Chapter 38 (Cora)

Cora raised a hand to shield her eyes from the sparks that flew as King Valen’s sword struck Everin’s blue tentacles. She and Ford backed even further away from the boy in the blue orb. Cora tried to watch but everything moved so quickly that her eyes had trouble tracking it all. King Valen was fast, unnaturally fast. If she had to guess, he likely was channeling some of the energy from the children on the playground into his muscles, giving him the same strength and durability that Ichoron possessed.

King Valen ducked and dodged around Everin’s tentacles as the boy tried to ensnare the king with one of his protracted limbs. Valen used his sword and shield to deflect the arms that he couldn’t evade. The king almost reached Everin, when the tentacles vanished. The blue sphere around Everin rapidly expanded outward, knocking the king backward, before it faded away.

“Don’t touch me!” Everin screamed.

Cora shivered at the sound of his voice. This wasn’t Everin. Not anymore. The boy standing on the middle of the rooftop cast his arm in a wide arc, sending a wave of the eerie sapphire flames cascading down upon King Valen and McCarthy. The king threw up protective white orbs around himself and McCarthy, but Everin was ready. He fired a beam of blue energy at the orb containing King Valen. Like an eggshell, the sphere of white energy cracked open.

The orb had absorbed most of the beam’s energy, but there was still enough force behind it to knock King Valen into the wall behind him. He smacked into the stones with an impact that might’ve killed a normal human. When he stood up, unharmed, Cora had to remind herself that King Valen wasn’t a normal human. He might not have been human at all anymore.

The king sent several blasts of white light in Everin’s direction, and the boy had to throw up a barrier of blue energy to protect himself. Cora noticed that King Valen deliberately angled his shots to that they didn’t come near her or Ford if they missed.

“Get out of here already,” King Valen snapped at McCarthy.

“Yes, my king,” the man said. The anxiety in his voice was obvious.

McCarthy gave two loud, consecutive whistles. Moments later, Kyzella appeared, soaring over the top of the castle on her shimming gold wings. Saphine was riding on her back. Somehow, Kyzella was able to cool down the energy of her wings so that they didn’t burn her passenger.

“Saphine, provide cover! Kyzella, give me a lift!” McCarthy shouted upward at the angel circling overhead.

“No you don’t.”

Cora felt her stomach fill with dread as she heard the cruel edge in Everin’s voice.

Before Kyzella could swoop down to collect her master, Everin released continuous beams of blue light into the sky, one from each palm. He waved them around, cutting the across the atmosphere with his twin currents of lethal energy. Kyzella attempted to dart out of the path of Everin’s beams, but her mobility was limited with a rider on her back. One of the trails of light caught the back of Saphine. There was a flash of flame and what might’ve been blood. Cora was too far away to tell. The dark-skinned angel was knocked off Kyzella and sent spiraling toward the courtyard of the castle.

“No!” Kyzella shrieked. She tucked in her wings and dove downward to catch the falling angel.

Everin took advantage of Kyzella’s distraction. He fired a beam of energy directly at Kyzella. The light tagged her foot and she was sent careening out of the sky. There was a thump and a crash. The first sound, Cora assumed, was Saphine hitting the ground next to the castle. The second was from Kyzella as she controlled her fall enough to come to a skidding halt on the stone rooftop just a few yards from where Cora and Ford stood.

Her wings flickered out of existence and Kyzella screamed. It was a horrifying sound. The cry of someone who wanted desperately to wake up from the nightmare they had fallen into. The angel clutched at her leg. With a moment of heart-stopping terror, Cora realized that Kyzella’s foot was gone. Everin’s beam of light had vaporized her leg from the middle of her shin downward. Kyzella stared at the bleeding wound in shock.

“Cora, your bag.”

She heard Ford’s voice as though he were far away. She didn’t react, but she didn’t fight him when he slipped the pack off her shoulders and dug a long sheet out of it. Ford ran toward Kyzella. He knelt down beside the wounded angel and pressed the cloth onto the end of her amputated leg, trying to stop the bleeding.

Cora remained standing. She took in the scene, too stunned to move. Everin and King Valen took turns blasting each other with beams of light and throwing up glowing barriers of energy to protect themselves. The blasts of light and barriers that King Valen summoned were becoming dimmer and dimmer. He was running out of happiness, Cora realized. Everin, on the other hand, only appeared to be growing stronger as more suffering was freed from the dark recesses of his mind.

Everin seemed to sense Valen’s weakness. After blocking the dim light from the king’s most recent attack, Everin reached forward with a cord of blue energy that extended from his arm. The tentacle whipped through the air and wrapped itself around the king before he could react. King Valen grunted and created a sword from his white light. He struck against the binding of blue energy that held him, but Everin didn’t let go. He raised the king into the air and hurled him off the side of the castle.

A breathless scream escaped Cora’s lips. She didn’t have much respect for King Valen, but she’d just seen Everin throw a man off a rooftop. This was after he’d just killed Saphine and possibly mortally wounded Kyzella. These actions couldn’t have been committed by Everin, yet it was her friend who stood in front of her.

Cora felt her own eyes water as she realized that she’d failed. She hadn’t helped Everin get over the murder of his parents at all. The suffering was still there, just as potent and terrible as the day his parents were killed. And now it was pouring back over him, undoing any progress they’d made over the past year. The few happy memories they’d shared, teaching him to trust other people, to trust himself – all of that was washed away as the evil McCarthy had sown inside Everin came to fruition.

Slowly, Everin turned on McCarthy. Without the king to protect him or Kyzella to carry him away, the man had nowhere to go. Everin raised his hand and a ring of blue fire appeared around McCarthy.

“Everin, I know you don’t like me, but we can talk this out. Please.” McCarthy tried to keep his voice level, but it came out sounding more like a whimper.

“I said,” Everin spoke slowly, threateningly. “Don’t ever speak to me again.”

He closed his fist, and the flames began to close tighter and tighter around the murderer of Everin’s parents.

Cora felt like her heart was going to burst out of her chest. She’d failed. Everin was out of control. The powerlessness of her situation was what frustrated her the most. Everin needed her, but he wouldn’t listen to a word she said right now. Ford needed her, too. They were both in danger with Everin and the angels nearby. Yet she stood, frozen, on the rooftop.

Everin hadn’t just betrayed himself, he’d betrayed her. She wasn’t sure if she’d ever be able to get the old Everin back, not after what he was putting himself through right now. Cora felt sick. There was a pounding in her head and her insides roiled. This was too much to process. She tried to breathe but her lungs wouldn’t inflate.

Then, something clicked. Cora didn’t know how to describe it, but she sensed something within her snap into place. Some part of her that hadn’t been working before suddenly started to function. Before she could react, a blinding white light flashed in her eyes. There was a terrible pain that stabbed through her mind, like a rod being driven through her skull. The quietest of gasps escaped Cora’s mouth before the white light faded to black, and she dropped to the floor.

Next chapter:

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