A Tale of Crowns and Stars

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Hilts & Sand

A strangled scream wrenched itself from Cyra’s throat at the unimaginable sight.

The spear had missed entirely. It slipped from Halewijn’s hands and into the sand with a hollow thud as the two men stood, locked in a twisted embrace.

Omar had deftly avoided the spear’s blade and stepped to Halewijn’s right side - the unarmed side, and slid the broken spear into the space between his ribs and hips. For good measure, he jerked the blade up a little, then removed it just as quickly, making blood gush out of the wound like a… like a…

A waterfall.

Shock flooded down Cyra’s veins, and for a moment, the entire encounter felt like a dream. But reality drug her back down as soon as she heard loud screams from her mother and Lynna and Maribel and Idria and Eres and the crowd.

Without bidding, Cyra’s realized her mouth was open, and she concluded that she had been screaming ever since the blade made contact with Hal’s skin. Halewijn dropped to his knees and slumped forward onto his shield, his body shaking with his final gasps.

“No, no, no…” With a burst of energy, she flew past the chairs, almost tripping over her own gown as she scrambled to the exit. But the guard was already planted there, flat-footed.

“Your highness, you cannot—”

“Step aside!” Cyra attempted to shove the man, but he pushed her back harshly, causing her to tumble into one of the seats. Rage propelled her to stumble back up to her feet, and as she reached down to stand up, the sound of Chaossong speaking loud and clear rang out.

I am to be used for such a time as this.”

A second thought could not have made it into her mind. As Cyra pulled up her dress to access the dagger, the only idea in her head was to get to Halewijn. By any means necessary.

A veil of red clouded her vision as soon as she felt the dagger’s smooth metal with her fingers. The unfortunate guard began to back up, but it was much too late for him. As Cyra pulled him close, Chaossong sunk deep into his chest before blood coated her right hand liberally as she pulled the blade out.

“I thirst no longer…” With a deep exhale, a chill worked its way down Cyra’s spine, and she felt her body tremble as she laid the man down on the floor. After stepping over the guard without so much as a prayer for his soul, Cyra flew down the stairs and into the arena. Omar had just discarded his blade and now stood with his arms spread like a victor, too enrapt with the fact that he had won to notice her flying into the amphitheater and kicking his blade as far as she could.

Halewijn still lay on the ground, gasping and wheezing for air pitifully. As Cyra approached him, she could feel slight tremors taking over her hands and knees. His golden eyes traveled up past her feet to her face, weakly and slowly blinking in the sunlight as she kneeled next to him, dropping the dagger into the sand.

“Cyra… run…” He begged, coughing up blood. “Eres… Idr—”

“I can’t abandon you,” Cyra whimpered, touching his back tenderly. “I can’t leave you behind.”

“You…promised…” Hal groaned, his breaths increasing to a pant.

“Cyra!” Faintly, Cyra could hear the sound of Eres calling her name, but she shook off the promise she made.

“I never intended on keeping it.”

“Cyra, no!” The cry of Eres’s voice continued, but she blocked him out. All she could hear were the labored breaths her lover took as she lifted a hand and smoothed down Hal’s hair, tears dotting the sand below her and her nose running profusely.

“My love…” Cyra whispered, leaning down to place a tender kiss on his sandy cheek. “Oh, husband, I can’t leave you here to die alone.” The trembling in Hal’s body increased; the blood now staining the sand a dark umber. No pressure could heal this wound; he would be gone within seconds at the rate he was losing blood.

“Run…” The golden orbs she once despised didn’t focus in on her but on a point over her shoulder and into the sky. “Mother…” the mumbled word repeated itself as his trembling intensified. The shuddering breaths and shaking lasted for what felt like eons, dragging on as Cyra feebly sat, not sure what she could do to help ease his pain.

“I love you,” She repeatedly murmured, hoping he could hear her until finally, the tremors stopped, and Hal’s face slowly relaxed. Then, a slow, soft exhale.

It was all over.

Cyra’s body reacted almost instantaneously, shaking with stomach-clenching sobs and groans as she wept profusely. Her body slowly bent over Hal’s - protecting it from what she did not know. But all she knew was that it was over.

“You stupid hussy,” Pain exploded behind her eyelids and on her scalp as she felt herself being torn away from Halewijn’s corpse. “Thought this would end your misery, didn’t you?” Omar’s grip in her hair tightened briefly before he threw her onto the sand again, enraged. Through the folds of satin, Cyra couldn’t see a single thing save for the sky above her left eye. “I should’ve killed you too when I had the chance.”

“Don’t touch her!” The sounds of her mother, father, and friend’s cries echoed around the arena, and for a second, Cyra felt overwhelming gratitude for the sounds of outrage. At least she would die knowing that a handful of people would avenge her. Halewijn, however…

Halewijn.

The sand beneath Cyra’s right hand shifted in the wind slightly. Halewijn is dead. Hysteria, which had been building for years, bubbled up from the depths of her soul, seizing her throat without warning. Halewijn is dead. A chuckle built in the High Princess’s chest like she had just remembered a funny joke, which surprised her more than her sudden urge to push up to a seated position. Halewijn is dead.

Omar stepped back, observing her as the laugh grew from a chuckle to a full-blown cackle. The dagger glinted at her from its half-buried position in the sand, only an arm’s reach away.

“Take the dagger in your hand,” A voice urged her, but Omar stooped down for the dagger first, snatching it away from her reach. Instantly, he dropped it, hissing in pain as he backed away from the weapon in fear.

“What the hell?”

Now’s my chance. Half a crawl provided Cyra enough reach to grab the dagger’s hilt, the metal smooth and inviting. Once she staggered to her feet, she felt the full strength of the dagger singing in her veins, as if its power was somehow transferrable, and Omar hesitated, looking around for something - anything - that would assist him. The broken spear and the one Hal had used were lying closer to Cyra than Omar, and his deep golden eyes roamed around the arena, but to his dismay - Cyra realized - his guards were holding the crowd back from a riot.

Not being one to run from a fight, Omar charged Cyra empty-handed, putting on a brave face. In a split-second, before their bodies collided, Chaossong came to life, guiding her motions. Her right arm swung out in an arc to embrace Omar as they went down, and the other hand - the dagger hand - did the same. When they collapsed on the ground together and made half a roll, Omar gasped loudly, his eyes going as wide as possible. They both froze there, Cyra on top of him, with Omar staring up at the sky in horror.

Cyra scrambled to her feet again, the dagger gone from her hand but firmly lodged into the High King’s back.

“I…” The crowd went still as they took stock of the scene while the king fumbled for words. “I…” The gathered people realized what Cyra had done as soon as the High King’s pants grew wet with piss. Silence accompanied their shock. No outrage… just silence. “I can’t feel my legs!”

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