The crunch beneath my boots was too loud in my sensitive ears, but it didn’t stop me from pushing forward.
The forest was thick, and dark, with tightly-knit trees clustered together. Some of the exposed roots made it difficult to navigate the forest floor, but my sight was better than any humans.
I could see the lifeline of the trees and everything around me as I crossed the forest with ease. The dim light that surged through the tree roots and sleeping animals was enough to light a path for me—one that led to a small wooden house the size of a miniature playhouse for children.
Ivy grew along the dark wood, and I’d decorated it with flowers when I’d created it.
I settled onto the ground before it and gave it a little knock.
Out of the front door came a small fairy with thick black wings, dark hair, and big eyes the color of the sunset.
“Orion,” I said, pleased to see his little face.
He peered up at me through shiny hair and frowned. “Up a bit late, aren’t you?”
Shrugging, I glanced toward the sky. “Night is when I’m most at home.”
“The stars,” he said, and I nodded.
“What brings you to my part of the woods?”
A shrill cry broke out in the quiet of the forest—a cry from the direction I’d just left from.
An icy chill raced up my spine as I stood from my spot on the snow-covered forest floor.
“What was that?” I whispered, narrowing my eyes as I gazed through the trees toward the main road that curved down the hill toward my farm.
Orion’s flew up to my left shoulder and settled there, peering ahead.
“I’ll take a look,” he said, and his eyes began to glow.
Those ethereal eyes landed on me after a few moments of quiet and the distant howling of the wind.
“They’ve come,” he said, his small voice merely a whisper in the cold night.
I knew it. I didn’t want to admit it—but, I knew they would come one day.
The Council of Souls—the founding force behind the great Academy of Souls that loomed over all from its mountain-top series of castles and medieval buildings.
I closed my eyes. A slow breath was released from my lungs as I prepared myself for what was about to happen.
The war had taken much from me and my family. Now, it would take me from what was left of them.
The sound of trotting horses grew closer and I opened my eyes to see glowing lights from the carriage.
“I won’t let them separate us.” “I know, Skylar. All will be fine,” Orion said. “Should I run?” I asked, desperate for an answer other than what was about to happen.
He shook his head, and placed a small hand on my cheek. “They’d find you. No matter where you’d hide.”
I knew he was right, even as the lights emerged from the trees and right toward me.
To my surprise, it wasn’t a small army that had come to take me.
It was one man—a young man with dark hair and glowing orbs floating around his body.
Eyes the color of rust looked to me as he scanned the surroundings. Then, he reached out a hand.
“Skylar, daughter of the traitors, Victor and Kelsey Thronton, I’m Rhys, Seeker for the Society of Dusk.”
I stared at him, and tilted my head, face free of emotion. “I wish I cared.”
It took everything within me to not ball my hands into fists at the mention of my parents being traitors.
Orion tsked. “Easy now, Sky.”
An amused smile came to Rhys’s lips—a smile that only angered me more. Why did he have to have such a nice face to look at? Why didn’t they send one of the old bastards they liked to parade around whenever it was time to account for the poor souls in the district?
This guy couldn’t have been much older than his early twenties, dressed in a sleek black wool coat with golden buttons, and dark slacks. He had a sword at his side, and looked like he knew how to use it.
It didn’t frighten me. I could also wield a sword…amongst other things.
“You’ve been summoned,” he said, disregarding my retort.
“For what?” I asked, frowning.
He shrugged. “Let’s see. I don’t know,” he said, rubbing his chin with the back of his knuckles. “Save the world, perhaps?”
Every inch of my body tensed. Despite my odd attraction to the Seeker before me, I wanted to run. I wanted to gather my sisters and escape into the deepest part of the woods, or a cave somewhere remote.
I didn’t want what fate had in store.
I didn’t want to save the world.
The world had taken everything from me.
Let it burn.
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