Page 32 of Court of Nightmares

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Teach them. Show them. Save them.

“How?” I reply raggedly.

You know how. Cleanse the world of evil. We were never meant to be that. We survive in darkness, that is true, but the dark is not evil, not bad or good. We were created to protect the monsters within it, to be regal, strong, and, most importantly, protectors. That has been corrupted. You will not be.

“What if I am not strong enough?”

Oh, my darling, you are because I am going to make it so.He leans down, and I finally see his face.This will hurt, but it is my gift to you, my daughter—one last chance to save our race before the gods wipe us out for our crimes. The judges are failing against such evil, but you will change the tide. Are you prepared?

Swallowing, I stare into the most beautiful face I have ever seen yet would never be able to describe. “If I don’t take the gift?”

You will fail, and you will lose all that you claim. You will lose them all.

The judges, my new family, Simon . . . all of them. I will lose everything.

“This gift . . . ,” I trail off. “What will it make me?”

A true queen of monsters. A nightmare, he purrs as he kneels before me, a god engulfing me in his flames.It is needed to combat the rot, but it must be accepted willingly.

“Will it hurt?” I query like a child asking a god to protect her.

Everything comes with a price, he admits.

“I will take it,” I say without hesitation. “I will pay it if it will save them.”

Good.For a moment, I see a smile, and I know I have pleased him.I couldn’t have chosen better. Now prepare, daughter.

His flames race across my arms and sink into my skin, and I throw my head back with a scream of agony. I have no idea how long it lasts. My body burns, my blood heats and boils, and my brain explodes with memories, with possibilities, until I am a shattered mess of a vampyr trying to absorb a god’s powers.

It finally stops, and I open my eyes to find him releasing my arm.

“What’s happening?” I beg as he staggers to his knees and then falls to his back, his flames extinguished.

“I am dying,” he murmurs.

“No!” I exclaim, curling around him. “Let me save you.”

No, this was how it was always supposed to be. His flameless hand reaches up to capture my tear.A person crying for me . . . I never thought I would see that. I have lived too long, daughter. The life of a god is lonely and not easy. I held out in hopes of finding one like you. I put everything I have in you—my hopes, my fears, and my future. Save them, daughter. I will be with you always.

“What if I cannot?”

Then we will fade together. His hand cups my cheek.You will not face this alone. I have selected the best over the years to be your companions, so allow them to help. Love is the cure, but do not fear or hate death. Life and death must always work together because without both, the world is nothing. Now, go back to them, and do not miss me. I am inside your heart now, and I will guide you when you are lost. Just simply look into the dark, and you will see me and remember, daughter, that the nightmares the others fear have always been yours.

I wake with a start, pressing my hand against my heart as tears pour down my cheeks.

Reve is before me, watching me with a heavy expression. “I see you have met our god.”


“I am a dream walker.” He grins. “It was his gift to me. He called me to protect you while he took you under.” He looks me over. “Whatever he did has changed you. A visit from a god is never good.”

“No,” I admit softly. “But needed.”

He nods. “I did not see much. We should meet with the others.”

I turn to see that my body is still in the bed, curled around Osis, and Reve chuckles. “It’s so we can speak privately,” he murmurs. “I will wake you. Are you okay?”

“I-I don’t know, but I don’t have a choice, none of us do. None of us ever have, I think.”

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