Malah rummaged through the dead guard’s clothing. Sweat dripped from her forehead onto the man’s chest as the heat of the room gained intensity. With each droplet of sweat, his bare-chested skin sizzled. Malah grew dizzy and despite the heat felt a debilitating coldness crawl under her skin as her hand searched the last pocket.
She pulled her dagger from the guard’s head and wiped it clean on the bottom of her nightgown. Her eyes scanned the corridor. Four dead Parthan soldiers lie on the stone floor. None of them had an antidote for whatever poison the clerics had given her. Her full belly churned. She pressed her hand to her belly and closed her eyes with a sigh. Life stirred beneath her palm.
Two innocent lives.
The Parthans may be strong and powerful, but her gifts gave her an advantage, even if Dwy and his Cleric did weaken her.
The Reen guards that patrolled the exit would not be so easy to kill. They were larger, stronger, and composed of stone. Malah wished that they’d never been created. They had kept her prisoner for too long.
Malah opened her eyes and breathed in deeply. Within moments, cold air made her golden skin tighten and her toes and fingers numb. Her arms raised and she squeezed her eyes closed as she fed power to the air around her. She peeked through one of her eyelids to see the stone guards turn from brown, to gray.
Frozen, they would not give her any trouble for the next few minutes.
Minutes. That’s all she had.
Whispers filled her head as she ran down the chilly corridor. The dark didn’t bother her, but the voices did. They’d never allow her to escape. Not when the entire planet needed her for its survival.
Malah didn’t care about them anymore. She wanted to go home. If she could rid their poisons from her body, she could finally think straight again.
She cursed herself for being so stupid. Why had she allowed herself to fall in love? She should have known better. Love never ended well. Hadn’t she seen the results of such a foolish emotion enough times before? Why hadn’t she learned from her ancestors?
Love is a curse, Malah thought with a bitter grimace. She tried to shove Dwy’s black eyes from her mind. His touch used to be so gentle. The heart-break hurt more than the betrayal.
Malah wrung her hands. The gray guards slept upright, like statues, their hands formed into daggers, but kept inside the metallic scabbards at their sides. It looked like they simply had their hands in their pockets, but she knew better. She only hoped they wouldn’t be activated before she could escape.
“One, two, three, four,” she chanted into her cold hands. Her power was weak. Her heart seemed to shake inside her chest.
She had neglected her practice for far too long. She rubbed her hands together and poured out a tiny burst of power. “Yolie! Please, come forth!”
A small light formed in the palm of her hand.
Malah smiled. Her heart thumped, but this time it was with hope. Perhaps her skills weren’t too rusty after all.
The light turned into a ball. She puckered her golden lips and kissed it. The ball of light began to take the form of a tiny figure. The figure uncurled itself. A pop of lightning slammed into the figure and the sound of bells filled Malah’s ears.
“Sweet Blessings,” Malah breathed with relief. She dared to let a smile appear on her lips. When was the last time I smiled, she wondered. She pursed her lips and shook her head. No time for reminiscing.
Yolie’s bright smile warmed her heart she rested on her knees. Like a doll, Malah’s favorite Blessing had returned. After years of being unable to call upon her, they were once again reunited.
Malah could have jumped for joy. Instead, she hid in a corner, with her back against the cold stone wall. She watched the tiny person look up at her with large red eyes that sparkled like rubies. Then, it tugged at its black hair, making it longer and longer, until the curling locks could be coiled around its body like a dress.
“Blessed One,” the creature called. She stood in Malah’s hand and looked around. “Where are we this time?”
Malah closed her eyes and sighed. She rested her head against the wall and shrugged. “Yolie, we are in big trouble. We are in Partha.”
Yolie’s big eyes widened. “No, Blessed One. We have to get out of here! This is not one of ours!”
“That’s why I summoned you. I need your help.”
Yolie nodded but pursed her thin lips. “But Blessed One, what do you need me to do?” She sprouted red wings and flew from Malah’s golden hand to hover just inches from Malah’s face.
Malah’s gaze lifted to the open air ceiling. The passing sky beckoned to her. The clouds seemed to float and dance and she remembered what it felt like to be free. Free to fly with her family. She felt a stab in her heart as she realized that she would never fly with them again. She was the last, but she would not let that stop her.
“How did you get here, Blessed One?” Yolie asked. “We are far from home.”
Malah sighed. She gave Yolie a sheepish look from beneath her golden bangs. “I was curious. I wanted to see what this new race looked like.”
Yolie frowned. “Why? I don’t understand.”
Malah shook her head. “It isn’t important. I need you to fly me out of here.”
Yolie clapped her hands. “Oh yes! Yes! I can do it! Let’s go home! Let’s play together again. I do miss our games, Blessed One.”
Malah glanced back. It was still quiet in the temple. She might have a chance. Her hands shook. She looked down at them and nearly wept. Blood covered her small golden hands. It had seeped into the crevices of her palm and dried to a dry, sticky, paste. She’d never had to kill anyone before. She’d never had a reason to.
Now, nine dead guards and a cleric would haunt her dreams for all eternity. Even if they deserved their fate, the guilt would never fade.
“Good,” Malah said and stepped back to give Yolie room. “Go on. Shift.”
Yolie made a face. “You forget, Blessed One. I need more of your blessing.”
Malah sighed. She had forgotten. Her head was so full of fuzzy thoughts that she could barely think straight. She was losing time. The poison was too strong. Her vision blurred, but she nodded and held a palm out for Yolie to sit in. “Okay, quickly.”
Yolie flew into Malah’s hand and bowed on her knees.
Gold light filled the room as Malah ignited her blessing. Her golden body levitated as she breathed soft words into her palm. “I give you love. I give you light. I give you the power to Shift and take flight.”
Yolie opened her eyes and smiled. “That was beautiful, Blessed One. Thank you.”
Malah fell to her knees and hung her head, drained. “You deserve every blessing, Yolie. Now please hurry.”
Yolie nodded quickly and flew into the air. She stretched her red wings and flexed her dangling legs. Her hair unwrapped from around her body and floated around her as she Shifted. Red feathers started to grow all over her pale naked flesh. Her face was covered, and her hair continued to float. Like a giant bird, Yolie’s nose became a red beak and her eyes grew larger. She bowed to Malah.
“Climb on, Blessed One.”
Malah leapt into the air with grace and landed onto Yolie’s smooth back. She pressed her face to Yolie’s feathers and held onto her neck.
“Take me home, Yolie,” Malah whispered. “They have hurt me, and I need to recharge.”
Yolie’s body vibrated as she purred. “Oh Blessed One. Yolie told you to be careful. Yolie is always right.”
Malah squeezed her eyes shut. Tears stung her eyes and she wiped them on Yolie’s smooth back. Life grew inside of her. Such a miracle was true power. Even as a child when Malah went through training, she never imagined she’d be able to do something so incredible.
Despite the pain of being betrayed by her husband, she was escaping, with their unborn children. The last hope for the Jinn.
A loud explosion made Malah gasp. Shards of green magic shot out towards her. Something clamped around her neck and yanked her from Yolie’s back.
Malah screamed for her friend as she was pulled from the air and sent crashing to the hard floor. Yolie fought back and was stabbed by the tip of a red bone spear. Her bird-like screech ripped through the air, sending waves of vibrations throughout the entire room.
Malah had to act quickly. She reached out and created a glowing door that hovered in the air. She could never live with the guilt of a friend’s death, and so, she banished her. “Away with you!” she cried.
Yolie obeyed, as always. She nodded. Her white body flickered and faded into the cold air. Her essence seeped into the doorway and the door vanished.
Malah wiped the blood from her face and glared at the clerics in red cloaks that surrounded her. Protecting the clerics were Parthan soldiers with their bone spears.
Vornid peered down at her from beneath his hood. He reached a hand to Malah’s face and grabbed her by her soft cheeks.
Malah squirmed as the abnormally tall cleric lifted her from the ground. She dangled before him like a child as his black eyes bore into hers. The grip he had on her neck made her sick. She trembled. He wanted to crush her throat, but such a thing would ruin them all. As much as he hated her.
The entire Parthan race needed her.
“Who said that you could go anywhere, Blessed One?” he snarled.
Malah felt a hot tear trail from her eye and down her cheek. Vornid watched the tear as it fell to his gloved hand. He raised a brow as it burnt through the black fabric.
His eyes flickered up to hers, the wrinkles in his forehead deepening as his brows furrowed. Malah could see much knowledge in his eyes. Too much knowledge, and still not enough.
“I will kill you, Vornid. You know this,” Malah said after sucking in a breath. “It is a promise.”
Vornid’s dry gray lips curled into a grin. She could smell milk on his breath. The milk of a nursing mother. It turned her stomach.
“No, you won’t,” he whispered.
Malah cried out as he put his other hand on the top of her head, nearly crushing her skull. Heat filled her head and her body shook while Vornid held her. She had no choice. At this time, Vornid was more powerful than her. Too much poison filled her veins.
Malah fought it, with all of her strength, but within seconds she met the eerie black of her own mind.