Three, beautifully carved, wooden coffins sat atop a raised altar before me as I stood between Dristan and Warrick in the sacred tomb of the Aviary. Torryn stood on the other side of Warrick, and Marrok on the other side of Dristan.
Sylvie was also in attendance.
When Dristan informed me that Marrok had told him that she wanted to come, but that he’d said no, I’d thrown a fit. After a lot of arguing, and convincing, he’d finally agreed to let her come. But, she was surrounded by three Dragon guards, and was made to stand near the fall war, as far from me as possible.
She hadn’t met my eyes.
There were several other Fae in attendance, most of them dressed in black. Dristan had informed me that he had only invited Fae who had known my parents well. Aside from my fellow council members, there were no other Dragons present. I understood why, and I took no offense.
Ronan wasn’t here. I wasn’t surprised. Part of me suspected he’d wanted to attend, but I knew he probably didn’t want to be near Dristan is such close proximity if he could help it.
There was a beautiful Fae female, whom I had never met before, standing near the back of the room, as she played a melancholy tune on her strange, stringed instrument. I might’ve cried at the sorrowful beauty behind the melody, but I couldn’t. I hadn’t any tears left to cry.
The few torches that adorned the stone walls were the only sources of light, as we were far beneath the surface of the earth. The service room was small, separate from the rest of the vast tomb. Various, colorful flowers, of all shapes and sizes, bordered the sides of each coffin.
Andromeda stood near the caskets, her head lowered, and her hands gently clasped in front of her. She had volunteered to speak at the service, and had prepared a eulogy for the occasion.
Andi truly had the kindest heart. I’d have to put more effort into our friendship. She was a good person, and I knew how desperately she wanted to be friends. I should try harder, especially after what she was doing for me, today.
As the song ended, the last, dreary note still hanging in the air, Andromeda stepped forward and raised her head. Her eyes swept across the room, and when her eyes found mine, a small smile graced her lips. I smiled weakly back at her before she looked away again, addressing the group of Fae in the room.
“Thank you all, for being here...” She said, her voice gentle, yet unwavering. “Today, we celebrate the lives of Princess Brenya’s late parents. We shall send off her adopted father, Sir Roland Blackwell, with absolute honor, for protecting and raising our lost princess during their human lives together. We shall send off her biological mother, Queen Eudora Alemaund, of the Rune Fae bloodline, with absolute honor, for her bravery and her service to her people. And we shall send off her biological father, King Knox Alemaund, of the Elemental Fae bloodline, with absolute honor, for his fierce leadership and devotion to his crown. Please, bow your heads, and join me in prayer for these brave, respected, and honorable souls as they are laid to rest, at last.”
The dull shuffle of movement swept across the room as everyone lowered their heads, and raised their hands in prayer. My hands remained at my sides, feeling like blocks of cement rather than actual appendages. I stared blankly at the coffins, my dry eyes itchy, still void of tears.
Just before Andromeda began to speak, I felt the feather light brush of fingers across the back of my hand. I glanced to my left, up into my mate’s face. He wore a soft expression, one of concern, mixed with affection.
‘You are not alone.’ His voice whispered, hardly audible, in the wide, dark space of my consciousness.
I closed my eyes, my heart swelling with love and appreciation for his presence. I twined my fingers with his, and faced forward once more. The pad of his thumb rubbed soft, soothing circled on the back of my hand as Andromeda spoke.
“By and by, down the eternal, rushing river of the afterlife, you shall drift. By and by, you shall rest in infinite paradise, and you shall know that you have lived a life of great honor, and merriment. By and by, you shall know that you have left behind a legacy, a story of your great, and honorable walk through this life. By and by, you shall rejoice with the knowledge that those you’ve left behind shall always keep your memory sacred and precious. May you be blessed, honored, and loved for all of eternity. Rest now, and find peace, for you have done well here, in this world. By and by, into the arms of the gods, you shall return, and there you shall forever be free.”
As the lovely eulogy came to and end, the Fae woman near the wall began to play another, sad melody. Andromeda lit one of the many candles on the raised altar, before coming to Torryn’s side. I watched as, one by one, people took turns approaching the altar, whispering their words of goodbyes, and lit their own candles.
As Dristan finally approached the altar, I strained my ears to hear what he whispered to them.
First, he turned to my paternal parent’s coffins.
“I offer you both my unending gratitude for bringing Brenya into this world, and for your personal sacrifice in making the choice to hide her away. It is because of those two things, that I have her by my side today.”
I felt my eyes burning as he then turned to my father’s coffin.
“And you, Roland Blackwell... I could never express in words, my infinite thanks to you, for raising such a strong, determined, loving young woman. You protected her, and raised her into the woman that I love above anyone else in this world. You may not have been her father by birth, but you were, and will always be, her true father. Thank you.”
Slowly, he lit a candle. When he turned toward me, and met my eyes, I felt a single tear roll down my cheek. My eyes followed his as he walked back to my side. He leaned down, and planted the most gentle kiss I’d ever received, on my trembling lips.
“There is one candle left.” He whispered as he pulled away.
I nodded, turning back toward the altar. My legs moved beneath me, slow and robotic, as I walked toward the coffins.
This was it. My final goodbye. I stopped a foot away, and my mind went blank as I studied each of the lovely coffins in turn.
‘Pretend no one else is here... Say what you need to say, love.’ Dristan’s voice whispered in my mind.
It helped, a bit. I knew that all eyes were on my back, but if I imagined that I was alone, my mind seemed to clear a bit. I took a deep, steadying breath, and placed my hand upon my mother’s coffin.
“Hello, mother.” I whispered, as quiet as death itself. “I don’t know where you are... Or why the gods decided to take you away f-from me.” My voice broke as a fresh tear slipped down my cheek.
I sucked in a breath and swallowed the lump in my throat before continuing. “But I know why you did what you did, mama... I know it probably killed you to let me go. Believe me, it’s killed me, too... But I know it was because you loved me. I have never known what your voice sounds like, or your laugh, or what you smelled of... But one day, when we meet again, I’ll be able to tell you how much I have loved you, even without knowing who you were. Please, watch over me... I don’t know what I’m doing... I wish I could’ve learned from you, how to be a queen... But I know you’ll guide me, somehow. Goodbye, for now, mother.”
My hand slid off of her coffin, and as it did, I felt some small part of my heart, some hidden fissure, seal itself shut. I turned to my biological father’s coffin next, placing my hand atop the cool, hard wood.
“Father...” I closed my eyes. “Oh, how I wish you would’ve done things differently. But, I suppose in some way, I understand why you couldn’t let go of your hatred for the Dragons...” Another, hot tear escaped my eye.
“You would’ve taught me so much, about ruling, about being a leader... But I feel as though I might’ve taught you a few things, too. Perhaps, if things had been different, I could’ve helped you forgive the Dragon people.” I opened my eyes, and caressed the wooden surface gently.
“None of that changes the fact that you’re my father, though. I would’ve loved you, unconditionally. I know, because I already do, despite your mistakes. Please, guide me... And know, that wherever you are, you are loved. Goodbye, father.”
As my hand left his coffin, I felt another crack in my heart stitch itself closed. I smiled to myself, knowing that even though saying goodbye was not easy, it was what my soul needed. After all this time, I was finally going to be able to have closure. To heal.
I stepped further down the altar, and as my eyes fell upon the last coffin, more burning tears were summoned. I wasn’t ashamed of them. I let them flow. I let them fall freely down my face, as I lifted my hand to my adopted father’s final resting vessel.
“Hi, daddy.” I whispered through my tears. I lowered my head as sobs threatened to break through. I couldn’t start sobbing. I had to stay strong. I had to say what I needed to say. I inhaled deeply, blew out a slow sigh, and then lifted my head again.
“It feels like years ago, that I was ripped away from you, and taken by the soldier’s, doesn’t it? I’ll never forget what you told me... You said that you were sorry... You were sorry that you hadn’t warned me, that you had let it happen. You blamed yourself. But what neither of us realized, was that you’d done me a favor. Being taken, learning who I am, and finally finding my place in this world, was the best thing that ever happened to me, daddy. I wish I could’ve told you that. I wish you’d have known how happy I’ve become. You shouldn’t have felt sorry... I am the one who should be sorry...” Sorrow grew in my gut.
“If I’d gotten to you sooner, if I’d only checked on you in the mirror, a little bit sooner, I could’ve... I-I could’ve...” A small sob escaped my lips, and I squeezed my eyes shut. My hand began to shake as it closed into a fist atop his coffin.
“I could’ve s-saved you, daddy, and I’m so, so sorry that I was too late.” My voice grew louder as my sobs began to take over. “Y-You were out there, alone, and s-scared, because you were trying to find me! It’s my fault! It’s my fault!”
I sagged against his coffin, pressing my face into to smooth, cold wood, as if I could somehow reach him through the thick material. Silent, powerful sobs racked through my body, and my chest shook with the sheer force of them.
A pair of strong, warm arms wrapped around me from behind. I gasped as Dristan lifted me, and turned me toward him. I look up at him, startled, and agonized. His brows were furrowed tightly, and his eyes shimmered with worry as he stared helplessly into my wet eyes.
“No!” I cried, pushing out of his arms. “I have to finish!” I turned away from him, resting both of my palms on top of the coffin once more, and I tried to calm my fit of tears. I could still feel the warmth of his body at my back.
“Please...” I whispered.
His body heat faded, and I knew that he’d backed away again.
I took a steadying breath, and wiped at my eyes with one of my hands, before resting it on the coffin again.
There was a beat of still silence.
“I’m sorry, daddy. I know you wouldn’t want me to harbor guilt, but I do. I always will... But I will make you a promise, now... Your death will not be in vain. You brought me the book, and with it, I am going to bring this war to and end. I am going to unite the races, and kill the king. Somehow, I am going to find a way to make peace between the humans and our kind... I have to... So that no other soul will have to endure the pain of losing a loved on to senseless violence, the way I lost you. I won’t let your death be for nothing. That is my promise to you.”
I lowered my face to his coffin and planted a tender kiss atop it.
“I know you’ll always be with me. I’ll see you again, someday... I love you, now and forever...”
Hesitantly, I stepped back, and my hands slid off of the solid surface. Lifting the last candle, I tilted the wick toward the one Dristan had lit, and when it caught flame, I set it down in front of my father’s coffin.
The last, gaping wound in my heart, did not seal as the other two had. But I did feel the pain of it lessen, as if the wound had slightly scabbed over. Perhaps it would never fully heal, and turn into a scar. Perhaps it would always fester, and torment me.
But I was glad.
It was a reminder of why I had to fight this war. And I’d gladly endure the pain, every day, for the rest of my life, if it meant bringing an end to the king’s bloody reign.
After awhile, people began to trickle out of the service room. Andi stood with Torryn and Warrick near the coffins, murmuring to each other quietly. They all looked rather sullen and it tugged at my heart strings. Marrok was standing nearby, looking a bit stiff and awkward, as if he didn’t quite know what to do with himself.
Dristan stayed close to my side, all the while. He studied the side of my face as I gazed silently at the coffins. I wondered to myself where they might end up after the service.
“They will be moved into their assigned places, later, deeper within the tomb. You can attend that, as well, if you wish. I’ll go with you.” He said softly, as if he’d read my mind.
Of course, I knew he hadn’t actually read my mind. He could only hear my thoughts if I sent them to him directly. Perhaps he was sensing my mood.
“That’s alright... I’ve said my goodbyes. If I wish to visit them sometime, I’m sure you can show me where they’re located in the tombs.” I said, pressing into his side.
He wrapped a massive, talon tipped wing around my shoulder. “Of course.”
Just as we turned around, readying to leave the room, my eyes met with Sylvie’s. She was about to walk through the doorway, readying to exit the room. She was watching me with an unreadable expression. The guards following her disappeared with her through the door a moment later, and she disappeared from view.
“Wait!” I called out, stepping away from Dristan’s side.
I scrambled toward the door, desperate to see her, to speak with her. I had to apologize for what I’d done. I didn’t expect her to forgive me, but I knew she needed to hear it, either way.
Just as I was about to dart out the doorway, a hand shot out and gripped my upper arm from behind, effectively stopping me. I grunted as I was pulled backward forcefully.
I whipped around and was met with a furious pair of sapphire blue eyes.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Dristan hissed, yanking me away from the door.
I clawed at his hand, my anger rising. “Let go of me!”
“No. You are not to go near her, Brenya.” He growled, moving around me. He stood between me and the door now, and he still had a tight grip on my arm.
“I can do as I please!” I snapped, shoving at his chest with my free hand. I may as well have been shoving against a brick wall. Even though I was Fae, he was still physically stronger than me.
“Not when it puts you at risk.” He said flatly, staring down at me with flared nostrils.
My blood boiled within my veins. “I can handle myself!”
“Brenya. The answer is no.”
He thought I was just some helpless, weak, little girl, did he? Well, he might’ve been physically stronger than me, but I knew that my magic was far superior.
I bared my teeth, and then smiled sweetly up at him. I ran one of my hands up and over the material of his cotton shirt, stopping in the center of his chest. He narrowed his eyes at me, confused with my sudden change of attitude.
“Oh, Dristan...” I cooed softly. His eyes alternated between my own.
My anger was fueling my magic, somehow. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew I could move him out of my path if I wanted to. I just had to be very careful not to harm him... I took a deep breath, trying mentally to tap into my power, extracting just a teaspoon of it. My hand, still upon his chest, began to tingle.
“When will you learn?” I asked, my tone like honey.
His eyes widened as a small flicker of power gathered in the palm of my hand. The scent of rotting fruit filled the air, and the energy of it raised the hairs on my arms. Every muscle in his body went taught as I paralyzed him.
‘What the fuck are you doing?’ He hissed inside my head.
Taking a small step back, I kept my hand raised between our bodies. I gave him a sweet smile as I raised my hand, just a fraction. His body lifted a foot off the ground. He inhaled a sharp breath of air as I turned to the right. His body, paralyzed and suspended in the air, moved with me, effectively removing him from the doorway.
‘Stop this. Now.’ He growled in the back of my mind.
I ignored him and moved my hand back down. His feet settled gently back onto the floor.
“There, that’s better.” I said, smiling with wicked delight.
“Brenya, what the hell are you doing?!” Warrick’s voice suddenly gasped from across the room.
I whipped my head to the right and found him, Andi, and Torryn, all staring at me with open mouths. I glanced toward the back wall and found Marrok, watching me. His face held a faint smile, as if he’d been watching the whole time, and was enjoying the free entertainment. My eyes snapped back toward the dragons.
“Let him go...” Warrick urged, taking a small step toward me, his palms raised in caution.
‘Listen to him...’ Dristan warned.
Again, I ignored him. “Don’t take another step, Warrick, or I’ll freeze the lot of you.”
He halted, his hands still raised.
“Brenya, calm down. What is the meaning of this?” Torryn said from behind him.
“I need to speak with Sylvie, and he won’t let me! He’s being a massive, frustrating, over protective pain in my ass!”
‘I’ll show you a pain in the ass...’ Dristan grumbled ferociously through the bond.
I shot him a glare. “I’d advise you to stay quiet!”
When I looked back at Warrick, he raised a brow. “He didn’t say anything, Brenya. Have you... Have you lost your mind, or something? I’m worried, here.”
Andi giggled. “Warrick, he can speak to her through their mind link, you idiot. He’s probably giving her hell right now. Torryn does it to me all the time!”
Torryn shot her a disapproving look and she clamped her lips shut. She seemed to suddenly find the floor very interesting.
Warrick rolled his eyes. “Come on, Brenya... Let him go. He doesn’t want you to get hurt.”
“I am perfectly capable of defending myself if Sylvie attacks me, which she wont. I will speak to her, and if any of you interfere, I will be very cross.” I gestured toward Dristan’s immobile body with my head. “Obviously, I can contain her if she reacts poorly. There is nothing to worry about. So just, mind your business.”
Warrick’s eyes shifted to Dristan’s.
I turned my face toward my mate and found him staring directly back at Warrick. His eyes screamed with unspoken threat. He obviously wanted Warrick to do something, and if he didn’t, he was going to pay for it later.
I turned my face toward Warrick again.
“Warrick... Don’t... Either way, one of us is going to kick your ass, and believe me, you don’t want it to be me.” I bared my teeth in emphasis.
He seemed to consider my warning for a moment. Finally, he shrugged, and dropped his hands.
“Fine. But you owe me, big time.”
‘Gods damn it all.’ Dristan snarled silently.
I beamed at him. “Of course.”
I whipped my head toward my infuriating mate once more, the smile falling off of my face. He stared down at me with dark promise. I knew, in that moment, that I was going to pay for this later, big time. But I didn’t care.
‘You brought this on yourself, Dristan. One way, or another, you are going to learn that I treasure my independence. I am not your pet. And I am certainly not weak. Get that through your thick skull.’
I thought I saw a flash of pain in his eyes, but I couldn’t’ be sure, in his state.
I backed away from him, my hand still raised. Slowly, I made my way toward the door. When I reached the archway, I paused. I stared into my mates eyes from across the room, feeling a bit sorry for him. Perhaps I’d been too harsh... But it was true. He needed to stop treating me this way. I did not take kindly to being ordered around.
I’d let him go, once I was far enough away that I knew he wouldn’t be able to stop me.
“Don’t worry.” I whispered.
And then, I darted out of the room and down the hallway. I could still detect Sylvie’s scent, so I knew she wasn’t too far off yet. I sprinted down the drafty corridor, turning left, and then right, and then right again, before bolting down another long hallway.
When I turned left again, I could see Sylvie ahead, walking behind her guards with her head lowered.
I ran down the passageway, silent as a barn owl, and slowed only when she was a few feet ahead of me.
“Sylvie...?” I whispered, halting my steps.
Instantly, she whirled around. Her long, silvery hair splayed around her shoulders gracefully as she turned toward me. Her gray blue eyes were wide, alarmed at my sudden and unexpected presence.
The guards in front of her turned, and made to move toward us, but I held up a hand as I glared at them over her shoulder.
“Stay there. It’s fine.” I commanded.
They stared at me hesitantly. “Princess, Lord Dristan has ordered us to keep Sylvie away from you.” One of the men murmured.
I cocked my head at him as I narrowed my eyes.
“I’m sorry... Are you questioning my authority?” I said, my tone dripping with poison.
He winced and took a step backward. “N-no, of course not, your grace.”
I smiled. “I didn’t think so.”
I settled my eyes back on Sylvie and felt my expression softening as she stared at me.
Her ears flattened against her skull as her expression grew more and more hateful.
“Sylvie... I had to speak to you... I had to tell you how sorry I am-”
She cut me off, her voice like winter.
“Sorry?” She chuckled swiftly, her eyes looking up toward the ceiling. “Why ever would you be sorry?” She lowered her face back toward mine. “All you did was murder my father in cold blood, right in front of my eyes, in the most horrible and agonizing way possible.”
I gaped at her as she stared at me in silence, her expression frigid and blank.
“Sylvie... What I did was horrible...”
“You’re gods damned right it was.” She whispered. And although her words were hushed, they seemed to slap me, right across the cheek.
I winced. “Please, let me explain. I-I didn’t have control, I couldn’t stop myself-”
“Of course you couldn’t. You wanted his blood for what he’d done to your father. And you got exactly what you wanted.” She interrupted me.
“I didn’t want that, Sylvie. Part of me did, and it took over. I couldn’t control my actions. I wish I could take it back.” I said, shaking my head slowly.
She sighed, and smiled briefly as she closed her eyes. When she opened them again, they were blazing. “You’re sorry, and you wish you could take it back... Well, gods, I feel one hundred percent better, Brenya! Thank you so much.” She said, her emotion dripping with spiteful sarcasm.
“Now, please excuse me.” She turned to leave.
I caught her by the wrist. “Sylvie, please-”
Before I could comprehend what had happened, Sylvie threw her arm outward and hit me directly in the chest. I stumbled backward, stunned by her strength, as the air was momentarily knocked out of my lungs.
“Don’t touch me with those blood stained hands, you evil bitch!” She screamed.
She’d stunned me, and I’d lost my grip on the magic I’d been using to contain Dristan. As soon as I realized it, I heard his roar from down the several hallways between us.
The guards rushed forward, about to tackle her.
“Stop! Don’t touch her!” I warned, straightening myself.
They ignored me, and continued rushing toward her. Anger exploded inside of me at their disobediance, and I flung my arm outward. A wave of power exploded out of me and rushed at them, sending them flying backward, and down the hallway.
They landed in a heap, one hundred feet away. They’d be up again in no time.
I rushed toward her, my eyes pleading. “Sylvie, please, I don’t have much time-”
She scoffed. “I don’t want your time! There is nothing that you can say that will excuse what you’ve done!”
“I know that. I know that what I did was horrid, and wrong, and I don’t expect you to forgive me, Sylvie. I just want you to know that I’m sorry! I understand how painful it is to lose a parent-”
My eyes darted over her shoulder as the guards began to climb to their feet.
“Don’t you dare tell me that you understand!” She bellowed. Her eyes took on a glowing hue as her anger grew stronger. Her ears were almost invisible, they were pressed so closely to her head. “I just witnessed a beautiful, honorable service for your parents deaths! You got to say goodbye. You sent them away with dignity! I will never have that! My father is buried in the woods, in an unmarked grave. He got no honor! And I got no goodbye!”
I could hear Dristan’s footsteps thundering down the hallways, getting closer with each passing second. I reached out with my power, trying to stop him, but I was too panicked. I had no control, and no idea how to do it properly again in my frazzled state.
Shit, shit, shit.
“You’re right.” I whispered as a tear slid down my cheek. “You’re absolutely right. I’m so sorry, Sylvie... Please, tell me what I can do to atone!”
The guards, now on their feet, began to run down the hall, toward us.
A flash of pain, of some hidden regret, flashed across her face. Her lower lips trembled as she stared at me with deep, sorrowful blue eyes.
And then the anger returned to her gaze.
“You can go to hell.” She whispered.
My eyes widened, and my scalp tingled with fear, as her form began to tremble. Her flesh tore, and the sickening sound filled the air between us, as she shifted into her beast form.
Thick, white fur sprouted from her pores, and her nose elongated into a snout, filled with razor sharp teeth. Her bones snapped, and lengthened, and she rapidly grew taller as they did.
She was smaller than the other wolves I’d seen. But I knew, from the experience of training with her, that she was fierce. And fast.
Dristan’s footsteps grew louder, echoing through the hallway, as he turned the final corner. “Brenya!”
I stumbled backward, and lifted my hands, desperate to defend myself. Panic seized me, and my mind slowed down. I tried to search inwardly for the pool of magic inside, but I couldn’t find it. I dug deep, clawing for it, but nothing happened.
Dristan had been right. I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t trained. And I had no handle on my magic.
The snow colored beast charged, a horrible, deafening roar exploding from it’s salivating maw, and I screamed. It swiped at me with an enormous, clawed paw, and I jumped backward. I tried to avoid the blow, but she was so damned fast.
The tips of her claws ripped through the thin material of my black dress. I felt a quick, strange, pulling sensation across my skin, just as a searing, burning pain exploded across my abdomen. She’d sliced my belly open. I gasped at the shocking sensation as blood began to seep through the shredded material of my dress.
The pungent, coppery scent of my blood filled the air, and I heard Dristan snarl from somewhere behind me. Just as the wolf was about to strike again, a powerful wave of force rushed past me from behind. The invisible wave knocked into Sylvie, and she flew backward, yelping in surprise.
Dristan’s back was suddenly directly in front of me, his sword drawn, and his wings flared wide. He stood before me, like a shield, as the beast roared in fury and sprung back onto it’s feet.
I clutched my stomach with my hands, wincing at the pain. When I checked my palms, they were covered with bright, ruby red blood.
I glanced up, just in time to see Sylvie charge at Dristan. The guards were almost to us, now, but were still too far away to strike.
“Sylvie, stop!” I screamed, as Dristan lifted his sword.
He was going to kill her.
And she knew it.
She’d attacked me, knowing that it would mean her death. It couldn’t be coincidence. She meant to die.
She reared up, her fangs mere inches from his throat, as he swung his sword against her furry chest. Instantly, her white fur was stained crimson, and she howled in torment as she stumbled backward.
He struck again, slicing her across her right shoulder. She yelped in pain and fell to her knees, immediately weakened by the iron blade.
“I did not want to do this, Sylvie.” Dristan growled as he stepped toward her. “But you’ve left me no choice.”
The guards, who had finally reached us, stopped a few feet away. They watched in amazement as their Lord single handedly dominated the giant wolf creature.
Dristan raised his sword, the tip pointed directly at her heart, as she gazed up at him with dull, haunted eyes. She lifted her face as her eyes closed, preparing for her death.
And then, I understood.
Sylvie didn’t want to kill me. If she had, she would’ve done it when sh’ed been alone with me, in the infirmary that day.
Sylvie wasn’t angry with me, so much as she was angry with herself. She felt guilt for her father’s death. She felt guilt that she couldn’t make him listen, couldn’t change his mind, and it had led to his death. She couldn’t save him.
She felt guilty, just as I did.
My vision glazed over with a strange, blue hue. My body buzzed, my veins suddenly filled with unfathomable power.
“No!” I screamed.
A massive wave of power exploded outward from my body.
Dristan flew forward, his sword falling from his hands, as he sailed over the wolf’s head and collided with the guards behind her.
Immediately, I rushed forward, and scooped the sword up off of the ground.
I stared down at Sylvie, who was still sitting on her knees, as she stared up at me through her wolf’s eyes. She didn’t move. Her eyes slid to the sword, and then back to me again.
I let out a sob, and threw the sword to the ground behind me.
“I won’t kill you!” I cried, falling to my knees in front of her.
The wolf stared at me with anguished, intelligent eyes.
“Get away from her!” Dristan’s voice bellowed as he jumped to his feet.
“Stay back!” I yelled over the wolf’s massive shoulder.
I lunged forward, toward her chest, and grabbed two fistfuls of her soft, bloodstained fur. I stared into her widened eyes as tears poured down my cheeks.
“Sylvie, you don’t deserve to die! It wasn’t your fault! You couldn’t have changed what happened, it wasn’t your fault!”
Her wolf’s eyes grew watery, and a soft whine escaped her.
I felt her body begin to tremble beneath my hands, and she began to shrink.
Her silvery fur began to retract into her skin, as she lowered toward the ground. Her snout shortened as it transformed back into a humanoid face. And in a flash, Sylvie’s human form was cradled in my arms.
I gripped her shoulders as she closed her eyes and began to weep.
“It was, Brenya, it was my fault! I should’ve tried harder, I should’ve made him listen! I’m sorry he killed your father, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!” She sobbed, collapsing forward into my embrace.
I wrapped my arms around her and buried my face into her hair.
“Shh, it’s okay, it’s okay...”
“W-why didn’t you just kill me?! I attacked you, I tried to kill you!” She cried into my shoulder.
I stroked her hair gently. “Because I’m not the bloodthirsty killer you’ve made me out to be, Sylvie. I care for you. I care for all of our people... I made a mistake when I killed your father... I don’t ever want to make a mistake like that again. Do you know why?”
She pulled away, meeting my eyes.
In my peripheral vision, I saw Dristan watching us, his expression stunned.
“Because I don’t want to be like the king. I went against that, when I killed your father. I will never stop being sorry for that, Sylvie... But it also made me realize how much I don’t want to be like him. It made me realize how important it is to stop doing this to each other. We have to unite, as a people. We have to be better than what that murderous king has made us out to be.”
Silence settled over the hall.
Finally, Sylvie spoke.
“You’re right.” She whispered, lowering her head. “My father never would’ve understood that... But you’re right.”
“I’m sorry, Sylvie.” I said back, pouring as much sincerity into my words as I could.
She lifted her gaze to mine. “Me, too.”
I smiled weakly at her.
“What the hell is going on?!” Marrok’s voice suddenly said from behind me.
I turned to see him, Warrick, Andi, and Torryn, all standing ten feet away. I hadn’t even heard them approach. They studied the blood on the ground in horror and confusion.
“Everything is fine, now.” I said, turning back to Sylvie. “Marrok, take your sister to the infirmary, please.”
He walked slowly to my side. “Sylvie, what the hell did you do?”
She shook her head slowly. “I... I didn’t mean it...”
“She’s been cut with iron, she needs stitches to stop the bleeding.” I explained sadly. “I want her to stay in the infirmary for awhile. Do we have a counselor?” I asked, my eyes sliding to Dristan’s.
“Yes.” He nodded.
“I don’t need a rutting counselor.” Sylvie complained, wiping at her eyes.
“Like hell you don’t. You tried to kill yourself, Sylvie. I can’t just let that go. You’ll see a counselor, daily, until further notice. And you’re to continue being escorted by guards, to keep an eye on you, until you are no longer deemed a threat to yourself. Is that understood?” I said firmly.
She stared at her lap in silence.
“What do you mean, she tried to kill herself?” Marrok blurted, horrified. “I would’ve known... I have a direct link to her thoughts.”
“I didn’t decide until the last moment, so you wouldn’t be able to intervene.” She whispered in shame.
“What the fuck, Sylvie...” He said, burying his face into his hands.
“I’m sorry...” She whispered as fresh tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Marrok, she’s bleeding...” I said.
“Right...” He said, sighing deeply. “Come on, sis...”
I scooted back as Marrok picked his sister up off of the bloodstained ground. He held her close to his chest as he turned to me.
“I want to talk to you about all of this later.” He said.
I nodded. “Of course.”
As they disappeared down the hall with the guards, Dristan’s boots appeared in front of me. Slowly, he squatted down, and then slid his finger beneath my chin. He tilted my face up to meet his eyes.
“Are you alright?” He whispered.
I stared up at him, suddenly aware that the pain in my belly was gone.
“I-I don’t know... I think so.” I said slowly.
He grasped me beneath my arms, on both sides of my body, and carefully lifted me from the ground as he rose to stand.
I winced as a slight stinging sensation spread throughout my gut. But it wasn’t nearly as painful as it had been mere moments ago.
“Let me see.” He said, reaching toward my stomach.
He brushed the tattered, ruined strips of my dress out of the way as he studied my skin. I glanced down and gasped as I realized my skin was unmarred. The only marks that remained of the gashes were three, faint, pink lines.
I was covered in blood, though.
“You’re alright, love.” He sighed, brushing his thumb over one of the scars, smearing the blood away. “She didn’t cut you too deeply, otherwise it would’ve taken longer to heal.”
I let out a long breath. “It’s so strange that it’s healed so quickly. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to being Fae...”
His lips curled up into a brief smile before it fell again.
“That was extremely stupid, Brenya.” He said, his voice deadly soft.
I winced. “I know...”
“I think it was very brave.” Andi’s voice said from behind me. “If she hadn’t done what she did, Sylvie may have tried to kill herself another way, and there may not have been anyone there to stop her.”
I shot her a smile over my shoulder. “Thanks, Andi.”
She smiled back at me and nodded.
“It was wreckless. You could’ve been seriously hurt.” Torryn said harshly. My eyes slid to his, a bit surprised at his remark, but then a slow grin spread across his lips. “But wrecklessness means bravery, and passion. And brave, passionate women make for great queens.”
“Don’t encourage her.” Dristan grumbled.
“She doesn’t need us for that.” Warrick chuckled. “She knows how to take matters into her own hands when she wants to.”
I beamed at them over my shoulder before turning back to my mate. I found him glowering at me. I rolled my eyes.
“You said it yourself, Dristan, I’m alright.”
Hr growled and turned away. “Andi, Torryn, Warrick... Bump the council meeting another two hours from now. I need some time alone with my mate.”
With that he grabbed my wrist and proceeded to drag me down the hallway.
Oh, gods... I was in trouble.