I closed my eyes and though about where he was, hoping not just to see him, but his surroundings. If was not difficult to sense him, and I was surprised when his location was easy to pick out, too. I had expected him to be with his men, one of many in a sea of tents.
But he was at the Monroe country home, the huge mansion house that overlooked the beautiful Ijis valley. I recognized his study almost instantly, shrouded in the same darkness it had been in the night he proposed to me.
I closed my eyes and flicked my fingers, taking a deep breath as I appeared in front of him.
I dared to pause and take a look at his face and revel in it for a moment. It was full of anger the moment he laid eyes on me, but still a welcome sight.
“How dare you come here!” He hissed at me.
“I am innocent Slone.” I said. Of course I couldn’t help but tell him the one thing I had been longing to tell him.
“Get out of my house.” He roared angrily. He stood up and came toward me.
“I came here to ask you—to plead with you—” I corrected passionately, “To stop her. She is killing innocent people. You could not have meant for her to do such cruel things.”
“You do not tell me what I have ever meant.” He snapped.
“I don’t believe it.” I said softly. I stared up at him and he stopped. I don’t know if he could see into my eyes in the darkness, but perhaps he did. I had asked him just to look at me, knowing he would see my innocence. It hardly mattered now. “I cannot defeat her.” I told him honestly. “Devlin cannot fight her anymore than I could you. If you do not call her back, she will kill me. Perhaps that is what you want now, but if she kills me she will kill many more. Do not let that blood stain your hands.”
I could still see the anger in his face. It had not softened. Did he hurt so much? I had believed for so long that my love was the only constant, but if he felt so much pain, perhaps equal to mine, then he must have loved as much as well. “Do not tell me how to conduct myself.” He finally said, his tone dangerous. “Get out.”
He would not change his mind, I could see that, but I had told myself long ago that it wouldn’t mean I would stop trying. “She has destroyed my father’s land! His people!” I pleaded with him further.
Fire burned in his eyes as he glared angrily at me and turned away. “As well she should! As you destroyed me!” He shouted. He turned back to me. “Get out!” He roared louder and I was frightened of him.
We both heard the door shut at the same time. I assumed it was Daphne and was surprised that Slone would allow her so close to the fighting. He had always granted her a lot of leeway, but this seemed beyond what I had ever expected of him. Of course he was changed from the man I had known and loved.
Her footsteps echoed on the marble of the empty hallway and I could hear her getting closer to the study. She pushed open the door, but it was not Daphne’s whose figure was framed in the doorway.
Her face was shrouded mostly in shadow, the effect of the light behind her and the darkness that met her, but I could see the surprise in her face. “Well, well, cousin. I must say I did not expect to see you so soon. And I have to add that I would have never expected to meet you in the presence of Slone Monroe again.”
Instinctively I knew the moment had come. I had hoped for more time to prepare for her, but I should have realized that was impossible. Once I failed with Slone, I would have had to seek her out before she went back to destroy Aven. Instead she had come for me, although she hadn’t meant to.
“I came to ask Slone a favor for an old friend.” I said coldly.
“Friend?” She repeated, laughing. “Hardly, I believe. Did he grant it?” I didn’t answer, only narrowed my eyes. “I would have been shocked if he had.” Amelia answered.
I turned back to Slone, just to see his expression. He had returned to the chair he had been sitting in, slumped against the back and staring darkly at the floor, as though Amelia and I were not there at all.
She took immediate advantage of it, but I sensed her thoughts just before the stunner hit me and dove for the floor. I knew I did not have a moment to consider what had just happened. Not only was a wall of books behind me on fire, but Amelia was still on the attack. Still, the fact that I had felt her thoughts although they were blocked was a surprise. It had been so long that I had forgotten I was supposed to have another power and I was surprised. Of course, when I thought about it, being so aware of the thoughts of those around me had always been my sixth sense, so to speak, so this power was not a total shock. I could not help but be grateful that it had presented itself so acutely now.
I shot a stunner back, but she simply laughed as the fire rippled across her shield and engulfed the stunner instantly, not even causing her to shudder. Frustrated, I stood and eyed the books on the wall behind her, erupting them around her. She shouted in surprise as they rained down on her and I took advantage of the moment to send a few more stunners her way. This time, with her concentration elsewhere, her shield flickered a little, but she was back in full form moments later and stunners immediately came raining down on me. The flickering shield reminded me of something Eithne had said. She is just an Enchanter. She could be defeated, but I would have to fight quicker, smarter, more powerful than I had every fought before.
My father’s words echoed in my head as I stood and put all my strength into my shield. I had never seen it so large. He knew I could win. While it was true that he himself was fighting a losing battle, he knew that he would lose and admitted it. He told me I could win. I believed him. I believed it for the first time. I had thought I would stop her through Slone. I had honestly believed that was my only hope, but as I stood behind my shield, it’s surface reflecting the familiar orange glow that always surrounded Amelia, I knew that I would stop her, even if I died in the process.
Our stunners were flying around us, knocking me backwards every once in a while, but affecting her as well. Then, she stopped shooting her stunners, and stood behind her shield, eyeing me with rage. I assaulted, showering stunners on her, watching as the fire in her shield struggled to absorb them all. I saw a few make it through, burning her arms and legs. She flinched and narrowed her eyes, but she did not retaliate until I was almost upon her.
She screamed with rage as she held out both hands toward me and I was knocked backward across the room, stunned and lying on my back. The wind had been knocked out of me, and I could hardly draw a breath. I could feel blackness closing in around me. I felt the vibration of the floor as she came toward me, slowly. I struggled to focus on her as she came to a stop beside me. As I looked up past her, I saw that the fire in the room had spread to the roof above her.
“You fought bravely.” She said mockingly. “Just like your father. But I knew you would lose, just like he will. Like he will lose everything.” She lifted her finger to deliver the final blow to my heart.
With every ounce of power I had left inside me, I turned to the bruning ceiling above us and tried to pull it down. It shuddered for a moment and I concentrated harder. Finally, with a thunderous crack, it came down on top of her. Without even realizing it, I had also transported myself out of the way.Struggling against unconsciousness I rolled to my hands and knees, realizing for the first time that the pile of burning debris had engulfed the chair I had last seen Slone sitting in. With utter desperation I collapsed to the ground and the dark closed in around me.