The Blood King

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Chapter 5

“The Gardens.” I look up and notice Ismena walking up to me. She has a small smile on her face and a something strange in her hands. I look back to the view I’ve been taking in for the last five minutes. It’s beautiful. I know Gran would have loved it. There is a maze of grass and flowers, and a pond in the center. I take note of the statues surrounding the gardens. Menacing looking dragons.

“They’re beautiful.” I murmur. She finally catches up to me, handing me the object in her hand. I eye it in confusinon. The soft fleshy texture reminds me of meat, but it’s cold. And smells sweet.

“It’s a grapefruit.” She says. I raise a brow at the mention of fruit. It looks nothing like the fruit we have back home. I raise it to my lips, popping it in and biting on it. Juice immediately fills my cheeks, and I can taste the bittersweet fruit. I like it.

“Louise told me you barely ate breakfast this morning. I thought I’d bring you something.” She says softly. I smile at her.

“Thank you.” I say. It’s been a week since my arrival here. I’ve heard nothing from anyone of my purpose for being here, nor have I heard from the king again. Each time I ask someone about him, they get wide eyed and tight lipped. All saying the same thing.

“No one sees the king.”

How can they serve someone that they never see? And why? I don’t understand why everyone fears him so much. He didn’t seem terrifying when I was in his room. He was actually very patient with me. But he did have me blind-folded when he first came to the throne room, and he made the room pitch black when i spoke to him. Maybe he looks terrifying.

I look to Ismena, but the moment i go to open my mouth, her eyes widen and she drops her gaze. Her hands immediately clasp in front of her and she bows holding her position with her head lowered. I turn to see what it is she is doing this for, and see a group of men coming our direction. Judging from their attire as well as their guard they are leaders.

You can see it radiating from their every pore. The entitlement, the arrogance. The greed. They are being followed by a guard of men that all wear their insignias. In total, there are three different clan leaders here. Two of which are old men, with gray beards, and the one that keeps his gaze steady looks young.

They continue their walk, and Ismena stays bowed as they come towards us. The older man dressed in red glances our direction, and does a double take pausing when he sees me. His eyes widen.

“An ikniri?” He says in confusion. The man next to him is pulled out of his arrogant bubble, and looks at me as well. His eyes widen too.

“I thought they were extinct.” He says.

“Gerand swore he killed them all.” My gaze narrows in irritation. I’m sick of people speaking of me as if I’m not even here. They gaze at me expactantly, before one of them speaks up.

“Ikniri. You are to bow to your superiors.” The first man speaks up. I look around, and bring my gaze back to his.

“I see no superiors of mine anywhere.” I snap. His arrogant smile falls and he begins stalking towards me.

“Why you arrogant little...”

“Darius.” We all pause as the voice rings across the hall. I look in the direction of the voice to see the man that was standing outside of the Kings room walking towards us. He still has his weapons strapped to his back.

“Caius.” Darius stands straight as the man he called Caius comes closer.

“The ikniri is a guest of the king. He won’t take kindly to you putting your hands on her.” He says. His tone is sharp. Darius turns visibly red.

“I don’t care if she is the last ikniri. You need to teach her manners.” He says. Caius’ gaze never falters. He steps closer to Darius so that he is inches from the mans face.

“Might I remind you that you are no longer the kings you once were. Your suggestions have no meaning here. And unless you want your heirs to step into an early throne, I suggest you swallow your tongue, and keep your opinions to yourself. Do I make myself clear, Darius.” He growls. Even I have to step back from the power that is pouring off of him.

Darius’ gaze narrows, and I know he wants to hit Caius. But he knows better. So he only nods. Caius follows him with his gaze, then turns to me. His gaze travels past me to Ismena.

“You there. Take these men to the kings court.” He says. Ismena finally stands, and walks in front of the men, but keeps her gaze down.

“If you’ll follow me, milords.” She says. She turns away from us, leading the men out of the room and leaving me with Caius.

“You’d do well not to provoke them.” He says. I look at him in surprise.

“I did nothing to provoke them.” I snap. If anything, they provoked me. He raises a brow at me, and I realize that he’s watching me with amusement.

“Those men are the same men that aided in the destruction of your people. They know your people’s past.” He says. I look down, feeling my heart ache at the mention.

“My name is Caius. The king assigned me to your guard.” He says. This catches my attention.

“I don’t need a guard. I want to leave this place.” I say. He scoffs.

“And go where.” He says as he crosses his arms in front of him. I look out the archway that shows off the beautiful gardens below.

“Somewhere far from here. Far from these people. Across the sea.” I say thinking of Gran. He’s silent.

“Come with me.” He says as he walks past me.

I follow him through the winding castle, and down a row of stone steps. We reach a large iron gate that is guarded by two fearsome looking men. Their gazes fall on Caius and they step aside, letting us through. I feel the warm air immedaitely, as we pass under a stone archway. My eyes widen as I take in the sight around me.

Grass as tall as me, and greener than anything I’ve ever seen before. My feet are moving ahead of my brain as I take it all in. The flowers, the grass, the trees, it’s all so beautiful. The sun is high in the sky, making the colors seem even more vibrant. I walk up to the nearest flower, touching its soft waxy petals with my fingertips. It’s amazing.

I’m so caught up in my wandering, that I don’t even realize that I’ve walked away from Caius, and he’s not following me. I wander throughout the large garden, not in the least worried. It’s as if all of my worries have melted away. I stay for maybe minutes, or even hours, but the beauty of this place makes me feel a peace I haven’t felt since I was olde enough to understand my village hated me.

“You’re crying again.” I jump, opening my eyes and move to turn around, when I feel hands on my shoulders keeping my body facing forward. My body heats up unexpectedly and I feel an electric pulse from the hands on my shoulders.

“Don’t turn around.” He murmurs. It’s the king. My hear rate immediately speeds up.

“I won’t harm you.” He clarifies. He runs his hand along my hair, pulling it behind my ear. I feel a small push and realize he’s leading me to the waters edge, and lets me sit down. He’s still silently behind me.

“Why are you crying. Do the gardens not make you happy?” He asks. I open my mouth to respond but nothing comes out. I want to turn around, to see who it is that I am talking to, but he told me not to and I don’t want to disobey.

“They do..” I trail off. He sounds like he genuinely doesn’t understand why I am crying.

“That’s why I am crying. They make me happy.” I clarify. He’s silent.

“Why did you come out here.” I ask.

“If I’m not allowed to see you, why come into the bright gardens where others may see you.” I ask. He laughs softly.

“I’m not hiding from anyone. I only wish for you to understand before you see who I am.”

“Understand what?” I ask.

“In due time.” He says. I look down, and my eyes widen slightly. I can see his shadow angled in front of me.

“Caius tells me you wish to leave.” He says. I nod my head.

“It was always my plan to leave. This place isn’t safe for me.” I say.

“And go where? Do you know what is beyond the sea?”

I shake my head.

“No. But anything is better than living in constant fear.” I say. He runs his finger along my shoulder blade. I shudder from the contact.

“You have nothing to fear here, Neytiri. You are safe.” He says.

“How do you know my name. I never told you.” I say.

“I’ve known you for a very long time, Neytiri.” He says. I shake my head in confusion.

“But I don’t know you.” I say.

“I know.” He says. He almost sounds... sad.

“Do you like your living arrangements.” He asks. I shrug.

“You can dress it up as you like. It’s still a prison.” I say. He laughs again. It’s soft.

“You are no prisoner here, I can assure you. You just must take Caius with you when leaving the palace.” He says. My eyes widen.

“What?” I say in disbelief.

“I can assure you, you are no prisoner. Your safety is what it most important to me. And I’m sure the people would love to see the last Ikniri that has been rumored to have surfaced.” He says. I hear the rustle of fabric as he stands to leave.

“I shall send for Caius to escort you.” He says. I hear him leaving, and realize that he knows my name, but I don’t know his.

“Wait!” I shout.

“What... what is your name?” I ask. There’s silence, and I almost think that he’s left the garden but then he answers.


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