Chapter 21

22955 YD (1664 CE)
Heartwing, Cydrithenna

“What did you do?!”

Jemier loomed over me as I leaned against my sacred tree in the garden, wondering if Eleric would show up, hoping he would show up, but hating that he’d asked to be left alone while Varin still drew breath.

“You have already accused me of it.”

“Because I have seen it with my own eyes, Solin!”

“Perhaps he was mauled by an animal.”

“And scorched? In the library? Solin!”

“Would you quiet down?” I didn’t approve of Jemier’s tone; I doubted he’d be this angry if he knew what Varin had almost done to his friend.

Jemier hesitated. He opted to sit and stared at me. “You have not been honest with me lately.”

I sat with my back still against the tree. “And you have barely been around.”

“And now you nearly killed your brother!”

“Are you coming to warn me of an impending arrest?”

“No. I tried to convince your father to—”

“You tried to skirt the law, Jemier? How strange for you.”

“Solin, I’m trying to tell you that when I discovered what happened—”

“And how did you discover it?”

“Because I was looking for you and found your family first.”

“And they had lovely things to say about me, I’m sure.”

“The king explained that you were already pardoned by your brother. Varin said it was ‘sparring gone wrong.’”

I laughed. “Sparring gone wrong. Is that what he thinks he did?”

“I didn’t believe him.”

“I find it funny that by not trusting him, you also reveal how little you trust me.”

“Tell me why you did it, Solin. Please.” He put a hand on my shoulder. “Please, drathos.”

I thought of the button.

I wanted to confess about the affair between Eleric and me. How tormented I was over telling Eleric I did not love him back when I did. How much I loved squeezing Varin’s throat.

“There is no way the two of you had such a terrible accident while sparring. In the library.”

“Was he still parshifted?” I asked.

“Hardly. A few scales left over.”

“Have you been training?”

“To shift?”


“Yes. You?”

“Risayne has offered private lessons when the time comes.”

“Solin, please.”

“Jemier,” I said. Who was the man who stared back at me? When did his jaw get so wide, his hair get so long, and his beard grow so full? The laugh lines around his eyes hadn’t come from joyous moments with me. How could I get him to understand without putting Eleric in danger? “Varin did something terrible, something I cannot speak of, but something terrible. Terrible enough for me to react that way. He lies for me because he knows that what he has done will cost him the crown.”

Jemier let out a heavy breath. “Tell me you did not do this to get the crown.”

I scoffed at him. “Do you actually believe that?” I shook my head in incredulity. “Why would you say that to me?”

“You’re different, Solin.”

“From whom? Varin? Thank goodness for that!”

“From everyone,” he said, staring at a blade of grass that he had plucked and now twisted in his fingers. How easily he plucked life from existence, especially when he thought it was smaller or less meaningful than his own. “You show no ambition other than your predestined Senate seat. It’s disconcerting, Solin. Shouldn’t you want for more?”

“You’re concerned I don’t express a want for the crown?”

“Well, all of us are. Renny, Corian…”

“Even Eleric?”

“I have not seen much of him lately.”

That relieved me. “It is not that I do not have my own fantasies about how to create a better system. I don’t see why I ought to express these things when they are futile, especially without any plan in place.”

“You would plan?”

“Obviously, I would, I—Jemier, I did not plan to hurt Varin!”

“But you wanted to hurt him!”

I stood. “You are ridiculous.”

He stood. “You have given your future king scars that may never fade.”

“No worse than the scars he’s doled out already, Jemier!”

“He may not be the nicest, but he’s more talk than action. Anything he means, he does. You know that.”

“You excuse his behavior? Expressing his inclination doesn’t harm anyone? You can just pull him off me when his punches get too hard, and he’ll get the picture? Take him out for a few extra drinks so he’s too drunk to hurt anyone? Is that what you think? And what makes you think all he did was spout threats? Why do you believe he didn’t do anything?”

“Because you refuse to tell me!”

“Because it’s more complex than you realize! Don’t you understand?”

“What I understand is that you let your emotions get in the way—”

“Now I’m too emotional? The sane Felwing brother who doesn’t resort to violence with every other sentence and action, I’m the emotional one?”


“Well how dare I, for one brief flicker of time, express an emotion without your consent. How dare I wield that emotion at precisely the right moment to stop a terrible monster from doing something horrific. How. Dare. I.” I growled and considered marching away, but I expected Eleric soon. “Perhaps someday you’ll know the truth, Jemier, but I’m not sure I can trust you anymore.”

“You can’t trust me?” he returned, nostrils flaring, his body tensing the way it did before he hit someone. “How can I trust you? Someone who would nearly murder his own brother, our next king?”

“Have you been watching anything that’s been happening since you’ve been born? Or do you waste your thoughts on a Scaleborn and erase the other ones at the tavern?”

“Whom should I be wasting my thoughts on, then?”

“Your future.”

Jemier shook his head. “No. I’m not like you.”

“Thank goodness for that.”

He stomped away, then paused. “Was it you he hurt?”

“Aren’t you interrupting a perfectly good storm off?”

He returned and lowered his voice. “How badly did he try to hurt you this time?”

“What would you even do, Jemier? Grab the healing poultice and say nice things to calm me down?”

His nostrils flared again, and every inch of skin pinked in quiet fury. “I may be angry with you, Solin, but if he hurt you, if he really hurt you this time…”

“Then what? You’d do something that you’re already yelling at me for doing?”

“Maybe you’re the one who doesn’t understand,” he muttered.

He completed his storm off, and I didn’t bother arguing just to pull him back. I sat down against the tree and sank my head into my knees.

Soft steps rustled the grass. I lifted my head to find Eleric, dejected, his hair messier and his jaw darker than usual, but with a small smile crossing his face. He sat beside me, and we leaned into each other.

“I saw Jemier leaving here,” he said. “He didn’t say anything to me.”

“Because he couldn’t see you,” I replied quietly. “I’ve cloaked most of the garden to keep you safe.”

“You can reach that far now?”

“I’ve been able to do that for years. If only the other sensory illusions caught up.”

We listened to birds and the wind through the leaves.

“I thought something this morning, after we woke up,” he said.

“What was it?”

“I wish you’d killed him.”

I pressed my nose to his cheek. “So do I.”


I awoke with a start.

“What is it?” asked Eleric, who stirred beside me, likely awakened by the jolt of energy that brought me upright.

“Something is wrong,” I replied. Prickles crawled across my shoulders and clawed down my spine.

“A dream?”

“No, but a portent.”

“A nightmare then.”

“No,” I murmured in the night whisper we had adopted to conceal our love. “A bad feeling. A dreadful feeling. I thought I heard something.”

He stilled and listened with me.

I should have said nothing. We’d agreed we would spend no nights alone since Varin had attacked him, and my recent absences from the palace had gone noticed. We took a risk by sleeping in my bedchamber, but the alternative risked more. But now something had gone wrong. I just wasn’t sure what yet.

“I don’t hear anything,” he said over a shuffling sound. I held up a finger, asking him to quiet again. My studies of auditory illusion had honed my listening skills, made them sharper. I could ascertain the quality of a material by the sound it produced when struck, or its shape and size based on the timbre of the resulting noise. Context clues helped—rhythm suggested certain things, whereas bangs suggested others.

What I’d heard in my sleep was the distant sound of a bedchamber door far down the hall shutting. Varin’s bedchamber, most likely. On any other night, I would’ve presumed it was his lover, Danica, or any of his unofficial lovers or those he liked to pay for and abuse.

Yet the shuffling didn’t belong to her, or to Varin. Not his gait. He walked differently. The steps—

“Footsteps,” whispered Eleric.

They belonged to a person of lighter tread. Rhythmic. Boot-clad. Trained.

“A soldier,” I said.

“Can’t be; the patrols come by at the same time every night, right when I get up to pee—”

“The patrols changed.”

He went silent. The patrols had increased because I was a danger. Because I had singed the crown prince’s throat while he was midshift, and I dared leave evidence. I admitted to it, freely, while Varin denied it. How could he admit I had power over him? It had become obvious, in the few days that had passed since the incident in the library, that Karrdil did not trust I would not hurt Varin again.

I had thought of it.

I put Eleric in danger just by being with him. We knew this, yet we risked it. Was the risk worth it? Was it worth the same feelings we brought about in each other every time we met?

I generated an illusion, cloaking Eleric in magick until a time yet to be determined. I would protect him, as I should’ve protected him then. There never should have been an attack to interrupt to begin with.

“You’ve masked us?”

“Yes,” I said. I didn’t mention that he’d gotten better at detecting that. Very few could detect my magick; most guessed. With Eleric’s help training my spellwork and his feedback on my illusions, it was only a matter of time until he could detect illusory magick, even the magick of someone as advanced and practiced as myself.

The footsteps drew nearer and moved with purpose. New footsteps followed. Now, even the most untrained of ears would know there were people coming, several at that, and that they headed toward—

“Hide, now!”

Eleric dashed for the curtained balcony, as ill-dressed as he was, alarmed perhaps by my own distressed voice and the falter in my confidence to keep him hidden from harm. A knocking sounded at my door, followed by a more intense pounding—a different party—and I left myself half-undressed and sleepy so that they would know they had interrupted a prince’s slumber. I gave them another round of knocking, then answered.

The burly captain of the guard, Lufan, greeted me. Beside him, Jemier’s father, General Othuron, the spitting image of Jemier as an older man with bright-white hair. Soldiers stood behind them.

“What is it?” I narrowed my eyes. “Why have you disturbed me at this hour?”

“We must check your bedchamber at once, Prince Solin,” said Othuron. He pushed by me, using the same strength that Jemier had inherited.

I stepped before him again, daring him to continue. “You will not.” He stopped. “Tell me what this is about, immediately, or I shall order your own men to arrest you.”

Perhaps not the best recourse, but if they discovered Eleric, no doubt they would deduce why he was in the room with me and what that meant.

But instead of taking my order as an insult, Othuron softened, and held me by the shoulders as he must have held his own son.

“Prince Solin, your brother was murdered.”

I searched for signs of betrayal in his eyes, checking for any nuance that pointed to a prank, like the sorts that had been played upon me all my life.

This was no prank.

“Let me see him.”

“No, you should not see him.” General Othuron must’ve thought I was distraught, and needed confirmation, but I only needed the sweet, eternal release from Varin’s torment more than I needed anything, or anyone else, at that moment. I needed the villain of my story to be stone-cold dead.

“We must secure your room, Your High—Your Royal Highness,” said Captain Lufan. “We believe the murderer may have used your brother’s balcony. We have no way of knowing if you are a target as well.”

I appeared to have no choice in the matter as the soldiers were already securing my room.

I immediately cloaked my bed and its dual bodily imprints, but Captain Lufan had already set his hand on the sheets and noted their temperature. Tactile illusion escaped me, and I cursed my novice status with it along with the captain’s name—why check the temperature of my bed if you did not suspect it was me?

Who killed my brother.


Who was dead.

I focused the majority of my energy on maintaining the illusion that hid Eleric. Would I care if Eleric’s side of the bed were cooler than mine? He’d showed no signs of having stirred or having committed a murder. While the soldiers searched my bedchamber, I concocted a series of potential schemes to keep both of us out of prison.

My mother’s frantic screams echoed down the hall.

“You don’t seem very shaken,” said Captain Lufan.

“Would he be?” said General Othuron. “I doubt it’s even begun to sink in. Such terrible news can hardly be comprehended when one is fully awake.”

“I mean you no insult, Prince Solin,” said the captain. “I only mean that I worry about you on account of your reaction. You should sit down while I call for a healer to tend to you.”

“And where should I sit that your detectives won’t want to search?”

General Othuron straightened, then held up a hand, ordering the soldiers with a gesture. They stopped. “We are here only as protocol. You must understand after what happened the other day…”

“What did Varin say about that, hmm? Wrestling gone wrong?” I said.

“You and I both know that isn’t what happened. That’s never what happens with him.” Quieter, he said, “I’ve seen my son with you. The wounds he’s tried to heal on you…”

“Ah, so the general understands what would drive someone to hurt the crown prince. That makes me a suspect, then?”

“No one said you are a suspect,” said the captain.

“Oh? Then leave. Allow me to dress so that I may see my family in this troubling time.”

“Allow me to escort you,” said General Othuron. “I’ll wait.”

“As will I,” said Captain Lufan.

My unease neared its peak, and I worried I would lose focus on protecting Eleric, who was within the peripheral eyesight of a soldier. The skulking acquaintance of a dead prince would surely lead them to suspect him of murder, regardless of whatever relations between us it also pointed to. I resisted the urge to use other magicks.

“He could be using that power of his,” said a soldier. Was he telepathic? “The one where he changes what he looks like. I’ve seen him do it.”

“Oh?” I marched for the soldier with my hands folded behind my back. “Do you really believe I am using magick to disguise evidence?”

“Are you, Prince Solin?” said Lufan.

“I am not. Now if you don’t leave and allow me to think about all of this nonsense information you’ve interrupted my night with, I will arrest you myself.”

“Solin, don’t,” said Othuron.

“See? He doesn’t mourn,” said Lufan.

“We’ll take our leave,” said Othuron. “Please excuse this interruption, Prince Solin. We’ll wait for you at the end of the hall.”

“You will,” I said.

Once they were properly dismissed and had cleared the room, I raced to embrace Eleric, who shivered from the cold night and, I suspect, the same mix of fear and relief I felt.

I kissed his forehead. “We must get you home. Follow me when I leave to join them. Stay behind us, quietly, and I’ll do my best to mask you until we can get you out.”

“What if they’re already at my home?” he whispered. “What if they’re already looking for everyone close to Varin?”

“They aren’t,” I said. “They already know who did it.”

“But you were with me.”

“That doesn’t matter to them.” I held his face and kissed him. “I don’t know what to do, Eleric.”

“I won’t let them take you. We’ll get away from here, far away.”

“How? They’ll have locked down the portal chamber.”

He looked at me with a knowing gaze, then stroked my cheek. “We won’t need the portal chamber.”

I shook my head. “I’ve never tried it before.”

“But you could do it. You have the kind of power it would require. I know you could do it if you tried.”

“There’s no one to train me.”

“Then we’ll study,” he said, frantic. “We’ll study together, every minute of every day that we have until they come for us, until you can make a portal and get us off this planet.”

“The magick is forbidden. I haven’t been able to find even the smallest thread that would lead me to its secrets. Besides, what if it goes wrong? What if it never closes? Then what?”

“Then your father will entrust the Daemons and Fae to guard it.”

“No.” I shook my head again and again. “No, I won’t do it. I won’t be responsible for another Shadowfall. We’ll do this the right way. I’ve been prepared to uphold the law for my entire life, Eleric. I have to trust that it will save me now.”

His eyes flitted to the ground, but he accepted what I said with a reluctant nod. “No, of course. You’re right, drathosi. I’ll help you. It’s my turn to protect you.”

I embraced him, kissing his cheek. “Thank you, drathosi.”


Leave a comment below. Comments will be moderated in accordance with site policies.

The Fire of Felwing series and its novels, Flicker, Spark, and Blaze © Elizabeth Tybush. All rights reserved. Chapter images (“vibes images”) created using Canva, DALL-E 2, and/or other tools. (Read more)