Warning: Unedited writing commences below.
Aren’s POV #3
Falling into a fissure without a plan is never a good idea. It’s even worse when the deadliest shadow-reader in the Realm is nearby. The shock of the In-Between makes it impossible to arrange a strategic exit. Fae instinctively open gateways to personal places, places that feel like home.
In my case, that’s my latest encampment.
Sethan, the fae I’m supposed to be protecting so he can take the throne, stares down at me.
“She didn’t see me,” I grind out, climbing to my feet.
“You’re sure?” he asks. His tone points out that mistakes like mine are why so many of our friends and swordsmen have been killed.
“She was scared and running, no pen or paper in hand.” I’m trying to convince myself, not him, that my words are true. This location should be safe, but the reason we’re going pursuing the shadow-witch is because she’s skilled enough to map old shadows.
I let out a sigh. Better to be cautious than to visit the Ether early. “Leave. I’ll meet you at the inn.”
Tightening my grip on my sword, I open a fissure. The In-Between holds me for a fraction of a moment then I’m back in the humans’ world.
In the twenty seconds I was away from the fight, our fortune changed. We’re losing. The king is sending every fae he has to save his precious shadow-witch, and my swordsmen are bleeding and fleeing.
Clenching my teeth, I look for my target. She’s there, running toward a fence with the sword-master at her side. While I watch, an arrow plunges into Taltrayn’s side.
He yanks it free. A smart fae would fissure to a healer, but he stays with the shadow-witch. They move together. She presses forward despite the arrows flying through the air. She has complete faith in his ability to protect her, and they’re in sync. More in sync than I’ve ever seen a shadow-reader and a fae. They know each other well. She trusts him with her life.
What might he trust her with?
The question wedges itself in my mind, but I signal to my nearest swordsmen as the shadow reader climbs the fence that surrounds the construction site. She crashes down on the other side. Gets up. Runs.
My fae occupy Taltrayn and the other Court fae. I catch Trev’s attention then, when the human disappears into the building, we fissure to its entrance.
Three more fae join us. We need line of sight to appear in unfamiliar places, so I take a step forward and peer inside.
As soon as I spot the shadow-witch sprinting across the cement floor, I enter the In-Between and exit in front of her, cutting off her escape.
She slides to a stop.
“McKenzie,” I say. Finally, we have the shadow-witch.
Her eyes go wide as she stares at me and my swordsmen, who’ve appeared on either side of me.
“McKenzie Lewis.” When I say her name this time, the panic in her posture disappears. She presses her lips into a thin, determined line then glances over her shoulder.
A slant of moonlight illuminates her face.
My first thought is that it would be a waste to kill her. She’s human and different, pretty in a foreign, innocent way, but she has fight in her eyes. Fear and hatred, too. She must believe every rumor about me that’s ever been spread. Some of them are true. The important ones are not.
Then my earlier question weaves its way through my mind again. She’s Taltrayn’s pet. She’s spoken with the king. She knows almost every high-level fae in the palace. If we could turn her…
She takes a step back, and the light that was shining on her face moves to her stomach. Her shirt is dark with blood.
“Are you hurt?” I battle down a surprisingly strong desire to step forward and heal her wounds. This human is the shadow-witch, I remind myself. She deserves to die for the fae deaths she’s called. I shouldn’t be concerned if she bleeds out.
She stares down at her shirt as if she’s never seen blood before.
Impossible. She’s seen violence – she’s responsible for most of it – but her expression hits me hard enough to fray my mental armor.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” I say. “I’d like to talk to you.”
Trev’s gaze jerks toward me. I ignore him, and my plan solidifies in my mind. Yes. Much better to use her than to end her. If even half of the innocence in her eyes is real, I can make this work.
“Look.” I sheath my sword and hold my hands out. I’m not going to kill her. I’m going to convert her.
Read the other Aren POVs