“King, I had a child.”
How is a person supposed to react to news like that? Those four words have wholly thrown me. Four words contradict so much she’s said to me before. And now, I’m left standing in front of her confused and shocked. My little rose has had a living being inside her. The thought of it sparks both joy and anger, yet my body can sense something is wrong. What happened since?
“Okay. I’m not sure how to proceed with this conversation. What happened?”
“I k-killed it.”
I tilt my head to the side with my eyebrows furrowed. Why? Of all the words she could have chosen: killed? Sometimes I forget who I’m talking to—the goddess of Death.
“You got an abortion?”
My goddess shakes her head and begins to wring her hands. All her fidgeting, her avoidance of eye contact—it doesn’t take me long to realise just how literal she’s been. She, herself, got rid of the child with her own hands. I take a step away from her, horrified at the numerous scenarios that could have gone down. I shudder and turn away for a brief second.
“Hold on I need to…”
“Why? It wasn’t my child.”
Aszurya’s mood begins to shift as she steps away from me. Her scent gives away her plan to run away from me the embarrassment and guilt. I don’t give her a chance to flee. I slip my arms around her body, lifting her so her legs wrap around my torso. Slowly, Aszurya’s eyes close, and she nuzzles the crevice by my neck. I listen to her soft, sorrowful, mumbles as I walk her over to clearing shaded by the trees.
I set my beautiful rose down on the floor and lie down next to her, watching her large green gems rake my body. Leaning against the nearest tree, I gnaw on my lip and run my hand through my messy hair. This conversation took an ugly turn, and I’m not sure how to craft it into something beautiful.
“How…? What happened?”
“I was 16, still in the Academy, about to graduate. I was only a few months pregnant and had just gone to the doctor for proof. Later on, that night, when I was home and by myself, I don’t know what happened. I blacked out, and when I came to, there was blood around me, and I could barely feel anything below my waist. After I cleaned myself up and took some medicine, I went back to the doctor where she told me that I must have killed the child. She looked like she was afraid of me. It was obvious that she thought I was a monster.”
“So, your demons are the real culprit.”
“Me… my demons. What’s the difference?”
“Don’t do that to yourself. You are better than that. Do you need me to show it to you again?”
“I want you to.”
I smile and kiss my girlfriend a few times. She smiles on my lips, pulling away to rest her head on my chest. Her body curls into a fetal position, and I notice the fog beginning to fall in her mind. If it settles in full, something terrible will happen. I know my woman better than a lot of people. She’s not good with her insecurities. Especially the ones she developed as a teenager.
“Is that why you don’t want to have children. You’re scared it will happen again?”
“Kind of. The thing is, my demons don’t rear up when I’m around my siblings or their children. It was when it came to having one myself. I know how much you want a child, and I don’t want to hurt you by killing it.”
“Aszurya… Maybe your body thought it was too early to have a child. Maybe it was used to it-”
“You’re just making shit up. It can’t happen. I’m sorry, nuyel, but it’s just not possible.”
“So how do you avoid getting pregnant?” I ask, trying to figure everything out. I know it’s a bit too early, but the future is on my mind. If I have a child from anyone in this realm, it would be from Aszurya, which makes life harder.
“No. They’re pretty pink pills I take every three weeks. They freeze my ovaries, so no matter what happens, I can’t get pregnant. The only kickback is when you stop taking it, depending on how long you’ve been taking, you’ll get withdrawal symptoms. Some females can conceive twice as easily as they could not taking it.”
I scrunch up my face and look into her beautiful eyes. She rolls her gems and sits up next to me. We stay curled up together under the thick leaves of the willow trees. The starlight shines through the green leaves, lighting up our little spot. It’s so beautiful when the wind blows through; the fireflies fly around us.
I just know that this would be our spot for a long time.
Voices reach my pricked ears as I walk down the hallway. The others told me to take the day off to rest because of something they have to do. Strangely, I hadn’t gotten a glimpse of Aszurya since breakfast when her father whisked her off to do some ‘business’. She had given him a deadly smirk before kissing me softly on the cheek and warping out of my grasp.
Since then, I’ve been wandering around, occasionally playing with the little kids as the time crawled by. Now, as I make my way over to the dining hall, I catch sight of Aszurya’s four brothers and her oldest nephew. Stopping abruptly, I turn midstep with my hands in my pockets as I approach them. Jordan looks up at me with a frown before turning to his father once more.
“He’s coming too?”
I raise an eyebrow at them before noticing the large steel door with several bolts around the edge of it. It seems like they’re going down into the lower levels. The dungeons, maybe?
“Do I even want to know?”
“Aszurya didn’t tell you? No wonder she’s in a good mood. She doesn’t have an ass like you-”
I grab the collar of Jordan’s fishnet shirt, pulling him off his feet so we are eye to eye, growling. Part of me is waiting for Christopher to intervene, but he doesn’t and when I realise that, I smirk in the boy’s face, tightening my grip.
“Watch your tongue, boy, or I’ll take it from you. Got it?”
Jordan swallows hard and nods his head. I release him and barely pay his buckling knees attention as I turn to his father and cock an eyebrow. He just smiles and shakes his head as his son glares at him from the ground.
“I hate you.”
“Too bad. You’re not getting rid of me that easily.”
“I’ll tell Aszurya-”
“Tell her what?” I snarl, losing my temper as I stare down at Christopher’s son. He glares as he props himself up on elbows, dusting off his pants. “Tell me, kid. What are you going to tell my girlfriend? How are you going to turn her against me?” I wait a moment for the child to open his mouth, but he just stares up at me with fear in his green eyes. “Your silence is answer enough. Think carefully before making empty threats.”
“I think I’m going to fear for your kids. Especially if Aszurya’s the one conceiving.”
The rest of the brothers laugh at Micha’s words as Chris pats my back and watches his son. Jordan scoffs and rolls his eyes earning a kick in the side from his father. I catch sight of his glistening eyes as he stands up and crosses his scarred arms across his chest. Ignoring the boy, yet storing the movement in the back of my mind, I turn towards the others and let them fill me in on what they’re going to do.
“Aszurya’s contacts have brought in 6 prisoners with ties to the Nagatory team. Aszurya and our father are dealing with one of them, but we’re grouping the last five for her to get information.”
“She has… ways to get information out of people. It’s not very pretty, and there’s always a possibility of carnage. That’s why we are here—to prevent bloodshed hopefully. But, you’d be perfect for the job.”
I nod my head before turning to Jordan, who’s gnawing at his lip just like his aunt would. From what I’ve heard, the two of them are very close, but I don’t know if that’d be the same now that I’m here. He seems pretty set on hating me. I’m sure we’d get along if he just gave me a chance.
“Kid,” I say, drawing his attention away from the wall.
“I’m not a kid!”
“Then why’d you answer me, huh?”
I smirk and suppress a laugh at his dumbfounded expression. Clearly, he hasn’t noticed how he continues to answer me no matter what I call him. The dark-haired boy scowls before turning his head away. I ruffle his already messy hair but yank him under my arm, watching him closely.
“Leave me alone.”
“Have you ever seen Aszurya kill before?”
“Yes. I’ve seen her slaughter. It’s not a pretty sight.”
“You might puke your guts up,” Lucian interjects with a shrug of his shoulders.
“I’ll be fine.”
“Good. I don’t want to haul your ass away to spare you the embarrassment.” Jordan looks away, scrunching his nose up, but I can see the hint of a smile sitting on his face. I gesture for the others to lead on before dragging him along with me. As soon as we reach the set of doors, I lean over and halt his movements.
“I’m not a bad guy. Stop pushing me away, and we could be friends. I’ve had my fair share of moody kids your age.”
“Will you stop calling me a kid? I’m 18, damn it.”
“And I’m 29. That’s 11 years over you. I’ll make a deal with you. Stop being a prick and I’ll call you by your name.”
I smile and let Jordan go in front of me. With one look back, I shut in the door so that none of the younger ones stumbles down here. The 6 of us walk down long winding stairs, William lighting the torches with his fire. There’s a distance scream from somewhere behind us, but I don’t want to think of what could be happening.
Some of the torches in the long corridor we enter are lit, revealing the iron bares and dark cells. A few nocturnal eyes peer at us as we walk by, but I try not to pay too much attention. Agonised screams reach my ears from about a mile away, somewhere in the western dungeons. Our feet are silent on the slabs of concrete as we trail one after another down until we hit a door. With a gloved hand, Will opens the door and holds it open until we all are inside.
“Here they are.”
Quickly, I scan the prisoners—four males, all blindfolded and gagged to keep them quiet. There’s one Siethen; two are Fae; and a tree nymph. One of the fae males has pale blue skin, long pointed ears and a pair of glittering green and purple wings made of thin, sticky material. The other has long grey goat legs and large curved horns with midnight blue hair reaching down to his mid-back.
The last prisoner stays completely still, a skill I’ve seen in a few. He has green skin, the texture like bark, and on some parts of his skin, patches of moss grow. His hair woven into dreadlocks made of long vines, flowers braiding in and out of them. It’s strange to think that these beings are allies with the Nagatory clan. What creatures might we have on our side? Besides demons and wyverns, of course.
“... but I’m considering leaving him to rot in his filth before starting up again.”
I turn around to see the iron door swing open to reveal Aszurya and her father. She takes a step into the cell before stopping short and staring at me with her sharp eyebrows high. A small smirk pulls on her lips as she turns and takes in the captives.
“Mmm, I like the variety.”
Richard looks in my direction with his eyebrows furrowed. I take note of the long golden Scyth of the Death-Rose clan he holds and the blood dripping from its sharp edge. Then I look to my girlfriend as she stalks towards me, stripping off her blood-soaked jacket revealing a high rise crop top. She grins at me, her fangs slightly stained with blood and a black substance.
“You decided to come?”
“Don’t make me regret it.”
“No promises, King. I haven’t gotten the chance to torture someone in a while.”
Leaning against the wall, I scan the table behind the captives to find an assortment of weapons, from knives, daggers, and long thin needles, to salt, iron slabs, and bottles of dark liquids. Breathing in the stale air, I cross my arms and wait for the carnage to begin.
Aszurya decides to start with the Siethen. She rips off his blindfold and his gag, staring into his brilliant blue eyes. Tilting her head to the side, she frowns almost as if recalling a critical memory.
“Oh, now you remember me.”
My muscles tense as Aszurya’s hand, gloved in leather, makes contact with his face, bone-crunching under her fist. Jordan slinks over to my side, his eyes still glued to his aunt as she grabs a fistful of the man’s orange hair. He has a few piercings in his lip and nose that Aszurya takes the pleasure in ripping out. The man makes a guttural noise but doesn’t scream at all.
Aszurya’s long sharp claws grab man’s jaw, drawing blood as she squeezes. A nasty grin fixes itself on her full lips as she yanks his face closer.
“What were you really doing in the woods that day?”
“What do you think?”
She pauses before letting go and walking behind the prisoners to the long table filled with weapons. “You’re an outstanding actor. Feigning surprise as if you didn’t know who you were tracking. How long has he had eyes on me?”
“Whenever he decided to have you for himself.”
My temper flares for a brief second but stills almost instantly as the man by the name of Suzuki coughs up a mixture of water and blood. My jaw tightens as I lower my eyebrows in confusion. She didn’t move a muscle—wasn’t even looking at him.
But the truth comes fluttering through our bond as she turns to look at me with a raised eyebrow. A smirk tugs at her lips as her luminescent lenses run over my body. It seems my body knows more tricks than my brain does—especially when someone threatens the demon queen who belongs to me. I let my lips curl up into a grin as we make eye contact.
“Hmm, someone’s giving me a run for my money.”
She selects a gleaming 6-inch iron knife, turning on her heels. She licks her lips as she leans over and whispers something to her temporary plaything. Her hands are steady as her fingers pinch Suzuki’s ear and pull, pressing her knife to his flesh. The man hisses, swearing and cursing Aszurya’s name. She just laughs before making one deft movement, slicing his ear off his head.
“You fucking whore.”
“Not anymore. You’re making this very fun, Suzuki. Much better than the last one. He was no fun.” Aszurya tosses the severed ear into a bucket near the edge of the table. A sword materialises in her left hand as she positions herself behind her prisoner. “Tell me, old friend. What are they planning?”
“I have no idea who you’re talking about. Specify who ‘they’ are.”
“I think you know who I’m talking about.”
“If you value your life, I’d spill. You’re not getting out of this alive.” I growl out at the orange-haired man. He grins at me with bloodstained teeth.
“They’ll find me here.”
Despite the blood running down the side of his face, Suzuki grins at me. I don’t move a muscle as my girlfriend raises the sword and brings it down on his arm, tearing right through the tissue. Finally, she gets a scream out of the man as she lights his open wounds on fire with a thick purple fire. Sending her foot to the back of the man’s skull, Aszurya knocks him forward with a concussion before regaining a bored look again.
“Take him back to his cell.”
William nods his head and wraps a new piece of black cloth around his ear, making the man scream as it tightens around his bloodied face. Will grabs the prisoner by the chains confining his hands and drags Suzuki out of the torture chamber.