The King is being fitted for the ball. The ball is in four days, and the royal tailor is doing some last minute touches on the King’s suit. I stare silently at the old man as he pushes another pin into the expensive fabric. His dark eyes don’t hold the same kind of darkness as the King. It makes me wonder about this society.
My father told me they were very hierarchical. Rank is extremely important among the Beasts. Not only is the King the most powerful of the Beasts, but there is no one out there that matches his strength. The Beasts believe the strong flourish, and they built their society on that terrifying belief.
“This will be my best work yet, your majesty.” The tailor begins to pull the coat from Cyrus’s arms, handing it off to his very own servants. He must be a rich man himself to have servants. But then again, why else would he handle the King’s clothing unless he was that talented?
“I can’t wait to see it, Cedric. Send my regards to your wife. I hope to see you both at the celebration.” Cyrus smiles at the man, the sight chilling me to the bone. The tailor leaves the chamber, closing the door behind him once again leaving me alone with the King. Something that keeps me on edge. Cyrus hasn’t touched me since that night in the bath.
He hasn’t so much as teased me like he loves to do. But he’s always watching me with that strange expression. I don’t know if he’s planning something, but I fear the day he decides to reveal his reasoning.
Cyrus walks towards his desk of his study grabbing his shirt. He pulls it over his head with ease, looking at me expectantly. I immediately make my way over to him, grabbing the loose strings as I begin to tie it. I can feel his eyes roaming over my face and it makes me just as nervous this time as it does every other time. Silence washes over us as I complete my task, Cyrus’s gaze completely focused on me. I dip slightly, stepping back, but he reaches out grabbing my injured wrist.
“Does it hurt?” He asks. The skin has already turned a hideous purple, the bone still swelling grotesquely. It’s sore for sure, but I won’t tell him that.
“No, your majesty.”
Cyrus chuckles softly stepping around me without another word. I don’t understand him in the slightest. His words from the other night ring in my ears constantly.
“You have no idea, the trouble you cause Anna. You have no idea, what has already happened in this palace.”
His cryptic words have me on edge. What has happened? I slowly turn to face him. His back is to me as he leans over his desk eyeing the paper.
“Have you ever been to a ball Anna?” He asks with his back to me as he pulls his robe around his shoulders. I shake my head.
“No, your majesty.” He laughs across the room.
“Really? Your king never invited his subjects to enjoy a night celebrating one of his fabled victories?” He asks. I bite the inside of my cheek trying to reign in my anger.
“No, your majesty.”
“Not even your father?” He asks. I look up at the tone he has. He’s watching me with a curious expression, but I know he knows something about my father that I clearly don’t.
“Why do you ask about my father, your majesty?” I ask. He glares at me for a moment before shrugging and going back to getting dressed.
“I am curious about the upbringing you had. And why it was so far away from your King, but so close to my Kingdom.” He says before making his way to the door.
“But that will be a discussion for another time. For now, we have a meeting to attend.” He says.
The meeting is small. Officials that I haven’t seen before are arriving one by one, each bringing tribute to their King for the latest victory. Tribute that consists of harvest, meats, gold, and furs. I still have yet to hear about the battle, but from the way the beasts are reacting to it, I can only assume it was a very important one. An important one that the humans lost further sealing the despair we all feel within these palace walls.
There are three Beasts total. Each stand silently in a corner of the room, their servants or slaves standing near them. Cyrus has me standing next to him behind his desk as he sits in the King’s chair, waiting for his guests to arrive.
I don’t know if he’s teaching me a lesson or daring me to fuck up again, but he has me holding the crystal decanter that has been refilled with the red liquid. I hold it tightly to my chest as the Beasts fill the room, their intimidating auras swallowing me whole.
Finally, the last official arrives.
He’s a terrifying Beast. Not only is he tall, but he’s extremely well-built. His muscular form shows easily through the fabric he wears, his dark hair is pushed back to reveal the sharp contours of his face. He’s as terrifying as he is beautiful. His dark eyes roam over the room, commanding the respect that Cyrus receives. I want to know who he is to the Beast society. And why he seems to be so important to Cyrus.
My heart sputters to a standstill when his slave enters behind him. Dimitri has his eyes trained on the ground in front of him. Eyes that used to hold so much light and joy, now only hold the sunken despair he must feel. I feel myself clenching the decanter I have tighter to my chest as Dimitri’s eyes shift and meet mine. I feel instantly that no one else is in the room with us. It’s just me and him.
My fingers are itching to touch him. To play in his blonde hair. To make him laugh at one of my jokes. To hold him in my arms and feel his warmth. To feel his kiss. Anything. Anything at all.
I see such a deep sorrow in his gaze as he looks at me. I also notice his eyes glistening as tears threaten him. I realize then that I’m the one that is crying. Tears are spilling down my face in fat rolls.
Cyrus stands immediately, the force causing me to jump as he pulls me out of my trance. I cry out as his hand collides with the side of my face. He grabs me roughly by my hair, pulling my ear close to his lips.
“Do not confuse my leniency with kindness, Annalise.” He growls. His voice is low so the threat is only heard by me. He roughly lets go of me and I stumble back trying my best not to drop the decanter.
He turns back to the room.
“My friends, please. Take a seat.” He looks at me, his gaze burning with rage.
“Slave. Fill my guests glasses.”
As the meeting stretches on I feel more and more hopeless. I was correct about the battle being a big deal. The battleground was the last line of defense for human settlements outside of this Kingdom. As we speak, the Beasts are infiltrating the villages. It’s only a matter of time before they discover the human King’s hiding place.
Not only are they bringing in a large amount of slaves, but they have enough that they are beginning to take no prisoners. I keep my eyes trained on Dimitri. Cyrus is too focused on the meeting to notice my roaming eyes. I just want to remember his features. His bright blue eyes. The soft pout of his lips. I feel sorrow at the sight of a light pink scar on the side of his face. It’s near his temple. His hair has also gotten longer.
I move toward Cyrus, refilling his wine glass before stepping back.
“It would seem the hunters have infiltrated these villages as well. They’re posing as regular villagers. I didn’t want to speak of it until I knew for certain, but with this last weeks raid of a human village, I am certain now.” Cyrus stands from his seat as he speaks, walking towards the map on the wall.
He begins pointing out the regions to his fellow Beasts.
“They have spread from the East to the West. This explains the weapons in the villages, and why our normal raids weren’t effective. The hunters were hiding, breeding within these villages acting as a line of defense as they slowly picked us off one by one.” He says. Murmurs erupt over the room.
“Are you certain of this, Cyrus?” They ask. He nods his head, his eyes falling on me.
“Quite certain. Slave, come to me.” He says. My eyes widen, but his eyes remain level with mine. He’s daring me to refuse. I slowly place the decanter on the table, crossing my arms in front of me before making my way across the room. I take note that Cyrus is pulling something out of his pocket. My eyes widen when I take in what it is. The necklace my father gave me.
Murmurs erupt throughout the room.
“Your Majesty-” Someone starts but Cyrus holds his hand up, silencing them. I stand in front of him, keeping my eyes trained on his chest.
“Turn around.” He says softly. I slowly turn to face the room. The eyes of the Beasts all rest on me with unease and I have no idea why. My eyes find Dimitri’s and he’s watching with horror. Cyrus lifts the necklace over me, holding it in front of my throat.
“No!” Shock ripples through the room as Dimitri cries out, lunging for us. But Felix is fast. Too fast. In an instant his hand is clasped around Dimitri’s shoulder, a loud crunch rippling through the room. He doesn’t bat a lash as he crushes Dimitri’s shoulder. His cry of agony echoes throughout the room.
“Dimitri!” I scream, my instincts kicking in to go to him, but Cyrus is quick. I feel a sharp slice near my collar bone, and the necklace he gave me suddenly latches on to my skin. I cry out as a surge of energy rushes through my body, filling every vein and cell until my entire body feels like it’s on fire.
I cry out unable to control myself, not sure what to do at this point. I hear Cyrus over me.
In an instant, there are cuffs around my throat and arms, the ends attached to poles held by the guards as they hold me down. My breathing is erratic, my brain running a mile a minute. I look around the room in a panic, but everything seems vivid and clear.
“The Hunters have found a way to hide themselves, and harness the power they use. They put them into trinkets that can be summoned at will. Their children are easily susceptible to it as well and have a higher survival rate once the power has been admitted.” Cyrus looks at me in disgust. “They are breeding weapons.”
Murmurs erupt over the room as the King sheds light on something I had no idea about. Cyrus walks away from me, facing the room. He makes sure to stand over Dimitri menacingly as well. I can somehow sense Cyrus’s anger and power as it washes over the room. It’s heavy. Suffocating.
“The humans have gained knowledge. And though we have stopped the spread, their base is our main concern at this point. We must wipe them out. All of them. Or the hunters will infiltrate and we will have a real problem on our hands.”
Cyrus looks down at me, pulling his blade from the hilt. His eyes hold no amusement, no warmth, nothing. He brings the butt of the sword towards my face, plunging me into darkness.