Sky Fall Excerpts


Let the Wind Rise

by Shannon Messenger



The breathtaking action and whirlwind adventure build to a climax in this thrilling conclusion to the “remarkably unpredictable” (BCCB) Sky Fall trilogy from the bestselling author of the Keeper of the Lost Cities series.

Vane Weston is ready for battle. Against Raiden’s army. Against the slowly corrupting Gale Force. Even against his own peaceful nature as a Westerly. He’ll do whatever it takes, including storming Raiden’s icy fortress with the three people he trusts the least. Anything to bring Audra home safely.

But Audra won’t wait for someone to rescue her. She has Gus—the guardian she was captured with. And she has a strange “guide” left behind by the one prisoner who managed to escape Raiden. The wind is also rising to her side, rallying against their common enemy. When the forces align, Audra makes her play—but Raiden is ready.

Freedom has never held such an impossible price, and both groups know the sacrifices will be great. But Vane and Audra started this fight together. They’ll end it the same way.



They’re calling it “California’s Worst Natural Disaster in Decades.”

But there was nothing “natural” about it.

It’s easier if people blame global warming, though. Or Mother Nature. Or any of the other theories scientists have been tossing out, trying to explain the freaky tornadoes that stomped the mansions and country clubs in my stuffy valley into million-dollar heaps of rubble.

Nobody would know how to deal with a reality filled with “sylphs” and “wind wars” and “storms that fight like monsters.”

Plus, then I’d have to tell them the worst part—the part that makes me want to curl up into a ball and never move again.

It was my fault.

If I’d moved to one of the Gales’ bases in the middle of nowhere, or taken my training more seriously, or insert-any-of-the-mountain-of-Vane-fails here, none of this would’ve happened.

My hometown wouldn’t be a federal disaster zone.

Innocent people wouldn’t have died.

And Audra . . .

I’m trying not to think about where she is or what she might be going through. Or how I was the one who insisted she trust her mother and made her fly off with Gus, straight into Raiden’s trap.

Or how she broke our bond.

I want to believe she did it to protect my heritage—stripping away any knowledge she had of the Westerly language so she couldn’t give Raiden what he wants. But I wouldn’t blame her if she hates me.

I definitely hate myself.

But I’m going to fix this—all of it.

I have a plan.

I have the power of four on my side.

It’s time to be the hero everyone’s expecting me to be.



I’m stronger than this.

The words have become my lifeline, warming me with their promise as I whisper them in my frozen cell.

Ruined Northerlies tear at my hair, my skin, the flimsy fabric of my dress. The rough stone floor cuts into my bare legs. Still, I don’t move—don’t blink—as I count my shallow breaths. Waiting for Raiden to return.

Whatever he has planned, whatever horrors lie ahead . . .

I’m stronger.

I have to be.

For Gus.

For the Gales.

For Vane.

Thinking his name should claw at my heart with longing and regret.

Instead, I feel nothing.

No pull.

No pain.

Just an empty void where something precious used to be.

But it’s gone now.

All that remains is a ghost of a memory that would almost feel more like a dream—if it weren’t for the calm breeze wrapped around me.

I can no longer understand its words, but I know the gentle Westerly is loyal.

And that gives me the courage I need.

Raiden has power and pain on his side.

But I have the wind.

Change is in the air—I can feel it as clearly as I can hear the brave melodies of the untainted drafts slipping through the cracks of Raiden’s supposedly impenetrable fortress.

A hum building to a crescendo.

The wind starting to rise.



I’m pretty sure I’ve made a deal with the devil.

But I’ll do whatever it takes to get Audra back—even if it means trusting her psychotic mother.

I can see Arella from my bedroom window, her long dark hair tinted blue in the moonlight as she stands in the middle of my front yard with her face tilted toward the stars. The pose should be peaceful, but her brows are pinched, and she keeps scratching at her pale, skinny arms, leaving finger trails along her skin.

“You’re wearing the Gale Force uniform,” Solana says behind me.

Her voice is barely louder than a whisper, but the sound still makes me jump. Probably because I’ve been avoiding her.

I don’t turn around, even though I know I’m being stupid.

Solana’s coming with me on this mission—quest—whatever-you-want-to-call-it—thing. So I’m going to be spending lots of time with her.

But . . . every time I look at her I can’t help thinking,

I saved the wrong girl.

It’s not that I regret rescuing her—there’s no way I could’ve left her trapped in the crushing grip of a Living Storm. But I was still helping Solana while Raiden was dragging Audra and Gus away.

“Yeah,” I mumble, realizing she’s expecting me to say something.

“Figured I should start dressing the part.”

She’s quiet for a second, and I hope that means she’s going to leave me alone. Instead she says, “It suits you.”

I snort, but manage to stop myself from pointing out how the heavy black fabric is stiff and scratchy and pretty much the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever worn. I’m done whining about the role I’m expected to play. Plus, it’s cold where we’re going, and this is the warmest thing I own.

“You didn’t hurt your elbow getting the jacket on, did you?”

Solana asks.

I did, but I don’t feel like telling her that. So I shrug—which turns out to be a really bad idea.

Pain shoots from my shoulder to my fingertips, hot and sharp and so intense that a tiny yelp slips out before I can stop it.

Painkillers would come in really handy right now—or so I hear.

Sylphs are allergic to human medicine.

Solana rushes to my side, and I can’t help noticing that she’s changed into a pale blue dress, so short and tight it looks painted on I’m used to the skimpy clothes she wears to keep her skin exposed to the wind, but I still have to turn away before my eyes can focus on the parts of her it doesn’t cover.

“Aren’t you going to freeze in that thing?” I mumble.

“I’m a Southerly,” she says. “My winds keep me warm.”

That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but very few things do when it comes to my life these days. If it’s weird and windy, I’m learning to say “Okay then.”

Solana pulls up my left sleeve, and I cringe when I see how the bandage is bunched and twisted, with the skin swollen all around it.

“I’m sure that has more to do with the fact that my elbow was torn out of joint—twice—than it does with me tweaking it as I got dressed,” I argue.

She sighs and starts rewrapping the wound. “You still could’ve asked me for help.”

“Right, because that wouldn’t have been awkward at all.”

Nothing says “no big deal” like having my sorta ex-fiancée help me put my pants on.

Solana rolls her eyes. “I know this might be hard for you to believe, but things don’t have to be uncomfortable between us. I’m not the kind of girl who chases after a guy who doesn’t want me. I know a lost cause when I see one.”

I feel my jaw drop, and realize I must look like an idiot. But seriously, what am I supposed to say to that?

She laughs. “What? You thought I was still pining for you?”

“I . . .”

Nope, I’ve still got nothing.

But I’m looking pretty lame here, so I go for a subject change.

“What exactly is pining?”

“Um, it’s like yearning, I guess?”

“And how does someone yearn?”

“I don’t know. But I’m not doing it for you.”

“Okay, I’m starting to feel insulted.”

“And here I thought you’d be relieved.”

I am, I guess.

Though I’d feel better if her left wrist didn’t still have the wide gold cuff with the letters S and V etched into the design.

Her link.

Basically the Windwalker equivalent of an engagement ring—and this one was given to her by the Gales to symbolize our betrothal. I’m tempted to ask her why she hasn’t pitched that thing in the nearest trash can but decide it’s easier to pretend it’s not there.

“So, we’re good then?” she asks, tying a careful knot at the end of the bandage. “No more weirdness?”

“Sure. No more weirdness.”

I want the words to be true, but she’s resting her hand on my skin and . . .

Her touch is too warm.

Not hot and electric, like Audra’s touch always feels. But it’s a far cry from the cold emptiness I usually get from other girls—and I swear when our eyes meet, I can tell Solana knows it.

My bond is not fading, I repeat over and over in my head, order ing the words to be true.

Audra may have broken our connection on her end, but I’m still holding on with everything I have.

“You okay?” Solana asks, pointing to my shaking hands.

I pull my sleeve down and scoot away from her. “We should probably get going. Arella’s waiting outside.”

Solana doesn’t follow me as I move toward the door, and when I glance back, she’s biting her lip.

“If you’ve changed your mind—”

“I’m coming with you,” she interrupts, tucking her long, wavy blond hair behind her ear. “It’s just . . . do you really think we can trust her?”

She tilts her head toward the window, where Arella’s watching us with narrowed eyes.

If I had my choice, I’d drag Arella back to her suffocating prison and let the Maelstrom finish draining the life out of her. She deserves that and more after betraying Audra again—not to mention the zillion other creeptastic things she’s done.

But her gift allows her to feel things on the wind that no one else can—things that will hopefully give us a better chance of sneaking into Raiden’s fortress and getting Audra and Gus out of there alive.

“We need her,” I tell Solana, reminding myself as much as her.

Solana opens her mouth, then closes it again. “I’ll get my stuff,” she says, and disappears down the hallway.

I use the time alone to take one last look around my room, making sure I’m not forgetting anything—not that there’s anything worth taking. I shove a bottle of pain pills into my pocket, since those helped me poison a Stormer in one of my previous battles. Everything else is just a bunch of video games and dirty clothes and random-crap-that-won’t-matter-in-a-wind-battle, and proves how supremely unprepared I am for this.

Even my cell phone is useless. The battery died while I was trying to text my mom answers to all her questions. So it looks like the last thing I’ll be saying to my parents—maybe ever—is:

I didn’t destroy the house, but it’s safer if you don’t come home yet. I’ll call you if I make it back.

I’m sure the smiley face really set my mom’s mind at ease.

I hate telling my parents to keep running, but I didn’t know what else to say. They’ll never be safe here. Not unless . . . I kill Raiden.

The thought makes my legs wobble and my vision dim as my peaceful Westerly instincts rebel against the idea of violence. But I grit my teeth and remember that everyone’s counting on me.

Audra’s counting on me.

So is Gus.

I repeat their names until the fear fades into something I can swallow.

But it’s still there, so deep and solid it feels like a stone sloshing around in my stomach.

I need air.

I jam my phone onto the charger—it’s better to plan on making it back, right?—and run outside, hoping to find a few breezes to clear my head.

But nights are stuffy in the desert. The only winds I can sense are miles away, skirting the base of the mountains. So, by the time I reach Arella, my jacket is soaked with sweat. I’ve also had to swat away about fifteen bugs.

“The sky is restless,” Arella whispers, rubbing at the goose bumps covering her arms. “A storm is coming, but I can’t find the source of the turbulence.”

“Then perhaps you shouldn’t be leaving,” a deep voice says behind us.

I fight off a sigh as I turn to face the captain of the Gales. “We already discussed this, Os, and—”

“I know,” he interrupts, reaching up to smooth the narrow braid that hangs down the left side of his face. The hairdo is supposed to represent his authority over the guardians. Mostly I think it looks super dorky.

“But I’ve taken some time to think,” he tells me, “and the fact of the matter is, we need you here.”

He points to my back patio, where the faded lawn chairs have been dragged into the dim glow of our porch lights to create some sort of makeshift triage center. Only seven guardians survived our last fight—and most of them barely. The few who can actually move are working to bandage up the others with the meager supplies I tracked down in my bathroom.

Guilt makes the stone in my stomach burn hotter than asphalt in the sun, but I let my bigger worries snuff out the pain.

Os put out a call for the remaining guardians at our other bases to gather here and provide additional support and supplies.

I’m the only chance Audra has. I know Os. He may be worried about Gus, but he’d celebrate if Audra didn’t make it back. Shoot—a few days ago he threatened to break our bond himself.

He’s the president of Team Solana, still rooting for her to be queen. Which I’m not opposed to, as long as I don’t have to be king—but that’s a whole other complicated nightmare I’ll worry about later.

“You ready?” I ask Arella.

Os blocks us as we try to walk away. “Being king is about what’s best for your people, Vane. And your people need you alive. We will battle Raiden’s forces again. We will finish this. But first we need to ensure we’re properly prepared.”

“Gus and Audra don’t have that kind of time,” I remind him.

“Besides, this is a rescue, not an invasion.”

I’m probably being naive, but I keep hoping we can run this like a heist movie, sneaking in and out like clockwork. All I have to do is come up with an actual plan for how to pull that off.

I try to look confident as I call the drafts I can feel in the distance, choosing one of each of the four winds. They whisk smoothly to my side, and I weave them into a deep blue wind spike infused with the power of four. Os watches me work, rubbing the fresh scabs along the scar under his eye.

It used to be a T for “traitor”—a present from Raiden—but the last battle added a new cut that crossed the whole thing out.

“You harness a tremendous power,” he says. “But you’re still not strong enough to challenge Raiden alone.”

“He won’t be alone,” Arella reminds him.

She straightens up, looking a bit more like the scary Arella I’m used to—until the air shifts and the ache of her gift makes her double over.

Arella’s always been affected by the wind, but being separated from the sky for so many weeks must have weakened her further.

“I’m going too,” Solana says, marching up beside me.

She pats the windslicer she’s strapped around her waist, and I’m sure she means to look tough and soldierly. But something about her tiny dress and fluffy hair makes it a little hard to see her as scary.

Os sighs. “Oh good, a princess, a deranged murderer, and an inexperienced, untrained teenager incapable of violence will be flying across the continent and trying to sneak past the greatest warrior our world has ever seen—and his entire army. How could that possibly go wrong?”

“You’re underestimating my power,” I tell him, holding up my wind spike.

“No, you’re over estimating it, Vane.”

He hisses a word I can’t understand, and the Northerly in the spike screams, twisting and writhing and turning a sallow yellow as the spike hums with a different energy.

The power of pain.

Solana cringes, and Arella covers her ears and collapses to her knees.

I can’t blame them. The sound of a draft shattering makes me want to cry and vomit and punch something really hard all at the same time.

Instead I drop the spike and kick it away from me. Then I grab Os’s shoulders.

“What gives you the right—”

“What gives you the right?” he asks, shoving me away. “We’ve sacrificed everything to protect you and train you and make you a king worth serving—a king who will lead our people out of these treacherous times. And what has it gotten us?”

He turns to the wounded Gales again, and the reminder stings worse than if he’d smacked me.

“That doesn’t change the fact that you’re destroying the wind,” I say when my voice is working again.

“Raiden’s left us no choice! We wouldn’t be here right now if I hadn’t broken the drafts in your worthless weapons.”

I want to argue, but I remember the battle all too well.

My spikes bounced off Raiden’s Living Storms like we were pelting them with giant Q-tips.

“In war,” Os whispers, “sacrifices have to be made.”

He retrieves his yellowed spike, running a trembling hand over the edge and examining his creation with a look that’s part horror, part fear, but mostly a whole lot of something else. It takes me a second to figure out that it’s awe.

Audra warned him that the power of pain is like a drug—a craving that feeds on itself, getting worse every time anyone harnesses it.

“You have to stop, Os,” I say. “You’re deluding yourself if you think the power isn’t corrupting you.”

Os’s laugh sounds like thunder. “The only one deluding himself here is you, if you really think I’m going to let our future king run off on a suicide mission.”

“Is that a threat?” I ask, not missing the way he’s lowered the ruined wind spike so it’s aimed right for my chest.

“Think of it as an order.”

I glance at Solana, who looks about as dangerous as a hissing kitten. And Arella’s still on the ground, clawing at her skin, crippled by the wind’s pain. So . . . Os may have a point about my backup.

But I’m still going.

“I’m not afraid of you,” I tell him, calling the nearest Westerly to my side.

“You’re also not nearly as strong as you think,” he warns.

“Funny, I was just thinking the same thing about you.”

His fist tightens around his spike, and I brace for him to throw t. So I’m completely caught off guard when he ruins another draft and sends it crashing into me like a semi.

I skid across the grass, careful to shield my injured arm as I beg my instincts for a command I can use to retaliate.

Another shattered draft slams into me first, pinning me to the ground and pressing on my chest and throat, closing off my windpipe.

Voices scream around me—Solana? Arella? I can’t tell. The roaring winds sweep them away as the world turns to a mushy haze.

Just before the darkness swallows me, the pressure eases enough for me to roll to my side and cough and hack until I’m pretty sure I’m bruised both inside and out.

Os leans over me as I lie in the dirt like a Vane-crumble.

“It’s time to admit that your powers are useless, Vane. Dust yourself off and rest up for a long day of training. Every Gale—including you—is going to learn to harness the power of pain.”



The Easterly winds surrounding me have carried a steady stream of whispered assurances.

Stay calm.

Have hope.


But as the final strands of darkness fade to morning gray, their songs change to a verse that chills me far worse than the frigid air.

He’s coming.

I barely have time to process the words before the drafts whisk away, vanishing through the invisible cracks they came from and leaving me with nothing but the echoey thud of footfalls climbing the tower stairs.

I pull myself to my feet, determined to face Raiden from a position of strength and confidence. But I can’t help falling back a step when his tall form appears through the darkness.

The majority of the tower is taken up by my cell, but there’s enough space beyond the bars for Raiden to stand in his fur-lined white cloak, his long blond hair whipping in the ruined winds, his figure silhouetted by the dawn light as he studies me with an expression that’s more curious than menacing.

He’s brought no guard and carries no weapon—but he doesn’t need them. One carefully chosen word can make his winds beat me, break me, ruin me a million unimaginable ways.

I’ve seen the effects of his methods firsthand, and the memory alone of the thousands of holes bored through Aston’s body is enough to make my knees shake so hard I have to steady myself against the icy wall.

And Aston was simply a captured Gale, not someone Raiden suspected of speaking Westerly.

I’m stronger than this.

I am.

“You look cold,” Raiden says, a hint of a smile playing across his lips. “I can’t say I blame you. You’ve spent how long sweating away in that dusty desert?”

“Almost ten years.”

I feel a hint of pride when his smile fades. He must’ve thought we kept Vane on the move, constantly running to stay undetected. But placing Vane with groundlings hid him so well that we never had to take such extreme measures. And Raiden fell for my mother’s trick and believed Vane died in the attack. He only learned the truth four years ago when he broke Aston and Normand during his interrogations.

He won’t break me.

“Where’s Gus?” I ask, bracing for the worst possible answer.

Raiden’s smile returns. “My questions first.”

He hisses a word, sending a draft rushing toward me.

I square my shoulders, expecting pain—but the breeze is feather soft and warm as sunlight. It drapes around my body like silk and sinks under my skin, calming my nerves, easing my aches. Even the windslicer gash on my side—a wound left over from my confrontation with Raiden in Death Valley—seems to dull under its bandage.

A sigh escapes my lips and Raiden’s smile widens. “Better?”

I give him a nod, even though he doesn’t deserve it.

The draft is a ruined Southerly, robbed of its will and its voice, and no more than Raiden’s slave.

I hate myself for drawing comfort from it.

But it’s so nice to be warm.

“I’m glad,” Raiden says, and I’m surprised by the sincerity in his tone. “Regardless of what you may think, Audra, I want you to be comfortable here.”

I want to tell him that he shouldn’t have left me trapped like a flightless bird in a frozen cage. But the words stick in my throat when I meet his eyes.

He’s looking straight at me, studying me with an intensity that makes my cheeks flame.

“A short red dress seems like a strange choice for such a fierce warrior.” His gaze travels over my body, making my face burn even hotter. “Dressing to impress?”

“Are you impressed?”

I don’t know where the question came from, but I want to suck the words back as soon as they leave my mouth—and kick myself for saying them.

Especially when Raiden says, “Incredibly. I see so much of your mother in you.”

He stalks closer, running his hands down the bars. “I don’t use this tower cell often. But I couldn’t lock you away in a dim, filthy dungeon. You’re too . . .”

“Too what?” I whisper, not realizing I’ve moved forward until I feel my knees graze the frost-coated bars.

I’m so close now that I can see the blond stubble that lines his jaw, and the blond lashes rimming his ice-blue eyes.

His features aren’t handsome, but there’s something striking about him.

Something powerful.

My hands curl into fists when I realize what I’m thinking, and I shake my head to clear it. But the sweet, soothing wind is making everything spin too fast.

Or maybe it’s Raiden’s piercing stare.

“You’re different,” he whispers. “Most prisoners I can read in an instant. But you . . .”

He licks his lips, and my stomach turns sour even as my heart starts racing.

I want to look away but I can’t. His gaze is the only thing keeping me from melting with the rushing warmth.

He reaches through the bars and tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. I should flinch away, but I’m rooted to the floor. A tree clinging to the earth as a storm rages around it.

“If I told you that you belong as a queen, what would you say?” he asks.

My breath catches.

I can see myself sitting on a gleaming throne. And beside me stands . . .

I rub my head, trying to concentrate on the man beside me, but he’s blurry and shifting.

Old one second.

A boy the next.

Blond, then dark haired. Stolid, then smiling.

A jumble of contrasts I can’t make any sense of—but one feels warm and safe, like the wind whipping around me.

The other feels empty.

I don’t want to be empty anymore.

I try to focus on the man, try to wrap myself in the steadiness of his safety.

But I can’t forget the boy.

He materializes in my mind.



Why can’t he be mine?

“Perhaps that’s the wrong question,” Raiden says as I back against the wall and let the cold stones press against my skin.

I try to shove the fog from my thoughts, but it’s too heavy to lift, and my mind keeps drifting with the sweet, soft breeze.

“You love the wind, don’t you?” Raiden asks.

“The wind is all I need.”

I laugh when I hear the words out loud.

I’ve said them in my head hundreds of times, and at some point I must’ve believed them.

But can the wind ever really be enough?

Can the wind fill the space between the things I’ve lost?

“You miss someone,” Raiden says.

It’s not a question, but I still answer.


The confession is sharp as knives, and I realize that I’ve crossed my cell again. This time I must’ve crawled, because I’m on my knees, clinging to the bars like a child.

Raiden covers my hands with his. His skin is warmer than I expected. His grip comforting.


“Who do you miss?” he asks, his voice as soft as his skin. “Who have you lost?”

“My father.”

Tears drip off my cheeks, and my hold tightens on the bars.

I don’t want to cry for my father—not here. Not with the man responsible for his death.

But is Raiden responsible?

I thought it was him—but with my head floating and the world spinning, I realize these warm hands wrapped around mine couldn’t belong to a killer.

A killer couldn’t be so soft.

“You’ve had to grow up too fast, and you’ve had to do it alone,” he whispers. “But it doesn’t have to be that way anymore, Audra. I can keep you safe.”

“Safe?” Repeating the word doesn’t help me understand it.

“But . . . I’m in a cage.”

“To shield you from the others. The ones who took away your father.”

My mother’s face fills my mind. “You can protect me from her?”

“That’s why I brought you here. Now she can never hurt you again.”

I close my eyes and lean against the bars, grateful to feel them.

“You’ll keep her away?” I whisper.

“As long as you stay here. But I might have to send you off alone.”

I try to open my eyes but my eyelids feel too heavy. “Why?”

“Because you’re hiding something from me. The secret I need in order to protect you.”

“I don’t have any secrets.”

“That’s not true, now is it?”

“It is.”

At least, I think it is.

It used to be true. But everything feels so faded and blurry I can’t be sure anymore.

He sighs, slow and sweet. “Don’t you trust me, Princess?”

“Of course I . . . what did you call me?”

He leans closer, stroking my cheek. “Tell me what you’re hiding, Princess.”

I jerk away and crawl backward across the floor.

My father had a dozen nicknames for me. But he never called me Princess.

Raiden is not my father.

The statement feels so glaringly obvious—but it’s earth shattering too.

Raiden. Is. Not. My. Father.

Did I really think that he was?

How could I . . .

The wind.

This ruined, Southerly wind.

It’s clouding my mind somehow and shifting my emotions.

I pull myself to my feet and press my cheek against the wall, letting the shiver clear my head. “Does that usually work?”

Raiden sends the wicked Southerly away, stealing the last of the warmth—but I’m grateful for the cold.

Each shiver makes me me again.

Even the pain that floods back to the wound on my side is a welcome reality check.

“Actually you’re the first person I’ve tried it on,” Raiden says.

“Your mother taught me the trick while we waited for you and your friend to arrive at the Maelstrom. She claimed it would be the only way to get answers from you.”

“Leave it to my mother to help you capture me and torture me.”

Raiden laughs—as bitter and cold as the air. “Actually her method was far gentler than what you’ll face now.”

I can’t stop myself from shaking. But I force myself to meet his eyes, noting that they’re rimmed with dark smudges. Further shadows line his brow and deepen the creases around his frown.

He looks tired.

The realization boosts my confidence as I tell him, “I’ll never give you what you want.”

“They all say that in the beginning.”

He snarls a word, and a ruined Northerly coils into a whip and cracks my face so hard it knocks me to my knees.

Pain stings my cheek. But when I reach up to check for blood, my hand comes away clean.

Raiden seems as surprised as I am and lashes me again, this time across my chest.

The force of the blow makes me wheeze, but a second later the pain fades and no marks line my skin.

My loyal Westerly shield must be strong enough to protect me.

“I knew you had more to hide!” Raiden shouts, his voice a strange mix of fury and triumph.

“No—everything’s gone.”

Everything Vane shared with me.

Everything that mattered.

I stripped it and shredded it and scattered it on the wind—whatever I had to do to make sure it was safe.

“Then why did your friend’s shield abandon him at the first blow?” Raiden asks. “The draft you wrapped around him before we took you both away rushed back to the sky at the first crack of my whip.”

“You’re lying.”

“Am I?”

He holds his sleeve up to the moonlight so I can see the splashes of red staining the fabric.

I turn away, trying not to imagine Gus—smiling, handsome Gus—bloody and alone in some dark dungeon.

“Let him go,” I beg, knowing it’s pointless but needing to try.

“He has nothing to give you.”

“Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong. Your Westerly won’t let me hurt you. But I can hurt him.

And I’ll make you watch, until you tell me what I need.”