The Champion's Ruin (Age of the Andinna #6) by Kristen Banet
He sat silently on a mountaintop cliff, watching the clouds drift. He had seen this visage many times in his life, though it had been over a thousand years since the last time he was granted the sight.
It always filled him with awe—such a beautiful view. He was on top of the world, the highest point in all of Anden, a place few had ever seen, and fewer lived to tell the tale.
This beautiful view was something of a double-edged sword, however.
“Love, it’s been too long,” a beautiful bird-song voice said with a familiarity that made him want to weep. It had been over a thousand years since he had heard that voice.
He gave no response as the most beautiful female who had ever lived sat beside him, hanging her feet off the same cliff. She was so close to him, he could practically feel the blood beating in her veins and the warmth radiating from her. It wasn’t until her hand came up and wiped the tear off his cheek, he realized he was crying.
“Please don’t do that,” she murmured. “Tears never suited you. They always break my heart.”
It’s been so long. How could I not cry at being reunited with you?
“You left,” she said plainly, tilting her head to the side. He was glad she could hear his thoughts. Eyes the color of a multifaceted jewel stared at him, a myriad of reds, pinks, and purples set in black. She always had the most vibrant eyes of anyone he had ever seen.
It was fitting. She was no ordinary Andinna.
I had no choice.
“I know,” she whispered, leaning in close, her lips brushing against his cheek as though she wanted to kiss him. “But the ability to reach you ends when you leave the Land of Dragons. The ability to see you, to comfort you, to tell you how much I love you. I couldn’t do that while you were gone.”
You still held sway over me…and others. You still had power over our lives.
“Yes, that’s true. I used it as much as I could, where it was appropriate.” She nodded, leaning away from him and getting comfortable as she looked over the cloud tops drifting by.
He turned to see her fully, ignoring the beautiful vista. He took in her curvy body, a voluptuous form that made mouths water and knees weak. She was the only female he’d ever loved in a physical or spiritual sense. Others he saw as friends and family, but this female always made him ache—an ache she never helped him with. She never breached the trust and relationship between them.
Did you use it on her?
A question he had wondered now for nearly three years. He couldn’t resist asking it now that he had this female by his side.
“I did,” she whispered, this time not looking at him. “I had no choice in the matter. That which is destined to bring death into the world cannot create life. Others made that decision as she set on her path.”
The Andinna don’t believe in destiny.
“No one is born to destiny. In that, you are correct, but people make choices, and those choices put them on paths. Every path has its own journey and an inevitable destination. We just see the way the paths turn and twist long before you can. We’ve lived longer, you see.”
He nodded once, accepting her words. He had made his choice once, long ago. He had given himself in the name of love, and she had given him the new path he had to walk. Had she seen him coming? He would never know, and she would never tell him. The beautiful female beside him wasn’t omniscient, but he could never deny she knew more than he ever would.
“You know, all I have ever asked of you is to love,” she said, sounding distant as if her thoughts had wandered down a path he couldn’t follow because he had wandered elsewhere. “And all I will ever ask of you is to love. To spread love. To show others how to love. To bring more love into the world.”
“Then why do you push so much? Why do you push them, darling? They’re on dangerous paths.”
He had no other option than to push them. His path was chosen long ago. Did she not see that? He certainly hadn’t realized where his path would lead him until recently, but now it was clear. How did he make her understand that?
Because I love them. As you’ve said, it’s all you have ever asked of me.
Her beautiful laugh was the last thing he heard as the world drifted away.
Mave raised her sword and roared as bodies dropped and blood sprayed. Andinna around her raised their swords as well. She felt powerful. She felt undefeatable as the Elvasi ran for their lives. Her soul rang out with the trueness of the moment, feeling perfectly at home in the carnage. This was her place.
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