Chapter 91

I'd do anything to protect her.

It wasn't something he ever thought he would be able to admit to himself about the magician. The shock of finding out what she really was felt like so long ago. The knowledge had burned him. Turning his heart against her had been easy then.

Now, turning his heart anywhere else seemed impossible.

But this was his duty. He never thought he would have to fulfill it.

He knew the Princess of Sharpspeak. Nymra. It had been years ago, but they had spent a deal of time together. Back then, her wit and charm had made him lose his senses, an infatuation that consisted of long nights speaking about their homes and the futures that lay ahead. He had been a boy then. That the vision of a future together could bring him happiness and prosperity and peace to the Kingdoms had been a naive dream.

The fact that the same Princess had trapped Ardis for so long and harming her in the process twisted those fond memories into anger.

He had lost Ardis once, and he wasn't going to let it happen again. Not to the netherworld and not to that woman.

The bell outside the castle rang twice.

Ardis met his gaze. Her pale face likely matched his own at that moment.

The bells warned of magicians within the gates.

Ardis flew down the halls to where she knew the magicians had entered. She could feel their presence lingering near the entrance to the castle.

She wondered how they had managed to get past the guards when others had failed. They had Knights patrolling the town. The order had been death on sight for those with magic, something that angered Ardis, but also gave her a lingering sense of security. If they wanted to get her, they'd have to get through a multitude of armed men first.

She knew Capron trailed her. He said nothing. Perhaps he was trying to reach her through whatever remained of their mental link. But she had been sure to keep that shut, not trying to budge it or play with the connection after everything had happened. She was not yet ready to see what was on the other side.

She knew his hand was at the hilt of his dagger. If he was afraid, agitated or angered, she could sense none of it. He was the personification of the quiet storm she always saw in his eyes. Controlled and dangerous. Yet guarded, even to her. Perhaps he sensed what she was doing, and backed off just the same.

There were three of them, garbed in pale tunics, cloaks and worn boots, no different than any other peasant. A dead guard lay at their feet, fresh blood covering his neck.

As the three had been distracted by both her and Capron, another guard that had been knocked down rose to his feet behind them.


She knew it was a warning not to expose herself but she refused to heed his warning. After all, hadn't he said she couldn't keep running?

She threw the energy surrounding her at the three magicians. It was hot, she knew, fueling by such an anger she had never quite felt before. When it hit them, it sparked and singed the edges of their clothing, and buzzed against their skin, leaving ugly red marks that drew blood.

They cursed and yelled, and rushed toward her.

From her side, Capron darted out, gracefully bringing his blade across the path of the fastest one. She watched almost as though he moved through water, slicing the magician's sleeve, barely drawing blood before being thrown backward, twisting through the air until he met the marble of the castle's floor, sliding as his dark cloak tangled itself around tall form.

Stupid. How could he be so foolish?

Before she knew it, the magician had her pinned to the icy floor, his companions beside him, still cursing about their burning flesh.

"So you're the powerful one?" he asked. "Thought you were dead. Not disappointed though. I'm sure we can still have some fun."

Ardis tried to muster a wave to send them crashing against the marble as they had done to Capron, but she couldn't. Even weeks back in her body, she still felt the lingering effects of the wound, weakening her power. She was too weak to defend Capron. Too weak to defend herself.

She cursed internally as she let the magic alight within her. No. She was not weak. That was the last thing she was.

The magic hummed around her and she focused it into a point, carving across the angled face of her attacker, in a slow, deliberate motion.

He screamed through the blood that began to pour in rivers down his face. She felt the wetness spray onto her before he sprang back, trying to stop its flow. Before the two others tried to take his place, she drew more points in the air and threw them forward until the men were covered in bleeding wounds.

She could sense them summoning magic to try to stop the bleeding.

She tore her gaze from the scene and ran to Capron, suspecting the worst.

He held his arm tight to his side as he tried to get up. A hiss and a grown escaped his half closed lips. The dagger lay on the ground next to him.

"Are you-"

"I'm fine." He ground out, eyes flicking up to match hers. She caught a glimpse of something she hadn't seen before in their depths. "What were you thinking?"

"What were you?"

His gray eyes glared at her. "Me?" He looked behind her at the bleeding magicians that had fallen to the ground.

Surely she acted in self defense. But the anger had burned so eagerly through her veins. So much anger. Perhaps that's what he had seen in her eyes.

Guilt and regret twisted within her.

"I didn't mean—"

His hand brushed her cheek and she almost recoiled in shock.

"They would have killed you. Or worse."

"Cleary I can handle them. They weren't even after me. Everyone thinks I'm dead. You know that."

"They were probably after me." He dropped his hand.

"Even more reason for me to get in the way." She could feel the hot anger well up insider her once again.

"You don't have to put yourself in harms way for my sake. I already almost lost you"

She brushed the comment off, feeling heat rise to her cheeks, and focused her magic on where she knew his injury was.

But he grabbed her hand, his larger hand envoloping her much smaller one in warmth.

"What are you doing?"

She sensed the tingling energy between them. But did he too?

He must have seen something change in her eyes, for his gaze also lowered. Her legs shook and she could feel all thoughts of what just had happened leave her mind.

There was yelling. Someone dragged her away from Capron, pulling her backward before she had time to think. The scent of iron and grease filled her nose and could taste the tang of something bitter against her tongue. Her heart beat frantically in her chest. She took everything she had left and tried to burn the hands that held her.

The hands were gloved. It was a Knight.

She had used up her precious, limited energy before she needed it most.

"Capron!" she yelled out.

"I never would have suspected you." It was the Princess of Sharpspeak that spoke from somewhere behind the few Knights that blocked her path.

"Let her go." It was Capron that spoke. "You have no authority here."

"She has a contract." The Princesses said. "And now that I know for sure what she is, she has very little rights at all. In any of our Kingdoms. In Sharpspeak I'd have executed her immediately."

"Well you're in Halburn and under my rule." Capron snapped back. He pushed himself to his feet. His mouth was a line and Ardis could sense the pain he was barely holding back. "She's under my protection and you doing anything of the sort would do ill for our Kingdoms' current relationship." He let the last word hang in the air before he looked to Ardis. "She also just saved our lives."


The Knights moved to the side as the Princess walked between them toward Capron.

She reached a hand forward and took his. "You know what the case is. The Regent will not leave your kingdom to you until you have a solid stance against the magicians. Among other things."

The bitter taste in Ardis's mouth only intensified.

"Come, let us talk about things and I am certain we will be able to have the Regent gone within a few days. Everything will be as it should be and we won't have to worry about any of this," she gestured to the bodies, "happening again soon."

Bodies. There were only two bodies, not three, on the ground, covered in drying blood.

Ardis thought about saying something, but it was as if an invisible hand pushed her mouth shut just as she had been about to open it.