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Darkbeam part i, p.3
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       Darkbeam Part I, p.3

           Adrienne Woods
 

  My knees buckled beneath my weight and I slid down the wall to the floor. I sobbed.

  When will this struggle end? I feared that I was fighting a battle that I could never win. Why do I even try to hold on?

  To what? A stupid foretelling? There was no hope. Not in Lucian. The beast inside me destroyed hope.

  That was all it had ever done.

  Destroy everyone I’d ever loved.

  .

  The claiming and Lucian’s absence took a tremendous toll on me. The claim had been a victory for the beast, but I had lost.

  Lucian was one of my best friends—still was, in a way. Even though I couldn’t come near him.

  That light.

  I was the only one who could see it. What caused the light? Lucian had a good heart and a kind soul. He would never give up on his friends. He saw me as a brother, so yes, his persistence was amplified because of that.

  That purity in his soul was magical all by itself. I would put it in the same category as a mother’s love, a father’s protection, a brother’s promise... They all left a mark.

  That mark of pure love didn’t mesh so well with my darkness. It made me recoil every time I came within a few feet of him. It made me sick. Made me nauseous.

  I blamed the beast.

  It was doing this on purpose. It knew how much Lucian hated the darkness. The beast knew I would do anything for my brother, at least that small part that was still holding on deep inside of me.

  I must be such a huge disappointment to Lucian. What did he think? That I was going to roll over and give up?

  It wasn’t that easy.

  If he was strong enough, he would earn it.

  With all the thoughts swirling in my head, I skipped class and went back to View Top Mountain. I had to plant trees to replace the ones I had destroyed the day before.

  As my wings furled and I landed, shame flooded me. My temper tantrum had done this. A strong pine smell used to linger in the air. In the beginning, the forest would calm my soul. A sedative to the darkness. But now it did nothing. The pine smell was gone and in its place was a sooty, charred smell.

  I did this.

  “I am what I am, Blake: you. Nothing more. Stop treating me like an independent entity, because I’m not.”

  The voice in my head was like honey. A voice I could never trust. The voice of darkness. My darkness, also known as the beast.

  I would always think of it as an entity. It wasn’t me. Well, not yet anyway. I would never embrace it, never think of it as me. For now that was the only way to cope.

  Evil laughter echoed inside my head and chilled me to the bone. It threatened to drive me to the brink of insanity. I covered my ears to no avail.

  I thought about Lucian’s promise again. When we were thirteen.

  That time it had been so easy, easy to hold on.

  Now, it was nearly impossible, but I couldn’t give up. I had to hold on. I had to keep fighting. Had to for my mother, for my sister, and for Lucian.

  My father? I didn’t want to think about him.

  Those were the only people who really meant anything to me, really. Yet they were the ones I pushed away the hardest.

  I wished none of this was so damn complicated, but this was my life.

  I’d been thinking back to my foretelling, the one Irene had made when my egg hatched. Why did she see that, and not the guy who betrayed my true rider’s parents? Was it because it was mostly about me, and not them?

  She’d been seeing funny things lately. Things that made absolutely no sense. Some sort of a search was happening, a killing spree. She couldn’t tell me where or when the search was taking place, or who was committing the bloodshed. She just saw victims, all perished. For what cause, I don’t know. Why was it linked to me? Was this killer my future self, united with the beast at last?

  It only awakened the beast more.

  The Viden saw the killings so clearly.

  A part of me loved it. The danger, the chase, the death. To be truly free from what I was fighting against. Not to feel so tired anymore.

  Another part of me was terrified of how much I liked it.

  It scared the living crap out of her too.

  I knocked on the Viden’s door. The tower was behind the boys’ tower but separate, off to one side of the castle.

  Vines with dainty purple flowers ran up to the lone window that overlooked Dragonia Academy.

  This was where Irene met with all the students at least once a month. Except for me. I was the Rubicon; I was required to see her up to three times a week.

  Irene was a three-hundred-year-old Moon-Bolt dragon. She could see into the future and had guided a multitude of humans, dragons, and other magical beings to their true destinies.

  But in person, she appeared the opposite of someone who was three hundred years old.

  Because of dragons’ magical essence, we aged slowly. Part of that essence could be transferred to humans. The precise ins and outs of the process had never triggered my curiosity.

  Her essence made her look like she was in her late twenties, tops. It drove students nuts. She was gorgeous with long black hair, big cerulean eyes, and a skin that made me think of caramel, or something else I wanted to taste.

  I was fucked if she saw even a glint of lust.

  She opened the door.

  Something always changed inside of me, rippled through my being whenever I came to see her.

  “Good afternoon, Blake.” Her lips fanned out and revealed the whitest pearls and deepest dimple in her left cheek. “Come in.”

  I entered, wiping my hands on my jeans. Sweaty palms?

  What was it about this creature that put me on edge? She wasn’t intimidating. No, this was something I couldn’t put words to. Why did she make me so nervous?

  I sat down at a spindly table with an orb resting in the center. I’d never seen her use it; I truly wondered if it wasn’t just for show.

  She disappeared into the kitchen. The sound of a kettle whistling on a hot plate filled the room. She loved her tea. Her voice floated out from the kitchen. “So, how do you feel after our last session?”

  “Okay, I guess. Have you seen any more killings?”

  Seen. She knew what I meant. I doubted she had; I needed to be in her immediate vicinity for her to see a glimpse of visions related to me.

  She laughed. My own lips curved slightly at the sound of her sweet laughter.

  “You know that’s not how it works.” She came out of the kitchen with a tray that held two cups and a plate of cookies. She put the tray down and handed me a cup of tea.

  I’d never drank a cup before and wondered why she kept offering. The same with the cookies. She put the plate in front of me, and I shook my head.

  She smiled and left the plate in front of me. Silence filled the room as she prepared her tea. It was that awkward, suffocating kind of silence. She sat in the chair diagonal to me.

  “So,” she started, pinning me with those big blue eyes of hers.

  It was hard to think of her as a three-hundred-year-old dragon when she looked just a few years older than me.

  “How are you feeling?”

  “Same,” I mumbled. She would know before anyone else did if there had been a drastic change in my darkness. That was how potent her ability was. Her connection to me was strong, and the beast felt something for her too. Of course he did. The only problem was that I didn’t know if it was good or bad.

  “I’ve tried to channel other tools to see. The cards were no help.” Her eyebrows rose. “And the tea leaves are all over the place. It’s hard to make out what they show.”

  “What do they say?” I had to know.

  You won’t be claimed, boy! The beast said.

  She shook her head. “It’s better to leave it.”

  “What do they say, Irene?” I was adamant.

  She looked at me. “What do you want me to tell you? That the only thing your cards indicate me is darkness and death? Only destruction, n
ot an ounce of hope? The leaves give me omens, dark omens, and…” She shook her head and closed her eyes. A breath left her lips and she sank lower in her chair.

  “And what?”

  “I get headaches, Blake.” She rested with her head on her hand and stared at me through thick, dark eyelashes that went on for days.

  I looked away. “Headaches?”

  “It’s like the darkness is starting to block me from your future. I can still see bits here and there, but when I truly do see something connected with you, it leaves me with a mother of a headache.”

  “I’m sorry.”

  She touched my arm. It felt good. As if I needed her touch.

  Hungry thoughts filled my head, visions of taking things further with Irene. Taking her. Things I shouldn’t have ever thought to begin with. I jumped up “I’ve got to go.”

  “Blake, you just got here.”

  “You said it yourself, Irene.” I paused at the door. “It’s only darkness and bad omens.” I left.

  What was happening? Why her? What does it want with her? The way her touch felt on my skin, it was innocent. Yet the beast made it feel different.

  Why her?

  Because it’s forbidden, it whispered.

  The muscles of my jaw clenched. I hated how it always got exactly what it wanted. But not this time. No, I would fight.

  I was still in control

  I used to get an overwhelming nauseated feeling whenever I entered my dorm.

  I’d recently moved up to the seventh floor. Lucian had demanded it. He’d ordered Master Longwei and the rest of the board to make the room change the minute he set foot on Dragonia Academy soil. He wanted me to be his roommate. Wanted me close.

  Yay me.

  It was hard to get used to at first. Most of the time, I wasn’t okay being that close to him. His light. I doubted I would ever get used to it.

  The one good thing from my failed claiming was that I could breathe in my room for this first time in ages. My stomach didn’t churn, and I didn’t feel like I was going to throw up my organs.

  I’d just returned from View Top Mountain. I had to check and see if the trees I’d planted were taking root.

  I needed a shower. It was where I could think, where I could be myself, and where I drowned out its voice. Most of the time.

  Today was different, though. I struggled to calm down. Knowing what the beast was after this time... It was insane.

  She was three hundred years old. She would probably just laugh in my face if I tried anything.

  “Dude,” I spoke to myself softly in the mirror. “C’mon. Focus.”

  It had been going on like this the entire fucking day. I couldn’t stop thinking about Irene. She was what the beast wanted now. Given enough time, I would soon see things its way.

  I took my shirt off and turned on the faucet. I crawled out of the rest of my clothes and stepped into the shower.

  Water cascaded over my head and bare back. It felt warm, but it wasn’t. My body ran exceptionally hot; cold showers were the key to regulating my temperature.

  My snow ability hadn’t manifested yet. I don’t know when it would.

  The only abilities that had shown themselves were my lightning, fire, acid, and a tiny bit of healing. It was the weakest one of them all.

  Constance, my mother’s identical twin, was the Academy doctor. She predicted that gas would be next.

  But it wasn’t mine just yet.

  My throat felt thick and sore. At times it felt as if I was breathing fire. But I wasn’t. My fire wasn’t like the Sun-Blast or Fire-Tail’s flame. When my fire touched living things, they died. It was like a disease; it spread and didn’t stop. No cure. No hope to survive. The only thing it targets could do was turn into piles of ash.

  When I first received the ability, I struggled to control it. Whenever I sneezed, flames would shoot out of my throat. It had felt as if I swallowed lava on a daily basis.

  I had that same burning feeling in my throat, now. The gas. It was like chloroform. People who weren’t immune to it would suffocate and die.

  It had a green shine to it. When contained or if it was trapped in a room it actually formed a thick green smoky substance.

  It was the only ability that could cause this sort of pain within me.

  The snow had other qualities; I couldn’t wait for it to show itself. Then maybe I wouldn’t feel this hot on a daily basis.

  A longing crept into my soul. It was starting to suffocate me.

  Without Lucian my room was too quiet. I didn’t want to think about him. I pushed him to the back of my mind.

  I had the urge to stretch my wings and feel the wind in my face. I had to get out of here. If only for a few hours.

  I got out of the shower, didn’t even properly dry myself, and opened the window. I stepped onto the ledge and leaped into the night.

  The pull always came first. Like a shift in personality, anatomy, and DNA, all together. Whatever kept me human was shoved back, and the dragon moved into place. It didn’t hurt like it had the first time I transformed into my human form and back to my dragon self.

  It was now just a pull.

  Then the crackling of bones. The rip was next. The flesh didn’t really tear; it just morphed and stretched until it took the form of scales and wings.

  The entire world shifted from big to actually kind of small in less than five seconds.

  My dragon lungs opened and I breathed in the fresh air. For a second, everything was good.

  “Kiiiillllllll.”

  My nightmare just started.

  I usually didn’t remember what I did when I was in my dragon from. But lately I’d been aware of a lot of things while the scales were still out.

  The beast was letting me see more. As if I needed to see more. I didn’t know how this worked. A part of me wanted the beast; another hated who I was when it came out.

  But right now, I felt free. So alive. My need for darkness and evil, my need for blood, drove me forward.

  I didn’t care anymore. My conscience was switched off. I had my needs and they needed to be fulfilled.

  All I knew, the way I felt in this moment was one reason I hated shifting into a dragon.

  The Dragonians had a great way of explaining us. Our human sides and dragon sides. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

  We weren’t exactly like the literary characters they referred to us as, but it was pretty close.

  I was now Mr. Hyde. I liked the control, liked to make havoc, liked to take what wasn’t mine, liked all things dangerous and evil, and just being free… If that meant Hyde must come out to play, then so be it.

  Dr. Jekyll was long gone.

  Still, that analogy wasn’t spot-on. Dr. Jekyll was still in the same room; he just didn’t care. Or maybe he was equally evil. I didn’t know which theory was true, and at this moment, I really didn’t care.

  I was the beast, whether I wanted it or not. I did love everything I was and everything I did when in dragon form.

  The switch that connected my moral soul to my conscious self was off. And nothing could switch it back on. Not until the human shifted back.

  I knew what would happen when the human returned. Everything I was going to do tonight would hit me full in the face and I would drown in a pool of guilt, regret, and emotions. Or as the beast liked to call it, weakness.

  Morality would come back, right and wrong, all the basic crap of life and the regret over what I was about to do. Knowing this was never enough for me to control my behavior as a dragon.

  That was why I started mentally separating the human from the beast. Sure, it wasn’t healthy, referring to my true self as a separate entity. But it was the only way to deal with my shit whenever I was in human form, the weaker form.

  A part of me wanted to stay in this form forever. Another, well, it didn't matter which form I was in. I still loved my family. I didn’t want my mother to lose the last bit of hope she had left.

  My father? I gave up on him
the day he gave up on us. Ever since his rider’s death he hadn’t been the same man. It was like all life left him, like part of him died with the king. He was dark, and he had taken it out on his family one too many times.

  I was done pretending he was still the dragon he used to be. So I didn’t pretend anymore.

  My thoughts sometimes wandered back to the night everything changed.

  How did my father escape? Did King Albert force him to leave, or did he flee like a coward?

  I doubted the latter. My father was many things, scaly and deceitful among them, but he was no coward. He’d loved King Albert. He would’ve done anything for his rider, even died.

  Thoughts of my father aside, if it weren’t for my mother, I would’ve given up a long time ago. Her love and fervent belief in my redemption was what made me keep fighting.

  Plus my sister’s kindness and big heart. I hadn’t seen her in such a long time.

  My family made me want to fight, made me want to be good.

  The glint of a knife caught my eyes. The moon gleamed on Baldarian steel, and it blinded me for a microsecond. Even though the blade was miles and miles below me, my vision was sharp.

  Two people on a pier extending over a lake.

  They were fighting.

  One was stronger than the other. They were quarreling about some moral standard that had gone shit-ways.

  I started to rejoice as I saw the first stab. Blood pooled onto the ground. The weaker one cried for help. The one with the knife clamped his hand tightly over his mouth.

  The loser’s arms waved vigorously, in and out, in and out. He was still fighting, trying to block every blow but eventually couldn’t fend off the attacks anymore.

  His arm fell limply on the pier.

  The thud vibrated through my bones, even at such a great distance. My hearing was just as perfect as my vision.

  The other, still gripping the bloody knife, dropped the corpse of his vanquished enemy into the water. He threw in the knife afterward.

  I finally darted down to the docks.

  A voice from deep inside begged me to stop one last time. But my conscience was gone.

 
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