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Shadow in the West

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One - Sienna

“Honestly, I thought you would put up more of a fight.” He laughed and walked around the small chair I was tied to in the middle of the room, I mean they could have thought of a more creative way to keep me captured, this shit was amateur level. “The daughter of the great King, I have to say I am very disappointed.” He admired the dual board sword his guards had taken from me when I was captured, his eyes moved to mine and he smiled. “Don’t worry, when I kill your father I’ll be sure to tell him what a failure you were…”

I tilted my head and let my eyes roam over his body, he was massive, pure, solid muscles lined his body. “Do you have any children?” I asked, looking back into his eyes.

He was taken aback by my question but indulged me.

“I have a few…”

I smiled. “Pity. Imagine having a father like you.” He laughed, but I wasn’t finished. “Don’t worry, when I kill them I’ll be sure to tell them how weak you were…”

Rage flared his nostrils as he strides toward me. This is what I had been waiting for. He struck me hard in the face, a small cracking noise and shooting pain confirmed he had broken my nose, all I needed was the blood to start gushing and I’d be ready to strike. He turned his back to me to walk to the table that held my weapons. I lifted my leg up towards my mouth, bending as far as I could, I had trained for this over and over just in case I had found myself in this exact situation. My teeth just made it to the fleshy part of my calf, I bit down hard, drawing blood and filling my mouth with skin and meat, I moved my tongue into the wound and pulled the small razor blade hidden under my skin, sucking it into my mouth just before he turned back around, the blood from my nose covering the blood that was now around my mouth.

“Listen here, you little shit…” He growled. “I don’t know what you thought you were going to accomplish coming into my city alone trying to take it from the inside, but I can assure you my people will never be under the control of your father…” He moved closer to me, his hands resting on either side of my tied down arms. His eyes moved down my body, my chest heaved with the effort it took to get my weapon, he seemed to like what he was looking at. He moved in closer, his nose grazing at my neck just under my ear - he was making this too easy for me. “But, I suppose I could have some fun with you before I deliver your body back to the Dark City…” I could tell his was smiling as his pressed his lips to my neck.

I moved the blade between my teeth and bared them, wrenching my head back and throwing it forward to dive the small blade into the side of his neck.

His hands flew up to the wound as he turned to look at me with wide eyes. I used his moment of panic to throw myself and chair backwards, the back of the chair breaking under my weight as it slammed into the ground, with the arms of the chair still attached to mine I moved toward the man choking and sputtering as he tried to crawl to the door. My leg screamed with pain as I kicked him in the face, the force of my blow twisting him onto his back, I placed my foot at his throat watching as the blood spilled fast out of the side of his neck.

I looked down at his as I watched him die, his hands limply around my ankle as he tried to save himself. “My father is a cruel man…” I pressed my foot harder onto his neck. “If I didn’t kill you, we both would have died at his hands. And I quite like being alive. No hard feelings.” I lifted my foot away from his dead body and moved towards the table to collect my weapons and cut the restraints still around my arms. The door flung open before I could release myself, the two guards from outside the door moved quickly into the room.

“What the hell?!” One of them yelled going to kneel over their leaders dead body, he stood to look at me with fire in his eyes. “You’ll die for this!” He moved towards me drawing his sword.

His strike was fast and strong but I was faster, moving my arm up to defend myself his blade stuck the thick wood still attached momentary getting stuck giving me enough time to kick him directly in the middle of his stomach, sending him staggering backwards and his freeing his sword. The other guard struck just as I composed myself, he clearly wasn’t as well trained and still unsure of his weapon as he tried to slice it at my throat, narrowly missing as I leaned back slightly using my shaky balance to fall into a crouch. Using the wood still attached to my arm I swung for the side of his right knee, a crunch confirmed that something had broken as the man cried out and fell to the floor, dropping his weapon as he clutched his knee. I only had a second to react as the previous guard stuck me again, this time shallowly slicing through the skin just under one of my right ribs where my arm had been lifted to strike.

I hissed in pain and threw myself to the side to get away from another attack. I reached the guard laying on the ground, grabbing at the small knife attached to his side. My arms ached with the weight of what was left of the chair attached to them but I had to be strong enough, I was not going to die… I rolled just as the other guard struck again, going to push the blade through my turned back. He missed narrowly as his blade connect with the ground next to me. I sat as I used all my strength to throw the dagger forward embedding it into the side of the guard as he moved to straighten himself, he screamed with pain as I pushed the blade in deeper forcing him to kneel as I used the leverage to stand. I yanked the blade out and sliced it quickly across his neck leaving him to choke on his own blood.

Cutting the restraints from around my arms I moved back towards the table leaving the other guard still alive clutching at his knee, I had a feeling I wouldn’t need to worry about him anymore.

“No, please no! You don’t need to do…” His pleading was cut off by the sound of a gurgling scream as his life was taken. I hadn’t been paying attention to the footsteps entering the room but I knew who it was before I even turned to face them. “Took you long enough, Gabriel.” I said as he pulled his blade from the middle of the guards chest.

“Sorry Sienna, this place has so many fucking rooms and the guards were being less than helpful.” A playful grin spread across his face. “You’re hurt...” Gabriel asked, his grin turning into a grimace of concern, he moved toward me one of his hands stretched out.

I hadn’t realised I was shivering, the small shorts I had worn for easy access to the blade in my calf were not suitable for what we were doing; the side of my body now caked in blood, I pushed my hand harder onto the wound hoping to stop the bleeding. I clenched my jaw and forced my body to stop shaking, I needed to focus. “I’ll be fine.” I asked moving around Gabe and going towards the door.

He gently grabbed my arm and pulled me back around to face him. “Let me patch you up before you bleed out.” He said gently, digging into the small pack at his side and pulling out a bandage. I sucked in a sharp breath as I lifted my shirt to show him the wound, a few stitches later on and it would be nothing more than an annoyance. “It’s the best I can do for now.” Gabriels fingers lingered on my skin as he spoke.

I moved away quickly and turned back towards the door. We were running out of time. “It is done?” I asked as we moved through the hallway.

“Yes, we’ve disposed of the guards within the house - there were some who have decided to join us - and we have gathered the rest of the family in a room, Micheal and Grace are waiting for your orders.”

We walked swiftly through the halls of the house stepping over bodies and slipping in blood. There were too many dead… I had hoped that that there weren’t going to be this many deaths, but I had been living through this long enough to know that it would never end peacefully, my father relished in the fight for control he believed that is what made him worthy of leading, he had conquered most of the Eastern Shore a wake of bodies and pain left in his path.

We turned down a hallway lined with guards from the city, they all stood to attention as we walked past them, they must already know who I was.

“They’re through here.” Gabe stopped at a door and placed his hand on the doorknob. “Sienna, what are you going to do with them?”

I knew what I had to do, the thought of it made me sick to my stomach but there couldn’t be anyone left in the blood line, the world had reverted back to the old ways where the family who has lead will always lead until they’re bred out or killed. My father had given me the orders and if I didn’t follow through I knew who would be the one to suffer. “You know what needs to be done…” I whispered as I pushed past Gabriel and opened the door myself.

Two of my guards stood with their backs to me watching the small family perched on the couch, they closed in around me as I moved forward to stand in front of the family. “What is going on here? Who are you people?” Demanded the oldest of the children as he stood. He was no more than 16 as he stood protectively in front of his family, staring me down. I admire him for that, he was strong even in his younger age.

“I am Sienna, daughter of King, the leader of the Dark City and the conqueror from the south. You’re city is the last stronghold of the Eastern Shore and I am here to claim it in the name of my father.”

“My father would never allow…”

“You’re father is dead.” I cut him off, he fell back into his place on the couch, a small sob fell out of the mouth of the mother. “My father and the rest of the army will be coming through your city now, killing anyone who tries to stop them, he will be here soon…” I looked over the faces of the small children clinging to their older brother and mother. I couldn’t do this… “I suggest you are long gone before he gets here…”

I felt Micheal’s eyes bore into the back of my head, he knew as well as I did what would happen if they ‘escaped’. “Sienna, you can’t. You’re father…”

I turned my head to slightly look at him. “I can handle my father.” I looked back at the family. “You need to get out of here… now!” I turned and walked back out room and towards the front door of the house, Gabriel, Micheal and Grace followed leaving the family to slip out the back and hopefully to make it to safety. It was better if we didn’t know which was they had gone. I pulled the front door open and walked out onto the grass that had pushed it way back through the concrete at the front of the house. There was smoke in the distance and I could hear the faint sound of screams, my father was closer than I thought.

Grace appeared next to me, her hand lightly rested on my shoulder. “Gabriel said you needed stitches. Sit, let me fix the wound for you.”

I scoffed, “there’s no need Grace, he’d probably just rip them out when he finds what I’ve done.” My hands shook as I looked down the road that leads from the house out into the small city, all I could do was wait for my father to arrive. “I couldn’t do it... I was weak.”

Grace shook her head. “It’s not weakness.” She said softly.

The sound of footsteps broke through the trees, the ground shifted under the weight of the mass of bodies coming towards us. My father came into view first, his clothes and blade covered in blood, a slow smile spread across his face as he took in the sight of me and the guards behind me, his happiness wouldn’t last long.

He took my chin in his massive hand as he came to stand in front of me, forcing me to look up at him. “Is he dead?” He asked referring to the leader of the city I had been sent to dispose of before the forces attacked the rest of the city.


“We’ve done it Sienna!” He exclaimed moving away from me and towards the house, “finally, my dreams have been realised. With the Eastern Shores under my command the human race will thrive and prosper, we will teach the people the true meaning of being alive and the sacrifices to takes to live in this world. We will be strong and wealthy.” He turned to look at me. “We will teach them to be worthy of this life - like I have taught you - and we will take back what is ours. This world will return to its former glory and I will be the one to lead us.” I could feel something burning between us - pride maybe? Pride that I had finally stepped up and did what he had asked me to do in his conquest to rule what was left of humanity, but it wouldn’t last long… I just hoped my disobedients hadn’t been for nothing. He spun on his heels and marched into the house his most loyal soldiers following behind as the rest moved around the grounds of the house trying to find anyone who had managed to escape. “Sienna!” His voice boomed through the house, I knew he hadn’t found the bodies of the rest of the family. I turned and watch as he moved through the door coming straight for me, before I had time to react his hand was around my neck lifting me slightly off the ground, I crawled at his hand as I tried to breathe. “Where are they?!” He yelled, his eyes burning with rage.

Micheal came to stand next to my handing body. “They were gone before we got here sir, they must have known we were coming.”

My father’s eyes didn’t leave my face as he gripped my neck tighter, I could feel my face burning from the lack of oxygen and my lips began to tingle. “Find them!” He yelled to the soldiers watching and dropped his grip from my neck, my legs gave way as I slammed to the ground, coughing and gasping for breath. “I will deal with you later.” He snarled at me as he moved back towards the house.

My eyes wouldn’t focus as I tried to push myself up only to fall back to my hands and knees, my side screamed with pain and I knew I was going to pass out. Gabriel’s arms found their way around me as he pulled me into him. “I’ve got you.” He whispered as the world around me went black.


All I’ve ever known is pain. My mother died giving birth to me, I’m sure my father thinks that it was my fault. I was trained from an early age, I needed to be strong, I needed to be ruthless. My father always believed in leading with fear and strength, the more cities he took and the more he expanded the stronger his belief became. To show love was weakness, I was a weakness. I want to say that in his own way he loved me and cared for me and that’s why he pushed me so hard but I know that’s not true, I was just another weapon, unfortunately people rarely believed that I would be strong enough to take them down. He made me do horrible things, unforgivable things and I hated myself for it…

I tried to pull myself out of the haze clouding my head, it was hard to swallow. My fingers crawled their way up to my neck, poking at the tender flesh, I’m sure there would be a purple handmark choking me. How long had I been out? It must have been a few days, I knew I was back home and in my own bed. My eyes tried to pull themselves open as I went to sit up, noises from outside the door made me shoot back down under the covers, I wasn’t ready to face anyone yet.

“Sir, she’s still recovering. She wasn’t awake when I checked on her before.” I could hear Gabriel saying loud enough so I would hear, my father was about to come through the door.

I slowed my breathing and tried to make myself relax, I needed him to think I was still out cold. The door opened and his heavy steps made their way to the edge of my bed, I could picture his face looking down at me, his brows pulled into a scrawl of disappointment - he looked at me like this often. He turned and walked back out of the room, stopping outside the door to pass on a message, he knew I was awake. “When she wakes up tell her to come and see me,” he paused. “And tell her we found the family.” I could hear the smile in his voice, it sent my blood running cold.

The door closed and a moment later I felt cool fingers gently touch my cheek. “Sienna?” Gabriel whispered pushing some of my hair off my face. I slowly opened my eyes, letting them get used to the dim light. “Are you okay?”

I nodded but I could feel a tear slid down the side of my face. Gabriel’s eyes didn’t leave mine as he spoke.

“I’m sorry… Micheal came to tell you before your father got here but you were still in and out of consciousness, you lost a lot of blood. King told them not to leave until they had found all of them but as far as Micheal knows they never found the eldest boy, we think he made it far enough into the woods it wasn’t worth going after him.”

“Its doesn’t matter,” I coughed. “He’s going to die out there anyway…” My voice was hoarse and smokey, like I had aged 50 years in a few days.

Gabriel looked down to my neck, his eyebrows pulled into a frown. I knew what he we’d had the same conversation many times, it always ended the same way…


Gabriel carefully peeled my shirt off my bloody, torn back. I winced every time a bit of fabric pulled out of the fresh lashes, my father had me whipped for speaking out of term, he said it was to teach me a lesson for my weakness. I was used to being beaten, put up against opponents three times my size and twice as skilled. My father had said that pain was the cost of being alive, that the only reason our family line was still strong was because of our strength and if I didn’t have the strength to do what needed to be done I was no longer his daughter.

I wanted to prove him right. I wanted to show him that I was worthy of living.

Gently Gabriel started to wash the wounds, stitching up the deeper wounds and applying ointment as he went. I knew him well enough to know that his face was a mask of anger, tears threatening to spill from the corner of his eyes as he tried to keep the rage from boiling over.

“Sienna,” he began in a whisper. “I need to take you away from here, I need you to let me take you away from him…” His voice getting slightly louder as he grew more confident in what he was saying. “I have no one left, I have nothing, there is nothing King could use against me to bring you back… I can’t stand back and do nothing, you’re all I have.”

Gabriel was the first of my personal guard, my father bought him into my life when I was 12 years old. He was a few years older than me and had been at one of the orphanages for most of his life, he doesn’t remember what happened to his family and he never got along with any of the other children. That’s why my father chose him, he had no one.

He was trained in combat and medicine, all the necessary things to keep me alive. I was the only family he ever had and because of that he would - without question - give his life for me. Over the years I had noticed that we had grown closer, his hands lingered when he touched me, his eyes softened when he looked at me, I knew there were deeper feelings developing in both of us and I knew my father could see it to. But no matter how much Gabriel loved me, his fear of my father was much deeper, until that day.

I shook my head. “He would never stop looking for us.” I turned slightly to look at him, pain shot through my whole body, I wanted to scream but I clenched my mouth shut.

“I’d make sure he’d never find us.” Gabriel argued.

“He would find us Gabe… He would kill me in front of you and throw you in a hole with my body and watch you waste away.” I turned back to end the conversation. Gabriel knew I was right, even if my father did love me in his own twisted way he would never let something like that go unpunished and I was the only thing in this world that Gabriel loved.


I shook my head, hoping that the pleading in my eyes would stop Gabriel from saying what he wanted to say.

He sighed and helped me sit up. “You need to try and eat something.” He turned and fetched a bowl from one of the tables. “Grace made you soup, she figured it’d be the only thing you could muster.” He spooned a little and held it out for me.

I rolled my eyes. “I’m perfectly capable of feeding myself.” My voice was starting to smooth out, though it was still just above a whisper. Gabriel nodded and handed my bowl and spoon, every mouthful hurt but I needed to get my strength back.

Gabriel watched me force the food down my face, handing my water every time I paused. “How do you feel?” He asked.

I shrugged, “like I got stabbed… Nothing new.” Lately when I got hurt training or got beaten by my father it didn’t seem that bad, maybe my nerves were starting to give in and I’d be dead soon or maybe I’d just gotten so used to it that nothing seemed to hurt anymore. When I thought about nothing felt like anything anymore, I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t even depressed, I just was.

“You’re father wanted to see you as soon as you woke up…” Gabriel frowned.

I push myself slowly off the bed, waiting until I felt steady on my legs. Gabe’s hand gripped my arm, I shook him off. “I can do it myself, I’m not weak.”

He shook his head. “The only person who thinks you’re weak is you, Sienna.”

Micheal and Grace stood outside the door of my bedroom, Grace pulled me into a hug. “I was worried about you.” She held me at arms length, her soft smile making me feel uncomfortable. I always wondered how - after everything she had been through - she could still look at people with such love in her eyes. She was ruthless and strong but still tried to treat everyone with kindness. She had loved me so fearlessly I was always scared that one day she would just disappear, but like everyone close to me she was chosen for a reason.


“Sienna, what are we doing here?!” Gabriel half whispered as we stood in the shadow of a corner looking at the door. “This is crazy, you’re father would kill us if he knew what we were doing!”

I snorted. He wouldn’t kill us but he would make us wish we were dead. “You can go if you want, but I’m going in there. I have to save her…”

A few months ago I had witnessed a young girl being dragged into one of the brothels in the city, this wasn’t uncommon, there were a lot of desperate people on the streets and a lot more people willing to take advantage of them. Normally I would just pretend I hadn’t seen anything, I would avert my eyes and walk past, but this time was different. This time I didn’t look away, I watched as the men pulled this girl along after them. She was maybe a year or two younger than me, her body covered in bruises and cuts from living rough on the streets or being abused, she looked around hoping that someone would help; her pleading eyes finally locking with mine, willing me not to look away. For weeks I couldn’t sleep, all I could think about was her face and the fact that I could have helped her but I didn’t…

“They’re not going to just let you walk in there and take her.” Gabriel argued as I tried to work up the courage to push myself off the wall. “Have you thought about what you’re going to do with her if you manage to get her out? You’re father is just going to send her back to where she came from.” Gabriel was right, I hadn’t thought about how I was going to explain her to my father. But I knew my father well, if I played this out right, if he was impressed with the lengths I went to help this girl then maybe he would reconsider.

I knew what I had to do.

I pushed myself off the wall and marched up to the door, not bothering to check to see if it was open before I slammed through it with my foot, it swung open with a sudderening crash, three sets of eyes bore into Gabriel and I as we stood in the entrance.

“What the fuck?” One of the men yelled, standing up and drawing his sword. “Didn’t your mother teach you any manners little girl? You’re meant to knock on the door.” Him and the other two men laughed, clearly not fazed by our stance and drawn weapons.

“Where’s the girl?!” I demanded stepping further into the room.

A sneer spread across the man’s face. “We’ve got plenty of girls. Depends what you’re looking for, something for you and the boy maybe?” The men laughed again.

I smiled at him and headed towards the stairs. “I’ll have a look for myself, thanks.” I called, climbing up the steps to a long hallway.

“HEY! YOU CAN’T GO UP THERE!” The man yelled following me, Gabriel pushed his body between us and held his weapon ready for attack. “Move, you little shit.” I heard him say as he tried to follow me. Gabriel lunged forward to strike, his blade colliding with the mans catching him off guard and throwing him off balance. He stumbles backwards and slips down the stairs, taking the other two men with him.

Gabriel quickly turns to me. “Sienna! Hurry up and find her! I’ll hold them off.” He yells and turns back to the men getting back to their feet.

A few people have emerged from their rooms, checking to see what is going on. Most look uninterested and slink back through the doors as I pass them. I need to find her, this can’t be for nothing. I slam open door after door, stepping into the rooms, throwing men off women to check their faces. One man takes a swing at me and misses as I duck and quickly jab him in the stomach and hold his head in my hands as I thrust my knee up into his face. I can hear Gabriel and the other men grunt with effort as the fighting continues, it may be three against one but I know Gabriel can hold his own. I reach one of the last doors and step inside.

The man doesn’t stop as I walk into the middle of the room, his thrusts only becoming faster and staggered as he comes close to finishing, I’m guessing he doesn’t mind an audience. I lean slightly to the right to look around him at the small figure under him, a flash of blonde hair makes me take a step closer and I recognize the face scrunched with pain on the pillow, one side of her face is bruised purple and her eye is slowly swelling over, but there’s no mistaking… It’s her.

Rage takes over and I black out for a second, regaining control as my blade pushes through the side of the man’s stomach, spraying blood over the girl. He’s clearly caught by surprise as he flounders trying to move himself off the bed. I cry out with effort as I slide the blade through his stomach, blood pours out and he falls backwards onto the floor. The girl screams and folds herself into a ball, crying and rocking as she shakes with fear.

I reach out to touch her, my hands slick with blood. “I’m so sorry you had to see that…” I whisper as I try to pull her arms out from around her. “I need you to come with me, we don’t have time. I’m going to take you somewhere safe.”

She looks up at me with bright blue eyes - I haven’t seen anyone with such fair skin in a long time. I can see her mind ticking over as she tries to decide if she can trust me, she looks at the man dead on the floor. Before I can say anything her small hand slips into mine and she pulls herself from the bed. I grab the only piece of clothing I can find and thrust it into her hands.

“Sienna!” Gabriel calls from the hallway. “We’ve gotta go, now!” I hear him grunt and what sounds like someone hitting the floor, I rush out the door just as one of the men thrusts a knife into Gabriels leg from his spot on the ground, blood is oozing from a wound on his forehead. Gabriel falls to one knee as his leg gives out. “Fuck!” He calls out, trying to move his injured leg away from the man so he doesn’t have a chance to strike again.

I rush forward, jumping over Gabriel’s crouched body, landing next to the man on the ground. I lift a foot and slam it down onto the back of his kneecap, he cries out as I hear a bone crunch under my foot. I help Gabriel to his feet, the girl comes rushing out of the room and heaves Gabriel’s other arm over her shoulders letting him lean on her as we half drag him towards the stairs and out the door.

That was the first time I almost died at the hands of my father, he had been furious when he found out what we had done. Gabriel and Grace had been locked away for weeks before I could convince my father that the reason I had saved Grace was to add her to my personal guard. I pleaded with him to see the potential that I did, that she would be as loyal as Gabriel, that I could train her and teach her the strength he had taught me. Whether he was sick of hearing me speak or he thought I was making sense I don’t know, but one day he dragged me down to where they were being held. Gabriels leg was slowly healing and I could tell by the way he moved my father had him whipped for disobeying him, Graces face was only just starting to return to normal after the beating she’d endured before I got to her.

My father crouched in front of her, his massive frame looming over her tiny, starved body. She shook with fear but looked him in the eye as he spoke - he would see that as a sign of strength. “You can take a beating…” He murmured almost to himself as he studied her face. “Tell me,” He spoke clearer. “Do you have any family?”

Grace was taken aback by the question and considered it for a moment. “No…” She said softly but there was no emotion in her voice. She knew as well as I did her answers meant life or death.

A small hum rumbled through my father’s chest. “Do you have anything left in this world?”

“No, sir. I have nothing…” Her eyes dropped as she answered him.

He placed a finger under her chin forcing her to look back up into his eyes. “You know what Sienna is asking of you? What I am asking of you? There are many people who would wish to take away my power, the power I have fought for my whole life. They would try to take my daughter away from me, they would try to end her life.” He paused, letting her take in his words. “Strength comes only with pain and sacrifice. Would you fight for my daughter? Would you give your life for hers?”

Grace cleared her throat. I barely knew her, I had dragged her from her home and forced her into a life that no one would willing choose. But she did, she chose me, she chose to fight for me, to die for me. “Your daughter saved my life, I owe her everything.”

My father smiled and stood up. “Very well…” He turned his back to her and moved towards me, backing me into the corner of the small room. “You will train her. If I’m not satisfied with her progress,” he paused and learnt down until we were face to face, his hot breath blasting onto my skin. “You will kill her yourself…” He turned and left.

I wanted to save Grace, but I had just ended up locking her in another prison…


Micheal cleared his throat breaking apart the conversation Grace and I were sharing. “Your father knows you’re awake, he’ll be disappointed you didn’t go straight to him.” Micheal was always the voice of reason, he was the one who made sure I did what I was told and didn’t stray from my path too often. He was the one who always stood between me and my father. “You need to go see him now, Sienna.” He turned and lead us toward my father’s room.

My father sat at the table in the middle of his massive room, his presents was always overwhelming and you could feel the hostility radiating off him. Seated around the table were his advisers, with so many small towns and villages under his control he had been meeting with them almost daily, I began to wonder how much time he had before the people started to fight back. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they never did, stories of my fathers cruelty and ruthlessness spread far and wide, most of the time when he had shown up to take over a town they had already surrendered. My father had stressed the importance of learning to take over if he should die, I had been forced into war meetings and made to listen to the inner workings of his command, over the years I had become desensitised to the gory details and began to believe that what my father was doing was for the greater good, but there was a feeling deep in the pit of my stomach that I just couldn’t shake… Was it really better to be feared rather than respected?

My father looked up as we entered the room, with a wave of his hand the advisers stood and retreated to the corridor- they all knew what was about to happen. Gabriel, Micheal and Grace began to follow them when my father stopped them. “Not you three…” His voice though collected sent a chill through the room.

We stood in a tight group waiting for our punishment.

“I’m very disappointed in you Sienna,” my father began, not looking up from the papers he was reading. “I trusted you with the most important task and you failed me… I didn’t teach you to show weakness in the face of our enemies.” He stood and crossed the room to the window, the house sat on top of a hill overlooking The Dark City, far off in the distance you could see the great mountain looming over the Main Land. “I have been thinking about what’s left of humanity and the great difficulties we still face. The success we have gained from taking the rest of the Eastern Shore has shown me that I am fit to lead us into greatness, but I still worry about what is waiting for us on the other side of that river.” He turned back and looked at us, his gaze resting on each face before his eyes bore into mine. “I know you are capable of many things, my daughter. I taught you what it takes to be worthy of this life and I have trained you to survive but your disobedience angers me. You need to be taught a lesson.” He moved to the fireplace burning on the opposite end of the room, grasping at a bar that stuck out from the ashes. He lifted his hand and motioned us to move to where he stood. “I want you to remember how you failed me Sienna. I want you to remember the kindness I showed you and the second chance I gave you.” He turned to me, a hot branding iron glowed from his hand, he tugged at the collar of my shirt exposing the flesh just above my breast and without warning pressed the hot iron into my skin.

I screamed as the blinding pain shot through my entire body, my knees gave in and collapsed onto my hands and knees, pressing my fingers into the ground hoping to hold onto my consciousness. I gasped in breaths as I tried to pull myself back to my feet. My father turned back to the fire and plunged the iron back into the coals.

“Gabriel, come.” My father mentioned for him to step forward.

“No!” I croaked out, reaching up to grasp Gabes hand. “They were following orders, I told them not to do anything! Please! I acted alone!” Tears spilled from my eyes.

“This is the problem Sienna,” He said grabbing the iron from the fire. “They don’t follow your orders, they answer to me and they would be wise to remember that.” He pushed the brand on to Gabriels skin in the same place he pushed mine. Gabriel screamed and clutch his wound, little drops of spit shot from his clenched teeth as he staggered backwards trying to catch his breath.

Without a word Micheal stepped forwards and bared his skin, the smell of burning flesh filled my nostrils as he cried out in pain but didn’t move from his stop in front of my father. Grace whimpered next to Micheal as my father turned to place the iron back into the fire.

“Please…” I cried, finally having the strength to push myself onto my feet. “Don’t do this, not to her.”

“You should be careful to watch your tongue.” He spat turning to push the brand into Graces chest. Her cry was gut wrenching and I stepped forward to catch her as her legs gave in, we fell in a heap at my father’s feet, her sobs shaking my body. “Your love for them will get them killed.” He said crouching down next to me. “Now listen very carefully as I’m only going to say this once…” His breath was hot in my ear. “You will take your little entourage and you will make your way to the city under the mountain, you will learn everything there is to know about the man they call their ‘King’ and you will dismantle his power from the inside out and claim the city in my name… Do you understand me?”

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