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Darkbeam part i, p.27
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       Darkbeam Part I, p.27

           Adrienne Woods
 
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  “Yeah? Who’s going to do it? You heard what he said: no dragons.” I was hostile. I had to go in there. Why couldn’t I go in?

  No one said anything.

  “I’ll go,” Lucian said. “There’s no other choice.”

  Elena stopped him. “You can’t.”

  “What?” Lucian and I asked at the same time. The others just stared. Was she really that stupid?

  “No man has made it back. Only women.”

  I laughed. “So what you’re saying is that men can’t do this?”

  “Yes,” she barked at me. Authority was in her tone.

  I did not like it.

  “Elena, you don’t know that,” Sammy interrupted. Our gaze broke.

  “I did my research. Five made it out. They were all women.”

  Sure they were, and most of them queens too. I looked up at the sky. What was this? Another fucking test.

  “So you want to tell me it’s between Arianna and Becky?” Lucian had made up her mind for her—and Sammy too.

  “And me, Lucian,” she said firmly. Was she for real?

  Lucian’s face lost a bit of color at her words. “No, Elena...” He stopped. “I meant to say that you don’t have nearly enough training to face whatever waits behind those doors.”

  “I’ll go.” Becky stepped forward. George pushed her back. “Are you insane? You head what he said, Becky. No dragons.”

  “So…”

  “Becky, are you still... intact?” Elena interrupted.

  “What does that have to do with anything?” She shoved George aside and was ready to get her shit going with the spawn.

  Girl fight.

  “Everything. You have to be a maiden.”

  We all froze.

  “Becky?” George demanded her to answer. But it was written all over her face. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

  This was getting fun. A smile tugged at the corners of my lips.

  “They were all maidens. I think that means somewhere in there is a Sun-Blast.”

  Brian had a huge grin on his face.

  I looked over at Arianna. “Well, Arianna, that means you are screwed.” Both Brian and I chuckled.

  Lucian gave me a look.

  Arianna gave me the finger.

  I winked and pretended to send her a kiss.

  “I can’t fucking believe that you slept with someone,” George said in a disgusting tone.

  “Oh, come on!” she yelled. “It was a one-time thing, and a huge mistake.”

  “George, not now,” I begged playfully. George grunted.

  Elena was the only human who could pass through those doors. Our eyes met.

  “So what you’re saying is that only you can enter these doors?” I wanted to laugh. But maybe, just maybe, she wouldn’t come out and I’d be free from her at last.

  “No. Listen, we tried,” Lucian interrupted. “You simply can’t go through those doors.”

  Listen to him, pumpkin, I thought sarcastically.

  “We can’t back out now. We’re so close.” She was determined.

  “Elena, I don’t know what’s behind those doors,” he wheedled. “If you don’t finish in a certain time, you’ll never come back.”

  “I know.”

  “What if you have to fight a dragon? You don’t have enough training. This is crazy.”

  “Please don’t start. I need to do this.” She was serious.

  I took a deep breath as they bickered.

  She gestured to the queen’s axes hanging from her waist.

  “Elena! You don’t know what you’re saying.” Tears glistened in his eyes. Lucian really loved her. I glanced over at Arianna. She looked like she had eaten something sour.

  “I’m the only one who has a chance of making it out. Please, have a little faith in me.” She cupped his face with her hands.

  I had to suppress a growl. No, this wasn’t happening. She wasn’t worthy. I took a deep breath as they started to whisper sweet promises. Make her stop.

  “Lucian, let her go. You always say if someone believes they can do it, they can,” I said in Latin.

  He regarded me coolly. It was as if he knew. He knew my agenda. That I wanted her to go in and never come out. He returned his attention to her. “You’d better come out, you hear me? Otherwise I’ll blow this cavern apart,” he said with a waver in his voice.

  She nodded. They grabbed each other again. I looked away.

  “Come back,” he said.

  She started to make her rounds with a few parting words for everyone. This was it. She was really going into the cavern.

  She spoke to my sister first. “Don’t change anything and have faith, okay?”

  Sammy hugged her tightly. “Just come back, please.”

  Next was George. “Good luck, Elena.”

  “Take care of my girl, okay?”

  Becky didn’t look at her. She was so spiteful over whatever they were fighting about.

  I shook my head. “It is going to take a miracle for you to make it out alive,” I said and sighed. “But if you do, you’ll have my respect.”

  She looked at me weird and huffed. She didn’t buy it.

  “I guess Brian will see whether Master Longwei was right about Elena’s mark.” Brian chuckled. “You’re one crazy chick for doing this and it’s driving Brian nuts.”

  “Brian!” Lucian and I scolded him.

  “What? It’s the truth.”

  She narrowed her eyes as Brian shrugged.

  You couldn’t take him anywhere.

  “Good luck,” Tabitha and Arianna said.

  I called the Keeper back.

  He landed with a buffet of wind and a shaking of the earth. “Have you decided who will enter the cavern?”

  “Yes,” I said, “but there is a tiny problem. She cannot speak the tongue of the dragons yet. Is there a way you might lend the ability to her for a short while?”

  The Keeper considered this for a moment. Then shook his scales. I knew what that was. He’d granted my wish.

  “Only for a short while.”

  “Did you understand him, Elena?” She would’ve if he’d granted it.

  She nodded, seeming thunderstruck.

  “Thank you, Great Keeper,” I said.

  Elena got up.

  I saw the tears glistening in Lucian’s eyes. I’d snatched one love away from him and I was going to do it again. But she had to go. She didn’t belong here.

  “What is your name?” the Keeper asked her.

  “Elena Watkins.”

  “Elena Watkins, are you prepared to accept the consequences if you fail to complete what the cavern holds?”

  “Yes.” She sounded so confident. How had this happened? A few months ago, she was ready for the serum. Now she was ready to give up her freedom for the greater good.

  “Good. Let the games begin.” The Keeper flew away.

  A huge shudder, more like an earthquake, made all of us lose our balance. When it stopped, one of the wooden doors was halfway open.

  Lucian pushed past me and grabbed her waist. “Come back to me,” he whispered.

  They shared a kiss so passionate, it made Brian grunt. I bumped him but couldn’t look away either. I didn’t know Lucian could kiss anyone like that.

  Arianna regarded them with an unreadable expression. Yeah, how much do you miss those times, princess?

  Elena finally broke the kiss. She marched to the door.

  This was it. In three seconds, I would be a free dragon again.

  I watched her take that first step into the cavern when Becky yelled.

  “Elena, wait!” She pulled her back. “You know I would do this if I could, right?”

  She nodded. Becky grabbed her around the neck.

  I groaned. Such drama queens. I was tiring of this extended goodbye. Get on with it already.

  “You kick some ass, and you come back to us. I’m so sorry about earlier.”

  “It’s okay, Becky. I’m sorry too.”
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  They finally broke their embrace and the spawn quickly slipped through the door. “Wait for me for two days, please. If I’m not out by then, go home.”

  The door closed.

  “No! Don’t you dare!” Lucian yelled and beat against the door. But it was too late. “No, this isn’t happening!”

  “Lucian.” Becky hugged him from behind.

  “She doesn’t believe she can do this, Becky.” He sounded shaken. “If she did, she wouldn’t have said that.”

  “Calm down.”

  Lucian didn’t listen.

  I felt like freedom was right in front of me. “She wanted to do this without our help. She seems to know what’s in there. I don’t know how, but it feels like she does. We need to have faith.”

  “Have faith? That is all you have to say?” He shook his head. “I’m going!”

  “Where?” Becky and Sammy yelled.

  “This is nuts,” Arianna said.

  “To get dynamite.” The whites of Lucian’s eyes were showing. “I meant what I said.”

  The door rumbled again and all of us paused as the doors lumbered open again.

  A figure emerged.

  Becky gasped as she grabbed her.

  “Ow!” Elena yelled, touching her arm.

  What the actual fuck?

  “What happened? Becky asked.

  Elena winced. “My shoulder.”

  “You got hurt?”

  She nodded.

  “And they let you out?” Becky asked again. She pulled Elena away from the doors.

  Lucian was cemented to the spot, staring at her. His eyes were as round as mine.

  Elena cocked her head, clearly bemused . “No! I had to finish.”

  “You... finished?”

  “Elena, you just went in a minute ago.” I was still scrambling to figure out what the fuck was going on.

  “Huh?” A confused frown solidified on her face.

  Then Lucian darted toward her and grabbed her tight.

  “Ouch!” she exclaimed loudly.

  “You dislocated your shoulder? How?”

  She shook her head.

  I huffed. She wasn’t going to tell a soul what was behind those doors.

  Lucian kissed her all over and this time I really didn’t like it. I looked away and ground my jaw.

  “We must push your shoulder back.”

  “Wait,” Arianna interjected. “You said you finished?”

  “Yes,” Elena said firmly. “I know where to find the sword.”

  No one said anything, trying to process this. It was impossible.

  “It still exists?” Brian and George said in unison.

  “You really finished?” Lucian laughed. It was a gleeful, disbelieving sound. He thought she could walk on water. Fucking royals. Made me sick.

  The flapping of wings descended on us again and I prostrated myself on the ground as before. Everyone bowed in to the Keeper with me, but he stopped Elena.

  “Not you.” He bowed his head. He stayed like that for a short moment and straightened. “Well done, Elena Watkins.”

  She didn’t need to bow. He deemed her worthy to stand in his presence. Hear that? She is worthy!

  A book appeared out of nowhere. The Keeper pushed it in her direction.

  I know how she must feel at this very moment because a part of me felt it.

  She opened it and patted her pockets. “Does anyone have a pen?”

  We all chuckled; no one had brought a stupid pen.

  “You don’t need a pen, Elena,” the Keeper said. “Give me your hand.”

  She hesitated. Damn, Lucian and I hesitated on her behalf.

  Her arm trembled in his paw. Then a big claw slashed her wrist.

  My instincts had me wanting to get up and rush to her defense, but I couldn’t. From the looks of things, Lucian couldn’t either. We were held in place by a higher power.

  Blood splashed everywhere. The floor, her pants, the pages, everywhere.

  Then the book closed. A thin laser appeared out of his claw.

  What the fuck? I’d seen it all now.

  He made a circular motion with his laser paw over her hand. It looked like she didn’t feel a thing. When he was done, she twisted her wrist, staring at it.

  Who was she?

  She’s your rider, Blake.

  He showed her the book, closed it, and that was that.

  When he left, Lucian was the first one to scramble up and reach her. They shared another passionate kiss.

  I wanted to throw up. “We need to move,” I said, breaking up their little moment.

  “She’s hurt, Blake,” Lucian and Becky said at the same time.

  “We have to get the sword now or this will all be for nothing.”

  Lucian got all in my face. “What don’t you understand? She is hurt. She needs to rest.”

  “Don’t fight. It’s no use!” She yelled, looking disgusted.

  “What do you mean, it’s no use?” I asked.

  “I don’t know where it is right now,” she barked at me.

  “Then when, Elena?” Anger filled me from toe to head.

  “Tomorrow night.”

  “We have to wait a whole night?” My arms flew up in the air. What the hell?

  “Deal with it,” Lucian growled. He lifted her in his arms.

  I growled this time but it was misunderstood.

  “Calm down. You will get your spotlight tomorrow,” Tabitha cooed. If only it was that.

  We reached camp in no time. The others helped make a fire and brewed coffee. Lucian and George pushed her shoulder back into place. He gave her his belt to bite on.

  I could heal her, but I wasn’t going to. She screamed and I cringed. Pain was something I’d had my fair share of. I decided to go for a flight.

  I didn’t want to be here. If I stuck around, I would say something and regret it. But as I took flight, the wind beneath my wings helped me ponder everything that had taken place. Something in me had shifted tonight when she came out of that cavern alive.

  She was the sixth person—woman, queen—in history to survive the Sacred Cavern.

  She was worthy.

  Hopefully by tomorrow, I wouldn’t feel this way anymore. It would all wash away.

  I came back late. The camp was quiet.

  Brian was the only one still awake. “You okay?” he asked.

  “Yes, just tense. It’s the King of Lion sword.”

  “Yeah, I know. We’re going to make history, Blake.”

  I smiled. “But who would’ve thought a dragon spawn born with the mark would do that?”

  He looked in the direction of the cavern. A smile lingered on his face. “She makes Brian crazy. She doesn’t make Blake crazy?”

  “Not that crazy, no.” This was a patent lie. She was driving me crazy, every inch of her.

  He laughed. “Brian had a rough night tonight. He needs to go and crash.”

  I chuckled. “Goodnight, Brian.”

  “Night, Blake.”

  I went to take a seat at the edge of the trees.

  Looking at the stars, I took out the poetry notebook I used when I wasn’t using my journal.

  I had no words tonight. The words I had... the darkness would kill me if I wrote them down. It would kill her. I couldn’t. I can’t.

  But I found myself gazing at the sky again and my mind started to wander. What would happen if I marched into Lucian’s tent now and confessed?

  Confessed who she was, confessed how she made me feel. How she’d made me feel tonight. Confessed that she was my rider.

  Oh starry, starry night, you are the only one that sees this.

  I found a pen in my backpack. I’d had one all along. I opened my notebook and steadied myself with another long look at the stars.

  Oh starry, starry night,

  Your moon gleams so bright.

  But this darkness inside me won’t stop to fight.

  I know what is right and I know what is wrong,

&nbs
p; But how do I tell the truth… through a song?

  Oh starry, starry night, but I can’t.

  It won’t be fair, it won’t be right,

  Even if she proves to be worthy, proves that she has all the might.

  The beast will never yield to her light.

  So fuck the words and fuck the song. I’d show them in due time, when I was dark, lost, and totally gone.

  I did own a heart, and it was strong.

  The beast will never let me be.

  The darkness will never set me free.

  And through this choice, it won’t be so bad,

  That she never knew the real me.

  Through the corner of my eye I saw her. She’d just emerged.

  I’d made up my mind. It wasn’t fair to her. She would go crazy if I told her the truth.

  And I was sparing her from a lot of things. Not just the royal duties she didn’t know she had, but from darkness and nightmares.

  She reached me. I couldn’t look at her. Scared that she would see the truth in my eyes.

  I buried my notebook under my ass.

  “Do you mind?” she asked.

  “Sure.” I shrugged. “Whatever.”

  She sat against the tree opposite me.

  None of us said a word. She wasn’t a big talker. That much I’d figured out from our nights guarding Dragonia.

  “It was really brave what you did tonight,” I said.

  She huffed softly, still not looking at me. “I guess anyone in my position would have tried their best.”

  I snorted and smiled, sort of. “How’s the arm?”

  “Hurts like hell.”

  My smile grew. I should heal her, but I felt weird again. It was strange around her.

  I stared into the night again. It was quiet, deadly quiet, until she sighed. It looked as if she wanted to get up and my mouth popped open again. Why? “You’re wrong about everyone being able to do what you did.”

  “Blake, please. I did what I said I would do.” Her expression was fiery. Was it always going to be so intense between us?

  “That’s exactly my point. What people say they’ll do and what they actually do are two different things, Elena. I learned that the hard way.” The words just spilled out. Great, why don’t I just tell her who the hell she is?

  She looked away. “I always do what I say I will.”

  “You don’t get it.” I chuckled. “You could have asked to see anything.”

  “And your point is?” She was starting to get annoyed.

 
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