ashes and snow

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twenty-one


Eira breathed out and opened her eyes.

She wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but with a look to the window, she knew it couldn’t have been long. The sun was still shining through the clouds.

Her gaze flew to Zandro. His head was tilted down, his eyes closed. A tear escaped his eyes and ran down his cheeks before it dripped. Eira's hand fastened forward, and she caught it with the tip of her finger.

The water ran down her hand, leaving a wet trace on her skin. She only stared at it.

Humans were familiar to her, but yet so strange.

She hadn’t been able to produce tears from emotion in a long time. The only time tears graced her skin, she was pretending to be something- or someone- else. It had all been an act for centuries.

Her gaze went back to Zandro.

His blond lashes were lined with silver, his lips pressed together in a thin line.

“Stop this,” Eira whispered. She raised her hands to his face and lifted it. With a spark of her magic, his hazel-brown eyes opened to meet hers. ”Stop.”

Another tear dripped down his face.

She stroked it away. “Why are you so weak?"

He gave no response, caught in his sorrow and her magic. She let out a dark chuckle. “You are fragile and selfish.” She ground her teeth.You are human, and you disgust me."

Her fingers wrapped around his throat. His face stayed emotionless, but she could still feel his primal fear. He was trapped in her magic, forced to obey her like the animal he actually was. No tragic backstory could undo everything he had ever done.

“Are you sorry for every single thing you’ve done?” she asked.

His eyes were burning as he stared at her. She’d let some part of him out, and she knew that he was watching her.

“What have you done?” Magic was nestled in her voice as she spoke, forcing the truth out of him. She could have looked into the darkest parts of him, but she wanted to hear it from him.

She would get him to regret ever speaking to her as if she was beneath him. Ever thinking that she wasn’t worth his attention. There would be a punishment for all of it.

“I murdered the man who took her from me,” he rasped out. Her grip around his throat loosened the slightest. She needed him to keep speaking. “And then, years later, I killed Basil and his wife.”

“Why?”

He swallowed, letting out a gurgling sound. “They didn’t keep her safe. All they were asked to do was keep her safe!”

“You’re not better than him.”

His face fell.

“Don’t you understand?” she whispered, burying her nails into the skin of his throat. His eyes widened. Blood started to warm the tips of her fingers. “You were never better than him, and you’ll never be again. You’ve killed the innocent.”

She pushed him away from her. He stumbled backward before he composed himself again, not taking his eyes off of her. The smell of fear was coming off him like a cheap perfume.

“I- I’m not a monster,” he whispered.

Her head tilted to the side. “You’re not?”

He shook his head, and his voice grew louder, “I wanted justice! She didn’t deserve to die!”

“What you did was getting revenge, and that, my friend, isn’t the same as justice. You deserve to die as much as he did, maybe even more.”

Zandro’s breath hitched, but his eyes grew angry. “Even more than you do, witch?" he sneered.

She chuckled and smiled a wicked smile. “I’m the farthest away from the women you call witches. I’m more than you could ever imagine, a creature that has never existed in this world.”

His mouth lay open as he looked at her.

A second passed in silence.

He didn’t utter a single word.

“You’ll never take another breath without remembering the ones you took,” Eira whispered. Her eyes began to glow golden, pulling him into a trance. “It will continue to haunt you until you die.”

She stepped closer to him. Raised her hand to his face again. If only-

“What is going on here?”

Both of them turned around promptly. Arkyn was standing in the doorway, his blue eyes cold. There was something dangerous to his features. Everything that had seemed to have changed before seemed to have vanished now.

And somehow, Eira hadn’t heard him.

“I wasn’t feeling well,” Eira explained immediately, raising her head to meet his gaze. His eyes were hard and cold. “I asked him to help me.”

His head tilted to the side as he looked at Zandro. Seconds later, his eyes met hers again. “It seems like you pulled up quite the fight,” he said and touched his throat, where marks of her nails were now painting Zandro’s skin crimson.

She swallowed down the words that dared to escape her mouth and dared to look back. Zandro stared back at her, his brown eyes burning in eternal fire. Only a word from him and all she had worked for could find an end.

Let the king be damned, but she couldn’t do anything now.

She was helpless, the magic in her body useless as long as Arkyn was in the room. She could only hope that Zandro had seen the threat in her eyes as she turned her head again.

“Was helping you the only thing he did?”

She wet her lips.

Maybe she could turn this around, twist it so that she would never have to lay her eyes on him again. The wheels in her head spun quickly. She willed her hands to shake, and her cheeks to crimson.

Her face fell, and she looked to the ground. She let out a shuddering breath and remained unresponsive.

The king walked forward until he was standing in front of her. He cupped her cheek into his hand and tilted her head up. Blue colored eyes met golden ones.

His thumb stroked over her cheek. “Tell me what happened,” he said gently. Somehow, his demeanor had changed in seconds again.

Water formed in her eyes, and she whispered almost inaudibly, “He tried to hurt me.”

Arkyn’s head tilted to the side.

She swallowed and laid her hand over his. “He tried to hurt me,” she repeated in a louder voice. A choking sound sounded behind her, and she ignored it. She had chosen to destroy him. There wasn’t anything that was going to stop her.

Arkyn’s thumb stroked over her bottom lip as he watched her. She could see that he was clenching his teeth. “What do you want to be done with him?” he asked quietly.

Her breath hitched, and surprise widened her eyes. “I-”

“He could be dead in minutes if you wanted him to be.”

Her gaze fell to his chest, to the heart that beat beneath his skin. Was it as cold as his eyes? How easy it seemed for him to speak these words. His mind and soul seemed to be a dark place.

If only she could use her magic to find out.

“I don’t want him to die yet,” she whispered hesitantly. She looked up into his eyes again. “I, I just don’t want him anywhere near my maids or me.”

His head tilted to the side, “You seem to really care about that one girl.”

The truth hit her harder than she had expected. She felt like there was ice running through veins. “I do,” she whispered and swallowed. It was hard to admit, but maybe for the first time in centuries, she actually did.

Arkyn straightened and looked over her head to Zandro, who was still standing quietly behind her. He hadn’t moved an inch ever since the king had entered the room.

“He will be brought to the jailhouse then.”

An outcry sounded from behind her.

“Guards!” Arkyn bellowed.

The door to their room opened, and in came three men, Jaron at the front. They were clothed in guard’s blue, their uniforms perfectly fitted to their body.

“Bring him to the jailhouse,” Arkyn ordered without looking at them, his cold eyes still fixed on Zandro. Eira didn’t bother to turn around as she watched his reflection on Arkyn’s light blue eyes.

The man had taken several steps backward, and his back was pressed against the wall as he watched what was happening with wide eyes. “I didn’t do anything!”

Arkyn’s eyes flashed. “You dare to insult my wife? Dare to say that she’d lie?”

The guards walked toward him.

“I, I didn’t, I-"

Two men grabbed him by his arms and started to drag him away. He struggled against them, trying to get away from them with no avail. He cried out.

Once they had left, Eira’s eyes widened. There was something important she had forgotten, something that could destroy everything she was working for.

She hadn’t had the time to make him forget everything.


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