Heavy the crown
I was covered in sweat. The sweet slave was moaning, more in pain than pleasure. Suddenly, my heart jolted, and, for a moment, a whisper reached my ears.
I shook my head and continued, but something was nagging my thoughts. I peered at the chest and felt a pull toward it. I got up and walked to it, reaching its lock.
I could smell her fear and confusion. She pulled back her chemise and opened the door. The guard outside looked at me, waiting for orders.
“Take her back” I said.
-“Lord, did she... displease you?”
“TAKE HER BACK!” I shouted. He flinched and left, with the girl following him.
I unlocked the chest and searched. My fingers brushed pieces of a life, of a man I can’t remember, The past of a king before a crown. I grabbed the carved wooden box out. Why is it warm? What does it want? I placed it in front of the fireplace and sat on the floor, not taking my eyes off it.
The door opened like thunder and my second burst in.
“What’s wrong?” His peaked thick brows drew together.
“I don’t know” I said in frustration. “I felt something. And it has to do with this!”
He sat near me, and we kept looking at it for a long time, in silence. Nothing happened. I touched it again, but it felt cold. Cold like my soul. I threw it back and locked the chest.
I reattached the star key to my neck chain, where I always kept it. No one knew it was a key, except Rhys. I trusted him deeply. He was the one to convince me to take the throne. because of his ideas of better, I threw the white stone at the king’s feet, challenging him. I remember their faces, how they bowed in fear and respect for their new king, when the blood of the old one was dripping from my hands.
I remember Rhys, looking at me with such pride that one would think he was the king. Since then, he was always by my side.
I trained him every day, and I grew him strong- the strongest of all, that none would dare to challenge. But he could never equal me. The only one who could do that was Caleb. The king of the Nightwalkers.
Rhys cleared his throat. I raised a brow.
“I thought you would burn it again...”
“What’s the point? How many times have we tried that?” I asked rhetorically. Was is fourteen years ago when this happened last time?”
Rhys nodded. “So... about the girl-”
“I wasn’t displeased” I cut him. “Do you want her?” As my successor, he had the right to take any after me. And then, the slaves could be claimed. If two or more men lay the claim, they would fight, usually until one submits.
“I have to admit she’s pretty. Liam likes her” He narrowed his amber eyes, and I knew he’s brewing something. “I can tease him for a few days” Rhys said with a cocky grin.
After so much time, still behaving like a youngster. At 6.2 feet height, with protruding muscles, short sable hair and his chiseled stubbled face, he had the good looks- as women would say, but so arrogant...
“You are restless like a pup- and set on mischief.” He was also the one person to hold me and my kingdom in a piece.
“Well, you know me, Raiden! A huge steak, a bloody-”
“Battle” I continued, “and a -”
“Good woman” he said laughing “THAT IS LIFE!”
I slapped his shoulder while I nodded amused.
“Do as you please. Now go and secure the transport!” I poured some water in the basin and washed my face.
“I’ll travel ahead, to catch with the prisoners, and gather the crowd. Are you sure about this?”
No reply came from me. Lately I feel like my crown is only a chain of bad choices that grows heavy upon my head. And it started to grow since the day I sign that treaty.
“Meet you at the Stone at noon” Rhys said curt and left.
I dried my face and stared at my reflection.
Dark brown eyes stared back, shadowed by thick brows. With the deep scar and my unshaved face, I look more beast than human. The hair was so grown on the sides of my head, that I couldn’t see the ink any more. Who am I? Perhaps only a beast. I dressed and slammed the door behind me.
The people bowed as I walked. I took my seat.
“Bring the first!” The Prince called out. A guard dragged the prisoner by the chain, kneeling him. A ragged, weak and filthy human. He had nothing to offer us for his life, as the others.
“Lower Edoni, you tried to steal a corpse from the road of despair! Today, the stones will choose your fate, according to our law” Rhys said loud, for everyone to hear.
I passed him the pouch. He dumped its content on the table, in front of the lower. A white stone, the same I threw at the former king’s feet to claim the crown, and four painted black.
My second explained them:
“The White one obliges you to challenge the King or me, the Prince, to fight. Throw it now, if you dare!”
“The black ones -” he looked at the crowd ” each has a mark. The hanging, pointing at it, gives you a simple end. Hanged by the feet, you lose consciousness. Your throat will be slit and your blood will satisfy The Stone of Sin.”
“Next is The Hunt. At the end of the second hourglass rotation, we start the chase. Reach Dubh river alive, and you will remain so.”
“The bite - you will be bitten, the venom will paralyze you, with the pain increasing until your heart stops.”
The werewolf toxin is very powerful. A human would die in a few breaths from a strong venom, while a vampire would throw all the blood he drinks and dry as a bone, slowly turning into dust. Caleb was the exception. He survived my bite, but it wasn’t pleasant.
If a High Werewolf bites a lower ranked one, the last will go mad for the agonising pain, till the skin would close. But the bite festers again and again, leaving only moments of lucidity.
“Last pebble, by the mercy of our ruler, is The Whipping.” He put the stones back, throwing a coin to the captive.
“For your crossing. May the Suns blessings guide your hand. NOW DRAW!” Rhys shouted.
The man was shaking hard and missed the pouch a few times. He picked. A guard motioned to a slave girl. She came at the table, lifting the stone from the man’s grip and held it high, for all to see. We had some of the new slaves attending, so they would know better. In a blink, I was behind the mortal, with my hands on his shoulders.
“What is my real name?” I whispered in his ear.
He gawked at me, shocked. A drip of sweat touched his brow.
“K-King R-Rai... “I sank my teeth into his neck, giving him a quick demise. I strolled back to my seat.
The second one was guilty of poaching on our side of the river.
He drew and was hanged by the feet. I asked him the same question, but he didn’t know the answer. Rhys placed a coin in his mouth after he fainted, and slit his throat. His blood splashed The Stone, and people cheered. They knew that the cursed stone was now fed for a time.
At my command, the last of the convict strolled at the table.
The crowd gasped in horror.