The Blood King

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Chapter 22

The room is filled with silence. The only sound coming from the tightening of my corset, and the brushing of my hair. The silence is filled on occasion with the soft rustle of fabric, but other than that, no one says a word.

All of the maids work tirelessly to make sure a hair isn’t out of place and the dress fits perfectly on me. But with each stitch, I feel my emotions slipping further and further away from me. Even Ismena’ s small gesture isn’t enough to comfort me.

I’ve been dreading this day, but also waiting for it to get here. I go over the plan in my head daily, hoping to miss nothing. Because one false move, one forgotten thing could end everyone who is involved life. It’s a heavy burden to carry, but it is my burden. My burden as the last ikniri, and the one that will deliver these men and these people from the clutches of their king.

They all believe in me enough to put their lives in my hands, and because of that I haven’t been able to eat, sleep, or drink. Each time Cassian would look at me, my heart would seize in my chest. For sure I thought he knows. He must know. But he doesn’t. He has no idea that the men he holds dear are all about to betray him.

“Almost done, your majesty.” One of the maids says as she places the veil in my hair, and spreads it on either side of my face. She steps around to my face, pushing the stray curls behind my ears, smiling at me.

“There. Perfect.” She steps aside and lets me look into the full mirror. I let out a soft gasp when I see myself. I look beautiful. The gown is beautiful. Elegant. And it shines like a thousand jewels have been sewed into it. It’s pure white, matching the color of my hair, and I take note that there is a sapphire around my throat, matching my eyes.

“The king is very lucky.”

I hold back the remark threatening to exit my lips, and just look at myself. There’s a small knock on the door, and one of the servants move to open it revealing Caius. All the maids bow, and immediately leave the room. Our gazes meet from the mirror. He steps into the room, not saying a word. Not breaking eye contact until he is standing directly behind me.

My gaze travels to the uniform he is wearing.

“I’m here to escort you to the chapel.” He says softly. I nod my head, looking back into the mirror. Looking at myself one last time, before everything changes. Before the day works for or against me, or before I am responsible for countless peoples’ deaths. I turn away from the mirror, looking at Caius. I don’t say anything. I just search his eyes for the same emotions that I am feeling, but I don’t find it.

“I’m scared.” I whisper. A small frown appears on his lips.

“I know.” He says. He reaches out, placing his finger under my chin, and bending over so that he is eye level with me.

“I, Caius of the Xindrite, do pledge my undying loyalty to you, Neytiri of the Ikniri. I swear to give my life to you wholeheartedly, and live out my days doing your bidding. You are the reason for my existence, and my whole point in being. I will let nothing happen to you. I will die before I let that happen.” He says. He holds his hand out.

“Do you accept me as your vessel, Neytiri?” He murmurs. I’m at a loss for words. Surely Cassian can hear everything he’s saying. He must know. Caius must know the direction of my thoughts.

“Cassian is far too busy to be keeping tabs on me today.” He smiles softly. His smile drops.

“Do you accept me, Neytiri.” He asks. I slowly place my hand in his. His palm is warm.

“I accept you.” No sooner are the words out of my mouth, do I feel a surge of energy. I can feel the difference. I can feel Cassians already occupying hold on Caius. Call it instinct, but I know how to add my power to it. Caius feels it too, for he flinches in front of me, squeezing his eyes shut in pain.

“Caius?” I ask. He drops to one knee. I open my mouth to say something, but I see a white mist forming around him. I watch in fascination as it all draws to one spot, before disappearing beneath his skin. He’s breathing heavily, and I place my hand softly on his back.

“Caius, are you alright?” I ask softly. He nods his head, slowly standing. He opens his eyes looking at me and I gasp at the new revelation. His eyes are no longer amber. They’re a crystal blue. Like mine.

“Wha-”

“I am now your vessel, Neytiri. My oath is to you. My life is yours to do with as you please.” He says softly.

“I am loyal only to you. And whoever else decides to join you when the time comes, the same will be true. That is what it means to be Xindrite. That is our purpose in life, Neytiri. You are now the only thing that is holding me to this world.” He says. He holds his elbow out, and I place my arm in the crook.

We walk silently through the halls. I look up at him.

“When the time comes, you will know what to do.” He says.

“You can’t hesitate, Neytiri. The window will be small. And Cassian won’t be expecting it. The moment you make your move, we will be there to defend you and to help you escape. And we’ll head for the mountains.” He says. I nod my head, straightening my gaze.

According to Torren, as a part of our wedding vows, Cassian and I will make a blood oath to each other. The moment our bond is complete will be the moment of vulnerability. I will have seconds to emit my full power and take control of my own body. I’ve been under Cassian’s constant control because of the mind games he’s been playing with me. But I am one of the ancients. My power is equal to Cassian’s. And I have to believe that, or he will have control, and the plan will fail.

For this to be possible, I have to marry him. And that terrifies me.

We come up on approach to the doors, and I notice the guards outside of the doors. None of them seem to be bothered by the fact that Caius’ eyes are now a new color. We pause in front of the doors, and I turn to Caius.

I can hear the bells tolling, and the music. Beyond those doors is my future. My future that will be decided within an instant. Caius stares at me.

“You look beautiful.” He says. He smiles and lightly places his palm against my cheek. "I wish it was for a more happier occasion."

“No matter what happens, I’m glad I spared you all those years ago.” He turns away from me, nodding his head and the doors open.

The chapel is large, and dimly lit. I can see the large crowd of people that span the pews on either side, but the thing that stands out to me most is the man standing at the end of the aisle. Cassian is dressed in all black, and red. His dark eyes focused on me. I can feel my heart sputtering in my chest as I look at him. I notice that the people on either side stand in their rows, and I know its time for me to begin my walk down the aisle.

I place one foot in front of the other, and squeeze onto the bouquet in my hands. I can feel the small flicker of energy inside of me. Cassian’s hard features morph slightly and that’s when I realize he’s smiling. At me.

I rarely ever saw his smile in the days past.

I try and catch my breath as I walk up the aisle, towards the man that took everything from me. I hear the soft whispers of the people around me as they take in the last ikniri. The one they never thought they would see, because the man she is walking towards killed off her race.

The closer I get, the more my instincts are screaming at me to run away. But I can’t not now. Not ever. I wonder if this is the fate that Gran used to speak to me about. Cassian holds out his hand to me, and I notice my hands are shaking as I place mine in his. He pulls me up next to him, and looks me in my eyes. His gaze is burning into mine, yet I find it nearly impossible to look away.

“You’re stunning.” He murmurs. He reaches up, pulling a curl from behind my ear, and softly caressing my cheek. He then rubs his thumb over my bottom lip softly.

“Absolutely stunning.” He then turns to the priest. I hear everyone behind us, taking their seats, and silence falls over the chapel as the ceremony begins.

“Dearly beloved...”

As the Priest says the words, I look at Cassian. He’s so focused. So, stuck on his will. And doesn’t see the terror in what he is doing. I think back to the man that I knew in his camp all those years ago. Was this still his plan even then?

I repeat the words, after the priest, as does Cassian. His voice is soothing and sure. I look around and see that there are all kinds of guards here, and creatures of other lore. This plan has to be crazy, but Caius swore to me that they would help me.

I look up when I see the small dagger. Cassian places it on his palm, cutting a small opening, and hands the dagger to me. I place the sharp blade against my flesh, wincing at the light sting of the metal slicing through my flesh. I watch as the blood slowly seeps from my palm.

The priest recites some words, and Cassian holds his hand out to me. I know in my head; the time is nearing. I slowly place my hand in his, and I can feel the blood oath as it surges through the both of us. I close my eyes shut at the large amount of energy rushing through me.

And that’s when I feel it. The opening. It’s as if Cassian’s hold is gone. My eyes open, and I waste no time. I yank my hand back, and use both of my hands, holding them out in front of me. I see Cassian’s face morph into a look of shock. I open my mouth, and let out a scream as the ice comes rushing from my palms in a mountain of power, hitting Cassian full on. It collides with him, sending him up in a rush.

I keep the power coming out, until it hits the ceiling, and even then, I keep going for good measure. He’s frozen in the mountain of ice, but I know it won’t hold him for long. I turn, facing the crowd, and I hear the gasps, but I see faces that I recognize immediately from our travels. Other Dragonborn. I look around and the guards are already running towards me, as well as the Dragonborn that are jumping their seats to get to me.

I hold my hands out, blowing a large wall of ice blocking them from me. I then aim for the nearest wall, shooting through it. The bricks are blown away, and I pull up the hem of my dress taking off towards the new opening. I’m at the opening, when I feel the ground shake. I pause, knowing exactly where it’s coming from. I look up, and can see the red embers burning within my ice.

I turn and look out the whole and see Caius and a group of his men waiting for me at the bottom. A large group of men. I jump, using my ice as a slope to go down the edge of the mountain. I look around at all the men that are willing to follow me, even if it means death. And I smile when I see who is among them.

Torren. Fendrel. Carak. Merek. Sabon. As I near the bottom, I see Caius’ eyes widen as he looks behind me. I turn and look, and see Krea coming towards me. Her hair has an aura around it, and her hands as well.

Her gaze is narrowed. She seems to be flying towards me.

“I’ve wanted to do this for a while, Ikniri!” She screams as he reaches me. She swings at me, and I dodge, causing me to miss the footing, and my ice to stop. My stomach drops as I land on my back, and begin rolling down the hill.

I take note that the part of my veil that touched her glowing hands is now melted away. I gasp when I see her hand coming towards my face. I throw a punch at her, and release as much energy as I can. I hit her square in the chest, and she cries out in pain, flying in the opposite direction.

My back collides with the rocky cliff side, and I cry out, trying to put more ice between me and the ground. I try and quickly catch my breath, and ignore the throbbing pain from hitting the mountainside. Caius and his men are getting closer, and I finally reach the bottom of the cliff, and Caius is waiting for me with a horse. He jumps down from his, smiling at me. He quickly checks my face for bruising.

“Well done.”

He pulls out his sword, slicing off the bottom of my dress, and handing me a black coat. I quickly put it on and He helps me up onto my horse.

“Cassian will be on us within seconds. We must hurry.” He slaps my horse.

“Go, go go!” He shouts. My horse takes off, and I hear Caius shouting orders. I keep my gaze trained ahead, heading for the forests, and hear the men around me galloping as well. Suddenly, a chill rips through my spine, and that’s when I hear it. A loud, piercing roar. It makes me want to cover my ears.

“Show no fear!” I hear men around me screaming to each other, and I do what I shouldn’t have. I look back. My eyes widen, and I feel nothing but fear. I know it’s Cassian. He’s massive. A large, and terrifying beast. Teeth razor sharp, and black scales cover his form. His wingspan is large enough to cover the sun as he beats towards us. He opens his mouth and a shrill cry rips from his throat. This is the true form of the Dragonborn.

“What have we done?” I whisper. Merek is right next to me.

“Don’t fear, my Queen. We’ll protect you!” He shouts. I then notice the men surrounding me are changing formation. Cassian is joined by two other Dragons. Both of them beating towards us. I turn back facing the front of my horse. I look around me to the men surrounding me. Some have smiles on their faces, while others are intensely focused. All of these men, putting their lives on the line for me.

“Cassian’s army is not far behind!” I hear someone shout.

“Hoods up!” Someone else screams. I reach behind me, pulling up the hood on my coat as do the other men.

“Just keep moving forward!” Sabon shouts at me. I nod my head, keeping my gaze forward, but I can feel the blood oath Cassian and I share. He’s close. Nearly on top of us. And he’s out for blood. Their blood. He wants death.

I slowly fall back on my horse, until I am at the back with Caius. He looks over to me in confusion.

“What are you doing?” He shouts.

“I have an idea!” I say. He looks like he wants to fight against it, but changes his mind.

“Ok...”

“Cassian is going to burn us all. He means to kill us, and to do that he’s going to get in close range.” I say. Caius eyes widen. But he nods his head in understanding. I feel Cassian as he is right on top of us. I hear him inside of my head.

“I will burn you all.”

I can feel the heat as he breathes his fire, aiming it for the mass of men. I take a deep breath, calming myself. Once the fire is tree level, I jump off my horse, and turn facing the massive ball of flames.

It’s as if my mind has been opened, and I know exactly what to do. I hold out my hands and open my mouth, letting the power pour from me in waves, hitting the flames, erupting into a mass of smoke. I use the moment of cover, and form a massive ice wall for the army after us.

My fingers are feeling a slight chilled, but I ignore it. I see Caius coming towards me, and jump on the back of his horse, facing the three Dragonborn that are still pursuing us from the sky. I form a massive wall of ice over us, and aim for one of the Dragons. They disperse in the air, but aren’t paying attention. I bring back the ball of ice hitting them in the wings, just in time for us to escape into the forest.

My breathing is ragged, and my arms are aching. I lean back, against Caius, closing my eyes and smiling softly as the cheers erupt around me. Tears fall over, as happiness fills my chest.

“We did it, Neytiri. We did it.”

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