Shadow Wings (The Darkest Drae Book 2)

Shadow Wings (The Darkest Drae Book 2)

Raye Wagner & Kelly St. Clare


“What the hay?” Dyter yelled a moment after walking into The Raven’s Hollow.

My heart skipped a beat at his bellowing voice, and I couldn’t help a slight stumble as I stepped to the bar, the ale sloshing over the rims of the mugs I held. The crowded tavern smelled of brewed yeast and sweaty men, not much different than my previous stomping grounds at Dyter’s old tavern, The Crane’s Nest. Dyter had brought me here after my night of mourning in the barren Harvest Zone Seven. His sister, Dyrell, owned a tavern in Harvest Zone Eight. Most of the survivors from Zone Seven had been staying here since our Zone was burned to a crisp.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Dyter called, pushing his way to the front of the bar. Despite missing half his arm—the reason he’d been able to return alive from the emperor’s war—the old man could hold his own in a crowded room.

I swallowed, mentally preparing myself for what I knew was coming.

Dyter continued his assault until he was standing across from me. “You’re supposed to be resting, Ryn, recouping after what the king did, not serving ale.”

The jovial mood in the bar had been nonstop for the last three days as the people of Verald celebrated the upcoming coronation of their beloved Cal and the downfall of the tyrant, Irdelron. They deserved a festive reprieve after thirty years of hardship and hunger. We all did. Not that I was going to get it because some people had unrelenting standards.

Schooling my features, I acted like his comment about what I’d been through didn’t bother me. Pretended. I was getting better and better at denial. I forced my face into the blank expression I’d been practicing—one good thing I’d learned from a certain jerk with wings I refused to think about. I reached toward my stiff hair, dyed a dull mousy brown, but stopped myself and turned to grab more mugs from the shelf behind me.

I played like my mom hadn’t stabbed herself with a Phaetyn blade.

Acted like Arnik still had a head.

Almost tricked myself into believing Tyr and Ty really existed and weren’t fake extensions of the Drae I pretended didn’t exist.

Staying busy at The Raven’s Hollow was resting. The tavern was bustling, business was booming, and the constant activity kept me from thinking, from remembering my harsh, depressing reality.

“I have customers, Dyter,” I said, pouring ale into four mugs. I slid them down the line and nodded at the young man ordering stew for himself and a friend. The two had been daily visitors at The Hollow since my arrival. Both had received summons from the Emperor and would be going to serve in the war next year. Even though we’d killed Irdelron, Verald was just one of the three kingdoms in the realm, and Emperor Draedyn ruled over them all. Which meant we were still at war with some overseas land most of us had never seen.

“You need to give this up tomorrow, Rynnie. You have too much responsibility to be hiding here,” he chided. Then, quieter, Dyter said, “Your mum didn’t raise a coward.”

“I need to give my employer two weeks’ notice and wrap up my financials.”

“You don’t have any of those things.”

I crossed my arms and said defensively, “I do, too.”

Dyter lifted a brow. “I’ve explained the situation to Dyrell, and you have a pile of carrots, Rynnie. That’s not the same thing as financials.”

“It’s a big pile,” I mumbled. I had plans for that pile. My simmering anger spiked at the look in his eyes, pity and understanding, but I refused to let him goad me into a reaction. I stalked to the kitchen and ladled up two large bowls of stew for the boys. The potage was thick with legumes and vegetables, much heartier than it had been three days ago. I wondered if these people knew I’d cried on the vegetables to make them grow . . . I’d keep that to myself. People got a bit funny about body fluids.

My Phaetyn powers were doing some good, but I didn’t feel any better for it. When I was busy here, it allowed me to forget my current heartache and the terrors I’d been exposed to. Otherwise, I just sat in my room above the tavern, or in the garden, and cried. Why couldn’t Dyter understand that?

I stepped out of the kitchen, and Dyter launched his next verbal assault. “You promised you’d help, and serving drinks isn’t going to help with what comes next.”

Right. What came next consisted of becoming a Drae on my eighteenth birthday, tomorrow, and then taking on the emperor. It sounded like my idea of a super good time. “I serve stew for a reasonable price, not just drinks,” I quipped. “Never underestimate what a hot stew can do.” I paused. “That would be a great slogan. Never underestimate what a hot stew can do. Maybe I’ll open up my own tavern.”

I took the bowls out to the young men and nodded at the three men sidling up to the bar. They were brawny brutes who must’ve been from one of the wealthier families in Eight. We didn’t see people from the Money Coil this far out from the castle. That’s for sure. Even Arnik hadn’t been as big as these three. Brothers by the looks of it, they all had the same chestnut hair and high cheekbones. Filling a tankard for each, I asked, “What’ll you have?”

Dyter snorted, but I ignored him. We didn’t have much variety: Ale, bread, brak, and stew, same as the other taverns in Verald. But Dyrell must have better recipes than her brother because The Raven’s Hollow was busier than The Crane’s Nest ever was.

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