Home > The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3)(15)

The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3)(15)
Author: Marie Lu

“Well,” he whispers back, returning my smile. “Then we have much in common.” He takes in Giulietta’s face. It is amazing, seeing his transformation. His eyes soften, turning moist, and it is as if I could see memories flitting through his mind, his days with the late queen, bowing to her commands, spending nights in her chambers, standing beside her throne, championing her. Until they turned on each other.

“Why are you here?” Teren asks. He straightens and pulls away from me again.

I glance at Sergio, then nod. “Your sword,” I say.

Sergio steps forward. He draws his sword, the sound of the metal echoing in the chamber, and then heads toward Teren. Teren doesn’t try to resist, but I see his muscles tense. He used to fight back during the early months of his imprisonment, his furious shouts ringing out through the dungeon, his chains rattling. Sergio had to strike Teren down over and over, with everything from rods to swords to whips, until Teren began to flinch at his approaching footsteps. It is cruel, some would think. But those are the thoughts of someone who has never known Teren’s evil deeds.

Now he just waits as Sergio approaches him, grabs his arm, and makes a quick cut on his forearm. Blood gushes out, and I watch, waiting for the familiar sight of his flesh immediately stitching itself back together.

But . . . it doesn’t. Not right away. Instead, Teren continues bleeding like any man would, the blood dripping down his arm to meet the wounds from the shackles at his wrists. Teren looks at the blood in awe, turning his arm this way and that. As we watch, the flesh slowly, gradually begins to heal itself, the wound turning smaller, the blood flow lighter, until the gash closes itself up again.

No wonder his wrists are still bleeding. The chafing is a constant reopening of those wounds. I frown at Teren, refusing to believe this. Raffaele’s words—Violetta’s words—come racing back from when I’d first heard them months ago, one of the last things my sister said to me. All of us, all Elites, are in danger. Our powers are slowly tearing our mortal bodies apart.

No. That’s all a lie. The whispers are upset now, hissing at me. I pass this anger along to the dungeon keeper as I snap at him. “I thought I told you to keep him in decent health. When did this start?”

The keeper bows his head low. His fear of me makes him tremble. “A few weeks ago, Your Majesty. I thought he had attacked someone too, but none of the guards seemed injured or complained of anything.”

“This is a mistake,” I say. “Impossible.” But what Violetta had said to me so long ago keeps coming back: We are doomed to be forever young.

As Teren stares at me and laughs, I turn away. I cross the moat back to the other side of his cell and storm out, my men trailing behind me.

Raffaele Laurent Bessette

Some days after the storm, when Violetta had first alerted Raffaele to the strange energy in the ocean, the other Daggers follow him down to the shores. A small crowd has gathered near the balira corpses, whispering and muttering. Some children play near the bodies, daring one another to touch the rotting skin, squealing at the size of the creatures. The ocean continues to crash against the bodies, trying in vain to drag them back into the water.

“It’s uncommon,” Lucent tells Raffaele as they pick their way over the rocks toward the sand. “But not unheard of. Beldain has seen mass beachings before. It can be caused by anything—a warming or cooling of the water, a sparse year for migrating fish, a storm. Perhaps it’s the same here. Just a temporary shift of the tides.”

Raffaele folds his arms into his sleeves and looks on as the children run around the bodies. A simple storm or tide shift couldn’t explain the energy he’d felt in the ocean last night, that had drawn Violetta out of bed and made him gasp. No, this was not caused by any natural phenomenon. There is poison seeping into the world. Somewhere, there is a crack, a break in the order of things.

The eerie energy lingers, but Raffaele has no way of explaining it to those who cannot sense it. His eyes stay fixed on the water. He hasn’t slept, having spent the night at his writing desk, poring through what papers he still kept from his recordings, trying to solve the puzzle.

Lucent looks like she is trying hard not to show the ache in her bones. “Well, some of the villagers are saying there are reports of a similar event along the Domaccan shoreline.” She finds a comfortable spot amongst the rocks and sits down. “Sounds like it’s not just concentrated here.”

Raffaele leaves Lucent’s side and heads down to the edge of the water. He pushes back his sleeve and dips a canteen into the surf, letting it fill. The touch of the ocean makes his stomach churn just as much as it had the night of the storm. When the canteen is full, Raffaele hurries out of the water to shake off its poisonous touch.

“You’re pale as a Beldish boy,” Michel exclaims as Raffaele passes him.

Raffaele holds the canteen with both hands and starts making his way back toward the palace. “I’ll be in my chambers,” he replies.

When he returns to his quarters, he pours the contents of the canteen into a clear glass, then sets it on his desk so that it is drenched in light from the window. He opens the desk’s drawers and removes a series of gemstones. These are the same gemstones he once used to test the other Daggers, that he had used on Enzo and Lucent, Michel and Gemma. On Violetta. On Adelina.

Raffaele lays the gems in a careful circle around the glass of ocean water. Then he steps back and observes the scene. He reaches out with threads of his energy, searching for a clue, coaxing the stones.

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