Her Highness

Once, the Five Kingdoms of Albion had been at peace, but that peace had started to shatter when the Court of Camelot was broken by the treachery and evil of one Knight, Mordred, and his greed for power.
Now, it’s been almost ten years since Mordred slew Arthur Pendragon at Camlann, ten years since Ygraine and Duran fled Camelot in search of safety. It’s been six years since Mordred found and captured them.
But Ygraine Pendragon is bordering on twenty years old, and she is through with the whole of Albion thinking her and her brother are dead. She is the daughter of the great King Arthur, and she is done with allowing her cousin to sit on the Throne of Camelot, the throne which he usurped.
When bonds are broken, betrayal occurs, hard decisions are made, and lives are lost, who will lose and who will conquer? How will the Princess, a lost heir to Camelot, fair when this become more than just an effort to rid the Kingdoms of Mordred, and instead become a war between light and dark?

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18. 16

So . . . trigger warnings. Yes, this chapter comes with trigger warnings, enough that you can just pass this chapter by if you wish to do so - doing so will not draw away from the plot, for apart from the angst in this chapter there isn't little more than a bit more character development and one or two events that will be revisited in later chapters.

TW: violence. TW: arguments. TW: panic attack x2. TW: reference to rape - ONLY a reference.

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16

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As soon as I’d stormed out of that tavern, blood hot and mood fuming, I hadn’t given any thought to either Cyrus or Robert, who’d wisely been walking silently a good few feet behind me, or the confused faces of town residents as they backed away—no, I’d just untied Aeron’s reins, ignored Aconitum’s black stare, swung up onto my horse and galloped out of the stables and away from the town.

   I’d only been vaguely aware of Cyrus and Robert staring at me as I’d gone through the town.

    Anger had ricocheted through my bones . . . more than anger, actually. More like fury. White hot, blinding fury.

    I should have killed that man, that Markus, who’d spoken ill of my father—but what good would that have done? I’d have just ended up in a clash of swords and daggers and the spillage of blood. I hadn’t needed that. I didn’t need that.

    I’d needed to release that anger somehow.

    Which was why, when I’d reached a lining of trees I don’t know how long later, I’d brought Aeron to a halt, tied his reins to a low branch, jumped down and unsheathed by sword, then took to brutally attacking unlucky tree with my blade.

 

X

 

When Robert and Cyrus found me Istill hacking at trees. I didn’t pay them much attention to them. I was hot, sweat beading my forehead, but my anger was only halfway gone.

    I didn’t want the company, but it seemed I’d no choice in having it.

    “Well, Ygraine,” Robert said as he walked up to me. “That was . . . brilliant.”

    “No, it wasn’t,” Cyrus muttered. “It was stupid.”

    “Then why did you stand up with me?” I asked, making another hack.

    “Because I thought you were going to end up getting yourself killed otherwise.”

    Another hack. Then another. “I don’t need you to protect me.”

    “Apparently you do, because you keep doing bloody reckless things!”

    I moved from the tree to another, and raised my sword above me head before motioning swiftly and striking the bark. “I do not need you to protect me,” I repeated through gritted teeth, “I am a Pendragon. I am of one of the greatest Houses of Albion.”

    “Oh, really? I never would have guessed!” Cyrus said. His voice, like mine, was slowly rising in temper. “It’s not like you remind us every five minutes!”

    “Because I have a name I am proud of! I am a Pendragon!” Another strike. The blow ricocheted through my arm. “My name is the last thing I have.”

    “Now you’re just being melodramatic.”

    “I’m really not. My family name strikes fear into the hearts of men. It—”

    “It used to,” he muttered. “Now it’s just a name of a family that was all but ran into the ground.”

    Robert audibly winced.

    Fire leapt through my veins, burning my bones. I immediately stopped my punishment on the tree, sword still half in the air, and spun on my heel to face Cyrus. “What did you just say?” I growled, lowering my sword.

    He stared at me, blue-violet fire flickering in his eyes. “Your mother ran down the status of the name Pendragon with her adultery, your father was slaughtered by Mordred, your brother is most likely dead—you’re the last Pendragon, and instead of trying to gather people to fight by your side in this great battle, this great battle you’ve got in your head, you’re threatening to kill them! In that you are not acting like a true Pendragon, who hold honour high—”

    “This isn’t about honour. This was never about honour. Family above all. And in that bloody tavern, or whorehouse to give it a better name, I stood up for my family! For my father!”

    “Your father is dead; he has been for almost ten years!” Cyrus shouted. “He’s bloody dead! He can’t hear what they have to say! Are you going to send everyone with a negative opinion on your father to the butchering block?”

    I could hear my heart hammering in my ears, could feel the fury building up inside of me. “So be it if needs be.”

   He glowered and ran his hands through his hair, pulling at the ends. “Then all your ideals about equality are in vain, because it seems what you want is a dictatorship! It seems what you want is a society where you can control everything people say. In that, and the mindless threatening, you are no better than Mordred!”

    I stared before raising my sword straight and pointing at his throat. “How dare you! I am nothing like my usurper of a cousin! I don’t want power. I do not strike fear into the hearts of people, I do not kill Kings who have been kind to me.”

    “You threatened people for the sake of threatening them! You say you do not strike fear—but you were doing that by threatening to kill those in the tavern, by threatening the blacksmith in Ash. Your threatening equates to fear, fear that you’ll actually kill them,” he ranted, standing his ground even when I put my sword an inch closer to the skin of his neck. “You think you’re so different to your cousin in Camelot, but you’re not. He wanted to take a King off the throne of Camelot and he did, you want to take him off the throne of Camelot and you probably will. You threatened to spill blood, he does that—you’re both blood thirsty underneath your exterior. You’re both just as angry at the world, at everyone, as the other. You and Mordred are two sides of the same coin that is in no way currency.”

    I started laughing, arms going up in the air before I threw my sword down blade first into the earth. “What?—did you think I was nice? Did you think I was sweet? Innocent? I am none of those things, and if you thought I was then, dear Cyrus, I have sadly fooled you! I have been shaped by blood thirst, by anger. I have been shaped for battlefields, despite my gender. I have never been gentle, I am not gentle. My father sensed a fighter in his child, so he taught his daughter to kill.”

    “Do you think that makes you special?” he hissed. “Take that away and what are you?”

    “A Princess,” I said automatically. “And a year older than you,” I continued, picking my sword back up and sheathing it. “That makes me your senior in both status and age.”

    “Well . . . I’m glad you two are, I guess, starting to calm down,” Robert said.

    I ignored him and took a few steps closer to Cyrus, so that we were almost toe-to-toe. My face, I knew, was set in a hard mask, and my voice was pure venom as I hissed back, “Take your magik away and what are you? Just a lowly boy whose father abandoned him!”

    The look on his face that developed over his features, a mixture of rage, anguish and terror, was enough to make me feel guilty, to make me regret my words. But only for a second—I was too far gone in my fury to stop.

    “Everything special about you, everything that makes you different, came from luck in blood. If your magik was taken away from you, what would you be?—you don’t know how to ride a horse, you only know how to shoot arrows well. Without your magik all you’d be is a burden, all you’d be is a child because you rely far too heavily on something that someone like Mordred could snatch from you. So, Cyrus Edmunds, all you are is a low-class orphan with some magik—that is all.”

    “Is that what you really think, or what your rage thinks?” he asked, voice ragged with badly disguised pain. “Because either way, whether I am that or not, at least I’m passed acknowledging that my father has left me. At least I don’t constantly remind people like you do. Yes, Ygraine, your father is dead—it’s about time you get over it, because he’s dead and no amount of words you say, no amount of avenging you do, will bring him back. He’s dead. Period.”

    A feral snarl escaped my lips, and before I knew what I was doing I’d swiped a hand across his face, ragged but sharp nails clawed savagely to draw blood. Four shallow cuts now marked his left cheek. “Do you think I don’t know he’s dead? Do you think I’m not aware that I’m never going to see him again?” I shouted and pushed him against a tree trunk with strength I wasn’t aware I had, one lower arm across his chest and the other by the side of his face. “You know nothing, Cyrus Edmunds—nothing about what I accept to be true. You know nothing about me and what I’m aware of!”

    “Ygraine,” I vaguely heard Robert whisper.

    “I know that killing Mordred, putting his head on a spike and burning his body, will not bring my father back—but it’s the least I am able to do, the last thing I can do for him. Arthur Pendragon started this task but failed, I will finish this task—even if it ends in my own death.”

    Cyrus’s eyes widened, becoming clearer and bluer. I sighed and let him go, taking steps away from him and stared down at the ground.

    There, I’d said it, I’d spilled the reason I wanted to kill Mordred, because it wasn’t just about revenge for him killing my father—it was about finishing something that had to be done. If I died doing so, I didn’t care—it wasn’t suicidal, I didn’t want to die, but if Mordred turned out to be my bane and destruction, then I’d damn well make sure I was his as well.

    “Ygraine . . .” he whispered, his voice soft.

    I glanced back up at him, albeit through lowered lashes, and the weight of all I’d just done, the shouting and the violence, came barrelling down on me, a great crushing sensation. All the fury poured out of me, leaving nothing but heavy weight.

    How could I have been so stupid? He must hate me. How could I have hurt him?

    My thoughts woke something up inside of me, something I hadn’t felt for a long time, and suddenly I was left with a feeling of my limbs trembling with fright and my heart hammering in my ribcage.

    Carefully and cautiously, I stepped forwards once more until I was close enough to touch Cyrus, and slowly raised my arm to run my fingertips over the cuts I had left. He winced, both audibly and physically, and I held back a cry in my throat.

    “I . . . I . . .” I tried, lowering my eyes from his face. “I’m so sorry. I . . . I didn’t mean to. I’m so sorry, Cyrus. I . . .” I turned around and, half in a daze, stumbled away with the hand I’d attacked him with clutched to my chest and tears held back in my eyes.

    I passed Robert, who held an arm out for me, and into the line of trees and foliage. As I walked, trying to breathe, I tried not to fall over the branches and tree roots. My heart was racing in my breast and I felt chilled to the bone, a feeling of dizziness spreading through my mind and body.

    I almost fell, but just caught a hold of a tree trunk in time to stop it, and clambered back up with sweaty palms, using the trees as guidance to help me work. I can’t catch my breath!

    Eventually, after I don’t know how long, the sound of running water broke through the fuzziness in my mind, and I changed course to find it. After a minute I found myself half-running down a small hill to a wide stream, finally allowing myself to fall down onto my knees.

    There wasn’t enough air in my lungs; there seemingly wasn’t enough air in the world for my lungs. I scrambled to cup water in my hands, ice cold, and splashed it as best as I could over my face whilst my hands were shaking.

    I should be used to this, I’d experienced this before. But it had been so long; so many years . . . I’d forgotten how to stop them. There wasn’t enough air to fill my lungs with, to be able to calm myself down with and forget the thought running wild through my head.

    What if I’d snapped, properly snapped? Run him through or sliced his throat?

    I scrunched my eyes shut and leant against the bottom of a thin tree, knees tucked up to my chest and pressed my face into my kneecaps, trying to calm my shaking body even slightly.

    “Ygraine!” I heard someone shouting, followed by the sound of someone falling onto their knees. “Ygraine. Ygraine, call you look at me? Ygraine?” It was Robert, now speaking softly. “I need you to look up at me.”

    Slowly I obliged, raising my head. Through blurry eyes I could see that he was knelt in front of me, leaning forward. His fingertips brushed my tears away, allowing me to see properly.

    “Breathe, Ygraine,” he whispered, taking my face in his hands. “Look at me and breathe.”

    “I . . . I . . . can’t,” I gasped.

    “Yes, you can,” he said. “Breathe in.”

    I did.

    “Hold it for a few seconds.”

    I held.

    After those few seconds, “Good, now breathe out for a few more seconds.”

    I breathed out.

    “Alright, good, Ygraine,” he murmured and leant back. “Watch me and follow my breathing. We’re going to repeat that until you feel better.”

    I lowered my legs so that I now sat cross-legged and watched him carefully, the way he breathed. After at least a good five minutes and a lot of breaths later, my heart was no longer hammering in my chest and I could breathe properly. My head still felt a little fuzzy and my hands still a little sweaty, but apart from that I felt better. I was no longer shaking.

    “How . . . How did you know to do that?” I asked, wiping my hands along my cloak to dry them fully.

    He shrugged in that usual, effortless manner that was singular to Robert, and gave a small smile. “Cyrus used to suffer from the same things,” he answered, very matter-of-factly. “I had to learn.”

    I lowered my eyes. “I didn’t know that.”

    “Not many people do. It’s not something that is usually shared.”

    I tried to give a smile, but it felt weak and false. “Where is he?”

    Robert moved to sit beside me rather than in front of me, working an arm around my shoulders. I leant into his touch. “When I left him he was slumped on the ground. I told him you needed space, that you both needed space from each other. He told me to see how you were.”

    I nodded minutely. “How could I have been so stupid, Robert?”

    “Hey, now. We’ll have none of that, or you’ll start off again.”

    “But I could have seriously hurt him, Robert. Don’t you understand that? I could have killed him . . . what would I have been left with? I could have killed him and then been crushed by guilt because of it. I was so close!”

    “But you didn’t kill him, Ygraine, you didn’t. And those scratches on his face, they’ll have probably healed by the time we go back to him.”

    “You are not listening to me!” I roared and jerked away from him, standing up automatically to tower over him. “I could have killed him. I was so close to doing it, to running him through.”

    “Ygraine, please . . .”

    “I snapped. I’ve done it before; I’ve snapped and killed someone because of it before. And I’d been furious, just like I had been about ten minutes ago. And that had just been a random person, a guard following orders, and I killed him. I didn’t know that man, but I know Cyrus . . . if I’d killed him . . . I’d . . .”

    “You’d what? Ygraine?”

    “Have run down here and shoved my head under that water!”

    Robert’s eyes flew wide and he scrambled to his feet. He placed his hands on my shoulders before pulling me forward until I collided with his body. I stiffened, but as soon as his arms went around me I relaxed and buried my face into his chest.

    “Ssh, ssh, Ygraine,” he whispered in my ear, rubbing a hand down my back. “Please . . . never say anything like that ever again. And please never let Cyrus know what you said.”

    “Why?” I mumbled.

    “Because he’ll end up blaming himself.”

    I pulled away enough to look him in the eye. “None of this is his fault.”

    He shrugged again. “He’d think it is, because he’ll think he pushed you. The thing about Cyrus is he always blames himself for other people’s actions, always thinks it’s his fault no matter what.”

    “But I hurt him. He doesn’t have to blame himself for anything.”

    “You know that, and I know that. But if you tell him what you’ve just told me you would have done . . . there will be no happy ending.”

    I pulled away from him and rubbed away the last of my tears. “There are no happy endings, only adequate ones or horrid ones. Happy endings are for fairytales, this is real life.”

    Robert raised a hand and stroked his knuckles over my cheek. “And real life is cruel.”

    I nodded. “I need to go back there, I need to apologise,” I murmured. “I am fine now; he needs to know from me just how sorry I am.”

    “I understand,” he said and gestured with his arm to the dirt path. “After you, Ygraine.”

    We walked back in silence, comfortable silence. Robert kept a hand on my back because my legs still threatened to collapse beneath me.

    I needed Cyrus. I needed to explain. I needed to apologise.

    Robert and I reached just a few metres away from where I’d run from and he’d left Cyrus when we heard many voices. Robert, seemingly instinctively, pulled me down after him so we were hidden by the shrubbery.

    I slammed my hand over my mouth to stop myself from shrieking at the sight in front of me. The gang of men from the tavern, led by that horrendous Markus, were stood in a circle around Cyrus, who was down on his knees with his hands shackled by iron and his face bloody.

    Iron was the only metal capable of stopping magik, the only metal capable of halting and suspending the flow of magik. If one of magik folk was exposed long enough to the substance then their magik would be drawn away from them, killing them in the process.

    I glanced at Robert with wide eyes. He stared right back, panic in his eyes.

    How long had we been?

    “I’ll only ask you nicely one more time,” Markus half-shouted. “Where is she?”

    Cyrus glanced up at him and spat out blood from his mouth. His lip was split. Rage boiled up inside of me once more. “I’ve already told you . . . she’s gone.”

    Markus’s hand lashed out, the back whipping across Cyrus’s face. “And I’ve told you that I don’t believe you!”

    I almost sprang up, but Robert grabbed my wrist and kept me down. “You’ll get yourself killed,” he hissed in a hushed voice.

    “Rather myself than him,” I whispered back.

    “You will not find her,” Cyrus muttered. “We argued, she’s gone.”

    “And your friend?” Markus asked.

    “Gone with her. Seems they didn’t need a poor little Warlock after all.”

    I watched Markus retrieve a knife from the belt around his thick waist and twirled it between his fingertips. “Do you know what it’s made from?”

    “No, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me,” Cyrus mumbled, smiling a one-corner smile of that pure sarcasm I was so familiar with.

    “It’s one-hundred percent iron,” Markus said.

    “Iron? I prefer steel myself.”

    “I had it forged so, on the chance I came across any of your kind,” Markus continued, spitting the word ‘your kind’ with a great amount of venom, “I’d be able to kill you quite easily. Magik folk are a plague upon this land, an abomination.”

    “And yet Mordred is magik, the King you seem to like so dearly.”

    “Only fools dare to speak wrong of the King of Camelot, and I am no fool,” Markus said, spinning the blade. “But I figure one less magik wielder is a blessing to the world, and since your precious Princess is long gone, there is no one to stop me putting this blade through your heart. You can’t save yourself.”

    I mentally cut off the conversation a few metres away, because I couldn’t bare it any longer, and turned to whisper words into Robert’s ear. He snapped his head to face me once I’d done and pulled away, a look that said ‘are you insane?’ across his handsome features.

    “Do you trust me?” I mouthed.

    His eyes widened. “No, of course I don’t.”

    I smiled. “Good. I’m not to be trusted. Just follow my orders.”

    “You’ll get yourself killed!”

    I shrugged before reaching to my side and pulling my sword from its sheath, taking to holding it out to him hilt first. “Keep a hold of it. I’m good with a dagger.” That said, I pushed myself up onto my feet and walked around the shrubbery, shrugged off my cloak, and stepped into the clearing.

    “Long gone, am I?” I said aloud. “I’m sorry to disappoint you, Cyrus, but I’m right here.”

    I caught a glimpse of some emotion, anger or disbelief, on Cyrus’s face before Markus turned around, effectively blocking me.

    “Ah, the Princess,” he cheered, spreading his arms wide. “How nice it is to see you again.” He stooped into a low bow, but it was not from respect.

    “You too,” I said and gave a small curtsey. “Though I must say I’m rather surprised by your presence. Did you take no heed of my warning?”

    “Ah, but I’m not here to attack you,” he murmured, “Instead I’m here to make you a deal.”

    I held up a hand to stop him from attempting to continue. “If this deal is that I come with you in exchange for my friend’s life, I accept your deal.”

    “Ygraine!” Cyrus half shouted and hissed against the iron. “You can’t!”

    “You value this Warlock’s life above your own?” Markus asked incredulously.

    “I value most lives above my own,” I replied. “And he has nothing to do with this, he’s simply someone I wrangled into escorting me to Lothian—him and the other one, who is gone.”

    “But you care for this man?”

    “He has been nothing but kind to me.”

    Markus’s eyes narrowed. “That is not answering my question.”

    “I care for him as a friend, as if he is my brother.” The last was not true.

    Markus smiled and it revealed a gruesome scar at the corner of his mouth. “Of course, because your actually brother is more than likely dead.”

    I gritted my teeth. I wanted nothing more than to rip his head from his body, but I had to keep my temper under a tight leash. For now.

    “Do we have a deal?” I said to change the subject back to my original proposal. “Me in exchange for him. Because it doesn’t seem to matter to you that my bastard cousin will kill you the moment you throw me at his feet.”

    Markus laughed. “He will pay me handsomely for returning you back to where you belong, little Pendragon girl.” He rocked back on his heels in a most obnoxious manner. “And as for your deal . . . no. Releasing this filthy Warlock would only mean he’d come after you. Killing him will be so much easier, because no one will mourn a Warlock and you are just too precious to lose.”

    “I will come with you voluntarily if you release him.”

    “Where did you even think of the idea of you coming voluntarily?”

    I took a step back, then another, and then another. I did not show fear. These were a small group of thugs who didn’t know how bloodthirsty I could be. “You won’t take me,” I said as Markus instructed his men to move closer. “I am not yours to take, and I will never be enslaved again. You will not take me.”

    “Oh, but I think I will.”

    My lips pulled back in a snarl. “Robert, now!” I shouted and, in one quick swoop I took my dagger in my hand, charging forward just as I saw Robert dive from the shrubbery and dug my dagger into the back of one of the thugs.

    Another came storming towards me, but I turned out of the way just before he grabbed me, my footwork precise, and sliced my blade across his throat. Blood poured from the deep wound, sprayed my sleeve and hand, and he clutched his hands pathetically to his neck as he sank to the ground.

    That was it, the two deaths, and the clearing burst into action. Metal clanged with metal, blood was drawn and bodies dropped one after the other.

    I swerved swords and dodged blows, matching actions with ease. I was the predator and they were my prey.

    I caught sight of Robert clashing swords with Markus and another dark-haired man, before four men started to advance on me and block my view. I smiled the coldest smile I was possible of giving, which, with the combination of blood on my dress and skin, probably made me look menacing.

    I had a sword in one hand and a dagger in the other, and even though I had a cut to the left arm it would still be easy to take these bastards down.

    Two of the men charged at once, but they were slower and larger than I was. I ran straight towards one and, just before I reached him dropped and slid across the earth and between his legs, slashing my sword across the legs of the man behind him, before gathering to my feet, my sword going through the first’s man back and my dagger going into the throat of the second man’s as he fell due to his leg injury.

    One of my two remaining foes ran towards Cyrus, making to kill him before either Robert or I could release him, but with a dainty flick of my wrist I threw my dagger. It buried itself up to the hilt in the back of his head and he fell effortlessly. I knew the view from the front wouldn’t have been pretty.

    “How would you like to die?” I asked the last man, who was staring at me in horror and . . . fear. I laughed at that. Who knew a nineteen year old girl could make fierce men fear her?

    A whistle sounded through the clearing. At first I thought it was Cyrus calling for Aconitum, but then seven more men appeared from what seemed like nowhere, all scarred and burly.

    I set my sights on Markus. And it was a stupid move to make, because in that second my remaining man took to opportunity to slice an injury to my leg. I screamed out in pain, my right leg buckling slightly beneath me, and slashed my temporary blade across his middle. His guts tumbled out of the deep wound.

    I wasn’t aware I had enough strength to do that. Huh.

    “Ygraine!” I heard Cyrus cry out. He was trying to gather himself onto his feet, but the iron of those shackles caused him to lose his balance and he fell. If they weren’t taken off soon . . .

    “Robert, look out!” I shouted, limping forward to retrieve my dagger. I sighed in relief when he missed the drop of a sword.

    “Ygraine! Take your blade!” he called back and threw my own sword into the air, the sun catching the metal of the pommel.

    I reached out to catch it, throwing my dagger once more so it lodged in another thug’s chest . . . but someone else caught it.

    “Oh, don’t you look injured,” Markus crooned, holding the tip of my sword to my throat. “You’re losing a lot of blood. That’s a nasty wound to the leg.”

    I couldn’t glance down, but I could feel the blood flowing down my thigh. It didn’t take a genius to know it was deep. I was suddenly struggling to stay up right, my head felt light and dizzy.

    “You’ll lose,” he murmured and brought my blade away from me. A second later I felt it slice across my abdomen. I gasped and rocked forward, staggering to keep myself up on my feet.

    Am I to die here?  The thought ricocheted through my mind, like a buzzing.

    My eyesight blurred. I stumbled back. My back hit the ground with a hefty blow, the air wheezing out of me.

    “Oh, please, that was only a shallow cut,” Markus laughed. I couldn’t focus on his face, but rather at the two men holding Robert. One of them held a sword to his throat.

    Cyrus was slumped on the ground. His eyes were open, the colour dull, and he was gasping. He reminded me too much of how he’d looked in my dream.

    I attempted to reach out towards him, but there was too much distance. I wanted to take off the shackles, I wanted to help him and save him.

    I’m sorry. Is it to end here? For all of us?

    My heart was racing in my chest, but I felt numbness creeping over me.

    “Mordred wants you alive,” Markus continued, but his voice was faint to my ears. I was staring at Cyrus, afraid to take my eyes from his in case he slipped from this life. A tear rolled down his face.

    I’m sorry.

    “And we’ll sort your injuries, but first . . .” Markus dropped to his knees and grabbed my face, forcing me to look at him. His other hand came down over the cut on my leg, but it wasn’t to stem the loss of blood, but rather to hold me down. Pain rushed through my leg and over my body. I bit my tongue to halt my scream. “Your cousin never said anything against having a little fun with you.”

    No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!

    My body started shaking, somewhat violently. I tensed up, vaguely aware of my nails digging into the soft flesh of my palms.

    “So I’m going to have a little fun with you,” he whispered in my ear. “I’ve never had my way with a Princess before.”

    I was slipping. I longed for death.

    An animalistic roar sounded in my ears. I forced my head to turn. Despite my blurry eyes I saw the swords clashing, heard it. I saw figures dropping to the ground. I saw the last one dive forward towards Cyrus.

    I saw Markus turn aside from me to see what was happening.

    The last thing I saw before the beautiful, peaceful blackness took me as its own was two swords being driven through the bastard by my side. One through his back and out his chest. The other through his head at such an angle blood trickled down his nose, out his mouth, and his eyes.

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