Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 25549

Nadia is not ready to go to the Sanctum. She has proven that. This time, I was barely able to catch her before she flung herself off of that high building and destroyed herself yet again.

But Lela won’t accept it. I had harbored a fragile hope that she would. I wanted to be with Lela in the sunlight. So badly. She will not go without Nadia, though. She could never leave her behind.

I understand the feeling completely, even though the reality of it hurts. Lela cannot hide her thoughts from me, not in this case. I saw her plan as if she’d spoken it aloud. She will take Nadia to the Sanctum and offer herself in exchange for Nadia’s freedom.

And I know what the Judge will do, because Lela is perfect for the Guard. She would be brilliant. But there would be no one here to train her, because I will have to leave soon, or risk dying myself. I can feel myself growing weaker. My service is coming to an end. If Lela becomes a Guard, she’ll be alone here. And there are Mazikin in this city, and they are trying to breach the wall, and it is too much to lay on the shoulders of one inexperienced Guard, no matter how strong and smart she is.

Lela has placed me in an impossible position, but not the one I expected. I know what I have to do now. I will take Nadia to the Sanctum myself, and I will ask the Judge to free her in exchange for my continued service. I would tell Lela of my plan if I thought for a moment that she would go along. But I know her well enough now to know that she wouldn’t. It’s not just that she is stubborn (one of her more endearing and infuriating qualities); she also cares for me. I mean something to her, exactly what I do not know, but I can tell that she wishes for my happiness and peace. It is an amazing, wonderful feeling, knowing that. It is also the reason I cannot let her know what I’m going to do. Instead, I will take the fragile trust she has given me, and I will set it on the altar and light it on fire.

I am willing to do it, if it means she can go to the Sanctum and be released into the Countryside.

But that is not the impossible position I’m referring to. It is this: she asked me to stay with her tonight.

Neither of us is ready for that, and both of us would go into it knowing we were about to deceive one another. But this is our last chance, our last moment. And I want her so badly that I don’t know if I can stay away. I want to have as many memories of her as I can to hold tight after she is gone.

Enough of that. I will decide after I have talked to Raphael. I need his assistance to sedate Lela long enough for me to take Nadia to the Sanctum. Once I know he will comply with my wishes, I will figure out how to say goodbye to the girl who has made me feel more alive than I ever have—even when I was actually alive—understanding that she will hate me when she finds out what I have done.

But I think that is love. Imperfect, inexperienced, stumbling through the dark love, but love nonetheless.

In fact, I am sure of it.

****THIS is the last journal entry that will be posted here. ALL the journal entries will remain up for you to read—there are over 175 of them! If you want to read them all together, plus 30 additional entries during the timeline of Fractured, a novella from Jim’s perspective, and 5 bonus scenes (including 2 that take place after the events of Chaos), then you can! Stories from the Shadowlands is available now!

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 25548

She is awake. She is alive. Her taste is in my mouth.

When I first heard, I had just come in from patrol, and I barely took the time to strip off my armor. I ran down the hall, but just before I burst through the door, I was overcome by a fear so thick that it shoved me back.

This could be the moment that I find out it isn’t real, I thought. The moment she tells me I have been a fool.

So I went in, and I saw her, sitting up in her bed, her hair tangled and wild around her face, her amber eyes on me. And it hit me, all at once, how much I’ve needed to see those eyes, how much I’ve needed to see them open wide and full of curiosity and life. It hit me so hard that I was shaking as I sat down at her bedside. It broke me. I collapsed in on myself. Loss does not make me fall apart. But a gift like this? I cried for the first time since … I have no idea.

She seemed baffled, but then it became clear she had no idea how long she’d been gone. She was apologetic, for what I’m not even sure. But then she said she’d missed me, and she asked me if I’d missed her, and I gave her my most honest answer.

Kissing Lela Santos is like nothing I’ve experienced before.

I did not tell her my fears about Nadia. I didn’t have time, and I was so lost in Lela that I could barely remember Nadia’s name anyway. But then Raphael came, and he said Emir had been killed near the wall. I have been waiting for my platoon to gear up, but now we are leaving together on a patrol. It will be hard to focus, knowing Lela is awake and waiting for me to return. 

Stories from the Shadowlands is available now!

Well, here it is. And this was truly a labor of love. During the two years since Sanctum published, I’ve steadily been writing not only Malachi’s journal, but also some bonus scenes and the novella contained in this volume. This was not a small project—it’s over 250-pages long. It contains:

—All of Malachi’s journal entries (more than 200) including 30 exclusive, never-before-published entries that reveal his perspective during the events of Fractured.

—A 50-page novella from Jim’s perspective (Libertine) 

—Three bonus scenes from Sanctum from Malachi and Ana’s perspective (She is the Mission, An End and a Beginning, and The Dark Tower) 

—Two lengthy scenes that show some of the surviving characters post-Chaos (DON’T read these before you read Chaos—it’ll spoil the end!) 

STORIES FROM THE SHADOWLANDS will tide you over until Chaos, or maybe console you when it’s over. Either way, I hope you enjoy it. I made it just for you. 

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 25544

Nadia attempted escape again. I caught her in the stairwell of that tall building. I think she was going to try to throw herself off the top of it. I wrestled her down the stairs, down the street, down the hall, and I posted a Guard at her door. She will not escape again. When Lela awakens, Nadia will be here to greet her, even if I must tie the girl to a chair.

I have tried to be nice. I want to be nice. I understand what this is like, and I feel for her. But every time I look at her, I think of what Lela went through to save her, and I want to shake Nadia until she understands.

My words have not brought Lela back. Raphael is quiet and grim as he looks in on us. My Guards are quiet, too, like they are afraid to anger me, like anything might do it. And they may be right. I feel a bit like a grenade these days. Too many losses, too many changes.

And despite all that, I am ready, I think, to go to the Sanctum. But somehow, I cannot bear the thought. Because Lela needs to go, too. She needs the sun, and the peace. I wonder if she has had a moment of true peace in her entire existence, and I want that for her. I want to hunt it down and drag it to where she is, I want to carry her until we find it. She belongs in the Countryside. I would like to spend one day with her out there, just one day, just to see if this thing that has grown between us can live in the light. 

**ONLY TWO journal entries left to post. However, all journal entries, including 30 from Malachi’s time in the land of the living, will be available TOMORROW, and you can pre-order Stories from the Shadowlands now. It also includes a novella and several bonus scenes, including two after the events of Chaos.**

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 25543

No sightings of Mazikin at the wall, but there have been reports of unusual activity from some of the Guards. People running in these areas, scattering as the Guards patrol. Something is happening, I am sure. I’ve increased the patrols to the area yet again.

Lela has been unconscious for seven days. She lingers in this still, quiet state, and I am having trouble remembering what her voice sounded like, what her smile looked like. It is easier to remember when I’m not in her presence, when she looks so different than she should.

Her cheeks are hollower. There are circles under her eyes. Her hands are still, her muscles are slack. It is not right.

And Nadia tried to escape again today. She headed for the exact same building and I caught her easily. This time I was not as gentle. “You will be here when Lela wakes up,” I snapped as I carried her down the corridor, back to Ana’s quarters. “If she wakes up and you are gone, what do you think that would do to her?”

“She doesn’t know who I really am,” Nadia mumbled. “She’d be so disappointed if she knew.”

“We’re all scared of that, Nadia. That doesn’t mean the only alternative is to destroy yourself.” I put her back on Ana’s cot and walked away without another word.

I am going to get up at any minute and go back to my quarters. I have nothing left to write. But still I sit here, next to Lela, listening for the next breath, and the next, and the next. 

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 25541

I patrolled today along the wall, but the suspected breach points so far have not been more than chips and gouges in the stones. I have assigned more Guards to patrol the area anyway.

I have been to see Nadia. I brought her clean clothes and a hairbrush and a tray of food. She gave me a fragile smile. She said that Lela is a good friend and she hopes she is all right.

She is not all right, I wanted to shout. She won’t wake up. She won’t move. And she is only here because of YOU. But of course, that would not be helpful. So I left Nadia with her tray and I came here.

By Lela’s side again. Raphael says he does not know what will happen. She could wake up at any moment. Or she could die at any moment. One breath away from either fate. I could get her back, or I could lose her, in the space of a few seconds.

So I finally began to talk. I need you to come back because I don’t understand, I said. I don’t understand if I have made all of this up in my head, or if you feel it, too. Is it because I had waited so long, in so much darkness, that when you arrived it felt like you were the sun on my face? Would any girl have done that to me, or is it you?

I think it is you. There is a wildness in you that makes me want to grab you and crush you against me and bury my hands in your hair. There is a vulnerability in you that makes me want to destroy anything that threatens you. But within those two brackets, there is a you that intrigues me, the you that asks so many questions and rolls your eyes when you get an answer that doesn’t make sense. The you that argues. The you that manages to be witty even when you are scared to death. The you that doesn’t seem to realize just how beautiful you actually are. The you that is pure mystery that I am dying to unravel.

You must wake up, so I can figure this out. You must wake up and tell me if I am deluded, if I am weaving my own dangerous fantasy, or if you are beside me at the loom, and we are together in this.

I have been alone for so long, Lela. I don’t know what is real. Wake up and tell me. Please. 

Our heads snapped up at the sound of a low moan. A man lay crumpled in the road about a block ahead. Blood oozed from a gash across his forehead. Ana and I locked eyes, then crept toward the man, sticking close to the shelter of the nearest building. Ana reached him first and knelt at his side. The back of his neck was blistered and raw from lying in the sun, as were the backs of his hands. He wore a stained and torn leather smock, similar to the ones Raphael had given us. His lips were a startling color, redder than the most chapped lips I’d ever seen. He groaned as Ana touched his shoulder. “Hey,” she said to him. “You need some help?”
The man said something in a language I didn’t understand. I turned to Ana, who spoke several languages, but she looked as lost as I felt. “Let’s at least get him off the street,” she said. “He’s roasting alive.”
We grasped the guy under his arms and lifted him off the road. His blistered fingers clutched at our cloaks, and he licked at his crimson lips with his tongue, which was an equally violent shade of red. Though I wanted to help him, revulsion made my throat tighten.
“It’s all right,” Ana soothed as we dragged him toward the nearest building. Both of us sighed with relief as we entered the shaded, dank space. It was at least twenty degrees cooler than the street and felt downright awesome. We set him on the floor and began to rise, but our wounded companion grabbed our cloaks, speaking urgent words we couldn’t decipher.
I squatted next to him, trying to get him to look at me, to see we didn’t mean him any harm. Next to me, Ana stood up abruptly.
“What should we do for him?” I asked her.
“Nothing,” she whispered. “I think he’s served his purpose.”
Then I heard the growl, deep and vicious. It rolled like a wave up my spine, raising goose bumps. The bleeding man let go of my cloak, shot to his feet, and scrambled across the space to press himself against the wall. I looked over my shoulder.
Ana stood between me and the threat. She’d already drawn her knives. “He was a decoy.”

CHAOS.

It comes out in only one week! You still have time to preorder the ebook and get VIGILANTE, a short story from Ana’s perspective, for free. 

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 25540

I had just returned from a patrol to examine a possible breach in the city wall when I was greeted in the corridor by Rais, who informed me Nadia had escaped. I turned around and headed back out into the city. Fortunately, she was so focused on her plan that she did not try to evade any of us—she’d simply walked out of Ana’s quarters and right out of the station before anyone noticed she was gone. But instead of losing herself in the labyrinth of buildings, she walked straight up the street, headed for a tall building approximately ten blocks from the station.

I caught her on the steps. She struggled weakly as I wrapped my arm around her waist and dragged her back. “You don’t understand,” she mumbled. “I just want it to end. I never wanted to be here.”

“None of us ever wanted to be here, Nadia. But here we are. And you are coming back to the station, and I will get you some bread, and you will have a nice, warm cot to sleep on. You will be safe.”

She did not have a reply. She has no strength to fight. I had her back at the station within an hour.

And now I am at Lela’s side again, wondering why I cannot stay away. Her chest rises and falls with each slow breath, but apart from that she does not move. When I take her hand in mine, there is no grip there, no strength. It is so unlike the Lela that I have come to know that I am scared to touch her again.

I don’t know what to say to her. I think I am scared to pour out the truest words of my heart and still find that it is not enough to bring her back to me. That I am not sufficient to lure her, that mine is not a face she will search for when her eyes open.

I kissed her, while we were out there in Harag. At that moment I felt there was nothing left but to kiss her, that I had held back for so long and had no will to fight it anymore. And I kissed her again, before I knew what she was hiding from me, when all I wanted was to forget that Ana was gone and all that had happened, and Lela let me, she welcomed me, she put her hands on me and lifted all that heaviness from my shoulders. But while I was drowning in my need of her, she was letting herself die. When I realized the truth, it was more than I could bear.

So I don’t know what to do with you, Lela Santos. I don’t know what to feel or say. I don’t know if I should leave you to yourself, to Nadia, and even if I should, I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if you bring out the best in me or the absolute worst. I think maybe it is both at the same time.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll come back, and I will be brave enough to say these things out loud.

I miss Ana. If she were here, she would call me out for the fool I am, and I would deserve it.

**ONLY 5 journal entries left to post. However, all journal entries, including 30 from Malachi’s time in the land of the living, will be available 10/6, and you can pre-order Stories from the Shadowlands now. It also includes a novella and several bonus scenes, including two after the events of Chaos.**

Translated from Malachi’s Journal: Day 25539

No sign of Ana. I am glad, but I am grieving. That is all I can say about it.

I write this as I sit next to Lela, who has been placed in Lutfi’s old room. His things have been cleared out, but I think he would have been happy to give up his chambers for her. He was gentle, and I think he sensed she needed gentleness.

Her wound is healed, but she is not waking up. Raphael suggested I talk to her, but I’m not sure what I could say. I don’t know who I am to her, or what she wants from me. I don’t know if she wants to know what she’s become to me. I don’t know anything right now.

I was informed last night that a fifth Guard—Saqr this time—was slaughtered ten blocks north of where Issam was killed. So very near the city wall. I’m going to leave for patrol shortly.

I visited Nadia last night. She is pretty in a frail, fragile kind of way. I took her a plate of food, wishing I had something better to offer her than stale bread and over-salted, gluey soup. I tried to explain to her what had happened and where she was. I told her Lela was here, too, and she expressed a vague interest in her friend. I felt the rise of frustration inside me, knowing what Lela sacrificed to get Nadia to this place of safety, and then I reminded myself how Nadia came to be in the city. It is perhaps too much to expect that this girl would realize how much she is loved. But I tried to tell her. I tried to explain. Lela was more than willing to give up her life for Nadia’s, even though she was scared, even though she had no desire to die.

She was willing. And that is love, I think, expressed through pure bravery and selflessness.

Enough. I must leave for patrol. I have been sitting here for the last many minutes, writing nothing, staring at Lela’s face, willing her eyes to open. Enough.