The sky was gray, foreboding in its darkness. Heavy-looking clouds obscured the two suns, hanging so low Gareth imagined he could reach up to touch them. He didn’t consider himself a superstitious man, but even he had to admit the weather seemed a bad omen. It had been like this since Roman and the others had caught up from their excursion to Lyryma—gray, cold, overcast.
Gareth shivered and returned his attention to the Lyryma border. The team had been keeping a rotating watch the last few days, making sure they always had eyes on the forest. There were so few security team members that the shifts had started to wear on them, so Gareth and a few other diplomats had insisted they be put in the rotation as well. Gareth didn’t mind it. It gave him an excuse to find some privacy, to be away from the others for a short while.
Fortunately, the road had diverged from the forest’s border, putting some distance between the team and whatever lurked in Lyryma’s shadows. Gareth currently sat at the halfway point between the road and the forest: he could see the team’s campfire through the trees if he squinted, but unless he looked and listened closely, he could imagine he was quite alone in this forest.
According to Leandros, they wouldn’t have to keep their watch much longer. The road would soon turn toward Illyon, and from there, it would only be a matter of days before they reached the city. They’d come so far in what felt like such a short amount of time, Gareth almost couldn’t believe it.
But when he thought of Isobel and Ofelia, of how long it had been since he’d seen them, it seemed too long. He lifted a locket from around his neck and pulled it open. On one side was a silhouette of Isobel. On the other, Ofelia. Gareth sighed.
“Good evening, Mr. Ranulf,” a voice greeted.
Gareth jumped and tucked the locket back under his collar before turning to face the speaker. “Ah, good evening, Ms. Smith. Is it time to switch out already?”
Trinity Smith, another of the team’s diplomats, smiled at Gareth. She was a slim, elegant nympherai woman with a hoofed gait and round eyes. Her smile was kind and her hair impossibly long — she wore it down and sometimes, out of the corner of his eye, Gareth swore it moved as if Trinity was underwater.
“It is,” Trinity confirmed. “They’ve got food cooking back at the camp. You should get some before it gets cold, Mr. Ranulf.”
“I certainly will, thank you,” Gareth said. He stood and stretched, several of his joints popping embarrassingly with the movement. “The last few hours have been quiet. I wouldn’t expect any trouble.”
Trinity nodded and the two of them switched places, Trinity perching on the fallen log Gareth had found and Gareth heading back to the camp. Aaror had left to join the watch and Ivor was nowhere to be seen, probably sleeping off the shift he’d just finished, but Gareth found the rest of the team assembled in a circle around the fire.
“Leandros, I have a question for you,” Thea was saying as Gareth approached, “Would you rather be covered in fur or scales?”
Leandros looked up over the top of his reading glasses and raised an eyebrow at Thea. “I beg your pardon?”
“It’s a game, Leandros. You know, for fun. It beats sitting around in silence, doesn’t it? Humor me. Or I can ask a different question, if you’d like.”
Leandros frowned and closed the book in his lap, giving Thea his full attention. He stared at her until she began to fidget, then said, decisively, “Fur. No offense to you, Cathwright, I just don’t think scales would suit me.”
The largest member of their team grinned, her lips pulling back to reveal rows of sharp teeth. She lifted her head, exposing the scales of her neck and making them shine in the warm firelight. “No offense taken, Captain, but my scales will always be lovelier than any fur,” Cathwright said.
“Do me next!” Eftychia chirped, crossing around the fire to kneel beside Thea while the bells on her skirt jingled and chimed. “I want to play, too. Do I have to answer the same question as the Captain?”
Thea shook her head, then made a show of thinking. Her eyes scanned the camp, finally settling on a squirrel in a nearby tree. “Would you rather be able to talk to animals and have them talk back, or know every language without studying?”
Eftychia responded without hesitation. “Animals. I already know most languages, anyway.”
“Do you really? I barely even speak Ellesian, sometimes,” Thea said with a small laugh. Her eyes fell to the next person in the circle. “Roman!”
Roman, who’d been watching the proceedings with amusement, laughed. “Yes, Thea?”
“It’s your turn. Would you rather…be a famous hero or have an endless supply of money?”
Leandros laughed, the sound wild like the crackle of their campfire. He covered his mouth with a hand but clearly hid a smile behind it. Roman’s own answering smile was bitter. “I’d rather have the money.”
“Was something wrong with that question?” Thea asked. “Leandros, what’s so funny?”
“Nothing was wrong with it,” Roman said. “I just think being famous must be more trouble than it’s worth.”
“Even if you’re famous for being a hero? You’re helping people!”
“Why can’t I quietly help people with all of my money?”
“Because that’s not how the game works,” Thea said.
“To be fair, you didn’t give us any rules,” Leandros cut in, still smiling. “You just started asking questions.”
Thea made a show of pouting. Her gaze landed on Evelyne, who seemed to be paying little attention to the conversation. She paced at the edge of the camp, her focus on the forest.
“Evelyne,” Thea called, her voice taking on a softer, sweeter tone. “What do you think?”
Gareth frowned at the casual mode of address. He’d noticed Thea’s partiality for the leader of their security team a few times; he’d also noticed Evelyne’s returned attention. He’d warned Leandros that they should let Thea in on the full situation with the Enforcers — the girl didn’t know what she was getting herself into. She didn’t know what Evelyne Corscia was, what she was capable of.
“I would also take the money,” Evelyne said.
“Really!” Thea cried. “Why?”
Evelyne shrugged. “Money is power.”
“Be quiet,” Roman said suddenly. He’d risen to his feet, his eyes on the forest and his body tense. The sight of him reminded Gareth of a bloodhound on the hunt. “Something’s coming.”
“Is it oanai again? Trin and Aaror would have alerted us if they saw anything,” Evelyne said, turning toward the forest as well.
Roman’s eyebrows drew together. “I don’t know. Something just feels…wrong.”
“I’ll take a look.” Evelyne drew her sword before storming off into the trees, and Eftychia skipped after her. Gareth felt safer, knowing the two of them were looking into it. The Enforcers still frightened him, of course, but for now, they were all on the same side. Gareth knew he couldn’t be safer, with both the Enforcers and — he suspected — Egil here with him.
Across the fire, Leandros said something to Roman in a low voice, standing closer than was strictly proper. Glad the two of them seemed to have made up, Gareth smiled to himself, rocked back on his heels, then looked over to find a stranger standing beside him.
He cried out and stumbled away from her, nearly falling in his haste. The woman took little notice of him, sweeping into the camp while the bright fabrics of her dress — not very suited for travel — trailed behind her. The team fell silent as she approached, subconsciously making way for her as she neared the fire. Only Leandros moved to block her way, his expression carefully cold as he stepped in front of Roman.
“Who is this?” Gareth asked him, his hand pressed to his heart.
“It’s fine. She’s a friend…I think,” Leandros said, though he didn’t step out of his protective stance. Behind him, Roman hadn’t moved. He only glared at the woman, eyes impossibly dark.
“Leandros,” the woman said, her voice clear. Gareth couldn’t place her accent, but it sounded old. “I know how things may have looked in Home, but I am still your friend.”
The woman was beautiful, with stark white hair, an aquiline nose, and black eyes that made Roman’s seem warm and inviting. Strange patterns trailed across her skin, unlike any Gareth had seen before. She reminded him of living flame, mesmerizing and too bright to look at directly.
“Mine too, Dev?” Roman challenged.
Roman laughed bitterly.
Evelyne ran up, then, having heard Gareth’s shout. She froze when she saw the woman, some sharp emotion passing quickly over her face, and took a step back. “Who is this? Why is she here?”
The woman frowned at her. “Who is this?” she repeated with a cold laugh. “You think I don’t remember you, girl? After what you did the last time we met?”
Evelyne glanced nervously at Leandros and Roman. Gareth realized with shock that she was nervous. He studied the newcomer again, wondering who could make Enforcers — both past and present — so uneasy.
“I think you have me confused for someone else,” Evelyne said.
“Devikra, what are you doing here?” Roman asked.
“You left Home before I could explain, so I followed you. Can we speak privately, dear? Please?”
It was Leandros who answered. “Absolutely not.”
Roman, however, stepped around him. “It’s fine, Leandros. I’ll talk to her.”
Leandros didn’t look happy about it, but he nodded. “Shout if you need me,” he said.
Roman didn’t answer, just jerked his head in the direction of Lyryma and stalked off, leaving the woman to follow. As she passed through the circle, Gareth noticed Eresh give a subtle bow. He doubted anyone inside the circle saw.
Gareth inched closer to Leandros in time to hear Thea whisper, “Leandros, that woman didn’t have an aura.”
“Who was she?” Gareth asked, though he suspected he knew the answer. He’d be a poor Egil scholar if he didn’t recognize the name Devikra.
Leandros’ eyes stayed on Roman’s retreating back. “That was Devikra Stormsong, the Oracle of Damael.”
A ripple of motion went through the team.
“Surely, you’re joking,” Cathwright said.
“I wish I was.”
Gareth believed Leandros. The woman seemed to have come right out of story. Or perhaps it wasn’t that she’d come out of one — rather, he’d been thrust into one. It was a story with alfar royalty, oracles, magic. Egil.
If Gareth had any lingering doubt about Roman’s identity, this would have settled it.
Devikra hadn’t changed in the time since they’d last seen each other. She’d always been this: a demanding, destructive storm, someone who arrived during the calm to turn it all on its head. Roman learned long ago that in dealing with Devikra, your only options were to find cover or get swept up in her force. Roman despised and admired her for it.
Before they’d made it far, Devikra stepped ahead and cut him off. In her softest voice, she said, “I’m sorry about what happened in Home, dear.”
“Don’t,” Roman warned. “Don’t talk to me like that.”
“Like I’m your pet.”
“I’m sorry,” Devikra sighed, resting a hand on Roman’s arm.
Roman almost leaned into it. Besides Leandros, Devikra was still the closest thing to family he had. Orphaned at a young age, cut off from the world by Unity, and left alone afterward to wander in search of meaning. Devikra had picked him up, dusted him off, and gave him that meaning he’d craved. She’d put him to work.
“It’s been lonely without you,” she said. “I’ve had a hard time tracking Wil’s visions without your help.”
“Yeah, I’ve met my replacement,” Roman said.
“Aleksir? He’s certainly better at following directions than his predecessor.” She raised an eyebrow at him. “Are you jealous?”
“I’ve missed your wit,” Devikra said dryly. Her grip on Roman’s arm loosened. “Joking aside, I really have missed you. It’s been a long time.”
Roman pulled his arm free. “It’s been a long time for a reason, Dev! I told Aleksir that—,”
“What, that our friendship is done? That you won’t work for me anymore? This isn’t something you can walk away from, Egil. Ignoring the visions won’t keep them from happening,” Devikra said.
“I don’t care!” Roman said. “I don’t want to know the future and I don’t want to work for you.”
“Egil,” Devikra chided, but Roman wasn’t about to stop there.
“Your business is cruel, Dev. You claim to work for the greater good, but you have no idea what that means. You think pulling the strings behind the scenes will make the world a better place, but you let people suffer all because an alfar girl saw it in a vision. You shoved me and Leandros into terrible situations, made us witness horrible things, and you didn’t care because it was for your greater good. Of course I don’t want to know the future anymore, not when it only ever hurts me!”
“What happened in Histrios, Dev? Did you know then that I was a monster? Is that why you locked me up?”
“Roman, stop,” Devikra snapped. Even with her tone soft as it was, it had an authoritative edge that stilled Roman. Then, Devikra surprised him by throwing her arms around him and hugging him. Roman reluctantly returned the embrace, Devikra’s long braid tickling his check.
“I’m sorry for the way I reacted, then,” Devikra said into his shoulder. “I’m so sorry. When I saw you transform, I was scared for you. Not because you’re a monster, but because you’re the opposite.”
“That makes no sense,” Roman muttered. “Dev, did Wil see me get shot? Is that why you came to Histrios?”
“No. If she’d seen what happened, of course I would have stopped it.”
Roman frowned and pulled back. “But…you couldn’t have. Wilhara’s visions can’t be changed,” Roman said, parroting what he’d always been told. Wil’s visions were infallible.
Devikra pursed her lips. “That’s not entirely true.”
“Wil’s visions can be changed, but only under limited circumstances.”
“What circumstances?” Roman asked, too shocked to be angry.
Instead of answering, Devikra said, “Wil’s visions have been getting…Well, let’s just say the count of times she’s been wrong is rising. I don’t know whether to believe her latest visions, but I came here to warn you.”
“What did she see?”
“Many things, many timelines. Most of which seemed to end with Orean destroyed and you dead.”
Roman stared at her. “But I can’t die. You know that. You saw me get shot in the heart and live. You saw it.”
“You were dead in Wil’s visions. I’m sure of it.”
Roman didn’t entirely believe her, but he asked, “These visions can still be changed?”
“Yes. I was trying to change them by keeping you in Home. If you don’t go to Orean, you can’t die there. It’s simple.”
“But…what killed me? What destroyed Orean?”
“You know how this works,” Devikra said. “I only know what Wil saw. Just an image, that’s it.”
Roman glanced back at the camp, where the team sat quietly around the fire. “If I don’t go to Orean, does the city still get destroyed? Do others die in my place?”
“I don’t know.”
Roman’s heart beat fast in his chest. “You always urged me to consider the consequences. Everything is connected, and Wil’s visions never show the full picture. What she saw…what if I died saving someone’s life, or saving Orean? If I’m not there, couldn’t something worse happen?”
“I can’t answer that,” Devikra said, “But you’d be as good as killing yourself by going.”
Roman ran his hands through his hair, mussing it up. “I have to go. If I don’t, if I survive and something worse happens, I won’t be able to live with that guilt. Besides, that’s the job, right? Wil sees disaster, and we go to help as many as we can.”
“I thought you didn’t like the job,” Devikra said.
Roman laughed. There was a manic edge to the sound. “I don’t. Sometimes, I think working for you was worse than working for Unity. It’s a different kind of torture, knowing bad things are coming and not being able to stop them. But this is my choice.”
Devikra sighed. “I knew you’d say that. And what if I drag you back to Damael myself?”
“Dev, you can’t protect people by locking them up!” Roman snapped. “You already do it with Wil; I won’t let you try it again with me. Taking my choice from me is no way to show love.”
Devikra looked like she’d been struck. She took a step back, her expression hardening. “It’s not about showing love, it’s about keeping you from hurting yourself.”
While they bickered, a dark mass scuttled out of the forest toward them. It clicked and chittered as it twisted through the trees, the sound alerting Roman just in time. He drew his sword, shoved Devikra behind him, and raised it just as a dark creature launched itself at them both.
Roman blocked the creature’s attack, his blade catching between strong pincers that dripped with some dark substance. He freed his sword with a twist and swung at the creature, forcing it back. The noises it made were horrible; it clicked and hissed, buzzed and snapped. Roman gritted his teeth against it, but the sounds seemed to echo around his skull.
Even worse was the creature’s appearance.
It was the most horrific thing Roman had even seen. Shaped like a centipede but as large as a horse, glittering black in a hard casing with pincers as long as Roman’s forearm, the creature moved around on dozens of long, spindly legs and was covered in some sort of slime. But the strangest thing came when it stood up: instead of a segmented underbelly, the entire underside of the creature was a wash of crimson glow.
The sight paralyzed Roman. It reminded him of magma, swirling in lazy streams beneath the creature’s skin. As he stared he felt something stir inside him, an old memory buried beneath pain fighting to resurface. He’d seen this glow before.
“Egil!” Devikra shouted, snapping him out of it. Roman shook himself and braced himself for another attack while the creature circled them, giving Roman and his sword a wide berth.
“Where did you come from, then?” Roman murmured, watching it.
“Lyryma,” Devikra said.
A scream came from the direction of the camp. Devikra and Roman looked to see another creature — this one like a large bear covered in moss — charging at the camp. It had three massive claw-shaped gashes in its side, that same crimson glow spilling out of them.
“This is impossible,” Devikra said.
“And yet, it’s happening,” Roman countered. “Are you going to help, or just stand there?”
The centipede attacked. Roman was ready for it, side-stepping at the last moment and then, before the creature could dodge or change course, bringing his sword down in a sweeping arc to slice it in half. The severed hind legs collapsed, still twitching, still glowing, but the rest of the creature didn’t so much as falter, heading straight for Devikra.
It reached her before Roman could take even a step in her direction. As it launched itself at her, Devikra reached out toward it. Metal flashed in her hand, and as the creature’s pincers clasped around her arm, Devikra buried her dagger deep in the roof of its mouth. The creature made a pitiful wailing noise and thrashed to get free, but Devikra grabbed on to its head with her free hand and held it in place.
Something strange happened, then.
Crimson droplets oozed from the insect’s underbelly like blood, blackening when they were exposed to the air. But rather than be pulled down by gravity, the droplets instead began to travel up the creature’s long body toward Devikra’s hand. Roman stood frozen, transfixed by the sight.
When the first of the droplets touched Devikra’s skin, their glow returned brighter than before. They seemed to seep inside of her, setting the veins of her hand alight. The way that glow traveled up her arm, bright white against her dark skin, was painfully familiar to Roman, though it was usually coupled with the horror and pain of his body changing. Devikra held the creature still until she’d absorbed every last drop, until the glow lit up her entire arm beneath her sheer sleeve. Then, with a snarl, she tore her dagger free and shoved the creature away. It fell to the ground, no longer twitching, no longer glowing.
And when Roman looked again, the luminescence in Devikra’s veins had faded, leaving Roman to wonder if he’d only imagined it. He felt uneasy and asked, “How did you do that?”
Devikra ignored him, instead studying the wound on her arm with a detached curiosity. The spread of blood on her sleeve where the creature’s pincers had pierced her skin was all too obvious.
Roman held a hand out. “Dev, let me see. That thing might be poisonous.”
“There’s no need.”
Roman was about to argue, but instead, he yelped and jumped back when something bumped against his leg. It was the creature’s lower half, still twitching. Roman brought his sword down, spearing it through and pinning it to the ground, it continued to glow and writhe and wriggle.
Devikra crouched beside the mutilated insect and repeated her earlier process, once again drawing the crimson glow out of the thing’s body. This close, Roman could feel it calling for him. For a moment, he thought to push Devikra away, take it for himself. He wanted it to be his.
Instead, he turned away, feeling as if he might be sick. When Devikra finished, the body collapsed, motionless, and Roman’s strange urges disappeared. He breathed a sigh of relief.
“Dev, what was that?”
Before Devikra could answer, a shrill voice called Roman’s name. He looked over to see Thea clutching her skirts and sprinting toward them, her hair fallen out of its careful arrangement and her eyes wide. She gave both halves of the fallen creature a wide berth. “Roman, there are more of them at the camp! There’s too many for the security team to take! Evelyne is fighting three on her own and I’m worried—,”
Roman didn’t wait for her to finish. He pulled his sword from the ground and pushed past her, grabbing Devikra’s good arm as he did and dragging her with. He’d only seen Devikra fight a few times in the old days, but he knew that even injured, she was a valuable ally.
But when they reached the camp, Roman stopped short.
There were monsters everywhere. Some were familiar to him, animals that he’d encountered in Lyryma, others he’d only heard of. Thea was right—Evelyne fought three creatures on her own. Ivor had both blades in hand and was darting between opponents, struggling to keep Eresh and Gareth safe. Cathwright lashed out at a giant elk with tooth, claw, and spiked tail. A shaari circled Leandros, who’d abandoned his usual pistol for a sword. When Roman looked closer, he realized the shaari already had multiple bullet wounds in its hide.
Roman moved to join Leandros, but Devikra caught his wrist and held him back. Roman turned on her, ready to tell her off, but the words died on his tongue when he saw her face.
He’d never seen Devikra look so lost. She stared out at the scene like she couldn’t process any of it, her gaze far away. She muttered something under her breath, Roman only catching the words “how could he?”.
“Devikra?” Roman asked. When she didn’t respond, he pressed, “Dev, let me go. I need to help them.”
“No,” Devikra said, standing taller. Her lip curled in disgust. “This is an enemy no mortals should face.”
“Mortals?” Roman repeated dumbly. Devikra’s gaze refocused, honing in on Roman with such clarity it made him take a surprised step back.
“I’m sorry for what you’re about to see,” she said, “But I suppose it’s time you knew the truth.”
With that, she used both hands to push him away from the camp, away from the circle of strange, magical creatures. The force behind it sent him flying. He hit the ground hard when he landed, the air leaving his lungs in a rush. By the time he’d recovered and pushed himself to his feet, Devikra had turned to face the camp.
Whatever she’d just done — however she’d done it — called to the creatures like a beacon. They stopped what they were doing, heedless of their opponents, and turned hungrily toward her. With their attention drawn in his direction, Roman got a better look at the creatures. Most were maimed, mauled, torn apart. Some openly decayed. But they all had one thing in common: that crimson glow.
Roman could feel a strange spark in each of them, one that called to him and made his blood sing. He didn’t know what to call it other than magic — what else could this feeling be? And with shock, Roman realized that he could feel it in Devikra, too: purer, brighter, a thousand times stronger than the pale shadows that lived inside those creatures. He took a step toward Devikra without ever willing his feet to move, helpless to the pull.
More creatures were coming out of the forest, now. They seemed disinterested in the camp, instead heading directly for Devikra. Among the animals of Lyryma, there were people, too, blank-faced and slow-moving. Roman knew instinctively that they were dead, just like all of these animals were dead.
He could only watch in horror as this army of twisted, mutilated monsters confronted one woman. He waited for the messy end, but that end never came. Instead, Devikra continued to surprise Roman.
She raised both arms and suddenly, the ground began to shake. Roman stumbled and caught himself, but these creatures weren’t as coordinated. Before they could recover, Devikra closed her hands into fists and a strong wind swept through the trees, halting the creatures’ approach entirely, even making them fall back several steps.
Devikra’s back was to the camp, so only Roman saw the way her eyes changed, turned entirely black.
Brambles shot out from the ground, winding together and moving like a thousand delicate snakes. They wrapped around the creatures, pulled them down and held them fast to the forest floor. Devikra had only to snap her fingers, and the branches caught fire. Roman covered his ears, trying to block out the screeches and screams from the immolated monsters. He knew he’d never forget the sound as long as he lived, nor the stench of burning flesh mixed with decay.
When the sound died down, Devikra looked over her shoulder. “Leandros,” she called, a hollow echo to her voice. “Get your team away from this place. Don’t stop until you can see the walls of Illyon. These monsters will continue to come for you.”
Leandros could only nod, looking as stunned as Roman felt.
Devikra still looked like herself, Roman’s friend of several centuries, except that the markings adorning her skin — which Roman had always taken for strange tattoos — had come to life. They’d turned to real flame, flame that danced over her skin but didn’t seem to cause pain. A pair of iridescent dragonfly wings, orange and gold like the fire that burned all around them, unfurled behind her, casting a long shadow in the grass.
When Devikra approached, Roman’s knees gave out. She knelt before him, smiling gently when he met her gaze. “I didn’t answer your question, earlier,” she said.
“Which question?” Roman asked.
“About Wilhara’s visions,” she started, her black eyes boring into Roman’s. They looked just like his did when he turned. “And the circumstances in which they can be changed. It’s the Guardians. Only the Guardians can change the course of what Wilhara has seen.”
Devikra reached out to caress his cheek and Roman flinched, fearing the fiery touch. But it didn’t hurt; her skin felt comfortably warm. “You know who I am, now? I had hoped that warning you would be enough to change the future Wilhara has seen,” she said. “Are you still set in your course? Will you still go to Orean?”
“I have to,” Roman said helplessly. He knew he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he ran again.
“Very well,” Devikra said, her expression darkening. She cupped his face in both of her hands, and when Roman tried to back away, he found himself frozen in place. No matter how he tried to move his body, it didn’t listen. “I’m sorry for what I have to do now. When this is all over, if you survive, I’ll fix it.”
Roman’s eyes widened. He was able to do that much, at least. “What are you doing?”
“Changing the future.” With that, Devikra released him and pressed two fingers to his chest.
Roman dropped at the touch. It felt as if the flames that danced across her skin had leaped inside of him, scorching him. With each beat of his heart it spread, stretching to the furthest reaches of his body until nothing was free from the heat. As he lay on the hard ground, unable to move and unable to think, he knew he was dying.
And then, past the pain, Roman felt the pressure behind his eyes that meant they’d changed to black. He opened them and all he saw was Devikra, her face framed by fiery wings, her eyes the same as his own. “I’m sorry, Roman,” she whispered. “For everything.”
Ellaes, Atiuh’s Guardian, leaned down and kissed Roman’s forehead. It was a cooling balm, soothing the fire she’d started. Ellaes stood and, with a final surge of that punishing wind, disappeared into thin air.
Before Roman could even process her absence, Leandros reached him and dropped to his knees. “Roman! Roman, talk to me,” he urged, his hand finding Roman’s cheek, turning Roman to face him. “What did she do? How can I help?”
With Devikra’s disappearance, the pain had begun to fade. Roman shoved Leandros weakly away and sprawled out in the dirt, unable to move except to convulse when a residual wave of agony coursed through him.
Leandros glanced back at the camp, then swore. “Roman, close your eyes. Gareth and Evelyne are coming.” Roman did as Leandros said, realizing his eyes must still have been black. He couldn’t feel it anymore. Leandros asked, “Can you walk?”
Roman tried to move, but the pain was still too much. He winced, felt darkness creeping in. The last thing he heard was Gareth’s worried voice and Leandros’ terse answer; the last thing he felt was Leandros’ arms around him, lifting him off the ground and carrying him back to camp.