Night of the storm an ep.., p.4
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       Night of the Storm: An Epic Fantasy Novel (The Eura Chronicles Book 2), p.4

           K.N. Lee
 
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  Through the fog, the elf disappeared. Ved paused, twirling around as he searched for the elf.

  A silver rope wrapped around Ved’s neck and yanked him through the sky. Wilem slipped from his grasp and held his breath. Terror filled his eyes as he fell down, into the fog.

  He screamed.

  “Wilem!” Jorge and Vars shouted in unison.

  Wilem cut through the fog and started to scream since he could see the ground coming closer.

  “VLETA!” Wilem grabbed the talisman that hung from his neck and squeezed his eyes shut.

  The metal heated. A bright light filled the entire sky, and his descent came to a stop. He felt something sleek beneath him. Something massive.

  “Master,” Vleta, his dragon said. She soared through the air. An ancient power had been summoned: a frightfully large black and gold dragon, the secret weapon of the Tryans.

  Wilem sighed with relief and held onto Vleta’s thick-scaled neck.

  Ved’s sword fell past Wilem’s face. Wilem gasped and grabbed it. He had an idea, but no time to waste. He held the sword in his hands and called the power of Creation.

  He didn’t know what he was making exactly. But out of desperation, he turned the sword into light that made their surroundings glow.

  Wilem grimaced, feeling something jerk around inside him. Then, his eyes widened, and he shrieked when the bright sword carried him and Vleta higher.

  Wilem looked down at the ground as it grew farther and farther away in shock. He cut through clouds and soared upward like a bird.

  “What is going on?” he asked Vleta.

  Vleta seemed unsurprised as the power of the sword catapulted them higher into the night sky. She spoke clearly, calmly. “You are a Legacy, Master. You now have every ability your clan once had. Every power. Every trait. All is yours.”

  With a dull clicking sound, the elf reappeared from the sphere. The bright light was so intense that it made Wilem wince.

  Wilem covered his eyes and peered through his fingers to see the elf grab Ved by the neck with one arm and reach for his dagger with the other. Wilem swung the glowing sword at the elf and sliced through his arm. Wilem gasped, and the elf shouted out in pain.

  Ved slipped free.

  The elf’s arm bled, hacked completely through with one blow. Ved flew behind and took the chance to stab him in the back with his sword. A loud screech erupted from the elf’s mouth before his dying body was carried away by its wyvern, down into the darkness and clouds.

  “Are you all right?”

  Ved nodded quickly as he stared at Vleta with uncertainty.

  “And you, Wilem?”

  “I’m cold!”

  The fairy turned blue but didn’t seem to mind the cold of their high elevation. Wilem, on the other hand, felt so cold that he wanted to simply close his eyes and sleep. He rested his head against Vleta’s warm neck.

  “Don’t worry, you will be warm again soon. Just hold onto the dragon and don’t let go.”

  The air grew warmer when Vleta flew a little lower and Wilem was much more comfortable. His heart still pounded with adrenaline, and he was sure that was why he’d survived the intense cold above the clouds.

  Wilem had killed one Shadow Elf, rescued his best friend and saved a fairy warrior. What he had done with Ved’s sword still vexed him. Never had he been able to do such things. His father could Create better than anyone, and make things catapult him into the air. Maybe he inherited that skill.

  Legacy.

  That word finally meant something.

  “Where are we going?” What does it matter? Wilem thought. No place is safe. His hands began to thaw, his fingers stiff like ice.

  “We need to get you and Jorge to Alfheim. Queen Aria will be there waiting for you.”

  Wilem’s nose scrunched up. “Who is Queen Aria?”

  “Prince Liam’s mother.”

  Wilem’s face softened. He missed Liam. He’d never felt as safe as he did when Liam was around. Maybe Liam’s mother could make him feel the same, but he was afraid to get his hopes up.

  “What’s happening down there?” Wilem hoped that Lady Evee was safe.

  She was always so nice to him all of the time. She always made sure he and Jorge had enough food to eat, and that the fairy boys would include them in games. He would hate to see anything bad happen to the fairy queen.

  “Kyril is falling apart. This is no longer our home.”

  Wilem sighed. His hair blew in his face, and he squeezed his eyes shut to keep the strands out. “Home is a word that means nothing to me anymore.”

  “Do not worry. We will protect you and Jorge, Prince Wilem.”

  “I wish everyone would stop calling me that.” Wilem scrunched up his face in distaste. “I am not a prince anymore.”

  “As you wish,” Ved said without question.

  “Thank you.” Wilem flew closer to Ved. “What is Eura like?”

  Ved shook his head. “I do not know. But we shall know in a matter of hours.”

  “Really? It’s that close?”

  “Yes, The Barrier is just over the sea. We can be there by tomorrow evening. Can you handle flying that long?”

  “I can.” Wilem closed his eyes and wished that Alfheim would be a better place and that Liam would find him again someday.

  LIAM RUBBED HIS HANDS in front of the fire.

  Delia and Rowe had been asleep for a few hours. Both Nani and Rowe had fought to find their way to Liam. Now, Nani was gone. The Overworld was her new home.

  Liam missed her. Her laughter and love could cheer his gloomiest moods. He’d never wanted to see the Overworld so much in his life. Just one more time, to see his friend once again.

  Dawn wasn’t too far away, and yet Lilae was still awake.

  From the corner of his eye, he saw Lilae roll over onto her back. She sighed and looked up at the sky.

  “Can’t sleep?”

  Lilae turned onto her side and rested her head in her palm.

  Her red hair fell over her shoulders, the tips pooling into the dirt. She pushed the mass of hair behind her and shook her head.

  “No,” she said. “I can take your watch if you’d like.”

  It was unfortunate that Garion couldn’t watch over them while they slept. Delia’s control over the undead skeleton warrior was weakened in her sleeping state. So, while she slept, she reduced him to a single bone.

  To recharge.

  “I’d be happy if you simply kept me company.”

  Lilae nodded and stared at him, her big green eyes taking in every inch of his face.

  Not even Sona, despite her spell over him, had made him feel unsure of himself the way Lilae did. He cleared his throat.

  He would not waste another moment thinking about the woman who betrayed him. Not when the girl from his dreams was right there, beautiful and real.

  Liam sat beside her. “What were you thinking about before I came over? Is something troubling you?”

  She lifted a thin red brow. “Other than the god trying to kill us?”

  “Yes,” Liam said with a smirk.

  “I was thinking about Auroria. No one told me anything about my birth mother.” She stared into the fire, her eyebrows furrowing. “Until my father was killed.”

  “I’m sorry to hear that.” He wanted to pull her into his embrace and console her. He barely remembered his own father. Queen Aria had raised him on her own. She’d never taken another husband.

  “I never even knew he was my father until seconds before his death. Can you imagine learning that your mother was a queen? After living like a peasant all of your life. After thinking no one cared about you as more than a nuisance or duty.”

  “That must have been hard.”

  Lilae shrugged. “Being made a slave forced me to think about other things,” she said. “Like staying alive.”

  The thought of her being in danger turned his stomach.

  Liam took her hand. When she didn’t pull away, he held it, comforted
by the warmth of her palm against his. He couldn’t believe how much chemistry there was between them, in just hours of meeting one another.

  “When I learned of your capture, I wanted to rescue you.”

  “Why didn’t you?”

  He sighed. “Yoska, my mother’s advisor told me that you would have to escape on your own. That I had other duties.”

  He couldn’t look her in the eye at that moment. Shame washed over Liam at the thought of Lilae being enslaved by their enemy, and doing nothing about it. He should have trusted his instincts and gone after her. But there she was, safe, and had done just as the Ancients thought she would.

  Liam glanced at her. He could tell that although she looked innocent, Lilae was a formidable adversary. Luckily, she was on his side.

  “I wish the Ancients would look at us as more than pawns in a game,” Lilae said. “I could have been killed by that filthy Shadow Elf. With the same dagger that he used to kill my father.”

  Tears welled in her eyes. Her fist was clenched.

  “But you were strong, Lilae. You did exactly as they knew you would.”

  “But why?” Her bottom lip trembled. “What was the point of making me suffer? I suffered enough by losing my entire family. How am I supposed to go on after so much tragedy?”

  Liam didn’t know what to say. He’d lost almost the entire Order of soldiers under his command. Each was a friend, and now they were gone.

  Lilae rubbed her eyes and then covered her face with her hands. “My father would be so ashamed to see me in tears. I wasn’t always this weak.”

  “You’re not weak.” Liam stroked the back of her hand. “I know that for a fact.”

  “How?”

  “Because you’re sitting here with me right now. You fought your way to me, just as I fought my way to you. Against all odds. Here we are.”

  Lilae tilted her head. “I dreamt of you. Many times.” She rubbed her eyes again and drew her legs into her chest. “I thought you weren’t real.”

  A smile came to Liam’s lips. “That’s funny. Because I thought I made you up.”

  “And here we are,” Lilae said. “Together at last.”

  “Get some sleep, you two,” Delia called from her place beside the fire. She sat up and stretched her legs. “I’ll keep watch. Tomorrow we will stop in a town called Dunn for supplies.”

  Lilae laid her head on her arm and looked at Liam from across the fire.

  “Good night,” she whispered.

  Liam smiled at her. It was surreal that they were finally in the same place. As she closed her eyes, he felt cheated. He’d give anything to lay beside her and stare into her eyes forever.

  What was that feeling?

  He’d thought he’d felt it with Sona once before, and it had been real to him.

  He refused to believe that everything he and Sona had shared was part of the enemy’s plan.

  The spark that fluttered in his belly felt too good.

  Too real.

  Liam’s smile faded.

  He pushed it away, and rested on his back, his eyes fixed on the stars above.

  Sadness washed over him as he told himself to resist her charms.

  Charm couldn’t be trusted—no matter who they came from.

  LILAE HAD TO REPRESS THE urge to cover her mouth at the horror she saw as they walked into the southern town of Dunn.

  Heads cloaked, they entered the newly conquered city, where the people were unlike those Lilae had seen in the palace. These people looked much like the ones she had grown up with. She’d seen so many shades and types of people through her travels but never had she seen the aftermath of one of Emperor Kavien’s conquests.

  Hanging by their necks from the branches of trees were Shadow Elves. She had only encountered Dragnor in her life, yet these elves were different.

  What were their crimes?

  She stared up at the Shadow Elf woman and what looked to be her young grandchildren. There were two boys of about seven and eight and a small girl.

  All in a row.

  “Delia,” Lilae whispered, her eyes transfixed on the little girl’s face. She nearly burst into tears at seeing her tiny body hanging there, but held it in.

  “Yes?”

  “What’s happened here?” Lilae nodded toward the dead bodies, but tried to avoid looking at them again. The smell was enough to turn anyone’s stomach.

  Delia didn’t glance at the bodies. She looked ahead. “War, Lilae. This is what war looks like. The humans have suffered many raids and attacks from Shadow Elves over the year. So much so that they have lost the ability to separate the innocent from the guilty.”

  Dunn reminded her of Lowen’s Edge, and just like when she and her family had entered the busy town, the suspicious eyes now followed them as they walked the road into the town square.

  There were similar two-story cottages with shops on the bottom and winding dirt roads. The people looked about the same—pale, freckle-faced, with brown hair. Still, there was a sense of gloom that lingered in the air. This is what Avia’Torenan armies had left behind when they conquered a city.

  Lilae’s face paled as she listened to the whispers. She shot a look at the woman and man who stood before a goat chained to a post.

  “Liam,” she said.

  “Yes?”

  “They are talking about your glow,” she said.

  “Let them talk,” Delia said. “We are only here to purchase supplies. They will have to deal with the presence of Tryans for a few hours.”

  Liam and Rowe nodded.

  Lilae’s heart quickened when she noticed the crest of the Avia’Torenan palace on the shoulder of some of the men’s armor. Fear rose as she noticed that there were Avia’Torenan soldiers all around the town.

  The only sounds were of their laughter as they harassed the townsfolk.

  Delia glanced over her shoulder and saw the soldiers as well.

  “Come,” Delia said. They veered off the main road and entered the closest building.

  Inside, there was an old man wiping the tables with a wet rag. He paused mid-stroke and looked them over. His gray beard was long, yet he only had sparse hairs above his ears.

  “You need a room?” His voice was tired.

  Delia shook her head. “No. We need food for the road. And clothes. If you can provide this for us, I will give you this bag of coins,” she said, lifting her coin purse from her belt.

  The man stared at Delia before his eyes went to the other three and down to the coin purse. “Cally!”

  “Yes, Pa?”

  “Get out here.”

  A young girl rushed from the back room. Cally couldn’t have been older than nine, but she wore her apron proudly. She rubbed her wet hands on her apron and looked at her father. Her hair was braided in two blonde pigtails that reached the tops of her shoulders.

  “Get these folks a few packs of food and jugs of water. And pack some of Paddie’s old clothes.” He looked back at Delia. “Hungry?”

  “We don’t have time for food,” Delia said.

  “Well, you’re not leaving in the daytime without the soldiers seeing you and entertaining themselves with your deaths,” he said. “You might as well eat, and stay inside until nightfall. I can help you out of town.”

  Delia pursed her lips. She turned her back on the old man and spoke in a hushed tone. “He’s right. We don’t want any trouble. We will hide inside until this evening.”

  “I’ll take that as a yes,” he said. “I’m Morrow. Have a seat back here in my private house.”

  He led the way from the main dining area to the back, where a dark hallway opened to a small room with a wooden table and chairs. Lilae looked around. A pot of potatoes sat on the table, peelings littered the table and floor beside it.

  Morrow said something under his breath and started cleaning the peelings up and putting them into another pot that would probably be used for a stew.

  “You Tryans with your glowing skin,” Delia said as she looked
at Liam and Rowe.

  Liam shrugged. “There’s not much we can do about it.”

  “I know,” she said. “It’s not your fault your Ancient loves pretty, glowing things.”

  Rowe pulled out a chair and sat down. “I’m not opposed to a meal while we wait.”

  Morrow nodded. “I have some goat and potatoes I can bring out.”

  “That is fine,” Delia said. “We appreciate your kindness.”

  “No need to thank me, miss,” Morrow said, holding a chair out for Delia.

  She accepted it and sat down, her hand on her staff and the other in her lap. “Thank you.”

  He went on, pouring cups of water for everyone. “We do not agree with what those soldiers are doing to our town. When they attacked, they took all of the young men that had any interesting traits and killed the rest. And our women—slaves back in the empire.”

  Lilae lowered her eyes, her chin clenching. She knew this story all too well.

  “Those Shadow Elves hanging out there did nothing to us. They soldiers will kill you for no reason other than being different.”

  “I am sorry for your loss,” Lilae whispered.

  Morrow shrugged. “No need to apologize. It was not your fault.” He picked up the pot of potatoes from the table and headed to the archway. “I’ll bring the food.”

  Lilae plopped into a chair beside Liam.

  “I wonder how many towns are occupied by soldiers,” Lilae said, picking up her cup of water. She took a long drink and felt the cool liquid travel to her empty belly.

  “I’m guessing most are. I’d be surprised if any kingdoms or cities this far south are still free from Emperor Kavien’s empire,” Delia said.

  “Holy Elahe,” Liam said. “So you think that the North is the only free land in Eura.”

  “Yes, Liam. I’m afraid so.”

  They all thought about that in silence. The armies Kavien must have gathered were more than they could ever amass.

  Morrow returned and set down a platter of goat in a dark sauce and a plate of potatoes. He set an empty plate before them all and left once more.

  Lilae didn’t wait. She dug into the goat, tearing off a chunk for herself. She bit into it and groaned with delight.

 
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