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Darkbeam part i, p.26
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       Darkbeam Part I, p.26

           Adrienne Woods
 
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  “That is how you wield a shield,” she teased, gliding away.

  “So the prince and the princess.” Brian smiled.

  “Dude, keep your mouth shut. And be in my room at eight.”

  I got up just as Becky, Sammy, Elena, and George walked into the room.

  She still made my stomach turn. I tried to ignore it, but it wasn’t getting any easier.

  I went to my room. I need to get my tent and prepare. Lucian was already packing too. His tent was on the floor with sleeping bags and everything.

  “You mind carrying this bag? I don’t think Sammy is going to be able to.”

  “Sure,” I said woodenly.

  He paused. “What is it?”

  “It might be more than just us.”

  He closed his eyes. “What did you do?”

  “Nothing. Brian and Tabitha want in and Arianna overheard.”

  “You’re kidding.”

  “Don’t worry. She only overheard ’cause she has the ability to penetrate my shield.”

  He frowned. “You can wield a shield?”

  I shouldn’t have said that. “Sort of. Not a good one apparently.”

  “So they know we are going to the Sacred Cavern, right?”

  “Yeah. All of them are as sick as your girlfriend.”

  “She’s not sick. She really believes she can do this.”

  “Why?” I chuckled again.

  “I don’t know. I think it’s sort of in the same as me believing I can claim you.”

  This girl was going to get herself killed. It wasn’t such a bad thing, it meant I’d be free.

  Just then I realized what was happening. Irene’s vision. My actions were going to destroy the sword. We were not going to recover it.

  We were going to be the reason it was destroyed.

  Well, it was one vision that had to change

  We all wore black. Even Arianna.

  “Ouch!” Brian yelled when he saw her. She scowled.

  Lucian shook his head as he picked up a smaller bag and walked into the elevator.

  Tabitha smacked Brian.

  “Ouch! You are so mean to Brian.”

  “Because you are an idiot.”

  I smiled. The elevator closed. I prayed that nobody ran into us. We passed the hallway easily and waited for the shift change.

  As Professor Gregory and Sir Edward did their rounds, Arianna did some sort of vanishing spell. Her nose almost bled, but I had to admit, I felt better having her there.

  “We should go,” Lucian whispered. We all made a run for it.

  I could hear human heartbeats.

  So this was what she had been reading up on. The Sacred Cavern. Planning this right under my nose. And here I’d thought she was scared.

  “What the?” Sammy breathed. She heard our footsteps. They all looked up at us.

  “Lucian?” The spawn sounded unimpressed.

  “I had no choice, Elena.”

  “So, are we going to do this or what?” I asked. I sounded so pissed off. I was. When the fuck had she gotten a backbone?

  “Three more minutes, Blake, then we can be off. You guys should get ready,” Lucian said.

  I dropped the bag and started to take off my clothes.

  Tabitha did too. A smile tugged at the corner of my lips. She was lean and sinuous and confident and curvy in all the right places. She smiled at me too.

  We stripped down to our underwear and we all handed our clothes to Arianna.

  The spawn was still fighting with Lucian. She was so naïve. She had no idea what awaited all of us, not just her. She would’ve never succeeded alone.

  We all jumped onto the ledge.

  I climbed onto the wall. My talons had already come out and I crawled higher as she kept scolding Lucian.

  “Arianna?”

  “She heard Blake and me talking and wanted a piece of the action,” Lucian lied. It wasn’t entirely correct, but I guessed that he didn’t want to get into all the details regarding his ex right now.

  “It’s not a game, Lucian.”

  I was surprised to hear her say that. So maybe she did know what to expect. I tuned out and transformed as I clung for dear life to the tower.

  Tabitha and Brian both changed below me.

  George came next. He was such a lamb now. Becky was on his back already. His precious. He’d changed so much. He used to hate her and now he was all up in her ass. Literally.

  Lucian and the spawn finally showed. Her heart hammered like crazy when she saw us. Still pathetic.

  I let go. Tabitha and Brian followed. We ascended as fast as we could into the air, to get above the clouds.

  It was going to be a long stretch to the Sacred Carvern. If we were lucky, we would get there by morning.

  I prayed that nobody would die on the trip. It would be just what I needed. More blood on my hands.

  The siren hadn’t gone off. All five dragons were in the air. That was a good sign, but I couldn’t believe how gifted Irene was. She didn’t suck things out of her thumb. She’d seen this, what we were doing, and a part of me didn’t know if we were going to succeed or not.

  She couldn’t see that Elena would be the one to destroy the sword, doubtless for the same reason she struggled to see my future.

  The darkness she saw was Elena’s wall. It happened when my father had become a part of the lives of King Albert and Queen Catherine too. Irene still couldn’t see his future. Just darkness.

  Was this Elena’s doing?

  The first ray of sunshine was on the horizon when our destination came into sight. We’d all flown straight through the night to Tith.

  Tabitha was tired. She’d started breathing hard since four o’clock in the morning. Not to mention Sammy, who was carrying two humans.

  At last we descended.

  Almost there, Sammy. Hold on.

  I broke through the roof of clouds and the first thing my eyes caught was Lucian’s home. The castle had seven towers and lots of fertile land for harvesting.

  “My dad is so going to kill me,” Lucian said.

  Forty-five minutes later at the most and we were there. The mountain that led to the Sacred Cavern finally came into view.

  I landed first and disappeared into the woods to change. Brian was second, then Tabitha.

  Sammy hadn’t landed yet. Finally, I heard her loud touchdown. She was beyond tired.

  “That’s it, girl, you did great,” Lucian said as he petted her.

  She wasn’t a pet.

  Becky was still struggling to remove George’s saddle and Lucian went to help her.

  “Can I have a towel?” Sammy spoke tiredly.

  “Towel!” Becky yelled and ran past the spawn to fetch the towel that Arianna had.

  “Chill, drama queen.” Arianna let go of the towel.

  Becky didn’t reply, just held it in front of Sammy’s body as she transformed back into her human form. My little sister barely had the strength to stand. I broke into a run when I saw her heading in the direction of the ground and caught her just in time. “Dad’s going to kill me for letting you come with us.” I shouldn’t have let her come.

  “Dad’s not here, so shut up,” she teased tiredly.

  I smiled at her. I too could barely keep my eyes open. I took her to a nearby tree and let her sit down with the towel covering her.

  I touched Tabitha’s chin and winked as I passed her. She smiled, too exhausted for anything else.

  I chucked Tabitha’s clothes to her.

  “We need to rest.” I looked at Lucian as I pulled on my jeans.

  “We all have to rest, Blake.”

  He helped us put the tents up and in no time a camp was pitched.

  Tabitha and Arianna went to look for some wood while Brian was busy with a fire. George was the best at hunting and fishing. We agreed to have a quick bite and then rest.

  Becky sat with Sammy. I could feel the tension between them and Elena.

  It doesn’t concern you, Blake. Just
ignore it. I disappeared into my tent.

  “Elena, you need your rest,” Lucian called from inside their tent.

  My skin crawled. I still didn’t like it.

  Tabitha finally crawled in after scavenging for wood with Arianna.

  “Lazy bum.” She kicked me.

  “What? I erected the tents.” I smiled.

  She crawled down next to me. “Please don’t. I’m way too tired.”

  I chuckled. “That makes two of us.” I closed my eyes.

  When I woke up, thanked the heavens I didn’t dream of anything fucked-up. I could smell the roast.

  Outside, Brian was already busy with the food. He loved camping. Four small animals, rabbits it looked like, were skewered onto sticks. He gently blew on them. Perks of being a Sun-Blast.

  “What about that little Pink Kiss flavor? Brian is dying to taste it.”

  I chuckled. “I’m afraid there would be nothing left when Blake is done with it.”

  “Damn,” he joked. He looked around. “It sure is beautiful up here.”

  “Sure is.” I imagined the gorgeous trees up in flames. I recoiled and pushed the image back.

  I was a coward. She was right here. She could claim me. She could end this. Yet I didn’t want it.

  I heard Lucian and the spawn’s soft laughter coming from their tent as they both stirred. “That’s creepy,” Lucian said.

  I shook my head. I couldn’t wait for food. I needed more than just a rabbit.

  “There are some elk about two miles down.” Brian was dead-on with what I was thinking. “That look on your face is how Brian looked about two hours ago.”

  I chuckled. “Thanks, Brian.”

  I took off my clothes and jumped into the air. I needed real food, not a little rabbit. In my dragon form, I devoured two elk and came back. I had a small piece of the rabbit Tabitha set aside for me.

  “You need more food.” I was worried about her; she looked wan.

  “I’ll fish when we wash up tonight.”

  I frowned. “You can fish?”

  “Ha, ha.” Flirting, she slapped me hard on the ass and went into the tent to get a new set of clothes and her towel.

  We left right after I finished the rabbit and made our way to the stream below.

  Lucian and Elena were finishing up and on their way back. They talked about silly things. They weren’t taking this seriously.

  “We need to talk about what we are going to do.” I was right in front of them.

  The spawn slipped and my reflexes almost reached out for her, but Lucian already had it covered.

  “We take it as it comes,” Lucian said.

  “Excuse me?”

  “We don’t know the rules with this one, Blake. What do you want to go over?” He snapped.

  “You bring me here only to tell me we have to wing it?”

  “I didn’t bring anyone here. You wanted to come.” Lucian passed me, shoving his shoulder roughly into mine. What the fuck?

  She almost slipped again and Lucian steadied her. She was so clumsy.

  A pathetic mannerism. A human trait.

  I got that feeling again. She wasn’t worthy.

  “Let’s go,” Tabitha said. I walked with her to the lake. She tried to take my mind off everything, but I was on edge.

  I needed a plan. I couldn’t go into something blind. Was she like that? If so, we were complete opposites.

  After a bath in the lake, we went back. I didn’t want to go to the Sacred Cavern anymore, but what kind of dragon would I be if I chickened out now?

  Around eight I grabbed my backpack from Tabitha. “It’s about an hour’s walk to the Sacred Cavern.” I said. “I suggest we get a move on.”

  “Would Brian do me the honor?” George held a manmade torch in Brian’s direction. Brian blew on it. The torch caught fire instantly. He lit two more and gave me one as I took the lead.

  “Your Highness,” Brian joked.

  “Ha, ha,” Lucian said sarcastically.

  I moved swiftly through the forest. My hearing picked up everything within a mile radius. Rodents had made their homes beneath our feet, and could hear them scurrying to flee us, as well as the more subtle sounds of owls waiting for their turn to hunt.

  “Fuck,” Tabitha yelped as a mouse ran in front of her.

  I chuckled.

  “It’s not funny,” she whined.

  A ruckus arose at our rear. It was Arianna and Lucian. When were they going to kiss and make up? His father was never going to let him marry dragon spawn. Well, someone they believed to be one, anyway.

  “Because what you are doing, Elena, isn’t brave at all. It’s stupid. And if any of us dies tonight, it’s on your head.”

  “Wait here.” I shook my head and approached the three of them where they stood quarreling.

  “Arianna, you begged to come with us tonight, so shut your pie-hole,” Lucian snapped.

  “You guys, enough!” I yelled. “Nobody was forced into coming tonight, Arianna, though I happen to agree with you: this is a suicide mission. There’s nothing we can do about it now, so all of you shut your traps.”

  Brian and George chuckled. Even Sammy rolled her eyes.

  Fucking humans. I returned to the front of the group.

  It was quiet the rest of the trip. Nobody said a word when we finally exited the woods and found a huge stone staircase that led up to a yawning cavern.

  I looked up at the sky. Fog obscured the entrance to the cavern. Two massive wooden doors led to the unknown.

  This was it. We were going to do it. I climbed the steps, trusting the others to follow. In twenty minutes to a half an hour, we reached the top.

  “Welcome to the Sacred Cavern,” I bellowed in a theatrical tone. Tabitha and Arianna, who were right behind me, giggled.

  “Becky will speak to you again, Elena,” I heard Lucian said.

  So the two besties were fighting. Was it because of tonight, her crazy mission?

  “You sure about that? I said some pretty mean things to her.”

  “They were true. She’ll only become part of the Royal Council if she gets a bit more of what you have.”

  He made her sound so brave. I tuned out as he cooed to her, either giving her the strength not to run away or maybe he was just that pathetic. A walking cliché.

  Becky and Sammy gasped when they finally reached the summit.

  I held out my hand for Brian and George. They helped the girls up.

  “Thanks,” Sammy smiled at Brian.

  “Brian is at Sammy’s service.”

  I slapped him behind the head.

  “Ow,” he rubbed his head.

  “Don’t even think about it.”

  Sammy laughed, glancing at me, her protective big brother.

  I took out some water bottles from my backpack. Becky and Sammy’s backpack toppled to the ground as I opened a bottle. I took a few gulps and handed it to Tabitha.

  My eyes caught on the spawn struggling with the last step and I reached out. She looked at me with King Albert’s eyes and accepted my helping hand.

  Her touch made my stomach crawl. I really didn’t like the way she made me feel. It felt so wrong.

  I lifted her up with one pull and extended my hand for Lucian again. “So what’s the plan, big shot?” I thrust a bottle of water into Lucian’s hand. Why did I feel so pissed off at him?

  He took the bottle, opened it, and gulped down half before handing it to the spawn. “We all go and face whatever comes our way together,” he said as if that was the plan all along. Not that it was a plan at all.

  We held each other’s stares for a few beats. Then my eyes shifted to everyone else. They’d all contemplated this. It was the only way.

  “All of you agree?” I asked. Everyone nodded, including the spawn.

  Tabitha was the only one who seemed as if she was going to pee herself.

  “Tabitha?” I asked in a low voice. She didn’t answer or look up. “Babes, are you in?”

 
Her eyes glistened. Oh fuck. “I can’t do this, Blake.”

  Arianna sighed. “Just leave her here. I doubt anything will happen, and if there is any danger, she can fly away.”

  “Arianna, take a hike,” I snapped at her.

  “We can’t afford to fight.” Lucian stepped in. “We need Arianna inside. She’s the best at enchantments, Blake. Use your head.”

  “Fine.” I looked back at her. “But you stay as far away from me as possible. Get that?”

  Arianna shrugged and raised her upper lip in a sarcastic sneer before turning her back on me.

  Why was I so upset? It was all Lucian’s fault.

  “Ready?” Lucian asked. We formed a line and approached the door.

  Wings flapped and a hulking figure came down hard. My reflexes kicked in and I was half transformed before I stopped myself. I knew this dragon. They called him the Keeper. He wouldn’t allow us to pass.

  The spikes on his head looked like a crown. Two long whiskers ran down his mouth. His scales were a dark auburn and his snout was long and pointy.

  “Stop. You cannot enter.” His words rumbled through the stones. It made me think about my dream with the knights again.

  I bowed as low as I could and everyone followed my example. “My name is Blake Leaf. I’m the Rubicon and we must enter. All of us. Lucian the Prince of Tith, Arianna the Princess of Areeth, Becky, her dragon George, and my sister, Samantha.” I didn’t introduce the rest; it was enough. “The King of Lion sword is missing. We need to find if it’s still retrievable. The only way for us to find things that don’t want to be found is by looking in the Millpond.”

  “There is no we in this, Rubicon,” the Keeper rumbled. “There is only one.”

  “Understood,” I said, though my mind was spinning.

  Lucian was whispering to the spawn what the Keeper had said, because the exchange had been in Latin.

  “What are the rules?”

  “Not many. Choose one. It cannot be dragon.”

  My throat closed. Dragons were not allowed?

  The dragon spoke again. “Call me when you have made your choice.” The dragon flew away.

  I straightened cautiously. Everyone stood straight. Shock was evident on every face.

  “This was a waste of time, Lucian,” I snapped.

  “We just have to choose one person,” Lucian countered.

 
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