Her only chance to right the warring Faerie lands to harmony will be to resist the enchantments of the Ice King, one of the Ancient rulers of Faerie, to regain her power and make it to the Summer Kingdom with her family to claim back her throne.
Only the Ancients of Faerie don't want her to succeed and there are treacheries in every crevice of the land, even among the human mortals and trusted alibis.
Shade’s ears rang from the darkling’s screech and she had the sudden urge to let go of Camulus and Brisa to cover them to make the shearing noise go away. She resisted, afraid she’d end up in some weird teleporting limbo if she dared disconnect from Camulus now. She endured the pain and feltBrisa trying to tug away from her too, probably also in torturous pain. The jaunt could not have ended sooner and she found the entire bunch writhing on the floor from the darkling’s searing call.
Shade followed suit, collapsing to the ground and grabbing at her ears. Moments passed before the relentless ring faded away, leaving them all breathing hard and sweating buckets. Shade pulled her arm away from her ear to grasp her other arm, which now was throbbing with a searing pain. Slowly opening her eyes as she breathed deeply in and out, she saw why her arm was hurting so much. A black spot where the darkling had touched her right before they had teleported away stood stark against the pale skin of her forearm. It sent spikes of pain radiating up her through her elbow, up her shoulder and into her chest. She gasped, gritting her teeth from the agony.
The others were now finally getting to their feet, some still dazed from the deafening screech. Dylan held his hands on his knees, crouched down as he shook it off his senses. Noticing that Shade was still on the ground, he hurried toward her and knelt down. She was grabbing her left arm and shaking uncontrollable, tears leaked from both her eyes and her face was screwed up in pain.
“Shade?” He pulled her up to sit against him but she could barely open her eyes to register him.
“It’s burning!” She gasped, clutching her arm against her chest, cradling it softy.
“The darkling, it touched me before…before we left.” Shade tried to breathe the pain away, but it was winning and she wasn’t sure how long she would stay conscious. “What is this?”
“A darkling’s kiss.” Soap slid down to check out the wound. It was hot around the edges and the black spot wasn’t growing. Still, Shade grunted through the torturous agony. “When a darkling marks you, it dies. In death, its touch poisons your blood slowly until all of your blood turns black and you either become a darkling or…” he cleared his throat, looking solemn. “Or, you die. But it takes just a few days.”
“We have to take her out of here or she’ll die.” Corb stated, gritting his teeth at the Teleen warrior. “You have to come, though I’d prefer you stay here and rot.” He turned and whisked her away down the hall. Dylan followed close behind, afraid to lose sight of Shade forever.
The atrium was as before, with the enormous Great Oak Tree standing like a king in the middle of the room. Corb brought her to lie next to the great, metallic trunk of the tree and turned toward Dylan.
“You’ll have to be touching her at the same time as you ask the tree for sanctuary. Tell it where to go. Hurry!”
“Why can’t you?” He grabbed Shade’s fallen hand, feeling her shaking from the cold and her lips slowly turning an unsavory shade of blue.
“I’m an Ancient. There is no sanctuary for Ancients of Faerie. The tree is an ancient unto itself. I can ride along with you, but I cannot make the request.” He motioned Dylan, looking more desperate as the moments ticked by.
Dylan frowned, grasping her hand even tighter and watched Corb grab her other hand. He didn’t like it, but he had to get her to a healer quickly. Pressing his fingers to the cool, steely bark of the Great Oak, he squeezed his eyes shut. “Take us to sanctuary, Great Oak Tree. Take us home, swiftly as you may.”
“Open the door, Stanis,” Shade hissed. “We’re through here.”
“Just a minute, princess. I have bone to pick with you.” He tapped the wall and moved so fast, only a blur appeared where he had stood. He was in the kitchen now and pulled out a small, blue glass bowl. Bringing it to her, he held it out toward Shade, pushing her to take it. When she did, he resumed his position on the creaky chair, motioning her to sit back on the couch. “Please, sit.”
“I’d rather stand.”
He groaned, rolling his head on his shoulders, his long brown hair spilled over the back of the chair as he did that. He looked like a drunk slumped in the chair, almost falling off the edge.
“Suite yourself, changeling. But I highly suggest you sit. There are more ways than one to use magic, even bound up as you are.” His wild eyes seemed more sober now and she felt a sudden urge to sit as told. The suspicion she felt that he was using magic on her was eating at her nerves. She hated being played, and he seemed a master at that.
“What do you mean, more ways?” She settled between Soap and Dylan and held the bowl out. It was small enough to fit in her palm.
“This is a Pith. It extracts your essence, therefore, your powers are given a release through this bowl. Even in your case, one’s powers cannot be completely contained, as one can never truly trap a mind. This Pith provides another route, another path for your magic to escape your body and work its powers. We’re only trapped by the binds we allow to be placed upon ourselves. This breaks through that. It will let you use your water magic, as if you’d never been bound.”
The others gasped, staring in wonderment at the ordinary blue glass bowl sitting in her palm. It seemed utterly mundane, no etchings on its hard surface, nothing to condone its powerful use. She wondered if he was pulling her leg or not. But it was worth a try.
“One drop into the bowl, Shade. That’s all it takes.” He gestured quickly, to make her move faster. She gulped, mesmerized by the glass. She silently prayed that it would work, if not, they were doomed. No, she was doomed.
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