Ime tears through the Blood Army, his rage and fear mixing and giving his magic an added boost of power. His wind magic clears the path in front of him. His earth magic creates shields to block any weapons or magic from striking him. His water magic creates mist making him a harder target to hit. But his fire magic stays within him. He’s saving it for the main fight ahead of him.
He passes many of his men fighting and spots familiar faces. “Meah’s inside! Klaeon has her!”
Bruer, Fleance, Mava, Rava, and Bern finish the men in front of them and turn to him. Ime motions towards the castle with his hand and the group immediately understand. They force their way through the fighting men, meeting Ime at the doors to Klaeon’s stronghold. Bruer and Fleance force the doors open as Mava, Rava, and Bern enter with weapons drawn. They jump the few guards inside, surprising the men and easily take them out.
Ime runs through the doors and uses his wind and water magic to knock down a man trying to escape to warn the rest of the castle. He pulls the man towards him and traps him in the earth.
“Where is Klaeon?”
The man refuses to answer and Ime tightens the earth around him. The man shrieks. He motions towards a staircase leading up.
“Keep the army out,” Ime says without looking at the group behind him. He sprints up the stairs, smashing anyone he sees into the walls with his magic. He climbs higher and higher, searching the rooms he passes with quick glances.
Rounding a corner, a blade is placed at his throat. Reacting instinctively, Ime raises his hand covered in flames to the throat of his assailant. His eyes glare at Seera’s fear-filled face as she stares at the flames close to her. The heat turns the skin of her throat pink.
“Put your weapon down, Seera.”
Small movement of the blade gives Ime the impression she’s going to listen, but instead she shakes her head and tightens her grip on the hilt of the dagger. “Don’t move.”
“Where is Meah? Where is Jaxon?”
“If they’re lucky, dead. If not, Klaeon has them.”
Her hands shake as she stares into the intense rage and magic causing Ime’s eyes to burn with white fire. Eventually, she lowers the dagger and steps away from him. “The throne room. Straight ahead and up the spiral staircase.” Ime walks past her, the fire still dancing in his hand. She watches him, confused. “You’re letting me go?”
“I don’t have time to deal with you. But if I ever see your face again, I will kill you.” His voice is low, threatening and she believes him.
Ime breaks into a run, heading the direction Seera spoke of. But before he disappears through down the long hallway, Seera throws her dagger at his back, a final attempt to stop him.
Turning with a hand outstretched, Ime stops the dagger in midair, his eyes showing no surprise at Seera’s act. He lets the dagger fall to the floor before throwing his left hand up at her. White fire races across the hallway, far too fast for Seera to dodge, and she is engulfed in flames so hot, she incinerates instantly. There isn’t even time for a scream.
Ime continues forward, finding the spiral staircase at the end of the hallway. He climbs to the top and follows the new hallway around the castle. A familiar smell wafts down the hall and Ime slows his pace.
The bodies of those Jaxon killed lie before Ime and he stares at the scorched bodies, searching the deformed faces for one in particular. Cautiously, he steps over the bodies, piecing together what happened.
A hand grabs his ankle and he jumps, turning quickly with his hand raised, ready to kill the unforeseen threat. He stops and lowers his hand when he sees Jaxon and the small trail of blood leading from behind a pillar. Jaxon’s face is pale and his blood stained clothes dark. He gasps for each breath, coughing as blood rises in his throat, and holds a hand up to show he’s unarmed. His other hand lies beneath him, having been used to pull himself from his hiding spot by the pillar.
“Where is she?” Ime demands.
“Klaeon took her to the throne room. Just follow the trail of blood magic. It’s thick in this air,” Jaxon says, gasping between every other word.
Leaning down, Ime draws a small knife and places it at Jaxon’s throat. “Give me one good reason not to kill you.”
“I have two. One, Meah wouldn’t forgive you.” He laughs as Ime’s hand shakes, but it only brings blood from his lungs into his mouth. “And two, someone’s already beaten you to it. I have mere minutes, maybe more left.”
Scanning Jaxon’s body, Ime sees it’s true and sheaths his knife. “You helped us. You told us to find Kellahn and raise an army. Why, if you were only planning on betraying us?”
“I became a Shadow Watcher for one reason. To protect my home.”
“I thought that was why you became a slave trader?”
“I became a slave trader to hide what I was, a Rare Kind like you, and to pass messages to the hidden clans of Shadow Watchers. That was how Klaeon came to know of me. I was one of the few messengers who always returned. Beyond that, my interactions with him were few, but when I brought Meah, he chose me to handle the mission, thinking it would be a kind of poetic justice.”
“And when you stabbed him at Bloodfall? Was that part of the plan?” Ime asks, helping Jaxon onto his back.
Jaxon’s familiar smile grows on his lips. “No. I did that for my village. Somewhere inside I knew Klaeon couldn’t be allowed to keep his power. But I also knew I had to follow orders or he’d find a way to make me.”
“Threatening your village.”
“I thought if I could lead you and Meah to Kellahn and find a way to get my village there, I could break my ties with Klaeon, but he already had spies in Kellahn watching me. When Seera arrived with the whole of the Arena I knew he’d discovered my plans. My fear was confirmed when I spoke with Seera alone. Klaeon burned my village to the ground after you killed Teron. Only one option was left to me.” Jaxon stabs his finger at Ime’s chest. “Pissing you off enough to finally be the leader you needed to be.”
Ime gently pushes Jaxon’s hand away, his expression guarded. “Daniil and Kylii are dead.”
Jaxon’s pale face seemed to grow even paler. “I know. That I never wanted. I liked those brothers. I will never be forgiven for allowing that to happen. But no matter how many scenarios I played out in my head, Klaeon was always going to be victorious. Unless I betrayed you the way I did and someone close to you died.”
Coughing, Jaxon’s eyes glaze over for a moment, before he fights away the unconsciousness threatening to swallow him. “Have you ever wondered why Klaeon only took your fire when you first faced him?”
“He was afraid of it.”
“Yes, but not because of what it was. He thought you were nothing more than a stupid child playing with things you couldn’t possibly understand. But his magic knew what it could be and feared the potential. It’s true you’re a Rare Kind because you control all the elements, but the true rarity to your magic is your fire. It’s your life magic, keeping your source alive. You’ve felt it, haven’t you? There’s always the smallest hint of your fire magic in the other elements. It’s because they’re all tied back to your fire. Your fire is the only thing that can stop him, but it’s still incomplete.”
Confusion creates lines in Ime’s forehead. “But Kiphy helped me release my full fire.”
“You know that’s not true. You’ve found more fire. I saw what you left in the mountain pass, what your white fire did. In order to defeat Klaeon and his living magic, you’ll need that white fire and my fire, my blue fire.”
“I don’t even know how I unlocked the white fire. I don’t know how to do blue fire.”
A strange emotion passes over Jaxon’s face. “There’s only one way to learn blue fire. The same way I learned it.” With a sudden surge of strength, Jaxon grabs the back of Ime’s neck and forces him down. Their foreheads touch and Ime feels Jaxon’s magic mix with his own before being swallowed whole.
Ime tears himself away as the last of Jaxon’s magic is absorbed. “What was that?”
Jaxon collapses to the floor, his breathing strained and his skin a sickly grey. “There isn’t enough time to explain anything more than the magic of blue fire has successfully been passed on to you…just as it was passed to me from my father.” His eyes glaze over, but he has no more strength to fight back the coming darkness. “Kill Klaeon, Ime. Kill him with no mercy.”
Jaxon breathes in one last time. When he releases the breath his eyes empty of life and Ime knows he’s dead. He prays for Jaxon before standing and finishing his journey to the throne room.