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Darkbeam part i, p.23
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       Darkbeam Part I, p.23

           Adrienne Woods
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  Then he looked straight at me in the crowd. “This is why you are weak. You are weak. I should be in control,” he said.

  I was frozen to the spot.

  “Watch and learn, pup.”

  The bell chimed. Grey launched himself at an impossible speed toward the Night-Villain. He dodged from all the dragon’s blows. He skidded in between his legs before jumping up behind him.

  The Night-Villain had no idea what hit him as balls and balls of acid rained from his hands. Grey started shredding off wings and tearing into the Night-Villain’s flesh with his bare hands.

  The gore was unimaginable. Body parts were discarded to the floor.

  I couldn’t watch, but I heard the wing being torn off and the howling and screeching of the Night-Villain. This was too much. It was unnecessary. It was beyond cruel.

  It was evil.

  Grey screamed and it was over.

  Some spectators cheered. Others vomited right on the spot.

  Grey screamed his victory scream, went to the still hulk of the Night Villain’s corpse, and tore off his arm.

  I jumped up in bed. Morning light was seeping into the room, the wind gently blowing the curtains.

  Nausea feeling crept into my gut. I ran for the toilet.

  I could never let the beast take over again like that. Ever.

  I could never return to that ring.

  I had to be strong.

  I slept almost all day Sunday. I didn’t want to speak to anyone. I only got up in the late evening when I started to feel like I was starving.

  When I got back, Lucian was sitting on his bed. He looked different; something had happened.

  “Where were you last night?” He looked pointedly at my bandaged hands.

  “Drop it, Lucian. It has nothing to do with you.”

  “Let me guess, more measures to keep ‘it’ under control?” He sounded sarcastic. “Look at you, Blake. It’s not worth it. You’re stronger than this. You have to fight this without losing yourself in the process.”

  “Losing myself?” I chuckled and shook my head. “Are you blind? Am I the only one seeing this? This is me fighting, Lucian!” I yelled the last part. “If I don’t do fucked-up shit, the beast will take over. I don’t expect you to understand any of this. It’s not you who has to live with the consequences. Let it go.”

  He stared at me for a while longer and then he turned around and walked out the door.

  Good riddance.

  I put on my earphones and listened to music as I wrote in my journal. I spilled my feelings on the page, what I was actually trying to fight, which wasn’t the beast anymore, but the spawn.

  I must have drifted away again, as I had the white-knight dream. It somehow always overpowered any other nightmares, even the horror of the Night-Villain’s death. The dream of me getting claimed by thousands of knights suffocated me. It was killing me. It was worse than killing anyone.

  On Monday I kept to myself. Around lunch, I tentatively rejoined the world. I gave myself a day to sulk, just one day, and then I moved on.

  I ate like the beast I was and as I was finishing, George plopped onto the chair in front of me.

  “I can’t fucking believe this.” He was annoyed, frustrated.

  I really didn’t have the time or patience to deal with his shit too. “What can’t you believe?” I said, humoring him.

  “Can you believe Irene is making me fight Becky? Seriously, just because she saw some girl getting electrocuted by the lake doesn’t mean it’s my true rider.”

  “George.” I shook my head. “Everyone knows. No matter how hard you try to fight this, it’s over. They know she’s your rider, and worse, she is more than just your rider. She is your Dent. Something that hasn’t happened in a fucking long time.”

  “What?” George sounded shocked.

  “You are fucking screwed, okay? Make peace with it.”

  “Make peace. Would you make peace with it?”

  “It’s not my ass on the line,” I said.

  “Aw, man,” he started.

  I cut him off; I just couldn’t. “I don’t have the inclination to deal with your shit, too, George. If you don’t want her to become your rider, then kill her in the ring. It’s as easy as that.”

  If you had to kill to not get claimed, well, the Colosseum was the only place you could do that.

  Over following days I avoided everyone. Stayed away from Irene, even though my dragon was aching for her, and I stayed far away from the spawn.

  I saw her one night in the cafeteria. Lucian was sitting next to her. They were laughing, as the nauseous feeling in my stomach intensified.

  What was this? Was it a sign? Was my body trying to tell me that she was worthy of claiming me? Not today, obviously, but one day? The only one who had this effect, or something similar, was Lucian.

  I got up from my pillow and walked over to their table. Lucian would understand. He would know why I hadn’t said something sooner, but I couldn’t live like this anymore. I just didn’t have the strength anymore.

  I stopped and all of them looked at me. My sister narrowed her eyes. Becky raised one eyebrow and looked awkwardly at Lucian, who squinted. “What is it, Blake?” he asked.

  “I can’t do this anymore,” I sighed.

  “Do what?”

  “You’re right about everything.”

  He frowned. “I don’t understand,” he said.

  I shook my head. It was weird how the beast was so calm. It must be her. It had to be her. “About who she is. A dragon knows, Lucian.”

  He’s eyes grew round. He got what I was saying and looked at the spawn.

  She had no idea what I was talking about.

  Lucian asked hesitatingly, “We need to tell Master Longwei. Why are you telling me now?”

  “Because I can’t do this anymore. I can’t hold on anymore.” I’d given in. “I want it to be over.”

  “Okay,” he said and looked at the spawn.

  “What?” she smiled awkwardly.

  “We need to go to Master Longwei—Blake, me, and you.”

  “Why me?” She swallowed hard and sounded confused, even scared.

  “Because you are the one.”

  “What?” she yelled. “No, no, this has to be a mistake.”

  “There is no mistake,” I snapped. “A dragon always knows, just like George knows Becky is his rider. He just didn’t want to say it. I’m sorry I didn’t say anything sooner. It’s complicated.”

  “Lucian.” She shook her head. “I can’t do this. Please, don’t make me do this.”

  “It’s going to be okay. Trust me.”

  She looked like she was going to cry, I shouldn’t have told her. Everyone in the cafeteria was watching. All the dragons, all the teachers. They couldn’t believe what I was saying.

  Just then, I woke up.

  I was breathing heavily. Part of me still felt glad that I’d finally told someone, it had meant my struggle was over. Why did I dream this?

  ’Cause this is your life, Blake. You are mine and not the Prince of Tith’s, not this little insignificant girl’s. Neither one will save you. You are mine, mine, mine.

  The darkness was back, and it was only Wednesday. Four days. Murder had only kept the insanity away four days. It was getting harder to keep the darkness away.

  I sighed. The beast was never going to let me tell anyone. It was never going to allow me to get claimed.

  The darkness was going to suck me in, and that would be the end of me.

  I went to see Irene again. She didn’t ask stupid questions like Tabitha and Lucian. Being with her actually helped, but it wasn’t enough anymore.

  We used Fire-Cain again, only a little, and I passed out in Irene’s arms.

  She shoved me out of her tower around three that morning, and I took more Fire-Cain when I got to my room.

  Why wasn’t Irene enough anymore?

  I passed out on the bed again. I missed the entire day Thursday. The only thing that I
registered was being woken up.

  In the distance I could hear someone speaking over a microphone. It was a dull, distant sound.

  “Blake.” My body shook and I realized that someone was trying to wake me up. “Blake.” The voice was louder, more insistent. Another shake. “Dammit, Blake, wake up!” A hand slapped my cheek. I opened my one eye and found Tabitha standing next to my bed.

  The light was blinding. I shut my eyes.

  “What is wrong with you?” She yanked open my bedside table’s drawer. “You used again!”

  “Get out.” It was barely a whisper.

  She carried on screaming. Tiny knife jabs against my skull, her voice was annoyingly painful.

  “Get out!” I yelled.

  The door slammed after a while and I fell asleep again.

  I only emerged again Friday. The weekend wasn’t much different. Lucian was finally going home for the weekend, not that it mattered to me at all.

  The Fire-Cain worked better when it was diluted with water. I mixed water with the white powder. The parts were measured to perfection, a milky liquid. I pulled it up with a syringe and pushed the needle into my bloodstream.

  In less than a minute, I could feel my mind being clouded. In less than an hour, I would either be knocked out or wouldn’t remember what hit me.

  If this was the only way the darkness would stay away, then I would do it every single day if I had to. It wasn’t going to take me. I would rather die than become its prisoner.

  A hand slapped hard against my face.

  Tabitha, I crunched on my teeth.

  But I couldn’t open my eyes. I was weak. Too weak. I didn’t like this feeling. I shouldn’t. I didn’t want to die.

  I’d jinxed myself.

  Then fingers pried my eyes open and a light shone brightly into them. I could hear voices but so far away. As if I was lying in a bath of water.

  Arms lifted me. I felt the coldness of the floor against my back. Water on my face.

  I still didn’t react.

  This was bad. Real bad.

  I didn’t know if it was day or night. How many days had passed? What was going on around me? This wasn’t something new. I’d gone through it a couple of times already, but never quite this bad.

  “Blake,” wailed a shrill voice. I felt something inside of me. It was moving, making me sick. Then my body reanimated and I threw up. A lot.

  “Blake.” Master Longwei was heavy with disappointment. We were in his lushly furnished office, surrounded by tapestries and the solemnity of the headmaster’s position.

  I didn’t want to look at him. He didn’t understand. He wouldn’t; he was a Metallic. They don’t need anybody to help them stay good. Not the beatings, not drugs, nothing. “Lucian tells me that this was not the first time you overdosed on illicit drugs.”

  “Lucian has a big mouth,” I muttered.

  “If it wasn’t for Lucian fetching help, you would be dead right now. You want to be dead?”

  I didn’t reply.

  “What am I going to do with you, Blake? I have to report this.”

  Report it. They would lock me up. My father had already threatened me. It was the only thing that the beast feared. Not being able to be in the sky, to feel the wind. My sight blurred. A tear fell over my cheek.

  “Speak to me. I want to help, but I can’t if you don’t open up.”

  “I can’t,” I said. I wiped my cheek with the back of my hand and folded my arms across my chest.

  “You want to be locked up, Blake? For your own safety?”

  “No,” I roared. “I’ll get my shit together. Please don’t report me.”

  He nodded. Thought hard for a bit and then nodded again. “Fine, but I am going to need your cooperation. You must earn back my trust and stop using Fire-Cain. That substance kills dragons. The next time I catch you with it, I will lock you up myself and throw away the key. Do you understand?”

  I nodded.

  “Your aunt wants a word with you.” He waved his hand for me to go.

  I got up and left his office.

  Master Longwei was one thing, but my aunt was another. She was my mother’s twin.

  To say that Constance yelled was an understatement. I’d never seen her lose it. She was always so together, always handled situations with poise and grace. This, this was something she struggled to handle.

  I let her get it out of her system. When she was done, she actually looked tired.

  “For the next three months, you will come and take a drug test every single morning,” she said. “Have I made myself clear? Otherwise, I will tell your father, Blake, and let Robert deal with you.”

  I huffed. “You’d let them lock me up, Constance?”

  “If that is going to save your life, then yes!” she yelled. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning at seven.”

  I pushed myself off the chair; it skidded backward. Maybe it fell over, but I didn’t care.

  Fuck. How the hell was I going to tame the beast now? These idiots had no idea what the fuck they’d just unleashed on me.

  Irene was the last person I had to deal with. She cried and she raged. She demanded to know if she wasn’t enough anymore.

  “I don’t want you to die, Blake, but I need you to fight,” She begged. “We’ve been monitoring the Fire-Cain. What happened?”

  “I had more.”

  “Dammit, Blake. Where did you get it?”

  “You know where.”

  “I thought you were done with the fights. It will only push you over the edge faster. What don’t you understand about this?”

  “I’m sorry, okay? I struggle. I…” My vision became blurry again.

  “It’s the darkness, isn’t it?”

  I nodded.

  “I can’t see anything anymore. Not even a glimpse.”

  I hated that because I knew it wasn’t just the darkness; it was her.

  “I’ll try harder,” I promised dully.

  “You’d better. I’m not going to lose you.”

  She kissed my lips. I just wanted more.

  For the next two months, my life was a living hell. Constance kept to her word. She would be waiting in her office for me at seven every morning. There she pricked my finger and tested my blood for drugs.

  Of course there was some still in my system the first few weeks, but the number of nanograms per milliliter grew smaller and smaller. I, on the other hand, was getting crazier and crazier as the beast was getting restless.

  I hated everyone. Lucian for doing what he did best. Master Longwei for threatening me with the council. My aunt for threatening me with my dad. Irene for caring too much.

  I didn’t care about any of them anymore. I didn’t even care what day it was. Then Master Longwei called my name over the intercom with a couple of others.

  I grunted. Although I wasn’t in the mood to go to his office, I was obligated. He meant it when he said I had to earn his trust back.

  In fact, he’d had me cleaning up his messes. First I had to fix up the library, which was extremely boring, except when Tabitha relieved some of the tension. Then I had to fix one tower behind school. It was old and was held together by termites. I had to make it stronger. Hard labor was what would keep me sane, or that was what Master Longwei and my aunt thought.

  When I got there, I found Cheng, Arianna, and Lucian in front of the office.

  “Seriously?” Arianna looked at Lucian, not impressed. Her arms folded in front of her. “You know she is only going to get hurt in the end, Lucian.”

  “We’ll see about that,” he said.

  What the hell were they talking about?

  Arianna chuckled. “She is a dragon spawn, a commoner who is going to lose her mind eventually. They can never perceive of our reality. In short, you are wasting her time and yours.”

  “The spawn?” I asked and realized it sounded a bit possessive. All of them looked at me and I let out a mirthless laugh. “You and the spawn.” I put two and two together real quick.
A few weeks ago Lucian had asked me a ridiculous question. He wanted to date the spawn. Why he’d asked for my permission… and then it hit me. He was on to me.

  “She has a name. You two make her sound like some sort of plague. And yes, she is actually a very interesting person.” He scowled at me.

  I lifted my hands in defense, mocking him further and covering for my slip-up.

  “And you—” he looked at Arianna—“I would rather die than marry someone like you.”

  The faint smile on her face vanished. I snorted.

  “Enter,” Master Longwei said from the other side of the closed door. We all walked into his office. We found him sitting behind his desk.

  Lucian, Arianna, and the geek sat on the chairs while I took a post against the wall. I folded my arms.

  “What is this about, Master Longwei?” Arianna asked in her supercilious princess tone. I hated that tone. But she didn’t like the spawn either, so she was still okay in my book.

  “It’s about the new student.”

  And then he just had to say it. Her name. I wanted to walk away. I was about to tell him to shove Dragonia up his ass, but then my mother’s face jumped into my mind. I had to try for her. What would she say if she found out about my addiction?

  So I stayed.

  “What about Elena?” Lucian asked.

  “She is struggling extremely hard. One thing I can say in her favor is that she doesn’t give up easily.” He looked straight at me. As if he knew that I knew and wasn’t telling.

  I didn’t like that, not one bit. I looked away first. How should I act? How would I act if it was anyone else but the person I suspected of being my true rider? Unfazed. But I was.

  “So, I said I would see what I could do to help.”

  “I don’t get it,” Arianna said.

  “Not everyone can have both brains and beauty, princess,” I said scathingly.

  She shot me a withering look.

  “Enough, Blake.” Master Longwei shot us both a look, mine was harder than hers. “I need you to help her get the basics down. You are all the best in a certain field and if you help me, I will make sure that you get extra points on your end-of-year exams, which, I might add,” he looked at me again, “some of you need desperately.”

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