Chapter 29: We Made This War
Ra’venna follows Helios down the castle hallways. She is still drained from her fight yesterday. She woke up only a few hours ago to find Helios sitting beside her bed, just as she had by his. Helios didn’t ask what she’d done or how she survived the Orcs and Ra’venna didn’t offer.
The drain of her magic has left her feeling exhausted and tired. Ra’venna barely has the energy to make it to the throne room, much less deal with Solus and Apollonis. Helios senses her distress and reaches over to grasp her hand. Heat encases her hand and wrist. The tension leaves her body.
The surviving crew members are escorted straight to the infirmary.
Guards escort Ra’venna and Helios to the throne room upon orders from the Emperor and Empress. The doors open. The Emperor and Empress are seated on their respective thrones leaning towards each other, engaged in hushed conversation. They pull away as Helios and Ra’venna sweep into the room.
“You have returned my son.” The Emperor states. He ignores Ra’venna’s presence entirely. She glares at him. Helios bows his head to his parents.
“What have you found Helioson?” Apollonis questions, her gold eyes locking onto Helios’s form. He casts a glance in Ra’venna’s direction before speaking.
“We were attacked before we even reached Kinestorm.” He hesitates. “By an Orc.” Neither Solus nor Apollonis seemed surprised to hear that Orcs have resurfaced.
“You knew that Orcs had returned?” Helios exclaims, reading their expression. Ra’venna’s tiredness has been forgotten.
“Mind your tone Helioson.” The Emperor barks. Helios glares at him. His claws extract from his fingers.
“Mind my tone!” He shouts. “All of the guards that escorted us to Kinestorm are dead. I-” He glances at Ra’venna, “-We would have been dead if not for Ra’venna.” The Emperor rises from the chair.
“Enough! I am Emperor. I am not required to share anything with you.” His powerful voice fills the room, and reverberates through Helios and Ra’venna. She stiffens. She can see the beast threatening to rise to the surface.
Helios doesn’t back down. The rage he feels is beginning to take ahold of him. His Dragon teeth push out from his gums. Ra’venna forces back her fear and reverts to her unnatural calmness. She digs into their blood bond and pushes the calmness through. Helios feels a wave of calm come over him and his eyes snap to Ra’venna. Her eyes hold warning. He clenches his jaw, but backs down. His Dragon features retreat.
Apollonis’s touch soothes the Emperor’s rage. He sinks back into his throne. His strong features still bare anger, but it is controlled. Apollonis’s gaze falls back on her son. “What did you find my son?” She inquires. The Emperor huffs. She pays no mind.
“All living things are gone from Kinestorm. It is as if they simply vanished, every man, woman, child, flersybara, bug. They have been gone for at least two weeks. We were ambushed by Orcs. These were not ordinary Orcs. They don’t just kill, they devour. The guards were all killed.” Helios explains.
Apollonis and Solus glance at each other, holding a silent conversation. Ra’venna watches them carefully, reading their faces. Both are obviously filled with rage. Kinestorm is a valuable, tactical part of their Empire. It is the largest and wealthiest of the four flying cities. Though Quvania has gained control of Srozvak which was once the pride and joy of Etrien.
“Sowhait is responsible.” The Emperor declares. Ra’venna has to bite the wall of her cheek to keep from scoffing. Helios doesn’t bother to hide his disbelief.
“They were Orcs. Sowhait couldn’t have summoned Orcs.” Helios argues. He only realizes the words have escaped his mouth when his parents’ shocked gaze falls on him. Ra’venna has to suppress a sigh. Helios doesn’t know when to stop talking.
“You do not know the power that those wretched Griffin queens have. They are responsible for this.” The Emperor replies. Helios grinds his teeth, but holds his tongue. His parents have already made their decision.
Apollonis calls over one of the guards with a wave of her hand. “Summon the War Council. This is the final insult.” She orders. The guard bows lowly and hurries out of the room. Defeat crosses Helios’s face and Ra’venna can feel the weight of it. She has to restrain herself from taking his hand or wrapping her arms around him.
Before Helios can say anything the throne room doors are opened and in strolls Terdar, his white and gold cape trailing behind him and a victorious smirk across his face. He stops before the throne and bows swiftly to his parents. “Father, mother, I have...unfortunate news.” He says. The smirk is dropped from his face and sadness crosses it instead. Ra’venna can see it is false. She can see the devious glint in his eyes.
“What is it Terdar?” Solus questions, boredom in his voice. He has no time for his youngest son’s antics or pleas for attention.
“It is not for me to say.” He replies. He turns around and beckons for someone to enter the throne room. The Emperor straightens in his seat, his attention peaked.
A guard dressed in blue and red enters the room. He throws himself at the feet of the stairs. His head kissing the polished floor. His uniform is tattered and his armor severely damaged. The exposed parts of his body are marred with cuts and bruises.
Ra’venna eyes Terdar warily. She knows the Prince has a scheme whirling around in his head, but she doesn’t know what it is. Terdar catches her watching and flashes her a smirk. Helios stands in between the two of them, serving as a barrier.
“I have failed Your Imperial Majesties.” The guard pleads. Apollonis rolls her eyes.
“Rise and explain yourself.” The guard scrambles to his feet, but keeps his head lowered in shame.
“Duke Citagi wished to do Your Imperial Majesties work and end the rebellion within Glitai by killing the source of it. We went into the Cri Wilds in Gorus with the intention of slaughtering the rebellion, but they were prepared for us. His Grace was killed by the leader of the Children of Tevata.”
Helios and Ra’venna meet each other’s gaze and their eyes fall on Terdar. He did this. Neither of them knows how or why, but he is responsible they know that.
The Emperor lets out a furious, grief filled roar. Ra’venna winces and looks away as if it will shield her ears from the sound.
The Empress is far calmer, too calm. Her face betrays no emotion and if it was not for the rage in her eyes Ra’venna would think she feels nothing. She rises from her silver throne. The Emperor says nothing as she descends the steps with grace and elegance befitting a woman of her status. The sound of her heels moving across the floor fills the room. Helios stiffens. He knows how unpredictable his mother can be.
Apollonis approaches the guard with a deceitfully soft expression on her face. Ra’venna can see the angry Dragon within. She places her hand on his cheek. He tenses at the Empress’s touch, staring at her as if she is a wild animal that may attack at any moment. She lowers her hand. Ra’venna follows it with her eyes. Dragon claws extend from the Empress’s flawless hand. She raises her hand and in one swift movement slices across the guard’s throat. Blood splatters itself across the floor and Apollonis’s white and gold dress. The guard clutches his throat trying to stop the profuse bleeding. Unable to bare the sight, Helios looks away. Terdar watches, gruesome satisfaction gleaming in his eyes.
Ra’venna watches as the life leaves the guard’s eyes. She doesn’t blink or look away until the guard falls to the ground, dead. She meets Apollonis’s eyes. The Empress smirks at her. Ra’venna knows she means to demonstrate her power to the mercenary. Her bloodied claws retreat back into her hand. The Empress spins around, holding up dress, so it doesn’t fall into the puddle of blood on the floor. She ascends the steps and takes her place on the throne, blood still sprayed across her dress and face.
The Emperor smirks. He almost seems proud of what his Empress did. Ra’venna can imagine their courtship. It must have been one of blood and death. They have become known as the most powerful and deadly rulers in Quvanian history. They passed their murderous ways to Terdar, but not to Helios, whom they wish had inherited their ambition.
“This rebellion has been allowed to fester long enough. Send out The Forsaken. Have this rebellion dealt with once and for all.” He orders.
Helios turns rigid with fear. The Forsaken are the most feared of the Quvanian guards. They are elite soldiers specifically trained to kill. Wherever they go death and destruction follows. Even Ra’venna would be weary to cross their paths. They have been specially trained since childhood to kill. They are chosen very young, from the children that show extraordinary promise, whether it be in skill or power. They were called The Forsaken because they forsake everything. They live only to serve the Emperor and Empress.
“I may be able to aid with that father.” Terdar says. He steps forward. “I have a spy within their ranks. I can tell you where they hide.”
Helios’s eyes widen. Panic grips him. Amsyn is with the rebellion. She will likely be where they hide. That means she will be in danger. He can’t tell his parents about her or they will learn of his plans. It will put both her, Ra’venna, and himself in grave danger. He needs to find a way to warn her. He would not be able to live with himself if she was killed and he did nothing to prevent it.
“Very well my son. We will speak of that later. Helioson, you have done well. Get some rest.” Helios bows his head and leaves the room with Ra’venna.
The two swiftly make their way to his room. They move so fast that even the guards have trouble keeping up with them. Helios throws open the door of his room so hard it bangs against the wall. Ra’venna slams it behind her with a loud noise. Helios grabs the nearest object, a decorative vase and hurls it at the wall. Upon impact it shatters into a hundred pieces. Ra’venna uses her cloak to deflect the pieces.
“Are you done throwing a tantrum?” She questions, brushes the ceramic fragments from her cloak. He glares at her and raises his hand.
“Don’t. Not now.” He growls. She rolls her eyes.
“Throwing a tantrum is not going to save your beloved Elf.” Ra’venna retorts, plopping down in the chair beside the fire. Her wings curl around her from beneath her cloak. There’s a uncomfortable pull on her back. She shifts forward and repositions herself.
Helios slams his open palm into the post of his bed. His breaths are ragged and his Dragon teeth emerge from his lips. “Helios,” Ra’venna tries, calmer this time. He turns around. His orange eyes are swimming with worry, fear, and guilt. He brought this down on Amsyn. She trusted him and he sent her into the belly of the beast and now she will pay for it with her life. Tears weld up in his eyes.
Ra’venna rises from the chair. She unclips her cloak and lets it fall to the chair. She wraps her arms around Helios’s shoulders. He allows her to pull him to her. His arms dangle lifelessly at his side. Slowly, he raises his arms and coils them around her waist. He buries his head in her neck, thriving on the heat of their bond. She slides her arms up his neck and rests them there, caressing the flesh, sending waves of heat throughout his neck.
Helios pulls away enough to look her in the eye. He raises one of his hands to her cheek and strokes the silver tribal tattoo trailing down it. He leans forward and places a kiss to the tattoo and another to her other cheek. Ra’venna leans forward to capture his lips, he pulls back slightly. She growls as he smirks. Her hand moves up from her neck to his hair. She grabs ahold of it and roughly pulls his lips to hers. His lips mold perfectly with hers. Her entire body erupts into flames. The passion of the kiss leaves Ra’venna breathless. He kisses her as if his very life depends on it. His grip on her waist tightens and the hand on her cheek moves to entangle itself in her locks.
Breathless, Helios pulls away and leaves a path of fiery kisses down her jaw and neck. She shivers as his lips brush over the sensitive spot below her ear. She can feel him smirk against her skin and she tightens the grip on his neck. He kisses the area harder, eliciting a moan.
Helios moves his kisses across her neck and up her jaw back to her lips. He captures her lips in a soft kiss. The raging fire is now a pleasurable heat. Ra’venna buries her hands deeper into his hair, tugging at it slightly, a growl rises from his throat, reverberating against her lips. She smirks. Helios releases her lips, his breathing uneven.
She moves her hands down his face to her shoulders. He raises his head and presses a kiss to her forehead. “I love you.” He whispers. Ra’venna meets his eyes.
“And I you.” She replies. He smiles, rubbing his finger alongside her jaw.
“I’m sorry.” He leans forward to press a kiss to the rim of her pointed ear.
“It’s fine. I know you are upset.” She trails her hands down to his forearms. “We need to find a way to stop The Forsaken or at least warn The Children.” She says. He nods.
“The question is how? If we leave my parents will grow suspicion and my brother is already playing an unknown game.” He replies. He drops his hands from Ra’venna and crosses the room to the fireplace. He summons a fireball and tosses it into the fireplace, igniting it. Ra’venna throws her cloak over the chair’s back and sits down, her wings curling around her.
“Your brother said he has a spy in the Children.” Ra’venna states. Helios nods.
“Which means my brother knows everything about them and is going to tell all of it to The Forsaken.” Helios growls, slamming his fist down on the fireplace.
“By the time we figure this out The Forsaken will have already left.” She exclaims.
“We need someone that can get to The Children, someone that is trusted-” Helios stops talking. Ra’venna raises an eyebrow. “The dungeon!” He exclaims. Ra’venna continues to stare at him. “I overheard the guards talking. They brought in a rebel. My parents plan on publicly executing her as a warning.”
“Oh, how delightful.” Ra’venna comments. Helios ignores her sarcasm.
“If we free her. We can use her to pass along a message to Amsyn and the leader.” He says.
“What if she doesn’t want to help?” Ra’venna counters.
“Why wouldn’t she?”
“Well, because you are the son of the people that took over her kingdom and are planning on executing her.” She answers as if it is the most obvious thing in the world. Helios doesn’t have a reply.
“I still have to try.” Ra’venna sighs.
“Very well. I’ll help.”