I jolt awake. The familiar ceiling of my hut comes into view. There’s a fire burning in the small fireplace, giving the room a comforting glow.
My body is on fire, my limbs numb with pain. The heat my body gives off is unbearable. I shift, letting out a soft moan as pain takes over.
“You’re awake,” I look up to see the human King standing near the door of my small hut. He’s watching me with a guarded expression. I take note that his hand rests on the hilt of his sword. He’s ready to strike at any moment.
“Who are you, really?” he asks. I blink in confusion.
“...What?” I ask.
“Don’t play dull girl,” he snaps. I take note that his grip tightens on his blade.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I rush out. He now pulls the sword from his scabbard, aiming it at me. My heart begins to thunder in my chest as I take in the possibility of death.
“I watched you possess a power that cannot be given by anyone but us, yet you claimed to have come from a village with that halfbreed. Are you a spy? Who are you here for!” he hisses. The blade comes even closer to me, pressing against my throat.
“I’m not a spy... my mother and father were hunters, I’m your daughter!” I rush out. His grip doesn’t slacken at my words. He narrows his gaze and I feel the press of his blade cutting through the top layer of my throat followed by the warm trickle of blood that runs down.
“Paul raised me... he only told me the truth when I escaped... he’s the reason we all were able to escape! He told me to come here,” I whisper hoping my story will lower his guard. Now the King’s grip completely slackens. His gaze widens as he takes me in, finally pulling his blade away from my throat.
“How did I not see it?” he whispers. He looks as though he wants to come closer to me, but decides against it.
“Have you come to kill me? I’m sure Paul told you everything,” he says. I slowly shake my head. My eyes drift to the king’s sword. He still has it out. He takes a deep breath looking at the ceiling.
“Your mother was a necessity in this war. Just as you were. Paul didn't understand that. He didn't understand what was needed for the greater good... He took our greatest hope from us... even beyond death he taunts us with your existence,” he says standing.
"I... I'm not here to kill anyone," I whisper. The king rasies his brow.
"You attacked your own because we killed the former king of the beasts," he says. I don't have a response for him.
"I just... I'm tired of the violence," I murmur. He chuckles softly lifting the blade he just had aimed at me to gaze at.
"Imagine that. A weapon that is tired of violence."
“I do not know where your allegiance lies. I won’t kill you because you are my blood, but you injured my officers and you are too tainted by Paul's ideals to be of use to me in this war. You are no longer welcome here. Leave your mother’s trinket, and be on your way,” he says. My eyes widen and I realize what it is he thinks about me.
He thinks I used my mother’s trinket during that blackout. He believes that I’m here for some kind of revenge. He has no idea about the seal. I watch him pull open the door to reveal two guards standing by outside.
“If you set foot in my kingdom again, you will be killed on site,” he adds before closing the door behind him.
I stare at the door in shock. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go. I don’t know what there is for me beyond this place. Beyond this plan. I slowly sink onto the bed, staring at the fire.
I have no recollection of what happened in that dining hall beyond Liam attacking me. But I recall what I was even upset for. The death of Cyrus’s father. Even now, the thought of it brings sickness to my gut. His father was right. They have invited hell into this place.
Though I don’t know if Cyrus will ever find it now. The king was smart in placing his stronghold. There are many places to lose my scent and my trail. I don’t know where to go at this point either. Can I just leave now and begin a new life?
I can find ways to get rid of the child that lives inside of me, ending any and all connection with the beast empire. If Cyrus hasn’t discovered me by now, I believe he never will. My plan was to get his father out safely because I believed it would equal me having an easier life. But the hunters have ripped that possibility away from me.
I think back to my original plan to let the hunters end my life. I couldn’t in the first place because I had Dimitri to worry about. But now that he’s run away from the hunters and is safe, I no longer have that as a concern.
I smile thinking of the words the king said to me.
“If you set foot in the kingdom again, you will be killed on site.”
After taking it away from me, he has dropped my salvation in my lap. I slowly stand from my seat on the edge of the bed and make my way to the door. I pull it open and sure enough, there are two guards waiting by the door. They turn upon my exit.
“We are to escort you out of the kingdom,” one says. I look him in the eyes, taking in a deep breath. I swing for his face, my fist connecting with him. I immediately sprint past the two in the direction of the stronghold.
“Hey!” I hear them shouting after me followed by their footsteps. My adrenaline is pumping, my mind whirling like a windstorm. This is it. This is the end. The end of the line, the end of my life, the end of all of my suffering.
I can hear the running water of the river ahead of me meaning I am on the right path. Once I reach the river, I’ll be unable to cross it fast enough. And in return, I will finally face my death.
I push through to the clearing, the river directly in front of me. I can also hear the sound of the men gaining on me. I smile as I think of my life one last time. My father. The man that raised me. He never treated me any different regardless of who I was. Who he knew I was the whole time.
I think of Dimitri, my one and only love. I will never love anyone the way I loved him. I felt safe with him. I felt like nothing could ever go wrong. I can only hope my decision to end my life doesn’t affect his. I say a silent apology to him. I couldn’t be as strong as he wanted, just as he couldn’t be what he wanted for me.
I’m inches from stepping into the river when I notice the figure standing across it. He’s kneeling with his hands cupped in the water, his white hair pulled up and away from his face. I stop dead in my tracks, my heart beating as fast as it possibly can.
He seems to sense my presence, his face slowly rising to meet mine. His dark eyes land on me and I feel my body beginning to tremble. I hear the sound of the hunters behind me approaching but I can’t move. Their footsteps falter next to me as they spot the beast across the river.
We all stand face to face with the king of the beasts. His gaze roams over the three of us, lingering on me. The guard next to me doesn’t hesitate. He draws his blade, his trinket lighting up as he runs towards his opponent.
“No, wait!” I shout but he doesn’t listen. Cyrus’s gaze slightly narrows and in an instant, he vanishes from his place across the river. I watch in horror as he appears inches from the guard’s face, his hand closing around his throat. He uses his brute strength to smash the guard’s body into the ground, sending a tremor beneath us as dirt and rock separate to accommodate the forced entry.
“Son of a bitch!” The guard next to me reaches for his blade but doesn’t get close as Cyrus’s eyes meet the action. One second the man is standing next to me, and the next Cyrus is standing next to me with a bloodied blade. The man’s lifeless body drops, his head severed from his neck.
I take a panicked step back looking at the king of the beasts in horror. His gaze is still focused on the lifeless body of the guard next to me. I’ve only ever seen Cyrus display his strength once when he killed the servants in front of me. But this is something else entirely.
Cyrus’s eyes finally meet mine, and the trembling doesn’t stop. Tears well up in my eyes and my training immediately kicks in. I drop to my knees, pressing my head into the dirt. I feel like I can’t breathe. My fingers dig into the dirt as well and my whimpers soon fill the air giving off how frightened I am.
I hear Cyrus’s soft chuckle above me. He kneels to my height, placing his finger under my chin lifting my gaze to meet his. Those dark eyes bore into my soul with all the intensity they can give.
“Are those tears of joy to see your king?”