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Throne of Broken Wings

Book Three in the Ash Kingdom Series

TOBW

“There wasn’t a kingdom I wouldn’t burn down to save you.”

 

Caitin’s newfound powers have emerged and with it the secrets her mother tried to bury. But secrets are never meant to be buried…

In an attempt to save her mate from the Darkness, Caitin uncovers the vile truth behind her bloodline. She will need the help of others if she wants to destroy the Darkness and end the reign of terror behind it all. But first, they will all pay for touching what was hers. Afterall, an Alorian is very protective over their mate.

The last Layke saw of his wife was her dying on the ground. The image replayed over in his mind until he was certain death had claimed her. The Darkness played with his mind, flaunting her demise with a wicked grin. But it was Caitin’s promise to not leave this world without him that gave him hope. Even if there was only a sliver of a chance she still breathed, he would fight. He would find a way back to her.

Even with the Darkness threatening their future, he knew his mate was the most powerful summoner of them all. In the end, only one summoner could reign.

Chapter One

Caitin

 

 

Nothing would have prepared me for battle, but here we were. The icy ground was covered in red and unmoving bodies. The sounds of screams and the clang of weapons echoed around me. I could smell death before it happened. The metallic scent of blood clung to my sword and the air as I fought next to Layke. The way he moved was so fluid. It was as if his blade was an extension of his arm. I was mesmerized by his movements and the ease of which he approached the enemy.

I had long abandoned my horse. Needing to move. Needing to be one on one with my attackers. As soon as my feet hit the ground, I felt a surge of magic rush through me. It wasn’t mine, but it was familiar… darker. I peered off into the trees, looking for a wisp of black, but nothing was there. I probably imagined things. I was worried the Darkness would find a way out of Eylia and to the battleground. But it was impossible. Wasn’t it?

Slicing my blade through the air, it warmed and tingled under my grip. The script drawn with my blood glowed like golden fire on the steel. The power fused into the sword vibrated up my arm then it stopped. Cold and unfeeling, there was nothing but silence around me. It had taken the sounds and absorbed them. My heart raced as I neared a panic. I needed to be able to hear my attackers. I needed to hear Layke.

Spin left, slice up.

What? I heard the faint whisper in my mind like a resounding echo. I spun and drew the sword, carving through a man’s wrist.

Duck. Cut down.

I didn’t have time to ponder where the voice came from or how… I did as instructed and narrowly missed the swing of an axe over my head. I brought my weapon down and sliced through the leg of my assailant. The blade of my sword went through his bone as if it were made of leather. It didn’t burn through it as Layke’s did, but it had a sharpness, unlike any dagger I’d ever used before.

Step right and turn. Jab forward.

I continued to listen to the voice, doing whatever it demanded. It hadn’t failed me thus far.

Grunts ensued, followed by more blood. I tried not to focus on it and pushed another man off my blade.

A growl slipped through the silence, and I spun to see Layke’s wings emerge before he lunged, landing on a man ready to attack me. His fangs tore through the man’s neck, and I grinned, watching my mate.

Step and plunge.

With my free hand, I grabbed my dagger from my thigh and felt the familiar vibration rush through me. I stepped to the side and sank it into the belly of the guard before yanking it out.

Get low and sweep your foot. Thrust the dagger down.

My body moved to the words, obeying the instruction. Kneeling, I swung my leg out, swept another guard off his feet, and drove the blade of my dagger through his chest.

Breathless, I dropped to the ground, placing my hand on the damp grass. Magic rushed from my fingertips into the earth faster than I could stop it. It was like a barrier of power that surrounded me, forcing the air around me to tremble. The field shook, knocking down everyone within arm's width of me.

I heard a tsk and lifted my gaze, peering into the battle, looking for the Darkness. I expected to see the tar-like teeth snapping and gnashing at the air in front of me, but nothing was there. I went to move, but I saw a sliver of a shadow emerging from the ground, trying to grasp around my wrist and ankles. The Darkness found its way to me. It had escaped its underground chambers in Eylia.

“What in the bloody gods is that?” Layke’s voice made it through the silence, but I couldn’t answer him. I had to focus on the wisps trying to detain me.

A slight cry escaped my throat as I yanked my hand from its clutches. A small fire flickered in my palm. The shadows retracted, sinking back into the earth, afraid of the flame and what it would do to it. At least I’d learned something while on the isle with the Akyell. Fire could destroy the Darkness.

Sounds began to come back, softly at first like whispers, then the full clanging of steel against steel filled the air. It was almost too much after having nothing for so long.

I stood and looked around. Where did it go?

The Darkness wouldn’t just leave. It wasn’t scared. It would be calculating… changing tactics… making a new plan.

I looked at Layke. He was watching me with concern etched on his perfect face.

Blackness consumed me until I was caught inside the middle of the Darkness. A shape took form, and I recognized it as the same as the one I killed. The void where its eyes should have been was like black, inky pools of nothingness. Its teeth dripped like tar as it snapped at the air like a gorge.

I glared at it, a familiar enemy. “How did you escape Eylia?”

Their voices cackled in the darkness. “There is another like you… She created us. She will help us.”

I knew it talked of my mother. The only surviving summoner from the great battle. I drew on my power, creating a ball of fire in the palm of my hand, and smirked. “She might help you, but I will destroy you.”

I threw the fire at the shadowy frame. It shrieked and exploded around me. I folded over, ducking and shielding myself from its wrath. The black void that consumed me dissipated, sinking back into the ground. My breathing came in short pants as I worked to regain a clear focus on the battle around me.

Fire still sizzled on my hand as if my magic wanted to continue fighting. Layke rushed through the guards toward me. His touch felt like ice.

“Caitin, are you okay?”

I nodded, but honestly, I wasn’t sure. I knew the Darkness was still out there.

“Layke, behind you!” Mym’s cry sounded as she sparred with two men, Vorigan not far behind her.

Layke spun from me and blocked an attack meant for his head. Bringing his sword down, it went through the man’s shoulder and into his middle. The guard’s silent gasp was filled with blood as he fell.

I saw the arrow aimed for Layke, and my heart stopped. My soul screamed at him to move. As I pushed him out of its path, searing pain shot through me as the arrow entered my chest. I couldn’t remember screaming, but I heard it… it echoed across the field where the fighting continued.

The sounds of war ceased to exist, as all I heard was Layke. The roar that came from him was immortal and menacing. But then… he was crying. He shouldn’t cry. He was stronger than tears.

I felt like I was falling into nothing. A void where the pain was absent and life didn’t exist. I shut my eyes and let it pull me away.

Vaguely, I could feel Layke’s hand at the wound entry. His warbled voice slipped through the void, finding me. I smiled. He always found me. “Gods, Caitin. You have to look at me, sweetheart.”

He also always asked for the impossible. If I listened, I would be brought back to the battlefield. To the pain. To the fear of death.

It was that last thought that had me listening harder. I couldn’t die. If I died, so did Layke. My eyes fluttered as I attempted to focus on my husband.

His shirt was blood-soaked, but it couldn’t possibly be all mine.

He pressed his hand harder against the wound. “Do not ever try to take an arrow for me again.”

Gods, it hurt. I wanted to tell him to stop, to move away, but I couldn’t. My breaths became short and labored. It hurt too much to take a full breath.

Layke looked away, and a rage I’d never seen in him before crossed his face. “Lock him up. I’ll deal with him after I know she’s okay.” The promise of vengeance laced each word.

The pain erupted into something more, and I wanted to scream, but my throat began to close as it filled with blood. I gasped, choking on Layke’s name.

He pushed the hair from my face. I could feel the hot stickiness of my blood as it smeared across my skin. “I won’t let you die.”

There wasn’t much he could do. He wasn’t a mage… or a god… let alone a summoner. Tears slipped from my eyes, and I didn’t even want to stop them.

Layke grabbed the arrow and tugged.

White searing pain ripped through me, and I screamed. “Don’t touch it!”

Layke held back a sob of his own but didn’t remove his hand from the arrow. “I know it hurts, sweetheart, but I’m gonna remove it and let you bleed out. I’ll change you at the last minute.”

Gods, no. He couldn’t. If that saved me, I would kill him in a far scarier way. I didn’t want to become a monster who couldn’t control my bloodlust.

“Layke, no, you can’t,” I breathed. “I don’t want to kill you.”

“You won’t.” Tears slipped from his face, mixing with mine. He grabbed the shaft tighter. “I’m so sorry.”

He pulled it out in one swift motion. Unimaginable pain cleaved through my chest. The blood in my throat thickened as I screamed. The shriek didn’t sound like me, but it was. The air left my lungs, and I couldn’t breathe anymore as my throat filled completely. Panic set in, and I reached for Layke but couldn’t move. My arms were too heavy.

“Stay with me, Caitin. Look at me.”

Gods, I wanted to. I wanted nothing more than to stay with him. But that wasn’t my destiny. Taliana warned me I would die. I only thought it would be against the Darkness.

My eyes closed against my will. Life as I knew it began to slip away, and I couldn’t remember why I was fighting.

More blood filled my mouth. It tasted different, but I didn’t care.

“Swallow.” Layke sounded so far away.

My heart stopped, and my chest felt empty.

“Swallow!”

Layke needed me to drink his blood, but I didn’t think I could. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move my tongue. But my mate needed me to try. I would die doing that very thing…

I tried to let the blood drain down my throat. I gagged but managed to swallow a trace of the hot liquid.

My heart did one last thump, and then my body felt like it was on fire. Burning with no relief, searing from head to toe. I wanted to scream. To beg the gods to let me die, surely this wasn’t death.

My insides thrashed as Layke’s blood traveled throughout my body. I could feel my core rip apart and then stitch itself back together.

Magic mixed with the blood, vibrating wildly under the surface. I felt dead… unable to move. Yet, a slight stirring of life blossomed in my soul. It held onto Layke’s soul, weaving itself tightly as if becoming one with him.

Finally, my throat cleared, and I gasped for air. My lungs burned being without for so long. My eyes shot open. I reached out, grasping for Layke, but it wasn’t him who held me. Vorigan had a pained expression as he kept me down.

“Don’t fight it, Caitin. Fighting the change will only make it worse.”

I wasn’t fighting it. I was worried about my mate. Where was he?

“How long does it usually take?” Mym’s concerned tone did nothing to help.

Vorigan shifted me into his arms and carried me away from the field. No. Where was Layke? He was taking me away from my mate. His voice strained as he hurried to the Jaded Moor. “It could take minutes or days. It depends on how much she fights it.”

“Layke,” I managed to say before the blinding pain ripped through me again. I pushed it away.

“We’ll get him back, Caitin. Just stop fighting his blood.”

Get him back? What happened to him? I screamed as another rack of pain shredded my insides. I thrashed in Vorigan’s arms, but he held me firmly to his chest.

Gods, make it stop! Layke’s blood was tearing me apart, piece by piece, then sewing me back together.

“Is she supposed to be in that much pain?” Mym was still there. Somewhere.

Vorigan’s grip tensed around me. “No.”

I gulped in air and rolled in his arms to escape the fire burning me alive. How was I not dead yet?

My magic began to sing. Its soft hum soothed the burn to an ache. It became friends with Layke’s blood and called to it as if it were made to be one.

Relaxing, I let go of the fear of the change and opened myself up to it. Bright light pulsed behind my eyelids, and my head throbbed in rhythm.

Like roots growing into the ground, Layke’s blood dove to the bottom of my magic pool and pushed until it cracked, breaking through the core of power. A flood of new magic, hidden deep within me, greeted the old in a euphoric dance. My magic shifted, changing into something strange yet even more powerful. I felt everything around me… I was connected to it. It was me, and I was it.

My throat burned with a need to fill the well of magic with blood. Not just any blood… Layke’s.

No. I would not give in to the temptation to drink from my mate until I was sure I wouldn’t kill him. I would rather live in misery and pain than end Layke’s life.

“Gods!” Vorigan nearly dropped me. He knelt and placed me on the floor of the Jaded Moor. “Everyone out!”

What few patrons were hiding inside while the battle raged outside ran for the door.

Probably for the best. I didn’t want to lose myself to bloodlust with them either. But feeding from them wasn’t even appealing. No… it was only my mate’s blood I craved. I could feel him inside me, still stitching his power with mine, filling my magic with a new thirst. The fire in my throat erupted as flames licked the back of my tongue. I cried out, clawing at my neck and rolling away from Vorigan onto my knees, but I was caught on something weighing me down.

Red feathers fell over me, gracing the floor like a pool of blood. I froze. The burning in my throat no longer held my attention. The weight on my back pressed down as I attempted to lift myself. The wings moved with me.

“Vorigan,” Mym gasped.

“Caitin,” Vorigan whispered, cautiously kneeling next to me. “Caitin, look at me.”

His voice was unnecessarily loud. I covered my ears and closed my eyes tightly. Gods, make him stop talking. I blinked, but spots of red filled my vision. The burning in my throat became incessant. I needed Layke. I needed his blood.

My fingers dug into the skin of my neck until I bled. “Make it stop.”

Vorigan tried to touch me, but I jerked back. He glanced warningly at Mym.

She dropped to her knees and pulled her shirt down, revealing the mark where I’d severed the Darkness and where Vorigan’s mating bond branded her. “Caitin, drink.”

I shook my head. I couldn’t. My stomach revolted at the thought of feeding from her.

Vorigan gripped my shoulders. “Caitin, if you want to help Layke, if you want to save him, you need to feed. Now.”

My mouth ached as my tongue ran along the newly elongated fangs. I couldn’t slow my breathing down as I panicked. Where was Layke? Why wasn’t he here? I continued to claw at my throat. It hurt worse than anything I’d endured before. Why did he do this to me?

“Caitin,” Mym whispered. She was loud as well. “Drink. Please.”

The clang of steel echoed in my ears in sharp painful beats. But the sound slowed. The fighting must be dying.

Even the air burned as I inhaled. Bloody love, I wasn’t sure I could do this.

“Layke needs you, Caitriona. Now feed.” Vorigan’s stern voice was low, but my focus snagged on my name. He never called me by my full name. Layke needed me? I was so confused. Nothing made sense.

Mym continued to hold her shirt back, revealing her neck. I could hear her heart beating in steady unafraid pulses.

“I can’t.” I pushed back, falling on my rear. A sharp tug on my back felt like a gorge clawing at my shoulders. “Ouch!” I rolled to my knees and realized the red feathers continued to follow me.

Who had red feathers? I had never seen a set of red wings while in Aloria. None of the men who came with us had red wings…

Vorigan moved slowly toward Mym, placing a hand over hers, letting her shirt fall back in place. “Mym, can you grab her a blanket or something to cover herself? We’ll work on getting her to feed after she’s not so exposed.”

With a worried look my way, she nodded. Was that a tear in her eye? No. Mym didn’t cry.

Gods, I hurt everywhere. My head throbbed, and my thoughts were still too jumbled.

Within a minute, Mym rushed back down the stairs carrying a blanket. Vorigan took it and held it out. “Caitin, I’m going to wrap this around you, and then we can see about getting you to a bed.”

A bed? What? He just said Layke needed me. Why would I go to bed?

My chest lifted as my breaths quickened. I shook my head. Getting to my knees, I looked down. My shirt was gone. Only shreds of it fell over my shoulders. Blood stuck to my chest and stomach.

Vorigan came forward with the blanket, and I accepted it this time. I held the rough fabric close.

 

Tears fell until I couldn’t breathe again. “Where’s Layke?”

“We can worry about that later. Right now, you need to feed.”

“No.” I swallowed the burning fire rising in my throat. “I’ll be sick if I feed from her.” Just the thought had my stomach rolling.

“Caitin, I know you want Layke’s blood. Trust me, I do. But he’s not here, and you must feed before bloodlust takes over.”

Bloodlust? No. That was the very thing I wanted to prevent. I couldn’t let it consume me. I nodded. “Fine. I’ll try to drink from Mym, but only if you tell me where Layke is.”

Vorigan winced. Placing a hand on mine, he looked down. “The Darkness took him.”

Oh, gods, I was going to faint. Vorigan held me up. “We’ll get him back. But you have to feed. He will die if you sacrifice yourself to bloodlust.”

Red filled my vision. The magic vibrated differently inside of me, searching for a way out. I felt the world weave into the power filling me. The Darkness took my mate. The ground rumbled as fury seethed in rhythm with my magic.

A scream erupted from the depths of my core. Deep inside, I called to the world my mother helped create. Silence, as I had never heard before, covered the land as it listened to me. Protect my mate. The internal urge to rip out Labian’s heart overtook me. He stole my mate.

I stood, and the blanket fell. The red wings encircled me, hiding me from Vorigan and Mym. I traced a feather and shuddered deep inside with the touch like I caressed my soul. They were mine.

Oh, gods…

The room spun at the realization that I had wings attached to me. But I wasn’t supposed to have wings. Only the men got them.

My gaze snapped up, locking with Vorigan’s cautious yet shocked stare.

“What happened?” My question went beyond just the red feathers. Those I needed to push back into the farthest part of my mind and ignore them the best I could until I could focus clearly on saving my husband.

“I don’t know. He was with you on the ground. You were bleeding out, and he fed you his blood. Then the Darkness engulfed him, and he was gone.” Vorigan’s jaw clenched.

Vaguely, I remembered the Darkness seeping up through the ground, trying to latch onto me. That was before the arrow. It was after me, not him. It took the wrong person! My stomach rolled, and I doubled over, wailing my beloved’s name.

“Caitin,” Vorigan said, reaching out to hold me. “We’ll get him back.”

My legs no longer held the strength to support me. I slumped into his arms. Curling into his chest, I could hear his heart thumping vigorously. It should be Layke’s heart I heard, not Vorigan’s. Tears fell as if I had a never-ending supply of them.

“Mym, come closer. We need to get her to feed.” Vorigan’s whisper was still loud, but I no longer cared.

Sandwiched between him and my friend, I felt suffocated. I clawed at his chest, attempting to push away, but it was like moving a mountain.

Mym pulled her shirt down and again revealed her neck. “Drink, Caitin. It’s okay, I promise.”

Gods, no. I couldn’t do this. Why were they making me do this?

My mouth watered at the thought of quenching the fiery pain in my throat. I turned to listen to her blood pulsing under her skin.

Vorigan held me tighter but pushed me closer to Mym. “Feed. It will help.” His voice was too high, too loud. “It’s bloodlust. She’s losing to it.”

Losing to bloodlust?

My head felt heavy, and I couldn’t do anything but let it hang to the side as I watched Mym’s neck. My mouth ached as my fangs begged to tear through her flesh.

“Slowly, pierce her skin and release your fangs. You can take her blood easily without hurting either of you,” Vorigan coaxed.

I shook my head. “I can’t.”

He leaned over and bit Mym. I could smell her blood immediately. He swallowed and lifted his mouth, leaving the bite wound open. Unable to restrain my hunger any longer as the fresh scent of her blood filled the air, I leaned forward, clasped my lips over it, and sucked in a mouth full.

“Good. Keep drinking, Caitin. Swallow,” Vorigan encouraged.

I tried to ignore his subtle lesson in feeding and let my mouth and body do what felt right. Mym’s blood was like ice in my throat, and I nearly groaned in relief. This was nothing like when Layke fed from me. There was nothing intimate about it. If anything, I could feel our friendship growing stronger, knowing she was willing to help me this way.

My stomach rolled as the blood warmed my belly. I pulled back and placed a hand over my mouth. Shaking my head, I refused more. “I can’t.”

“I know it’s hard.” Vorigan relaxed his hold on me.

Mym leaned back on her knees and tugged her shirt back in place. “I’m here if you need more.”

Oh, gods, I was going to be sick. Just as the thought crossed my mind, I heaved Mym’s blood all over the floor. My body jerked in heavy spasms as the hot liquid continued to purge from my stomach. My throat burned again, but this time it was worse.

On my knees, I crawled from Vorigan. “I can’t do this. I need Layke.”

Mym touched my arm. “As soon as you’re strong enough, we’ll go after him.” She looked up at her mate. “All of us.”

“Help me stand.” My request didn’t sound strong as my voice shook almost as hard as my body.

Vorigan took my arm and helped me up.

My legs were weak, and I worried they wouldn’t hold me. The red wings felt heavy on my back. I picked a feather up, and my brow rose. “How is this even possible?” How was any of this possible?

“I’m not sure.” Vorigan’s grip remained strong around my arm. “Perhaps it is because your father was Alorian?”

My stomach rolled, and I worried I would heave again, but I stifled it behind a slight gag. “Gods, no offense, Mym, but your blood tastes awful.”

Mym offered a soft chuckle as she took my other arm. “How about we get you something more substantial to try until you can feed with Layke?”

Food didn’t sound appealing or unpleasant. But my emotions barred me from wanting anything other than saving my mate. I shook my head. “No. We must leave. I can eat later.”

“We don’t even know where the Darkness took Layke.” Vorigan helped me up the first set of stairs to the rooms on the second floor.

“Wherever Labian is, the Darkness will follow.” I was sure of it. “Find Labian.”

“That sounds like an order from a queen,” Vorigan mocked.

With each step, I found new strength. “It is.”

In the room, Vorigan rummaged through Layke’s things and pulled out a flying shirt. “Here, until you figure out how to control them, this might help.”

The thin straps of what was left of my shirt barely covered anything, leaving nothing to the imagination. The wound where the arrow went through was still sore, but the skin was already stitching itself back together. It appeared the wings and fangs weren’t the only things new.

Vorigan nodded to my chest. “Alorians heal quickly if they feed, but you are also a summoner. Your magic, combined with what little of Layke’s blood you have in your body, must be healing you.”

I took the offered flying shirt and accepted Mym’s help tugging it on, only wincing slightly as I raised my left arm for the sleeve. Once the garment was properly belted around the waist, leaving the chest unfastened for the wound, I turned to Vorigan. “If you do not ride with me, I will go alone, but I will not wait here another moment.”

Vorigan bowed his head slightly. “There will be no heading into battle without us.” He looked up. “Layke is my brother. A’my oodbl a’my otherbr.”