Home > The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3)(14)

The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3)(14)
Author: Marie Lu

Maeve reaches out instinctively for the tether that links them, but now, she senses it fading away. Tristan continues to stare at her for what seems like forever. She feels as if she could read the look in his eyes. Her lips part in a silent sob.

Then, with a sigh, Tristan closes his eyes—the glimmer of light remaining in his soul, the imitation of a life that once was, finally flickers out—and he falls dead to the ground.

When the bugles sounded across the sea, still he ignored them.

When the cavalry reached the gates, still he slept.

When his people cried out, still he called for calm.

Even when the enemy swept his kingdom with fire

and gathered at his castle doors, he paced in his chamber,

refusing to believe it.

—The Second Fall of Persenople, by Scholar Natanaele

Adelina Amouteru

Memories are funny things. My first recollection of Teren remains crystal clear even to this day—that shining white cloak, a silhouette washed in light by the sun on a brilliant blue day, the profile of a chiseled face, a slender tail of wheat-colored hair wrapped in gold hanging past his shoulders, his hands folded behind his back. How intimidating he looked. Even now, as I stare at this figure lying in chains, dressed like a prisoner, slivers of light now outlining the sinews of his muscles, I can’t help but see that first image of him instead.

Sergio leads us forward to the moat. When he reaches it, he leans down to the water and pulls up a rope bridge anchored to the floor. He tosses it to the two soldiers on the island. One of the soldiers hooks the other end of the bridge to two knobs on the island’s floor, and Sergio steps onto the bridge. I follow him.

When we reach the island, Sergio and the other soldiers spread out to either side, giving me a clear path. I walk forward, stopping several paces from where Teren is chained.

“Hello,” I say.

Teren stays crouching on the ground, his eyes fixed on me. He doesn’t blink. Instead, he looks on as if he were drinking in the sight of me. His clothes have indeed been replaced by a clean set of robes, and his hair is tied back, his face smooth. He is thinner now, even though time has not worn down the chiseled look of his face or the hard lines of his muscles. He says nothing more. Something is wrong with Teren. I look him over, puzzled.

“You look well enough,” I say. I tilt my head slightly at him. “Less filthy than when I last visited you. You’ve been eating and drinking.” There were several weeks when he refused all food, when I thought he might intentionally starve himself to death. But he is still here.

He says nothing.

“I hear you’ve not been well,” I continue. “Does the great Teren ever fall ill? I didn’t think that was possible, so I came to see you with my own ey—”

Without warning, Teren lunges for me. His heavy chains do not slow him down. They pull taut just short of where I am, and for an instant, we stare into each other’s faces, breaths apart. My past visits taught me where to stand safely, but even so—my heart leaps into my throat. Behind me, I hear Sergio and the other soldiers draw their swords.

“Then have a good, long look, little malfetto,” Teren growls. “Do you enjoy what you see?” He cocks his head in a taunting gesture. “What is it these days, Adelina? Queen of the Sealands?”

I tell myself to stay calm, to meet Teren’s eyes steadily. “Your queen,” I reply.

At that, pain flashes across his face. He searches my gaze, then takes a step back. The chains go slack. “You are not my queen,” he grunts through his teeth.

Sergio sheathes his sword again and leans over to me. “Look,” he whispers, nodding down at Teren’s arms.

My focus flickers from Teren’s eyes down to his wrists. Something catches my attention there, something deep and red. Dripping from his wrists and down his fingers is a trail of blood. It leaves a smattering of dots on the stone directly beneath.

Blood? I stare at it, trying to follow the trail. It looks like fresh blood, scarlet and wet. “Sergio,” I say, “did he attack a guard? Why is there blood on his arm?”

Sergio gives me a grim look. “He’s bleeding from the chains chafing at his wrist. From his own wounds.”

From his own wounds? No. I shake my head. Teren is nearly invincible; his power ensures it is so. Any wound he received would stitch together before the blood had the chance to run. I cross my arms and look at him. “So it’s true. Something has been wrong with you.” I nod at Teren’s bleeding wrist. “When did this start?”

Teren studies my face again, as if trying to see how serious I am. Then he starts to laugh. It is a low rumble in his throat, one that grows until it shakes his shoulders. “Of course something’s wrong with me. Something’s wrong with all of us.” His lips settle into a wide grin that chills me to my bones. “You’ve known that for a long time, haven’t you, little wolf?”

It has been more than a year since Queen Giulietta died, but I still remember her face well. I call on this memory now. Gradually, I weave an illusion of her deep, dark eyes and small, rosy mouth over my own, her smooth skin over my scarred face, her rich dark waves of hair over my sheet of silver. Teren’s expression stiffens as he watches my illusion take shape, his body frozen in place.

“Yes,” I reply. “I always knew.”

Teren walks toward me until he can go no farther. I can feel his breath against my skin. “You don’t deserve to wear her face,” he whispers.

I smile bitterly. “Let’s not forget who killed her. You destroy all that you touch.”

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