Chapter 20: Wild Fangs

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"She'll be alright with some rest. It's more emotional than physical. Just give us a little time, okay?" She smiled, glad her earlier assessment of Courtney's condition was at least partially accurate.

He nodded. "How are you doing, Amber?"

Her eyes narrowed and her lips tightened. "We'll talk about that later. For now let me take care of her."

Liam nodded again before turning away.

Amber closed the door and laid the soup and tea down on the nightstand next to the bed. She glanced over to Courtney, making sure she was not paying attention before making her own preparations to the tea. When she saw the powder she administered fully dissolve into the hot beverage, she sat on the bed, stroking her wife's head.

"Hey. Liam brought up some soup and tea for you. You really should eat. It will help."

"Is she really gone, Amber? Like you said?"

"Yes, Courtney. I'm so sorry."

"But there has to be a way to get her back. She's really a spirit, right? Not a person. We can bring her back."

Amber grimaced. She didn't want to have this conversation with Courtney in her current state. She wanted to lie to her, but that would only give her false hope. "No, Court. She's gone. There's no coming back from that. That's how archons kill each other."

"And she can't go to the Astral Plane either," Courtney said. "That other archon ate her soul. Everything that's left of her is part of him now."

Amber closed her eyes and exhaled, answering Courtney's question. For once, she regretted sharing so much information about the archons with her. It was a brutal truth of the archons. For all their vast power and immortality, they killed each other in the most ruthless and final manner possible – by devouring and assimilating the conquered archon's essence entirely.

"But what about your talisman? That's Taylor, too right?" Courtney said.

"Yes, in a way. It's the other half of her archon soul, but it doesn't have Taylor in it – not as you knew her anyway. Teijurzi has her archonic memories and power, but not the memories of her life as a person. I'm sorry."

"It's not fair, Amber. Taylor lived a very sad life. She didn't want to be the way she was; she just couldn't stop it when it happened. You have no idea how much guilt she had over what we did to people all those years ago, especially you. She cried herself out on my shoulder more times than I can remember. And now that she was repenting for her past and starting to do good things, she gets taken away."

Amber truly didn't know how to respond. For so long, she saw only Taylor's spite and jealousy and fear – and felt the pain from her malicious attention – despite Courtney's claims that she was a good person underneath those turbulent emotions. In the past few days, she started to see Taylor's light shine through, and more than anything else, it confused the hell out of her. She was unable to conjure meaningful words of sympathy for Courtney over the matter.

"I'm sorry," was the only consolation the normally articulate woman could muster.

"I'm going to kill him; that archon. I'm going to kill 'em all, and Sarah, too," Courtney said. "I know she was your friend once, Amber, but not anymore. You see that, right?"

"Courtney..."

"Will you help me?" Courtney interrupted. "Get me close enough, and I'll destroy them all."

"Court, please. They are still very dangerous, and you are sounding very dark right now. That's not like you."

"They have to pay, Amber. Don't worry, I won't be stupid about it. I know it can't happen right away, and we have to do it right, but when the time comes, will you help me avenge her?"

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