Introduction and Table of Contents

Morganna is the story of a girl who has lived her entire life so far believing she has one purpose: to lead the Dark against the Light in a never-ending, ever-repeating magical battle, and then die. But when the battle arrives and things start going wrong, Morganna is faced with the first choice in her life – to give up and leave, or to stay and fight, even though nothing is as it should be anymore, the Dark has left her, and the Light is on the edge of reducing the tiny town of Avalon to ash by trying to save it.

 

READ ME!: Chapters are numbered in reverse order, so start with the biggest number and go down!

 

PART ONE: The Heart of Stone

 

Chapter Thirty-eight: The End

Chapter Thirty-seven: Beginning the Breaking

Chapter Thirty-six: White Rabbit

Chapter Thirty-five: The Awakening

Chapter Thirty-four: The Stillness

Chapter Thirty-three: Innovation

Chapter Thirty-two: Malachi

Chapter Thirty-one: Second Casualty

Chapter Thirty: Chosen One

Chapter Twenty-nine: Midnight Spaghetti

Chapter Twenty-eight: Set in Darkness

 

PART TWO: The Tree of Life

 

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-six: On the Sands of Time

Chapter Twenty-five: Moths

Chapter Twenty-four: The Final Night

Chapter Twenty-three: Morganna’s House

Chapter Twenty-two: The Valley

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty: The Burning Light

Chapter Nineteen: Worldbreaker

Chapter Eighteen: The Cavern in the Woods

Chapter Seventeen: The Dying of the Light

Chapter Sixteen: Rise in Perfect Light

 

PART THREE: The Rose of Jericho

 

Chapter Fifteen: Brothers

Chapter Fourteen: Eyes in the Dark

Chapter Thirteen: Down

Chapter Twelve: Meztli and the Dragon

Chapter Eleven: Torn

Chapter Ten

Chapter Nine: To Choose

Chapter Eight: The Dark

Chapter Seven: Loved the Stars too Fondly

Chapter Six: The Gathering Storm

Chapter Five: Fearful of the Night

Chapter Four: On the Hill

Chapter Three: Scratch-scritch-scritch

Chapter Two: Cloudbreak

Chapter One: Day One

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Chapter Fifteen: Brothers

Malachi stumbled and the pavement rushed up to meet him.

He smelled burning. The ground was broken and all around him lay ashes and the empty husks of school buses, a few of them still aflame, and he was the only living thing in sight between the phantom smoke and flickering firelight. The Chosen was gone. The army was gone. Darius had been burned away from the inside out. He wasn’t sure what had happened to the townspeople. Some of them must have escaped. Some of them must have made it out.

Malachi pushed himself to his feet and stumbled on. He didn’t think he was injured – not physically – but the world felt strange, faded out and distant, and he felt like he was floating, detached from the sights and sounds and the feeling of pain in his hands and knees, and too aware of them at the same time. The swaying back and forth between feeling like he was wrapped in a cloud to feeling like every inch of his being was being stabbed by white-hot needles was nauseating. He might’ve thrown up.

He thought he felt the ground shake, and he fell again. He felt wet warmth on his hand, recognized it as blood, and realized with a detached sort of interest that it was, technically, the first time he had bled in millennia.

Quickly, or slowly, with his thoughts floating just on the edge of reach, he tried to tally the years, and realized he didn’t know how long it had been. He knew the year he had left the Valley – 804 after the settlement – but that calendar wasn’t used anymore, and he didn’t know what calendar was, or where he was. Everything had changed so much.

Meztli would know. Meztli had always resisted falling back into the dreamless death-like sleep that covered the years or centuries between the battles, and even though it was nearly impossible to do, he had at least sometimes been successful. He must have some idea

It was so dark. Malachi tried to summon light and when it didn’t come, it felt like the world tilted again and he fell, though he couldn’t remember standing.

When he pushed himself to his feet, Meztli was standing in front of him.

The ground wobbled, or maybe it was Malachi. Meztli’s eyes glinted like ice, cold, sharp, and brittle, or like ghosts, and for a moment as Malachi’s vision fuzzed to only shapes and shadows, and he was standing once more in front of the painted Pale-Eyed Death, loose from the stone and roaming the world.

This is his fault.

Malachi lunged forward, summoning the sword, swinging for Meztli’s neck, but, of course, nothing came, and where the hilt should’ve been his hand closed on air. Meztli stepped to the side. Malachi fell to the asphalt.

His scraped and bleeding hand closed again and again on where the sword should have been, and he could’ve sworn he still felt the magic, that it was still a part of him, but nothing answered, nothing came.

He lay there for a moment, reaching after smoke, waiting for Meztli to produce a knife or sharpened shadows and kill him with it. Nothing came.

A long moment passed and Malachi pushed himself up, just enough to sit. He didn’t have the energy to stand.

Meztli still stood over him, unmoving. His eyes glittered down like blades.

“You’re pathetic,” he said.

Malachi didn’t move. Against his will, his fingers inched closed again and his knuckles pressed into the asphalt. Smoke and ash and dust filled his nose and stung his eyes.

Meztli just stood and stared at him.

Malachi tasted blood when he spoke. “What are you doing here? Come to watch?”

Meztli was silent.

No magic. No Light. “This is all your fault.”

Now Meztli moved, sharply. “No, not this,” he hissed, stabbing a finger at the wrecked school buses and smoldering fires. “Don’t blame me for the work of your Chosen One.”

“If you hadn’t interfered with the balancing-”

“-We’d still be trapped, yes.”

“In a war you started!” Malachi lurched to his feet.

Meztli rolled his eyes and groaned in disgust. “Oh, don’t bother.”

Malachi swung a fist for Meztli, but he was too disoriented, too off balance, and Meztli’s dodge almost seemed slow before he grabbed Malachi’s wrist and shoved him back to the ground.

Meztli crouched by his head. “My point stands,” he said. “I started it, I finished it. Whatever happens next, the battle is done.”

“The world is ending!” Malachi tried to rise, but Meztli pushed him back down.

“Well, that’s a little melodramatic. It’s been ending for a while now.”

Ash swirled in front of Malachi, settling back to the pavement. “This isn’t how it was supposed to go.”

Meztli shrugged, stood, and started walking away. “Nothing ever went the way it was supposed to.”

“Thanks to you,” Malachi pushed himself up.

Meztli whirled. “Yes, thanks to me! I started the battle, I killed the Tree, I destroyed the Valley! I was born, when it should only have been you! So you know what, go ahead,” he spread his arms, gesturing to the wreckage and the ash. “Blame me for this. It’s my fault. Blame me for all of it. I am the source of everything that is wrong in the world.”

Malachi couldn’t help it. He laughed. “Who’s being melodramatic?”

Meztli kicked him.

At least now I know I’m coming back around, Malachi thought as he hit the pavement again. There was no fuzzy, cloudy feeling separating him from the clear, sharp pain where Meztli’s foot connected with his ribs. But he still felt drained, wobbly, and weak. I must have been more reliant on my magic than I thought.

He expected another kick, another blow, but when he looked up Meztli was backing away, teeth bared, left fist clenching and unclenching, the shadows around him dangerously dark. “You’re disgusting,” he hissed. “Pathetic. I hate you.”

Malachi coughed. “Alright.”

Meztli came at him again, but now Malachi was quick enough to avoid his foot, and in just the right position to take his legs out from under him and send him crashing to the pavement – at least, if he didn’t have the shadows. Meztli caught himself, and a blunt shadowy fist knocked Malachi once more onto his back.

When he pushed himself up again, twenty sharpened claws of darkness arched from the ground, quivering inches from his face and chest. Meztli stood behind them, hand up and open, fingers tense, ready to close at any moment.

“I should kill you,” he hissed.

Malachi stayed frozen, eyes wide.

The claws stayed still. Meztli’s hand stayed open. Only his face moved, the corner of his mouth twitching and his eyes narrowing.

His fingers closed. The claws shot down.

And just a hairsbreadth from Malachi, they stopped, dropped back, and melted into the pool of darkness on the asphalt.

Meztli straightened up and dropped his arm, and for a moment they just stared at each other.

At last, Meztli snorted and turned sharply away. “You’re not worth it.”

He started to walk away. Malachi stayed on the ground, speechless, watching as the dark shadows flowed away and the patch around him lightened. His mind was blank. He should be dead twice over now.

“Wait!” He pushed himself up and scrambled to his feet. The world was coming back into focus, confusing though it was.

Meztli stopped, and, after a moment, glanced back. In the dark and shifting firelight his eyes were so pale they almost seemed to glow. The shadows around him tensed and circled in.

“Where are you going?”

“What does it matter to you? Maybe I just want to get a better view of the end, like you said.”

“You’ve already missed a lot of it,” again, Malachi found himself trying to summon the light. Meztli may have just spared his life, but he didn’t like being so close to so much Dark and being unarmed. Not that I can do anything about it, now. “Where have you been hiding all this time?”

“I wasn’t hiding.”

“Do you have some new plan? Is that why you’ve just come out now?”

The shadows around Meztli were too still. Meztli was too still. I should stop.

He didn’t.

He took a step forward, brushing loose some of the ash and small stones that had embedded themselves into his palms the many times he’d fallen, and wiping the beads of blood that welled up onto his once-white shirt. “Have you come up with a way to make everything even worse? Spread the destruction even farther?”

Slowly, the shadows rotating with him, Meztli turned around. “And how are you planning to stop me if I have?”

Of course, Malachi couldn’t, not now, not without his magic, but he couldn’t just stay there, drained and stumbling through the streets, doing nothing while the Light and the Dark tore the world apart. So he said the only thing that came to mind.

“Why did you do it?”

Meztli glare turned into a frown of confusion. “What?”

“The Well. The Tree. The Valley. Why did you do it?”

Meztli sneered at him. “Why wouldn’t I? I’m the Dark, remember? I don’t need a reason.”

Part of Malachi wanted to take that answer without thought, and he realized that it was what he’d believed all along, though now he realized that he had never stopped to think about it. Meztli was the Dark, and the Dark was simply bad, and there would be no point in asking for explanations from them. That had always made sense. But now…

“You weren’t then,” Malachi said, “not when you did it, you weren’t yet.”

Meztli’s glare deepened.

“It was the only safe place in the world,” Malachi realized he was shaking. “It was home, we needed it.”

You needed it.”

“You left everyone to the monsters!”

“Fair’s fair.”

That’s your reason?” Malachi shouted. “That’s your excuse? You think what you did was justice?

“Maybe I think there is no justice.”

“You could have just left!”

“And gone where?” Meztli took a step forward, hands clenching into fists and shadows knifing up in front of him. “There was nowhere to go! There were monsters everywhere, they hunted me day and night! Do you even know what was outside the Valley? There were the mountains, and then there was nothing but desert and scorching heat. I tried to cross it. I tried to die in it! You probably never saw more than a few feet over the borders.”

Malachi didn’t respond. Meztli was right; the Valley guards patrolled the edges of the encircling mountains and picked off any monster they saw wandering too close, but Malachi had never been out of sight of the Tree, never more than few minutes’ run back to the grassy fields spreading down the slopes. He’d never even wondered what the land looked like on the other side of the peaks.

“If you were the hero you were supposed to have been, you could have stopped me. If I’m a failure, so are you.”

Another thing Malachi hadn’t thought of. How hadn’t he thought of it? Now, and only now, he could remember the feeling of guilt and grief that had settled over him as he watched the Heart of the Tree cracking and crumbling around him, the chaos of Light and Dark, and then unconsciousness. He’d thought he was dead. Until he was pulled back. Until the first battle. And the grief… had just been gone.

I’ve felt strange ever since I woke up for this Battle. Strange, he thought, but also right in a way. He shouldn’t have forgotten his grief over the loss of the Valley, and he didn’t think he could have without something else interfering. Something that hadn’t loosened its hold until

very recently. Something like the Battle itself.

I thought the Light was good and perfect until… what? An hour ago? Ten minutes ago?

He must’ve been more affected by the magic than he’d ever thought possible.

“What?” Meztli was talking again. “You don’t have anything to say?”

What is there to say? I failed. My magic is gone, and I can’t stop anything now.

Firelight flickered across the broken asphalt and for a long moment Malachi watched the orange and black shifting like smoldering embers. Neither he nor Meztli spoke.

After a while longer he spoke. “Well, what are you doing here? If you’re looking to get yourself killed, you’re looking in the wrong place. The Light’s not here anymore.”

“I didn’t come here to die,” Meztli said. “I came to do the only thing I know how to do. Fight.”

“That sounds like a good way to die.”

“Not the way I have planned.”

Malachi frowned and looked up. “What are you talking about? The Chosen One has her army, her magic, and mine; she’s stronger than ever now. And the Dark is scattered and hiding, you can’t gather them, and you can’t fight the Light on your own.”

“No, I can’t,” Meztli started walking away. “That’s why I have a plan.”

Malachi followed. “What plan? There’s nothing you can do!”

“Things are changing even faster now,” Meztli said. “I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”

Almost as soon as the words left his mouth, the ground quivered slightly and Malachi nearly fell, then froze in place, eyes wide. What? Before, he’d thought the shaking ground was just a part of his disorientation, but now his head was clear, and loose stones were bouncing at his feet…

Meztli was walking ahead, not looking back. After a moment, scrapes and bruises throbbing, Malachi hurried after him.

Chapter Seventeen: The Dying of the Light

As the hours passed, Darius watched the grass around the school slowly come to life. A hazy cloud of new green buds appeared around the trees and full leaves followed quickly after. Soon the school grounds were a verdant circle of summer, just as the Beacon had been before the army left. For a while, if he looked only at the ground and the dandelions below the window, he could believe everything was perfect.

But the sky above was still black. And grey, leafless trees stood just across the road like messengers of death.

And now death was creeping toward the school minute by minute. Every time he looked out a window, the grass was a little browner. The flowers were drooping A shriveled leaf detached from one of the trees and drifted down on the windless air.

We were never supposed to be here this long. In no other battle had the Light spent so long standing in one place.

And the townspeople. They never spoke when they thought he could hear, or when one of the soldiers patrolling the halls was near. As Darius moved from room to room they would fall silent and watch him out of the corner of their eyes, their heads turned or bowed until he left. But when he lingered just beyond the door, he could hear them whispering.

“We should leave.”

“It’s not safe out there.”

“Do you think it’s safe here? We don’t know who they are.”

“Hell, we don’t even know what they are.”

Few showed up when the mayor announced that breakfast would be served in the cafeteria, or games for children offered in the gym, or a movie played in the auditorium. Not long after the last announcement, Darius found the first empty room. The people had left the window open when they fled, and quietly, Darius closed it and turned off the light. He did the same at every empty room he found after that.

The principle’s office was at the front of the school, just by the main entrance, which was guarded by six soldiers, as opposed to the groups of three that guarded every other door. The more humanoid figures in the group bowed slightly as he passed.

Everyone fell silent as he entered the office. Mayor Vinton quietly, almost casually, moved a sheet of paper to cover the notepad on which she’d been writing.

Darius glanced around the room. “The people are getting restless.”

“Of course they are,” Sheriff Ward said. “They’re scared.”

“Isn’t there anything you can do?”

The mayor and the sheriff glanced at each other. Nobody looked at Darius, and everyone was silent.

“I’ve found empty rooms,” he said.

“Maybe they went to lunch,” the mayor said. “It’s getting to be about that time.”

“They left the windows open.”

Again, no one would look at him.

“We’re here to help you,” he said. “The soldiers won’t hurt you. You don’t know what’s out there.”

“We don’t know what’s in here,” the mayor straightened up. “If-”

She cut off at a stir in the lobby, and the soldiers backed away from the door as someone came through. Moments later, Malachi stepped into the office. Only Malachi.

“You!” Sheriff Ward said.

“Where are the others?” Mayor Vinton said.

Malachi glanced around at the people who backed away and looked down as he entered, and a look of confusion went across his face. “We got separated. Haven’t they found their way back yet?”

“No,” the mayor said.

“You just left them?” Someone said. Darius couldn’t see who.

“I had no choice,” Malachi said. “We were attacked. I had to fight off the monsters.”

“Convenient,” someone else muttered, “no one here to prove him wrong.”

Malachi’s head snapped up. “Who said that?”

No one answered, and yet another person spoke instead. “How do we know these monsters you keep talking about are even real?”

“You’re holding us here like prisoners!”

“Oh?” Malachi swept an arm towards the doors behind him. “Would you rather be out there, in the dark?”

“Several groups have left already,” Darius told Malachi, trying to keep his voice low and directed away from the Avalonians. “They snuck out through the windows.”

“What?” Malachi turned to him, frowning. “Does the Chosen know?”

Darius shook his head, “Not yet.”

A few of the Avalonians were still talking, nearly shouting, pointing at Malachi or Darius, and two of the soldiers moved forward, but the mayor held up her hands and the people fell quiet.

“Everyone!” she said. “Everyone! This changes nothing. Calm down, and we can still proceed as planned.”

Darius frowned. “As planned?”

The mayor glanced at him, then to Malachi. “I’m calling a town meeting,” she said.

“What for?”

“To decide whether – or rather, how – we want to leave.”

~*~

A cloud of ash fluttered to the ground and the light around Mary retreated to the orb above her head. That ash was all that remained of three monsters that had stood in front of her a moment ago, and their magic was gone like smoke on the wind. It didn’t work. For a moment, as the light burned them away, she had felt the magic like slime on her skin, but it had slipped away at the last second. She frowned. At least I destroyed them.

You will fail. Desdemona’s words echoed in her head. She ignored them.

“We need to try something else,” she said. “Going after individual monsters isn’t working.”

A tickling feeling started up at the back of her mind, like a feather brushing her thoughts. One of the soldiers calling from the school. They’d been doing that regularly, usually  to tell her that the townspeople were quiet and orderly in their classrooms, as Mary had hoped. She ignored it.

Lucero was staring at her, eyes a little too wide.

“Well?” Mary said. Everything will turn on you. “Do you have any ideas? We need something better.”

Lucero swallowed. “I think,” he hesitated. “I think it might be best to seek out the First. He may know what to do. He has been part of this battle for much longer than even I.”

Mary snorted. “All that makes him is old. We should-” the tickling came again, more insistent. She sighed, and opened her mind to it. And froze.

Everything will turn on you.

“…Chosen?”

“Change of plans,” she turned away from the pile of ash, towards where the radiance of the Light lit the sky over town. “We’re going back to the school.”

~*~

The vote to leave had been almost unanimous.

Darius stood on the edge of the parking lot, in front of a chain-link fence and backlit by headlights, staring into the darkness. Behind him, the roar of engines and the rustle and buzzing whispers of well over a hundred terrified people filled the air as the Avalonians piled into the school buses. They were so eager, one would think they were boarding tanks or armored transports instead of flimsy, thin metal tubes that would offer all the protection of folded paper boats.

They’ll never make it.

He glanced back at the school. To his slight comfort and growing dread, the soldiers stayed where they were, still, silent, and staring passively down at the townspeople. None had made any move to stop the evacuation when the Avalonians began filing out the doors and climbing out the windows. He’d seen one turn its head as he went by, but that was it.

They won’t come with us. Of course, they couldn’t. The Chosen would have to order them to do so, and she wouldn’t.

He wasn’t sure which outcome would be better. The soldiers continuing to ignore the people and the caravan moving off unchallenged into the darkness of the woods, or the Chosen showing up, and… well, he wasn’t sure. It occurred to him that he couldn’t really remember what this Chosen looked like. Her face was blending with the thousands who had gone before her, and he remembered she was blonde, but was it dark blonde or ashy? He couldn’t recall what the Dark’s Chosen looked like either, just a vague memory of a girl so pale he half expected to see her skull through her skin, and then she blended into the shadowy, shifting form that was his memory of all the Dark’s Chosen. Even for the Light, he could barely remember a handful of names.

He was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he didn’t notice the growing light at first. When he did, it was as a pair of streetlights down the long, darkened road winking into life.

He froze. Oh, no.

Another pair of streetlights gasped against the darkness, and he backed away from the fence. “Malachi!” he turned and ran towards the buses and the crowd. “Malachi!”

The other man stood near the caravan, watching the buses with a frown. At first he didn’t seem to hear Darius over the roar of the engines but on the third shout he turned and followed Darius’s pointing finger towards the approaching Light.

“The Chosen,” Darius said, stumbling to a stop as he tried to look forward and back at the same time. “It must be her, she must know about the evacuation, and – the soldiers!”

Malachi whirled. The soldiers were streaming down from the school, and closing around the parking lot fence in three ranks. They moved so fast that the bus caravan was nearly surrounded before anyone had a chance to do anything more than jump and shout.

She couldn’t force them to stay, Darius told himself desperately. She wouldn’t.

Malachi turned and ran for the road, and the soldiers blocking the gate parted to let him through, closing again immediately after Darius followed. Outside, the Chosen, Lucero, and the nine soldiers were approaching just a ways down the street. Darius smelled ash and burning.

The Chosen and the others stopped as Malachi reached them, another pair of streetlights flickering on just ahead of them.

“Chosen,” Malachi said. “What is the meaning of this? What are you doing?”

“Fixing the problem,” she pointed towards the parking lot. “Why didn’t you do anything about this?”

“There’s nothing I could’ve done,” Malachi said. “They want to leave, they fear your soldiers more than the Dark and this will not help!” He gestured towards the wall of shining figures. “Call them off!”

Mary took a step forward and stabbed a finger towards her chest.“I am the Chosen! They’re my soldiers to command!”

“Maybe so, but this is a mistake.”

“They’re safest in the school!”

“They don’t believe you!” Malachi shouted. “Even if you get them back inside now, they’ll still leave, alone and unarmed, with no idea of what they’re walking into and no chance to make it out!”

The Chosen’s hands were balled into fists. “That’s their mistake!”

Malachi’s mouth snapped shut and he leaned back. Behind the Chosen, the soldiers were still, calm, and quiet, like they always were, but Lucero was hanging farther behind them, eyes wide and flickering between Malachi and the Chosen, face streaked with ash. What happened out there?

“Chosen,” Malachi started again, voice quieter but still tight. “If we let the people leave now, I can go with them until they’re through the woods, and with just a handful of soldiers for help their safe passage would be almost guaranteed. That’s the best option, now.”

“It’s a waste of time.”

“To do otherwise would be blindness!”

A blast of light took Malachi in the chest and threw him backwards.

“Chosen, no!” Darius started forward, hands outstretched, but the Chosen whipped around, threw out her arm, and another flash tossed him away.

Everything blurred as he hit the pavement. His head swam, he heard yelling and saw more flashes, and then Lucero was standing over him, pulling him to his feet.

The Chosen was advancing on Malachi, light crackling around her hands. Malachi was back on his feet, a sword of glowing light in his hands, and he was shouting.

“Chosen, this is madness!”

She didn’t listen, and she didn’t stop. A flash of light shot out and attached to Malachi’s sword, his arms, the center of his chest.

The Chosen hesitated and cocked her head. Then she smiled. “I should have realized this sooner,” she whispered. She closed her fist. And pulled.

Malachi screamed. The ropes of light bulged and shifted, tugging burning light from him and his sword, and then that gold began to draw away. Malachi collapsed to his knees and screamed again.

Lucero’s mouth was open in astonishment and horror. “She’s stealing his magic,” he whispered like he didn’t believe the words that were coming out of his mouth. “She is stealing his magic,”

Malachi screamed again. The light continued to pull away.

Darius stumbled forward on unsteady legs. One of the human-like soldiers was holding a spear, standing just a few feet in front of him. Before he knew what he was doing he stepped forward. Snatched it. Lunged for the Chosen.

But she turned her head and saw him, and with one raised hand and a blast of force, stopped him in his tracks. Light like steel bars wrapped around him, burned, and tore the spear from his grasp.

The Chosen’s eyes were blazing with power, swirling white and gold. “Traitor,” she hissed.

Dimly, Darius could still hear Malachi screaming. A ball of blazing, harsh white light grew in the Chosen’s hand and Darius couldn’t help but think that it was beautiful.

She turned to face him, holding the glowing ball in front of her.

A mechanical roar rose from the parking lot. The last thing Darius saw was a school bus bursting out of the gate, and then nothing but light.

It burns.

Chapter Eighteen: The Cavern in the Woods

“I’m sure we passed this tree before,” Ms. Terhune said.

Jordyn squinted in the flickering light of her flashlight. “No, we didn’t. This tree has a big knothole in it, I don’t remember passing a tree that looked like that.”

“Well, you must not have been looking, because I remember it clearly.”

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Chapter Nineteen: Worldbreaker

The sand dropped.

It was night again, and Morganna was standing on a hill over the village, bare feet on wet grass, the cool wind lifting and tossing her hair like a flag. Lights flickered in the house windows and everything was quiet. Shining golden flowers fell on the wind.

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Chapter Twenty-One

You’re running again.

Meztli was in the woods. Somewhere. It couldn’t be far in, because he could still see the glow of the Light on the sky in the distance, but after a while all the trees started to look the same. There hadn’t been forests like this in the Valley, or the mountains, or the desert beyond. They only existed in stories.

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