The King is a vicious and cruel beast. The rumors do nothing for the horrors that I've witnessed. I grab ahold of the legs of what's left of the body, hoisting it up and into the cart.
Out of all the slaves that arrived with me that day, I am the only one left. And I can only assume so because I have not come into contact with the King since the day he took my necklace. And that was weeks ago.
Since then I have lived a tortured hell. The food, if I can even call it that, is barely edible. A slave is the closest thing to a rat. And they won't waste food on rats. The bread is molded and stale, the gruel is sour and old. And we are too low to eat meat.
We are beaten for everything. The bruises that I saw on the slaves when I first arrived have now appeared on my skin as well. I have no hope. All I can do is wait for one of the servants to end up killing me.
I'm pulled from my thoughts as a servant rushes behind me, shoving me roughly in the process.
"What are you doing standing around, the King is waiting to be served!" She hisses at me. I look around in confusion, trying to find the right words.
"I'm not among the slaves that serve the King," I whisper. She whips around, and I barely have time to register her fist coming towards my face. I feel the pain exploding in my cheek as blood fills my mouth.
"How dare you talk back to me," She hisses. She yanks me up by my throat and begins squeezing. And I slowly realize, I can't breathe. I don't fight though. I wait. I wait for the air to leave my lungs and my brain to shut down.
My vision clouds as my brain begins to panic from the lack of oxygen, when suddenly I'm let go. I fall to the ground coughing and gulping in as much air as I can. I look up to see the Overseer speaking to the servant that was choking me only seconds ago.
"Apologies, sir." She mumbles with her head down. The Overseer looks down at me in disgust.
"It's your lucky night, slave. The King is short of slaves so you will have to fill in until the new shipment arrives," He says. He tilts his chin studying my face before he decides to speak again.
"Have her cleaned and prepared for Dinner. The King is expecting company and I won't have a single mark on his reputation because of a filthy slave."
I stand in the grand dining hall with a crystal pitcher in my hands. I've been charged with refilling the wine. Why they would trust me with such a hands on task I have no idea. My head is throbbing from the beating I received only hours ago, and I can feel my cheek beginning to swell as well.
I can only hope my disheveled appearance doesn't anger anyone else.
The doors open and in comes the nobles. They all walk in with their heads held high, beautiful gowns and expensive jewlrey. Something I will never experience in this life. I take note that they all remain standing as the opposite doors are pulled open and in comes the King. My eyes widen slightly at his appearance. He's wearing regal attire that has been fitted for his frame, and his hair has been released around him, with his crown holding it out of his face.
Everyone in the room bows.
He nods in acknowledgement, gesturing to the spread.
Everyone takes this as their cue and sits, digging into the meal. A meal that smells amazing. I can feel my stomach tightening in hunger as the smells of cooked meat wanders over my nose.
I keep my gaze trained on the glasses of wine, but so far no one's cup has run low.
"If I may, your majesty... when do you feel the war will end?" One of the Nobles asks. The King looks up, grasping his glass and takes a small sip.
"War?" He chuckles at the word. "If that's how we want to describe this massacre of the human race, then I'll play along."
Everyone at the table laughs at his retort but it only makes my chest ache.
"I don't think it's a war anymore at this point. The humans have their resolve and their battles and ambushes, but it does nothing to affect the empire. If anything it just helps us to exterminate them quicker and easier," He says as he takes another sip.
"And what of the recent raid you led on that village? The one that was harboring weapons? Do you feel that is cause for concern?" Someone asks. The King isn't fazed by the question. He only shrugs.
"I do not. The humans have their weapons, but that is all they can do is generate weapons. We are stronger, faster, more capable. I don't feel the human race is a threat. I feel as soon as I discover the location of this... King they love to bring up before their deaths, the sooner this will all be over with." He says with a smirk on his lips. He downs the rest of his glass, looking up towards where all the slaves stand.
His eyes land on me immediately, and I take note that his whole demeanor changes. Something flashes behind those eyes as he takes me in, and I take note that the corner of his mouth twitches in amusement.
I immediately bow my head, making my way over to where he is to pour more wine in his glass. I can feel his eyes on me as if they're burning into my soul. My breathing is shallow, fear coming over me from the close proximity.
My stomach takes this moment to let out a growl. And I know he hears it. Because I hear his soft chuckle before he turns away from me and continues the conversation with the rest of the room.
Even though he speaks to his people, the King keeps his eyes on my the whole night. Sometimes he just glances, and sometimes he stares at me in the corner. I especially hate it when I have to refill someone's cup. His gaze is closer to than I'd like.
I'm pouring wine when a splitting headache rips through my head. The pain is sharp and sudden enough to cause me to flinch, hitting the glass that I was filling and knocking it over. I gasp aloud, trying my best to catch it, but instead I manage to drop the crystal pitcher on the ground, causing it to crash into a million little pieces.
Silence washes over the room as everyone looks to the King, waiting for his wrath to descend on me. And even though it is against the rules, I look too. He's staring down at the broken glass with a blank expression.
I immediately drop to my knees, pressing my forehead into the ground as I beg.
"I apologize, your majesty. Please forgive me for my insolence." I say as quickly as I can. I hear footsteps, and I know it's him coming towards me. I can feel the malice as he descends upon me to pass judgement.
"Your majesty! You mustn't kill this one. She is the last one we have until we're short staffed, please-"
"James. Can I see your sword?" The King interrupts the Overseer, and I feel myself trembling as the sound of a weapon being handed over fills the air.
"Slave. Hold out your hand," The King's voice is strangely soft as he demands me. My body is shaking, and I try one last time to appeal to him.
"...Please..." I whisper as tears fall down my face.
"Hold. Out. Your. Hand. I will not say it again."
I slowly move my hand out in front of me, leaving it flat on the ground. The King doesn't hesitate. I feel a sharp pain in my palm as he drives the blade through my hand, anchoring it to the ground.
I open my mouth, letting out a scream, and suddenly he is kneeling in front of me. His hand still on the blade.
"You will sit here, and think about your insolence. And you will not make another sound," He hisses. I drop my head trying to silence my sobs.
The King walks away from me, leaving the sword protruding from the ground. So I stay here, with my hand anchored to the floor by the blade. Even when the nobles make their exit, and the King as well. Even when the servants have begun to clear the table.
The doors open and I expect it to be the Overseer, but to my shock it's the King. Everyone bows as he enters, clad in his robe with his hair pulled back into a ponytail.
No one hesitates as they scurry towards the doors.
"No one enter this room," he calls as the doors shut. I keep my eyes trained on the floor, but my sobs are coming back up as fear washes over me.
"I see your time here hasn't been easy. But I'd expect nothing less from you." He chuckles. I cry out in pain when he finally rips the blade from my hand. I immediately cradle my hand to my chest, sitting up.
"Look at me, Annalise."
My heart stalls at the sound of my name. But I look up at him nonetheless. His soulless eyes bore into me, eliciting fear without having to speak a word.
"I should have cut your hand off. Be happy that this was your punishment instead," He says. I nod slowly.
"Thank you for your kindness, your majesty." I whisper. He actually laughs at my response.
"Though I see you've learned since arriving here..." He trails off, studying my face. I flinch when he suddenly moves towards me, grabbing my face between his hands. I notice his frown as he brushes his hand over my bruised cheek.
"Who did this?" He asks. I look at the ground.
"A servant, your majesty. I was foolish enough to talk back and earned a just punishment for my foolishness," I growl out. His grip around my cheeks tighten and I flinch as he pulls my face close to his.
My eyes widen and my blood runs cold at his face.
"I do not need an attitude from a slave that should be dead right now. Understand?" He growls. My breathing is shallow as I stare at him. I can only frantically nod my head. His grip is so tight I can't open my mouth.
His gaze roams over my face, even after I respond and it makes me nervous. His eyes hold no emotion. No soul. Nothing.
He finally lets go of me and I hear the sound of tearing. I look down in shock to see he's ripped a piece of fabric from his expensive robe. The material is so thick but he does it with such ease, it makes me see how strong they really are.
"Give me your hand."
I slowly hold my hand out to him. A smile forms on his lips when he sees my hand shaking. He grabs ahold of it, steadying me. He brings my bloodied palm to his lips and my eyes widen when he presses a soft kiss to the injured area. He then licks the wound, causing me to shiver.
His eyes travel to me as he wraps the wound with the fabric from his robes, tying it tightly.
"Keep it on for one whole day, It will be healed by tomorrow." He moves away from me, making his way to the doors leaving me in complete shock and confusion.