The King

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Chapter 37

Anna

Patience. Patience is key. My father always stressed that to me growing up. He would tell me to be patient with everything.

When waiting for the food to cook.

When my anger would grow.

...Even when he discovered my growing affection for Dimitri.

And now, I understand the sheer truth of his words.

Patience is what got me here. Watching. Waiting. And knowing when to finally act. Had it not been for patience, I never would have recognized my chance at escape... and taken it.

I trudge silently through the docks, keeping a tight hold on my horse's reigns. I can hear the sound of people. Actual people. Not beasts. They are speaking to one another. Bartering for food, supplies, clothes, anything they can take with them across the sea.

It's refreshing to hear the sound of life. Free will. No more commands. No more meaningless deaths. No more silence unless spoken to. Just people like me... living.

I pull open the map that I stole from Cyrus's camp looking at the markings. Cyrus marked off places that he considers overrun with hunters. His markings end at this dock, meaning he himself doesn't know what's across the sea. This is the last port that belongs to humans. The last one that is safe. If Dimitri and I had this map when we were traveling, we would have known what to avoid, and exactly how to get here. But hindsight is 20/20.

Dimitri is with the beasts now, and I am leaving.

Rumor of Cyrus's death has quickly circulated the kingdom. The stories are all different. Some say the human king sacrificed himself to kill the beast. Some say the hunter army outnumbered him. Others even say he killed himself after seeing his father's corpse. But I know the truth. A weapon was created to kill him. A weapon curated from the blood of his people. A weapon that was strong enough to finally kill him.

I feel no remorse for my actions. I don't wish he could have changed, I don't wish he could have been kind to me. I feel no positive emotions for Cyrus. But one emotion is prominent. Fear. It will always be there, lurking in the back of my mind. I've only ever felt fear of Cyrus. Even in death, he haunts me.

No one knows what the recoil of Cyrus's death is going to do. As we speak, hunters and humans alike are gathering to the beast kingdom to take it down, and take the world into our own hands. I chuckle at the thought. I don't want to be here when humanity takes over. I've seen their ways of ruling. I am not impressed.

I turn away from the ocean making my way through the market that sits near the water. I can hear the vendors calling to me, offering me clothes, food, and weapons. But I have a clear vision in mind of what I need from them. I'm not like the rest of these people bartering for objects to take with me. I'm leaving this place to start over completely. I want to leave this world behind me. I don't want my past to ever catch up with me.

As I approach the right stand, I take in the woman that owns it. She's an older woman with graying hair. She offers me a kind smile as I approach.

"What could a beauty like you possibly be doing in a place like this?" she asks with a smile. I can't bring myself to match her smile. I reach into my satchel pulling out the gold I stole from Cyrus. I make sure to tell her the correct herbs that I need, and her smile slowly drops when she realizes what it is I'm doing. Though I can sense her disapproval, she turns away from me to go in search of the potent herbs.

I look into the small mirror that sits on the edge of her table. I haven't really looked at myself in a long time. I stare at the haunted woman that reflects me in the mirror. Her eyes are filled with despair. Her cheeks gaunt from hunger. Her dark hair is messily splayed about her face.

I curse the woman in that mirror. Something about her face drew in a monster like Cyrus. It made him lust after me. It made him desire me to the point of obsession. It made him plant his evil seed inside of me.

"Are you sure this is something you want to do?" I'm pulled out of my thoughts by the woman's voice. I look back to her, and she's watching me with a concerned expression. Her voice is soft. Almost comforting. I let out a bitter chuckle placing my hand over the small burlap sack that contains the answer to the only problem remaining.

I look up meeting her gaze before I speak.

"Have you ever been raped before?" I ask. Her eyes widen at the brashness of my words. I don't know how long I've been at Cyrus's mercy. Never able to speak my mind. Always living in fear of the consequences. I narrow my gaze at her snatching up the satchel.

"I didn't think so," I hiss whipping away from her. I march through the docks making my way to the ship I know will take me away from here. There's a boy standing on top of a barrel shouting to the surrounding crowd the story of how the king of the beasts died. I slow my steps as his tale washes over me.

"The King had a plan! He trapped the beast, surrounding him with an army of trained hunters! Hunters that were prepared for this battle. These valiant men and women were handpicked by the king himself to fulfill a duty no weak soul could! They used the despicable power of the beasts against them!"

I feel my mind drifting as I listen to his tale. The way he describes the hunters as courageous people sickens me. I think of Dimitri's screams of pain and anguish. His face that will forever hold a brand. If there is one thing I regret, it's never being able to save Dimitri. I gave him up. Just like everything else in my past.

"And as the beast fell to his knees begging for dear life, the king struck him with a deadly blow! He cut off his head, and stabbed him in the heart!" He shouts. The crowd begins to applaud at the outlandish story.

I know none of these people have ever encountered Cyrus. They would know immediately Cyrus was never one to beg. Cyrus was cruel, but he was a King in his own right. He commanded. He ruled. He never let anyone command him. Not even Marzia when she tried to put him in his place using me.

The scars that are on my back proves it. He never bowed to anyone's will but his own. It makes me wonder what really happened on that mountainside. Was he caught by surprise? Were the beasts simply outnumbered? What kind of way was the King of the Beasts finally killed? It's a mystery I'll never be able to unravel.

I continue my trek, finally seeing the ship come into view. The ship that will take me away from here. My freedom. I make my way through the crowd, handing off the reigns of my horse to one of the crew. I then follow the procedures to begin boarding the boat. Signing my name, paying my way, and finally boarding the ship.

I can feel my heart thundering against my chest. I never thought freedom would be possible, and yet here I am. Seconds away from achieving it. I keep thinking that Cyrus is going to burst through the shrubbery at any second to drag me back, or better yet, kill me and everyone here. But he won't. He can't anymore.

I make my way to the edge of the ship, looking off into the distance. Storm clouds are beginning to roll in. I hold out the tiny burlap sack that holds the herbs that will rid me of my condition. I recall Cyrus's father and Dimitri's reactions to my pregnancy.

They both thought it was crucial that I stayed safe. They believed I was the key to something greater. But I wasn't. Cyrus was debating on killing me before he left.

A woman comes to stand next to me. I glance at her briefly. She has bruising and scars along her body. It makes me wonder what she sees when she looks at me. Her eyes meet mine and she gives me a sad smile.

"We made it, huh?" Her voice is soft, shaking with emotion. I gasp lightly when I realize there are tears forming in my eyes. I don't fight them as they spill over. I look out at the clouds that are now flashing with lightning.

The sails above are released, and I hear the crewmen around us shouting out orders. I grip the wooden edge of the ship tightly as the ship begins to quake, moving forward in the water. The ship slowly begins its journey to a new world, cutting through the water as it sails out of the port and into the open sea. I don't fight my smile.

I turn back to look at the mainland as it grows smaller. I don't know how long I stare at the docks. I keep my eyes trained on the wooden planks built above the water and the people. I keep my eyes on them until they grow smaller, looking like ants in the distance, and finally, they disappear into nothing.

I don't know what the future holds for me, but I don't stop my smile as I imagine the freedom that awaits me in a new world.

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