The Blood King

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Chapter 23

Cassian. He’s here. He’s right in front of me. I let out a soft gasp, looking around as the room slowly forms. It transforms from a swirling mist to solid stone. I know at the back of my mind it has to do with the blood oath. But it all seems so real.

It’s a dark stony room, the only light coming from the candle sitting atop the table, where Cassian is seated. Waiting for me. He watches me expectantly. I can’t help but think that he looks so much more sinister in this light. Even when he is doing nothing more than watching me. His dark hair is falling freely around his shoulders, and he's wearing dark clothing with red stitching in it, accentuating those glowing red irises, and the black surrounding them. It's in a word, terrifying.

He holds his hand out motioning to the seat in front of him.

I expect him to at least be angry, but his expression gives off a sort of calm. Almost amusement as he watches me. A stark contrast to his mood when we escaped his kingdom.

I take a deep breath, slowly stepping to the table.

“Have a seat, wife.” He spits the word in disgust. I take a seat, keeping my eyes focused on his movements. He laughs. in irritation.

“I’m not going to hurt you.” He says. My eyes narrow at his choice of words. He said the same thing when I first arrived at his castle and continued to speak that lie to me daily until I actually believed it.

“Why do you say that.” I snap. His face doesn’t change, but somehow i can sense the amusement in his eyes.

“Say what?” He asks.

“You know what. That you won’t hurt me, when it is clearly your intention.” I say. His smile widens, and he laughs. A boisterous laugh.

“If it were my intention to hurt you, Neytiri, I would have a long time ago.” He says.

“So you expect me to believe it was never your intention,” I say. He’s quiet for a moment, then shakes his head. He places his hands flat on the small table, leaning forward.

“It wasn’t my intention. My intention was to win your heart, and let you believe a fantasy, and have a carefree existence. But things don’t always go according to plan. And I can’t take back what has happened.” He says. His eyes travel up and meet mine and he shrugs.

“But still, it would have been nice.”

“I have to say I am shocked at the turn of events.” He sits back, crossing his arms over his chest. “I never expected you to figure out the inner workings of the bonds.” He says. He tilts his head, raising a brow.

“But you didn’t figure it out, did you? At least, not on your own.” He says watching me. I keep his gaze. I’m not afraid. And I won’t show him that I’m intimidated. A small smile breaks onto his face.

“I’m not angry with you.” He says. I hear the emphasis he puts on the words. I’m driving myself crazy trying to figure out why he’s being so calm when he was trying to kill us when we were escaping. He seems to know the direction of my thoughts. He leans forward, placing his hand over the flame. I watch mesmerized as the flame licks his palm, causing him no pain. Not even catching his flesh. If anything, it’s wrapping around it.

“Had it not been for Caius, escape would have never been an option for you. And had it not been for my men, escape would have never become a reality.” He says softly. “ I must congratulate them. I never suspected a thing.”

I feel a bit of guilt tugging at my heart.

“We never meant to hurt you, Cassian. You can still make things right...” I try. He looks away from the fire, meeting my gaze.

“Make things, right?” He repeats as if actually thinking about it. He stands, walking around the table until he is directly in front of me. He kneels down so that he is eye level with where I am seated. He looks as though he is in deep thought. His hands wrap around mine, and I let out a soft gasp from the heat emitting from his palms.

“I am going to make things right, Neytiri." His eyes meet mine.

"I am going to hunt you down. All of you.” I bite my tongue and force my breathing to slow.

“I know exactly where you are all headed. And I know the plan once you arrive. And I know, that once you arrive, naive little ikniri, everything will fall perfectly into place.”

“Now you understand the bond between Xindrite and those they serve, now you will sense their suffering. You will hear and feel their pain when I kill every last one of them. And I won’t be merciful. I will make them suffer. I will make them pay for their betrayal, and for turning their back on their king, for you.” He growls the words in disgust.

“When the time comes, the men that abandoned and betrayed their king will die by his hand.” He stands, towering over me walking back to his seat across the table.

“And there will be nothing you can do about it, Neytiri. And once the battlefield is littered with their corpses, I will end the Ikniri legacy, with the last one.” He growls at me. He sits back, gauging my reaction. I look down at my hands and close my eyes, letting all the emotions I am feeling rush through me. I chuckle softly, looking up and looking Cassian straight into his eyes.

“You can try.”

I’m standing in the middle of the river. I can feel the soft breeze tickling my hair, and lightly playing with my shoulders. The water is running rapidly around my ankles, and the cool temperature feels relaxing. I close my eyes, just pretending that everything isn’t real, and I’m back in the village with Gran. Not about to battle the King of the Dragons, and find a way to protect his men from him. I can’t get his tone out of my head. He wants to end all of us. I open my eyes, looking behind me. I see faces that are familiar to me from my childhood. Faces that betrayed their king to follow me.

Instead of sorrow or guilt on their faces, I see joy. Even relief. They’re smiling and speaking with each other. Some washing their faces, and some simply brushing their horses. I turn back to the scenery in front of me. We’ve been traveling deeper into the mountains. According to Caius, Cassian won’t be following us here. He’s busy. And I know he is.

I look down at my palm. The scar is healing, now a lighter color than the rest of my palm. I can feel Cassian as if he’s here with me. His mind is going crazy. But one thing I’m certain of is coming from him. Anger.

I let out a deep sigh, dropping my hand and facing my face back to the sun. Now that we’ve escaped, we are enemies of the Dragonborn. All of the men here now sport my mark. They are now my subordinates. And because the blood of the ancients run through my veins, I am able to cast out Cassian’s will. My husband’s will.

I scoff at the thought. We were only married seconds before I attacked him with a wall of ice and blew a hole in the castle walls. This will be an event for the historians to write down. They can put it right next to the destruction of the ikniri. I face the men that I’ve known since I was a child. Some are sitting near the water’s edge, while others are tending to the horses.

We’ve been riding for three days, for fear that Cassian may catch us. But now that we’ve reached the mountains, according to Caius, we’re safe. I can sense the general emotions of the men. They all seem relieved. Happy even. I only sense a few that feel guilt towards betraying their king. It’s strange having so many emotions run through you that isn’t your own. Is this how Cassian felt all the time? If so, how could he stand knowing that his men felt so horrible for the things they were being forced to do. That just further makes him the tyrant they had all become accustomed to.

As I step out of the river, the men that are near the water immediately bow to me. Caius says it’s because even though we have separated and I’ve taken control of this group, I am still the queen. I keep walking until I see my horse.

Caius is brushing him. He looks up upon my approach, smiling. I still can’t get over his newly blue eyes. Apparently, it’s my power running through him. It’s the same with all the Xindrite that have joined me. He takes in my expression and immediately his smile disappears.

“Something troubling you?”

“Yes.” I breathe.

“Do you want to talk about it?” He asks. I shake my head. But I open my mouth anyway after the short silence convinces me otherwise.

“I’m afraid... I won’t be able to protect you. All of you.” Caius frowns looking up at me.

“We all know the consequences of our betrayal, Neytiri. We never expected you to keep us safe. It’s our job to keep you safe. Understand?” He says. I shake my head.

“It’s not your job to keep me safe. It’s my job to safely lead you.” I look around at all the men, “I know what Cassian is thinking. He wants all of you dead. All of you. And I am nothing more than a clueless Ikniri, that has no grip on my power yet. Cassian could have protected all of you if he wanted. What can I do?” I ask. Caius looks troubled but doesn’t respond.

“Neytiri. Don’t burden yourself with such things. We will be alright.” He says. “You are strong. So strong. None of us are worried. We would have never followed you out if we didn’t have confidence in you. We came to you, Neytiri. We all believe in you.” He smiles at me. I give him a small smile and wrap my arms around his neck.

“Thank you,” I mumble. I feel his arms slowly come up and press softly against my back.

“Whatever for?” He asks softly.

“For being here,” I say.

We ride and ride until the greenery turns to snow and the warm winds turn to icy blasts. It doesn't bother me in the least. And I finally have an idea of where we are headed. Caius is riding next to me.

“We’re going to my home?” I ask. He nods his head. But I don’t miss the uneasy look he has in his eyes. He’s nervous. As are the others.

I know the moment we’re in the Ikniri territory. Call it instinct, but I know. I slow my horse and step down, my legs crunching in the snow beneath me. It’s comforting, yet I can feel the uneasiness in the air. The land is beautiful. And almost impossible. There are trees. This high in the mountain. But they are not green. The leaves are white.

The more north we travel, the thicker they are until they lead up to a path of some sort. Or what used to be a path. Now it’s nothing more than a snowy land, and overgrown trees. But there is still some semblance of an entrance.

They arch up, showing an opening, and I can see what is beyond the gateway.

“Neytiri...” I hear Caius, but I don’t listen. I keep walking. I know this place. It’s almost as if it's calling to me. Making me come closer. I slowly make my way to the arch and hold out my hand. There’s a wall of some kind. Not visible to the eye, but a mass of energy. I place my hand against it, and I can sense something coming towards me.

I turn, throwing up a wall of ice, blocking the attack. Caius is quick off his horse as are the men around us turning to defend me. The sound of hundreds of swords leaving their sheaths fills the air. I’m poised ready to attack, and my eyes widen at what I see.

Men. With Spears made of ice. Protruding from their arms. With white hair, and blue eyes like mine.


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