Chapter 39 (Cora)

            “Cora! Cora! Oh no. Come on, Cora. Please wake up!”

            A hand frantically shaking her shoulder jolted Cora awake. She recognized the voice she’d heard as belonging to Ford. Slowly, she opened her eyes. The sun barely shone through the overcast sky, but Cora still squinted. It felt like her pupils were taking in too much light. She fought the urge to close her eyes shut again.

            “You’re awake! Are you okay? What happened?”

            Cora sifted through the fuzzy shapes in her field of vision until Ford’s face came into focus. He was kneeling over her while she lay on her back on the stone rooftop of King Valen’s castle.

            “I’m okay,” she said. “How long was I out?”

            Ford breathed a sigh of relief.

            “Only for a moment. Are you sure you’re alright? You just collapsed on the ground out of nowhere.”

            Cora nodded. “I don’t think I’m hurt. What’s Everin doing.”

            When Ford didn’t immediately respond, Cora felt a weight in her stomach drop.

            “He’s…it’s…He killed McCarthy. It’s not pretty.”

            Cora pushed herself into a sitting position. Across the rooftop, she saw Everin standing before a tower of his vengeful blue flames. They greedily licked the air with blue tongues at least twice as tall as Everin. The fire burned in the spot where McCarthy had been standing. Cora didn’t bring herself to try to identify the man’s body from the charred mass at the base of the flames.

            Cora turned back to Ford. When she looked at him this time, she realized that something was different. Maybe she’d hit her head when she’d fallen. No, she told herself. That was wishful thinking. She knew what she was looking at. She’d heard Everin describe it enough that there was no mistaking it.

            An intense aura of pink light shimmered around Ford. It pulsed with scintillating rosy energy off his frame. Cora looked at Kyzella. The angel sat on the rooftop, applying pressure to the cloth Ford had hastily wrapped around her wound. Waves of pink light fell off her figure as well. It wasn’t as intense as the aura around Ford, but it was definitely there.

            Cora forced herself to turn and look at Everin. Her friend looked the same as before. Not a single tendril of the light emanated from his being. Everin turned away from the blue fire and scanned the rooftop behind him. His glowing blue eyes fell on Kyzella. The angel looked up at him with panic on her face.

            “You worked for him.” Everin spat out the last word with such hatred that Cora had no doubt who “him” was. “You deserve to suffer,” Everin growled.

            “Everin, stop!” Cora shouted from where she sat.

            Everin didn’t react to her voice. He took a threatening step towards the angel.

            “Everin. Please. Listen to me! She was McCarthy’s slave. She didn’t have a choice.”

            Everin still didn’t answer. Blue flames blossomed in his hands once more as he continued his slow advance towards Kyzella.

            “I can see it too!” Cora blurted out.

            Everin paused.

            “What?” he demanded.

            “I can see the auras. I don’t think I’m seeing suffering, but I can see the auras. I can sense the energy produced by emotions.”

            Before Cora could say more, Everin raised his hand. A ring of blue flames erupted around her and Ford. Ford’s eyes widened in shock.

            “Everin, what’s going on?” He shouted.

            “You’re a threat to me now, Cora. I’m sorry it has to be like this, but it can’t be helped.”

            Cora gaped at Everin. His words were as cold as ice. His glowing blue eyes didn’t recognize her. Whatever had happened to him when he began manipulating the power of his own suffering had stripped him of everything that he used to be.

            Before Everin could close the ring and engulf them in his flames, a figure appeared next to them. It was King Valen. Carried aloft by a disk of white energy, he’d lifted himself back up to the top of the castle. The disk dropped down next to Kyzella. It faded, and King Valen dropped a few inches down onto the rooftop. He knelt next to his angel.

            “Saphine’s dead. There wasn’t anything I could do for her. I’m sorry,” King Valen said to Kyzella.

            She nodded grimly. She’d probably come to the same conclusion, given how far Saphine had fallen.

            King Valen looked at Everin and back to Kyzella. He shuddered. It was the first time Cora had seen King Valen break the air of cool confidence he carried himself with.

            “Kyzella, I’ve failed. I did all this because I thought I could become powerful enough to put my past behind me. I thought that I could turn my pain into power and that it would make me happy. I was wrong, and I’m sorry I roped you into this as well. You’ve been a good servant. Now, I have one more task I must ask of you.”

            Kyzella glanced dubiously at her leg. Hesitantly, she nodded. “I’ll try, my king.”

            King Valen gritted his teeth and pointed at Cora and Ford. “Get them out of here. I’m going to distract Everin and try to buy you some time to get away.”

            “But, my king…” Kyzella began.

            “That’s an order,” King Valen snapped.

            Two swords of white energy flared into existence in his hands. He stared at Everin. This was his legacy. This was his creation. In his last act, he would try to undo his terrible mistake. He raised a glowing blade into the air.

            “Everin, I’m back. Come get your revenge!”

            More quietly, Cora heard the king say to himself, “I deserve it.”

            He charged at Everin, swords swinging. At the same time, Kyzella sprang into action. Groaning with pain, she summoned her golden wings and leapt across the rooftop. She skimmed over the ring of flames around Cora and Ford and grabbed them each with a hand.

            Cora tried to fight the angel pulling her off the rooftop.

            “Wait! Everin! You don’t have to fight him! McCarthy’s dead!”

            Everin summoned a shield of blue energy that flashed in front of the king, knocking him backward. Everin took the opportunity to turn and stare at Cora.

            A cold shiver ran down Cora’s spine as Everin’s eyes locked onto her own. They were wild, furious, and shining with the icy light of a hatred that had been pent up for far too long.

            “Don’t tell me what to do,” he snarled.

            “Everin, please. You’re not thinking straight. Let me help you.”

            She kicked her feet wildly as Kyzella began half-carrying, half-dragging her and Ford across the rooftop, away from Everin.

            “All that fake friendship! All that mock sympathy! It meant nothing. You pretended you understood what I was feeling, but you were wrong. Nobody understands my pain!” He screamed after her. “I hate you, Cora! I hate how after all this, you get to walk away just fine while my parents are still dead, and I’m stuck as the monster McCarthy turned me into! I hate you!”

            As he screamed that last word, he hurled a wave of fire in her direction. Kyzella flapped her wings furiously and managed to lift Cora and Ford off the rooftop. Cora felt the heat from the flames beneath her. Deadly blue fire blazed only a few feet below, greedy blue tongues of heat licking at her dangling legs. The fire occupied a spot where she’d been just moments ago. There was no doubting it. Everin had just tried to kill her.

           Shocked, she clung to the Kyzella’s frame as she strained to keep their weight aloft. The angel flapped her wings quickly, panting hard with the effort. They took off, flying away from King Valen’s castle and over the city of Doronhine. As they flew, Cora looked behind her. She could see flashes of blue and white light as Everin and the king fought. She wasn’t sure who she was hoping would win.

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