I jump as another screech echoes throughout the chamber. The sound of the whip hitting flesh is one that will give me nightmares for weeks to come. Among everything else.
The King's wrath has not improved since my becoming his personal slave. I still don't know the reason he would give me such a position in the palace. It hasn't made my life any easier. If anything, it makes it much harder.
I am with him from the crack of dawn until he falls asleep at night. Then I have to sneak back to the slaves quarters and wait until the next day. I am beaten by the servants excessively as well. They hate that I have been given a position so close to the King. There is significant bruising under this dress. And the King is evil. Pure and simple.
He tortures and kills religiously and indiscriminately. And if there's one thing I've come to understand while being at his side, he hates humans. With a burning passion. Sometimes, I notice him glaring at me. I don't understand why, and I don't understand the expression either. I just know I loathe the day I find out.
"Slave!" I cry out in pain as the whip in his hands rips through the thin fabric of my sleeve, licking the top layer of flesh away from my skin. I look at the King in pain, but he is livid, his dark eyes carrying not an ounce of regret.
"I said to come here!" He snaps. I immediately make my way over to him with the tray that holds his drink. While he grabs it from me, I make the mistake of looking over to what's left of the mangled body he's been interrogating. His back is stripped open, the flesh torn to ribbons. I feel vomit threatening to escape my lips when I see him move, and I immediately look away, keeping my gaze down.
I hear Cyrus chuckle in amusement at my reaction, placing the drink back on the tray.
"Does it bring your more guilt to see your fellow man tied up like this?" He asks. I don't respond.
"You will be pleased to know he came from a village in the same region as yours, Annalise." He steps away from me running his fingers over the bloodied whip.
"When we checked the houses, guess what we found?" His eyes meet mine and I feel a chill sweep through the room.
"Weapons." His amusement is gone as he glares at me. He extends the whip, keeping his gaze to mine.
"What do you know about the necklace your father gave you?" He asks. I'm taken aback by his question.
"I know nothing, your majesty." I say. I notice his jaw twitch before a loud crack ripples through the room and the man is screaming in pain again. I take note that the crack came from the bone now protruding from his back. Cyrus was able to coax a broken bone with the strike of a whip.
"Don't lie to me, Anna. What do you know?" He asks. I shake my head looking at him, pleading with my eyes.
"I know nothing!" I shriek. He shakes his head in anger, striking the whip again. The man screeches.
"You know something!" He shouts at me. He comes towards me with a quick stride, grabbing me around the throat. I drop everything I was holding as he raises me off the ground with ease. His grip tightens around my throat as my feet dangle uselessly beneath me.
I struggle for breath, but none comes. My hands claw at his own and he doesn't even flinch. A chill ripples up my spine when I see a smile slowly appearing on his lips.
"Fight me, Anna. Fight for your life."
I want to scream that I am, but I can't. I can do nothing.
"Is that it? That's all the fight you have in you?" He asks, taunting me even further. He slowly lowers me towards him, his voice washing over my body.
"Is your life worth anything, to you Annalise?" He chuckles. My vision is growing cloudy, and he finally lets me go. I drop to the ground coughing and choking, sucking in as much air as I can.
I cry out in shock as the whip strikes the ground inches from my face. I immediately crawl back in fear, looking at Cyrus who is smiling at me. He grabs the blade nearest him, making his way over to the man. I let out a squeal as he runs his blade through the man. But he doesn't kill him. He keeps his blade inserted as the man screams in agony, dragging it through him. Cutting him apart from the inside.
I can't stop the vomit that rushes past my lips onto the floor. It's only then that I realize that screaming has stopped, and the King is glaring at me.
The room is warm. It's especially fascinating as well. The walls are golden, and the floors are smooth. There are textured coverings that exude light in the most beautiful of ways. I would be in complete awe if I weren't completely terrified for my life.
I'm on my knees, shaking as the King sits in the pool of steaming water, his eyes focused on me. There are also two women on either side of him, and servants that are holding oils and scents, ready to pour them in if requested. There are people in here, yet I feel more terrified than ever. He's moved his questioning to me. And I don't know what to expect, or what he's thinking.
I keep my eyes focused on my knees. It's the only thing I can do to keep me from falling over. My cheek is bruised from his reaction to me vomiting in his presence. And I can feel the throbbing skin of my throat that will probably turn into bruise as well. My arm is in a lot of pain from him whipping me on it, easily tearing through the dress.
I hear the trickle of water and realize the women that are with him are trying to get him aroused. I hear their giggles and moans as they ready him for their pleasure as well as his.
"Everyone out," he finally speaks. I keep my eyes down as everyone stands to leave, the women getting out of the water and wrapping themselves up. I try and follow everyone out.
"Not. You." He growls. I shiver from his tone but go back to my kneeling position nonetheless. The doors finally close.
"Look at me, Anna." I slowly raise my eyes, making sure to focus on his face. A face that terrifies me. His hair is free of its usual updo, and it's in the water flowing around him. His dark eyes are causing me to tremble in fear.
"Why are you shaking?" He asks. I squeeze my eyes closed trying to reign in my fear.
"I'm sorry, your majesty..." I whisper. He chuckles at my words.
"I know you are. Come this way." He says. I slowly rise, moving towards the edge of the water.
"I think back to that day when I saw you standing by the water and I wonder, what were you doing in the forest by yourself? Why did you have no escorts?" He asks. I look away not wanting to answer. It will only lead to a discussion I don't want to have.
"My father was going to go and get the water... but I volunteered because Dimitri was going to ask for my father's permission to... marry me." I say. I finally look at Cyrus and he still has a completely unreadable expression on his face, which terrifies me.
"Grab those oils and pour them in." He says as he gestures to the tray holding the colorful oils the servants left behind. I grab them with shaky hands, pouring them into the water. I can feel Cyrus's gaze on me as I do so.
Once the vial is empty I move to put them back on the tray when I feel a hand around my arm. I cry out in shock when I'm pulled into the water, my entire body submerging in the warm pool.
I immediately rise to the surface gasping for air when I feel a warm body pressing me against the ledge. All of my breathing stops as I look into the eyes of the King. I don't know what he's thinking. His eyes roam over my face, his hand reaching for the tight bun that holds my hair up.
He pulls it out letting my hair fall around me in waves.
"Do you still think of him? Of what could have been?" He asks. I immediately shake my head.
"No, your majesty..." I whisper. My voice is shaking. His eyes continue to roam over my face until they drop to the base of my throat. His hand reaches for my neck, tracing the bruises no doubt.
"Anna... you're lying." He murmurs. My eyes widen as his hand continues to trail down my dress, underneath the fabric until it brushes against my most intimate of areas.
I let out a soft gasp trying to move but he uses his body to pin me to the ledge.
"Shhh." He murmurs watching my face closely.
"I don't know why it bothers me so much, every time you mention that... human. I want to find him and kill him." He growls.
A knock sounds at the door and I jump in fear, but he doesn't move. His eyes roam over my face before he answers.
"What?" He calls out.
"Your majesty, your fiancée has arrived." The timid voice comes out from the other side of the door. He smiles letting go of me.
"Ok. I will meet her in the throne room." He says. I immediately scurry back against the wall trying to put as much distance between us as I can.
He looks back at me, his eyes shifting slightly as he takes in my soaked body.
I watch as the servants finish the last minute fastening of the King's clothing, tying the strings and adjusting the fabric correctly. I am not allowed to do such a thing. I'm not allowed to look at the King let alone touch him. Yet he allows me by his side. And touches me in secret.
I feel my heart beating even faster as I think of what could've happened just moments ago if a servant hadn't interrupted. Was he going to touch me the way he touches those women? He even said he wanted to kill Dimitri every time I mentioned him. But he's the one that keeps bringing him up. I don't understand it.
I look up at him when he finally finishes and turns to face me. His expression is back to the same one I'm used to. He keeps coming closer until he is towering over me. His dark eyes peering into my soul.
I can feel myself shaking in fear. He's a constant puzzle that I don't understand in the slightest. He must be pleased with my reaction because he smiles and walks past me to the doors.
"Let's not keep my fiancée waiting."