Page 30 of A King So Cold

Still, some of the lesser faeries, creatures unlike those that could resemble man and woman and royal, remained. For some reason I didn’t know and probably would not understand, they hadn’t been a priority during the faerie raids.

Unsettled, I peered around, studying the burning night, all the dead bodies on the ground. Three of our males, one female, and at least twenty blithes.

“We need to move,” Zad said, refilling his satchel with the few belongings strewn about on the grass near the fading embers of the fire.

The rest of the blithe had retreated, but that wasn’t exactly reassuring.

“I don’t think they’ll return,” said one of the soldiers as he helped Didra strap her knee.

My blood was humming, pressure bubbling in every vein and pushing at every muscle. We couldn’t afford to stop. We rode through, or we returned home.

“We don’t stop,” I declared. “We ride on with short reprieves until we reach the border. The wounded may return to the castle.” I paused when I saw a young female struggling to breathe as a male worked on repacking her insides. “Or head to the nearest village to see a healer.”

No one protested, not that I thought they would, aside from Zad or Garris. But they both nodded when I looked at them, and then everyone began tearing down the tents. Well, the little that was worth taking with us. Most of them were shredded or had collapsed with dead blithes and gore strewn across them.

I spied my scabbard by the fire and leaped over a dead soldier to grab it. I eyed him as I sheathed and strapped on my sword, realizing I had no idea who he was, or anything about him.

A howl from the north broke the thrum of activity, and we moved faster.

Reaching Wen, I rubbed his glossy black coat as I inspected him for injuries.

A few minutes later, we disbanded, and as I gazed back at the clearing, the pressure in my blood pressed at my skin. “We need to set it on fire.”

Otherwise, we could be tracked more easily by use of personal belongings and things containing our scent.

Fire. A gift that Raiden had.

Zad’s blood magic, should he unleash it, might have been able to kill any creature with one thought, but it was harder to kill multiple people in one sweep. The cost was greater on one’s eternal soul and often resulted in him needing to feast on that of a pureblood in order to rebalance and recoup what he’d expended.

Such things were not permitted unless in consensual acts, lest he accidentally take too much. It was entirely too personal, required the highest amount of trust, and I’d heard it could render those with his type of magic a libidinous beast for hours until they regained control of themselves.

I’d never seen it myself, but I’d heard of it happening to Zadicus after a skirmish broke out by The Edges before I was born. He’d apparently wiped out a band of exiled who were holding a high royal hostage in order to regain entry into the Moon Kingdom.

Raiden’s fire-filled palm entered, uninvited and strangling, as I watched one of the soldiers march toward the campsite and crouch down to light a fire with his sword and flint.

I blinked slowly, encouraging the breeze to build and set the campsite ablaze.

We had no fire callers amongst us, and such skills were rare to find in the Moon Kingdom. Most magic holders carried abilities born from their home’s climate. There were plenty of wind changers, water wielders, and frost makers in Allureldin. But my bloodline was the only one to carry every elemental ability gifted to our land.

While we waited, my eyes swung to the dark canopy of the woods, and a shiver rolled down my spine. Once nothing of our short stay remained, I released the breeze, and the flames guttered swiftly.

Zad’s eyes, full of the same questions I felt filling my own, met mine from across an empty stallion’s back.

“I’d kill for a bath,” I said, returning from the creek’s bank and brushing water droplets from my skin. I’d washed most of the journey from my face, arms, neck, and hands, but it wasn’t good enough. I could still feel the ooze bursting over my skin, burning as my cells regenerated and soothed the sting.

Zad’s eyes merely skimmed me as I shucked on my jacket and collected my cloak from him. With a roll of his neck, he gave his attention back to Ainx, who was jabbing a finger at the map in his hands.

I wasn’t sure how he’d managed to appear so polished after riding for days, but it irked me, to say the least.

Zad and Garris looked east, the former saying, “Let’s move. We want to arrive while there’s still daylight.”

The sun warming my skin made the itch the burns left in their wake almost unbearable as we drew closer to the border. Sun-weathered villages sat in pockets of blazing green valleys. The dirt road stretched onward, winding through villages but not entering them. Little roads, some cobbled and some overgrown with weeds and wildflowers, veered off to greet each one. Children far off in the distance stopped to stare as we came into view while others darted away, likely to warn their parents.