Chapter 36 (Cora)

Cora was afraid. She knew McCarthy was a dangerous man. King Valen was also a cause for worry. If his abilities were like the angels’ or Everin’s, then he could kill her in an instant if he chose to. However, this wasn’t what scared Cora. It was Everin. She’d never seen him like this. Before today, the only time she’d seen raise his voice in anger was when he’d discovered McCarthy’s letter, and even that had been brief. Cora stood beside Everin with Ford just a step behind her. She was within arm’s reach of her friend, but she was afraid to touch Everin. There was a harsh gleam in his eyes that she hadn’t seen before. There was a single-minded rage in his voice that she didn’t recognize.

She could sense it. Something within him had snapped when he saw McCarthy. It was as if the man’s presence had transported Everin’s mind back to the night his parents were killed. He’d lost touch with reality, his mind trapped in the whirlwind of painful emotions that McCarthy evoked.

“I don’t want to fight you, Everin. Soon, you’ll come to appreciate what I’ve given you. Now, will you come inside with me?” King Valen asked.

Cora watched Everin. His fists were clenched. She thought she could see him shaking. Suddenly, she felt calm. The logical part of her mind told her that she was still in danger, but the sweaty palms, racing heart, and gut-wrenching anxiety had significantly diminished.

“Everin, what are you doing?” she whispered.

“I have to fight. I can’t let McCarthy win. Not again. The fear from you and Ford is the only source of energy I can use.” His speech was irregular, broken up by heaving breaths. Sweat dripped from his forehead, despite the chill in the air.

Tendrils of green energy materialized and began racing around Everin’s hands.

“Everin, you can’t…” Cora started to speak, but she felt Ford grab her wrist. Pulling her a step backwards, away from Everin.

“Watch out. We don’t know what he’s going to do,” Ford whispered.

Just then, Everin let the lightning fly. Brilliant emerald arcs lanced through the air. They spiderwebbed outward, casting a net of energy in the direction of Valen and McCarthy.

King Valen raised a hand. A wall of white light, similar to the one Kyzella created, rose up into existence before him. The wall stretched quickly until it separated McCarthy and the king from Everin and his lightning. The bolts crashed into the wall, creating a spray of sparks where they struck. King Valen dropped the wall to reveal that he and McCarthy were unhurt.

“Give it up, kid. We’re on your side,” McCarthy called out to him.

Cora winced as Everin physically reacted to McCarthy’s voice. His head snapped towards the man.

“Don’t ever speak to me again. You’re the one who destroyed my life. You’ll never be on my side.” The tone of Everin’s voice scared Cora. She could feel the fear starting to return to her body. The voice didn’t even sound like Everin anymore. It was so twisted by his hatred and disgust that its tone was deranged, even hysterical.

“Everin, you need to stay in control if you want to beat them,” she said quietly.

He shook his head, a grim expression on his face.

“There’s no such thing as control, Cora. This pain is who I am. It’s who he made me into.” He jabbed a finger at McCarthy. His voice was cruel and razor-sharp. “And I’m going to make him feel it.”

She was pleading with him at this point. “But you said revenge doesn’t…”

“I don’t care what I said!” He snapped. “I hate him!”

Everin twisted back around and hurled more bolts of lightning at the two men. King Valen whipped up another orb of white light around McCarthy, protecting him. The king leapt horizontally with an unhuman strength. He travelled several yards through the air before rolling and bouncing back to his feet. Lighting stabbed through the spot he’d just been standing, and bits of stone exploded from the wall where it struck.

Everin dropped to his knees, out of energy. Cora looked around. There weren’t any other sources of suffering on the rooftop for Everin to absorb. Apparently, McCarthy wasn’t afraid or angry at Everin, and King Valen’s aura would be nonexistent if he had the happiness from the children on the playground coursing through him.

King Valen smiled, giddy on the energy he’d absorbed. “That was a nice demonstration of your power, Everin, but it’s time to give up. Even the strongest fighters know when they’re outmatched. Come with me, and you’ll see that I’m truly not your enemy. In fact, nobody on earth probably knows what you’re experiencing better than I do.”

“No!” Everin cried. “You don’t know anything about what I’m feeling. You can’t even imagine the nightmare that you’ve put me through.”

Even in his current state, Cora was inclined to agree with Everin in this case. Everin’s abilities were both an asset and a curse. Using them had put her friend through so much in the past week. She doubted that King Valen could wrap his head around exactly how much pain they gave Everin. His abilities might have also contributed to putting Everin in the wild, desperate state he was in at the moment.

“Everin, if you can’t fight anymore, there’s no point in provoking him,” she whispered so that King Valen and McCarthy couldn’t hear.

He froze as her words hit him. “If I can’t fight? No, I have to fight. I have to get McCarthy,” he said frantically.

“I know you want revenge,” she said. “But it’ll have to wait if you can’t fight him now.”

Everin shook. His entire body rattled as pent-up rage threatened to burst out of his frame.

“I don’t want revenge. I need it. I need to make him suffer like I did,” Everin growled.

“Everin, time is running thin. Will you come voluntarily, or shall we make you come with us?” King Valen called.

Everin didn’t answer the king. Instead, he whispered back to Cora.

“Do you remember that first night in the Elderwood forest, when you asked me what my aura looked like?”

Cora felt her heart hammering in her chest.

“Yes. I remember.”

“Well, when I told you I couldn’t see my own aura, that wasn’t entirely true. At the time, I was afraid of what I might be seeing, so I tried to ignore it. Now, though, it’s become pretty clear to me that I can sense it.”

She was afraid to ask her next question, but she forced the words out.

“W-what does it look like?”

“It’s bad,” Everin said. “Really, really, bad. I haven’t seen anything like it, which might’ve been why I didn’t understand what I was sensing at first.”

Cora felt sick. She didn’t know what to say.

“Why are you telling me this now?” she managed to ask.

“Because I can use the energy,” Everin said. “I can beat Valen and McCarthy with the pain that they inflicted on me.”

“You’re going to use your own suffering?” she gasped.

Everin nodded. There was a hollowness in his expression. It was the look of someone with absolutely nothing to lose.

“Now stand back,” he whispered.

“Everin, are you sure that this…”

“Stand back!” He barked.

Cora took several steps away from her friend, pushing Ford away from him as well.

Still kneeling, Everin placed his hands on the stone beneath him. Cora shivered as the air around her dropped several degrees. She felt an energy in the atmosphere around her, as if lightning were about to strike. Her skin prickled, and she saw the short hairs on her forearms standing on end.

Then, the ominous silence was shattered as Everin let out a bloodcurdling scream.

Next chapter:

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