“I am strong. I am a warrior. I am a survivor. I am not done fighting.”
TRUST WITH THE LIBERTAS ARMY HAS BEEN LOST, and Adaline must find a way to fix what Zavy has destroyed. Back on Dather, on the enemy’s land, Adaline and Alexander struggle to reunite their army and fight off the looming threat of war. But they are out of time. The war is here and the broken army must come together if there is any chance of a victory against King Renon and his commander, Paylon.
However, being back on Dather bears more than the threat of war. Old memories – and enemies – resurface as Adaline fights for the freedom she’s always longed for. And amidst the fighting, the betrayal, and the loss, Adaline cannot stop thinking about her father’s vision. The one that saw her crumbling into the cliffside and plummeting to her death.
But is the future truly out of Adaline’s control, or is her fate still to be determined?
In this gripping and powerful final installment, join Adaline as she fights for her freedom against the tyrant king and her father’s proclaimed future.
“You are not defined by your blood, but what you do with it.”
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Wisps of tropical wind flutter through the slit in the tent. I pull my dark brown hair into a low tail, still against braiding it like my mother used to do. Some days, I like to do it to remember her, but not today. There is already too much of her with me today.
I don’t have a mirror in my tent at camp, but I can tell my black shirt fits snug against my skin. After weeks of real food from Sard and Libertas, I have finally started gaining weight and muscle. The black, stretchy fabric of my pants pulls tight against my legs. It’s exactly what someone would wear if they wanted to move undercover, which happens to be exactly what I’m trying to do.
“Lieutenant Adaline,” her frail voice whispers. I turn and Lexi enters the tent. Her blonde hair is tied in a tight knot, the tattoo of an X on the back of neck dark against her olive skin. “They’re moving him.” She swallows, sweat breaking on her forehead. “Alexander’s execution is beginning.”
I give my soldier from enhanced sense of smell a short nod and she waits for me outside the tent. I pull on my ankle-high, black leather boots and slip into the night, following Lexi through the dark camp. As we walk, more people dressed in black fall in line behind us.
I am not going to watch Alexander die. I am going to save him.
It’s what we do after all.
When Zavy exposed his secret to the entire army, it was complete chaos. This was worse than when Molly revealed the same relation to the king. This was their savior, their lieutenant, and their prophesized key.
No army in their right mind would risk their lives dethroning King Renon just to let his brother try and take his place. Zavy did not act alone, though. Lilliana, her new best friend, was just as much a part of the reveal as Zavy. Since then, Lilliana has been her silent shadow.
The soft dirt of the forest floor masks our steps, letting us approach the execution grounds in complete silence. The camp is dark with the exception of the silver beams of moonlight filtering through the palm leaves overhead.
My father no longer holds any power here. He tried to reign in the situation, but it was useless. That’s what Zavy was going for. Mass chaos amongst us so she could take control and completely flip the army.
Alexander was immediately locked away as a prisoner. Another secret Libertas had been keeping from me was their ability to remove a gifted’s enhanced sense. Similar to how King Renon has a green stone to keep the non-gifted protected from powers, Libertas has a red stone that turns a gifted into a non-gifted. Of course, there had to be something like that. How else could you maintain control over a world of gifted people? Stripped of his powers, Alexander had no chance of fighting back.
After it registered to people that the Future Holders may have been keeping Alexander’s relationship a secret, they were all put on trial, my father included.
Ironically enough, with my father and the other gifted that have an enhanced sense of sight sitting trial, none of his remaining captains stepped forward to fill his position. They were divided between hating my father and believing he would never keep something this important a secret. With the captains against each other, Zavy stepped above them all, the only sure voice directing the movements of our army.
Zavy had spent the last couple of days preparing for this moment. From the morning she beat me in the ring on Libertas she has been planting doubt in people’s heads. It started with the others who have an enhanced sense of hearing, but it quickly grew. While I was being paraded around in glittery gowns and golden crowns, Zavy was recruiting gifted to her side, turning the army against us behind our backs. Her manipulation has been going on for weeks, so there was no delay in anyone following her orders.
When I defeated Zavy on my last day of ring training, I felt the shift in the army. I felt them come back to my side, but when Alexander’s secret was revealed, it was like all that hard work never happened. It all went up in smoke.
She was in control for all of about two days before Max’s father, Captain Brutis, conveniently took over. He would have done so sooner if he also didn’t have to sit trial. He’s a powerful gifted with an enhanced sense of sight, and while looking into the future isn’t where his gift is strongest, he was still questioned.
In the end, the only people to be taken in as accomplices were King Derith, my father, as well as Alexander’s parents, Marin and George. Captain Brutis chose to spare me because, at the end of the day, they need to have at least one savior to fulfill the prophecy.
After everything that has happened, I don’t know if I feel more betrayed by Zavy or Max. I think back to the last conversation I had with him. How wrong I was to think he’d be on my side.
“Max, they’re going to kill me too,” I whisper. We continue to walk further away from our camp here on Dather. It’s our first moment alone since Zavy’s show.
“I won’t let that happen,” Max says and gently takes my hand in his.
“You’ll talk to your father and get him to free Alexander?” I ask, but Max lets my hand fall limp.
“I won’t save him,” he says with disgust.
“You’re on their side?” The anger bubbles up. I take a step back, feeling Max shift into the enemy.
“I’ll talk to my father about clearing your name,” Max offers, but my face stays hardened.
“And my father?” I ask through a tight throat.
“He probably kept his secret, Adaline-”
“I kept his secret!” I yell, not caring who may overhear.
“You weren’t the king. We’ve been following him for seven years and it was all a lie,” Max explains, but all I hear is that he thinks my father should be executed.
We stare at each other for a long moment, a nauseous wave rippling in my stomach. “Why?” It’s the only word I can get out without risking being sick.
Max’s face falls, his light green eyes widening at the ache in my voice. “Because…” Max pauses, his gaze darting around like the answer may be in the trees. “Because he is King Renon’s brother,” Max decides. “Because my father has chosen a side, and I can’t choose the other.”
His reasoning is like a cold rainfall, bringing everything back into focus. Max has always devoted every second of his life to making his father proud. It’s all he’s ever wanted, and when it comes down to it, he will always choose family. I would too.
“You father is making a mistake,” I say, pulling myself back together before the threat of tears can surface. “So are you.”
A muscle in Max’s jaw trembles as he works his words through his mouth. “I promise I will speak to my father about clearing your name. I can’t do anything more.”
I shake my head, loose pieces of hair falling from the high tail. “That’s not enough.”
That was the last time I saw Max. My clearing had been announced the next morning, along with the final sentencing for my father, Marin, George, and Alexander. Of course, Cooper had tried to take his rightful place as the next king, but my father had been naïve to think these people would follow a non-gifted. They didn’t even want to live among them, let alone answer to one.
And in the loud chaos of the last week, I have been silenced and overlooked. Everyone’s focus has been on Alexander and orchestrating this execution. Zavy has made sure that no one even has time to listen to me. My voice hasn’t been heard. Not yet, anyway.
I did what I do best, though. I worked undercover at night. I met with people in secret that I knew I could rely on. People that truly know Alexander and trust him, even with his secret revealed.
During the day I kept my head down and attended the last minute combat trainings. They focused on hand-on-hand fighting to keep this army strong and ready for the battles that haunt the approaching days. The muscles that have formed at my thighs and upper arms are proof of my hard work. Darin and Lexi took me under their wing, teaching me how to punch correctly and how to break free of a headlock.
But at night, I recruited people back to my side. I reinstated their trust in both Alexander and me. The first person I solidified was, my brother, Cooper. He took very little convincing. Next, I pulled in Lexi, Darin, and Mio. It took a little more effort to gain their forgiveness and trust. Then, we split up and the five of us brought in more and more people.
I’ve learned that, if you can remove someone from the chaotic scene around them, it’s easier to talk some sense into them. That’s why they’re pushing this execution ahead so quickly.
Don’t let people have time to think if this is a good idea.
The last dark figure falls in step with me as we approach the execution grounds. I don’t have to look to know it’s Cooper. He’s been scouting the last five yards between camp and the execution grounds all day.
“We’re cutting it close,” Cooper says through the thin night air.
“Good, they will think they are in control,” I say coolly.
In the end, we gathered nearly a hundred others who want to save Alexander. It’s about a third of the army. It’s enough to demand being heard.
We close in on the execution grounds and even though I know we will save Alexander, my heart still pulses hard in my chest. I reach up and clasp the key necklace around my neck. The one I had been gifted from a shop owner on Libertas, its twin hanging around Alexander’s neck. They are enchanted to be traceable by the two of us. So, I can always find him, and he can always find me.
Captain Brutis chose a large clearing to have the execution. Tall, jagged rock formations enclose the arena and the onlookers disperse themselves across the ledges in the rocks. As per Libertas tradition, they are all sorted by their enhanced sense.
The group that joined me on the way here positions themselves at the base of two large sheets of rock, giving us the perfect hiding spot. Everyone is located just as we had agreed. I had ten follow me here. The rest are strategically placed throughout the crowd.
Looking at the makeshift arena makes my throat tighten. It reminds me so much of the coliseum where King Renon executes his prisoners. Where he executed my mother the day I escaped his prison.
We are supposed to be the better side of this war. We are the ones looking for our freedom, but the sight of the execution grounds takes me aback. Are we really all that different from King Renon? I grip my hands into fists. No, this is what happens when Zavy and Captain Brutis are in control. They are no better than King Renon.
Alexander hangs in the center of the clearing by his wrists. He’s about two feet or so off the ground. They have him gagged and blindfolded. The glowing red rock shines against his black shirt. They’re cutting off all his powers. He knows this too because he isn’t even trying to free himself. That and the fact that he knows I’m coming.
I’ll always come for him.
“I’m here,” I send to Alexander with my enhanced sense of hearing.
He lifts his head slightly at my voice and I know my words have reached him. From across the clearing, I see Zavy, Lilliana, Max, and Captain Brutis emerge from the woods. Max, who is supposed to be my best friend, carries the sword that is meant for Alexander’s neck.
This is the moment we’ve been planning for. Cooper’s right, we did cut it close. I don’t have enough time to wait for Mio’s signal that they’ve rescued my father and Alexander’s parents from the holding chambers before Zavy begins talking.
“It is time-”
My enhanced sense of hearing reaches out to the crowd, forcing a silent blanket to their ears. Those who we recruited from enhanced sense of hearing do the same, and with our combined strength we’re able to mute the traitors. The crowd begins to stir and turn to their neighbors, asking if they can hear Zavy. Commotion builds across the crowd and Zavy gives a questioning glance to Max.
When I emerge from the rock crevice, I make sure my voice is the only one that gets to be heard. I will not be silenced or overlooked anymore.
“People of the Libertas army, you have been led astray by your ignorant leaders.”
The commotion in the audience stills and everyone finally listens to me.
“Look who decided to rise from the shadows,” Zavy smirks and strides in my direction.
I only let her take two steps before I freeze her in mid-stride. There’s a small gasp in the crowd, and I see Lilliana tense next to Captain Bruits and Max. The three of them look unsure if they should move or let me speak. I am the savior after all, and they need me to play my role in the prophecy.
Of course, it’s not just me freezing Zavy. I’m talented with my gift, but others with an enhanced sense of sight will help me hold her steady as I move on to the rest of my plan. I look away once I know they’ve got a strong hold on her.
“Yes, Alexander is King Renon’s brother,” I say, my voice echoing in the makeshift amphitheater.
I stop below Alexander’s hanging body. With my enhanced sense of sight, I lower him from the post. His legs almost buckle under his weight, but he’s able to hold himself up after a moment. I reach forward and remove his restraints and the power-absorbing stone. My thin fingers tuck under the itchy fabric of the blindfold and I pull it up over his head. Shadowy green eyes lock on mine and a thin breath seeps out of my lungs.
My heart aches in my chest at the desperation welling in his eyes. Surely he knew I would come for him, but I can see the worry that’s been choking him crease his tan skin.
When the gag is slipped from his mouth, it reveals his hollow face to the crowd. A man sentenced to death doesn’t get fed, and it shows. His lips are cracked, lacking any water as well. Zavy will pay for what she has done to him.
“But he is also a loyal soldier,” I say, my hand lingering on his sunken cheek.
“He was also King Renon’s soldier,” Max’s voice roars from behind me.
The three other traitors seem to have grasped the situation and where my loyalties rest. They know I am about to cause an uprising if they don’t step in.
My cold eyes meet Max’s. The same light green eyes that made me feel welcomed in Libertas, told me it was okay to kill my father. I force a frozen magic over Max, Captain Brutis, and Lilliana, like I did Zavy, but the three of them have an enhanced sense of sight and they push my powers away.
“You are not strong enough to overpower all three of us,” Lilliana says, reading my narrowing eyes.
“But I am not alone,” I say.
Some of the group I walked here with emerges from our shadowed crevice, each also having an enhanced sense of sight. The bandwidth of power radiating between my group and the traitors is almost palpable in the air.
“You hold no authority here, Adaline,” Captain Brutis says through a clenched jaw, working hard to keep the group behind me from freezing him in place.
“And you hold no support!” I snap, frustration heating my cheeks. “You have taken advantage of a confused army and led them astray. Let me ask them who they will follow.”
I feel the hum of power vanish, each side lifting up on their enhanced sense of sight. A flicker of worry catches on Captain Brutis’s cheek. He knows as well as I do that this army is not loyal to him. Loyalty has to be earned, not manipulated by half-truths.
“Will you try and silence the savior?” I question, flipping my wrist over so the moonlight catches on the key birthmark.
A mummer works its way through the on looking crowd. If Captain Brutis is sure of his power and his position with the army, he would let me speak, no questions asked. We are supposed to be fighting for the same thing, but I’ve always known there were other motives for the rebellion.
Captain Brutis has always hated the non-gifted. The way he treated my friends when we arrived on Libertas still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. My father would strive for a world with equality, where gifted and non-gifted live in unison. Captain Brutis would flip our world inside out, freeing the gifted and enslaving the non-gifted.
He truly would be no better than King Renon as a ruler. And when Alexander’s secret was revealed, when mayhem shook this army to its core, I know Captain Brutis saw this as an opportunity for him to step into power and try to turn the world into something he desires.
“Speak,” Captain Brutis barks, and I see the muscles in his neck tighten. I have backed him into a corner in front of the entire army. He’s had days in power. That isn’t nearly enough time to truly establish any sort of respect with the army.
I turn my attention back to the gawking crowd, picking up where I left off. “Alexander was placed in King Renon’s army to rescue me. He risked his life to ensure we made it to you. We are the keys in this rebellion. Together we fight for you. We fight to end King Renon’s rule!”
The crowd gives us a silent stare. I dampen my lips, knowing that my words need to be perfect in this moment. It’s hard for me to understand that because I so deeply believe that Alexander and me are on the right side of this rebellion. It seems irrational to even consider following Captain Bruits, but for some reason, these people in front of me need to be swayed.
Make them trust you. I hear Linda’s voice echo in my head. These were the words she had spoken to me the night of my Welcome Parade. I was never going to win their trust that night because everything we showed them was a lie. They dressed Alexander and me up and made us act like lovers when we knew we could never actually be together. The only truth I spoke that night was my motivation to save the gifted.
“I told you at our Welcome Parade that I was going to fight to free all of the gifted. I had said I would do it whether or not any of you joined me. That still holds true tonight. I believe in the cause that Alexander and I stand for so much that I am willing to face the entire Dather army alone. If you don’t want to fight with me, then don’t. But you will stay out of my way.”
I pause and glance toward Zavy. She is an example of what will happen if anyone does get in my way.
This is it, my last step in the plan. Yes, I will go on and fight alone, but I know I will not succeed without this army behind me. I scan the crowd and hope the people we recruited stay true to their word.
“You are not defined by your blood, but what you do with it. Stand if you will fight with Alexander and me!”