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Darkbeam part i, p.8
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       Darkbeam Part I, p.8

           Adrienne Woods
Caught between two groups blinded by mutual prejudice and hatred.

  Then Hansel’s name was called.

  The second I climbed into that ring, every part of me wanted to escape.

  I didn’t want to be there anymore, but the beast loved every bit of it.

  It was a massive cage. The beams would be charged with electricity when the fight started.

  Blood, new and old, was splattered on the ground. They were disposing of an arm and some guts as I walked in.

  “It ain’t a good day for dragon slayers,” one of the guys remarked in a redneck accent.

  I didn’t reply.

  Phil pinched my shoulders. “Remember, Hansel. Fast kill and get the fuck out of this ring. It gives me the creeps to see you in here.”

  “Then why the fuck did you drag me into this?” I sneered and shrugged his massage away. Fucking idiot.

  Second thoughts were spooling in my brain when a voice over a speaker announced the fight. He called out my name and told the crowd that I owned the acid ability. He gave everyone my stats. My heart raced—not that I could hear it, but I could feel it in my entire being. My body felt wrong. I felt sick. What if the potion was defective? What if Dimitri… Calm down, Blake. Deep breaths.

  Then he called Skull Crusher. What the fuck?

  A huge mother of a Sun-Blast walked into the ring. Usually they could sense the Alpha in me, but this one didn’t.

  He just kept banging on his chest, still in his human form. He wore a leather garment wrapped around his torso, with bare feet and a bare chest. He had bright red hair, like Brian.

  He couldn’t even smell the Rubicon on me.

  I looked at Dimitri again. He was standing at the gate, controlling his part of the spell. Mine was playing in the back of my mind like a record stuck on a few lines.

  I had to concentrate on how to kill the Sun-Blast really quickly.

  The crowd cheered as the Sun-Blast stats were called out. He’d won 45 fights. Fuck, that was a lot. I couldn’t believe he was matched up against a newbie.

  This was so wrong. No wonder the humans didn’t last.

  As I was thinking, he suddenly exploded into a gigantic dragon. Limbs popped out like giant tree stumps. Scales erupted everywhere.

  He growled in my face. I just turned my head and looked in Dimitri’s direction again.

  You’d better not fail; otherwise, it’s not just me you have to deal with, but all these fucking dragons.

  And then the siren went off.

  I ducked and dove out of the way of the first fireball that came out of the dragon’s mouth.

  They were so predictable.

  The second one I ducked and then I leaped onto his back.

  He didn’t like that much. I reached down with both hands. I would’ve given anything to test my fire. To see if it did spread like a virus..

  The crowd cheered wildly and I reached for his jaw, releasing my acid into his mouth.

  He was immune to fire, but not acid.

  Liters and liters of acid dripped down his throat. His body started to disintegrate; holes burned him from the inside out.

  The crowd went wild.

  Gore and blood splattered on the floor as he teetered.

  I rolled out of the way, covered with dragon blood.

  The fight was over before it even began. And that was just the beginning.

  I became an instantaneous favorite. Everybody here knew my name, or at least Hansel’s.

  It was ten according to my watch. I felt tired but I had two more fights to go.

  Next up: the Night Villain against a fire slayer.

  Human screams filled the air one more time. It was no wonder that the odds for bets on humans were lower than dragons.

  The last fight was hard.

  Dimitri’s potion worked well.

  I screamed as the wing of the Night Villain ripped off. Its blood, mixed with mine, pooled on the floor.

  The emcee lifted up my arm.

  I could only see part of the crowd. The rest was black. My vision was fucked.

  I needed to fly, but this enchantment Dimi conjured still clung to me.

  I felt trapped. Suffocated.

  The crowd was cheering.

  Phil and Samuel were too. I pushed Phil away the minute he laid his hands on me.

  “Careful. The crowd.”

  “Fuck your crowd!”

  “Easy, Hansel.”

  “Let him go,” Samuel said. “He’ll be back. He has no choice.”

  I needed the spell to release. I got a lift with a group of strangers. It was a couple of students.

  The spell started to wear off while we were driving. I told them to let me out. At first they didn’t want to listen, but I barked, “If you knew what’s good for you, you’ll let me out.”

  “Okay, man. Jeez, relax,” the one guy said and stopped the sportster. I ran as fast as I could in the opposite direction, toward the dark docks.

  At last the spell wore off. I dove into the ocean and stayed there for a long time. I could finally breathe. Even underwater, I finally breathed.

  I swam to Dragonia Academy.

  My eye was still swollen, my knuckles were raw. So was my body.

  Purple bruises, whether from tonight’s fight or the enchantment, covered my body. I felt broken.

  Once in my room, I took a long bath. When I was done, I crashed on my bed. I felt as if I could sleep for days.

  At first I dreamed of nothing, then it shifted.

  I was in in the air. The stars shone brightly.

  Her laughter came from above me. She was on my back, enjoying our midnight flight.

  Who was she?

  She knew my name, yet I didn’t know hers. She was my breath. She was the one that’d never had her first breath. Tonight’s dream made that clear. Reality seeped into the dream. My lungs grew tighter and tighter. I struggled to breathe. She didn’t exist, and she never would.

  I woke up gasping for air. I couldn’t breathe.

  On Monday, I was almost healed. Thanks to my healing ability. The only signs of me fighting was the shiner.

  I wasn’t going to be able to dodge the questions this time.

  I hadn’t dreamt about the girl again.

  Now I was left with screams, haunted by the horror that I had killed my own kind.

  My body shuddered each time I heard a dragon wail, and the last screech that each had made before the blow of death.

  I decided to lay low and skipped class.

  I worked on the “Never-Breath” poem some more.

  It was coming along nicely and slowly turning into a song. I could see it being sung, but I struggled to hear the tune.

  Knocks came around two-thirty. In the hall, Tabitha stood frozen.

  I didn’t wait for her to say anything, just left the door open. She could either come in or fuck off. It didn’t bother me which one she chose. She came in.

  “What the fuck, Blake? What happened?”

  “It’s nothing for you to worry about.”

  “Does my brother have anything to do with this?” she wanted to know. “I’m so calling his ass.”

  “Don’t.” I got up and grabbed her phone. “Nobody tells me what I can and cannot do, you get that? I don’t need you to worry about me. I can take care of myself.”

  “Yeah, I can see that. Look at you.”

  “Just leave.”

  She didn’t.

  The damage was already done.

  Still the beast was calm. I had to deal with the consequences now. All of them.

  She sat in front of me. “Talk to me. What the hell is going on?”

  “I can’t,” I said. I didn’t know why I said that.

  “Fine, if you are not ready, I won’t push.”

  She took my head in both her hands. They were so cold. Her touch calmed down the burning in my core.

  It was soothing. But then something else entirely happened. It was at first a zinging sensation on my swollen face. Then, it felt warm

  I tried to pull away, but she wouldn’t let me. Her lips moved softly. I could barely hear what she was saying. Another spell.

  A healing one.

  How the hell did she do this?

  “There,” she said. “I told you to be careful, Blake.”

  “I know.” I knew if I went to the mirror I wouldn’t find a black eye anymore. Somehow she’d healed me. How, I had no idea.

  She stayed with me the rest of the day. We watched movies and hardly spoke a word.

  There was something about Tabitha that I couldn’t put my finger on. She calmed my soul. I still didn’t feel the way she did, but it wasn’t bad having her around either.

  She could be good for me.

  We fell asleep on the couch and instead of dreaming about the redhead, I dreamed about dragons screaming and dying. I killed all of them.

  I startled awake and almost punched Tabitha when she put her hands softly on me.

  “Easy,” she murmured.

  “I’m sorry. I think you should leave,” I said and walked to the bathroom. I closed the door and struggled to fill my lungs with air.

  I should’ve never fought. But what choice did I have? I had to for my family.

  Who was I kidding?

  I was born predestined for evil.

  It was never going to be any easier, only harder. This would’ve happened eventually.

  I succumbed to imaginary growls and screeches. I could understand why King Albert and my father tried so hard to bring down the Black Market. It was pure evil and it catered to pure evil.

  I’d somehow fallen asleep again. I woke up and found the sun streaming into the bathroom. Relief washed over me. I hadn’t dreamed about the dragons again.

  I opened the bathroom door and found a plate of food on my table.

  She was too good for me.

  I should tell her that, at least.

  During the day I worked on “Never-Breath.”

  Around six that night, I was finished.

  The words took a lot out of me. Words that had the potential of a great song if I could find the right tune.

  Isaac jumped into my head. I should give this to him.

  The thought was hardly formed when I found myself standing on the ledge of my window.

  I dove and transformed.

  I felt free. The only time I really did.

  I landed with a thud a few hours later at his house in the Shifters’ village. They reminded me of the Pilgrims, but they had tribes too. It was a mixture of old traditions. It boiled down to just them being plain and simple folk.

  Isaac’s dad was the chief. He was a Chimera, like his daughter.

  Isaac was the last giant eagle. His father wanted badly for him to take over one day.

  Isaac was surprised when I turned up on his doorstep. “Blake, what the hell are you doing here?”

  “That’s how you greet a bud?”

  “Sorry, not what I meant, just surprised.”

  “Who is it, son?” Isaac’s father’s voice came from the kitchen.

  “You wouldn’t believe it if I told you. Come in.”

  The minute I entered the door I felt her. Isaacs’s sister. Ever since she was little, she did this thing whenever I came to visit. She would try to surprise attack me.

  My lips curved slightly. She was good, but I always detected her hiding place right before the attack.

  She leapt out and I jumped out of the way. She crashed into the staircase.

  Isaac laughed. “Next time, sis.”

  “Dammit.” In place of the Chimera appeared a fifteen-year-old blonde.

  “Really, still?”

  “Sorry… I can smell you a mile away.”

  “Oh, that is not good,” Isaac teased as she ran up the stairs to get dressed.

  “She has been a pain in my ass too, Blake. Wanting to know when you were going to come.”

  “Well, better late than never, or so I’ve been told.”

  “Blake,” Isaacs’s dad said as we entered the kitchen. “Is that you?”

  “Sorry for popping in unexpectedly.”

  “I just asked Isaac the other day how you were.”

  “Well...” I tapped on my chest. “As you can see, I’m fine.”

  “So you are. Your mother good, father?”

  I nodded. Last time I checked they were.

  “We’ll be in my room,” Isaac said led me to the basement, which he’d turned into his room.

  It looked the same as ever, with a king-size bed in the middle of the room and a couple of instruments in the corner. His half-assed job of trying to soundproof was still evident on his walls.

  I should really help him with that.

  “So, to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?”

  “This.” I handed him the words scribbled on a second sheet of paper—“Never-Breath.”

  For the next few minutes, Isaac was quiet as he read the words. Then he shook his head. “Dude, this is deep. Who is she?”

  “Nobody. She doesn’t exist.”

  “Is this how you feel?”

  I shrugged. I didn’t want to tell him how pathetic I truly was. To admit that I was in love with a figment of my imagination.

  “Do you think it might be linked to your Moon-Bolt?”

  I laughed. “It’s just a song, Isaac. You think we’d be able to give it a tune?”

  “Sure,” he said. “I need some time, though.”

  “Cool. I need to get back to Dragonia. I slipped out. If Longwei catches me, he’ll never let me out of his sight again.”

  Isaac chuckled. “I’ll have something for you, say, in the next week or so?”

  “Got it.”

  “You have a new Cammy yet?” he asked.

  “Nope.” I waved goodbye.

  “I will tell my sis to practice for next week.”

  I chuckled and nodded. “See you soon.” I rushed up the stairs and let myself out. If there was one guy who would be able to give a tune to “Never-Breath,” it was Isaac

  It was late when I got back to Dragonia Academy.

  The school was quiet and everyone was asleep, apart from a few rooms. I could only hear hollow sounds as their rooms were actually soundproofed.

  I found a silver piece of paper on the floor outside my door. I knew who that paper belonged too. Irene.

  I knew what it was going to say. She wanted to see me and I couldn’t. I’d ended up giving the beast everything he wanted.

  I couldn’t give him that too. They would definitely expel me.

  I picked up the note. Scribbled in elegant cursive letters, she demanded to see me. There wasn’t just one date, but time slots for the rest of the week and the next one.

  Every day. She wanted to see me every day. WHY?

  I chucked the note in my drawer and rubbed my face hard.

  Lucian’s bed was still empty. How long did he need to recover? Was he even going to come back? The beast loved that, but I hated not knowing if he was okay or not.

  I took a shower and forced myself to sleep, praying that the nightmares would stay away.

  The next morning, I went to the cafeteria. Every single person’s eyes were on me as I walked up to the buffet line.

  I got a couple of greetings from girls as I dished up.

  “Blake,” Chef said. “Nice to see you up again.”

  I grunted, resenting his insinuation. Copper-Horns.

  I found an open table outside and in less than thirty seconds, George, Brian, Tabitha, and everyone who was everyone joined me.

  I wanted to explode but I ate my breakfast and went to class the minute the bell rang.

  Time flew today; I dreaded seeing Irene. My palms were sweaty. What was she doing to me?

  Professor Edward called my name. “You can go,” he said in his brisk Irish accent.

  I packed my bag and went for Irene’s tower. I should’ve just skipped her today, but she would report my absence to Master Longwei and that would lead to more questions. I
didn’t have all the answers right now.

  So I wiped my sweaty palms against my trousers and trudged up the steps that led to her room high in the tower.

  I reached out to knock.

  “Enter!” she yelled out before my fist even connected with the wood.

  I opened the door.

  Her face lit up and she gave me her brilliant smile. I was glad for the first time that my heart couldn’t be heard; this would’ve been embarrassing.

  “I didn’t think you were going to show.” she said in her honey-sweet voice.

  “I wasn’t sure if I should.” I was being honest, too honest.

  “Well, I’m glad you did. Sit.” She smiled.

  I dropped my backpack and took a seat. I lay on my back and closed my eyes.

  I missed this tower, the formality of it. I missed talking to her.

  “What is it?”

  “I don’t know. You tell me, Irene. What am I doing here?”

  “You know it’s mandatory to see me as the Rubicon. You’ve missed quite a few sessions.”

  I chuckled at her word choice. If only she knew the sessions I had in mind, she wouldn’t say that to me.

  “Something funny?” she asked.

  “No, quite the opposite.” My tone was gloomy.

  “Then talk to me. What has been going on with you lately?”

  “I’m having dreams, dreams I don’t know how to interpret. Whether they’re my imagination or something to come.”

  “Tell me about the dreams.”

  I looked at her with one raised eyebrow.

  “Give it a shot.”

  “Fine. I think I’m having dreams of my rider.”

  She squinted. “I don’t understand.”

  “I think it’s my rider or what she would’ve been like if she was alive.”

  “She?” Irene said.

  “Yeah, I was always under the impression that it was a he until the dreams.”

  “Tell me about them. What do you feel? What do you do? How do you know it’s about your rider?”

  “I know how it sounds, okay? My rider doesn’t exist. They’re just stupid dreams.”

  “Nothing is stupid, Blake. Try me.”

  It was silent for a moment and then I just opened up. The words poured out of me and I told Irene about every single dream. She listened eagerly without saying a single word. So I kept talking. “And that’s that. It’s the last dream I had.” I looked at her. “Do you know what it could possibly mean?”

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