Daemon trembled. "Lucivar, please. You promised you'd kill me."
Lucivar's eyes glittered. "Do you feel her under you, Daemon? Do you feel that young flesh bruising under your hands? Do you feel her blood on your thighs while you drive into her, tearing her apart?" He stepped forward. "Do you?"
Daemon cringed. "I didn't . . ." He raised a shaking hand, twisting his fingers in the thick tangle of hair. "There's so much blood. It never goes away. The words never go away. Lucivar, please."
Making sure he had Daemon's attention, Lucivar stepped back and sheathed the war blade. "Killing you would be a kindness you don't deserve. You owe her every drop of pain that can be wrung out of you for the rest of your life and, Daemon, I wish you a very long life."
Daemon wiped his face with his sleeve, leaving a dirt smear across his cheek. "Maybe the next time we meet you can—"
"I'm dying," Lucivar snapped. "There won't be a next time."
There was a flicker of understanding in Daemon's eyes. ,
Something clogged Lucivar's throat. Tears pricked his eyes. There would be no reconciliation, no understanding, no forgiveness. Just a bitterness that would last beyond the flesh.
Lucivar limped out of the courtyard as fast as he could, using Craft to support his wounded leg. As he picked his way through the broken stones toward the remains of the landing web, he heard a cry so full of anguish the stones seemed to shudder. He stumbled to the web, gasping and tear-blind, unwilling to turn back, unwilling to leave.
But just before he caught the Gray Wind that would take him to Askavi and the final run, he looked at the ruins of the Hall and whispered, "Good-bye, Daemon."
Lucivar stood on the canyon rim at the halfway point in the Khaldharon Run, waiting for the sun to rise enough to light the canyon far below him.
Craft was the only thing keeping him on his feet now, the only thing that would let him use the greasy, tattered mess his wings had become after the slime mold had devoured them.
Intent on watching the sun rise, he also watched the small, dark shapes flying toward him—Eyrien warriors coming for the kill.
He looked down the Khaldharon Run, judging shadows and visibility. Not good. Foolish to throw himself into that dangerous intermingling of wind and the darker Winds when he couldn't distinguish the jagged canyon walls from the shadows, couldn't judge the curves that would create sudden wind shifts, when his wings barely functioned. At best it would be a suicide run.
Which was exactly why he was there.
The small, dark shapes flying toward him got larger, closer.
To the south of him, the sunlight touched the rock formation called the Sleeping Dragons. One faced north, the other south. The Khaldharon Run ended there and the mystery began, because no one who had entered one of those yawning, cavernous mouths had ever returned.
Several miles south of the Sleeping Dragons, the sun kissed the Black Mountain, Ebon Askavi, where Witch, his young, dreamed-of Queen would have lived if she'd never met Daemon Sadi.
The Eyrien warriors were close enough now for him to hear their threats and curses.
Smiling, he unfurled his wings, raised his fist, and let out an Eyrien war cry that silenced everything.
Then he dove into the Khaldharon Run.
It was as exhilarating, and as bad, as he'd thought it would be.
Even with Craft, his tattered wings didn't provide the balance he needed. Before he could compensate, the wind that howled through the canyon smashed him into the side
wall, breaking his ribs and his right shoulder. Screaming defiance, he twisted away from the rock, pouring the strength of the Ebon-gray into his body as he plunged back into the center of the wild mingling of forces.
Just as the other Eyriens dove into the Run, he caught the Red thread and began the headlong race toward the Sleeping Dragons.
Instead of cutting in and out of the looping, twisting Winds within his range of strength to make a run as close to the canyon center as possible, he held to the Red, following it through narrow cuts of rock, pulling his wings tight to arrow through weatherworn holes that scraped his skin off as he passed through them.
His right foot hung awkwardly from the ripped ankle. The outer half of his left wing hung useless; the frame snapped when a gust of wind shoved him against a rock. The muscles in his back were torn from forcing his wings to do what they could no longer do. A deep, slicing belly wound pushed his guts out below the wide leather belt.
He shook his head, trying to clear blood out of his eyes, and let out a triumphant roar as he gauged his entry between the sharp stones that looked like petrified teeth.
A final gust of wind pushed him down as he shot through the Dragon's mouth. A "tooth" opened his left leg from hip to knee.
He drove into swirling mist, determined to reach the other side before he emptied the Jewels and his strength gave out.
Movement caught his eye. A startled face. Wings.
He pushed to his limit, aware of the pursuers gaining on him.
The other mouth had to be. ... There! But . . .
Two tunnels. The left one held lightened twilight. .The right one was filled with a soft dawn.
Darkness would hide him better. He swung toward the twilight.
A rush of wings on his left. A hand grabbing at him.
He kicked, twisted away, and drove for the right-hand tunnel.
Past the teeth and out, driving upward past the canyon rim toward the morning sky, pumping useless wings out of stubborn pride.
And there was Askavi, looking as he imagined it might have looked a long time ago. The muddy trickle he'd flown over was now a deep, clear river. Barren rock was softened by spring wildflowers. Beyond the Run, sunlight glinted off small lakes and twisting streams.
Pain flooded his senses. Blood mixed with tears.
Askavi. Home. Finally home.
He pumped his wings a last time, arched his body in a slow, painfully graceful backward curve, folded his wings, and plummeted toward the deep, clear water below.
2 / The Twisted Kingdom
The wind tried to rip him off the tiny island that was his only resting place in this endless, unforgiving sea. Waves smashed down on him, soaking him in blood. So much blood.
You are my instrument.
Words lie. Blood doesn't.
The words circled him, mental sharks closing in to tear out another piece of his soul.
Gasping, he choked on a mouthful of bloody foam as he dug his fingers into rock that suddenly softened. He screamed as the rock beneath his hands turned into pulpy, violet-black bruises.
"I loved her!" he screamed. "Ilove her! I never meant her harm."