By: Layla Heart
One act of desperation, two princes in dire situations.
The first day of the new academic year started pretty normal for Litha, between hanging out with the princes and Phoenix and going to her first class it all seemed perfectly simple, but it ended horrifically wrong with Litha, Kit and Rune locked in a room at the succubi cafe, surrounded by fae soldiers. As they broke free, Litha sacrificed herself to save the woman she’d always thought of as her grandma.
In the fallout after Litha’s magnificent magical attack, things become even more grim as Litha, Phoenix and the princes are surrounded by the rest of the fae army, who are now slowly closing in on them through the thick smoke. They can’t see the soldiers, but they can hear them come closer.
The five have to stand their ground, protect Litha and her grandma, and try not to get killed before backup reaches them. But when the fae soldiers reveal their new weapons, things get even more dicey. Will they make it out? And in what condition?
Lughnasadh Elite Academy
17 July 2019
Pages: 120 pages
Available in the Netherlands/Belgium:
As part of a collection
If you don’t want to buy through any of the international stores, this story is also available in the Netherlands and Belgium as part of Fated Magic (Lughnasadh Elite Academy Collection 2). This features the second three novellas of the series and is available in ebook or paperback.
It’s hard to breathe, my lungs are filled with smoke, the air around us heavy with the stench of burned bodies and the smog is making it almost impossible to see anything.
I’m still sitting on the road, Litha and Granny Bastet in my lap, as I’m trying to make sense of what happened, what just went on.
Everything happened at the same time. Above us, Rune, transformed into his dragon form, broke through the wall of the upstairs room at the succubus cafe, raining down pieces of stone and debris on the soldiers below. Kit followed him closely behind, also transformed, and on Rune’s back I caught a glimpse of Litha. They were heading back to the campus through the air, the soldiers quickly recovering and aiming their weapons at them.
Which was when I saw Granny Bastet, my grandma’s twin sister, her limp body between some fae soldiers, also on their way to the campus. I don’t remember my grandma, or granny, as grandma died when she transported her twin sister to the human world, together with Litha and her parents. But I’d seen enough pictures to know who she was, and the red hair was a definite giveaway too. A sound escaped me and I automatically moved forward, towards her, needing to save her.
The moment the sound escaped me, something happened above us too, Litha jumping off Rune’s back, flames surrounding her. Next to me, Finn and Bane gasped loudly, staring up at her. The fire around her grew and grew the closer she came to the soldiers. She didn’t seem to give a care that she was probably jumping to her death, all her focus on Granny, her arms reached out to her.
The soldiers stared up at her, terror in their eyes, nobody moved, they were all mesmerised by her, by her power. And with the ease that she used her magic, that instead of it getting weaker the closer she came, it only got stronger, they didn’t seem to have much with them in the way of magic blockers, which was… interesting. Or maybe there was another reason they didn’t work on Litha.
Barrelling to the ground, the waves of heat around her intensified, the air in an even wider circle becoming too hot to breathe. I could feel the fire licking at my skin, but it didn’t harm me, unlike the fae soldiers, whose skin was starting to bubble under the heat, like they were being boiled alive.
And then a shock wave of liquid fire erupted out of Litha, the light too bright to look into, and I had to close my eyes to protect them. I reached out and Finn and Bane grabbed my arms, all of us trying to stay on our feet. When the immediate heat dissipated, I opened my eyes again, black spots in my view making it hard to see much. It took a while before I could see anything, and what I saw made my heart hurt. Not just hurt, it broke my heart into a million pieces.
Bodies. Smoking and burning bodies of the fae soldiers littering the streets. The rest of the town, the buildings, the few plants, a couple of trash cans, they’d been damaged a little, the plants looking a little crispy, but nothing in comparison to what the soldiers looked like. Litha had killed the soldiers, she’s burned them and killed them. These were the first deaths by her hands, she took not just one life, but the lives of tens of soldiers around her.
Bane pushed at my shoulder, nodding towards the street and in the middle of the still slightly burning bodies, I saw Litha, with Granny in her arms. The smoke from the bodies was already getting worse and worse, if we wanted to get to them, we needed to move now.
I rushed for Litha and Granny, ignoring the heat on my skin. “Litha! Granny!” I knelt down next to them, pulling them in my lap. “Litha!”
I kept glancing around, not really able to believe what I saw, there was a clear circle around them, where she’d pushed the soldiers away from them.
“What did you do?” I gasped, trying to heal Litha and Granny, but not really accomplishing much.
The princes soon caught up with us, forming a protective circle around us.
The smog is getting worse and worse, the bodies have stopped burning and are now simply smoking. It helps to keep us hidden from the rest of the fae soldiers for a while, but it also makes it hard for me to see the princes, or for the princes to see any soldiers who may try to attack us. The bodies are still littered in the street and I actively try not to look at them, or take too deep of a breath, or I’ll be sick…
“Rune?” Bane calls out from somewhere behind me, he’s taken up position on the street towards the academy.
The dragon roars from on my other side, in front of me, and a shiver goes down my spine. Of course, shifted dragons can’t speak, but I’d be damned if Rune’s growl didn’t just scare people shitless, which is probably why he did it in the first place.
“Can you pull up a wall on that side? Keep our back safe?” He’s yelling, but I don’t think it’s really going to be hard for the soldiers to spot us anyway, not with the bodies all around us.
Rune’s next growl is even lower, and then Kit’s rough voice reaches us. “He can’t. We can’t use elemental magic here, the town’s protective spells won’t let him pull up a wall of earth here.”
“Fuck.” Finn is also behind me, but closer than Bane. “Any other way you can keep them off on that side? We can’t be spread out like this for too long.”
“Stack up the bodies?” Even as I say the words, my stomach churns. This is so not something I want to think of, but there is no other way to create a barrier on that side. I still can’t hear any soldiers out in the smoke, but I don’t doubt that they will start showing up soon enough, probably just waiting for orders or a little too surprised by what Litha did.
“Finn, take the front. Kit, stay with him.” Bane’s voice drops to a growl. “Rune and I will take care of things on that side. Keep me updated.”
“Check.” Kit’s shadow flashes closely by my side in the smoke, but not before he glances at Litha for a moment, his dark eyes on her, the black magic in his body swirling fast. He wants to kill someone, something, to let that energy go, to let his anger go. The soldiers didn’t technically hurt Litha, but they’d made her use her magic to a level where she hurt herself, and, to him, that was just as bad.
On my other side, Bane’s wolf rushes past us, appearing for less than a second, before he’s back into the smoke and out of my sight again. I can hear Bane and Rune drag things around in the darkness, and I have no idea where they are exactly. Not that I really want to be able to see what they’re doing, just the thought is bad enough.
I’m sitting here, in the middle of the street, and I can’t do much apart from trying to heal Litha and Granny, which doesn’t do anything anyway. I wish I could get out there too and do something, feel useful, but the guys are trusting me to keep an eye on Litha and with my magic… I’m not so sure I’d be much use overall. I have my healing magic, and my death magic, and a really good memory for spells and rituals, but nothing that would be useful in a situation like this. Nothing to protect us or to give us an advantage right now. I guess Bane’s dad was right that we all needed to learn hand-to-hand combat skills, because there is only so much I can otherwise do.
There is a bright spark in my head, a warmth flooding my mind, Ember. She’s close enough to get a connection to me. ’There was an explosion in the town. Are you safe?’
’Litha made that explosion. We’re safe, unharmed. What’s going on on campus?’
’The professors are running around, something about fae soldiers in the town. But they seem to be very confused by the explosion now, worried that the fae brought something dangerous with them. Oh, someone just turned into a jaguar, I thought you only had wolves and dragons on this campus.’
’Ember, just the important things.’ I sigh. If you think dogs are easily distracted… Even witch-familiar cats have an attention span that would make an ADHD person seem like they’re super focused at all time. ‘Are they coming out here? We kind of need help. I don’t think the princes can keep the soldiers off for long when the fae decide to attack us.’
’I don’t know. Are they even aware you’re out there? They mostly seem to worry about the fire right now.’
Great. Fuck. The one thing that saved us may also be the thing that delays the help we need right now. How are we going to stand against a big chunk of an army? We can’t keep protecting Litha and Granny for hours, or however long it takes for help to get here. We’re not prepared enough, we’re not strong enough. We’ve got the element of surprise, and the smoke, on our side, but the window of that advantage is rapidly closing. They’re going to attack us soon, and we don’t have the manpower to protect ourselves.
“Finn,” I whisper, turning my head in his direction a little. Bane and Rune are too far off, and they’re shifted, and Kit is too far away to get his attention easily.
He’s next to me in a flash, his fingers on Litha’s throat, checking her pulse and then her breathing, before he looks at me, his normally green eyes almost black. “Yes?”
“Anything in your arsenal to get us out of here, or protect us? Anything?”
He shakes his head, letting out a low growl. “Just shooting electricity at them isn’t going to get us anywhere right now, they’re fae. And Rune and Kit can’t fly us out of here, it’s not safe and with two unconscious people…”
“Yeah, the hiding spell we used before isn’t going to do us much good either, we’re with too many. And if we do get out of this street, they’re going to hunt us down before we reach that side door again.” I try to look through the smoke, but it’s too thick to see anything, even Rune and Bane are hidden, though I can still hear them move around.
The bodies around us are still smoldering, the fire hot enough that it’s taking a while for it to die down. This is what Litha can do. This is what our Queen-to-be can do. I never really thought about what her powers could be like if she was pushed to the limit, but I guess we really don’t need to worry that she may only have shielding magic. It’s obvious that she’s from a long line of witches, centuries and centuries old, one of our most important royal lines, even more important than my own family… This is not just any family’s magic, this is magic inherited from one of our founding families. She’s a queen, title or not, she’s our Queen.
“Can we reach someone by phone?” Finn grabs his own, but the twisted piece he pulls from his pocket doesn’t seem very promising. It doesn’t seem to have survived Litha’s attack as well as we have… “Maybe not.”
“Yeah, I tried that earlier. The heat must have been too much.” I shake my head. The longer we stay in this smoke, the longer we stay out here, the more danger we’re in. There are soldiers on every side of us, even though they’ve not dared to get close yet, they may just be waiting for orders, or they may be laying their own plans.
The ground under us shakes as Rune lets out a loud growl, and Kit screeches behind us. These aren’t the sounds of protection or communication, these are sounds of alarm.
I guess our time of trying to figure out what we’re going to do next is over. The soldiers have decided for us.
Finn meets my eyes for a moment, sparks flashing in the air between us. “Protect her, at any cost.” Then he sprints off, back to Kit’s side, the blue sparks following him through the smoke, and I see them reflected on metal surfaces around him. He’s got his blades out, he’s ready to do anything for her, and so am I.
We have to protect her. We have to protect her at any cost. She’s ours.