Elemental Heir : Book 1 Of The Elemental Heir Series

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Chapter 61



I stared at the man who lay dead at Dristan’s feet. The man who, only moments ago, had been full of life and drink and laughter. He was dead. Poisoned with liquid silver that had been somehow slipped into his drink.

No, not his drink...
Dristan’s drink.

My bowels turned to liquid and my scalp prickled with dread. I wanted to scream with rage as I realized that someone, once again, had put Dristan’s life in danger. However, I remained silent, staring at the dead male as shock filled my system, rooting me to the spot like a stubborn weed.

It was one thing for Dristan’s life to be threatened in the middle of a perilous forest. It was another thing entirely for his life to be threatened in the sanctity of our own home. It brought on a sense of fear and fury that was much different than the one I’d felt when the arrow had flown at his back. This was our home. The aviary was supposed to be safe, protected, a place where we did not have to worry about the threats that loomed beyond it’s wards.

And yet...

Someone had tried to poison Dristan. Someone in this very room had tried to murder my mate. My future husband, my future king.

Not just my future king... All of ours.

Rage boiled beneath my skin as I stood frozen to the spot. A familiar presence from deep within my being stirred. A presence that I might have feared once, long ago... A presence that I’d welcomed back in the forest as I’d watched my mate withstand the bite of an iron whip.

My shock and terror were the only things keeping her at bay for the moment. Once this paralysis wore off... I prayed for whomever might stand in her way when she broke through the surface of my mind’s dark waters.

Dristan stared down at the man’s body. No one spoke. The merriment around us slowly died out as people began to realize that something was very, very wrong. Slowly, so slowly, the dull roar of chatter died out. The music faltered, as if the notes themselves were confused by what was happening, and then it stopped altogether.

Someone nearby cried out in horror. A woman.

“No!”

She pushed through the crowd, her face taught with fear and shock. When she broke through the wall of bodies and her eyes fell upon the fallen male, her face drained of color.

“Rave!” She gasped, falling to her knees beside his limp figure. Her hands shook as she cupped his face, shaking him as if to wake him from a deep slumber. “Rave, wake up! W-what’s happened?! What ’s wrong with him?!” She choked, glancing up at us.

I covered my mouth with a trembling hand, sorrow and empathy overwhelming me as I beheld the desperation in her eyes. That was supposed to be me... I was the one who was meant to be kneeling beside the body of my fallen beloved.

Torryn stepped forward and knelt beside her, placing his hand awkwardly on her back. “I am sorry... He is.. He is gone.” He said softly.

She stared at him for a moment and then began to shake her head in denial. “No. He can’t be dead, I was just speaking to him a moment ago...”

Torryn’s mouth pressed into a hard line. “He’s been poisoned with silver.”

Several gasps echoed around the room. The woman gaped at Torryn as silent tears slipped down her pale cheeks. “But... The Aviary is a safe place, this doesn’t m-make sense...”

“The poison was meant for me.” Dristan suddenly said, his tone laced with muted anger. All eyes turned to him. The crowd grew louder as people began to murmur their disbelief.

Dristan lifted his hand, staring at it as if it were some foreign, unfamiliar thing. “He took the drink right out of my hand...”

The woman began to sob. She wound her arms around the dead soldier’s body and laid her head against his chest as she wept. She cried as if all of the joy in the world had been ripped from beneath her feet.

That was supposed to be me...

Torryn stood from her side and turned toward us, his eyes locking with Dristan’s. “There is a traitor among us.”

They stared into each others eyes for a long moment. Some kind of unspoken communication seemed to pass between them. The cries of the grieving woman filled the silent spaces.

Torryn’s eyes slowly slid away from Dristan, locking onto someone to my right. Dristan turned, his steely gaze following where Torryn’s had gone.

I held my breath as the crowd around us did the same.

Slowly, carefully, I turned to see who everyone was staring at, though a part of me already knew... A part of me that held onto a shred of denial. A part of me that did not want to believe it, that wanted to fight for some alternative explanation...

But there was no alternative explanation. Not one that made sense. This was the only possible, reasonable, rational answer.

He hated Dristan. He blamed him for the loss of his family. He’d lost his chance at wearing the crown, lost his chance at marrying me, lost his chance at everything he had wanted because of Dristan. If anyone wanted to murder my mate, it was him...

No, he’s my friend...

Loss, loss, so much loss... He’d lost it all to Dristan...

No, he wouldn’t hurt me this way...

He made the toast...

No... Please, no...

There was no alternative explanation...

My eyes locked onto Ronan. He blinked rapidly, gaping at the barrage of angry eyes that burned into him from every direction. His eyes widened as fear grew more and more prominent inside of their sky blue depths.

And when his eyes finally latched onto mine, when he beheld the growing realization, hurt, and blinding fury that I knew was shining there, his expression crumbled with despair.

“No.” The word fell from his lips uselessly.

No one spoke. No one, not even I, made a move to defend him. He shook his head desperately as his eyes flicked from face, to face, to face.

Ronan tried to murder my mate.

With that thought, the small part of me that wanted to believe he was innocent was snuffed out like a dying flame. Her tiny cries of denial quieted inside of my head as I stared at Ronan... Until she was no more. In her place came the voice of another, less compassionate part of me.

The part of me that existed only in the most desperate of times. The part of me that ripped men apart for harming those that she cared for. The part of me that roasted men alive in the name of her beloved mate. The part of me that knew no reason, felt no guilt, and gave no mercy.

I let go of every other part of myself as I let her in. Clear, calculated, cunning anger rushed into me, drowning everything else. I was nothing but rage.

Ronan took a small step backwards when his eyes found mine again. “I did not do this!”

Lies... Lies, lies, lies. How many of his lies had I believed? How long had he had me fooled? No more...

No more lies.

“Take one more step,” My voice was smooth and deadly. “and I will burn the flesh from your bones with one snap of my finger.”

He froze in place, his eyes bulging out of his skull.

No one moved or spoke as I slowly walked toward him. I could feel Dristan on the other side of the bond, knocking desperately on the door of my mind, but I ignored him. Rational thought was gone. I was wrath, embodied. I blocked Dristan out, blocked everyone in the room out, my thoughts solely focused on the traitor before me.

My steps were slow and calculated as I approached him.

I stopped when I was a foot away. He stared down at me, his nostrils flared, his throat bobbing as he swallowed with dread. I glared up at him blankly for a long moment. Then, I held out my hand to him, palm up.

“Give me the rune book of shadows.”

He blinked at me as if he did not understand what I had said.

I cocked my head to the side. “If you make me ask again, I will break your legs.”

“Brenya,” He exhaled, his eyes pleading. “I swear, I didn’t-”

My outstretched hand clenched shut as I hissed with furious rage. The snapping, twisting and crunching of each of his shin bones was almost as loud as the scream of torture that left his lips. His cry of suffering and the crushing sound of his breaking legs echoed through the room. Everyone behind me remained silent.

Ronan collapsed to his knees, cursing with pain. He lifted his anguished gaze to mine, panting harshly through his gritted teeth.

This person was not my friend. The Ronan that I thought I knew, the one I’d trusted, the one I’d been fooled into believing cared for me, was dead to me. I felt no sorrow for him. I felt no empathy for the pain I’d inflicted.

I only felt pleasure when I beheld the agony in his eyes, for this was the creature that had meant to kill my mate. He was nothing more than that.

I opened my hand, holding my palm out to him still. “Give me the rune book of shadows.” I repeated flatly.

His eyes closed as he grunted in pain. He hung his head, mocking shame. A pathetic, unconvincing act. One I would no longer fall for.

“If you make me ask a third time, I will simultaneously break every last bone in your body.” I dared him to call my bluff.

I waited two breaths. Just when I was about to make good on my promise, he suddenly reached into his vest. His hand slid beneath the silky material, fishing into the hidden pocket next to his heart. His eyes lifted to mine as he pulled out a small, brown leather book.

He held my gaze as he lifted the book to me. “There is a traitor among us, princess,” He grunted, still panting with pain. “But I promise you, it is not me.”

I calmly took the book from his outstretched hand and flashed him a smile full of sharp teeth. “I value the promise of a renegade as much as I value a knife in my back.”

“Please, listen-”

“Speaking of knives...” I purred, cutting him off. In a flash, I reached through the slit in the skirt of my dress and grasped the hilt of the silver filled blade that I kept strapped there at all times. He hardly had enough time to realize what I’d done before I dropped to one knee, grasped a fist full of his hair in my hand, and pressed the sharp edge of my knife against his throat.

My face was a mere inch from his. I held back no fury as I stared into his wide, surprised eyes. A trickle of ruby red blood trailed down his neck as I shifted the knife slightly.

“Look me in my eyes, Ronan...” I whispered. “And tell me that you do not hate my mate.”

His eyes alternated between my own, his lips slightly parted.

I waited three seconds.

He did not answer. And it was answer enough.

I moved my face an inch closer as I whispered, “You are dead to me.”

I shoved him backward with exaggerated force as I swiftly rose to my feet. He grunted weakly as he fell onto his back. And with one, final glare into his eyes, I turned my back on him.

When I faced Dristan, my companions, and the stunned crowd, I froze. The fog of rage around me lifted slightly as I realized something was wrong... Their bodies were still. Too still... Yet their eyes were moving.

Oh gods...

I’d immobilized the entire Aviary.

That was why it had been so quiet. That was why no one had made a sound, or moved to stop me from what I was doing. That was why Dristan had been trying to desperately to get into my head before I’d shut him out.

Oh, no...

Immediately, I let go of the magic I had been unknowingly holding over them. As soon as I did, I felt a rush of fatigue come over me. I almost sank to my knees, but I held my ground. I kept my face impassive, not wanting my people to see how weak this use of power had made me. How many of them had I immobilized?

Thousands...

I remembered what Dristan had once told me, back when I’d immobilized dozens of the wolves at once. He said that no one was able to immobilize more than a few people at a time. No one. But I had just immobilized thousands. And somehow, this time, I was still standing.

Each week, my magic seemed to evolve. Each day, I could reach deeper into that pool of magic inside of me... Each day, it got less shallow. My power was growing every single day... I knew that. But I hadn’t realized just how much it had grown.

The crowd came to life, some gasping, some screaming in horror, some shouting with encouragement and approval at my massive display of power.

“Gods, she immobilized everyone!”
“Hail the all powerful queen!”
“What the hell was that?!”
“No one has ever done that!”
“How is this possible?!”
“Didn’t know she was that strong!”

Dristan rushed toward me, his eyes blazing and wide with worry. Only when I was wrapped in his strong, sturdy arms did I allow myself to let go. I sagged against him, letting out an exhausted breath. I panted against him as he kissed the top of my head.

“Are you alright?” He whispered.

The concern was obvious in his voice, but I could feel his anger through the bond. He was pissed that I had used so much magic, putting myself at risk. But I hadn’t meant to... I’d have to tell him later. For now, I had to face my people.

“Yes.” I answered. “I’m fine... Just keep your arm around me.”

He nodded, and as we turned to face the crowd, he wrapped his arm around my waist and tucked me against his side, keeping my weight supported.

I stared out at the still murmuring crowd, keeping my chin held high. They quieted eventually, turning their eyes back to me... Waiting.

I found Warrick’s face. He was still standing beside Torryn, Andi, Sylvie and Marrok. They all watched me with wide, worried eyes. All except for Torryn, who kept his eyes glued to Ronan behind me. I could still hear his gasps of pain as he panted on the ground through gritted teeth.

“Warrick,” I said authoritatively. He nodded, taking a few steps toward me and Dristan. The people watched as he did, listening intently. I was glad they were listening. After what happened with Ferrin, a trusted friend who had betrayed us so greatly, and Ronan, another trusted friend, following in his footsteps only days later...

I was done playing nice. I was done feeling guilty. I was done feeling remorseful for punishing traitors, whatever their reasons were. I'd pitied Ferrin... I'd wanted to let him stay in the Aviary after his punishment.

Not anymore.

It was painfully obvious that I could not trust people who I thought were my friends, who I thought were loyal... There could be more traitors in this crowd of people.

It was time to stop thinking like a sweet little princess and time to start thinking like a gods damned queen. I had to show them all what happened to traitors... To people who threatened my mate, my crown, my kingdom...

“I want this traitorous filth taken to the dungeons immediately. Give him thirty iron lashes. Then, take Ferrin and have him displayed for Pillory. He is to remain Pilloried for three consecutive days. Once that is done, I want Ferrin banished from these grounds. Then, Ronan is to be publicly executed.”

The crowd was silent as they stared at us. Warrick’s intense stare alternated between Dristan and myself. I felt Dristan’s arm tighten around me. He sent a calming sensation down the bond as he cleared his throat.

“Brenya, I understand that you are angry. We are all angry... But Ronan must be put on trial before an execution can be sentenced.” Dristan said softly.

Booing and shouts of disagreement rose from the crowd. Everyone wanted him dead, not just me...

“He’s guilty!”
“Kill the traitor!”
“No mercy!”

I looked up at Dristan, trying to keep the irritation from showing in my expression. But I did not try to hide it through the bond.

‘You said that we most not let the people, or our enemies, see us as weak.’ I hissed down the bond.

‘Yes... But we must also be just. We must give him a trial.’

‘Does Ferrin get a trial, too?’

‘No. Ferrin is automatically proven guilty because we all witnessed what he did.’

‘And we all just witnessed what Ronan did!’

‘No. We did not see him put poison in my drink, Brenya.’

‘Are you saying that you think Ronan is innocent?!’ I snarled.

‘Not at all. But we cannot go around executing people based on opinions. We need proof.’

‘How can we prove him guilty?’

‘We will give him a candor potion. He will be forced to publicly admit his guilt.’ He answered, smiling smugly down at me.

I blinked up at him, a bit stunned. Then, the corner of my lips lifted into a small smile. I nodded and turned my face back toward the crowd and Warrick.

“Fine... Deal the lashes tonight... Tomorrow, he goes on a public trial. We will use a candor potion. And on the very unlikely chance that he is found innocent...”

My gaze left Warrick’s wide eyes. I scanned the crowd, meeting the gaze of various Fae, Dragons, Wolves and Sylphs.

“Then I want every, single person in the Aviary to be tested with the candor potion... Until we find who is guilty of this crime. And when that person is found, I want them executed.” I let them all see the stern severity in my eyes, let them all see that I would not stand to allow traitors to reside in my home.

This was our home. I would not allow traitors to slip through my fingers. I would not allow the Aviary to be made into a place that was less than safe for my people.

I saw many emotions cross the faces of the people as I stared into the crowd.

Shock.
Pride.
Fear.
Respect.

“Yes, your grace.” Warrick said, bowing slightly at the waist.

“When you are finished with Ronan, send word. I am calling for a council meeting before this night is finished.” Dristan added, nodding to his first in command.

Warrick nodded back, then turned. He made a motion with his hand toward a few dragon guards who stood nearby. Immediately, they rushed forward and roughly scooped Ronan off of the floor. He cried out in pain as they carried him away, his mangled legs dragging on the floor behind him.

I met his eyes one last time before he was out of sight...

He stared at me with pleading, pain filled eyes.

“Brenya...” He whispered.

I turned my back on him, ignoring the painful fissure that cracked across my heart.

And a true queen was born.



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