Children of Virtue and Vengeance (Legacy of Orïsha #2)

“You tell these people their king has fallen, but you fail to mention the crime of regicide by your hand? You speak of your late brother without admitting it was you and the maji who killed the rightful heir to the throne?”

Horrified gasps pulse around us, echoing through the dome. Air that once held hope and promise withers under a new cloud of suspicion and disgust.

“That’s not true!” Amari cries.

“You deny killing your own father?”

“No, I—” Amari’s cheeks flush and she takes a deep breath. “The king died by my hand, yes, but I didn’t kill Ina—”

She doesn’t get a chance to finish. Whatever hold Amari had on her people evaporates.

“Traitor!” someone shouts.

“Liar!” another joins in. Their fury builds and crests like a wave intent on bringing Amari down. My hands shake as their rage spreads, spilling onto the maji sprinkled throughout the dome.

Amari holds up her hands, a feeble attempt to hold their fury back. The stance makes her look like a helpless cub in front of a den of snow leopanaires.

“Before you stands a traitor.” Nehanda glides forward. “A rebel who allies with liars and thieves. An insolent child who has endangered us all with magic just so she can be queen!”

“Mother, please,” Amari begs. “Let me explain!” But her voice cuts like wood where her mother’s strikes like iron.

Amari’s cries shrivel even further when the queen’s guards enter the dome, distinguished by their golden armor and razor-edged swords. In the glare of their gilded seals, I see Mama’s corpse.

I feel the heat of the flames that engulfed Baba’s casket.

“I will not allow you and your maji insurgents to run this kingdom into the ground,” Nehanda shouts. “You are under arrest for your crimes against the crown! Anyone who aids you shall be taken down!”

Panic ignites as her guards stomp forward, arming themselves with glass orbs filled with night-black liquid.

“What are they holding?” I shout at Tzain.

“I don’t know, but we have to get Amari out of here!”

Tzain runs toward the stage, but he’s not fast enough.

Nehanda fixes a golden mask over her face as her soldiers smash their orbs into the sand.





CHAPTER EIGHT


ZéLIE


WHAT IN THE GODS’ NAMES?

I step back, pressing into the wooden stage. The black liquid spreads across the sand like the tide, foaming and frothing until it takes to the air as a gas.

The dark clouds overtake the crowd, but nothing happens to the kosidán it hits. The t?táns caught in its path merely cough.

It’s the maji who scream like their nails are being ripped off.

“Help!”

A young maji scratches at his throat. His light brown skin sizzles and burns. He struggles to scream as he chokes on the black smoke.

In that instant it dawns on me, the true nature of this attack. The poison of majacite, but not in chains or swords.

In the air.

As a gas.

“Go!” I scream at Tzain and Amari, clawing myself onto the wooden platform. Fear strikes my core like a battering ram. My feet go numb as I climb.

The majacite cloud moves through the dome, its thick mass expanding like a storm. Shouts and panic fill the air as maji scatter, trampling over one another in their dash for the far exits.

“Don’t let one rebel escape!” Nehanda thunders above the masses. “Or?sha must be protected from their madness!”

“Mother, please!” Amari yells, but Tzain yanks her off the stage. He grabs my arm as he charges through the people in our way, pulling us through the hysteria.

The queen’s personal guard closes in from all sides, golden armor flashing as they run. Like Nehanda, their forearms gleam with matching gauntlets. Golden masks sit over their noses.

“Attack!” Nehanda orders, and I wait to see more majacite blades or glass orbs. But when the guards’ hands glow green with ashê, I realize the reason behind their special rank.

They aren’t just her personal guard.

They’re her own legion of t?táns.

Horror consumes me as the t?táns’ powers break free and they target a group of fleeing maji. Circles of sand harden around maji’s feet like cement. Sand pillars shoot from the ground, striking my people in the back.

I scream with rage as Nehanda’s t?táns desecrate the magic of Grounders before my eyes. How dare they wield our own gifts against us? But when one t?tán soldier bares his teeth in pain, I realize that they don’t understand the fragile magic they now have.

“Help me!” he cries.

People flee the space as the t?tán screams. The sand around him quakes with incredible force. His skin corrodes as the magic surges beyond his control.

In a flash, the green light explodes in his chest. The life fades from his brown eyes.

The t?tán falls into the sand, his corpse trampled in the fray.

“Zél, come on!” Tzain pulls me along, but I struggle to stay upright. The way that t?tán screamed, the way he lost control—I’ve felt that strain myself.

It’s the power maji are forbidden to use. A power so great it consumes all who wield it.

It’s the power of blood magic.

And somehow the t?táns have it.

“Murderer!”

Amari screams as a noble grabs her braid and drags her back. Tzain dives after them, smashing his fist into the noble’s chin.

“Tzain!” I try to stay close, but within moments they’re lost in the crowd. Without my brother, the bodies in front of me become an unbreakable wall.

“Tzain, I need you!” I claw at those in my way, heart pounding in my chest. T?tán soldiers charge from the front. The black cloud approaches from the back.

I try to forge ahead, but when the first tendril of majacite hits my neck, I can only scream.





CHAPTER NINE


ZéLIE


FOR THE LOVE of Oya.

The airborne majacite attacks from all sides. My eyes sting inside the cloud of toxic gas. Smoke burns my skin like a branding iron.

The poison sears the skin of my calf. Another cloud hits the scars on my back. As the majacite burns my lungs, I can almost feel Saran’s knife carving through my flesh.

“Don’t let the traitor escape!”

Nehanda’s shouts continue to fill the dome. My vision blurs in and out of focus as she marches forward, shaking the curls loose from her golden helmet. I don’t believe my eyes when a single streak of white falls along Nehanda’s cheek. It can’t be.…

The Queen of Or?sha is a t?tán.

The air shifts as Nehanda summons her newly awakened magic. The green light of her ashê spreads around her hands, but it doesn’t stop there. Her magic glows inside her chest, so bright it casts her ribs in black silhouettes.

Emerald light crackles around the queen’s body like lightning as she calls on a power I don’t understand. She stretches out her hands and her legion of t?táns freezes in place. My body shakes as Nehanda sucks the ashê from her soldiers’ veins.

How is this possible? I try to make sense of the sight. Green wisps of ashê break through the t?táns’ skin like smoke, traveling into Nehanda’s palms. The feat brings Nehanda’s men to their knees. She sucks the very life from their trembling bodies. One soldier seizes in the sand before going completely still.

“You will pay for your crimes!” Nehanda marches forward despite the pain she causes her own people. She lifts her palms and her eyes glow with emerald light. With another shout, Nehanda punches her fists into the ground.

The earth splits open at her touch.

“Get back!”

Screams fill the dome as Nehanda’s fracture cuts across the sand. People fall to their knees, unable to stand on top of the quaking earth.

Nehanda’s attack slows the fleeing maji down, but her eyes widen as she loses control. The shaking builds with incredible force.

Then I hear the crack.

No.

My stomach clenches when I look up. The crack cuts through the dome’s walls, spreading through the sandstone like a spiderweb.

Get up, I scream at myself as sunlight filters through the widening cracks. But despair freezes my legs in place. I can’t believe it’s come to this.

Everything we did. Everything we lost.

It didn’t change a thing.

There will be no victory in Baba’s death. I’ll never be free of this guilt—

“Zélie, move!”

Ro?n dives from the side, ramming his body into mine. We roll across the sand, and he curses when a broken piece of the dome’s wall lands on his hand.

“Ro?n!” I scramble forward on my hands and knees, choking in the majacite cloud. When I find him, he presses bloodied metal to my nose. I wheeze as a burst of clean air passes through the golden mask.

“Hold on!” Ro?n yanks me close as we barricade ourselves under a fallen slab. The dome rains down like hail. I flinch with each piece of debris that crashes against our defense.

Someone shouts my name and I stick my head out; Tzain and Amari gallop toward us on Nailah’s bare back. When she spots us, Amari stretches out her hands.

“Grab on!” she shouts.

Ro?n and I latch onto her arms as they ride past. Amari grits her teeth, bracing herself against Tzain as we clamber onto Nailah’s back.

Nailah releases a vicious roar, dodging the giant slabs that crash into the tides.

The dome crumbles in our wake as we ride away from the beach.





CHAPTER TEN


AMARI
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