Night of the storm an ep.., p.9
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       Night of the Storm: An Epic Fantasy Novel (The Eura Chronicles Book 2), p.9

           K.N. Lee
 
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  This is what I’ve become, she thought. Death is my best friend.

  “Sona?”

  Sona tensed at the unexpected voice.

  “Is that you?”

  Sona turned around and looked blankly at Claus, her grandfather—the last member of her family. She had once thought of him as a friend.

  He looked weak, his skin hanging off his face. Just another Tryan affected by Wexcyn’s devastating plague. His bloodshot eyes looked on in horror as he noticed the carnage all around her. Dismembered bodies littered the floor.

  “What’s happened here?”

  Sona didn’t speak. She slowly crossed the room towards him. Claus reached out for her, as if to embrace her.

  She almost felt sad.

  Almost.

  It didn’t even cross his mind that she was the monster that he feared. To him, she was still that sweet little girl who used to beg him for sugar cubes meant for the horses. In the darkness of the large front room, he couldn’t see that she was soaked in blood. Her black leather concealed the evidence.

  Claus met her blue eyes and she cringed. His tear ducts were bleeding red tears.

  He’s crying. Why?

  Such an emotion seemed odd to her. Did he actually care about those people she had slain? They had always treated him like nothing more than the servant that he was. Perhaps seeing what she had become saddened him.

  She raised an arm to hug his neck. With one touch, he was hers. He melted into her arms.

  Charm was funny that way.

  She sighed. It was better for Claus to feel something similar to love in his last moment.

  He smiled at her, rubbing her smooth cheek as he had so often when she was a child.

  “Good bye, Claus,” she whispered reaching for one of the swords secured to her back.

  It glowed green with her touch. With a single, powerful, swipe, Sona sliced his head off.

  Claus’s head fell, and his body followed.

  Sona looked down at his body. He was the last. She could feel the power of her ancestors pass onto her. Centuries of Tryan knowledge and skills radiated through her. She was the last of the Rochfort clan—a Legacy.

  Her Charm and the powers of her entire clan would be unstoppable.

  Her smile stretched across her pale face. One chapter of her life had ended, and now, another more ruthless and unforgiving one would begin

  “IT’S NEVER LASTED THIS LONG.” Queen Aria stood on her covered balcony watching the storm rage on, its waves looking more like a wall of water prepared to crash into her castle.

  The waves of the sea roiled and crashed along the silver rocks behind the Orenian palace that hovered in the sky, hundreds of feet above land.

  She looked on in horror. The waves were higher than she’d ever seen. She feared that they might actually reach the palace.

  “Are you seeing this, Yoska?”

  “I’m sure it’ll pass.” Yoska’s white wings reflected the light of the moon as he flew to the balcony and stood on the stone railing. “I do find it odd that I didn’t encounter the storm until I reached Oren.”

  “Is Oren the only kingdom affected by this storm?”

  “I can’t say for sure. But, it does seem that way. I’d have to go investigate to be certain.”

  “What is happening?” She turned to walk back into her bedroom, and Yoska followed. He flew past her and landed on her plush red lounge chair.

  “What did Liam say when you went to him?” Aria wrapped a soft, blanket around her shoulders and pulled her legs under her.

  “After I told him about the girl being The Flame, his determination was renewed.”

  “The Ancients were right. Liam and Lilae are bonded. Out of all the other Chosen, they are the most connected. We’ve never heard a single word from the Silver Elves. When will they reveal who The Steel is?”

  “Perhaps something is keeping them from stepping forward.”

  Aria sat on her chair and picked up a cup of tea. She nodded and sipped the ginger spiced liquid. “I’d very much like their support. This war is as much theirs as it is ours.”

  “Indeed.”

  She took another sip, hoping it would settle her stomach. She winced, and Yoska moved closer to her. His dark eyes searched her face. For a moment, Aria thought that he looked worried.

  “What is it? Are you ill?”

  Aria shook her head. “It’s nothing,” she assured him, ignoring the pain in her belly. She sat the cup down and rested her head on the back of the chair.

  Banging on Aria’s outer chamber sent chills up her spin. After a quick glance at Yoska, Aria was on her feet. She hurried over to the door and opened it. Four of her soldiers waited outside.

  Her brows furrowed, as she looked the soaked soldiers over. “What is it?”

  The leader stepped forward and bowed. “Sergeant Strongbow, my Queen. Please forgive us, but it simply couldn’t wait.”

  “Come, let’s get you some tea,” she motioned for them to come inside.

  They stepped into her sitting room with muddy boots.

  “Mindy,” Aria called. “Get more cups and some fresh tea. And send for Lord Franco.”

  Mindy gave a quick bow and hurried to obey her orders. Aria watched her scurry down the red-carpeted corridor and turned to the soldiers.

  Each man was visibly shaken, his body tense, eyes wide.

  She propped the door open and entered her study.

  “Please sit. Tell me everything.”

  Strongbow cleared his throat and looked at her with deep-set blue eyes. “Elders, my Queen. We saw them outside the gates.”

  Aria’s face paled. “What?” She slumped into the nearest chair.

  “Nearly a dozen Elders—in their true form stand outside the gates.”

  “Like shadows,” a soldier said, looking up at Aria. “Horrifying sight, Queen Aria.”

  The Ancients had told her nothing about the Elders roaming the lands. Why were they congregating outside her city?

  Wexcyn had destroyed the majority of the Elders years ago. Only a few had escaped his takeover of the Underworld.

  “It’s unheard of for the living to see them,” Yoska said.

  It could only mean one thing.

  The Elders were waiting for death. A lot of it.

  Mindy entered the room with a tray. The soldiers accepted hot cups of tea and nodded thanks to her.

  Lord Franco arrived in a huff. He stood in the doorway, his staff pointed at the soldiers.

  “This is unheard of, your highness,” he called to Aria. His face was twisted in disgust as he looked at the soldiers. “It’s simply improper to host men in your chambers like this. Especially soldiers. Who told you that you could come up here?”

  “Calm down, Franco. They know the rules, but I commend them for coming straight to me.”

  Lord Franco pursed his lips. He was much older, with long gray hair and a thick gray beard. His blue robes swished as he stepped inside.

  “What could be so urgent?”

  “Elders,” Aria answered, and his bushy brows stood up in surprise.

  “They wait outside the gate, in the darkness of the forest. They don’t speak. They don’t move. They simply wait.” Strongbow looked toward the open door that led to Aria’s sleeping quarters. They could see the sky brightening outside her balcony.

  “Aria,” Yoska said. “I hear something coming.”

  “What is it?”

  Yoska tilted his head. “I’m not sure. I will go check it out.” He lifted himself into the air without a word and flew from the room and out the balcony door.

  Not yet. Please. Not yet.

  Her eyes fixed on the storm outside. Thunder crashed, and lightning followed.

  Aria didn’t want to admit it, but it was happening—one of her worst fears.

  Wexcyn was making his move.

  Lord Franco shook his head. He rested both hands on his staff. “Elahe save us.”

  The sky became green, two layers of cloud
s crossing paths, highlighting a faint light from the moon. A sound even louder than the thunder resonated throughout the entire kingdom. It sounded as if the entire world was cracking into two, and it was.

  The ground split below, and they trembled above.

  Doom had arrived to make her people suffer, and Aria could do nothing about it.

  Everyone rose to their feet.

  Their hands went to the hilts of their swords, but Aria knew that weapons would be useless against what was coming to destroy them.

  A roar came from the sky.

  The ground rumbled, and Aria tensed.

  Please. Don’t abandon us now.

  Silence.

  The Ancients had warned Aria.

  There would be no more communication between her world and the Overworld.

  The palace shifted, sending everything from the shelves on the wall to the floor as the palace continued to make its descent to the ground. What once floated serenely close to the clouds met the soil, crushing those who were beneath it in the courtyard.

  “Wait,” Lord Franco said. “It might not be over.”

  Another blow never came, and Aria crawled to the balcony.

  She had to see what had assaulted her ancestral home—the home Liam would one day rule.

  Aria stood at the stone railing of her balcony and looked from the calm sky to the sea. The palace was at the edge of the sea and level with the ground. Soldiers and servants waited, watching the sky in a daze, and her gaze followed theirs.

  Aria held her breath.

  There was a hum as a cloud of smoke descended upon Oren until it was lost in a thick fog.

  PART TWO

  FAINT CHANTING MADE Emperor Kavien risk opening his eyes.

  Exhaustion had taken over days ago, but he would try to reach Lilae once more. He needed her, but he knew it wasn’t Lilae chanted those words. It continued as if to taunt him with its haunting beauty.

  While his body remained frozen in a death-like curse, he still controlled one of his powers. Therefore, he peered outside of his mind to places only his mental powers could reach. Any escape from this nightmare was worthwhile.

  He stood up from his place on the cold, wet floor and pounded his fist into the wall. His hand bounced away from the wall of visions, and he stumbled back disoriented.

  He pounded on the wall of his own mind’s Sight, a place of darkness and dread, where The Horrors awaited.

  Kavien’s mother would lock him in an empty wardrobe and make him stay there in the dark. He had been five years old the first time—right after Wexcyn first visited him in his dreams.

  Young Kavien would sit there miserable in the dark for hours, with those voices, trying to focus. Not until he could see her and speak to her when she was halfway to the other side of their home would she let him out.

  “What are you doing?” Kavien asked as he finally located the source of the chanting.

  Sona stopped abruptly. “What was that?” Realization filled her blue eyes. “Oh. It’s you, Emperor.”

  Kavien watched Sona straddle a man in the middle of an abandoned street somewhere that looked much different from Avia’Torena.

  A tight grin formed as she plucked an eye from the young man’s head, all the while ignoring his shrill screams of terror.

  “Why haven’t you arrived with the antidote yet?”

  “Wexcyn needs me here in Kyril. You will have to wait.”

  Just as he’d feared. His father was going to make him suffer.

  Punishment. That’s what this curse was.

  Kavien slumped to the floor.

  The curse Sister Eloni had put on him had ruined his plans of escape with the woman he loved. Now, he had no idea if Lilae was alive, dead, or if she truly knew how much he cared about her.

  “Why are you tormenting that man?”

  His eye sockets were congealed with crimson blood. She dug a finger into the pool, and his body began to jerk.

  “Nikolaj deserves everything I’ve done to him. I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”

  Sona stood and kicked the dying man with a booted foot. Nikolaj didn’t make a sound. She looked to the sky as her muddy heel crushed the young man’s throat. Then, she rubbed her hands together, smearing the blood over her knuckles.

  “They say that you are the presumed ruler of the entire New World. And yet, you cannot control your own mind. What do The Horrors say to you, Emperor?”

  The Horrors were the voices that had haunted Kavien since childhood. A weaker man would have been driven mad by now. He thought he would have been lost to the world if Lilae hadn’t taught him to resist their constant torment.

  He watched Sona glance over her shoulders at the dead bodies strewn over the dirt roads. A green fog that enveloped her, making her look like a ghost as she stood there white as snow and dressed in all black. Her black hair, wild and loose, blew away from her face in the wind.

  “Where are you?” Kavien looked out into the world she was in.

  His body was paralyzed back in the palace, and people he didn’t trust were left to roam his palace unchallenged.

  “This was Evans Glade. It’s a small city on the outskirts of Oren. It’s where I grew up. I’m almost done here. Then I shall head to the capital of Oren.” Sona paused and looked up. “Emperor?”

  Kavien looked out at the sun setting above her. The world outside taunted him. “What?”

  “I killed The Storm—even though I loved him. Why didn’t you kill The Flame? Did you love her? Were you too weak to end her life?”

  Kavien was silent. Perhaps he was weak. He let Lilae get under his skin and into his heart.

  Still, despite his current plight, he didn’t regret it. Love was a mysterious thing to him. But, Kavien would do it again.

  “I’ve been ordered to kill her.” Sona’s eyes started to glow for just a moment as she fingered her dagger’s blade.

  His fists clenched at the thought of anyone harming Lilae. Still, he kept silent. It would be unwise to reveal his plans and thoughts.

  Somehow, he would protect the woman he loved.

  Kavien broke the connection between their minds, unwilling to hear her speak ill of Lilae any longer.

  The darkness of his mind let the fear return. It crept onto him like a spider, making his flesh tighten as he listened to the silence.

  The silence didn’t last long.

  Scratching on the floor sent shivers up his nude body. The distinctive scurrying of feet made him tense. Cold, slimy hands reached and grabbed him.

  Kavien held his breath as if he was going under water.

  His eyes widened in terror as those hands began scratching and clawing at him.

  “Get off me.”

  The laughing became more of a roar that made his skin crawl with such dread that tears burned his eyes.

  “Kah Vi Ennn.”

  The voices were no longer just voices.

  In this cursed place—the darkest depths of his mind—The Horrors were real.

  “TRY SOME LAKTI SAUCE on your lamb,” the Shadow Elf woman said to Liam with a smile of pride.

  Nearly as tall as Liam, with shoulder length red hair, the older woman stood behind a serving table filled with bowls and serving platters of food that all looked new to Liam. Everything smelled appetizing, so he nodded.

  “I’ll try it,” Liam said.

  “Trust me, you’ll enjoy it. It has just enough mint to bring out the truest of flavors.”

  Standing in the serving line of the Citadel dining hall, Liam and Rowe simply let her ladle the sauce onto their lamb and bread.

  “Food is food,” Rowe said as they carried their oval iron bowls to the seating area. Elves of all ages came to the Citadel daily for food and drinks.

  It had been nearly a week since they’d arrived in Gollush, and the elves were getting used to them being out in public, mixing in with their culture.

  Liam even wore a traditional Valhoran tunic. Rowe, on the other hand, washed his heavy Orenian
clothes daily, citing that the Shadow Elf clothing wasn’t tall, or wide, enough.

  They sat together before an open archway that looked out on the green river that flowed through the cavern. Women and children dressed in white clothing bathed in its waters, pouring the cool water onto each other and swimming back and forth.

  The men sat on the rocks on both sides, fishing for the mystical red-sparkled fish that resembled lizards.

  “Makes you think of the Silver River, doesn’t it?”

  Liam nodded and took a bite of his bread. It was soft and chewy, with a nutty flavor. “It does. I do miss home sometimes.”

  Rowe nodded. “We will return when all of this is over.”

  “Yes, we will. And Cammie will have your little one in her arms, ready to hug Papa Rowe,” Liam said with a chuckle.

  Pretica entered the dining hall, and everyone grew quiet.

  Liam was broken from his thoughts when she sat next to him. He looked up from his half-eaten plate to see her heading straight for them.

  He sat up, his forehead creasing. “Everything okay?”

  Pretica, dressed in a dress instead of her usual pants and simple shirts, sat beside Liam. She hooked her legs over each side of the row seat, the sides of her dress clinging to her thighs.

  “Thought I’d join you two,” Pretica said before motioning for one of the ladies that poured the drinks.

  “Of course,” Liam said. “We were just finishing up. I was going to check on Lilae.”

  “You should let her rest,” Pretica said. “She is in good hands.”

  “She is,” Liam agreed. “Still, I like to check on her myself.”

  Pretica dipped her finger into Liam’s food. “I see you tried our famous Lakti sauce,” she said, using her long tongue to lick the dripping sauce from her long finger. Her eyes met Liam’s. “What do you think?”

  “It’s quite bland,” Rowe said, breaking Pretica’s focus on Liam.

  She shrugged. “Can’t please them all, can you?”

  A young woman with long black hair braided into two braids bowed to Pretica, her head nodded down to her knee and hands stretched behind her as she did so.

 
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