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Darkbeam part i, p.22
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       Darkbeam Part I, p.22

           Adrienne Woods
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“Nope, but I wonder if your mother wasn’t onto something…” I tried to take the sting out of my words by adding a smile.

  “You have a problem with that?” Lucian snapped. I’d touched a nerve.

  “I was just joking. It’s nice to see you trusting girls again.”

  “Shut up. Maybe you forgot who was behind my not trusting girls anymore.”

  “She was wrong for you. I did you a favor.”

  “A favor? I could’ve married a friend. Now I loathe the girl I have to marry.”

  “That is just horrible,” I said, sneering. “Being a prince is so hard.”

  “Bite me.” He got up and left.

  Yeah, sometimes the truth hurt and he was right too. I was the reason behind their breakup.

  But I was still wondering why he was all of a sudden wanting to stay over the weekend. Was it her, the dragon spawn?

  I found myself leaving Irene’s tower early in the morning three more times that week. I hid from my aunt as she took out the Swallow Annexes each morning. Fuck, I’d forgotten about that.

  I really had to be more careful when it came to Irene.

  Friday night finally arrived. It was weird entering my room and finding Lucian without his bags lined up ready to go home. As if the week wasn’t hard enough with him here, he was messing up my weekends too.

  “Please, promise me, no drugs this weekend.”

  “You’re not my mother,” I said.

  “No, but I don’t like the things you do when you’re on it, Blake.”

  “It’s the only way.” I sighed. “Why can’t you get that?”

  “It’s Fire-Cain. You’re going to destroy your life, Blake. I’m sorry I still see you as one of my friends. Stop using, or I will tell Master Longwei and get you expelled.”

  “Oh?” Rage bubbled up in my chest. “And who is that going to help in the end?”

  “Just stop. I’m sure booze can help,” he said.

  Furious, I took a quick shower and when I got out, he was gone. There was a knock on the door as I toweled off.

  I smiled. I knew who that was. Irene never came to my room, so it could only be a certain Snow Dragon.

  I opened the door and found her leaning in skimpy shorts and a bright yellow tank top barely covering her breasts. I pulled her in by her shirt and she laughed as our lips found each other.

  She touched my chest with ice-cold hands. It was doing something to my blazing hot temperature. Slowly, I started to relax and cool down. Her kisses were a breath of fresh air—or better yet, a cold breeze. She was my opposite... and it felt more and more like I could become addicted to her.

  My towel disappeared from around my waist and her shorts were next. And in less than a minute, I was transported to paradise.

  We were still getting busy when the door of the room opened. Tabitha shrieked and hid underneath me, pulling the covers around us.

  “Please don’t tell me that this is going to carry on the entire weekend.”

  I laughed softly.

  “Hi, Lucian,” Tabitha said.

  I rolled off of Tabitha to find Lucian wearing swim shorts and a T-shirt. He’d come to pick up his towel.

  “You going somewhere?” I asked, squinting.

  “What, you’re my mother now?” he chirped.

  I deserved that. I pulled my mouth, which made Tabitha laugh again.

  He walked out.

  It was dark outside and I couldn’t believe that Lucian was actually going to the lake, unless… No, don’t you dare think about the spawn.

  “Come here,” I grunted and pulled Tabitha’s body on top of me.

  We carried on where we’d left off. When we were finally done, we played games. George came over and it was the two of us playing Silent Trapper, the game he’d won doing a lousy job pranking the spawn.

  She was supposed to lose her mind, not cope.

  It was getting late and there was still no sign of Lucian. Why was I so worried about him all of a sudden? We weren’t really invested in each other’s lives anymore, not since when we’d been best friends, brothers.

  I took a deep breath and déjà vu hit me hard. The door opened and Lucian walked in. He was as white as a ghost.

  “Dude,” George said.

  “Are you okay?” Tabitha asked.

  He shook his head and went to sit on his bed.

  “What happened?” Tabitha wanted to know.

  So did I, but I wasn’t going to beg him.

  He looked straight at me. “You ever see someone Ascend?”

  Please don’t let it be the spawn, please, please. “What?” My throat was dry and I swallowed hard, dreading his answer.

  “Have any of you ever seen someone Ascend right in front of you?”

  George and Tabitha shook their heads. I just stared at him. “Someone Ascended?”

  He nodded mutely.

  WHO, IDIOT? My mind screamed at him.

  “Rebecca Johnson.”

  George froze. He grew ashen. I knew exactly what he was hiding.

  “You okay?” I asked George.

  Lucian butted in. “You knew?” he asked George, sounding pissed off.

  “Don’t. I don’t have to say shit to you.” He grabbed his jacket and stormed out, game forgotten. The door slammed behind him, making Tabitha flinch.

  “He is Becky’s dragon, isn’t he?” Lucian pushed.

  “Just drop it, Lucian.”

  “Why? Why on earth didn’t he say anything, Blake? How long?”

  “How long what?”

  “How long has he known?”

  “I don’t know. I only recently put two and two together that Becky was his rider.”

  “How long did he know?”

  “I don’t know. I told you I recently figured it out myself.”

  “How, Blake?” he asked, his nostrils flaring. “Let me guess, since the day Elena was brought in?”

  “Here we go again.” Annoyance welled up. “She’s not my rider. My rider is fated to be of royal blood. Do you for one second think that Queen Catherine and King Albert would give up the only thing they had ever wanted without telling my father about it? Huh?”

  He’s face fell.

  “Answer me!”

  “Okay, it’s just all the craziness happening lately and now tonight. I’ve never seen anyone struck by lightning and shake it off as if nothing happened to them.”

  “Seriously?” Tabitha sounded awestruck. “She just got up and shook it off?”

  “All I can say is if she hadn’t Ascended, she would’ve been dead.”

  Just then his Cammy rang. He took it out of his pocket and flinched. By that look I knew it was one of the ’rents. He walked into the bathroom before he answered it. Queen Magerite’s voice shouted from the other line.

  “I’m glad I’m not him,” Tabitha said.

  “Yeah, sometimes it’s awesome to just be normal,” I joked.

  It grew very quiet and I knew exactly what was brewing in her mind. “Don’t. Please. I meant every word I said.”

  “Then why is he thinking she is linked to you?”

  “Because.” I sighed and decided to try a different technique. “You know how all the professors are with her? Trying to help her cope with the shock of learning about our world? She reminds them of King Albert.”

  “She looks like him?”

  I nodded. “That, and she apparently has a very dark mark. Put those two together and some of them have concluded that she is his heir.”

  “She’s not?”

  “No, a dragon always knows, Tabitha. I have no true rider.”

  She nodded. “You think maybe there could be someone out there?”

  “No, there isn’t. The Wall would never let a human pass.”

  “I’m sorry,” she said softly and lay her head on my shoulder. “I feel bad for George, though. It was like he knew and just didn’t want to say anything. Why?”

  “Would you? If you knew who your rider was, would you say anything?”

  She looked into the middle distance and shook her head.

  “Exactly. He didn’t either. It’s a Chromatic thing, I think.”

  She laughed. “Thank heavens you are half and half then.”

  I smiled. If only she knew how strong my Chromatic part was. If she only knew.

  The next day I was on edge. Not because of the spawn, but because of the night to come.

  Fight night.

  I was going to slip out around six and fly to Phil’s place. From there we were going to do the spell. I would transform and fight as a rider. To the death.

  A lot of people hated what was going on at the fringes of the black market. Fights like these were illegal, but they also put the Fire-Cain I needed in my pocket. And the beast wanted bloodshed. I was betraying my own kind, fighting to the death, but a kill like this kept the beast away for at least two weeks.

  I needed to control my acid tonight, and only my acid. If the system found out that I was the Rubicon and not a human, there would be dire consequences.

  Around five, I took a shower and got ready. I pulled on my robe and slipped to the roof of the boys’ dormitories.

  I transformed, jumped into the air, and flew as hard as I could to get behind the clouds and out of the authorities’ sight.

  A hard thirty minutes later, I came in hard on the opening of Samuel’s mansion.

  Tonight I was going to fight one of this year’s best Night-Villains.

  “Blake!” Phil got up from the couch and greeted me at the gate where I’d just transformed back into my human form.

  “You ready?”

  “No, not really, but I’ve run out. You have my stash.”

  He lifted his hands. “Don’t I always?” He tapped my face hard, riling up the beast. “You under control?”

  “Yeah.” I glared at him. No.

  He smiled. “Let’s go and make some money.”

  I had to admit, the identity Dimi worked up this time for me was a cool one. My name was going to be Grey. I had skin the color of mahogany and a cloud of corkscrew black hair.

  Grey hated dragons because one killed his father and violated his sister and mother when he was only ten. Years and years of therapy didn’t fix our poor Grey, and that was why he was in the ring tonight, facing a dragon who resembled the one who had killed his family.

  Avenging them was the only thing on Grey’s mind right now.

  The chest and arms of Grey were covered in intricate tattoos, hiding the mark of the Rubicon. His muscles were ripped and ready for violence.

  Just don’t show your other abilities, the beast said, and kill him fast. One kill, Blake.

  I followed Phil and Dimi out of the locker rooms. I watched the last few minutes of the fight before mine. The fight was hard.

  The stands were packed with grimy spectators, everyone cheering for their favorite. People with surreptitious gestures and a habit of looking over their shoulders. The place smelled of blood, fried meat, bourbon, and cigarette smoke.

  I felt it once, thought it was going to rip my skull apart and was surprised that my spelled disguise didn’t waver.

  The dragon in his human form had gotten hold of the human. He had him in a death grip. A couple people standing close to me couldn’t watch and turned their heads.

  This was it. The dragon was going to win this round.

  I couldn’t see the death blow, but I heard it. It broke his neck. Bones shattered and the crowd went crazy.

  A hand slapped me on my shoulder. “You ready?” Dimi asked.

  “Let’s do this.” I followed him to the ring.

  The staff was busy dragging out the dead body and the emcee lifted the dragon’s arm in victory.

  Big bloke. He was one of the big three. A Sun-Blast—he answered my question by spouting red and blue flame from his lips into the sky. It wound the crowd up even more.

  The dragon left the cage and the walls of the cage started to rise.

  People had about ten more minutes to make their bets for the next fight. Tonight, odds were one to thirty-five. Nobody knew me—they weren’t supposed to—and the Night-Villain was a favorites in this tournament. If they know that I was Hansel in disguise or Blake in disguise, it would’ve been a different story.

  “For our next fight,” the emcee intoned dramatically, “I present the mighty Night Crawler!” He listed the dragon’s stats. He wasn’t that big, but his stats were staggering. I wasn’t even that big yet.

  The Night Crawler hated Dragonians; he saw them as intruders in his world.

  The feeling was mutual.

  The crowd cheered as the Night Crawler showed off his strength.

  Then the emcee called me up. Grey Templeton. I didn’t know how Samuel came up with these names. He started to give my stats. How much I weighed, my so-called ability, where I was from, and so on.

  I felt bad for this dragon. If he truly knew who was concealed behind these tattoos, he would shit himself.

  The fight was actually harder than I thought, but he wasn’t fast.

  I was fast. I went straight for the wings and his mane. My knuckles were raw by the fifth round.

  By the tenth round, the beast inside me was roaring, enraged. I’d toyed with my opponent too long.

  For a split second, I let it take over. The darkness filled me. Everything went black.

  When I came to, blood was everywhere. I looked at my hand and saw the Night-Villain’s wing. I shuddered and threw it paces away from me.

  He was literally dismantled.

  The screen on the far wall said round twelve. The beast had fought him for two rounds. It had felt like two seconds.

  My entire body vibrated.

  The spell was wearing off. Although the emcee wanted to announce my victory, I left the ring, zombielike. I was dazed and tired.

  In the locker rooms, I took a shower, trying to remember what the hell I’d done in that ring during the last two rounds.

  How the hell had I ripped his wing off? Images of blood pooled on the floor, the same blood I was washing from me now, filled my mind.

  I got out of the shower and wrapped a towel around my waist. The spell was still holding. I was still Grey.

  The door opened and Samuel strolled in with two of his buddies flanking him. He slow-clapped. “You surprised me today, big guy.” He grabbed both my shoulders and squeezed.

  “Twelve fucking rounds! You gave them the show of a lifetime.” He grinned broadly.

  I wished I shared the same enthusiasm, but I didn’t. I was weak tonight. I had to give in to the beast to end it. I had to give in to the darkness.

  “I have to admit,” Samuel said, eyeing me in the mirror. “I thought you’d met your match, but those last two rounds…”

  “Stop it. I don’t want to hear this. Just give me my cut. I gotta go.”

  “Grey, c’mon. You need to fight again. The people love you.”

  “My stash, Samuel!” I said through clenched teeth.

  “Fine.” All enthusiasm evaporated. He handed me a bag of Fire-Cain.

  “Call me when you need me,” Samuel sang.

  I took a cab a few miles out from the Abysmal, far from everyone who witnessed the fight. The driver dropped me off. I disrobed, transformed back into my dragon form, darted into the air, and flew back to Dragonia Academy.

  I landed hard on the roof and pulled my clothes back on. I tucked the Fire-Cain in my hoodie pocket.

  I opened the door and was glad that Lucian was asleep. I didn’t want to answer his stupid questions about where I’d been and why I looked like shit.

  I locked myself in the bathroom and turned on the faucet.

  My hands were raw. My knuckles bloody. It had been really bad tonight; I could see the white of bone. I ground my teeth as I lowered both hands into the warm water.

  Sharp pain zagged through the wounds. I concentrated hard on my healing ability, but it never worked on command. I had no fucking clue how it was supposed to work.

  I wrapped both my
hands with a clean bandage from under the sink—we always had to keep them on hand—and went to bed.

  I wished I could sleep, but half-remembered images of what the beast had done to that Night-Villain played through my mind.

  It would give me nightmares knowing that I had taken another life. Knowing that I was weak, that I’d given in to the darkness.

  At least the beast would back off just a little giving me time to breathe, time to feel normal again.

  At length, I drifted away.

  In my dreams, I was forced to relive the fight. Including the parts I had blacked out for. I wasn’t ready for this. My point of view was weird; I was someone watching from the sidelines, apart from myself.

  I looked at Grey in the ring. He was tired. The screen showed round ten. I wished I could just leave but it didn’t work like that. I had to see this. This was my doing and there was no escaping it.

  Then it happened. The beast took over.

  It changed Grey’s face. His eyes became shallow, dark, emotionless. So stark, it gave me a chill. He jumped up, unnaturally fast, stomped on the Night-Villain, and somehow wrenched his wing around his neck. He squeezed with all his might.

  The Night-Villain pounded hard against the wall, slamming Grey’s body, trying to get him to let go. Finally he got hold of Grey and threw him off. Sparks flew as Grey—my—body connected with the cage.

  Still, Grey didn’t stay down. He went for the dragon again and again. Each attempt a failure, or was it? The beast’s intention was to find the Night-Villain’s weakness.

  The bell chimed. Round ten was over.

  Round eleven was more or less the same. I was kicking ass. Samuel and the shady spectators were cheering me on. Dimi was concentrating as hard as he could. His lips barely moved.

  The bell chimed. Round eleven in the bag. The Night-Villain was still intact.

  I watched Grey. This round was it. The beast had found the Night-Villain’s weakness. It was ready to transform this fight into murder scene. His back was to the Night-Villain.

  A small smile tugged on Grey’s face. It was a game to him, that was it, a stupid game. I was the one who had to deal with his actions. Hatred rose in me like hot bile, but I couldn’t move, trapped, forced to watch my sick reality play out.

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