Chapter Two

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I back towards the mouth of the cave. Rilind has one hand still pressed against his bruised head. Watching me.

"Are you okay?" he asks. Instead of answering him I turn to jump.

"Wait!" he calls. Against my better judgement, I catch myself and pause, facing the rain. My hands slide along the rough side of the cave next to me as I hug the mouth, ready to fly at a moment's notice. Rilind comes a little closer behind me.

"I've seen dark cities before—very dark—but none were as dark as this one," he says. "The clouds you have, and this weather, none of that is normal."

I gape at him. "Yes," I say, my heart pounding. "It is normal."

Rilind takes a step forward and I grip the cave a little tighter. He stops, as if unsure how to proceed. "I'm sorry," he says. "I'm not trying to scare you, but this is why I've come. You need to understand that everyone is in danger here."

"As long as you stay out of the rain you'll be okay." The dense wall of toxic water continues to pour down until I can barely see the dim firelight from the city.

"That's not what I meant," Rilind says quietly. The little dragon climbs up Rilind's clothes and perches on his shoulder. It cocks his head, listening; beady eyes watching me. It chirps.

"The last city that went this dark isn't a city anymore."

My brow creases. I no longer trust this man. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"There's nothing left of it. Just ashes."

"Why are you telling me this? What do you want?" I look past him at his wings again, bright white. Rilind doesn't answer right away. When he does, his words are weighted.

"Tenebrous is coming."

Rilind frowns at the expression I give him.

"This isn't something to laugh about," he says, serious.

We both fall silent.

The little dragon chirps at me from Rilind's shoulder again. Rilind leans his head away from the pointiness of the dragon's wing against his cheek.

"There's a prophecy—"

"No!" I stop him. "Don't." Frustration grows inside of me. This is wrong. Why can't Cole be here to remind me of what is true and right?

But it's not right!

What is happening.

"I need to go," I choke out.

I don't give him the chance to stop me again. I throw myself out into the acid rain, unfurling my wings and descending downward as fast as I can. I bite the inside of my cheek to combat the searing pain of the rain on my exposed skin. Unable to make out the ground clearly, I estimate the distance. I estimate wrong. In a moment of panic, I stretch out my wings as far as they can go in the hopes of catching extra lift to slow me down. Still, I hit the ground hard and roll several feet. I tuck my wings against my back so they don't get crushed under my own body.

After safely coming to a stop, I take off running towards the glow of the city, limping the first few steps. The inside of my cheek now raw, I switch from biting my cheek to biting my tongue against the pain of my burning flesh. I zigzag from cover to cover, shelter to shelter, closer and closer to home.

The cobblestone streets are deserted and the city appears to be dead, but I know better. The only fire still lit is coming from the Nellaf's castle, hardly enough to see by in this weather.

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