The Blood King

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Chapter 18

Dungeons.

The dank smell. The dirty floor covered in hay and dirt. The constant drip of water somewhere in this cavern. My arms are chained against the walls, covered. It’s pitch black. I was a threat. A living threat. The only thing that could stop Cassian from the hell he is going to unleash on the world. And I had no idea.

He used me, manipulated me, took everything from me. A sob escapes me echoing off the walls. I’m such a fool. How I could have ever trusted him, when my mind literally told me who and what he was.

Evil.

I recall Caius’ warning.

“Only you can see his true nature.”

I feel like that day he was warning me, but I didn’t listen. Why didn’t I listen? I didn’t know Cassian. Of course, he had his moments where he was unbearably sweet to me, but it was all an act. How could I have completely ignored my instincts? What kind of Ikniri am I? There were several times when he blatantly told me what he was doing, but I never read into it.

Because I was a fool to believe that he meant it when he said he would never hurt me. He’s a liar. That’s all he’ll ever be.

“Are those tears for me?” I look up in shock, and my heart flutters in excitement. Caius. He’s alive. He has a bruise over his eye, and his arm is in a sling while the other holds a flame over his head, but he’s smiling at me. I blink in confusion. Why is he smiling at me? How could he be smiling at me after what I did to him? I look away.

“Why are you here.” I say softly. He’s silent for a moment and I hear shuffling. When I look up, he’s squatting in front of me with a look of worry on his face. He walks towards me until he is directly in front of me and reaches out touching my face softly.

“What did he do to you.” He says. It sounds as if he’s talking to himself rather than me.

“I... I hurt you. I almost killed you.” I sob. I look at him through tear streaked vision. He doesn’t react. But I don’t miss the sadness in his gaze. He lets out a deep sigh, sitting down in front of me.

“What happened wasn’t your fault, Neytiri.” He says. I look up at him in confusion.

“What?” I say. He looks away.

“Like I said before. We are all pawns in his game.” He says. He looks up and looks back to me.

“I didn’t have a choice. Cassian controls me. He controls my will when he wants. And towards the end of my travels, he wanted me to shun you. To stir your emotions and make you feel like you were alone. So that you would run to him.” He looks down, unable to make eye contact with me.

“You can’t control your power. Cassian knew that. And getting your emotions all over the place was the perfect opening for him. I just hate that he used me to get to you.” He looks up at me and I see the hurt in his gaze.

“What do you mean Cassian controls you.” I ask.

“I’m not of royal blood like Cassian. Nor am I a dragonborn. I am a Xindrite. Born and bred for battle and protection. To lay my life down and put whoever I am bound to ahead of mine.” He sets the torch down between us, reaching for the sleeve of his armor and pulls it down slightly. My eyes widen when I see the large marking on his shoulder similar to mine. Cassian’s marking.

“When I turned sixteen I was chosen to be Cassian’s subordinate. He owns me. And I’ve never thought twice about that. I was honored. In my culture, it’s an honor. I was the best, so I was chosen to protect the future.” He says.

“You and Cassian, you are one of the ancients. The first. The originals. A part of the four. The rest of us, are yours to control. To do with as you please. Cassian wasn’t always like he is now. He once believed in free will and fairness. Even if we were beneath him. But I betrayed him a long time ago.” He trails off, not finishing his sentence.

My head is spinning from all of this new information. It’s so much in so little amount of time.

“If he controls you, then how are you here?” I ask. “Does he know you’re speaking to me?”

He shakes his head.

“Cassian is away at the moment.” Is all he says.

“All those times you were warning me about him, and I didn’t listen.” I say with regret. Caius shakes his head.

“It’s natural to be attracted to your opossite. It was nature working against you the moment you were brought into this castle.” He says looking around. His eyes fall to the way my arms are chained to the wall.

“I don’t understand why he put you in these cruel conditions.” He says softly.

“Why can’t I use my power.” I ask. Caius is quiet for a moment, and when I look up, he looks uncomfortable. Like he doesn’t want to answer.

“Can you still not use it now?” He says in confusion. “Not at all?”

I shake my head. He seems to be thinking, and he closes his eyes. He looks like he’s in pain.

“He marked you, didn’t he?” He says softly. I stare in confusion.

“I don’t understand...” He taps his shoulder lightly.

“The night you attacked me, he put a mark on you. He wasn’t punishing you. He was placing a mark on you to control you. To control your power. He wasn’t expecting you to become as strong as you did so fast. The amount of power you exuded that night, was enough to almost kill me. So, he imbedded his will. But since you are one of the ancients, the marking should have been only temporary. He shouldn’t still be able to control you. Unless...” He trails off and looks up at me. He just stares. And stares. And stares. A myriad of emotions crosses his face.

“Please... tell me you didn’t...” He whispers. “Tell me he didn’t...” He doesn’t have to finish his sentence. I drop my head, tears running down my face.

“I didn’t have a choice...” My voice is so quiet, so small and broken, I’m surprised he hears me. He doesn’t say a word though. He only stands.

“Wait.” I say. There’s one thing that’s been bothering me since he told me his story.

“How did you betray him... all those years ago?” I ask. He looks down at me, but I don’t see anger. Or disgust. Or irritation. I see pity.

“I let you live.” He says. I feel as though the breath has been ripped from me.

“Wha-”

“Cassian is close. I must go.” He says. He looks down at me.

“Don’t lose faith. For the sake of this world, please don’t lose faith.” He says. He turns away from me, taking the flames with him. I hear the footsteps retreat, until I hear the sickening creak of the caged dungeons shut, leaving me in the dark, alone with my new thoughts.



Caius

“Enter.” Cassian’s voice comes from the other side. I push open the door, walking in. Sure enough, he’s sitting, looking at a map. But with women on his arms. I feel a sense of Deja vu from the first day Neytiri arrived here. One of the women looks up at me from behind him, her arms wrapped around his chest as she lightly rubs her fingers over his flesh. I take note that her pupils are dilated. And the room is filled with his hedon.

“What is it, Caius.” He says. I step into the room. I feel such anger at him for what he’s done. He could have spared Neytiri this anguish. He could have just ended her life all those years ago.

“How was the trip.” I ask.

“Uneventful. Alliances haven’t changed and the stronghold still has a protective boundary around it. It’s impenetrable.” He says. He finally looks up at me.

“Are you feeling better?” He asks. I nod my head.

“I apologize for what happened. I had no idea she would exert so much energy.” He says. I shake my head.

“It’s nothing to concern yourself over, my king. It’s my honor to lay my life down for your sake.” I say. Words drilled into me since I was a child. Cassian stares at me for a moment.

“Something else is bothering you.” He says. I don’t know if he’s asking me, or telling me, but it seems like he is telling me. The woman on his left dips her hand into his shirt, rubbing her face against his shoulder.

“It’s Neytiri, Cassian. You...” I trail off not even wanting to finish. She’s just a child. Her body may be that of a woman’s, but her mind is not. She knows next to nothing of this world, of her past, or of anything to do with her people. She was raised in the forbidden forests with a bunch of degenerate fools.

Cassian raises a brow at me.

“Yes. I did.” He says.

“I don’t understand it, Cassian. Why do such a thing and throw her in the dungeons. With such horrible conditions?” I ask. He glares at me.

“Is that pity? Pity for the Ikniri? The daughter of the man that had a hand in the slaughter of not just my people, but yours as well?” He says. I can feel his intimidation as if it’s squeezing my heart. But I don’t back down. He laughs.

“I forget. The same Ikniri that you let live all those years ago. Never thought it would come back to bite you in the ass, did you?” He says. He stands up, and the women around him groan in irritation. He ignores them, walking across the room to me.

“Might I remind you of the punishment you incurred that day she wandered into my camp, Caius?” He growls. His irises are turning a bright red, and I can see the monster lurking beneath the surface. I remember. I still have scars on my back from it.

“No.” I say. He doesn’t break my gaze though.

“Why is she still alive then, Cassian. Haven’t you gotten what you needed from her, she is no longer a threat to you.” I say. I try and plead with him. He shrugs, walking away from me.

“What better way to enter the new age than with an Ikniri by my side. Tied to my will.” He says.

“No one will ever think about attacking us again. And besides, I’ve grown quite fond of her in the time she’s been here.” He says. I take a step forward.

“If you’ve grown so fond of her, then won’t you consider taking her out of the dungeons, Cassian. She’s had no influence from her people. She’s naïve. You know that!” I say. Cassian sits down, looking at me.

“Have you grown feelings for her, Caius?” He says. His question catches me off guard. I immediately get defensive.

“Of course not.” I say. He watches me. He sees right through me.

“Caius. You’ve been my friend, and my ally for years. You fought at my side and defended me, for years. I would hate to have to take your freedom from you, because of a woman.” He says. He stands and makes his way back across the room, coming face to face with me.

“My woman.” He growls. His eyes are burning. I stand my ground, even though it’s all but impossible.

“She’s mine now, Caius. You should do well to remember that. Don’t let your conscience get in the way of your oath.” He says.

“I understand, my king.” I growl out.

“Very good.” He walks away from me.

“Get out.” He says over his shoulder. I bow, and turn away from the room, walking out. A hand stops me in my tracks as I step through the hallway. It’s Ulric. He’s watching me with a serious expression.

“I know how you feel about the Ikniri. Cast those feelings out. Cassian isn’t the same man he once was. She belongs to him now.” I shove him out of my face.

“She’s not some fucking land he can just lay claim to. She doesn’t belong to him.” I snap. Ulric looks at me in shock, and quickly hides it.

“If you get in the way of the king’s plan, you will die Caius. And he will torture her.” He searches my gaze.

“Choose your battles carefully.” He tries to walk away, but I grab him.

“Can you really look at her like she’s just a random Ikniri, Ulric.” I say. “She spent years in our camp. She trusted us with her life, she looked at us like her family. If she regained her memory, and saw us now, it would destroy her. She would feel the ultimate betrayal-”

“Like you’re betrayal, Caius?” He snaps. He jerks his arm out of my grasp, and points in my face.

“All of them. That was the plan. All of them were to die. Women, Children, there was to be no discrimination. They were all to die. We trusted you with the last of them. And you let the child go. You just... let her go. The last Ikniri! She shared the blood of her people, she was to die that day!” He shouts.

“I didn’t pledge my life to murder children!” I shout.

“I swore my allegiance, I pledged and gave my oath to the dragonborn to defend and honor my king. I never agreed to kill an innocent child. A mother, and her sons. And we are all wrong, all of us! For not standing up and letting rage blindly consume us!” I shout.

“If you can say you felt nothing that day. Nothing when you ripped children from their mother’s arms, just to kill them, as well as their mothers, the innocents, then I refuse to respect you as anything other than a despicable bastard!” I hiss. He doesn’t speak. He doesn’t say anything. He just watches me.

He jerks past me, shoving my shoulder in the process, and storms up the hall. I watch him as he leaves and look down.

I can’t live under Cassian’s rule any longer. He’s insane. If Ulric was right about anything, it’s the fact that Cassian is no longer the man he once was. He has rightfully earned the title of the blood king. Because that is all he is after.

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