Home > Court of Nightfall (The Nightfall Chronicles #1)(10)

Court of Nightfall (The Nightfall Chronicles #1)(10)
Author: Karpov Kinrade

Mist rose from within and smelled like something wet that had burned.

I crawled out of the truck, gun in hand, and pressed my e-Glass again. Still nothing. I took it off my ear, slipped the memory chip out of it, and left the e-Glass in the truck. It was beyond repair, but I could possibly retrieve something from the chip later, so I stuck it in my shoe. Whatever happened tonight, I wanted to keep this with me. It was my only evidence. My only clue. And I felt like it would be something others might seek.

Another memory slid back into my mind, unclear and full of shadows. A man in black leaning over me. And… someone fighting.

Around the truck lay all the soldiers who had attacked me. Dead.

I didn't do this. Someone had been here.

I didn't know how long I'd been out, but the sun had fully set and to my right a tree blazed with fire. I remembered planting that tree with my father. He told me we'd have our whole lives to watch it grow.

But his life had been cut short.

Grief gripped my heart, and I didn't see the soldier still alive until it was too late. He grabbed me, knocking the gun out of my hand and threw me to the ground next to the bodies of my parents. Someone had moved them. Someone had laid them together. I stared at their lifeless forms, but it didn't seem real. None of it could possibly be real. They looked fake, like Halloween props gruesomely arranged for the most fright.

But I knew. In my heart I knew this was not a dream. This was not fake. I gripped my father's hand, a sob breaking free from my throat. His ring, the Token of Strife, dug into my still wounded flesh. I pulled it off his finger and clutched it to my chest.

The soldier held a gun to me while he spoke to someone through an e-Glass in a language I didn't understand. I knew I would die and, despite what my father taught me, I couldn't see another move in this horrible, bloody game.

I just wanted to lay there with them. Die with them. The grief was too much, the pain of their loss too big to feel fully. My heart hurt more than any injury I'd ever sustained.

So I lay there, and I waited for the soldier to kill me.

But as I looked at my mother, I remembered her sacrifice. How she had wanted me to live. She'd given her life so I would live.

And I remembered stories my father used to tell me about Zeniths. As a little girl, I didn't dress in princess costumes and play with dolls, I dressed as Zeniths and saved worlds. My father often talked to me about how they could be dangerous, those with para-powers, but perhaps, he'd said, they could also be important.

He'd never told me he was a Zenith himself. He and my mother. Why hadn't he told me?

Did it really matter though? They were both heroes who had died for me, and I would not let their sacrifice be in vain.

With a renewed will to live, I raised my head, sat up, and faced the soldier who was poised to kill me.

I had no plan.

No knight to save me.

He held his gun to my head and prepared to squeeze the trigger.

I leapt up and grabbed him, pushing his gun away as I held onto his arms.

A wave of heat pulsed through me. My head swam with double images. Power swelled in me like a hungry fire. The soldier froze, staring at me.

And then I was in his mind, seeing myself through his eyes. This bruised, bloody, beaten girl with torn clothes and dead parents. I felt his loathing for not just me, but all of humanity, in our weakness and lowliness.

And I saw him again, in my eyes. It was as if I existed within us both, seeing us each through the eyes and heart of the other. Soldiers I hadn't noticed approached from behind him, likely to see what was going on with the captive.

Everything in my mind jumbled together in that moment. Him, me, them, all of it. In fear, in a last ditch effort to save myself, I raised the gun—his gun—and fired at the soldiers moving toward us.

When the last of them dropped to the ground, dead, I raised the gun at myself—himself—and fired.

I felt the solider die as I fell back into my own body, hitting the ground with a thud, hands shaking, reality still fragmented by whatever I'd just done.

The solider before me moved, lifted his head, blood pouring from his skull. He reached for his gun, but a sword impaled him before he could grab it.

I looked up and into the eyes of the last person I expected to see tonight. "Jax?"

Jax fell to his knees in front of me, the sword he just used still clutched in his right hand, his jaw hard, face determined. He didn't look shocked. He should look shocked.

"Are you okay, Scarlett?"

I didn't know how to answer that. No. I'd never be okay again. But I was alive. I wasn't going to die from my injuries. That was probably what he wanted to know. I gave a brief nod.

He glanced at my parents' bodies, but kept his face emotionless. "Do you know where the weapon is?"

"You know about that?" I asked.

"Yes, I know about everything. There's no time to explain, we have to get out of here, but first we've got to secure the weapon."

"It's not there," I told him. "It's gone."

"Show me," he said.

He helped me stand, and I led him to the truck, where the crystal remains were still swimming in pools of my blood.

"We have to go," he said after a quick examination. "Now."

"I can't leave them." I pulled him back toward my house. "We have to get my parents."

His eyes weren't unkind, but they held no room for sentiment either. "We don't have time. You're in danger, and if we don't leave now, they will come back, and we'll both be dead."

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