Home > Slay (Fuse #4)

Slay (Fuse #4)
Author: E. L. Todd

 


ONE

 

 

Reserves

 

 

“Last time an elf was fused with a dragon was before the Great War.” Once everyone jumped back to their feet, Rush appeared, his red scales absent now that they’d crossed the desert. “Never thought I’d live to see it happen again.”

“Ahem.” Cora cleared her throat, her eyes daggers, but playful ones.

“Besides you, of course.”

It was still dark, the blistering desert now a cold tundra. Once the sun returned in the morning, the heat would accompany it, and then the sand would be so hot that only creatures covered in hard exoskeletons could withstand the scorching temperatures.

“So, we’re going to walk all the way back to Polox?” Lilac asked incredulously. “I feel as if that’s all we’ve been doing the last few months…back and forth…back and forth.”

“Because it is,” Rush said with a painful chuckle. “I’ve never been so fit in my life.”

Old memories struck Cora like an arrow, imagining the hardness of his arms against her fingertips. Perhaps it was the strength of her mind, but once her memory had been provoked, she could recall minute details, the smell of jasmine, the heat of the fire flush against her back, the way the shadows darkened half of his face but illuminated the other half. It happened in a flash—and disappeared just as quickly.

“We flew across the desert,” Bridge said. “Can’t we fly across Anastille? That would save us weeks.”

No. Cora felt his authority long before she heard it.

Rush took the lead, a heavy pack on his back along with his sword hooked in place. “You know it’s too risky, man. Remember what happened in the Stronghold? There had to be three dragons on top of the cave—one of them being Obsidian. They’re scouring Anastille, along with their fleet of Shamans.”

“But Shamans aren’t a problem anymore, right?” Liam asked. “With Cora’s abilities.”

Cora matched Rush’s pace, keeping in line with his long strikes. “I have a finite amount of energy. So, there’s only so much I can do under those constraints. When I fought General Noose in Eden Star, I was able to take down six Shamans at once, but then I was depleted. If I hadn’t been, I would have killed General Noose as well.”

Rush turned to her. “What happens if you deplete all your reserves?”

She shrugged. “I’m useless.”

“So, you don’t die…right?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

You’re depleting life magic, not your life force. Two very different things.

She relayed the message. “Ashe says that’s not a concern.”

Rush took the statement as fact. “Good.”

He thought for a moment. “Not gonna lie,” Rush said. “That’s a bit of a bummer.”

“Why?” Cora asked.

“I assumed we would be able to kill all the Shamans once we arrived at the battle. But now, we can only kill a handful.”

Cora felt her lungs deflate with disappointment.

He’s right.

“But they don’t know that,” Rush said. “And let’s keep it that way.”

 

 

They traveled for days, taking a different route from last time to make sure their previous routes hadn’t been tracked by General Noose and his roaming army. Fires were limited, their movements stealthy, and they became exhausted by the travel.

“I used to dream about being rich.” Bridge lay in his bedroll, the covers off because it was too hot, even in the darkness. “Now I fantasize about a soft mattress, a room with four walls, a cupboard stocked with bread and muffins from the market…”

“That’s the same thing as rich—if you ask me.” Lilac lay a few feet away, the glow of the embers bright enough to illuminate everyone’s faces.

“Too bad the elves hate us so much,” Liam said. “How nice would it be to have some elven hospitality? I bet they sleep on clouds.”

Cora felt the music of the forest everywhere she went, but it was just her memory recreating it to ease the sorrow of her separation. She could hear the morning birds, feel the cumulative presence of all the living creatures that resided in the safety of the forest. They were with her—always. “I think it’s for the best. It would have been impossible to leave.”

When Rush’s eyes shifted to her face, they remained fixed in place. Seconds ticked past, and he showed no expression, as if his thoughts were buried so deep inside his chest that they never saw the light of day.

She held his look, unsure what it meant.

He looked away, cleared his throat, and spoke. “Have you spoken to Callon?”

“No.” She sat beside him on the log, her pack on the ground beside her along with all the pieces of her armor. She wore it as they traveled, a good way to build endurance in her muscles, but it was impossible to sleep in, so she removed it in the evenings. “When he’s angry, he’s angry for a while because elves process time differently—as he’s mentioned, like, a million times.”

He cracked a small smile.

“I want him to have some time with Talc. I know he’ll come to embrace that relationship. He’s rough around the edges, but he’s got a heart softer than a bed of flowers.” Ashe had been just as harsh, but the intimate bond was too powerful for either of them to resist the effects. Now their relationship was based on more than just trust. Something deeper…something that couldn’t even be described.

“You’ve heard Talc. I think she’s rougher than he is.”

“Honestly, I think they’re perfectly suited for each other. Callon wouldn’t respect her if she were any other way.”

“I guess that’s true.” With his arms on his knees, he sat there, letting the fire dwindle more and more.

She watched the others fall asleep in their bedrolls, so exhausted by their arduous travels that a quiet conversation wasn’t enough to disrupt their deep slumber. “What do you hope to achieve when we see Mathilda?”

He kept his eyes on the fire. “She knows where the resistance is.”

“She told you this?”

He shook his head. “No, but it’s obvious. Last time I was in Polox, an assassin who used to work for my father was hidden in the cellar underneath the floor. Maverick. I didn’t remember him at first—but he remembered me.”

Cora had no recollection of this tale. “You never confided this to me.”

“It must have slipped my mind…with all the other shit going on.” He turned his gaze to her. “I offered myself to them. Marked my father as an enemy. Pledged myself to their cause. But because of my blood, they’ll never trust me.”

“Then why are we going?”

“Because Mathilda will share her secrets with you.”

“That’s quite the assumption.”

“She’s helped you before and expected nothing in return.”

“I owe her an IOU, remember?”

“Which means she expects you to be valuable.” His eyes watched her, his face brooding when he was deep in thought. When he tossed around jokes, there was always a playfulness in his eyes that made them brighter, that made his face handsome. But he was handsome this way too, right down to business. “I’m valuable to her as well. But because of my lineage, she just doesn’t trust me.”

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