17N

All the tension went out of the arena, just like that. In the sudden vacuum, Nadine felt her knees buckle and was on the hard ground with her legs splayed around her before she understood what was going on. Horera had collapsed in a heap at the feat of the woman who had been attacking her, but now seemed to be taking care of her. God, she was so beautiful and powerful. It wasn’t fair that anyone could be that perfect, let alone that Horera had been fighting her alone.

“Are you alright?” Audrey knelt to support Nadine.

“Yeah…” Nadine sighed, “These nighttime expeditions kinda suck after a hard day, though.”

Audrey laughed and nodded, dark circles under her eyes. “I know what you mean. Turns out Elise has a pretty nasty labyrinth in her tower. So far we’ve just been running her security system, no sign of the sorceress or her living quarters yet.”

“Ugh,” Nadine groaned sympathetically. She didn’t want to talk about her day, so instead she rolled her head to look at Horera and the Head of the Primal Council.

The fairy woman was so beautiful and curvy; she made Nadine feel like an ugly stick figure. She was dressed in a purple leotard and thigh-high boots, ornamented with armor pieces made from bone. Her hair was deep violet and blue, all twisted together into a bun, sort of like Nadine wore—only after fighting Horera all day this woman didn’t appear to have a single hair out of place.

“It was very brave of you to risk so much to help your friend. I can see you both are deeply embroiled in struggles for the futures of your worlds even now. My name is Lunaria, by the way.” The fairy woman introduced herself.

“Audrey Prince,” Audrey nodded as she conjured pillows for her and Nadine to rest on.

It did take a little longer than in the dream world, and the pillows weren’t quite as comfortable. But Nadine didn’t care, she was too exhausted to even move a finger. Now that Horera was safe… Lunaria scooped Horera up in her arms and brought her over to an extra pillow between Audrey and Nadine. Lunaria’s gossamer purple wings undulated hypnotically as the fairy woman glided silently to them.

“Nadine Foster,” Nadine looked into Lunaria’s deep violet eyes. “Is Horera going to be okay?”

“Yap. Horera fine.” Horera snuggled up to Nadine. “Has friends.”

Lunaria nodded, “Horera has passed all the trials, thanks in part to your interference tonight. She will have time to rest before she must face her destiny. Unfortunately I can see that one of you, will not.”

Nadine and Audrey looked at each other. Horera looked back at Lunaria before looking with big worried puppy eyes at Nadine and Audrey’s tired faces. Audrey opened her mouth, then shut it again without saying anything.

Nadine hung her head, “It’s me, isn’t it? I’m not going to get a chance to rest.”

“Why? What’s going on?” Audrey tried to peer into Nadine’s downcast face.

“I, I didn’t go to sleep tonight,” Nadine bit her lip, “I blacked out.” Turning her attention suddenly to Lunaria, Nadine pleaded, “That thing! Is that thing still attacking Metropolis?”

“I’m afraid I can’t see that,” Lunaria placed a hand on Nadine’s shoulder, “All I can see from here is terrible hardship. You have been touched by Death, and it has not let go of you.”

Nadine trembled as she felt Horera latch tightly around her middle and Audrey’s arms close around her shoulders.

“You are safe here in the Seelie Court, but, like Horera, you each have critical destinies ahead of you. Rest here for tonight, save what strength you can, but at dawn I must return you to your worlds to face your own destinies.” Lunaria continued.

Nadine nodded with Audrey and Horera supporting her. Up in the stands, a gnome in green and orange plaid removed his pointed orange hat to run a hand through his long white hair. Turning to his side, the gnome looked through wire rimmed glasses at the glowing white celestial pug sitting next to him, before both of them turned their attention to Freya and Amity below them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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