22 – In Which Vivian Rewrites the Will of the Stars
Black smoke cut across the yellow sky, still rising from the charred bodies of those her sister had killed.
Marion had used her magic during the day when the stars were sleeping. She had saved them—by killing dozens of people.
Timothée too had killed after he lost control of his star when he caught it.
And shall I be next? Though it wasn’t her starcraft she was worried about.
Vivian shook her head and tried to disappear into the chatter around her. She’d been taken to a room beside the infirmary, a place for Starlings that had been treated, or who had injuries that were mild enough to wait to see one of the clerics.
Chairs had been set up around the perimeter of the stone room, and in the middle was a table filled with hot drinks and cakes.
She had thankfully been able to avoid close inspection by the healers by adamantly claiming she was fine, that there were students that needed their help more.
And that was true. Even this room was packed. The mercenaries may have been under strict orders not to kill, but it didn’t mean students hadn’t been hurt in the mayhem.
Well, that wasn’t exactly true. The mercenaries had been told to kill one person.
Tens of flying ships, hundreds of mercenaries, all sent to kill her brother and capture her and Marion.
Vivian was no expert on war and soldiers, but even she knew the expense that mission must have cost. And for them to get that close to the Academy, to get inside without the Archpriestess being aware…
Who was this Exalted One?
The vampire brothers…the Dark Prophet had called them the Phantom Two.
I can help you.
Vivian rubbed her neck. The one they named Allistar, there had been something familiar about him. But she was certain she had never met him before.
What would have happened if she had gone with him? Could he truly haved helped?
“Hey, is this seat taken?”
Vivian looked up to see Wren Ramsey standing in front of her. Wren was an Evening Star girl she knew from her classes and nights spent around the Den’s fire, sharing stories. Wren had a bandaged arm and a ripped sweater around her curvy waist.
“Please sit down,” Vivian said. “Are you alright?”
Wren held up her bandaged wrist. “I actually did this to myself. I think I’m the clumsiest person in all the Academy. I tripped on the stairs when Tal was leading us back to the Den.”
Vivian gave her a soft smile. “Well, I’m glad you weren’t attacked.”
Wren shook her head, long brown hair falling across her face. “Just by my own two feet. Don’t worry, the clerics said it was just a sprain, and they helped the healing along.”
Vivian looked to the clerics wandering around the room: Evening and Morning Stars who specialized in healing. They wore white robes with blue or yellow embroidery.
“How about you?” Wren’s hazel eyes looked over her with concern.
“Oh, I’m fine,” Vivian said. “Just waiting for Marion and Timothée.”
“I heard they were taken to a different ward.” Vivian looked up to see another Evening Star standing above her. Lando Nicoli held a tray full of cookies and hot chocolate. He shrugged when he saw Vivian and Wren's eyes on the tray. “The kitchen staff just brought these in fresh.”
Vivian took a steaming cup and sipped the hot chocolate. She couldn’t taste it, but still relished the warm sensation.
Lando sat down beside Wren. He was a slight boy, with light straight hair and oversized glasses. But there was kindness there. He often played the piano in the Den, bringing to life some of the ballads of the gods.
“Is it true?” Wren said, her voice low. “Did Marion use starcraft during the day? I heard she scared away all the mercenaries.”
Vivian was pretty sure most of the school didn’t know the true reason the marauders had attacked. She tightened her fingers around the cup. Smoke still curled outside. “Marion saved us…”
Fire had surrounded her, blazing, and for a terrifying moment, Vivian had worried that the fire had consumed her sister as well. But Marion was a Morning Star. From the Ashes.
“No one’s ever been able to use starcraft during the day,” Lando said.
Wren cleared her throat. “Well, actually…” Vivian and Lando turned to Wren, who lowered her voice. “It was said Noctis did not need the light of the stars to use his magic. And that is why it was so hard for the gods to overthrow him during the ancient wars. Even though they were gods, their magic was still bound to the stars.”
“Perhaps you three are like him,” Lando said excitedly.
Vivian looked down at her hands. She could feel the presence of her star inside her but had not even tried to call upon her magic during the day. Was she also able to use starcraft without the light of the stars, like Marion?
It was not the right time to attempt such a thing. She turned back to Wren, who was biting her lip. “The gods came to our world from the stars. Some legends say Noctis was born here, as were you. Perhaps your magic is different for it.”
She turned, saw Marion in the doorway, Timothée beside her. “We’ve been released.”
Her sister said it like she’d been in the Wolfhelm Dungeons, and not receiving Starling medical care.
Vivian bid goodbye to Wren and Lando and followed her siblings into the hall.
She glanced once more outside. Celestial airships hovered around the school. They had been arriving all day, bringing Celestial Knights and Störmberg soldiers to fortify the Isle of Argos.
Marion informed her that she’d heard Setviren had been released as well. Vivian was grateful for the professor's attempt to rescue them. His display of starcraft had been extraordinary…yet still the vampire brothers had defeated him.
And the Dark Prophet had shown up and made even the Phantom Two’s extraordinary starcraft look pitiful.
“They said we should rest,” Marion said. “But I’m sure I’ll get summoned by the Archpriestess or Setviren sooner or later.”
“I’ve never been so poked and prodded in my life.” Timothée rolled his shoulders.
“Well, they certainly left a mark.” Marion scowled. Vivian followed her gaze to a small red bruise on Timothée’s neck.
Timothée flushed. “Uh, that was something else.”
Marion sighed. “Where was that little freak anyways? I’m surprised he wasn’t right behind you.”
“Well, he couldn’t exactly,” Timothée said. “Val may have accidentally taken a rather strong sleeping draft right before we were attacked. I hid him and Yvaine in our bathroom. Ugh, he’s going to be so mad when I get back.”
Marion pinched the bridge of her nose. “You know what? I don’t want to know the details.”
Timothée shifted uncomfortably. “Did they find out why you could use your magic during the day?”
Vivian thought about telling her what Wren had said about Noctis. But Marion hadn’t even come to terms with the fact Noctis was their brother. She doubted Marion would want to hear that they shared something else with him right now
“No.” Marion looked up and down the hall. Celestial Knights were posted on either side. She grabbed Vivian and Timothée’s hands and tugged them into an empty classroom. “And I’m not done talking to you about your bad choices.”
Vivian studied her siblings. They looked ragged, tired. None of them had slept. Marion was still in the broken remains of her leaf dress. Only Khalid’s pirate jacket strung over her shoulders afforded her any sort of modesty.
Marion shut the door then rounded on Timothée. “Were you seriously thinking of going with him?”
“No.” Timothée ran his hands through his wayward hair. He was barefoot. “It’s just…I knew he wasn’t going to hurt us.”
Marion’s eyes went wide. “You knew the scary murderer wasn’t going to hurt us? We are talking about the same person who attacked Wolfhelm and strung Vivian up with shadows?”
Timothée sighed. “I know this is going to sound crazy, but ever since I swallowed my star, I can feel magic. And his didn’t feel threatening. Even when he was fighting those two vampires, he wasn’t going to hurt them or us.”
“Maybe not until he lured you into his death portal,” Marion snapped. “You don’t seriously believe what he said about you, do you?”
Timothée swallowed. “He said his visions always come true.”
Marion let out a frustrated groan. “Of course he said that. He figured out his dark master is never coming back and he’s looking for the next best thing—which is you. I’m sure he would have said anything to get you into the portal.”
“But if he had really wanted Timothée to come,” Vivian said, “he could have just forced him. Any of them could have. We were no match for their powers, but they let us go.”
“What, are you saying we should send him a bouquet of flowers?” Marion rounded on Vivian. “And you’re not much better! You were stepping toward that darkness too.”
“What if that was a way to get better?” Vivian hugged her elbows against her chest. “I don’t want to be a burden to you.”
“Oh yes, I’m sure that vampire could make you better fast—by eating people. That’s not what we’re doing. We’re finding a cure to make you like how you were.”
“I know…” Vivian said softly.
“Listen, we’re all tired.” Marion sighed, then lightly gripped their hands. “We should get some rest.”
“I need to find Darius,” Vivian said.
Timothée furrowed his brow. “Are you okay, Viv? After what you saw and what he said…”
“He wouldn’t have meant it about you,” Marion said. “I’m sure of it. He doesn’t know you’re different than the others.”
“I—” Vivian faltered. The truth was, she didn’t know if she was okay. Hadn’t even let herself think of him, and the words he’d spoken, the images she’d seen…
“I overheard the clerics speaking,” Marion said. “They took him to a private ward. Apparently, he was getting unruly in the main room.”
“Yeah,” Timothée said. “They had to call for Khalid to calm him down.”
“I need to… I need to see him,” Vivian said and went in search of the Prince of Andúrigard.
No one objected when she asked to see Darius. A cleric led her up a twisting set of stairs in the infirmary to the private medical rooms.
“He was quite adamant about leaving,” the cleric told her, “despite the wound in his shoulder, and the Archpriest