I’ve been pacing outside of the King’s room for about ten minutes.
I know I have to stop stalling, but there are just so many things that could go wrong.
The King is known for his wily manner and his grand parties. He’s not... Professional? Serious?
He’s basically the opposite of Garen. I like to consider myself a nice mix of both. Maybe a bit more King than Garen.
For another thing, the past Psuraelian Royals never liked mixed breeds like me.
My mother was a dryad, and my father a land basilisk. The two gave me a very strange mix of powers and features, the strongest being my strong connection to nature, my venom, and my ability to communicate with certain animals.
My parents never knew where my emotional powers came from, but they’d always assumed they were gifts from the gods. They went to seek out the gods who’d bestowed this gift upon me three years ago.
They haven’t returned. No word from them, no communication at all. No signs of life.
That’s not important right now, I remind myself. What matters is getting my plan through to the King sucessfully.
I glance around, hoping for a distraction. No maids, butlers, royal staff. None. Nothing.
I sigh, moving my hand up against the door, dread seeping past my skin. What if he doesn't approve? What will I do then?
I pause. I feel my eyebrows furrow and I step away from the door.
Something’s not right.
I look around again. No maids, no butlers, no royal staff. Where are the Royal Guards? There are always two stationed outside of this door. Even when switching shifts, the guards at the door don’t move until the new ones are in position.
This can’t be coincidence. I move up against the door, pressing my ear against it.
Most creatures can hear exceptionally well, but never through doors like these. The higher ranked officials can, as they’re more powerful, but most can’t.
I, however, have incredible hearing. I can hear everything going on in the entire castle if I focused.
Oh, how I focus. I listen closely, carefully, and nothing even breathes on the other side of the door.
What in the Great Skies is happening? I pull the door open, revealing a dark, empty chamber. No King.
No maids, no butlers, no royal staff. I hesitate, taking a step past the entrance. I hear the ruffling of wings and whirl around, waiting for an intruder to appear.
I tense, waiting for the sound to grow louder. A blur comes to a stop in front of me and I bare my fangs, taking a defensive stance.
Even if the King isn’t visible, he could still be in here. Which means it falls to me to protect him.
There’s no need, though. The intruder is Garen. I relax immediately.
It’s just Garen. An angry, wild-looking Garen.
His features soften when he sees me, and a smile breaks out across his features. I hear something behind him and frown, still on high alert.
“Garen-” I utter urgently, but I’m immediately interrupted as Garen rushes forward and embraces me tightly.
It takes me by surprise, and I stumble backwards from the force.
He shushes me immediately, his strong arms crushing me against the line of his body.
“You’re safe,” he mutters. I hear him laugh, and then a slight shuffle behind him. “Thank the gods, you’re safe.”
My frown deepens, and I work my arms between us. I shove at him, sending him stumbling backwards.
“Tell me what’s going on,” I demand before he can protest. He frowns, suddenly looking distressed again.
“There’s been an attack on Psuraelis. Word hasn’t spread fast enough, so we don’t know who it is. The King has been attacked, along with the rest of the Royal family. Aside from the Princess, not one of them survived.”
My jaw has fallen to the floor, disbelief coursing through me.
This has to be fake. There’s no way this can be happening. Psuraelis is at the far north end of Coras, and Coras is the Northernmost land on the planet. There’s no one that could have attacked us like this...
Unless the rest of Coras has been destroyed first.
“We have to leave, Bao. If we stay, we could be killed. If anything happens to you...” He trails off, tears gathering in his eyes.
The sight of him shocks me. We’ve been separated for no longer than fifteen minutes, and it’s like he’s a different person. I’ve never seen him so emotional, so passionate.
He’s a terrible liar, too. He’s not messing with me. This is real. Coras has been defeated.
“We will be okay,” I reassure him. He frowns, his head tipping to the side. His wings shake, and I meet his gaze.
I force myself to smile, squaring my shoulders. I step up to him, reaching up and cupping his cheek.
“We will make it out of this together, Garen. We will escape and... we will figure it out together. Okay?”
My words calm him down a bit, even without my powers.
He nods, looking down at me. He takes a step back and takes my hand in his, his wild eyes finally settling into a focused state.
“Alright. Together. Are you ready, Bao?” He asks, his features settling into stone again. I nod, intertwining our fingers.
We can do this. We can make it out of here, together. I know we can.
I wait for a moment, waiting for him to lead me out of the room. I look up at his face, frowning as his eyes become glassy.
“Garen?” I prompt him, tugging on his hand. His shoulders cave in as he stumbles forward, kicking my heartbeat into a quick rhythm.
“Garen, what’s wrong? We have to leave soon, we’re not going to make it if we wait much long-”
I’m cut off with my own gasp. A trickle of dark red blood has begun to seep from the corners of his mouth, and the pupils of his eyes seem to bleed into the white.
“Garen!” I shriek, my mind racing. I steady him with both hands, searching his body for a sign, a reason.
My hands begin to shake as my fingertips slide across more of his blood, in the center of his abdomen.
No. This can’t be happening. This is too fast.
The tip of a sword protrudes from the site of the bleed, panic settling in my bones.
“How did this happen?” I whisper, horrified at the mess on my fingers. I look up at his face, reaching up to cup his cheeks.
“Come on, Gem. Stay with me, okay? I’ll figure this out, we can leave this together. You’re okay, you’ll be just-”
He falls to his knees, his body slumping against mine. I stumble back with the weight, but immediately stand in defence.
Four tall soldiers in foreign armor stand at the entrance of the King’s quarters, the closest one holding a bright blue sword, dipped in blood.
All of them have their faces covered by black cloth, seemingly obscure.
“What have you done?” I scream at them, tremling. I hold Garen’s heavy head against my stomach, feeling tears drip down my cheeks.
One of them, on the far left, approaches me. Her scent is female. I hiss, immediately baring my fangs. “Step away from him,” I growl, gripping onto the soft strands of Garen's hair underneath my fingers.
I’m losing him, and I can’t protect him if they attack. Panic bubbles in my throat.
I feel pity and sadness waft from her. “She’s just a child,” she whispers. Her voice is light and quiet, as though a stiff wind could blow it away.
I watch her hand shift upwards and my panic grows. “Get away from my Garen!” I scream at her, taking a step backwards. I try to drag Garen with me, but his body is heavy.
Her hand continues to rise, and suddenly I’m aware of my heavy breathing. I’m aware of the sweat dripping down the back of my neck, and the shaking of my limbs. I don’t look intimidating at all.
I can’t take them down. I can’t get past them all. I can’t escape without Garen. What am I supposed to do?
The soldier lifts the cloth from her face, revealing a faceless creature with a single pair of smiling lips.
“Sleep,” she whispers.
Fatigue hits me harder and faster than ever believed possible. I fall to my knees, drifting in and out of consciousness. I land on top of Garen and he lands on his back.
His lifeless body is still warm, and so comforting. The lull of sleep is strong, and I'm drifting away...
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