I jerk upright - chest heaving - my body drenched in sweat. The hammock sways from my weight. Wide-eyed, I look around the room, taking in the details. I’m okay. I’m safe.
“A dream. Just a dream,” I remind myself, laying back down. I shut my eyes again, but my father’s words haunt me…
“Dara, my darling daughter, Emerald will bring you more than you will realise. It will bring you the power to heal, and insight that will contribute to you becoming the best you can be. Embrace it and believe the insight that comes from within. Trust your warriors. They will be with you throughout your destiny. I love you, my girl. Make us proud.”
It’s been seven days, three hours and forty-one minutes since James, my arsehole uncle, took Blair. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I am utterly inconsolable. Not knowing what’s happening to Blair hurts the most. Something is wrong; our connection - our bond - has been stifled and I can no longer communicate telepathically with him. James is torturing him, of that I’m sure. Torturing for pleasure, rather than to kill him. Keeping Blair alive is just the leverage he needs to keep me in line, but also to punish me for obtaining the Emerald stone.
Silvia is in ruins, ravaged by a war James has waged to bring the inhabitants to their knees. He wants to be worshipped as a god, to be obeyed, to have power. Killing my parents was just the start.
I’ve been sitting on this hammock on our rooftop for hours now... hours or days? I don’t know anymore. All I know is I’ve played and replayed the events leading up to Blair’s capture over and over in my head - of how things could have gone differently. Could I have prevented Blair’s abduction? Maybe if I’d been quicker, quieter... I shake my head. It doesn’t matter. What ifs weren’t going to get Blair back. But I am.
The brown-haired, brown eyed Harlan, stubborn leader of my warriors, is having a hard time coming up with a solid rescue plan. He keeps telling me it’s not time yet. I understand we need to have every little detail worked out before rescuing Blair; if we don’t, it could result in another disaster. It’s been a week, though, and nothing has been decided. I think my warriors are just scared of failure and what it could result in, but I’m tired of waiting. That’s why I am taking things into my own hands. I can’t do it alone though. I may be stubborn, but I’m not stupid.
I turn my head when I hear the roof door open, finding Oliver standing there with his eyes down cast, his shoulders slumped. Considering how my warriors can hear my thoughts, I knew it wouldn’t take long for one of them to show up.
He slowly walks over, leaning down to kiss my forehead before joining me on the hammock. His body tightly against mine. “What’s on your mind?” he mutters in my ear so softly I barely hear him.
I move to face him. “Okay, since Harlan isn’t taking steps to rescue Blair, I think we should take things into our own hands. As much as I just want to walk up to the Kingdom and rescue Blair, I know that’s not realistic. It’s impossible, actually. I just…” I blow out a breath. “I just don’t know what else we can do. We don’t even know if he’s at the Kingdom! James could’ve taken him anywhere.”
Oliver sits up suddenly, the motion swinging us gently. “Wait, we need to utilise Alaric as inside help, to get the ball rolling. I’m pretty sure that’s what Declan has been trying to do, but he’s been having issues getting through mentally to Alaric. Maybe together we can push through that blockage?”
The slayers, James’ brutal warriors who serve and protect him, would be watching us. Our only advantage is Alaric. When I was sent away from Silvia, my father asked his trusted friend to work undercover as a slayer to gather information. It’s this inside knowledge that will give us an upper hand.
Oliver rubs a hand over his face. “It’s worth a try. Let’s go and find the guys,” he says, taking my hand and lifting me out of the hammock.
He pulls me into a tight hug that says a million things he doesn’t want to say out loud. I know he’ll do everything in his power to get our Blair back in one piece. All too soon we break apart and make our way downstairs to find Harlan.
We find him and Declan in the training room, and despite my initial protests, I’ve grown to like this space. Oliver clears his throat, and Harlan’s eyes go to him. He lets go of the twenty-kilogram dumbbell, sending it to the ground with a dull thud. He eyes both Oliver and me suspiciously, already knowing what we’re going to say. Taking his time wiping off the sweat from his face, he makes his way over to us.
“Dec, get over here. It looks like these two have something to say,” Harlan mutters.
Jolie appears then, joining us. I glance at her, my face grim, but when she gives me a small nod, I know I’ll have her full support on this. Declan comes to stand beside Harlan, all three of them waiting for us to begin. Oliver gives my hand a squeeze, telling me I need to take charge.
Alright, here goes nothing.
I chew on my thumb nail for a moment, eyes downcast. “So, first things first, I’m tired of waiting around to rescue Blair. Enough is enough. I’m going to rescue him within the next twelve hours with or without your help.” I risk an upward glance. “If I’m honest, though, I would love your help. If I can’t get it, I’ll go on my own.” I cross my arms defensively, bracing for their refusal. Lifting my chin, I ask, “So? What will it be?”
It’s silent for a few agonising minutes.
“You know I have your back,” Oliver confirms, putting his arm around my waist and pulling me tightly against him.
Jolie nods her head in approval. “Mine too.” We all look to Harlan and Declan, waiting for their responses.
“I don’t want you three going in there by yourselves,” Declan says. “So, yes, I will come. But on one condition.” He stares at me pointedly. “We need to map out our plan of attack. I heard from Elijah…”
I frown. “Who?”
“Elijah,” Declan repeats. “He’s a friend. You can trust him. Alaric has been getting messages out to him, providing the information I’ve been struggling to get.”
“Okay. Hold up.” I say putting my hand up.
“So, I am just meant to trust your word on this Elijah guy? How long has he been in contact with Alaric? Why am I just hearing about this now?” I rush out all in one breath.
“Dara, he is a good guy, a trusted friend, believe me. He has been helping us since Blair went missing.” Jolie says, I notice her cheeks tinged with heat at the mention of this Elijah’s name, interesting. “Ok then, fine. Harlan, what will it be?” I say letting out a huff.
I look to Harlan, waiting for his answer, but he stays true to form and makes me sweat it for a few more minutes.
“I think the rational answer would be yes. But…”
Oh, for fuck’s sake. I knew there’d be a catch; there always is.
“Yes?” I ask, somewhat impatiently.
“Dara, you must follow our orders. You may contribute when we plan it out, but once it’s confirmed, you must stick with it. No going rogue, okay?” he asks, like I have a fucking choice in the matter. I roll my eyes but nod my head in agreement.
“Was that a yes, Dara? I didn’t quite catch it.”
I growl softly under my breath. “Yes, now let’s get this fucking plan going already. Blair is counting on us. We’ve already wasted enough time,” I yell. I storm off up the stairs into the living room before everyone else; I just needed a minute to get my shit together.
I head to the couch, dropping down into it with a thump. Closing my eyes, I try to rid myself of the negative thoughts. Instead in these precious moments of silence, I focus on rescuing Blair and how we can succeed.
The news of Elijah is positive. Especially after the trouble that Declan was having getting through to Alaric, this is just what we needed. I imagine Declan would have to be very careful of when and where he mentally connected to Alaric. To ensure James didn’t find out, he would be all over that, surely. After all, to lose that insider knowledge would be catastrophic.
I hear my warriors coming up the stairs. Oliver and Jolie make their way over to me, I sink further into the couch laying down. Oliver lifts my feet up, sitting down he places them on top of his knees. Jolie sits down on my other side. Harlan and Declan make themselves comfy on the other couch.
Once seated, I sit up ready to work out our plan.