I have come back to the castle, in chains. My heart aches.
“I’ll never hurt you.”
Those were his words. That was his promise. But I see now it all meant nothing. Though I want to feel bitter hatred, I feel nothing but sadness. Not just from his words, but from the fact that Caius hasn’t woken up.
Cassian said I could have killed him. Which means he must be some form of ok, right? No one will let me know how he’s doing, and Cassian won’t even let me see him. My shoulder still aches from the burns that Cassian gave me that night. But ever since then, it’s as if the power that I could feel awakening in me has turned dormant. I don’t know if it’s something that Cassian did, or if it’s from my fear of control.
My arms have been locked in some kind of steel, but that’s the only kind of binding they’ve put me in. I hate the looks that I get from all the men. As if they really hate me. I look up when I see the castle coming into view. The men around me cheer from the successful trip, but I can’t help but feel dread.
I can feel the glare that Cassian gives me each time he passes me. So, I keep my gaze down, waiting for whatever is to come.
“What the hell happened?” I tense when I hear Krea after she examines Caius.
“Can you heal him?” Cassian asks. She’s silent for a moment.
“Yes. But it will take some doing.” She says. She comes towards me, taking in my chains. Her gaze narrows.
“So, the child is no longer a child.” She says. She looks back to Cassian.
“You’re playing with fire, my king. I hope you know what you are doing.” She says. She returns her gaze to me and reaches out plucking a strand of my hair. I gasp from the sudden stinging pain, but she offers no apology. She only walks away, motioning for the men that are carrying Caius to follow her. I use the opportunity to look, and let out a soft gasp, tears springing into my vision.
His chest has an angry red scar on it, and his eye is black. Also, his arm has been placed in a makeshift cast.
“I did that?” I whisper in horror. I feel a rough tug on my chains and realize that Cassian is pulling on them.
“Wait, Cassian you have to believe me, it was an accident I never meant to hurt him.” I sob. He ignores me though as he pulls me along. We walk through the halls, all the while he ignores my pleas and cries. We walk until we are at the two double doors that I recall going into when I first arrived. His chambers.
He walks past the two guards.
“Do not interrupt, unless it’s news on Caius.” He says. The men nod their heads, but I don’t miss the glares they give me as he pulls me inside of his chambers. I tug on the chains, trying to pull away, but it’s no use. He’s much stronger than me. He yanks me over the threshold so hard, my feet are pulled off the ground, and I’m sent flying into the room, colliding with the dark marble floor. I quickly scramble up, running to the doors as they are being pulled shut, the sliver of light slowly disappearing.
The chains pull tight, and I have nowhere to run as the doors close in front of me.
Cassian pulls me into a room where his bath has been drawn. There is steam in the air, and the heat is welcoming. There is a little bit of light from the candles, but not enough for me to feel at ease.
Cassian walks my chains to the wall where he hooks them in place, so that I am immobile from this spot. He walks away from me, standing in front of the steaming water, and begins disrobing. He removes his shirt, revealing his muscled back as well as the two slits that are formed there. He then removes his pants, and I look away immediately.
I hear the water sloshing around, and look back up, suddenly wishing that I hadn’t he’s glaring at me again. I feel my legs slowly give out, and I fall to my knees.
“I swear... it was an accident... I would never intentionally hurt Caius.” I try one last time. Cassian finally reacts. He laughs. It’s humorless. I drop my head, letting the tears fall. I’m scared.
“My family, was murdered. I watched my father’s head become severed from his body. I saw my mother’s throat slit. I held my sister in my arms, as she took her last breaths. She was innocent. Young, and innocent. She was just a child. But that didn’t matter. None of that mattered to them.” He says. I hear the disgust in his tone.
I look up, and his gaze is zeroed in on me.
“Women. Children. Husbands. Fathers. Sons. Daughters. It didn’t matter. They locked the doors and massacred my family. My people. And they almost succeeded. Had Caius not been there to watch my back as I burst down those doors.”
“The entire golden bloodline of the dragonborn. Gone in an instant. Leaving only three of us to carry on what was our father’s legacies. And poor Hynden. Her family’s legacy died that night. She had no brothers. And her father was an only child.” He laughs again.
“We thought that it was only the royals that they had attacked, but it was more than that. It was our people. The villages. To this day, I have no idea why they did what they did. And I will never find out. But your display of emotion showed exactly what was going through their mind. It’s just in their nature.” He says in disgust.
My display? What does my display have to do with his family’s murder? I sit on the floor, thinking about everything he just said, and why he even said it, and it suddenly hits me. I look up, and he’s watching me.
“That’s right, Neytiri. The Ikniri were behind it.”
I feel a tight coiling in my stomach, as pure terror washes over me. I pull on the chains, trying to get out of here. I suddenly feel like I can’t breathe. I then remember what he said at the reservoir.
“They paid with their lives.”
I look at him with wide eyes.
“You...” I trail off as the door to my memories is suddenly opened
Screaming. Painful cries. Agony. I can hear them. I can hear them begging. I open my eyes, looking around. My room is empty. I look to the doors as I hear approaching footsteps. I squeeze my blanket tighter to me as fear crawls up my stomach. They’re fast. Hectic. The door is pushed open, and I see my mother’s worried face.
I also see the blood on her. Not her own, but someone else’s. Her crystal blue eyes are filled with tears and fear, and her usually silver tresses are stained red. She runs to my bed, yanking me from the covers, and speaking to me. She’s speaking a different language, but I can understand her.
“Where is Tikaani?” She shouts to me. I look around and have to crawl under my bed. I see him. He’s crouched on his haunches, his fur standing up.
“Tikaani?” I ask. He’s my white dire wolf. Only royalty is assigned Dire wolves at birth, to lead the tribe when riding into battle. Tikaani isn’t old enough to be ridden yet, but in the years to come he shall be.
My mother grabs my arm and shouts a command.
“Vit! Tikaani!” She shouts. No sooner are the words out of her mouth does he come from under the bed, tail wagging following us out of the hut. I look around for my father but cannot find him anywhere. Nor my brothers.
“Papa?” I shout, but I don’t see him. And when I do look around, I see my people, and my heart drops into my stomach. Tears well up in my eyes, spilling over. The once white snow is now painted red with the blood of my people. Some are running, screaming, and some are trying to stand and fight. I look to see what it is the enemy is, I can’t. My mother is holding my head down against her chest.
“Chala Omie cryntorent!” I hear my brother’s voices, they’re speaking a different language. But I know exactly what they said.
“Follow us, we’ll keep you safe.” I can hear my mother shouting orders and lift my head. My eyes widen.
One flies low, a bloodcurdling roar leaving its throat as flames erupt, melting our homes and burning our people. I see Tikaani behind me, growling, and when I look ahead I see my brothers fighting. They’re fighting the Dragon guard. A group of elites chosen to protect the kingdom of the dragonborn.
We learn about them in legend. It was said that we were created to keep the dragonborn in check. That they are a relentless race that we have to keep control of. Another shrill cry sounds from the sky, and I see another dragon.
“To the forests!” My mother shouts. I look up just in time to see my brother emit a raging wall of ice over our heads to protect us from the incoming fire. My mother trips with me in her hands, and I fall rolling in the snow.
The usually cold snow is now lukewarm as it becomes soaked more and more with our people’s blood.
“Mother!” I look up when I hear my brothers voice. He jumps just in time to take a sword aimed for her throat, through his.
She screams, and he coughs, shuddering from the lack of oxygen. I hear Kesuk scream our brothers name. His twin. My mother is covered in her son’s blood. I try and stand, but my legs are weak. I am filled with fear.
I turn to see a guard coming towards me. He’s dragging his bloody sword in the ice, coming towards me with malice in his gaze. He’s standing over me, when Tikaani jumps and bites a chunk out of his arm. He screams and begins fighting with Tikaani.
There’s a rough pull on my leg, dragging me away from the scene and I look up to see Kesuk carrying me and our mother.
“Tikaani!” I scream. The last I ever see of him is the battle between him and a soldier before they disappear from my view.
The screams are growing more and more further away as we run away from the village. I sob into my brother’s chest and my mother is silent. Her gaze is wide in shock, and she’s holding something tight in her fist. I can see the cord dangling and know it’s my brother Siku’s necklace.
I’m pulled out of my memories and look at Cassian in horror.
“You killed them... you killed them!” I scream. Tears are spilling down my face. He stares at me with no emotion in his gaze.
“I did.” He says. He admits it. Just like that. His gaze narrows.
“Or so I thought” He leans back in the tub, closing his eyes.
“By the time I found you, my malice for your people had died along with them. I had bigger things to tend to than a child. But you are no longer a child. You are a woman now. A matured Ikniri. The same people that killed my sister without hesitation.” He says.
“Why should I believe that you didn’t mean to harm Caius.” He growls. I stay quiet. He stands from the tub, the water running down his body. I try and keep my gaze steady at his naked form. He steps over the tub, making his way towards me. I keep calm until he is within range and I jerk on the chains with all my might, trying to use my power to break them.
“You murderer! I’ll kill you!” I scream. The chains stop just shy of his face. And all I can do is scream at him. I suddenly feel a sharp pain in my shoulder as well as my face. I cringe, and fall on the floor, unable to breathe from the pain.
Cassian steps over me, rolling me over. He looks down at me, and I see amusement in his gaze.
“Did you think that I wouldn’t have a plan for you if you ever tried?” He says. He touches the burning on my shoulder and the pain intensifies tenfold. I scream.
“I planted my mark on you.” I feel his fingers clasp around my jaw as he holds my face to meet his. I’m whimpering in pain.
“You can’t hurt me, let alone touch me without my express permission. You’re mine, Neytiri. Your body is mine.” He says. His red gaze seems to be growing brighter.
“Please...” I manage. The pain is excruciating. He finally let’s go of me and I drop, trying to catch my breath.
“Let’s not forget who killed who first.” He says. I keep replaying my brother’s death in my head over and over again.
“After everything your people are capable of, do you really expect me to trust your word.” He says. I can’t respond. He lets out a deep sigh.
“I had planned for this to go so much differently.” He murmurs. He runs his fingers through my hair, before squeezing and lifting my head so that my gaze meets his. The breath is literally sucked out of me as I meet his gaze.
“The only reason, you are alive right now, is because I was actually beginning to like you.” He says.
“That’s the only reason.” He growls. I let out a soft sob.
“I didn’t try and kill him.” I say again.
“I swear.” I add. He’s quiet for a moment.
“Ok, Neytiri. I’ll give you a chance to prove your honesty to me.” He says. I look up, slowly sitting up on my knees. I feel like I’m going to pass out from the nausea spreading through me. I can see the evil that is behind his gaze.
He reaches out, placing his fingers under my chin and holding my gaze.
“I’ll believe your lies if you do one thing.” He searches my gaze, and I shudder from that wicked glint.
“Give yourself to me.”