Authors: Lola Kidd
The field collapsed as Lena felt the portal coming over the maze toward them. Blue flames surrounded them and Troy swooped in close. He was standing over them as his fire smothered Sophia’s. Cross shifted back down and charged at Sophia. Lena swung the portal around behind her sister.
Tavis dropped in behind her as Sophia swatted Cross away like he was a ragdoll. Troy inched toward his brother. Rory put her hands on her knees. This was it. Rory wouldn’t be able to keep the portal open much longer.
Troy lunged forward while Tavis came around the side of the portal. Sophia laughed as she dodged the two dragons but in her haste she missed Vlad coming at her from the other side. Vlad stuck Sophia in the side with something before she pushed him away. He kicked Sophia in the back and while she was surprised from his attack. With all his might, Troy finished it and pushed her through the portal.
She disappeared with a scream that would haunt Lena’s dreams for many months to come.
“Close the portal!” Twilla screamed. Blood trickled from Rory’s nose as the portal snapped shut.
Lena fell to her knees and screamed. Her sister was gone.
Troy shifted down and went to his wife. He rocked her as Cross wiped the blood from Rory’s face.
“I know you’re very tired and very sad, but we have one more thing to do,” Twilla said. “I’m so sorry, Lena. I truly didn’t want it to come to this.”
“Sophia brought it on herself,” Vlad said viciously. “This was not your fault, Lena. You are not your sister’s keeper.”
“You have to go!” Beatrice’s face was lined with worry. “Just get out of here. The Council will be on your back in a moment. Just go anywhere!”
“Oh, shoot!” Twilla opened a portal. “Everybody in.”
Troy picked Lena up and carried her through. They ended up in Twilla’s living room.
“Listen, I can handle the Council, but you must get back to your world,” Twilla urged. “All I need you two to do is open one more portal.”
Troy shook his head. “I don’t think they can.”
“We’ll try,” Lena said with her face against his chest. His shirt was wet with tears. “Rory, are you willing to try?”
Rory’s face was white as a sheet. “I’ll try.”
“Everyone, give them all you’ve got left,” Twilla commanded.
Troy felt the room fill with magic. It was so strong his head swam. Slowly, a small portal emerged.
“Are you sure this is safe?” Hera asked nervously.
“Only one way to find out.” Tavis stepped through.
“It was nice to meet you all. You were a great help.” Vlad shook Allen’s hand. “I hope never to see you again in the future.”
“Same here,” Allen said. He hugged Twilla and pulled Ellia through the portal.
Rory crawled to Lena and Troy. She put her hand on Lena’s head. “I’m sorry about Sophia. I wish you and I could have gotten to know each other better.”
Lena clawed at Troy’s chest. “Margaret! We can’t leave! We have to get Margaret!”
“I’ll take care of that, dear.” Twilla’s eyes were milky white and her hair was black as night. “Something tells me Margaret has plans of her own.”
“I can’t just leave her!” Lena said. “I promised I would get her home.”
Twilla shook her head. “She doesn’t want to go with you. She’s found a new home.”
Cross looked surprised. “If she wants to stay at the compound, she’s welcome.”
“We’ll take good care of her,” Rory promised.
“No no no no no!” Lena cried, frantic. “We have to go back for her.”
“There’s no time.” Hera approached the portal. “If you want to go back, suit yourself. I’m going home.”
“We need to go.” Troy picked Lena up. She fought against him. “I’m very sorry, Lena.”
He stepped through the portal and landed in the grass of the forest. The portal closed behind him.
“How could you?” Lena moaned. “How could you? I’ll never be able to open that portal on my own!”
“I think Margaret found a little piece of happiness back there.” Ellia comforted Lena. “There was nothing for her here. She wanted to go back to Earth.”
Lena didn’t say anything.
“I don’t care what you people are doing now. I’m going home.” Hera shifted to her white dragon and joined Rustion in the sky. The two flew off toward Castle Eternal Sun.
Troy looked at his motley crew. “We can’t speak of Hera’s plot to anyone. She’ll march on us for sure if we do.”
Allen nodded. “I’ll honor your wishes.”
Tavis shrugged. “I don’t care. If you want me to be quiet, I’ll stay quiet.”
Everyone looked at Lena. She was lying with her face against the grass and Ellia was rubbing her back.
“Maybe you should leave us alone for a while,” Ellia said quietly. She looked at Troy. “We’ll be back at the castle before it’s dark.”
Something in Ellia’s eyes told Troy this was the right choice. As much as it pained him, he nodded and turned to leave the forest. He was numb as he led the trio back to Castle Blackfire.
Lena sat on the balcony alone. The sun was setting across the water and fish were jumping out of the ocean to touch the last of the light. A warm breeze moved her hair.
The coronation and party had been pushed back three nights. The castle was disappointed but Troy had told them Lena had taken a spill in the forest and needed to rest. That was mostly true. She didn’t know if her heart would ever fully recover from what had happened, but she hoped it would at least get better. Troy was helping. He gave her space in the beginning when they got back to Manna. She and Ellia had stayed in the forest for the rest of the day. Lena finally felt strong enough to go back to the castle when the dawn was breaking.
She knew it had to be hard for Troy to let her mourn on her own. He just didn’t understand. Catherine hadn’t asked what was wrong, but she had hugged Lena when she got back to the castle. Lena was glad she had at least two sisters still on Manna. Ellia had only left her side moments before. Lena knew her friend was tired. She would be fine by herself in her room. Ellia needed the sleep. The fight had drained her too.
Sir Allen had slept for an entire day on Manna. Lena was sure she would need sleep too, but it wouldn’t come yet. At least the tears had stopped. That was a small consolation. Margaret was on her mind too. She knew Rory would help the fox but she wished she could know for sure what had become of her.
“Mind some company?” Troy asked.
Lena turned to look at her husband. She shook her head. “You can sit if you’d like.”
Troy stood at the railing and looked over the edge. He waited for Lena to speak first.
“I’m not angry about what you did.”
Troy let out a breath. “Oh, thank goodness. I thought you would hate me forever.”
“How could I?” Lena joined him at the railing. “I’m very sad. I will be very sad for a long time. I love my sister even after all the horrible things she did. I will miss her. But I know we did what was right. Thank you for helping me.”
Troy leaned forward and kissed Lena softly. “I will always be there for you, Lena.”
She stepped forward and put her head on his chest. Troy put his arms around her. They stayed like that and watched the sun set. The full purple moon lit up the water. Lena could see the fish dancing just beneath the surface of the water.
“Would you like to go for a ride?” Troy asked. “The water is very beautiful in the moonlight.”
Lena took her head off his chest. “I would like that, actually. It would be nice to see a little more of Manna.”
Troy took off his clothes and jumped off the balcony. A moment later a great black dragon with the bluest eyes floated in front of the balcony. The dragon beat its wings a few times and settled just beneath the railing. Lena looked over the edge at Troy, who was waiting for her. She slipped off her shoes and stood on the railing. She stepped off the railing and onto Troy’s back.
She moved around until she was nestled tight between his neck and one of his back scales. When she was secure, Troy beat his wings until they were high above the castle. Her home. She couldn’t wait to see his entire world. She knew she was going to love it as much as she loved Troy.
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