares me. It should scare all of you.”

  Nobody said a word and I saw Lucian’s figure pass the bathroom door. He’d left.

  We all assembled in the auditorium.

  Lucian was greeting Sammy. She looked at him with admiration, desire. Everyone looked at Lucian that way.

  His heart was still broken, though. Thanks to me. He’d really loved Arianna. I’d tried to forget it. Neither of us had mentioned it.

  I watched the fond way he said goodbye to Sammy to find his own seat.

  One of the girls next to her asked how she knew him. I tuned out as she told the girl who she was. I hated the way they said my name. Like I was her sun and moon.

  George plunged into the chair next to me. He was tense, the hair on his arms raised.

  “What is with you?”

  He looked at me, his facial features draining. Concealing his thoughts. “Nothing.”

  Tabitha moved past me as I stared at George. “Hey you,” she said and kissed me once on my lips.

  I smiled without saying anything. My eyes stayed on George. I could’ve sworn I just heard him growl softly. What is George hiding?

  I spent that first night back with Irene. I’d missed her so much. The way her fing
ernails scratched my back told me that I was missed too.

  I slipped out of her tower early the next day before anyone awoke. Lucian was still sleeping. I went to take a shower. I needed to get Irene’s scent off me. If anyone discovered the truth, I would never be able to cope.

  First period was bullshit. It was with Professor Pheizer. She thought she knew everything about dragons and their riders, bonds, and ascensions.

  She was a joke.

  We got new journals again. I wanted to incinerate mine, but she’d just give me another.

  The Metallics loved her. They all asked her stupid fucking questions. Every dragon in this class hadn’t found their riders yet, and she was supposed to help them.

  They thought Irene was making up bullshit.

  When the bell rang she spoke my name. “Please, just try this year, Blake.”

  “Why?”

  “You never know.”

  I chuckled and shook my head as I walked out of her class. So fake. She wouldn’t see my rider if they were standing in front of me.

  But for some reason, I sat with both my journals that night. I just scribbled in hers, colors that made no sense. I wrote a little in mine.

  What was the use of anything?

  I closed my journal and shoved it under my pillow. I lay on my stomach and closed my eyes.

  “My brother wants you to call him,” Tabitha said. “I thought you were done with Samuel.”

  “I am,” I said.

  She hated them so much. I did too.

  I had no debt to pay off this time and he couldn’t threaten my family again. That contract saved his life till the day I die.

  But the darkness... Irene was right. The Fire-Cain had to be enough this time.

  Around six, my Cammy rang for the umpteenth time. I ignored Phil’s call. He would eventually stop. I switched off my Cammy just as Lucian walked in.

  He went to the kitchen in our room. Perks of rooming with the Prince of Tith. He came back with a cup of coffee and flopped down on the sofa, switching on the TV. Still not saying a word.

  That night I found myself in the ring again. It wasn’t the Colosseum. It was the tournament.

  I wasn’t Hansel this time. I was Blake.

  The crowd cheered my name. I loved every moment of it and paraded around like a show pony.

  My eyes caught on my father. He was here. He looked different. Like he used to when King Albert was still alive.

  Next to him was King Helmut. He looked different too. His eyes in particular. I thought I saw a slit, even though King Helmut wasn’t a dragon. He was Lucian’s father and owned a dragon.

  What did this dream mean?

  Then my opponent, a dragon, came out. It was huge. Looked purple. I frowned. I’d seen this dragon before. It was called a Thunderlight. They were extinct. They didn’t exist anymore. What was one doing in the tournament?

  Lightning shot out and struck me. I didn’t feel a thing. I looked down at my hands and found my own lightning sparking from my palm and fingertips. It wasn’t purple like the Thunderlight’s.

  The dragon went for me again. It taunted me. Toyed with me.

  “Kill it,” I heard Samuel’s voice and found him in place of my father.

  He had my mother in his arms. “Kill or she’s dead.”

  “No!” I whirled the Thunderlight.

  I blacked out and the darkness took over. I ripped off the dragon’s wings. Thick, dark crimson liquid splashed into my face, all over my body. The dragon teetered on the brink of death when I finished.

  I could see the shift happening and my gut fell.

  Lucian.

  Lucian was the Thunderlight.

  “Why?” Blood poured out of his mouth. “Where the fuck were you?”

  I squinted at him. I tried to get to him but I couldn’t. It was as if my feet were tied back with weights.

  “No, no, no, no!” I yelled.

  How had Lucian become a dragon? What was he doing here? What was I doing here? When did all of this happen?

  I fell on my knees and couldn’t breathe as I clutched my head. The room started to spin as I lost control.

  I found myself on a ledge. I was no longer in the ring. Lucian’s body was gone.

  I was somewhere in the desert. The wind gusted. Surrounding me was nothingness.

  An edge. The edge of what? My sanity. I didn’t understand.

  The wind pushed and pushed. I couldn’t hold on.

  “It’s time Blake,” my own voice said.

  “What?” To my own ears I sounded weak. Nothing like me.

  “It’s time,” I said again, but it wasn’t me.

  He walked to me. His eyes were dark, everything in him was dark. This was him. The beast in his human form.

  “It’s time!” he roared. “You had your fun.”

  He yelled in my ear and then he crawled into me. I screamed. The pain was so real. I toppled over the edge.

  I blacked out just as I hit the ground. When I awoke, I found myself on a cold wooden floor, surrounded by four nondescript walls.

  Where the hell am I?

  To my left was another room. I heard a baby cry. I went toward that room. I saw the bundle. It was moving. I bent down to pick it up and as I unwrapped the blanket, the creature inside jumped at me. I flicked it away, grabbed it in mid-air around its throat.

  What was it?

  Its talons and tendrils with and numerous eyes were all focused on me. There was foam around an opening, what I assumed was its mouth.

  It spoke in a weird, raspy voice. “Blake, what the hell?”

  One tendril smacked my wrist hard.

  Then light through and the creature turned into Lucian, red in his face. My hand around his neck. The tendril that that had hit my wrist had been Lucian’s arm.

  I let go immediately. It fell and coughed. For a second I was in our kitchen. Then it all vanished and I was back in the cabin with the barren walls.

  The wind blew hard against the structure. It made a racket. I thought it was going to cave in, or blow away with me in it.

  What was this?

  My hands tucked in my hair. I closed my eyes. I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t anymore. I succumbed and knelt on my knees.

  Wake up, wake up!

  Then silence.

  I opened my eyes. I was still in the cabin.

  I wrestled with the creature again that could or could not be Lucian. It became fast, but my reflexes was faster. I got the upper hand, and for some reason my abilities didn’t want to come. I tried everything. Nothing.

  But somehow I managed to be faster. Was it Lucian? Was it a demon? I was so scared that it was Lucian. But when it spit acid at me and burned my skin, I knew it wasn’t.

  I squeezed, but it refused to budge. Its tendrils flailed against my stomach hard.

  It felt like a whip. I held on and took it to the only window. It squirmed in my hands. I managed to open the window and chuck the thing out.

  The window grew smaller and smaller and then it vanished.

  The wind still howled and the door burst open. A huge figure with long legs and a long torso walked in.

  I roared. What the fuck was this?

  It grabbed me. I tried to get free as it squeezed tight.

  I couldn’t hold on. It was going to rip me apart.

  As I thought it, it happened. Like the exact moment, as if it was linked to me. It threw me hard against the wall, pulled me back, and ripped off my arm and my leg.

  I screamed in white-hot agony.

  It tore my body in half.

  Guts and blood spilled everywhere. I waited for death as it split my skull, but it didn’t come. My limbs and guts and shit scattered across the floor.

  Tears welled up in my eyes.

  The thing bent down and stared at me with dark eyes. “I told you before. It’s time.”

  It happened. I’d finally died.

  When I woke up again, I was in a bed. It didn’t look familiar.

&nbs
p; The wind howled. Every inch of me ached. I found myself sown together. I was a freak, a real-life cubist painting. A second head was attached right next to mine. It looked like me. I screamed.

  My leg was sewn on my arm socket, my dick on the other side. My arm was my torso and my torso took up space on one side of my leg. It was wrong. All of it was wrong.

  I was a freak.

  I screamed, cried, cussed, yelled, and laughed. I was losing my mind.

  The eyes of the second head flew open. It stared right at me. They were dark and full of evil. He started to laugh and I screamed again.

  “Don’t, please,” I begged. I tried to inch away, but I couldn’t.

  “It’s time, Blake. Just say the words.”

  “Whatever you want. Just make it stop.”

  “Blake!” He yelled my name. Loud.

  “Stop, please,” I begged.

  “Blake!” Mocking me.

  I felt a punch on my arm that was now my leg.

  “I’m not losing him.” I heard another voice.

  “Blake!” Another yell and a hard fucking punch.

  “Noooooo!” The head yelled. “You are mine!” It sank its teeth into my neck.

  I screamed and everything disappeared.

  I woke up with a jolt. I took a gasping breath. A bright light blinded me. I was ready to fight.

  But I heard someone break down, sobbing, crying in agony. I found my aunt staring at me with round, blinking eyes. The person that had broken down look just like her. She wrapped her arms around me.

  It didn’t feel right. Nothing did.

  I looked at myself. I was me again. Every limb in its place. My hands, my legs, my torso. I had one head. I lifted up my pants suspiciously. It was there. Everything was in place.

  “Issy, don’t,” Constance said. “We don’t know if we are dealing with Blake yet.”

  I squinted.

  “Blake?”

  I looked to my right. The woman who had broken down had tears in her eyes. The realization of who she was came back. She was my mother. “How long was I out?”

  “Three days. Blake, what happened?”

  “I’m fine, Constance.”

  “Let me be the judge of that.”

  I started to laugh but it disappeared. “It’s still me. I’m fine.” Okay, so that wasn’t entirely true, but I was not going to be treated like a lost cause.

 
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