|Posted by Christie V Powell on March 17, 2017 at 7:00 PM|
The great wall of the Summit, the last place for Spectra royals, filled Keita’s vision. Her feet were numb, worn raw too long for pain. Her legs shook, her lungs shook from the acrid smoke she had left behind, and streaks of green crossed her maple-brown skin. Some of her family and friends were inside those walls. Others, too many, were not. Inside was safety and companionship. Outside, the Stygians were hunting—yet her fear was as numb as her feet and only the fire inside still lived, the fire that said the Stygians must pay for what they had done.
Two hours ago, she had cringed behind a ridge above her valley home. Fire enveloped the trees so that the slopes glowed red. Black dots that were her people ran, their cries piercing the distance. Her siblings were fleeing. Her father could not. Her cousin, once her tutor, now a Stygian, stood silhouetted against the flames, the cause of it all. Maybe she should have challenged him then, but the fire roared toward her and she had forgotten everything, everything but the devouring flames.
Two days ago, she crouched among boulders with the Castalia princes. Two figures broke their conversation, peered into the rocks. “They’ve heard us.”
“I’ll get him.”
“Too late. The word is out. Tell the others to start now.”
They ran. She was in horse form then, better able to carry the boys. Two were communicators—as she ran, their thoughts flew faster, warning their people, their parents, their brothers stationed in the other kingdoms… but they could not contact her home. She left them at the Summit’s doorstep and took off, the two hundred miles separating her from home flying beneath her churning legs.
Two weeks ago, she discovered the princes in their mansion library. “I hope the Stygians aren’t as smart as you are,” she’d said. She’d meant it as a compliment, but none smiled. An open history book lay before them, and they had been debating how five determined, powerful people might take over the continent.
“What I’d do is find a Stygian for each kingdom and attack simultaneously. And I’d assassinate all the royals so no one could fight back.”
Two months ago, she heard the word ‘Stygian’ for the first time. She had sneaked out of a Summit council, determined to leave before her father could betroth her. In kestrel form she flew over the mountain crags, until she saw them. Five dark figures crouched in a ravine. They knew what she was. She barely made it inside the walls. The kings didn’t believe her. Only the princes told her what she ought to have known all along. Stygians were once Spectra, but sinister oaths gave them the abilities of all six Spectra clans. Only the united strengths of the kingdoms could defeat them: a near impossible task among such different people.
Now she stood before the summit walls, chest heaving. She would be the last to arrive. Her anger eased as she remembered she could not defeat the Stygians alone; she must hope that enough royals escaped and waited now behind the walls. She took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and climbed the wall.