Warning: First draft and written under the influence of cold meds.
Aren’s POV #1
The stone in the blacksmith’s hand glows blue as he drags it along my sword one last time, sharpening the blade with his magic. The metal is dark and unevenly shaded, not pure and pretty like the Court fae’s. But this is the way it should be. It will kill just as efficiently.
The blacksmith hands the weapon to me.
“Aren,” someone calls out. I recognize the voice, and I roll my shoulders, loosening my muscles before I turn. It’s Isyll, one of our palace spies.
“You’re early,” I say, keeping my voice calm and unconcerned. Isyll jogs toward me, breathing rapidly. Edarratae flash across her skin, protesting her presence in the human world. The bright blue lightning looks agitated, and the sweat beading on her forehead indicates she fissured multiple times to get here. Good. We can’t afford the Court fae learning our location.
“The king knows,” Isyll says when she reaches me. “He knows we learned the shadow-witch’s name.”
The blacksmith curses, and a murmur runs through the other fae who are near enough to hear her words. Trev, a fire-thrower who’s even more impatient than me to kill the shadow-witch, rises from the edge of the porch of the abandoned inn we’ve taken over.
“We learned her name too easily,” he says, moving to my side. “The king has set a trap for us.”
“The king has made a mistake,” I say, loud enough for everyone to hear. “Wait here.”
I open a fissure and disappear into the slash of white light before anyone says another word. The chill of the In-Between sharpens my mind, and an instant later, when I step into my room on the inn’s third level, I know exactly what we will do.
I grab a bag from a trunk in the corner and leave the room. Via the door, not a fissure. I can’t risk the In-Between stealing the contents of the bag.
Taking the stairs three at a time, I make it back to the front door within a minute of my departure.
“We go after the shadow-witch, now,” I say, striding onto the porch. I loosen the drawstring on the bag then toss it to the ground. Dozens of anchor-stones spill out. “They’re imprinted with the location of her school. We’ll take her there.”
“That’s not our plan.”
Trev and the other fae straighten when they hear Sethan’s voice. I don’t. I hop off the porch, pick up one of the anchor-stones, and toss it to my friend, the Realm’s future king. “I made a secondary plan.”
Sethan catches the stone in the air. “When-”
“Naito looked up everything about her he could find.” Which, admittedly wasn’t much. “She has a class schedule. We’re going to disrupt it.”
Sethan’s brow furrows while he weighs my words. He has more concerns than I do. More responsibilities. He has to think about the repercussions of my actions, how they’ll be interpreted by our allies, and even by our enemies. I don’t care what the others think. I have one objective: to keep this rebellion alive and thriving. To do that, I have to take out the shadow-witch. She’s tracked down and killed too many of our fae.
“No.” Sethan shakes his head. “We need her to be alone. We’ll wait at her home.”
“The king won’t let her return to her apartment,” I say.
“We’re not certain the McKenzie Lewis we’re targeting is the king’s McKenzie Lewis.”
“Naito’s looked at all the possibilities. This one is the best candidate.”
“I don’t want-”
“Sethan,” I interrupt. “We need to do this. We need to eliminate her. She almost tracked me. If she crosses paths with you, and reads your shadows, everything you’ve worked for will be lost. This rebellion will end.”
He isn’t convinced yet. It takes everything in me to stand my ground, not to push him too hard on this. He’ll come to the same conclusion I have in time. But time is the enemy. If the king knows we know the shadow-witch’s location, he’ll send his swordmaster to save her. I would relish that fight, but not today. Today, we need to cripple the Court fae.
“The nobles who support us are growing nervous,” Trev says beside me. “They’re afraid of the shadow-witch. They think she’s immortal and infallible.”
I fight to hide my smile. Perfect timing, Trev. Political pressure will bring Sethan to my view.
“This opportunity won’t come again,” I say, just one more small nudge.
Sethan closes his eyes, and my adrenaline spikes. I’ve won.
“Stay invisible,” he says. “Watch your weapons. I want no human witnesses.”
I palm an anchor-stone. Trev and ten other fae do the same. I scan their faces quickly then meet Sethan’s gaze.
“We’ll have only one human witness,” I tell him. “And she’ll be dead in a few minutes.”
Grinning, I draw my sword then open a fissure. The king will soon learn what it feels like to lose a valuable asset.