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Chapter Three

My father sent clergies to remove the Assassin’s foul spirit from me. He sent hunters to track and kill him. He sent condolences to Costas’s kingdom for being unable to provide a fit wife. All the while, Costas comforted my ‘poor, poor father’. All the while, I was locked in my room where my tortured mind would do no damage. And all the while, my beast was suffering in his fortress, all alone or dying.

Slave for a thousand voices.

“Princess Adalina?” said a meek-sounding voice from outside my door. I was no longer fooled by it, however.

“I am no longer Tearian’s princess,” I answered mechanically. My father may as well have disowned me.

“You will be once your mind and soul are sound once more,” replied the clergy. “May I come in?”

“You have the key to my room,” I replied. “Not I.” The venom in my voice was impossible to keep out.

I wondered if he could hear it. Did I only hear it louder, or could others not hear it at all?

The clergy entered the room. “I am sorry that you feel so powerless,” he said. “But the Assassin’s grip on your life will fade with time and rituals.”

“The only grip on my life,” I said, voice shaking with tears. “Is that of a father and a prince who refuse to have faith in me, after I sacrificed everything in order to save them.”

Even in my anger I could not hate them. Costas was a monster, but sometimes a well-meaning one. My father was gullible, and seemed to truly believe that he was doing what was best. And the clergy were only doing their pious duty.

But I could not tame everyone’s beast, and my heart and mind were set on only one.

The clergy man looked at me with condescending pity. “Shall we begin the ritual?” he asked.

And so I sat through more hours of chanting, holy essences and incense that tickled my nose. All of it was designed to purge me of the Assassin’s supernatural evil spirits.

But nothing could stop the voices.

It was like the Assassin had opened up a window that would never again be closed. I rarely heard specific words. Only int eh moments between waking and sleeping, or when I was near a particularly loud artifact. But they were always present, a sea of voices that let me know what happened beyond the scope of my five natural senses.

It was not much at all. Only there if I concentrated. So weak that I feared even the clergy’s incense my break it. But it was ever present, my final link to my beast.

In my hours of solitude between rituals, I had plenty of time for thinking. My thoughts were far from pleasant; most of my mind was occupied with the Assassin sending me away. It hurt to think about. It was, I fancy, what having a broken heart felt like. I had been torn form a home, a love, a life that made me happy.

But hindsight always exaggerates. I knew the life was not idyllic. The Assassin was still a monster, still cursed. I had walked on eggshells, and spent much of my time worrying for him. I had given myself to a life of always helping the unhelpable.

But I had still loved him, and he me. Which is why his rejection didn’t make sense to me.

Even if he didn’t love me, a heart-wrenching thought, he still needed me. I could make his voices vanish. I could help him. And if nothing else, I kept his fortress clean. And so, I decided, his sending me away was not for his sake.

Which meant it was for mine.

During a clergy session, a memory clicked into place. When he had removed his hood, when his crazed eyes settled on me. He had been sent into a panic. He forced me away, sending me to my cell.

And whenever his voices were fully present, there was one. It was ever screaming, dripping with blood. Kill her, it always cried.

My beast wanted to save me. The monster inside hadn’t helped him kill the posse because it was desperate to keep its hold on the Assassin. A hold that only I could break. And when faced with the choice of freedom after years of torment or protecting his witless serving girl, my beast had chosen me.

“Why do you cry, Princess Adalina?” asked the clergy man gently, waving a stick of purifying, burning incense under my nose.

“Because you have ripped the only person that loved me from my life,” I said quietly, a tear streaking down my face.

The clergy man sighed. “It seems we will have to move to less pleasant methods. May the gods have mercy.” He bowed his head.

But I hardly heard him. A voice was ringing in my head.

Gods? What gods matter in the face of trails.

When man is laid low, and gods be exalted?

When man, on earth, has walked his miles,

The gods in their reign shall be halted.

The poem, a sacrilegious piece I had once read to my beast, came to mind mid-prayers.

I rather think he would have liked that.

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