Dark Tyrant

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 30 (v.1) - Running Races

Submitted: October 05, 2013

Reads: 130

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Submitted: October 05, 2013

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Chapter: Running Races

“Joshua, in here! Quick!”

I frowned at the presence of a young, feminine squeak-like whisper. Even more so at the quiet sound of both the bedroom doors opening and the familiar synchronized running of Brutus’ soldiers. I heard a shocked gasp. “Back, back! Now!”

“No sister! We must hide.”

A few seconds later I sensed movement under my bed, my ears picking up faint sounds; that of which I couldn’t describe. What in the name?

My eyes flickered open to darkness as I stared as the silk canopy hanging from the wooden frame. Cautiously—fuelled by my natural curiosity—my feet took the weight of my body, the floorboards cool and smooth, my side only flaring for a moment as the skin stretched before settling. After a moment of hungrily looking in the soft, hidden light of dark a sudden noise made me jump: a muffled sneeze.

Of course they would be under the bed, I resolved, turning hastily on my heels and bending down. Two black silhouettes merged together, but the silhouettes of human arms were obvious, the elbows sticking out as the assumed hands covered their nostrils and mouths, muffling their breaths. I smiled, even though I knew they couldn’t see it. “Joshua, isn’t it?”

They didn’t dare speak, hoping that I was going to decide that the noises resulted from hallucinating. I held out a reassuring hand—they immediately shuffled back. “I mean no harm. You will not be harmed in any way. I promise.”

One shadow slid forward, but only slightly—they had good reason to be distrustful. “How can you promise? We are surely dead. Your king said so himself. For harming one named Angia. Who is she?”

I gulped quietly and involuntarily. Gut instinct advised me to tell her—it was a she as I recognised the same squeak-like feminine tone. “I am she.”

The floorboards screamed as she pushed back, fearful and obviously shocked. Suddenly the doors crashed open, firelight flooding and exiling the darkness. Orange glow flickered off the whitewashed walls. “Angia, my apologies for disturb…”

I rose, Brutus trailing off; surprised I was up, perhaps disapproving too. “Apology accepted. How may I be of assistance, my King?”

His dark eyes glanced in several places around the large, walled area before returning back to mine. I took in the other four soldiers, including Marius. “The prisoners of war have…escaped. Their cells, at least.”

I spread my arms, gesturing around the torch lit room. “Your Majesty, forgive me, but I am a touch surprised, if you get what I mean. But do what you find necessary.”

Brutus slitted his eyes at my formalities and subtle mocking; he was suspicious and knew of my caring personality.

Angia, time to start lying! A voice urged, but I scoffed. You couldn’t lie to Brutus and get away with it.

Still, I took the leap of faith anyway, my heart pumping nervously as I saw each and every eye (except for my lover’s) thoroughly searching the room. I wouldn’t take long for them to discover that the only realistic hiding place was the classic under-the-bed. I grasped on a lie, praying to all the gods that I would succeed and Brutus would believe me. “I mean, I’ve been up for a while—how could the children possibly slip past?”

His eyes flashed a dangerous black. “How do you know of their age?”

My heartbeat was loud in my ears, and I was anxious and scared. I feared for these children, knowing that these were the ones who’d suffered, they were the ones who’d been tortured. I stared deep into his eyes, as they pruned through my body language like a hawk, looking for any sign of a lie. “Voices woke me,” I began, which was actually true. “I heard names—soldiers mentioned escaped children.”

He stepped forward, and took another until his breastplate touched my own shirted torso. My pulse rocketed, my hands becoming slippy and sweaty. He glanced down, taking a hand and pressing it against his cheek. Brutus smiled. “Is it a little hot in here, love?”

The Voices provided an answer: “You would be the reason for that, my Lord.”

My sly, sexually suggestive tone caught him off guard, pleasing and satisfying him. Brutus pulled away, but with his back turned, he clicked a finger at the shadows under the mattress. “Have a lovely sleep, dear.” He exited the room, the doors crashing shut.

Marius strode eagerly forward, bending down and glancing underneath. “Would you look at this?” He exclaimed, the other two men grinning. I sucked in a breath in shock, angry and desperate—I felt like breaking down as the children cried, screaming and sobbing desperately. “Stay away from them, you toad!” I screamed at the commander.

But I was powerless as Marius drove the two children out—their bodies blue and purple, healing cuts and open lashes red, their skin inflamed from constant spanking, a rash around their ankles and wrists, my heart despairing at the obvious, vicious atrocities. Marius easily trapped their necks with his huge, powerful hands and biceps. I hissed at him. “I said release them!

“Looks like Miss Lovebird thinks she has authority over us. How adorable.”

“Go find your soul,” I snarled, sprinting out of the room, despite the desperate begging injuring and aching my heart and almost making me stop. But to save these children, I had to find Brutus—even if right now he was being absolutely stubborn and frustrating, not to mention completely unreasonable and cold. I raced down stairs, my side throbbing. I crashed into his chest. He kissed my hair welcomingly, but Brutus obviously wanted to be elsewhere. “Can’t get enough of me, love?”

The screams once more drilled into my thoughts, overwhelming me. “Brutus, please! Leave them alone!”

A sigh. “You have no right to make those decisions.”

I gazed up. “But you do! In my eyes, they are innocent. They’re just children! Children! Do you have any idea on how much of a monster you’re being? I thought for just one second,” I started, backing away, horrified, “that you had changed—that you’d found your soul and actually cared for something in this world, but no. You’re still the merciless tyrant that will always has innocent blood stained on his hands because he can’t get enough of it!” I screamed, the rage that I’d stored away for months—the months of my slavery and loss—exploding out dramatically. Even in the darkness, I knew he was fuming and seething: fists clenched, breathing heavy and irises black as ashes—like my affection for him was burning down to the very said substance. “So I officially love a beast, or perhaps I don’t?”

Shut up Angia, you fool, shut up!

I brushed aside the voice’s begging. “All those words—‘I respect and love my people’—are all lies! You may say that they are Ethropians, but what of all the men who’d just been led astray?”

“Angia…”

I snicked at his dark warning, but all too late did I realise just how rude I was being. “I promised to not get exasperated at you—but you are making it overwhelmingly difficult. Stop this impertinent, childish behaviour.”

My eyes flared, my emotions turning beyond irate. “I’m being a child! For god’s sake, release them Brutus! Or I will!” I paused, taking in his response: He was laughing silently, doubting my words. “Nightmare is fast enough!”

He advanced on me, taking my shoulders gently, but I heard another weak scream. Somehow, my anger collapsed to dust, mighty mountains now pebbles. He tilted my chin up with a thumb. “Angia, I have my reasons.”

But of course there were still sparks. “Enough with the secrets Brutus! I’ve had enough. Especially if it concerns me and especially if I’m going to bloody marry you!”

Brutus kissed me, sliding his hand behind my neck. His love for me was vast, and it seemed my recent insults had been wiped clean as he understood the core reason for my anger—it reminded me of my lust for revenge, to make those who’d caused me such suffering while locked in a cage, screaming for release at brick walls, suffer too; let them live my pain for every remaining day of their life. “My love, never would I try to lie to you—a different story for yourself, I will add.”

I blushed. “But you won’t hurt them anymore?”

Brutus’ eyes sparkled, his smile hinting reluctance. I was flooded with dread. “Return to your room, Angia.”

I huffed. “That’s a little difficult, Brutus. You see, those children—”

My lover’s hand covered my mouth, but his status as that was dropping alarmingly quickly as my irritation increased and patience with him dissolved. His fingers played with my lips, but I viciously slapped away his hand. Brutus raised a brow. “Do you not appreciate my affection?”

I stepped forward, toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose, glaring and boring deep into his eyes, the screaming becoming louder. “What I don’t appreciate, Your Majesty, is the torturing of children!”

I hissed at his smirk. “Listen here, Brutus.” I began, droplets leaving wet trails down my nose and cheeks. “I love you, and I need you…to-to understand this: Please find it somewhere in your love for me to have mercy and spare these children. You-you spared m-me.”

Brutus held out an arm; unknown to me, Marius had gagged both children and was dragging them past us. He glanced at me, explaining. “It seems that Angia is quite persuasive. Release them.”

Marius grunted, and threw the children down. The king unsheathed his sword. I gaped at him as Brutus pulled the boy up, pressing the hair-thin edge of his sword into Joshua’s neck. “Brutus no!”

But it was too late—the execution was done, the beheading and death of an innocent, young life had passed. I screamed in horror, the dead boy’s sister weeping and crying on the cold, stone floor. I charged at Brutus, throwing a swift kick at him. “You—monster!” And with each word, my fists flew at his face, and each strike Brutus easily blocked. I was so angry, so enraged at his lying, actions and treachery, that the emotion burned my veins. There was a storm in my eyes; my breathing heavy and burdened with hate—yes, right now, I truly seethed and hated Brutus. One more punch sailed towards his face, Brutus catching it around my wrist. He twisted my arms around my back, staring sternly at me. “Angia—”

I TRUSTED YOU, YOU BASTERD!”

His grip tightened, a wince escaping my control. I continued my screamed anger. “I ASKED YOU FOR A SIMPLE THING—MERCY, YOU DOG—AND—” I cried out from Brutus’ knee smashing into my gut, my side enflaming, and I was once more reminded of my serious injury. How had it already healed?

“You will respect and obey your master and his choices, Angia.”

I glared at him; my body trembling as it struggled to retain the fiery, raging emotion. “You don’t deserve respect,” I spat. “I thought you cared for me and the kingdom’s people! All of those kisses and caresses, and your gentle affection, it was all a huge drama act?”

A glance from my ex-lover dismissed the men, but they found amusement in trampling all over the mourning sister. He focused back on me, scorching me with a scowl. Tears broke through, and I gasped, my chest heaving with every broken-hearted sob. I looked at him, his eyes revealing no slip of pity. “I hate you!”

I struggled to free my wrist, grunting and glaring. “LET—ME—GO!”

Brutus pressed his lips together, thinning his eyelids ever so slightly, his black irises looking that of an enraged, predatory tiger. Behind me, I was well aware of the bawling child, and even in the darkness, I noted her desperate, broken hope, of her despair, forcing her to shake her brother’s headless body—the girl was in such a state of shock that she couldn’t fully believe that Joshua was—

I cut of the thought, refusing to think of the prospect to, yet that same idea as driving me on, blocking out many mental pleas. I twisted and resisted against Brutus, the name barely registering in my mind as well, tainted thickly with disgust. “Beheaded him just the way you were to your sister!” I screamed, my throat painfully choking back waterworks. “Except this time you take all the guilt, like the sick demon you are!”

He stiffened in horror and shock, and in his hesitation, I finally broke free, hastily stepping away—even though the lamb had escaped the claws, it hadn’t escaped the tiger. My feet raced away from Brutus, and I scooped up the girl, heading for the stables. The further I got away from him—there was no word horrible to describe him; or perhaps he didn’t deserve one—the better I would be. The weeping girl sobbed and struggled in my arms. “No! Stop! Don’t—leave me alone!”

And I understood her reason—the stench of suffering and imprisonment: the dungeons. But I turned away from the reek and continued down a set of torch-lit stone stairs, the gentle snoring of horses sounding from further on. “Nightmare!” I screamed hastily, knowing any minute Brutus would figure it out, and then my plan of saving this bruised and abused girl would come to a sudden and shocking death. Nightmare was near in an instant, cocking her head curiously. I threw the girl on her back, the black mare jolting in surprise, even more so when I swung up and kicked her, urging the king’s horse forward. My ears detected the faintest trace of soldiers’ march, and desperation made me lean forward and whisper angrily in her ear, being careful not to over-confine the child in front of me. “Nightmare, move now!”

She huffed, sweeping her head to and fro unsurely. “My Liege, there! In the stables!”

All the other animals in the stables were gradually waking from the commotion, Glayds trotting over curiously. I kicked Nightmare hard, slapping her shoulder.

Perhaps she can only be commanded by Brutus, a voice suggested, my heart sinking at the thought, even though physically it was beating like staccato drumming. Glayds nuzzled my arm, the little girl looking up at me for reassurance at the horror she would experience if we were captured—and what punishment I would suffer from because of Brutus. His name sent unwanted longing in my gut; I truly felt hate and anger towards that man, the man I’d once loved.

Maybe you still love him; I surprised myself with that strange idea, pushing it away. More torchlight filled the room, and I set my eyes on his distasteful gaze, black hair unruly and neglected from the strains of kingship, six soldiers arrowing out, three on either side, all brandishing deadly, sharpened metal. The child shrieked in fear, Nightmare’s muscles lurching with surprise. My pulse was like an orchestra of drums, pounding and tearing into my thoughts and mind.

“Dismount immediately,” our leader growled furiously, enraged that I would dare do such a crime: Mount—with the intentions of riding, or even attempt to steal—Nightmare without his permission. She was his prize, the pearl of all his horses, perhaps even his cavalry. I was cornered in a precarious situation and this was my last card, the last, thin string before I fell into the gorge. My feet slammed into her sides and I snapped the reins. Brutus smirked. “The best you’ll achieve is a failed attempt at breaking her ribs.”

I searched desperately for anything that might command her to run, anything that Brutus said or—I froze, my eyes expanding with glee. I pulled the girl closer, gripping the rope reins. My gazed locked onto Brutus’, his sight drifting up and down as he tried to understand my body language’s sudden change. I grinned, his very words being recited in my mind.

“Dolce…” I began, realisation dawning on his face—my heart melted with smugness and happiness at his laughable expression, Nightmare stiffening at she recalled the words, preparing to run. “Yavenna hasion!” The rope smacked against Nightmare’s neck, and I waited for the wind to slam into us. My heart shot up a few more notches when nothing happened.

Brutus snickered, holding back a grin, stepping forward, pulling his sword out. “Seize them.”

The soldiers surged forward, but in a spilt second, I discovered my next line: “HACK!”

Nightmare bulleted at the commanding word, running like a gunshot releasing the bullet, barging through the stable’s doors and into the night, moonbeams guiding our way. Exhilaration sent me into a high, and I was overjoyed. I snapped the reins once more, Nightmare taking us into a higher gear. She was unstoppable, insurmountable. Nature had created her, but Brutus had perfected her. Even on bareback, the black mare was swift, graceful and powerful, every stride a gift from the heavens. I leaned into the wind, becoming a kind of shelter for the girl as she experienced something so awesome and unconquerable.

One forty-five! One forty-five! The voices chanted eagerly, urging me to push Nightmare to her physical limits. Her muscles rippled and worked with every sublime stride, as they pushed her legs up and forward at a shocking rate across the country. The wind stung in my eyes, and my hair felt like it was being hauled back, my mind flashing with the prospect of falling off. Just like the battle and the evening before…the memory brought back a vibrant flush of desire and hope, but I brushed the longing away—not quick enough, however, for a voice to point out something else: And every time, Brutus has always been there.

My gut ached as I unwillingly replied to the mental conversation. You’re wrong.

The voice saw my tortured memories that I supplied, a silent argument in itself. They—my mental friends—had felt and experienced my pain and suffering. All along, Brutus was the core for why I’d had to go through that, and all along…

You still fell in love with him.

I was shocked, awed and horrified at the same time. My decisions did a sharp, unexpected U-turn, my arms tugging on the reins. The wind, the speed and the fearful power cut off like a plug in a drain.

I wanted him—how bemused I was at that idea, so suddenly thought of. I wanted him right now. I wanted to return to him and his lush green, forgiving eyes, his strong, protective arms and tell him that we had messed up. I wanted him to kiss me sweetly and gently with his velvety lips and apologise. I wanted him to tell me that he loved me and that—a nervous squeak brought me out of my yearning thoughts. “Where are we?”

I looked around, Nightmare shifted her weight nervously, sensing something foreign and potentially threatening. An eerie breeze swayed the trees bordering the small clearing, a few deserted, neglected huts and a barn house further on.

Someone laughed. “Look at this boys.”

Brutus’ mare turned on her hoofs, backing up a step as I stared at a shadow-concealed face, the half-moon behind him. He pointed a beautifully made sword at me, the corners of my eyes catching other armed men encircling us. My heart pumped a little more frantically at his next words: “I wonder if that king of yours will miss his little soldier…”

~

Nightmare shrieked, scuttling back, only for her behind to meet the sharp point of another blade—and they were everywhere, trapping us in. I searched for any kind of weapon, but—to my greatest disheartenment and disgust—there was nothing but a rope. Even the girl had managed to slip away and fled without my knowing. I pressed my lips together, calming down my surges of fear and enragement, knowing all too well of Brutus’ unrestrained, hot anger when I returned—or when he finally retrieved me from the night. “Please, men! Let’s be rational here. I can give you anything—money, goods, whatever!”

They all laughed. “The poor girl thinks we’re common bandits! How charming.” The humoured noise intensified, but there was a strong stench of sinister in it. The once who spoke steeped forward—I assumed he was their leader—Nightmare giving a somewhat hiss in rebuke, but her stance was defensive—both for herself and me. I considered commanding her to kick, but a voice cut off the idea: As you’ve already learnt—or perhaps haven’t realised yet—Nightmare only understands body language and the Ancient Tongue.

They all exchanged glances, coming to an understanding. My ears picked up clicks and other oral sounds—obviously a code. Another breeze tickled my arm hairs as moonlight reflected on the man’s face, very gentle and faint, but just enough to discern unkempt, mustard-blonde locks reaching for his chin, a long, white scar stroking down his cheek. A peek over my shoulder revealed a mirror to be the cause of light. Nightmare let out a defiant neigh as he stepped forward again, gently digging the tip of his sword into her nose. “This horse, and its tyrannic rider, led the massacre of our people and our families!”

Nightmare growled—can horses growl?—the deep noise rumbling in her chest and throat. My heart raced as I replied, but those few in my thoughts who still revered and loved Brutus spoke anger into my reply. “You rebels know nothing!”

The leader hissed, but Nightmare was one step ahead, slightly pulling back her head and letting it fall down—the sword flew right over her ears, pushing air into my shocked face. She lunged forward, snapping at his face. Their leader stumbled as he scrambled to avoid her long, white incisors. “Restrain that equine, you idiots!”

But Nightmare was living up to her name, protesting every threatening move of our opponents. I faced the man, my thoughts raking for any lead on how to escape back to Brutus—alive. “Stay back!”

But I knew reasoning with them was pointless and fell on deaf ears: revenge burned bright and only specific things would satisfy and douse the bonfire. “I was just passing through. Had to stop to get my bearings,” I explained, hoping my lie came out even and convincing—or as much as you could with your confidence shaken and potentially deadly weapons being pointed at you from every angle. Nightmare shifted her weight, reflecting my worry.

A shadowed brow rose. “Interesting that you’re wearing the king’s army’s certified armour. Just for passing through.”

I pressed down an audible gulp. “Another excuse, please.” My heart rocketed—his tone and sarcasm made it obvious that he was beyond sceptical.

Come on, Angia! I screamed inwardly, filtering any kind of knowledge that would prove useful. Think! Think!

The silence was absolutely infuriating. I turned my questions to The Voices, all of which had been hastily whispering for the past moments under my knowing, like gossiping old ladies. I laughed mentally at the sudden uproar at my description.

Excuse me Angia!

Don’t you call me old!

Hey!

Says the person who’s—but another butted in: Come on, everyone! Get yourselves together! Angia’s gonna die unless one of you useless, arguing squabblers uses your brains for once!

My attention turned away, back to reality. “Men, this is unnecessary, ple—”

MY FAMILY WAS SLUAGHTERED BY THAT KING OF YOURS!” The man roared, his expression infuriated and insulted, full of pain, agony, mourning and a bushfire of hateful revenge. “THEY PLEADED WITH HIM, AND HE SHOWED NO MERCY! HE SHOWS NONE NOW!”

Nightmare screamed—my eyes widened at the sudden sound, and I looked for the cause. My eyes caught with horror sight of a dripping gash on her buttocks, a sword’s tip freshly washed with the warm, ruby liquid. I glared at the rebel angrily, The Voices still failing at the task I’d proposed to them.

“I’ve had enough conversing with this murderer. Let us show that hound we will not be crushed!”

I considered screaming for my lover—but, for all I knew, he was on the other side of the empire. Then, out of the blue: dismount! screamed into my mind. My feet thumped on the loose dirt and damp grass, taking my weight as another prolonged breeze caressed my skin, shaking the overcrowded branches. I stormed towards the man, but this was not of my own conscious doing; once again, a voice had managed to find control, giving me commands that I submitted to. My hand swatted away his sword, the edges vertical. In my bemused, fierce scowling, I searched for who’d grabbed the controls.

and now Angia’s going to say, “Listen here, you bastard! The king has taken my family away too! Mother, brutally murdered, father, lost to battle, brother, probably dead! So don’t you dare think that I don’t give

Then I finally heard my words too: The man’s aggravated expression, like a bull seen red. “You don’t give what?” He snarled darkly, stepping threateningly closer.

I scuttled back from the blade, but there wasn’t much room for safety. “That’s—that’s not what I mean to—”

Some sharp silver glared in my eyes, raised close to the man’s temple—a dagger, ready to puncture my neck.  “Than what did you mean? You and your parasite kind think they can do what ever they like, including infecting our land!”  He spat on the ground contemptuously, followed closely by everyone else. “So let me send your dead body to that bastard-arse king of yours as a gift!”

I growled, my love for my love angered by his insults. “You’ll never touch me!”

“Oh really?” The rebel’s leader sneered, everyone laughing sinisterly. He whipped his poised arm, and I only caught the faintest moonlit glint before I realised that I was about to die. This time, Death would catch me. This time, I wouldn’t be able to escape his trap. I squinted, waiting…and I continued to wait. My eyes saw night once more, and in my hand—I gasped, absolutely shocked: In my right hand was the enwrapped-leather hilt. Nightmare gave a quiet, staccato neigh of approval, but survival instinct saw opportunity before I could: one man down, the dagger finding a new sheath in his heart. Shock hung in the air, but I knew it wouldn’t last. I charged, my hand claiming a new, lethal weapon. I considered throwing it, but for the millisecond of shock that gave me an advantage started to quickly wear, I decided against it and instead hacked it into a man’s throat. The thump of his body on the ground woke the men from their daze, their cheeks as hot and red as the blood that was pouring out of the man’s neck, their eyes glinting with fury-fed avengement. One charged, yelling out for the other to join, but in their—and mine’s—distraction, we hadn’t noticed the role of Nightmare, as she swiftly kicked the enraged rebel, winding him and sending him several meters through the air—he hit the ground hard, moaning, a cringe escaping my control as I heard a distinctive crack. The black mare paced swiftly in front of me, protecting me from their weapons and glares. I smiled behind her defending scowl: Oh bless her! She isn’t aware that Brutus and I sort-of hate each other.

An inward grumble sent my heart fluttering with irony comments. They poked a mental tongue out. Don’t tease us, Angia! How will we ever get another kiss from Brutus if you’ve messed everything up!

I laughed mentally, despite my dire situation, Nightmare screeching fearfully at those who tried to rush past. If you’re so keen on him, then why don’t you kiss him!

They made a face, my eyes glancing around the black landscape, my hand icy on the cool hilt. Oh, so very funny. So you’re leading me to believe that Brutus doesn’t pleasure you at all?

I sneered inwardly, but to the real world, my expression was an agonised grimace. “God-dammed horse! Kill it already!” One snarled.

Nightmare yelped—my heart stumbled, thinking of the worst. I rushed forward, around the black mare, crossing my arm over my torso, the sword poised over my shoulder, ready to strike and hack at whoever dared harm the king’s prize.  “Stay back! You don’t know of my skill!”

“Neither do you, little one,” a rebel shot back, his sneer flooding anger into me.

I forced a smirk, but my faked confidence was only skin-deep and was shattering. I’m such an idiot! I screamed, inwardly shaking my head and pulling at my hair. Why did I run?

Yes. You. Are. The Voices spelt out, utterly synchronised. But sulk in Brutus’ arms, muttering desperate apologies after this is over. And…now!

I shot forward, extending my arm out, right into the neck of another. That left three—three very enraged and potentially murderous rebels, their swords swinging and stabbing. I desperately tried to dodge them, to protect Nightmare; she was my only connection and reminder to Brutus, my lover so unfortunately and irritatingly far away. A blade barely missed me, but I found an opening and took a fatal strike, the rebel’s neck bleeding him to death. But the violence was against my nature, aching and tearing at my soul. “Stop!” I shouted, holding my sword warily out. “Enough!”

Even so, one still charged, his eyes like that of a mourning, enraged wolf, his eyes dripping and leaking ached tears. I parried his rage-induced strike, and swiftly ended his heart’s agony. Seeing the death and defeat of my doing, the last remaining were hesitant to attack, and ran their eyes up and down my figure cautiously, taking me in and assessing me.

There was blood on my hands, and I wanted no more. Eerie silence hung in the air, a showdown of stares occurring—it seemed that the break your contact was to announce your wishes for death. Another ghostly wind blew through, pulling at my wispy hair, moonbeams gently lighting up the night. “Men,” I announced, “I will keep having to kill you in an act of self-defence. I do not want to do this.” I lowered my sword, taking a chance, never abandoning one’s eyes. He glared fierily back. “Now, let’s all be civil, and sit down, and how about we try and talk this through?”

But the rebels saw my words as hocus, narrowing their eyes in deep suspicion. Nightmare, too, knew of their change in body language, even if it was slight, and before I could blink, she kicked one to the ground, his ribs cracking and his organs rupturing. The last rebel blinked dumbly in shock, stepping nervously away, his hand slipping on his leather-bound hilt as the rags of the rebels raised his hands in surrender. “Please, leave me alone.”

Nightmare huffed angrily, his fear forcing him into a crazy run, leaving the scene of death as fast as he could.

I heard a moan, bittersweet, husky coughing encouraging my eyes to follow the directions of my ears: The dying man, that second rebel Nightmare had viciously attacked. I shuffled carefully to him, noting sadly the blood flooding the unruly vegetation, staining it the colour of life. As I approached the rebel, I took in his dirty features, oily, tangled, long caramel hair, ocean blue eyes, desperately begging me to kill him, to let Death sweep him into his arms and relieve him of his agony—the excruciating pain of loss, cutting deep and never properly healing. He drew in a ragged, unstable breath, but it was weak and despaired.

Suddenly, I was hit, and hard. All too quickly, I made the connections, putting together the pieces for some elaborate, sadistic puzzle by Hisca to torment and torture me:

I missed the way his hair rippled in the wind…

I gasped in shock, astounded and horrified. He seemed to realise it too, his eyes widening by extreme amazement. I dropped to my knees, tears streaming, my hands gripping his. “Oh father!” I sobbed, overwhelmed with a stinging, torturous pain. I met his gaze, memories flashing and reminding me.

Angia…” Cambrel rasped weakly, only just shaking his head. Through the slightest rip in his shirt, I saw blood blooming internally across my father’s tanned chest.

He let out a relieved sigh, and I knew what was coming, grief smashing into my emotions. The tears rushed out, and I gasped repeatedly with every sobbed breath. “Father!” I cried, desperate. His features relaxed, my arms frantically shaking his shoulders. “No! Father! Pleeease! Come back! Come back!” My body was shocked, unable to point fingers, except to gape and blink, bystanders to my distressed, despaired, hysterical mourning.

Seconds passed.

Then minutes.

No! No! It—it can’t be!

“Father…” I begged, my head hanging, every tear like acid on my cheeks, silently falling to his shirt, wetness blooming, my eyes weeping. “Come back…”

I couldn’t believe it; couldn’t grasp the fact that I’d…that I’d just murdered my own father.

 


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