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“My parents are in the panic room—” Delilah began, but she couldn’t even finish her sentence before Astrid let out a delighted gasp.

“They have a panic room! They’re hiding Bryn in there!” Astrid shouted, pointing wildly into the house. “Search the house until you find her.”

“Is this really necessary?” Linus asked. “This all seems to be getting out of hand, especially with everything that’s going on outside. You should take Astrid back to her house so she can be safe.”

“As soon as we find the traitor, this will be all over,” Janus told him firmly. “And then everyone can be safe.”

That was when I knew that this wouldn’t end peacefully, and I couldn’t let Ember, Delilah, and Linus fight my battle for me. I stepped out from the kitchen. Astrid screamed when she saw me, but her eyes were wide with excitement.

“I told you she was here!” Astrid squealed.

Janus raised his sword, and his eyes were unforgiving and his jaw was clenched. I knew that look—he meant to kill me, with Astrid cheering him on.

“It doesn’t need to come to this,” Delilah said.

She stepped closer to him, perhaps meaning to reason with him, but she didn’t understand the severity of the situation. With the tension of the war, Mina’s fabrications about me, and Astrid screaming in his ear, Janus was like a gun, cocked and loaded, just waiting for something to set him off.

When Delilah stepped toward him, that was it. He drew his arm back—he was going to kill her, the way he would kill anything that stood in his way. Everything unfolded so quickly, but it felt like slow motion—like the world had stopped and I could see it all but I couldn’t move fast enough to change anything.

Linus shouted the word stop, but Ember was already moving, diving at Delilah and pushing her out of the way. Delilah fell to the floor just as Janus drove his sword straight through Ember, and she hit the floor with a sickening thud.


allt är mitt

I ran at Janus, not caring if he was a Högdragen or if he truly believed he was justified in what he’d done. For a moment my anger blocked out any rational thought, and I was just moving.

Janus raised his sword, blocking me, but I was moving faster and faster. So each time he blocked me, I would move away and come at him quicker, until I finally found my opening. I drove my blade through his throat, pushing him back against the wall, until I’d pinned him there like a bug in a glass case. Blood poured from his throat, staining the dark fabric of his uniform.

I left him that way and turned back to survey the scene. Astrid stood with her back pressed against the wall, looking rightfully terrified. Linus stood off to the side of Ember with tears in his eyes, and Delilah was sitting with Ember, holding her in her arms as she slowly bled out.

I walked over to them and fell to my knees.

“Why did you do that?” Delilah asked through tears, and brushed Ember’s hair back from her face. “You shouldn’t have done that.”

“Of course I should have,” Ember said, her voice soft as she stared up into Delilah’s eyes. “You’re alive, and you’re safe, and I love you. There is no greater thing I could do than die to save my true love.”

“Ember, I love you,” she sobbed. “What will I do without you?”

“Fight.” Ember closed her eyes, but her chest was still rising and falling with shallow breaths. “And live. My love will go on with you, so live as long as you can.”

“Allt är mitt, och allt skall tagas från mig,” Delilah said, reciting a Pär Lagerkvist poem in Swedish, sounding lyrical and beautiful. “Inom kort skall allting tagas från mig.”

While my Swedish wasn’t as good as it should be, I thought what she said translated to, “All is mine, and all shall be taken away from me, / within moments all shall be taken away from me.”

Then Ember took her last breath. Delilah leaned over and gently kissed her on the lips, and then she laid her head on Ember’s chest and wailed like her heart had just been ripped out of her.

One of my best friends had just died, and I wanted to fall apart the way Delilah was doing, but I knew there wasn’t time. Later, I would mourn for Ember the way she deserved. But now I had to finish things so that she wouldn’t die in vain. I needed to get Delilah safe.

I stood up and pulled gently on her arm. “Delilah. You need to let Linus get you to safety.” I looked back at him. “You do know how to get the refugees out of here, right?”

He nodded, wiping at the tears in his eyes. “Yes. Ember showed me. I know what I need to do.”

“Good. I need you to take Delilah out of here and keep her safe.” I turned back to Delilah, since she still hadn’t gotten up, and I pulled her to her feet. I put my hands on her face, forcing her to look at me. “Listen to me, Delilah. I know this is hard, but Ember died so that you could live. So you need to live. You have to pull yourself together, and follow Linus out of here. Do you understand me?”

She tried to stop her tears and nodded. “Yes.”

“Good.” I took Ember’s sword and handed it to Delilah, since Linus already had his own. “Move quickly and stay safe.” I looked from one of them to the other. “Both of you.”

“I will,” Linus assured me. “I’ll finish what Ember and I started.”

He stood up tall, looking more confident than I had ever seen him before, and I hoped I was doing the right thing, leaving him to protect the thing that meant the most in the world to Ember. But I had trust that she’d trained him right and he could do this.