“What’s going on?” Amarantha yelled, the wind whipping her long dark hair around her. She knelt beside the eavesdropper. “Did you do this?”

“No!” he yelped. “I swear, I didn’t!”

Arion looked back at the clearing. “Nephthys!”

“That sleeping girl is Nephthys?” The eavesdropper perked up.

Dee glared at him. “Don’t get any ideas.”

Arion dashed off into the clearing where the camp was. “Arion, wait!” Jason shouted, leaping after him.

Arion skidded to a stop as he reached the clearing. “Great Lord above,” Jason hissed, drawing up behind him.

Nephthys was still sitting against the tree on the far side, but she was now surrounded by a strange red glow. Black dots, almost like ashes, floated around her, giving the appearance that she was on fire. Her blood had turned almost jet-black, and dark veins and arteries spiderwebbed across her pale skin. Strange, inky tattoos blazed to life all down her arms, shining in a variety of colors – mainly dark blue and purple. Twilight wings stretched from her back, curling around her; they seemed to protect her from the strange red glow and black ashes.

Cara-delle was attempting to dart through the glow, but each time the ashes touched her fur, they clumped together and curled into bright bursting flames that burned white-hot. She yipped in pain as she dropped to the ground, trying to extinguish them. Arion recoiled at the smell of singed fur.

Jason held out his sword as he charged forward, but before long, he, too, was rolling in the dead grass as he tried to get rid of the fire that had spread across his skin.

Arion skirted around behind Nephthys, in a wide circle among the trees. He climbed one that was outside the circle of fire, scrambling across the branches, then dropped into the tree Nephthys was sitting up against.

He braced himself, then slid off the branch, landing directly in front of Nephthys. He could already feel the heat of the ashes, and he burrowed under the cataclysmic wings until he could find her arm. He gripped her wrist, praying she would come to her senses and stop.

Her eyes blinked open.

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