Isellta slowly opened his eyes.
He didn’t know where he was. Darkness surrounded him.
There was no light.
But the darkness was warm and comforting. It was an embrace.
It made him feel safe.
No one will hurt me here.
He smiled and curled up on the cement floor.
I can’t disappoint anyone here.
The monsters can’t touch me here.
The darkness covered him like a down-filled comforter.
He snuggled under its touch and fell asleep.
Jay gently scooped the thin fey up into his arms.
Isellta felt both too light and too heavy.
And far too limp.
His head drooped towards his chest.
His arms and legs hung in lackluster lines.
Jay held him closer in a protective gesture. “It’s okay, kid. I’m here. If you can hear me—” He kissed Isellta’s head. “—I’m here with you.” His voice dropped into a whisper. “Please. Please wake up.”
Preyuna returned. “Are you planning to keep me waiting, guard?”
He looked up at her. “If killing you could set him free from this place, I’d do it. I’d kill you.”
“After everything I’ve been through, I’d probably thank you for the favor. Come.”
Jay held his ground. “No. Let him stay with Maelin and me.”
Her eyes turned white.
“We can take care of him. I can take care of him.”
“Are you implying I can’t?”
A barrage of swords surrounded Jay.
“Be careful how you answer that question.”
Maelin stepped forward.
The swords turned towards her and followed her all the way to Preyuna.
She stopped in front of the fey queen.
The swords snapped in half, one at a time, and disappeared.
“Do not threaten my mate.”
Preyuna smirked and transformed into a dragon. Her scales were slick red enamel. Her wing hooks shined like silver and gleamed like gold. She opened her mouth wide and cried out in trumpets and oboes.
Maelin gasped and stepped back.
Preyuna lowered her head to Maelin’s level. “This is the dragon you would have been if your father had stayed true to his blood.”
Maelin reached forward and laid her hand on the dragon’s face scales.
“Mae. Get away from her. Don’t listen to her. Don’t look at her. Come back to me.”
Maelin’s hand moved in smooth straight lines.
“This is the dragon you will never be. You will never become skye. You will always live on land. You will always long for the sky and her silked touch. And that—” She turned back into her true form. “—is the real reason why you can’t settle in one place for long.”
Maelin lowered her hand.
She regarded the fey queen with peace and calm. “Isellta is staying with us. Jay. Take him back to our room. Now.”
“I’m not leaving you.”
She smiled at him. “I’ll be fine, sweetheart. Go.”
Jay glared at Preyuna. “You hurt her. You kill her. I will make you pay. I will find a way to make you pay.” He carried Isellta away.
Preyuna scoffed. “Stupid human. I don’t have to hurt you, Maelin. I’ve done something more damaging than any magic. I’ve given you something new to think about.”
“It won’t change anything.”
She flipped her hair over her shoulder. “It will. It must. It can’t help changing everything inside your mind, peace dragon. You’ll see. You’ll wake up at night and know that I’m right.”
Maelin didn’t respond to that. She turned her back to the fey queen and walked away.