I make my way through the halls of the castle. I can hear the war horns billowing from the arrival of the hunters. Today is the day. It’s the day we will finally end this war.
News of Cyrus’s death spread through the kingdom like wildfire, covering every corner leaving no human out. We’ve been defending our walls for months from the constant barrage of hunters and humans that have been attacking in hopes of defeating us in light of our King’s death.
If they were smart, they would have used the time to get as far away from the empire as they could. But they aren’t smart. Which is another reason why the war shall end today. I tense when I feel the walls shaking from another bombardment of attacks. They’re trying to break through the walls and the gate. And they will eventually. It’s all a part of the plan.
I push open the doors to the war room bowing upon entry.
“They’ve pushed through the last defense, your majesty. They will break the gate soon,” I say. Cyrus turns away from the battle plan that lays out on the table looking at me.
I feel a chill ripple down my spine at his words. I don’t recognize my friend anymore. He’s cold, distant, and unfeeling. His dark gaze holds no mercy or thoughts of negotiation, only death. The human king ended any chance his people had for a life among the beasts.
The weapon that was created to kill Cyrus would have succeeded if the human king wasn’t so in the dark on the true nature of beasts. Our society is built upon a hierarchy of strength. The weapon used was created from Cyrus’s father’s blood. A beast who was well past his prime. The only reason Cyrus hadn’t taken the throne was that he wanted his father to reign for years to come. He wanted to give his father a chance to see his vision of peace come true.
Cyrus is more powerful than any of us could have ever imagined. The only thing keeping his power at bay was the love he carried for his father. His father was the only thing standing between the humans and utter annihilation. And the human king killed him and taunted Cyrus with the remains of his body.
I recall the moment I found him at the bottom of that cliff. He was gravely injured. But for everything in him, he was still clinging to the severed head of his father. None of us know how the king was taken. None of us except for Annalise. And Cyrus has forbidden her name from ever being spoken. It’s clear she knew about the weapon. She left the camp with stolen items. She knew Cyrus wouldn’t be coming back. She intentionally kept that information from him. She’s as much to blame for the human’s cruel death as the human king is.
Cyrus has put off-putting his father to rest and taking the throne, all to keep the rumor of his death alive. He knew the hunters would mount a massive attack. He knew that as many humans as needed would show up trying to take our kingdom. And he’s ready to end them.
“Has the battalion been shifted to the outer banks?” Cyrus asks. I nod my head.
“We’re waiting for your orders, your majesty.”
Cyrus walks past me to the doors.
“Good. Let us put an end to this war.”
We stand near the closed gate, listening to the sound of the battering ram push against it. I take note that Cyrus is chuckling next to me as we stare at the effort they put into destroying something as simple as the gate. It shows the stark contrast in strength that humans have compared to the beasts.
“They are very aspirational for a race of weaklings,” he growls. He pushes past me and the guards standing around him, making his way to the gate.
“Step aside,” he says as he walks. I stare at him as he walks ahead of me, unable to tamper down the growing unease I feel. I take note this his pores are beginning to release the blackened exterior of his true form. I take a step back.
“Fall back!” I shout to the surrounding beasts. Cyrus’s true form can kill a man just by touching him. The more enraged he grows, the wider the spread. And the more people that die. It’s why no one would ever challenge him. No one ever can. It’s why we both love and fear him. And it is why he will always undoubtedly be our King.
The men surrounding me are slowly stepping back. I turn to my second in command.
“Anyone that makes it past Cyrus’s form will be cut down here. Do not let anyone near him,” I growl. A soldier catches my eye as he scurries past, and I move away snatching him quickly by the arm.
Dimitri looks at me with wide eyes, immediately stepping back to bow.
“Captain,” he says. I narrow my gaze looking back to Cyrus who has made it to the gates.
“Do not get yourself killed,” I say.
“Yes, Captain.” I keep my eyes focused on his face one last time before whipping away from him. I make my way towards Cyrus just as he reaches for his blade.
“Cyrus!” He pauses looking at me in irritation. Another ramming force hits the gate, but it barely moves.
“You’re going to fight them alone?” I ask. He narrows his gaze looking back to the gate.
“No. I’m going to kill them.” He looks at me.
“Good luck, Captain.”
It’s the last thing he says before his form begins to take shape. I step back as the black smoke begins covering him. I make sure to keep a safe distance, watching in both awe and fear as he uses brute force to remove the bar holding the gate closed.
The humans push open the gate with their battering ram, but don’t have a second to celebrate. Cyrus stands, watching them.
An intense silence washes over everyone immediately. The only sound is the random clink of armor. It’s the last decipherable sound I hear before the screams begin.
I watch in shock and awe as Cyrus unleashes all the suffering of hell.
“No casualties. Everyone has been accounted for. We’ve kept their commanding officer’s prisoner and have also taken in a few-”
I look up from the report. Cyrus is sitting atop his throne, his body still covered in the blood of his victims. He’s looking at his blade with a mesmerizing stare.
“But Cyrus what about-”
His dark gaze meets mine and I bow my head in submission.
“Yes, your majesty.”
Cyrus’s era has begun and it will be one that is in history books for decades to come. It will be an era unlike any other. I know Cyrus will lead his people to prosperity, but I also know that humanity will not make it out of this. Cyrus has never held them in high regard. Nor has he cared for them since his slave.
The rage Cyrus demonstrated when the news of her escape was revealed is something I want to bury deep in my mind. Not only did she leave, but she also took the King’s heir with her as well. We both know how humans behave. She won’t keep it. Not only did she take money and specialty weapons, but she took maps as well. Maps that will let her have a safe journey to her destination.
And with a new life on the horizon, there’s no way she would keep the King’s heir to remind her of the past they share. But I know Cyrus. And I know it’s only a matter of time before he sets out for her.
Cyrus stands from his seat, walking down the throne.
“You’ve done well today, Felix. You and your men shall be rewarded handsomely for this victory,” he says walking past me.
“Thank you, your majesty,” I say.
“Gather troops. It’s time to eradicate humans once and for all. Set out and find any camps you can within the kingdom. And kill them all,” he says.
“Cyrus... Do you not think killing them all is a bit too hasty?” I ask. I don’t have a moment to react. Cyrus is across the room in an instant, his hand around my throat. The air I was breathing is instantly cut off as I stare him in the eyes.
“Since when do you love humans so much?” he growls. The room grows colder from his demeanor. He glares at me with all the hatred he can muster before he finally releases me. I step back, my hand around my throat.
“Speak,” he growls.
“I don’t love them, Cyrus. I just think your hatred for... the slave is clouding your judgment... you’re taking your anger about her out on the world. I’m just advising you, my King. I meant no disrespect,” I rush out. Cyrus is silent for a moment before finally moving towards me.
“Kill the hunters. Kill anyone with relation to hunters. If they are clean, leave them outside to die on their own. If they wish to survive, offer them salvation...” a wicked smile finds its way onto his lips.
“Brand them. Only then can they live among us,” he chuckles. He turns away from me, making his way to the doors.
“That is all, Captain.”
I watch the beast I grew up with leave the room. He has changed. In so many ways, he has changed. I no longer recognize the King he is.
I no longer see my friend in his eyes.