Dametria was always meant to stand at someone’s side. A strong man who would tell her right from wrong and what to do. She worries too much—and a woman who worries needs someone to give her a reason not to. But the first time she wandered, the first time she strayed, she learned the hard way of where her place was. Second.
The night was dark, and so was our underground castle. All but the guards were asleep, and I was restless, so I wandered the building. She was supposed to be in her room. I’d gone to visit her in the middle of the night, as I often do, for reasons unknown to me, reasons the beast inside wouldn’t let me uncover, when I saw she was gone.
So I waited. Hours, I waited, sick to my stomach and angry at everything that moved. And I couldn’t help but think there was someone else in her life, possibly treating her better than I ever could, but what could be better than a man who lets you be a princess? She doesn’t have to lift a finger. I understood her anger towards me when I’d called off our engagement, especially so close to the date, but I had so much on my plate. I had a world to conquer and I couldn’t have her getting in my way—something she tended to do often.
When the front door finally opened, she swam in quietly, nearly shutting the door on her fin. She stifled a yelp as the door swung completely closed. And then she turned around, her eyes locking on mine in the darkness as they filled with terror. The green illumination appeared quickly on our skin, mine from anger and hers from fear.
I lifted my hand, silencing her as the animal clawed its way up into my throat and shoved the humanity inside me back into a cage. Black motes began to appear in her glow. She knew she did wrong by me.
I drifted over to her, her eyes wide with cowardice as she cringed. I’ve always been much bigger than her, but the increasing sag in her shoulders made her appear as a mouse does next to a lion.
‘Where were you?’ I steamed, lowering my hand so that it rests by my side. It took everything I had to be as calm as I was as the volcanos inside me erupted, but it was my first real test at being King: controlling your temper and using it only when needed. The animal inside me purred, laughing at my emotions and taunted me through the cage it kept me in. It was ready to take over, but I didn’t want it to. It would cross lines.
’I was... I was... out.’
Her eyes gave it all away, and I felt it, the animal’s hatred take me over. Could it be true that love and hate are two of the same?
My hand struck her. She crumpled to the ground, holding her face in her hand, socked at what I’d done, what the animal had made me do. But perhaps I wanted it to do it. Maybe I wanted the animal to finally take over and rid of any and all emotions inside me.
‘Who is he?’
She tried to erect herself once more, but green tendrils appeared and held her body to the ground; my doing. She stilled her tongue as she rested her face against the floor, knowing better. She didn’t fight, aware I was the more powerful out of the two of us.
‘Who is he?’ I demanded again, every muscle in my body tense as I clenched my hands to still their trembling. ‘What’s his name?’
‘Damian, I—it’s not that—’
‘Why must you disobey?’ I asked, calming myself as I kneeled beside her, my voice quiet and wavering slightly. I could still feel the heat at the back of my throat, the raging in my chest, the animal at my throat. But I could also feel the aching deep within my heart, glowing red with pain. I’d put so much work into building up walls around that specific feeling that I’d forgotten to actually crush it—I realized I was protecting it. ‘When will you understand that I rule over you?’
‘You aren’t my husband,’ she quipped, a tiny of sadness weaving into her shivering words.
I slapped her, her skull thudding against the ground and sending a tremor through my heart, slipping past the beast inside. This wasn’t the me I’d ever thought I’d be, but the monster inside… it’s changed me. Dametria took gasping breaths in, her hair nearly getting caught in her gills. I brush the strands away from them gently as the animal smothers the aching inside my heart. I let it grab hold of each and every fiber of my being, turning whatever light that was left black as night. It forced my breathing to be steady, my words to come out solid. This girl, suddenly was nothing to me. Nothing, and, yet, somehow still everything.
‘Not yet, my little porcupine,’ I told her, feeling the anger slightly subside behind my sternum. ‘Not until you come to terms with your strengths, and you learn what it’s like to take a step back and trust me.’
‘I do trust you,’ she whispered. I could hear the tears in her voice. Tears were invisible and foreign beneath the waves, but not to our half-human bodies that had been through so much together.
I gritted my teeth, the animal rearing back its powerful head inside me as anger and jealousy and self-loathing swarm inside my stomach, sending tingles down my arms. ‘But you’ve lost mine. You must prove to me you are capable of sitting next to me on the throne of Unwea.’
She sobbed. ‘Have I not proven myself yet, Damian? It’s been—’
‘You prove yourself when you obey commands,’ I told her loudly, my words stern and my body ridged. ’You don’t defy me—it isn’t your place. Your place is at my side with your mouth shut. I am number one. You will always be number two.’
My index finger glowed bright with heat and I pressed it just to the side of the spine climbing inside her neck and reaching her brain. She screams and struggles as a number two, glowing red formed and tries to cool.
‘Tamir!’ she shouted, sounding like a feral cry. My body went cold and my grip on her tightened.
‘What did you say?’ I growled, tugging her face upward and off the floor by her hair. She cried out again.
‘It was Tamir-in. He’s alive. He’s down here. I saw him.’
I released her, the animal inside pacing like a caged beast, unable to release its energy. ‘Liar!’
‘No—no, it’s the truth. It’s the truth...’ her cheek pressed to the ground, her eyes lolling and dropping, ready to shut.
‘Show me,’ I commanded.
‘Release me,’ she begged.
The strands of light I’d kept her captive with disintegrated, and I gathered her in my arms and flipped her over. She whimpered as the back of her neck wrinkled, and I lifted her face ever-so-slightly to take some of the pain away. Her eyes were distant, but they were locked on mine, swelling with hurt and possibly wistful longing. I felt my heart find the girl I fell in love with, but I pushed it away, handing the beast, and all I was supposed to do, control. Love is weakness. And I was too strong to have anything inside or outside of me weakened by it.
She lifted her hand and pulled me closer, her fingers against my temples as our foreheads met. I could sense her sadness, her invisible tears, but I needed to look past it, no matter how much it tugged at my heartstrings. She was weak right then. I needed to be strong for her. She closed her eyes and I did as well, and I saw the truth: he was alive. And I knew, from that moment, everything could collapse if I let him survive.
And I was right. I was right, and I didn’t take care of him the moment I should have. Instead, he got away by the hands of Dametria.
And he met Cressa-la.
And, because of them, my plan fell to pieces.