Meah’s hands are bound in front of her as Jaxon and Seera lead her through the dark halls. Seera keeps a tight grip on Meah in case she tries to run, but Meah has no intention of running. She stares at Jaxon’s back with no emotion in her eyes.
It took them only two days to reach Klaeon’s castle using the help of two Shadow Watchers. Meah doesn’t remember exactly how they made it. She was kept mostly in a state of delirium to prevent possible escape, but with her senses fully returned, she knows Ime is close.
The castle is nearly empty with all of Klaeon’s forces fighting outside against Ime’s army. But even if people filled the halls, the cold feeling of the dark stones couldn’t be brightened. Banners hang on the walls of the long hallways bearing the symbols of the ancient language.
“You’re very quiet, Life Healer,” Seera says. “I’m guessing you understand what’s going to happen to you now.”
Meah doesn’t answer.
“I hope he’ll allow us to watch.”
“Be quiet, Seera,” Jaxon says. “We’ll do whatever our king orders.”
A large group of soldiers enter the hall from a large doorway, stopping the three from continuing on. A man wearing a black sash around his waist walks forward to meet Jaxon, a sneer twisting his face into a cruel appearance.
“Well, well. If it isn’t the fabled black-blooded caravan leader turned traitor. We expected you many days ago,” the man says.
“I’m well within my time limit, Loken. I brought the Life Healer as commanded. If you’ll excuse us, we’ve kept his Majesty waiting long enough,” Jaxon says, attempting to move through the wall of soldiers.
The men behind Loken block the doorway, stepping closer together. “I believe this is as far as you’re going, traitor. We’ll be taking the Life Healer from here.”
Meah tenses, bringing her hands together to stop them from shaking. She doesn’t like how the men stare at her, eagerly.
“I was told to bring the Life Healer to Blood King Klaeon. Not to his pet boot licker. Move your men aside.” Jaxon keeps his voice calm, but his eyes give each man a warning glance. Meah feels Jaxon’s magic growing, gathering in his hands.
“His Majesty has given me a new order for you.” Loken turns his head to smirk at Jaxon. “Return to the battlefield.”
“And what of the Life Healer?”
Loken crosses his arms and stares at Meah. “I will take care of her.”
Meah’s eyes widen as Loken fingers the dagger on his belt.
Jaxon’s expression darkens. “Blood King Klaeon personally commanded me to bring the Life Healer to him. I demand to speak with him before I even think of handing her over to anyone who doesn’t bear the title of King.”
Men appear from different doors surrounding the three. Two grab Jaxon and roughly pull him away from Meah and Seera.
Loken walks up to Meah and glares at Seera. “Leave us.” Seera hesitates, eyeing Jaxon before leaving.
Grabbing Meah by her bound wrists, Loken draws his sword. Meah’s eyes lock onto the sword, but there’s no sign she’s going to cry out.
“You aren’t going to try to run or plead for your life?” Loken asks. Meah refuses to answer, keeping her eyes on the blade. He laughs and faces Jaxon. “What happened? Did you break her when you betrayed her? Doesn’t matter, your role as His Majesty’s pawn is done. He knows you’re the one who stabbed him at Bloodfall and believes your usefulness has ended.”
Loken raises his sword, but the screaming of his men stops his swing. Blue flames engulf the men holding Jaxon. They release Jaxon and try to put the flames out, but soon fall to the ground dead.
“You’re full of surprises, traitor,” Loken says, laughing to conceal the surprise in his voice. “A magic user who betrays other magic users.”
His shining blue eyes filled with magic magnify the rage on Jaxon’s face. Blue flames dance around his hands, snaking their way around his body. Without warning, Jaxon runs at Loken and punches at the man’s face, the flames reaching for the terrified man. Loken dodges and leaps away, his men opening the circle to allow their leader room and to escape the blue flames.
Jaxon grabs Meah, the flames immediately dying out. He breaks the binds on her hands and stares into her eyes, his face the most serious Meah has ever seen it. “Hide and no matter what happens, don’t do anything until they’re all dead.”
Meah nods and hides behind a thick pillar.
“You’re going to pay for this, traitor,” Loken yells.
Loken orders his men to attack Jaxon and they all run at him with their weapons drawn. The small space of the hallway makes it difficult for the men to swing their blades freely, while Jaxon has little trouble moving from man to man and using his blue fire to kill them.
While the men distract him, Loken sneaks behind Jaxon to attack, slicing deep cuts into his sides and stomach. One of the men grabs Jaxon from behind and holds him long enough for Loken to stab his sword deep into Jaxon’s side. Jaxon kicks Loken away and slams his head back into the face of the man holding him. The man’s nose breaks and he’s knocked back. Jaxon punches him in the stomach, setting him on fire as soon as his fist hits.
Even with Loken sneaking in surprise shots while Jaxon guards against the others, Jaxon manages to kill the last man. Loken’s eyes jump from one burning corpse to another and sweat rolls down his forehead.
Blood drips to the floor from Jaxon’s wounds. He holds his side and winces, using his magic to stop the worst of the bleeding. But even with his magic working at full power, he still feels blood seeping from deeper wounds. Drawing his sword, Jaxon realizes he needs to finish this quickly.
Noticing Jaxon’s concern, Loken attacks quickly and with no mercy. But with the rest of his men dead and even with his injuries, Jaxon manages to keep up with Loken. A sudden twist as he swings his sword sends a shock of pain through Jaxon and he misjudges Loken’s next attack.
The blade of Loken’s sword stabs through Jaxon’s stomach and emerges from his back. Meah’s screams keeping Jaxon from passing out from the shock to his already severely wounded body. Loken pulls on his sword, but Jaxon grabs the blade with both hands, his own blade clattering to the floor. Blood fills his mouth and rolls down his chin. His blue eyes roll up to glare at Loken and a playful smile grows on his lips.
Blue fire climbs Loken’s blade and leaps onto the man. He tries to pull away, but Jaxon grabs his arms and holds him close. “Your usefulness never began, Loken.”
Loken screams and tries desperately to pull away from Jaxon. Releasing him, Jaxon steps back as Loken dies, even his bones burning to ash.
Swaying as his blood loss blurs his vision, Jaxon stares down at the blade still running him through. The blade stabbing into his front has melted with his fire. Using the last of his energy, Jaxon surges his fire around the sword, melting the metal into liquid and fighting back a scream as the hot liquid is forced from his wound.
Black spots cover his vision and Jaxon falls to the ground.