Why. Why? Why.
I can’t will it away from my heart. This constant, staggering pain. This inner suffering. My arms and legs are on fire. My stomach and ribs are bruised and aching. My eyes are burning, and my mouth is split. But none of it compares to the bleeding hole that has been torn inside my heart.
I can’t get it out of my head. The screaming. The begging. The burning. God, the smell. The image of her burning, until there was nothing left on that pyre, but a charred body. The people she trusted, believed in and loved turned their backs on her, because of me. Another sob escapes me, and more tears I didn’t even think I had fall.
My wrists are bound in front of me, they’ve gone numb from the tightness of the rope. My feet are on fire, we’ve been walking for days, maybe weeks. I don’t know. My stomach is gripped tight with hunger. But even if they offered, I don’t think i could eat.
I look up, trying to take note of my surroundings, but I have no idea where we are. The usual forest has disappeared, and has been replaced by rolling hills and distant mountains. I’m stumbling, constantly, and barely able to keep myself upright. I haven’t slept since we began this trip. Every time I do, I can see her. Hear her.
I trip over a pothole, and this time am unable to keep myself upright. I stumble, falling forward and hitting the dirt with all the force of my body weight. My hands are nowhere to help soften the impact of the fall, seeing as they’re tied in front of me. I crash into the grass, grunting hard from the impact. My arms are jerked roughly.
“Get up!” Loris hisses ahead of me. I cringe as I hear his footsteps, and i know exactly what is coming.
Eight Days Later
The grass turns to cobblestone. The sound of the wind turns to the sound of people. Busy people. I can hear the metallic clang of a blacksmith, the hustle and bustle of busy people, but I don’t miss the loud gasps of shock when they notice me.
Me, the last Ikniri. The people that are of legend. Said to have never existed. I hear Loris bolstering ahead of me, getting everyone’s attention, telling them how he captured me, and brought me as an offering to the new king.
The new king that none of us know anything about. Or how he even became king. Only the rumors that circulate, starting with his title. The Blood King.
I scoff in irritation at his lies. I raise my gaze to see the new world around me. It’s amazing. Completely different than the forest I’ve lived in my entire life. Row upon row of houses, taverns, stands that I’ve never seen before surround me. The entire kingdom is surrounded by massive mountains, that are beautiful. And when I look straight ahead, my mouth slightly drops.
A massive castle lays before me, surrounded by water and land, separating it from the village below. I look around at the banners flying, and gasp in shock when i see the symbol on them. It looks just like the symbol that is on my face, under my eye.
“I thought they were extinct.” I hear a frightened whisper that pulls me out of my aw struck gaze. I look to my left and right and see the massive crowd of people that are gathering to get a look. All with shocked expressions on their faces. I immediately drop my gaze, not wanting to see the faces any longer.
Even though we are in the kingdom, Loris and his cronies don’t stop for anything. I can practically see the drool coming from their mouths as they imagine the reward for turning me in. The walk to the castle takes hours, but we finally make it to the gates, and are greeted by guards. Guards that do not look the least bit friendly. As soon as they lay eyes on Loris, they ready their weapons.
Loris and his friends stop, and yank roughly on my ropes. The guards at the gate step forward, holding their swords at ready.
“Who are you. Why have you come to the Kings home unannounced.” His voice is like a whip. Deep and gruff. Loris roughly jerks me forward, and kicks me in the back of my legs causing me to fall roughly to the stone. He then grips a fistful of my hair.
“I bring a gift to the new king. An ikniri. The last, Ikniri.” He says. I can practically feel his smile. I grit my teeth in pain, trying to retain what little bit of dignity I have left. I hear the guards shuffle, and the one I’m assuming is the leader finally speaks. He says something in a different language, and I hear the sound of armor as one hurries away.
Loris lets go of my hair, pressing his foot into my back, pushing me into the stone. I have no energy, to fight back, so I just take it. Feeling the new bruises and scrapes as they come onto my body.
“I sent one of my men to alert the king. In the meantime, please join us in the throne room while we wait. You must be tired from your trip.” He says. Loris reaches for my bonds, but the guard interrupts.
“I’ll take the Ikniri from here.” He says. His voice is calm yet stern at the same time. I keep my gaze down, and I can hear him coming near me. I half expect him to yank me up like Loris and his friends have been doing for the journey, but he does the opposite. He kneels next to me, gently placing his hands over my bonds.
“Can you stand.” He asks. I keep my gaze down, but nod. He keeps his hands around my shoulders, helping me stand off the ground.
“I wouldn’t touch her too much. She’s cursed. She’ll have you and your men killed within days. If you’re lucky, the blood king will kill her before she can plague the kingdom.” Loris calls over his shoulder as his friends laugh in agreement. The guard doesn’t say anything. He only pulls out a tiny dagger. I flinch immediately, squeezing my eyes shut and waiting for the pain to come. I hear the sound of cutting rope, and the bonds around my wrists drop to the ground.
I stare at them in shock, looking at the deep red stains that cover the once white rope. My gaze travels to my wrists which look awful, torn, and bloody. Not to mention the disgusting discoloration of my hands due to the lack of circulation. I look up at the guard, and he’s watching me with an unreadable expression.
“Come.” He says softly. He keeps his arms around me, as we walk into the castle.
The doors to the Kings room is pushed open, the guard running in. The room is filled with a heavy smog. A smog that keeps whoever is under it in a deep haze. Free from the worlds bonds. A smog created by the King, as he is unaffected by it.
The women on his arms are gently massaging his skin, running their fingers over the intricate symbols that have engrained themselves on his flesh. Wrapping from his chest to his arms. A sign of who, and what he is. His irritated gaze travels across the room, his uniquely piercing gaze falling on one of his men.
He takes note that it’s one of Ulric’s men of the most Elite guard, followed by Caius, the strongest in the kingdom, after him, and his closest friend. So he swallows his irritation, and doesn’t say a word. The guard immediately kneels keeping his gaze down.
“I apologize for the interruption my King, but some foreigners have just arrived at the front gate with... an Ikniri... And she sports your mark, my king.” He finishes.
He smiles at the news, but says nothing. The women on his arms begin placing their cheeks along his flesh, as his excitement seeps through the room.
“Shall I greet them.” Caius begins from behind the guard. He holds his hand up silencing him. He leans his head back, taking a deep breath, and blowing the steam from between his teeth filling the room with more of the gray haze. Dragon’s hedon. A smile begins to form on his face, making even Caius uncomfortable, seeing as smiles are a rare thing from their King.
“I will greet them.” His voice is smooth. Cutting through the air with ease. The woman on the left begins placing soft kisses along his throat.
“Blindfold the Ikniri. Make her captors feel welcome.” He says. Caius nods his head and the guard stands, placing his fist over his heart and bowing slightly before exiting the room.
Caius steps forward, a grim expression on his face as he watches the guard leave before closing the door.