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"She was made out of pure spirit and life. A star on earth. Yet a hurricane in space. Cassiopeia Turow was different."
When Cassiopeia leaves her small island of Sars for the continent Irille she's in for more than she bargained for. Between seeking out adventure and making a tenuous friendship with the King, she has a drug that grants superpowers and the elusive Sect organisation to deal with.


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30. "This was the catalyst, it was all just a waiting game."

 

TWENTY SEVEN

“This was the catalyst, it was all just a waiting game.”

One month ago

The Brickell Home

 

Marianne was beside herself with worry over her husband. He had been called in for several meetings over the course of the few days and he was almost never home. She understood that the King was back safe and sound and that over the past month Irille had seen many attacks, but still on most nights he was away. Marianne could count on the fingers of one hand how many times they had slept in the same bed in the last month and she was concerned.

It drove her more and more into SIE, ignoring more of the sickly colours surrounding her person. In fact she seemed to avoid mirrors altogether, relying on memory and instinct to do her hair and makeup.

Her husband hadn’t been home for three days straight when he came home drunk one night.

“Are you alright sweetheart?” She said as she watched him stumble through the door his hands fumbling with the door handle. Her husband blearily looked at her barely noticing that she was sat on the stairs fumbling nervously with her hands.

“I-I’m wonderful,” her husband said throwing his hands in the air with fervor. He came close enough to her that she could smell the stink that surrounded him.

It was sweet, flowery, a perfume. Another woman had been around him, touched him, been close enough to him to stick. Marianne had to look away. The wall became interesting, even in the dark when it was just a solid blotch.

Her last dosage had worn off hours before he had come in. She wished she had taken some just to see what he looked like, would the stain tell her what he had done?

“Leon, what have you been doing?” She warbled, her voice trying to stay still but failing.

“The meeting finished early, a few of the Lords went drinking in celebration – it’s- it’s the first early meeting in a long while,” his words were slurred and mixed together. Marianne had trouble making out what he said. “There’s a rumour about the Prince Lucian, how he loves women too much, he goes to this place in Blackout Alley.” Marianne had to shut her eyes, she knew that Lucian could not stay abstinent just because she married but it still hurt. She could tell where the night had headed also. “We had to confirm it, so we went down there and they were just there, everything swinging out in the open and wonderful – “ Marianne felt sick at Leon’s words. “They weren’t as good as you but one of them was a temptress, she tried just a bit much…”

Leon – her husband – slumped over the couch in the living room, struggling to untie the laces on his boots.

“Did you…?” Marianne couldn’t say it and Leon couldn’t answer. He was already swaying to the side of the couch, dropping into intoxicated sleep. Something came over Marianne, like a fire poker touching her skin for just a moment.

She was by her husband’s side and her hand had connected with his check, snapping his head to the side. “Did you sleep with another woman, a prostitute?” Tears were escaping her eyes, hot and awful. Her heart hammered and her head felt thick. Had he broken her heart in one action? She needed him to answer her.

“Dammit woman did you just hit me?” Leon sobered just a little, his eyes becoming slightly more alert with anger. “Get me a glass of water would you?” He moved to sit up a bit further, never minding the question she asked.

“Answer me,” Marianne whispered, drawing her face close to his, her hands finding his collar, “Answer me damn you!”

A tear hit his chin but he didn’t stir. “Don’t take that tone with me woman,” he uttered and moved his hands to her shoulders. Roughly he pushed her to the side, forcing her to sit down on the couch beside him. Quicker than a drunk man should have been able to, he was up and fishing a packet of cigarettes from his pocket. Leon had never been a smoker and he had never done it in the house. How had she not noticed that he had begun to? “Get me a glass of water before you go off to bed.”

His refusal to answer her was all the clarification she needed. Her heart was made of glass, so fragile and rough. It was seconds away from breaking and she held her hands desperately to her chest in an attempt to hold it all together.

“You are a despicable bastard, Leon Brickell,” she stood from the couch and her eyes were sore, making the tears lacerate her cheeks as they fell, “Get your own fucking water.”

“I said don’t have that tone with me, doll face.” Leon was already making his way to the back door, opening it to have his delighted smoke. He hadn’t called her doll face since they had first met, and he knew that she hated being called that.

Marianne couldn’t sleep in their bed after that, it felt dirty and wrong. She curled herself on the rug of the bathroom floor, swallowed a pill of SIE, and wished that the pain would go away. She didn’t dare look at her hands, knowing that the sickly yellows and greens would engulf her body whole.

The oblivion of the stars beneath her eyelids were the only reprieve from her heart shattering in her chest.

Leon had only taken up smoking in the last month. He had been offered one during one of the stressful meetings when Hadrian had been missing. They had all been worked to the bone and the cigarette was enough to ebb the headache just a little. He loved the way the smoke twisted in artistic ways, curling in on itself and back into the night air. It formed rings in the night air, barely illuminated by the moonlight reflecting on the plants and ponds in the garden. The night swayed his head fuzzy with the drink. He saw double replicas of plants which only had one versions of themselves.

The bar had been loud, the laughs raucous and relieved. The music and sounds still filled his ears if he concentrated hard enough.

His legs buckled, and he slid down the wall he leaned against. He puffed more on the cigarette, letting it anchor him. Absently he pulled the lighter out of his pocket and flicked it off and on in an odd pattern. The flame lit up the night, and it was a weapon, a weapon that he could use if he wanted to. He wouldn’t. But it was just as much of a temptress as those women were.

Leon Brickell spent hours like that, smoking his cigarette, becoming lost in the on off flame, and licking his lips still tasting amber liquid and perfume.

When Marianne woke the next morning her eyes stuck together and refused to open without causing her pain. Her heart thudded in her chest, aching with each thud. She remembered the night before and her bones hurt with just the memory. She was still on the bathroom floor, twisted like a child in the womb. Her hands were wrapped around her knees in an attempt not to rock back and forth in sorrow. Leon had went down to a place where no body was left unturned, with liquor killing his brain and he let someone press their body against his, and… her thoughts stammered trying not to relive the pain. He let someone kiss him and hold him captive with their lips.

She didn’t want to leave the bathroom, but she knew that she had to. She didn’t look at herself in the mirror, knowing that her hair was in knots and her eyes were red and swollen. She stumbled like a newborn fawn to the door, which she had locked that night, and proceeded carefully down the stairs. She didn’t know where Leon was and she hoped that he wasn’t even in the house.

She had no such luck however.

Leon was perched over the kitchen sink, a glass of water curled tightly in one hand, the other roughly pushing his hair out of his face.

Marianne didn’t say anything, she just walked to the couch and hoped that he wouldn’t try to start a conversation. “You didn’t get me any water last night,” Leon started and Marianne’s luck must have ran out some time ago.

“You didn’t answer my question last night either,” Marianne stated not looking at him.

“What question?” Leon enquired turning from the sink to face her, she knew that he was facing her but she didn’t look away from her knees.

“The question where I asked you whether you slept with a prostitute last night.” Her voice was rough, unforgiving and she hated the words even as she said them.

“Did I? Doll face I can’t remember anything after the second bar last night. I wouldn’t have, don’t you have any faith in me?” Marianne could hear Leon’s final gulps of water before his voice turned all innocent and soft. It was devious and she didn’t want to be swept away by it like she had been so many times before.

“You told me all about what you did on your night out yesterday, it’s enough to damn you.” Marianne refused to take his side.

“Doll face I would never…” Leon tried to say and he approached her, kneeling down so that she could see his face even when she was looking elsewhere. Marianne felt her skin crawl from just being near him. She hated him and she had never hated him before.

“You know I hate being called doll face,” she murmured and that must’ve ignited a flame within him. His temper was like an explosive, once the sparks started to sizzle there was very little time to duck and cover. She knew she should just stay quiet and wait for the storm to abate, but she couldn't help goading him just a bit further. His anger had never been unleashed before to the full extent but she knew that it would be eventually. Leon jumped up, slamming his fists on the coffee table and dislodging coffee cups and newspaper articles from the surface. Marianne did not flinch, she was calm and focussed. If he wanted to play into his hangover and anger than he could. But he could do it alone.

“Can I do nothing right?” Leon cried, his eyes bulging out as his hands came up to scrape at his hair again. “Everything I say, everything I do is criticised. ‘Leon you’re spending too much time at the study or at work’, ‘Leon you’re clinging to me, I need my space’, ‘Leon I’m tired, I can’t be doing this tonight’. You’re such a complainer!”

Marianne looked at him then and his face was red, his muscles more prominent. He had never done anything to physically hurt her but this time she had pushed him farther than ever before. Usually she would trade slur for slur, or dig for dig when the rare moments arose. His temper was hot and he’d thump the counter with his wrist and drag her upstairs to bed, and the anger was diffused. This time she wouldn’t allow that to happen. This time she would escape and storm out on her own.

“And you are a cheating bastard, one which I can’t stand the sight of at the moment,” Marianne said as she stood and calmly made her way to the door.

“And you are a liar who would do anything to deface this family!” Marianne knew that for every pound she weighed, he outweighed her three to one and it was all furious, lean muscles. She would not stand for this anymore.

The door was slammed on her way out. Marianne didn’t care that she had been wearing the same clothes for two days in a row, nor did she care that she would undoubtedly look awful and cause quite a scene by walking down the street. She just had to get away, she had to escape for only just a moment.

Cassiopeia had been half excited and half apprehensive when Samantha had told her. Samantha had come into the tavern and waited until Cassiopeia’s break to usher her over. Samantha had been drawing in her sketchbook, her hands blackening with the stick of charcoal she held. When Cassiopeia got close enough to see what the other girl had drawn, she realised that it was the palace, drawn in artistic lines and hatched, dark shading. “You are a fantastic drawer,” Cassiopeia commented as she sat down.

“That is what I do for a day job,” Samantha scoffed and waved to Lisa as the woman noticed them sitting down. Cassiopeia never understood their relationship but Samantha must have been easy to strike a conversation with, one which would want Lisa to tell her own stories as well. “That is not why I drew the palace though,” Samantha continued and made Cassiopeia’s attention come back to the matter at hand. “We have a job for you to do, one which myself or Nox can’t do on our own.”

The elder girl told Cassiopeia about the deceased King’s book of secrets and how they thought that Lucian had a copy of it. Since Samantha was house bound for now when it came to missions, and Nox was stuck in meetings for the majority of his time, they needed her to go to Lucian’s room and see if the pages were there.

“And if they aren’t?” Cassiopeia asked watching as Samantha lazily added more shading to one of the palace walls.

“That’s the easier option, we can scout somewhere else later on, maybe blackmail the printing press Lucian used if possible. If they are there but you don’t have time to get them, Nox will come up after the meeting and scout out more when you take what you can find.” Samantha didn’t look up from her drawing as she said this and Cassiopeia was a little worried that her first proper task at being a member of the Sect was something so seemly vital to the team. If she failed she didn’t know what she would do.

Samantha told her that she would go into the palace feigning that she wanted to meet with Hadrian after the meeting and that she would wait in the meeting room upstairs. That was the one only a floor away from the personal rooms. Lucian’s was the one second to the end. She only had twenty minutes before the guards circled back round to surveil the corridor. Then she had to be back in the meeting hall before the guards checked there.

It was all just a little pressurizing.

“When is this happening?” Cassiopeia asked, scratching the back of her head in nervousness.

“Tomorrow, you’re off tomorrow right?” Samantha replied and Cassiopeia groaned.

Of course she was going to spend her only day off in a while to go on a dangerous mission for a secretive group.

She practiced delivering the lines with the innocence of a choir girl. She made sure she had wide eyes and a slightly high tone in her voice. Then she widened her eyes just a little more as she begged for an audience with the King after his meeting. The guards had got used to her by now, having seen her multiple times before.

“I haven’t seen the King in such a long time, and he told me that he was terribly stressed the last time I saw him. I only wanted to see how he was doing. I won’t disturb him for more than an hour, he had important work to do of course.” Cassiopeia said this to the guard at the door and watched slowly as his face crumbled.

“Go ahead miss, I’ll take you to the meeting hall and I’ll tell him you’re here when the meeting is over.” The guard turned to enter the palace and ushered for her to follow him.

“Thank you Zachary,” Cassiopeia answered and watched as the guard told her not to refer to him by name. But there was a smile on his face so there was nothing to worry about. She knew most of the guards by names now, and this was partially because of her training. To sneak in she had to know the guards rounds and habits. She even knew that Zachary would play a game of solitaire during his twilight shift to pass the time and therefore his round was elongated for another half an hour. That was a half an hour window she could exploit.

She checked that it was the right meeting hall, memorising the way she came and she thanked Zachary for escorting her. She waited five minutes for his footsteps to trail off before she made her move.

The watch on her arm, a leather buckle and a simple clock face, alerted her that she was now constrained by time and effort.

Cassiopeia watched out for the guards while she made her way to the floor she was looking for, all she had to do was go up a small flight of stairs and a set of doors before she was on the corridor she wanted. This corridor was homely than the other, with happier paintings on the walls and more wooden beams. Lucian’s door was simpler than Hadrian’s was, and who needed a gold door knob just to signify that they were a King?

Cassiopeia prayed that the door wouldn’t make a noise as she opened it and it only made a slight squeak as she opened and closed it in a rush. Lucian’s room was spacious and minimalistic. There were block colours of browns and reds, warm colours and the bed had gold threads woven into it. What would the best place be for a secret copy of a secret book?

She checked his desk and bookshelves, careful not to disturb the room too much. If she did then she would alert Lucian to suspicion and Nox had warned her on how suspicious he could be. His drawers were cluttered and unorganised so those were harder not to disturb too much. Cassiopeia started to sweat as her time ran out second by second.

Then she checked the bed, pillows sheets and comforter placed immaculately as it was, even with the corners tucked in to the wall and bedside table. Then it was the mattress, lifted ever so slightly so see what was underneath. Four pages sat nestled there looking as if they could be from the book. Samantha had alleged that Cassiopeia was looking for an actual book, but what if Lucian hadn’t bound it? It would look less suspicious if they were just loose.

Quickly she scanned them to see if they matched the description of what she was looking for. Crisp and clean not a mark on its almost sparkling surface. This was a high quality paper, she could tell that it came from the printing press that Lucian frequented, it was the only one that did nearly illustrious pages. Brand new edges so straight and sharp slightly curled by Lucian’s weight on the bed. Black writing typed in a cursive font, detailing military techniques and criminal rings. The subject sounded about right as well. The red penned notes on the margins looked like something Lucian would do, Nox had told her that he was obsessive, detailing nearly everything to analyse its worth. Cassiopeia took two pages from the stack, she would have to come back for the others and she didn’t want Lucian to suspect anything if he came back and checked under their.

She placed the mattress back and kept looking, she wanted to get as much as good in the limited time she had. Something caught her eye on the bed side table, tucked under several books there were folded pages matching the same quality as those underneath the mattress. She took them and unfolded them and they too matched the pages she held in her hands, although a few pages on. Cassiopeia held six pages in her hand and she felt accomplished.

Nox and Samantha would have to do with this and Nox would have to come back for more. But for now Cassiopeia had to get back to the meeting room for Hadrian, copy the pages up from the printing press at the town house and sneak back in to put the pages back.

Never before had Cassiopeia thought that being stealthy was going to be such hard and tiring work.

She couldn’t help herself from looking in Hadrian’s room as she left Lucian’s. Hadrian’s room had the same structure as his brothers but the colour scheme was a bit different, the warm browns and reds were replaced with blacks and greens. It wasn’t what she expected from the King, not at all.

Looking at her watch Cassiopeia noticed that she didn’t have much time left and hurried to get back to the meeting room, the pages held softly and carefully in the pocket of her loose dress. Her first mission had been somewhat of a success and she couldn’t help feeling proud of herself.

She waited a while longer for Hadrian to appear but she knew that she wouldn’t have been able to spend more time looking for the pages. Nox would go back up when Lucian was pushed into another meeting and look further. That was after all the plan.

Hadrian knew something was up when he walked through the door. Cassiopeia thought that he shared the same suspicious nature as his brother.

“The plan was to sneak in and get whatever it was that you needed, right?” Hadrian asked, scrubbing a hand across his face as he sat down in a chair near her. Cassiopeia was surprised that he knew but then she thought that Nox wouldn’t have liked to have kept it from him.

Cassiopeia nodded, “But I also came to see you, I haven’t seen you in quite a while actually.” She mused and relaxed, making sure that her movement didn’t damage the pages in her pocket. In fact the movement showed more of her legs as her dress rode up a little further.

“Yeah life of a spy burns some bridges for you,” Hadrian replied and then changed the direction of the conversation, “That’s not a dress you would normally wear,” he enquired.

He was referring to the flowy material of the blue dress she wore, and it was cut a lot harsher than she was normally used to. The only aspect that was normal was the white apron attached to the dress allowing a large pocket to be created. One shame about dresses was that they never had enough pockets. Ladies needed to hold and store things too.

“Lisa took some advice from Samantha and took me shopping the other day… it was an experience that was for sure.” Cassiopeia thought about to the pure excitement on Lisa’s face as Cassiopeia tried dress after dress and shirt after shirt on, and she now had a lot more flowy and loose clothing. Those were coupled with the more form fitting ones that didn’t leave much to the imagination. 

In Lisa’s words, Cassiopeia “needed to meet a gentleman before she went back on her dreaded ship.”

“I’m sure it was utterly dreadful for you,” Hadrian laughed.

“How have you been?” Cassiopeia asked and although Hadrian showed a slight discomfort at knowing what her true intentions were for being in the palace, he felt safe. It was like the two friends hadn’t spent weeks apart.

Marianne had walked around all day after she left her home that morning. She didn’t come back until well into twilight and then even Leon wasn’t in to pitch an argument with her again. This time she slept in the bed – refusing to call it their bed any longer – and resisted the urge to take another pill.

During the night she pondered on whether she could divorce her husband. It had never been a thought before but there she was wondering on how she could do it. She would need evidence to say that Leon had cheated and that would only be gained through asking the people Leon was with, his friends and the prostitute’s. Marianne didn’t particularly want to talk to the prostitute’s either way and so she vowed that night, that in the morning she would enquire on who Leon was with during his bar crawl.

The morning after she decided, she found a made breakfast and a handpicked flower from the garden on the kitchen bench when she awoke. This was Leon trying to worm his way back into her good graces but she would not allow him to settle there again. There was even a handwritten note describing how Leon was at a meeting with Lucian and the King for the majority of the morning.

Marianne picked her way carefully to the town as she made her way to the palace. She again resisted the call for more SIE and a headache blossomed in her head. Normally she would have given in, but it would have been too risky to walk into the palace under the influence of the drug that they were hunting to stop.

First she asked his close accomplices, members of the Guard who had also been out that night. They were reluctant to tell her much, and were assuring her that they never followed Leon to the brothel. It was only when the meeting finished that she was able to get into a conversation with a man who had followed.

“I need to know what happened when you got there.” Marianne asked and the Lord fumbled for a moment before revealing that they had had a grope and a fondle with the ladies, it was hard not to but the lord hadn’t seen what Leon was doing. Apparently the Lord couldn’t recall him being in the room with them, although he had been a moment before.

Marianne was going to ask further, knowing that Leon had most likely went into a personal room with one of the ladies, she would have to check the bank account to see if any transaction had been paid to the brothel.

“My wife, what are you doing?” The voice of her husband made her stiffen in surprise. Usually, Leon was held back with Lucian when meetings were finished. She hadn’t expected him to be finished so early than normal.

“I was just talking to one of your friends my dear, they say such wonderful things about you. You’re not normally finished this early?” Marianne asked looking over her shoulder with widened eyes.

“I asked to leave slightly earlier so I could surprise you my dear,” her husband’s voice was sickly sweet, “Do you mind if I steal my wife from you, Lord Tennyson?” Leon asked to the Lord and while Marianne hoped that the Lord would want to speak with her further. She had no luck as the Lord nodded to Leon over her shoulder. Leon dragged her to a side room, his hand thick and heavy on her arm.

“What did you want to surprise me with Leon?” Marianne asked hoping that it would distract him from the growing fury he felt.

That didn’t work either, Leon didn’t release her when they arrived at the room. Instead he closed the door behind them and pulled her to the furthest point of the room. Backed against the corner she had no choice but to stay in his presence.

“I know what you are up to woman,” Leon gritted and pressed her up further against the wall.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Marianne tried to say but then he gave her the look. This was the look he only shot her when he thought she was being especially stupid. It was a sharp and brash look, as if he couldn’t stand to believe that he was with someone so clueless and horrible. She hated that look, yet it seemed that she was getting it more often than ever before.

“You know exactly what I mean, you’re trying to ask my friends what I did in the bar, trying to dirty the image of me, turn my friends against me with your little wild ideas.” Leon was angry, and his hands pressed hurting hand prints into her skin. She held her chin up, trying to look up at the ceiling and not at the rage in his eyes. How could she get out of this one?

“No, I would never – “

Marianne couldn’t get a word out of her mouth quick enough to make an impact on the air around her. She and Leon were so close it felt like she couldn’t breathe because of the lack of air between them.

“I would never cheat on you my dear, you’re my doll face, I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“But you did,” Marianne whispered taking a risk.

“Does this look like I would?” Leon said as he pressed her head against the rocky wall and kissed her neck. His kisses repulsed her. They felt as though they cut her, even though it was a brief but bruising touch of lips. His hand came up to grip her hands, pulling them roughly above her head so that she couldn’t escape his clutches. His lips came to her lips, roughly pressing and pushing, not giving her any choice. His other hand pulled the strap of her dress down from her shoulder, rubbing her skin and slipping downwards.

She loathed being in this position. She hated how weak she had become.

In an act of rage she pulled her leg up, trying desperately to get rid of Leon’s body up against hers, and kicked out towards his groin. Leon let her go. She rushed to create just an ounce of distance.

“I said no,” Marianne whispered and Leon laughed in her face.

“No doesn’t mean anything, we’re married we’re expected to do these things,” Leon was coming closer to her, destroying the meagre distance step by step.

Marianne folded in on herself, shuffling side ways to get away from him. White knuckles from clenching her fist too hard, and gritted teeth from effort to remain silent, her hunched form exuded an animosity that was like acid - burning, slicing, potent. Her face went red with suppressed rage, and when Leon even set a finger on her shoulder, she swung around and mentally snapped. She shoved him with all her might, sending him backwards with the force of it. She was angry and she had had enough of being weak and being made weak by him.

“Saying no means that you aren’t going to do it, saying no is what you should’ve said to that prostitute the other night.” She kept pushing backwards, her hands stinging with the force she was putting in it.

“I didn’t…” Leon tried to say, and brought his hands up to defend himself. Marianne didn’t let him get that far and she was slapping his hands away, slapping his body. Forcing him back. Shoving and shoving.

“I am done with you demanding my body like it's nothing to you, I am done with you making me do everything and anything just because you say so, I am done with being pushed out while you go elsewhere.” Her voice was getting louder and louder as her anger grew. She was enraged and Leon couldn’t stop her now.

The look in his eyes told her that too. She was too far gone now, her vision centring on him, tinting red and dark. “I am done with you mentally degrading me, and controlling me on where I go and who I am with. I am done with you and your abusive ways. You don’t love me, maybe you never did. But I don’t love you now, I loathe you. I can’t stand the sight of you anymore.”

She was shouting, her voice coming in thick and painful waves. She knew that her words had hurt him. She liked the feeling, it made her feel empowered. She shoved him hard against the fireplace on the opposite wall, his head bounced on one of the corners and his eyes went wide.

“I hate what you’ve done to me, I hate what you’ve done to yourself and I hate what you have done to this relationship.” She was punching him, hitting him. Her hands making contact with flesh and lips.

“This relationship was beautiful and wonderful at the start and you’ve ruined it!” She pushed him further into the fire place and then he slumped. Why had he slumped? She let go of him, her hands leaving his shirt, her anger dissipating.

Leon slumped down, his body not supporting his weight as he fell onto the fire place. He wasn’t conscious. What had she done?

Marianne took a few steps back, her hand coming to rest on her lips in horror. Her vision was coming back to her and her senses were returning.

What had she done?

Cassiopeia was coming back down from the meeting hall when she first heard the shouting. She came passed one of the spare rooms near the throne room and found a gathering of Lords at the door. The shouting was loud, a woman’s voice nearly deafening in its intensity.

“What are you doing here?” she enquired and one of the Lords looked too excited for his own good.

“Lord Brickell and his wife are arguing,” he said sounding more gleeful than he should.

“Why aren’t they interfering?” Cassiopeia looked behind her at Hadrian who had followed to escort her out.

“They aren’t meant to interfere in another Lords business, especially when it comes to their wife. Only the Lord handles the wife.” Hadrian spoke so nonchalantly that Cassiopeia was appalled. Suddenly the shouting stopped and Cassiopeia made her move.

She pushed through the gathering until she was at the door, forcing it open with her shoulder up against it. Inside the room, a woman was in the centre with her hands over her lips. A man, her husband, was slumped against the fireplace, a trail of red coming from the top of the mantle.

Cassiopeia rushed inside, her curiosity winning. Hadrian followed, taking account of the sight. All the Lords had seen and the woman knew this. The woman looked at Cassiopeia, eyes filling with tears. Her breath becoming quick and uneven. Hadrian rushed to the other man, raising his fingers to his neck. For seconds everyone waited.

The air grew tense.

“He isn’t breathing,” Hadrian remarked, shocked.

The woman moaned, falling to her knees as her hands grasped for something to hold onto. Cassiopeia neared her and the woman clutched to her.

“What is going on here?” A voice demanded and Lucian pushed through the gang of Lords in the doorway, once he saw the Lord on the floor by the fireplace he too became silent.

“Arrest her,” he demanded and the woman screamed from within Cassiopeia’s arms.

What had she done? 

 

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