But there was little time to soak in my anger—I could be furious with myself when and if I survived.
And I had no intention of dying a fool.
Panic sped in as the windows were shut from the outside. Raiden was out there.
And I was seated in a burning trap.
I half wondered if he was smiling, if he felt triumphant, or if maybe, just maybe, he was riddled with enough remorse to help me.
I wouldn’t dare hope for something I wouldn’t give.
I dived for the locked door and screamed, yanking and pulling. I slammed my hands against the wood, my nails chipping, fingers bleeding as I hurled wind and ice and every ounce of myself at the handle.
But the door wouldn’t budge.
If my magic wouldn’t work against the door, then I knew it wouldn’t work against the fire. Not while I was inside. Someone had hexed the carriage.
I screamed, and then coughed as fire licked the wood, and it began to groan. The sound of shouting and swords meeting resonated outside my death.
Tremors shot through my arms as I fumbled and tore at my gown. It finally ripped, and I secured the fabric around my mouth to buy me more time as I crawled across the scalding hot floor to my father.
My hands were torn, skin blistering, but I shut my eyes and wrapped them around the hilt of the sword, then pulled.
It slid from his head with little resistance, and my heart threatened to give out as I saw the insignia on the hilt.
It didn’t matter. It couldn’t matter if I was dead. If they got what they wanted.
Rage funneled through me with ice-sharp clarity. Thunder boomed overhead, and I grinned, the blade sturdy within my bloodied hands. I slammed the pommel against the weakened floor of the carriage.
Flames kissed my heels, caught my dress, and I encased myself in a bubble of ice to keep it at bay for just a second—the wood splintered and cracked.
I smacked it again and again until my next breath winded me when I met the hard earth with teeth-jarring impact.
I groaned, flames sizzling as my magic squashed them. Then I stopped breathing altogether when I saw our drivers and footmen dead on the ground. Their heads laid next to their sprawled out bodies, their blood joining and forming a pool around them.
I shifted at the sound of hooves meeting the ground, and then a face appeared, pale with fear-filled eyes. “Thank fuck.” Zadicus held out his hand. “Here.”
I took it, and he pulled me out. “Behind you,” I said, my voice too raspy to be heard.
He read my lips or eyes and turned, knocking the assailant’s sword to the ground and then ending him with a thought alone. Blood dripped from the soldier’s eyes, ears, and nose, and then another swiftly approached.
The smoke was blinding, but I stumbled around the carriage to find only a few remaining traitors left. The rest were nothing but shadowed specks, fleeing south over the hills.
A hand gripped my hair, and a hoarse scream left me as I was yanked back. “You should be in that carriage, burning in the darkness with your soulless father.”
The blade of a sword dug into my throat, and shocked, I didn’t feel the sting, only felt my blood begin to trickle. “Where’s Raiden?” Funny how even after the heart had been used and abused, it still wanted to know what it needed to.
His mother laughed, an airy breathless sound of satisfaction. “Gone. He thought you were dead. Job done. No need to stick around and smell your burning flesh.”
“Audra!” Zad roared.
The carriage erupted, a wild groan cleaving the air as it crumpled in on itself.
I used the distraction to grab her sword arm, swinging her over me into the dirt. A male I didn’t recognize appeared and buried his sword in Solnia’s chest.
She screamed for Phane, who rounded the remains of the carriage, face dark with fury. I met his sword with his son’s as he tried to imbed it in the male’s back.
He struck me in the shoulder, and I screamed, then slammed a gust of wind down his throat when fire erupted from his palm.
Before he could throw it at me, Zad was behind him, his sword cleaving through his neck.
His head rolled, and gasping, I turned to watch it land near his dead wife.
The male who’d killed her flung her heart to the dirt, and it slowly changed color, from crimson to black.
With adrenaline fueling every move, I sent my eyes everywhere, stumbling away from the dirt and landing on my ass. The pommel of the sword singed. I tossed it to the grass, gripping my upper arm as black smoke filled the lightning-streaked sky, and freezing rain started to fall.
My body shaking, I watched the trees around the carriage morph into sinister-looking faces. Faces of beasts that blurred and laughed. That laughed and watched as black crept in and stole every ounce of color from my world.