I quickly clasped a hand tight over my mouth to hold in a scream. It was there; it happened, but I clamped my jaw closed so the sound couldn’t escape.

“What in the world just happened?” I breathed out, just a hair above an audible sound. I stared wide-eyed into Mycah’s ocean blue eyes. Those ocean blue eyes—that were very much alive—stared right back into mine.

Only his weren’t wide like mine. His weren’t bugging out of his head from utter shock, like I was positive mine must have been doing. He looked…like he knew exactly how that happened. Which I guess he probably did. But I didn’t. I mean—he died. He was dead. Wasn’t he?

“Mycah?” I questioned hesitantly. Yes, I knew he could heal people and all that, but I didn’t understand how he could have healed himself in that condition. Like when one was dead.

“Thank you,” he said with reverence that instinctively made my eyebrows pull together. I didn’t understand. Why was he thanking me?

Rydan suddenly bent down and grabbed Mycah, who I still could hardly believe was his long-lost brother, by fistfuls of his bloody, torn up shirt. “Tell me what is going on right this second,” he bit out with way too much menace, making me cringe.

“I will,” Mycah responded with a tightened jaw, matching Rydan’s glare. He stood up, completely back to normal, with no weak knees or shaky legs—nothing. Perfectly normal. I stayed sitting, unmoving, on the grass. I couldn’t move even if I wanted to. I felt…drained.

“Did you kill him?” he asked Rydan quickly and earnestly, his English accent popping each word. I wanted to run to him. To relish in the fact that he was actually alive right now, but something was holding me in place. There was no movement from me. It was possible my brain had exploded.

“Umm…no. But I scared him off. I’m not just going to kill someone—are you crazy? Who was he? Why did he shoot a freakin’ arrow at you? No, scratch that. Why did he KILL you? Because that is seriously what just happened right now. He killed you. You were dead. Yet here you stand.” Rydan swept his eyes over Mycah, took a step closer, and then pulled my arm to drag me behind his body away from Mycah, putting himself in between us. But I was sitting down, so the pull had me falling to my side.

I didn’t care. I was too stunned. I still could not speak.

“I wasn’t dead. And we need to leave. Now.” Mycah clenched his fists and discreetly surveyed the area with his eyes. Searching all around us for the killer without looking like that’s what he was doing. But I knew. I could tell. And all I could think was, so not like Jason Bourne. More like…Legolas. If I were capable of feeling any emotion other than relief and shock, I’d have laughed.

“I’m not going anywhere. What did you mean we have to go back? What did you mean they’re calling us? Who are you? What are you? Because it looked to me that yes, you were indeed dead.” As Rydan’s questions became more intense, his body mimicked his emotions, and he stepped even closer to Mycah as his own fists clenched.

God, they were similar.

Too similar. It freaked me out.

“I can explain. I will explain. But first, we need to get to safety. It is imperative that we get to safety, Rydan. You do not understand,” Mycah whispered, but his voice was filled with force. With authority.

“I’m not moving from this spot until you answer me. How do we go back?” Rydan practically growled.

“Through the Ëlemmiire. Or the Weeping Willow, I mean. It is the last of our sacred gateways. But you do not understand. It will lead us into enemy territory.” As Mycah said those last words, his eyes flickered to mine for just a brief second. “That is why we need to leave and strategize first. We cannot possibly just go walking back into—What do you think you’re doing?!” Mycah grabbed Rydan by his arm when he started walking toward the huge, beautiful Weeping Willow tree. The one I used to feel safe under. The one I used to think of as my true home.

“I don’t believe a word you’re saying! Don’t you get that?! Get your sick hands off me!” Rydan wrenched his arm out of Mycah’s grip and kept walking to the tree.

“You’re an Isil’Elda, Rydan. You’re not human. Don’t you get that?” Mycah followed him. “A very important one, I might add. If you get yourself killed because of your own stupidity, I will be the one our mother blames!”

Rydan whirled around to face Mycah. I was pretty sure I saw steam billowing out of his ears. “A what?! Our moth…” He couldn’t get the word out. He shook his head, running a hand through his messy black hair. “What is wrong with you? Is this some kind of psychotic joke?”

“Rydan, you can feel it’s true. I know you can. You have a gift. You know you’re different. Don’t you remember me?” Mycah suddenly stopped and looked to the ground, confusion passing over his expression. “Where’s Xavier? When did he leave you?”

“STOP! Just…stop!” Rydan roared and started circling the large trunk of the tree. The cold wind whipped through my hair, stinging my eyes and making me squint. The long, graceful branches pulled toward Rydan. It was a beautiful sight.

“You’re still so incredibly stubborn.” Mycah raked a hand through his own chaotic midnight blue locks, mirroring Rydan’s actions without even realizing it. “Didn’t you see her? Didn’t she try calling you?”

“Who?” Rydan instantly snapped around to face Mycah full on, his expression wild. He waited for Mycah’s answer.

“The Dream Weaver. I do not know her or her name. She’s the one who told me to come here. I’ve been looking for the Lassaira Ëlemmiire for the past eleven years, since our Kingdom’s portal was destroyed. And now I’ve finally found it. But I do not know how our uncle has been able to infiltrate—wait…he’s winning. He must be winning the war.” Mycah’s voice grew quiet and concerned, and again his eyes flashed to mine with pain. “We have to hurry. We have to go back. But not until we come up with a plan. If you and I are captured the moment we pass through, it would be the end for our people.”

“What did she look like?” Rydan spoke so softly I almost missed what he said. I couldn’t understand his expression. He looked crazed.

“Long blonde hair, piercing green eyes. It doesn’t matter, Rydan. Did you not just hear what I said?” Mycah was exasperated, and I could see the tension he carried throughout his body.

“So it was real…” Rydan whispered to himself, his gaze cutting back to the tree. He looked scared. “How does it work?” he asked, waving a hand toward the tree.

Mycah hesitated. “You’re royalty. Anyone birthed of royalty can pass through. Everyone else must be ordained. You just have to will it.” He spoke the words tentatively. Like he wanted to tell Rydan but wasn’t sure if he could trust him with the information.

“I’m…what?” Rydan rolled his eyes and shook his head in dismissal. “Whatever.” He reached up and touched the trunk of the tree. Like pure, utter magic, his hand crossed the invisible threshold, disappearing into oblivion. He jerked his hand back like it was painful.

“Rydan, what is the matter with you?! Are you not listening to a word I am saying?” Mycah yelled, his British accent thick.

“Rydan?! What are you doing?” I finally found my words and chimed in with panic. No…he couldn’t leave me. My chest started caving in the moment his bright mercury eyes flickered to mine, full of guilt, before going right back to the tree. STOP!! I wanted to scream.

But it was too late. He passed through.



“RYDAN!!!” I screamed so loud my eyes instantly popped open, as my strangled voice cut through the darkest of nights. There was no moon. No moonlight to paint its soft glow over the expanse of the ‘Duck Room.’ To play with Mycah’s deep blue eyes as he lay next to me, staring at me with pained concern. It was dark.

Very dark.

It matched my mood.

Four times. This was my fourth time tonight that I’d relived the events that happened earlier that day through a never-ending nightmare. I couldn’t escape.

There was no escape.

I would find no solace in sleep from this.

My best friend was gone, and the memory of his departure was haunting me.

How could he do it? How could he just leave me like that? Now for round five, I went to swipe away the cruel tear that stung my cheek as it fell. Only Mycah’s soft thumb got to it first. I looked up through my blurry vision and watched as he brought his hand to his lips and kissed the thumb stained with my salty tear.

“Please don’t cry, love. My heart can’t take it,” he whispered so softly, so strained, I barely heard him.

I closed my eyes. Sleep kept dragging me back under, but my brain couldn’t handle the memories, and an hour later I was back screaming Rydan’s name each time. But a part of me wanted to see him again, even if it was only a memory.

So I would sleep.

I begged for sleep and was rewarded right away. Because at least there he was still alive. He was still safe. I couldn’t even think about reality and what the truth might actually be. Mycah tried to warn him that he could be walking into a death trap.

I may never see him again.

And he just left.

Just like that.