Free {Kingdoms of War}

An outlaw, tuned to kill.
A shifter, transformed from myth to monster.
A prince, denied rightful claim to the throne.
An assassin, adapted to survive and to kill.

Four monsters, and a common enemy to unite them.


40. Chapter Thirty Nine

It had come as a shock when Skala had told him to find Axel, suddenly sprouted wings, and had turned into this. It was still a shock, of course, but he had other things to worry about. Namely, Axel.

Skala had smashed their way into the palace, her wing shielding Lux from the rubble, and with that they were in. Lux charged through the entrance Skala had created, one thought dominating his fear, his caution. Aware of the dragon behind him, Lux sped through the corridors. A guard stepped out in attempts to stop him, but Lux cut him down. Against lightning, the man had never stood a chance. He's always hated himself for being able to do this, for not feeling restraint as he killed a man, but now, it was finally useful. But to save Axel, Lux had to find him, and he knew nothing about the palace.

What would Rubin do? What would Axel do?

'In a foreign environment, people are always your maps. Use fear to navigate them.'

It was strange, how Axel's words could touch him at a time like this, returning as swiftly as the shadows that danced around the dark mage. Lux waited, listened, and ran towards the nearest source of screaming.

He found the servants cowering beneath a table, screaming and whimpering as each of Skala's snarls tore through the air, as each blast of darkness shook the palace.

"Where are the prisons?" he demanded, throwing over the table. He'd never been as threatening as Axel, or as Skala, but he could make do. He had to make do.

"You, take me there. Now," he ordered, jerking his head at the nearest servant - a girl, barely older than him. Her eyes widened as he forced the electricity to spark through his hand, and she scrambled to her feet, scuttling back the way they'd come. Lux followed, praying that she'd just hurry up. What if they were hurting Axel now? They'd already stolen Snow from him - they wouldn't take him, too.

The girl started down the stairs, so painfully slowly that Lux only wanted to scream at her to hurry up.

"Give me directions!" he told her. The girl spun around, and for one moment, seemed too scared to answer. The electricity snapped her from her state of shock.

"Down the stairs, as far as you can go. Then-" She stammered, a tear rolling down her cheek. "Then turn left, and there's a locked door there. I don't know any more. I'm sorry!"

He shoved past her as she babbled her pleas for her life, sparing her no second thought. Another time, he might have been disgusted at himself for terrifying her like that, but now, there was only Axel.

Nothing else mattered.

Another guard tried to grab his arm, but Lux was already whirling around, searing a hole through her chest. The odour of burnt flesh followed him down the staircase as he ran, sickening him, repulsive and horrifying and nauseating. He'd done it so much, now - it should be natural. Lux knew that it never would be.

He finally reached the bottom of the staircase, hitting the ground already running. Left, she'd said.

There were five guards, all standing, watching him, sniggering. Then one of them seemed to recognise the white hair, the golden eyes.

A sudden scramble for weapons, but it was already too late. Lux had sliced through the first three with blades of lightning; the remaining two were swift to follow.

He grabbed the keys from the hook by the door, and inserted the largest into the lock. Twisted. Discarded the keys, and was already running, descending into another, deeper layer of the palace. Through the corridor of cells, he ran, calling out Axel's name in terror, desperation, fear. What had they done to him? What methods of torture, of pain, had they used against him? The two thoughts didn't seem to mix. Axel. Torture. He had always been so strong, too strong, for anybody to hurt. And maybe alone, he would have never been hurt. They would have never found Axel, if not for him, if not for his stupid pleading, begging Axel to stay and help them.

Lux rounded a corner, and froze.

Vipera, apparently, had possessed the same thought, because she, too, stood unmoving, staring at him in open alarm.

"Kill the mage," she snapped, and one of the two guards behind her turned around, running back, deeper into the prison.

The mage.

Axel, Lux realised, throwing himself forwards to try and catch up with Vipera's guard.

The second of her escorts unsheathed a blade, blocking his way forwards.

"Don't think you can escape me, prince," she hissed. "I've heard about you, and I am stronger."

Lux took a deep breath, and charged at her.

The woman lunged at him, and only just in time did Lux see the blades of ice that had extended from her hands: two long, deadly weapons of merciless cold. She was fast, too - as fast as him, maybe swifter. Again, Lux attacked, lightning lancing from his palms and lunging at the woman. Shields of ice rose around her, not strong enough to survive, but durable enough to give her time to dart away. Gritting his teeth, Lux tried again, again, again. He had to win. There was a mage running towards Axel right now - ready to kill him! Lux refused to allow that. He couldn't let it happen, couldn't be alone again.

The woman dashed towards him once more, her frozen swords catching the faint glow of the candlelight as they jabbed towards him. Somehow, Lux twisted his body away, but the fear was beginning to touch his mind again, starting to mingle with his desire to protect Axel. As the mage attacked once more, Lux couldn't dodge completely. The ice caught his arm, cutting a deep gash into his flesh as it tore easily through the fabric of his shirt.

He gasped in pain, staggering back. His blood stained the ice upon which it settled, turning it crimson, dark and deep and menacing.

"I wonder how much he'll scream, that friend of yours," the woman mused carelessly. "I wonder how much pain he'll be in as he dies."

That was it - the final straw. Before Lux even realised he was moving, the woman was crying out, and her eyes were wide, and she was falling.

Lux stood, scrambled past her body and away from Vipera's ensuing threats, and he ran.



"Your friend's turned up to save you," the mage informed him, letting the fire spin from one hand to the other. Axel had hated him instantly, the moment he had stepped through the door.

"Yes," Axel agreed. "My friend. The dragon. She's going to kill you all."

The fire mage shrugged. "Dragons are probably easy to kill. But I'm talking about the other one. White hair, gold eyes, small... He's fighting one of Vipera's strongest right now."

Axel could feel his breathing speed up. Lux. The idiot! Rubin had promised, had sworn, to protect Lux, to keep him safe - and now this?

"No," he hissed. "Lux will win. Lux will always win."

Vipera's fire mage stepped forwards.

"He didn't win when I got those everflames to explode and burn his first attacking wave," the mage shrugged. "Because gods, that was hilarious."

Somehow, his rage burned stronger.

"You're going to die for that," he threatened, knowing that the only way to escape the chains would be for Lux to find him. And Lux would find him, Axel knew that much. But he needed to buy time, because there was no way he was letting the fire mage escape after he'd done that to the Golden Flame.

"How are you going to kill me? You're locked up in chains."

"Yes," Axel replied smoothly. "But like you said, my friend's here. And I have every faith that he's not going to lose. To that other mage, or to you."

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