Home > Secondborn (Secondborn #1)(6)

Secondborn (Secondborn #1)(6)
Author: Amy A. Bartol

A thousand things that I want to say—need to say—come to mind, but I can’t seem to get them past the growing lump in my throat. My vision blurs with unshed tears.

“You don’t have to say anything, Roselle, just listen. I’m going away. I’ve left my position with your mother.”

It takes me a moment to process this. “Where will you go?” I ask, knowing that it really doesn’t matter. I won’t be allowed to see him again.

“I’ve been accepted as personal security for Clarity Bowie. I leave for the capital city today. I’ll be in their fatedom by this evening.”

“You’re going to Purity? But what about my mother—Gabriel? They need you.”

“They don’t need me,” he snaps, his bitterness filling the air around us. “I raised you. I trained you. You’re all that matters now.”

I’m stunned by his words. “I . . . matter?”

“More than you know.”

My eyes brim with fresh tears. I can’t imagine Dune as far away as the Fate of Virtues. He’ll live in the lavish capital city of Purity, and I’ll be here. I’ve never even been outside my Fate.

“There’s a man—secondborn—Walther Petes. Say his name.”

“Walther Petes.” It comes out in a croak.

“Find him after they place you. He’s stationed somewhere in this fatedom. He’ll get word to me and tell me where you are.”

“Who is he?” I ask.

“My brother.”

“But . . . your last name is Kodaline.”

“Is it?” Dune’s eyebrow lifts.

“Isn’t it?” I whisper.

He shakes his head. “You’ll always be my firstborn, Roselle, even if you’re not of my blood. I’ll find you when it’s time.”

The lump in my throat bobs. “Time for what?”

“Time for our paths to cross again.”

“But—” My questions are interrupted by the Vicolt’s windscreen coming back online. Dune shoots me a look that orders discretion.

Seville frowns at us from her hologram. “Is everything all right?” she asks, her voice piping through our headrests. “We lost audio and our visual was obscured.”

Dune leans forward and flicks the microphones back on. “We’re fine. I must have tripped this by mistake.”

Seville lets out a sigh of relief. “I’m so glad to hear you’re doing well. Is there anything you need?”

“No,” he replies.

I stare out the window once more, half listening as Dune makes small talk with our navigator, but my mind is reeling. Who is Dune? Do I even know him? But of course I do. He taught me everything I know. I owe him my very existence. Without him, I’d have had no love at all.

I want to ask him more questions, but Seville refuses to shut up so we can mute the microphone. I feign interest in the scenery, hoping she’ll get the hint. The gorgeous buildings begin to fade from sight, replaced by less grand structures. Everything is foreign-looking now. I’ve not been this far from the Sword Palace estate in my entire life. The crowds are just as ardent here, though—their roses just as bright, though their clothing is less posh, more practical.

A glimmer of light catches my eye, a golden mask in the crowd. It’s really a visor attached to a combat helmet. I’ve never seen one like it. The visor has illuminated striations of sunlight, as if a small sun is caught beneath the shrouded hood of the man’s dark cloak. Another visor passes by in the crowd—and then another. Dark galaxies obscure the faces of other masked men, their visors a swirl of stars and violet nebulae. Copper-colored atoms orbit the surface of other masks. Rippling blue water forms concentric circles on others.

Our hovercar slows, detecting an obstruction. Ahead of us, through Seville’s talking head, a man stands in the middle of the road. He’s wearing a mask of the night sky. His visor obscures his features. A black cape blows around his powerful shoulders. Black leather polymer covers his chest and torso. Scrolling iron gates are etched into the plates of his armor. His legs, planted in a wide stance, are clad in black combat boots.

I’ve never seen armor like his, only Swords armor worn by Fate of Swords soldiers. To have other Fates represented in combat is unprecedented. It violates the purpose of our Fate.

“Gates of Dawn,” Dune murmurs. “Accelerate to maximum speed. Do not avoid the obstruction.”

Seville’s image disappears. The hovercar lurches forward with murderous velocity. Dune’s smile falls when the night-faced man sidesteps the chrome hood and avoids being struck. His swirling black cape blots out the sunlight through my window. In his hand, the petals of a white flower skim past my window like lightning.

Shifting in my seat, I stare out the back, watching the renegade turn back to face us. Suddenly hundreds of white flowers pelt us from all angles. They’re calla lilies—death flowers. The last time I saw them was when my grandfather died and his body was displayed in a funeral precession to his tomb at Killian Abbey.

I flinch as a stone crashes into my window, cracking the glass near my face. A mountain range shifts across the visor of the man who threw it. Other Stone-masked men begin to throw rocks, leaving dimples in the Vicolt’s veneer.

Dune leans forward. He touches the navigation screens, pulling up maps and charts. A manual control panel activates, exposing the Vicolt’s operating system. “Seville.”

“Patrøn?” Seville’s voice sounds confused.

“I’m deviating from the planned route.” He engages the wings, which slip out on either side, transforming the vehicle into an aircraft.

“But, Patrøn, protocol dictates—”

“I don’t care about protocol!”

The vehicle’s wings begin to retract. “You’re to remain in glide mode,” Seville says with a phony smile. “Wingers have been dispatched to clear the area of enemy forces. You’ll proceed on the designated route as planned. Everything is under control—”

Dune leans forward and disconnects the circuitry beneath the console. The heads-up display disappears. “Message received,” he mumbles. He tries to engage the wings, but they’re still controlled by Seville and her team. Outside, people are panicking, running from the masked men. The Vicolt slows to a stop. We idle as the Gates of Dawn soldiers form a wide circle around us. “We’ve become bait, Roselle. Protocol dictates we wait for troops to arrive to annihilate the threat.”

“How close are our troops?” My hand grips my sword on my hip.

“I don’t know. The Gates aren’t attacking us, Roselle. They’re waiting.” He opens the Vicolt’s door and climbs out. “Stay here.” He closes the door. Drawing his fusionblade, he cuts through stones thrown at him, pulverizing most into dust and taking hits from others as he makes his way back to where the night-masked soldier walks slowly toward us. I wonder why our enemies are throwing stones. Surely they have more sophisticated weapons at their disposal—unless they were unable to smuggle them into our fatedom. I try to see the monikers on their hands, but gloves cover them, shrouding their true origins.

The gruesome night-faced man has already traded his flower for a fusionblade. The sword swishes in his black-gloved hand. Dune moves to meet him. My heart hammers. I can’t leave my mentor out there alone, unprotected. Disobeying Dune’s direct order, I fumble with my door. It swings open and I jump from the hovercar, drawing my sword. Drone cameras circle us.

The sky begins to rumble with troopships and death drones. The traitor in black tilts his masked face up. He extinguishes his sword, sheathing it. From the lining of his cape, he pulls out a silver orb that fits in the palm of his hand. He rests his thumb on top of it. Dune skids to a halt and looks up. Enormous airships soar above us. He glances over his shoulder at me, then starts waving his arms, fear carving lines in his face.

Our enemy depresses the button on the device in his palm. I squeeze my eyes shut, anticipating a catastrophic explosion. But nothing happens. I open my eyes. My sword has gone out. I shake it, hoping to reignite it. It’s as useless as a brick. Confused, I search for Dune. He reaches me, grasping my shoulders, turning me back toward the hovercar. Beside us, something falls from the sky and crashes onto the metal pavers. It’s a drone camera. Another one crashes and shatters, and then another. Our enemies begin retreating, melting into the fleeing crowd.

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