Dark Skye Read online
Lanthe hadn’t stopped screaming. Heat had scorched her until Thronos blanketed her body, but then they’d dropped. Her stomach plunged as they fell, yet she could see nothing from the cocoon of his wings. All she knew was that they were going to crash—hard. When even he tucked his head at the last instant, fear robbed her of breath. They hit, the craggy ground punching them like a giant fist. The force of impact sent them bounding into the air once more, a flaming skipping stone. Vertigo overtook her, confusion. She heard bones snap! Not hers? They crashed down again and again. Then something pierced the cocoon directly by her face; a jut of rock tore through the skin of his wing, the momentum ripping flesh away. They came to an abrupt stop, like the finale of a fatal car pileup. Thronos made no sound. Unconscious? Dizzy and panicked, Lanthe scrambled away from him. She shoved against his imprisoning wings, making him groan in pain. Freed, she stumbled to her feet, staggering on the stony terrain. She shook off her dizziness, taking stock of her own injuries. Burns only. Thronos had taken the full brunt. Flames still flickered on his back, hissing in the light rain. He’d broken bones, and that one wing lay wasted. Which she didn’t care about. Because he’d put her in that situation in the first place. It was his duty to mitigate the fuckup! She gazed around warily. Why had those fire demons targeted one Vrekener? Yes, Thronos was a Pravus enemy, but fire demons often acted as lackeys, hired guns. They’d be coming for him, and she needed to be gone when they did. She spied a natural path through the field of boulders, had just taken her first step when she heard another groan. In a pained rasp, Thronos called her name. Don’t look back at him, don’t look back. The last time she had, she’d been tormented by what she’d seen for all her days. Against her will, she found herself turning. His matte gray eyes were awash in misery as he grated, “Do not run . . . from me. ” The world seemed to shrink down, morning turning to midnight in her head. All at once she was back in the mountainside abbey, on the night her parents had been slain, the night Lanthe had first used her powers to save Sabine’s life. . . . “Wake, Lanthe. ” Sabine clutched her hand, wresting her from her bed. “Don’t make a sound. ” “What is it, Ai-bee?” Lanthe whispered sleepily. “Just hurry. ” As if to herself, she said, “I warned Mother and Father to move us from here, but they refused to listen. ” Sabine hated their troubled mother and distant father. She blamed the pair for everything: not providing food or shoes or new dresses. She railed against them for their constant sorcery outlays that put the entire family at risk: If even Lanthe insists that you’re using too much . . . Lanthe knew the two weren’t as good as other parents seemed to be, but her heart was filled with love—why not give it to them? “And now Vrekeners are in the abbey,” Sabine murmured. Here? “Mayhap they aren’t here to fight. ” Thronos was her secret best friend; he would never let his kind attack her family! “They’re here to kill our parents and abduct us. As they always do with Sorceri. ” They’d heard the tales. Sorceri who broke the laws of the Lore were executed, while their children were fostered in stern Vrekener families. Even with Sabine by her side, Lanthe was terrified as they stole through the abbey, lightning striking all around the mountain. They stumbled into their parents’ room. Mother and Father were curled together in sleep. Towering stained-glass windows allowed in the glow of lightning, distorting it. She blinked. For a second, she’d thought her parents appeared . . . headless. When the scent of blood hit Lanthe, her legs buckled. Their bodies were decapitated; the heads lay at unnatural angles, inches from their necks. Sabine threw up; Lanthe collapsed with a scream, her vision going dark as she hovered on the verge of unconsciousness. Mother and Father were dead. Never to return. Mother with her gaze frenzied as she beheld her precious gold. Father with his lost look whenever he beheld his crazed wife. Both dead . . . Lanthe dimly comprehended that the room had filled with Vrekeners, their wings flickering in the lightning-filled night. The leader held a fire scythe with a blade of black flames. Then she saw Thronos. His eyes were wide, and he was trying to reach her, but one of the men held him back. How could Thronos have led these killers here? After all the time they’d shared? After my confession just this morning . . . ? To Sabine, the leader intoned, “Come peaceably, young sorceress. We do not wish to hurt you. We wish to put you on the path of goodness. ” Sabine, the Queen of Illusions, gave a chilling laugh as she called up her power. Her amber eyes started to glimmer like shining metal, stark against her fire-red hair. “We know what you do to Sorceri girls. You plan to turn us into biddable, grave crones like your sour-faced women. We’d rather fight to the death!” She began creating her illusions; at once, the soldiers hunched down, as if they believed the ceiling was pressing down on them. Even betrayed like this, Lanthe wanted to ask Sabine to spare Thronos, but her lips moved soundlessly. Mother and Father are dead. Had her parents ever even awakened tonight? Sabine raised her palms toward the leader, using her sorcery to make him see his worst nightmares. He fell to his knees, dropping his scythe to claw at his eyes. With a smile, Sabine snatched up his weapon. She swung for his neck, was still smiling when blood spurted across her beautiful, ruthless face. Thronos gave a grief-stricken yell as the Vrekener’s head rolled to Sabine’s feet. Was the leader Thronos’s father? Lanthe’s sight was dim, but she thought Sabine’s illusions were . . . fading? Her sister would be facing these foes alone, all bent on avenging their leader. Lanthe found her voice just as a Vrekener sidled up behind Sabine. “Ai-bee, behind you!” Too late. The male had already struck. He slit Sabine’s throat, blood painting the walls as her small body fell. Lanthe’s daze burned away. She scrambled to her feet, shrieking, “Ai-bee?” She ran for her sister, kneeling beside her. “No, no, no, Ai-bee, don’t die, don’t die, don’t die!” Lanthe’s own sorcery was manifesting itself. The air grew warm, as electric as the lightning surrounding them. Sabine is leaving me. Because of Thronos and these men. My entire family taken from me in one night. A clarity such as she’d never known swept over her. My family dies; the Vrekeners pay. No longer would she hesitate to use her power. No mercy—for any of them. She commanded the soldiers, “Do not move! You stab yourself! Fight each other—to the death!” The room was thick with whorls of sorcery, and the abbey quaked all around them, the ancient rock walls groaning. A fracture forked along one of the stained-glass windows. In an earsplitting rush, it shattered. She turned to her betrayer, the boy she’d thought she loved. The boy who’d led these fiends straight to her home. He was wending his way around bodies to reach her, now that the adult who’d guarded him was dead. Voice breaking, she sobbed, “I trusted you. Sabine was everything to me. ” Then, louder, she commanded him: “Jump through the window”—the one hundreds of feet above the valley floor—“and do not use your wings on the way down!” His silver eyes pleaded for her not to do this thing, so she turned back to her sister’s body, refusing to watch. He never made a sound all the way down. “Live, Ai-bee!” Lanthe screamed, but Sabine’s glassy gaze was sightless, her chest still of breath. “HEAL!” she commanded, using all the power she possessed. The room quaked harder, jostling furniture. Mother’s head hit the floor and rolled, Father’s right behind hers. “Don’t leave me! LIVE!” More sorcery, more, more, MORE . . . Sabine’s eyes fluttered open—they were bright, lucid. “Wh-what happened?” While Lanthe was utterly emptied of sorcery, Sabine bounded to her feet, appearing rested. I brought her back. She’s all I have now. They fled from the abbey into the night. Yet in the valley, Lanthe trailed behind Sabine. She looked back over her shoulder, saw Thronos on the ground, clinging to life. His body lay broken, limbs and wings twisted, skin flayed. Somehow he raised his hand off the ground to reach for her with yearning in his eyes. . . . Now, hundreds of years later, Thronos raised his hand off the ground to reach for her once more. Just as she’d done that night, Lanthe turned from him and ran.