Night of the storm an ep.., p.16
Night of the Storm: An Epic Fantasy Novel (The Eura Chronicles Book 2), p.16K.N. Lee
Ayoki gasped as Luc’s throat was slit, crimson blood spilling onto the dirt.
Mai’s scream radiated through Ayoki’s body.
A flutter in Ayoki’s body made her tense. The life inside deserved a chance. It was above her self-loathing and fear.
“Ayoki,” Mai cried through terrified gasps for breath. “You are The Seer. Please.”
“Seer?” White fingers curled under Ayoki’s chin, tilting her head back so far that her long ponytail brushed against the small of her back. Marick was prepared to show Ayoki the same fate as Luc.
Ayoki sucked in a long breath.
And closed her eyes.
A soft buzz—like a swarm of bees came from the ground as purple smoke crept up Ayoki’s wiry body. Her skin cooled as the smoke—the power—filled her.
A hum filled her chest, clutching her lungs.
It had been so long.
“Ahhh,” Ayoki breathed, mystified by the sound of her own voice.
Marick’s fingers left her chin as if caught on fire. He looked down at his hand and shot a glare back at Ayoki’s face.
“Kill them. Now,” he ordered, raising his dagger.
“What’s happening, Captain?” The soldier seemed unsure, his eyes watching the rising smoke as it laced around their feet and up their legs.
Ayoki opened her eyes and raised a hand toward Marick. His dagger was ripped from his grip by an unseen force and shot to Ayoki’s open palm.
“You’re all about to die,” Ayoki said, her voice echoing through the trees.
Mai’s eyes widened.
She’d never seen this side of Ayoki, devoid of fear—the side that took Marick by the hand and thrust him to the dirt.
It happened within seconds, too quick for most eyes to see, or for anyone to retaliate.
Captain Marick groaned as Ayoki’s boot pressed against his throat.
“Mai,” Ayoki called.
“Girls,” her eyes going to the fierce set of twins that had risked their lives to save a pair of Shadow Elves they didn’t even know.
She’d spare them.
Mai looked from Captain Marick to Ayoki. Her lips trembled at seeing the whites of Ayoki’s eyes blacked out, her feet hovering above the ground and she folded her arms across her chest, Marick’s dagger still in her hand.
“Go and wait for me in the trees. Far from the circle.”
The purple smoke began to cover the ground around them like a thick fog.
Mai nodded, shaking as she came to her feet and darted into the forest.
“Hurry now,” Ayoki purred.
There was no room for fear when The Seer power filled her and took control. She’d never felt more confident in her life.
Mai ran, crunching dead leaves beneath her quick steps. The two human girls followed, desperate to keep up with Mai’s speed.
Good girls, she thought.
Once Mai and the twins were far from Ayoki’s area of effect—the range of her power, Ayoki cracked her knuckles and sucked in a long breath.
“Now,” she said, exhaling. She tilted her head, her sullen eyes fixed on Marick’s. “We shall begin.”
A DARK POWER WAS UNLEASHED—one that not even Ayoki completely understood.
No one trained her.
No one warned her.
The gods deemed her worthy, and she had no choice but to be that which destiny named her.
As purple smoke lifted, creating a funnel that spread. The trees within range bent backward as if bowing in reverse—or cowering.
Everything was consumed: Ayoki, the soldiers, and the traces of life that sprouted from the dirt.
Ayoki removed her foot from Marick’s throat and watched her power at work.
Their screams could chill the bones of Wexcyn himself, and Ayoki trembled—torn between disdain and a sadistic form of pleasure.
A burst of light shot from the ground, in a circle that trapped them all.
The first wave immobilized Marick and his men, gripping them with some unseen force.
The second, slow yet precise in its purpose, burned their skin. Pink flesh, ripe with fresh blood was revealed and exposed to the elements.
The screams grew louder, more panicked—agonizing as the acrid mist of the funnel covered them.
Ayoki lifted her arms and looked to the sky.
“Is this what you wanted?” Her chest heaved. “Is this all that I am?”
Her question to The Ancients went unanswered, and yet the part she was most afraid of—the sequence of her power that horrified her—didn’t relent.
Ayoki saw things.
Things that would never leave her.
But for now, it comforted her to know the true evil of the men that she was about to slaughter.
Ayoki closed her eyes. Later was another thing altogether.
Her victim’s darkest deeds were revealed.
Women screamed as their men were massacred, their virtue stolen without remorse. SO many women. In their homes. On the road to safety. None were safe.
Then the children.
Ayoki choked on tears.
Children wept and screamed, wide-eyed, and afraid as their innocent lives were stolen.
Ayoki’s eyes opened as she growled in rage.
The third wave was green, and the funnel spun as it ate at the soldier’s muscle until white bone was revealed.
Most of the men were dead by then, from shock, loss of blood, and utter terror.
Ayoki wasn’t done.
Not until the bone was turned to dust and dust carried away by the funnel of despair.
Seeing was all that was left as her funnel returned to her body, purple smoke, bolts of light, and all.
Ayoki fell to her knees. The images of depravity and evil haunted her. She covered her ears with both hands, desperate to stop the sounds of screaming and sorrow.
Why couldn’t that go away with the funnel? Why did she have to See those deeds for the rest of her life?
Cries of anguish escaped her lips.
Her voice had left her once more—with her power, but the crippling fear returned.
The Dark Princess of Death.
That title had followed her since she was a child and had mistakenly killed all of her friends one dawn after a game in the woods outside of their cavern home.
The Ancients warned her parents.
Let us assign her an Elder. Her power must be contained. She cannot be allowed to live untamed.
They hadn’t listened, wanting nothing but to keep her close and safe from the violence and chaos of the world
She’d killed them as well. Such guilt couldn’t be erased, no matter how hard she’d tried. However, the love of a man had eased the pain by a small measure, and now she didn’t even have him anymore.
Ayoki’s eyes flickered up, remembering that Mai still watched in the distance. She looked at her through a blur of hot tears.
Fear—it shone on Ayoki through Mai’s eyes. Even the human girls stared at her with unblinking, widened eyes as the sun’s light cast an eerie glow on them, highlighting the dust of the dead men.
Ashamed, Ayoki curled into a ball and sobbed into the silence, surrounded by tiny pieces of bones and blood.
The flutter in her belly no longer comforted her. The confusion of such loss was melted away as a rush of memories flooded her.
Ayoki’s eyes widened as visions of blood and pain came to her.
She couldn’t breathe.
My baby. My future, and second chance at happiness.
The flood of realization overwhelmed her.
Pretica, with her greed and jealousy, had stolen everything from her.
Ayoki had tried so hard to forget, to cling to the hope that her baby had given her.
And now, she was left with nothing.
Why couldn’t Elahe—creator of all of the god
She knew she’d never be that lucky.
FRESH AIR WELCOMED Lilae as she stood before the desolate city of Gollush. The cavern was nothing more than an empty shell.
Liam held her hand as they watched the final Shadow Elves leave their homeland to join the others beneath a stone staircase that led up to a sentry post.
Chief Matsuharu stepped up to the post and presided over the thousands of survivors.
“People of Gollush,” Chief Matsuharu began, his black hair blowing as the wind picked up. “All of you are welcome to follow us back to Koravi. You will be safe and treated like family. We will join forces as allies against the evil of Wexcyn. The betrayal of your former leader will not tarnish our ties nor our resistance toward what the fallen god wants for our world. In Koravi, we will rebuild, and our alliance will grow stronger because of it.”
Lilae and Liam stood side by side as the sun beamed down on them from the tall, charred trees, watching the Shadow Elves gear up for a trek to Koravi.
Cheering arose from the masses, and the elves pulled their quickly packed bags onto their backs and armed themselves.
Lilae sighed. She couldn’t help feeling guilty. Gollush might have still thrived if she and the others hadn’t stirred up such political drama with the enemy clans.
“No use lingering,” Delia said. She pulled the hood of her cloak over her black hair and glanced at the darkening sky. “We should get going. Vaugner will need to hear of Pretica’s betrayal. I fear what has become of the Seer.”
The sun that had just warmed Lilae’s face was now hidden behind gray clouds. Fat raindrops began to fall, splashing on her face, and she closed her eyes against the coolness of the water.
“We need her on our side,” Lilae said.
“Precisely,” Delia said.
Kenichi stepped closer to their circle. “She is nothing like Pretica. Ayoki is good. She would never betray her people. Or me.”
“Good,” Delia said. Her brows furrowed. She nodded to the sky as she eyed Liam. “Are you doing this?”
Liam followed her gaze and shook his head.
“I learned to control my emotions a long time ago,” he said. “I’m afraid I’m not bringing this storm.”
“Let’s get a move on then,” Rowe said, stashing his flask in his bag. “I’ve had enough of Nostfar. I draw the line at being poisoned. This place puts me on edge.”
“Why didn’t the poison affect you?” Lilae asked, still stunned that it had no effect on him.
“One of my Legacy traits makes me immune to posion.”
“Oh,” Lilae said. “That’s amazing.”
Rowe shrugged. “I’m just a big back of tricks,” he said, giving her a wink.
Neru left the congregation of Shadow Elves to join them. He’d collected his traveling gear and a bag of wyvern eggs from the Citadel.
Lilae lifted a brow. “Brilliant idea,” she said as he handed each of them an egg. She touched the smooth purple outer shell and felt a pulsing heartbeat beneath her fingers. “This will save us so much time.”
“Bloody brilliant,” Rowe agreed.
Neru held his wyvern egg in the air. “First, you must whisper to the wyvern and ask its name. You cannot summon one without permission and a name. Then, just toss it gently, and say your wyvern’s name, and it will appear.”
“This has been my wyvern since I was a young man. So, I already know her name.”
Everyone watched as Neru tossed the egg into the air. “Qynn,” he said, and a large, slender white wyvern broke from the shell.
Qynn stretched her leathery white wings. She was much bigger than the wyverns they’d rode to Gollush. Her long snout was smooth, yet rows of sharp silver teeth were revealed when she yawned and gracefully lowered herself to the ground beside her master. She purred and knelt her head at his boots.
Neru stroked the shimmering scales on her neck that reminded Lilae of the crystals she’d seen in the Avia’Torenan palace.
“Remarkable,” Liam said, letting go of Lilae’s hand to examine his wyvern egg. He looked down at Lilae. “This reminds me of Vleta, the dragon Wilem commands.”
“Really?” Lilae had only ever seen drawings of dragons and had never seen a wyvern before Pretica approached them. “I’ve been told that dragons are much like wyverns.”
Neru nodded. “Yes, they are similar. But, dragons have four legs while wyverns only have two.”
Liam nodded. “Ah, yes. That’s true.” He lowered his voice to speak to his egg.
Lilae did the same. She pressed her lips to the cool shell. “What is your name?”
“Triste,” a familiar voice called from inside. “My friend, you may summon me.”
A smile shone on Lilae’s face. Having Triste again was a welcome surprise. She remembered their conversation as he flew her to Gollush a week ago.
She tossed the egg. “Triste.”
The black wyvern revealed himself just as Liam’s, Rowe’s, and Delia’s did the same.
Even though they had met only once, Triste was like an old friend, a welcome one that promised an escape from the disaster she and her party were leaving behind.
“I will meet you at the Goblin City,” Neru said as he flew up with Qynn. “I must make sure the people of Gollush make it to Jordan.”
Delia nodded and climbed onto her wyvern. “Safe travels,” she said and held onto the reins with one hand and her staff with the other. She looked as though she’d ridden wyverns for years.
Graceful and sure of herself, Lilae attempted to mimic her, hopping onto Triste’s back and grabbing ahold of the reins.
“To the Goblin City we go,” Delia said and rose into the sky.
QUEEN ARIA FOLDED HER HANDS in her lap as she sat on her throne and listened to the crimes of her people. It was a dark time for Oren, where crime was on the rise, yet Aria knew she must remain stoic and resolute to keep order and peace.
Meetings such as this used to take two hours a day, but now there were so many crimes that Aria had to listen to the cases for half of her day.
She remembered sitting at her father’s feet as he oversaw criminal cases. He also had the ability to read the thoughts of others, and such a gift made it easy to deem who was guilty and who was innocent.
Still, Aria had been intrigued how even the most guilty man or woman would try to lie their way out of their punishment. She sentenced the last man to death for killing another man for his coin purse.
Desperation was rampant, but Aria would not allow order to be lost. They needed to stay civil, now more than ever.
Yoska sat beside her on the arm of her throne, his eyes watching her as she rubbed her temples.
“Just a few more,” he said. “And we must meet with Franco to discuss the famine in the countryside.”
Aria glanced at him and nodded with a sigh. Dark circles had developed beneath her eyes. Sleep was a privilege she was no longer used to. Her people were hungry, afraid, and desperate, and it kept her up each night.
“Maybe we can finally make a plan to keep the people outside the city fed.”
Her face blanched at the sight of the next guest. She sat up in her chair and leaned forward for a better look. Her eyes had to be deceiving her.
It wasn’t possible.
“Next case,” David, the palace secretary, announced. “Lady Sonalese Rochfort.”
Aria rose to her feet, eyes widened as she watched the young woman walk past the long rows of seated attendants that awaited their turn or simply wanted to spectate.
“Where is Liam?” She couldn’t stop herself from blurting the question that ripped at her insides.
She looked past Sona, expecting to see her son follow her. When he didn’t arrive, she shot a look at Sona.
The look on Sona’s face struck fear into her heart.
Cold eyes. Clenched jaw. Barely healed scars.
David’s eyes shot to Aria after he read from the scroll. He swallowed and looked back down at the writing on the cream parchment.
“Lady Sonalese Rochfort accuses Queen Aria of treason against the people of Oren.”
Silence filled the room as Aria covered her mouth with a trembling hand.
David swallowed, his eyes blinking, as he went on. “And for causing the death of her son, Prince Liam Marx.”
When her voice returned to her, Aria fought through tears to speak.
“What do you mean? Liam is not dead,” she said. “He can’t be.”
Sona stepped forward, tears in her eyes. “He is, and you killed him.”
Aria watched Sona turn to the crowd of onlookers. Dressed in a simple black gown with a red satin sash and black boots, Sona played the part of grieving widow.
“Queen Aria has lied to us. There are no Shadow Elves in our territory. Only militia that she sent out to not only destroy the Order but kill her son—our future King.” Sona’s eyes narrowed as she pointed a thin finger at Aria’s face. “Just like she killed her husband before her reign of lies.”
The whispers that followed stunned Aria. How could anyone even begin to believe such an accusation?
Their thoughts revealed their feelings.
It was a powerful emotion that could cloud anyone’s judgment.
Aria’s heart thumped in her chest, so loudly that she feared everyone in the room could hear it. She didn’t want to hear their thoughts, but the power within reached for those of one.
Sona, she thought as she read the secrets of the young Tryan woman’s mind. She clenched her fist as bile filled her throat.
Images of Liam falling into the sea struck Aria’s heart, nearly choking her. Blood stained hands and a bloodied dagger appeared.
A whimper escaped her lips as she looked Sona in the eyes.
What have you done?
ARIA LOOKED OUT THE WINDOW of her carriage as she and Yoska rode along the rocky road to the old Temples of Dyone.
Two large black wolves rested at her feet, snoring, as the carriage rose and fell with each bump in the dirt road that cut through the Dyone countryside. Aria’s brows were furrowed as she held a wolf pup in her lap as she struggled to accept the fact the Sona had killed her son.
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