The Savage Dawn – Melissa Grey

Mirrors streamed past as she sailed by. In each, a vessel of the firebird, forgotten by time, but not by the firebird itself, called out to Echo. Some she remembered from dreams past; some were new. She recognized a Drakharin woman with white-blond hair in warrior braids who shouted, “Cha’laen” – the Drakhar word for sister – but Echo’s passage was too swift to make note of anything other than the woman’s distinctive scales and the bow and quiver full of arrows slung over her shoulders. T he v e s s e l s c a l l e d t o he r i n a hund r e d l a ngua g e s , ha l f o f the m d e a d , b ut the y a l l s a i d the s a me thi ng. Run. And she did. But no matter how fast she ran or how far, she could never escape the darkness. T CHAPTER NINE he garden had quickly become Ivy’s favorite place in Avalon Castle. It wasn’t quiet, not with its proximity to the rubble-strewn area of the courtyard that the surviving Warhawks used as a sparring ground, nor was it particularly beautiful, considering that two of the four walls surrounding it had crumbled during Tanith’s attack. In spite of all that, Ivy found a sort of peace when she was working there, snipping leaves to muddle for tea or pulling up roots to create poultices for minor wounds and burns. There was something about the feeling of dirt underneath her fingernails that made her feel accomplished. It sounded trite, even in her own head, but there was an honesty to working with her hands that Ivy found reassuring in a world filled with uncertainty and brutality. And it helped that the view was spectacular. The object of her gaze turned, as if feeling her eyes grazing the side of his face.

In the latemorning sun, Helios’s black hair shimmered in shades of midnight blue. The iridescent dusting of scales at his temples reminded Ivy of the clear glitter nail polish Echo had shoplifted from Sephora as a Christmas gift for her last year. The Avicen didn’t celebrate that particular holiday, but Ivy would never turn her nose up at presents. Thinking of Helios and glitter brought a small smile to Ivy’s lips, a rarity these days. Helios mirrored it with one of his own. “Something funny?” His English was flawless, though his accent was slightly thicker than Dorian’s or Caius’s. Ivy assumed he had spent most of his time speaking in his native tongue with his fellow Firedrakes before he turned his back on them to help Ivy escape Wyvern’s Keep. The memory of her time there made her smile falter. She mentally batted the recollection away as if it were an annoyingly persistent mosquito. Helios noticed the change in her demeanor.

He leaned back on his heels, brushing the dirt from his hands onto his already stained jeans. “Are you all right?” Ivy took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of the herbs around her, finding solace even in the bitter aroma of the bloodweed roots she was planting. She pulled off her heavy gloves – a necessity when dealing with bloodweed, as its leaves had the tendency to sting – and sank her fingers into a patch of moist dirt. It had rained during the night, and the soil was ripe for gardening. She could feel the magic buried in the earth like a subtle vibration. The spell that Echo had worked in the heat of battle had seeped into the very foundations of the island, working its way through every inch of soil and stone, creating a protective barrier between the island and the rest of the world. The magic even felt like Echo, though if Ivy tried to verbalize how it felt like Echo, she would have found words to be too reductive, too simplistic to describe the magic’s familiarity. Every living thing had an aura about it. Not the kind that human new age books liked to talk about, not exactly. It was as if every person, every animal had a unique flavor – or perhaps a unique perfume – that was theirs and theirs alone, one that was created through an accumulation of all of life’s experiences, of all the people they had ever met, of all the places they had ever been.

Part of Ivy’s training as a healer was learning to read auras, to understand them. One of the truths about medicine – human or Avicen – was that patients were unreliable narrators of their own condition. Some people would downplay their pain, either because they wanted to act tough or because they had grown so accustomed to its presence that it simply didn’t seem as big a deal as it was, while others oversold their symptoms. But auras were honest. Auras did not lie or exaggerate or understate. A person’s aura told the truth of their distress. Ivy could always tell when Echo was feeling unwell or frightened or elated, without needing Echo’s words to confirm the diagnosis. Ivy spent more time with Echo than she did with anyone else, and therefore she knew the feeling of Echo’s aura better than anyone else’s. She felt it now, coursing through the soil of Avalon island. It comforted her, as it did when Echo was present.

Her friend was elsewhere, but a part of her remained. “Ivy?” Helios prompted. “Are you all right?” “Yeah,” Ivy replied, pulling her fingers from the dirt. “I’m okay.” She looked back at Helios to find him quirking a disbelieving eyebrow at her. “Is that an ‘I’m okay’ as in ‘I am actually okay,’ or is that an ‘I’m okay’ as in ‘I am not at all okay but I do not wish to discuss it at this time’?” “I’m okay, truly,” Ivy insisted. “I was just … thinking.” “Ah, yes,” Helios said, rubbing his chin as if deep in thought himself, and unintentionally smearing dirt on his face. “Thinking. A dangerous activity.

I try to avoid it whenever possible.” Ivy chucked one of her gardening gloves at him. He caught it with a smile. Instead of returning it to her, he plopped the glove down on top of his own, which he only wore when handling bloodweed. He reached into the basket of herbs Ivy had instructed him to pick and retrieved a small purple blossom that was often used to treat ailments of the head and stomach. He held the flower out to her and said, “Peony for your thoughts?” Ivy groaned, but she accepted the flower, hoping the blush she felt rising in her cheeks wasn’t too violent a shade of red. “Two things,” she said. “One: that’s rosemary, not a peony. And two: that was a terrible pun and you should be ashamed of yourself.” “ B e tha t a s i t ma y , ” s a i d H e l i o s , “ my q ue s ti o n s t i l l s t a nd s.

” Ivy wanted to insist that she wasn’t avoiding his question, but since she was, she grasped for a diversion. The clouds above shifted, strengthening the sunlight falling on the garden, and Ivy’s eyes alighted on a glint at Helios’s throat. A thin gold chain disappeared into the collar of his shirt, but the subtle form of what looked like a pendant showed beneath the fabric. “What’s with the necklace?” she asked. She’d noticed it weeks ago, and as far as she could tell, Helios hadn’t taken it off once. Helios’s hand rose to lightly touch the pendant. “This? It’s just a locket. I’ve had it for so long, I don’t even feel its weight anymore.” Something too close to jealousy for Ivy’s liking fluttered in her chest. “Did you leave a special someone back at the keep?” Helios cut her a sideways glance, informing her without words that she was hiding nothing.

“Yes,” he replied, “but not the way you’re imagining.”

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