Chapter 41: When All Hell Breaks Loose

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Rowan found me sobbing like a baby in a pool of my own vomit. Jaeger sat on his shoulder, whimpering as he perceived my distress. Rowan's eyes flicked to the mark on my shoulder and all color withdrew from his face. I braced myself for the questions, the rage. However, he merely knelt down and took me in his arms, lifting me off the ground and carrying me back to the Onyx Tower. He still hadn't uttered a word when we reached my room and he pushed the doors open.

The mattress seemed to embrace me while he laid me down onto the bed. I eyed Rowan from the corner of my eye, desperate for him to say something, but fearing his reaction at the same time. He walked around the bed, which groaned softly as his weight sank down on it. His arms snaked around me and pulled me into his hard, warm chest, one of his hands disappearing into my hair to stroke my head. I closed my eyes, purring like a cat. Jaeger crawled onto the mattress as well and curled up into a tiny ball against my stomach to share his comforting warmth with me.

Rowan stayed with me the entire night, and when I woke up screaming from yet another nightmare, he repeated the same ritual to lull me back to sleep. All without opening his mouth.

***

I would have loved to spend the rest of the Fair in bed, with Rowan's arms cradling me, but I returned from my dazed state long enough to realize that Cain would send people to come looking for me if I didn't attend the festivities. So I allowed Rowan to help me out of bed every morning and hoist me into the dress that seemed more like a shroud with each day that passed. I hadn't spoken a single word since the incident at Dominic's cage—I shuddered when the image came back to me more vividly than what my mental health could endure—but there was no need for words. Rowan and I were perfectly capable of communicating without the use of our tongues. I knew that he had long figured out what had to be figured out.

We had reached a silent agreement that there was no point in warning the rebels; they would no longer listen, not now they were so close to victory. When Ellie and Larry barged into my room, concern etching hard lines on their faces, it took them only one glance at the mark on my shoulder to realize it too.

All that mattered now was to get Rowan, his mother and the Dwarfs safely out of the city. It was the last good thing I could do for them before the world went up in flames—literally.

On the last morning of the Fair, Cain strolled into my room, his hands stuffed deep into his pockets. His eyes trailed to Rowan, who had straightened up beside me on the bed, but dismissed him just as quickly. His presence seemed to take up most of the space in the room, like a latent force of nature waiting for the tiniest spark to be unleashed. Cain's silence was a clear sign for Rowan to leave, and my friend squeezed my hand one last time before walking out the door.

Something broke inside of me then, with a cracking sound so loud that I cringed and eyed Cain from the corner of my eye, fearing that he had heard it. Rowan and I had devoted most of the night to saying goodbye to each other, since there wouldn't be time for that anymore when the bombs detonated. Yet, it hadn't been enough; it never would be. Rowan was still convinced that he could come back for me, that our separation wouldn't last long, but I knew better.

Cain smiled, extending his hand to help me get up from the bed. "We both know that you and I are supposed to spend this day together, little Sorceress, so that's why I came here. Are you ready to face the world with me?"

Taking his hand, calloused and covered in scars so light that I hadn't noticed them before, would seal my fate in more than one way. I didn't have to look up at him to see that he knew it too. As I slid my hand in his, I kept my face expressionless. My muscles protested when I stretched my stiff legs and stood up, as if they hadn't been used in centuries. I felt like a statue, flawless and serene on the outside, but empty on the inside. Jaeger flew toward us from the bed and settled into his usual spot on my shoulder.

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