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The crypt V

No, no, no. This can’t be real.

“Release me, Aerin,” he pleaded, his voice husky with emotion. “We can escape together. With your powers, we can be free.”

This can’t be happening. Is this real? It feels real.

As he spoke, his words were like a seductive melody, luring me in with their sweet promises. I felt myself getting tangled in his words, unable to resist the pull of the past and the possibility of rekindled love.

“Please, Aerin,” Gareth implored, his eyes locking onto mine with a desperate intensity. “I love you. Don’t let them keep us apart.”

Love? Can it truly be love?

“Aerin, don’t listen to him!” Rohan’s voice snapped, sharp as a whip. “He’s not who you think he is. It’s a trick!”

But it feels so real. Every detail, every word. It all fit. 

I felt a sudden burst of energy, like tiny electric shocks spreading through my body. My hands began to tingle and a warm glow surrounded me. My powers. I knew I could use them to save him, and the thought alone was enough to make me consider unleashing them in an instant. The idea made my fingers twitch with anticipation.

Maybe I can save him. Maybe this is real.

“Aerin, stop!” Rohan’s voice sliced through the chamber, commanding and authoritative. But I couldn’t tear my gaze away from Gareth. His presence filled the room, drowning out all reason and doubt.

Ignoring Rohan’s warning, I moved closer to Gareth. The world seemed to fade away, leaving only us in a halo of light.

Just a little more, and I can free him.

Rohan’s voice rang out again, this time thick with desperation and a hint of fear. “Aerin, you have to stop!”

My heart hammered, torn between the desperate plea in Gareth’s voice and Rohan’s frantic warnings. Ignoring the tremor in my hand, I lunged for Gareth, a jolt of power ripping through me. It was as if my very essence had awakened, a brilliant light threatening to burst forth. My love. I miss you.

I was ready to release Gareth from his binds. Let him go. The words formed in my mind, a silent command to my powers. The ropes were cut, he was free!

“Stupid girl!” Someone curses.

A dark figure lunged from the shadows, a glint of steel flashing in the dim light.

Blood sprayed accompanied by a strangled gasp.

The metallic scent of blood filled my nostrils as I saw the red stream gushing from Gareth’s throat.

No!  My powers faltering and flickering like a dying flame.

Gareth crumpled, a lifeless puppet severed from its strings. A pool of blood spread beneath his lifeless form, staining the unforgiving stone floor.

Reality sunk in at a snail’s pace. Rohan stood before me, his hand tightly gripping a bloodied dagger. His features twisted into a mask of cold fury.

“What the fuck were you thinking?” His voice was a low growl, barely containing his anger.

My vision swam, the world tilting around me in a dizzying dance of shadow and light. I fixed Rohan with a stare sharpened by betrayal, every fiber of my being vibrating with anger. “Murderer!” I hissed, my voice cracking as I stepped toward him, my heart thundering in my chest. “You killed him!”

“Aerin!” Rohan’s voice iced over as he snarled my name. “It was an illusion, a glamour. He wasn’t who you believed him to be.”

But I wasn’t listening. My blood boiled with fury. “Liar!” I roared, my fist landing with a bone-crushing force on his chest. The power coursing through me made my eyes glow, and crackling sparks of energy sparked from my fingertips, out of my control.

How could he not be real? It felt so vivid, so tangible!

Blinded by fury, I ripped at Rohan’s sleeve with ferocity, my nails leaving a fiery mark on his skin. He winced, but I didn’t notice. I was lost in the tempest of conflicting emotions.

With a rough tug on my arm, he spun me around. My head whipped back, disoriented. “Look,” he commanded, his tone hard and unforgiving, gesturing towards the crumpled figure sprawled on the cold stone.

Reluctantly, I obeyed. My eyes fixated on the grotesque transformation unfolding before me. The illusion dissipated like smoke, and a strangled gasp escaped my lips. Horrified, my eyes widened as I beheld the true form of the fey traitor.

His scaly green body, marked with yellow patches, twisted horns protruding from his lizard-like head. His lifeless yellow eyes stared back at me, his forked tongue hanging limply from his half-open mouth.

Gradually, the storm raging inside me began to calm. The fog of confusion lifted, and I finally saw the truth. I realized that I had been on the brink of madness. It wasn’t Gareth. It wasn’t real. I no longer felt the deep love I believed I held for him, only a lingering affection muddled by the fey’s twisted magic.

Rohan’s voice pierced the tension. “You were only looking at him for a few moments, and he nearly drove you mad. Give him a little more time, and he could have dominated your mind completely.”

Sylvenna’s gently offered an explanation, her words a soothing balm to my frayed nerves. “Because you’re half-fey, your mind is more vulnerable. He could infiltrate your thoughts more easily than he could with a pure fey.”

Shame and regret washed over me as I turned to face Rohan. “I’m sorry,” I choked out, my voice heavy with remorse.

But then, my gaze landed on the gash I had inflicted on his arm. My heart plummeted as I reached out to touch it, but he flinched away.

“It’s fine,” he reassured, though I could see the strain in his eyes. He was weakened, unable to heal quickly.

“I’ll bandage it,” Sylvenna offered, her voice soft even though everything was messy and confusing.

“Are you done with the drama?” Grizpik’s gruff voice reverberated in the chamber,”I’ve got other things to do.” The goblin’s impatience was evident.

“Hurry!” Thistle urged. “Time is running out.”

Rohan sank into the empty chair, the one where the traitor had been just moments ago. A flicker of pain crossed his face. Sylvenna’s skilled hands worked quickly, pulling out bandages and ointments from her worn pouch. Her touch was gentle as she cleaned and dressed his wound, but even her gentleness couldn’t stop his hiss when the antiseptic hit the raw flesh.

Shame burned in my throat, acrid and suffocating. I couldn’t bear to look at Rohan’s face, his arm being tended to, and his eyes avoiding mine. Every fiber of my being yearned to reach out, to apologize again, but the words wouldn’t come.

What have I done? How could I have been so foolish?

“Spit it out, goblin!” Rohan growled, his narrowed eyes boring into Grizpik. “How do we destroy the damn crystal?”

Grizpik’s twisted smile spread across his face as he reached out a hand toward me, his claws glinting in the dim light. “Payment first, pretty one.” I noticed his hungry eyes fixated on my hair, almost salivating.

Disgusting creature.

Fury burned in my throat. “Absolutely not!” I spat back, glaring at the persistent goblin. “My hair stays exactly how it is.”

Grizpik’s grin, if possible, widened further. “Come now, little one,” he coaxed, his voice dripping with false charm. “Just a tiny snip of that beautiful hair. Surely you can spare a bit?”

Rohan’s lips curved into a mocking smile. “Oh, don’t be such a delicate flower, princess. It’s just a lock of hair, not a limb.”

I bit my lip, torn between anger and the desperate need to get this information. Finally, I conceded, “Fine. One small lock. But not a single strand more.”

Rohan rose from the chair, his arm now bandaged, and walked over to me, dagger in hand – the same one he used on the traitor, yuck. The sight made me cringe, but he only chuckled with a devilish grin. He positioned himself behind me, way too close, and started fiddling with my hair. His fingers brushed my neck, sending a jolt through me. I could swear he did it on purpose, lingering a touch too long.

Damn him and his charm.

Heat flooded my cheeks. “Just get it over with already.” I mumbled, trying to sound annoyed but failing miserably.

He chuckled, a low rumble that tickled my ear. With practiced ease, he selected a small section beneath the thick layers of my hair and – snip! – a lock fell free.

He held it up, amusement dancing in his eyes. “You won’t even notice it’s gone,” he taunted with a cocky smirk.

I shot him an obscene gesture, and he laughed.

Grizpik’s grubby fingers snatched the hair the moment Rohan offered it, practically shoving it under his nose. With creepy intensity, he inhaled deeply like it were a drug. “Ah, the sweet aroma of woodland lilacs,” he breathed, a creepy satisfaction in his voice.

Could he be any more repulsive?

Thistle was a bundle of nerves, his body swaying like a pendulum oscillating wildly. Sylvenna, bless her heart, tried to calm him down with a hand on his arm.

Rohan’s biceps bulged as he folded his arms over his chiseled chest. “You’ve got your payment, now spit it out.” he demanded with impatience.

I watched anxiously, my fingertips tapping against each other in a nervous rhythm as I waited for Grizpik’s response.

The goblin’s malicious grin stretched wider, revealing his jagged teeth as he spoke. “You have to destroy the queen’s fancy little crystal known as The Eternal,” he said in a gruff and guttural voice, “Its power can be reversed by shattering it, releasing the trapped energies back to their owners. However, it is necessary to contain opposing powers, such as light and darkness.”

A cold shiver snaked down my spine as Grizpik paused, his gaze flicking between Rohan and me.

“When the crystal is broken, the queen will lose her power and become mortal,” he continued, “The crystal already holds the essence of darkness, but…”

I finished his sentence, my voice trembling with both fear and resignation, “But it needs my light magic, doesn’t it?”

Grizpik’s smile returned, a cruel crescent moon mocking my fear.

“Absolutely not!” Rohan boomed before I could even blink. “Too dangerous!”

But even as he spoke, I knew deep down that there was no other option. We had to destroy the crystal, no matter the cost. Even if it meant risking my own life.

I shook my head, determination sparking in my eyes. “It’s not your decision to make, Rohan” I said, my voice surprisingly steady despite the tremor in my hands.

“Oh, no,” Sylvenna whispered, her voice trembling with sorrow.

Thistle looked like a ghost, swaying slightly on his feet.

“The queen doesn’t have a clue that this ritual can end her plans, right?” I muttered.

Grizpik, nodded and continued.”But beware, young one,” he added, his voice dropping to a bone-chilling rasp. “Breaking The Eternal is no easy feat. It’s painful, excruciating even. You might not even survive it. And even if you do, the energy drain could still claim your life.”

I swallowed hard, my throat suddenly dry. My heart pounded against my ribs, a frantic drum solo in the face of death. This was a suicide mission, and I knew it. Yet, the words spilled out before I could stop them, barely above a whisper, “I’ll do it.”

Why does bravery always feel a little terrifying?

Rohan crossed his arms again, muscles flexing beneath the strong frame of his chest. “There has to be another way,” he growled, frustration and fear twisting his voice.

Grizpik remained impassive. “Breaking the crystal is the only solution,” he said, his voice flat and emotionless.

My breath hitched. “I’ll do it, Rohan,” I said, my voice gaining strength with each word. “We have no other choice.”

Rohan’s piercing gaze held mine, his eyes a storm of emotions – worry, anger, something deeper I couldn’t place. “Aerin, it’s too damn dangerous. There has to be another option.”

I stubbornly shook my head again, insisting, “It’s my choice.” But this time, deep down, a flicker of doubt emerged, a quiet voice of terror struggling against my rising tide of determination.

I spun around to ask a question to the goblin, but he just smirked and vanished into thin air.

Well, that was predictable.

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