Page 105 of Court of Nightmares

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I will not offer him peace, not even in death. Not for his crimes.

The brother I loved died many years ago, and this monster deserves this.

Slicing off his warrior braids, I pocket them and leave his body there to rot, but before I leave the house, I turn back. “I am sorry,” I tell her.

“Fuck you! Your apologies mean nothing. Your men came into my village and stole everything! We are ruined,” she sobs.

“I will make this right,” I promise. “No other will suffer.”

I spare my queen the bleak details, showing her snippets of me moving through the camp like a lost soul and killing every warrior—those I fought alongside, those I called family and friends. I take every warrior braid before I leap back onto my horse and turn to our castle.

“Lycus.” I feel her sorrow for me, but I am not done, not yet.

I skip the journey that should have taken a week but only took me two moons. My anger and fury guide me as I race through the night and arrive at the castle in the middle of a feast.

I storm in, coated in blood and death, with madness in my eyes.

He sits on his throne while our people yell, drink, and eat as music plays. When they see me, silence descends. The king sits forward. His brown hair features many braids, ones he does not deserve. His golden necklace and crown are stolen, just like the girl’s innocence.

“Lycus, my captain, what is wrong? Where are the troops?” he booms, afraid that we lost, and I see his fear that there will be repercussions in his eyes.

“All of them are dead,” I snarl.

Throwing the braids at my king’s feet, I sneer at him. I don’t kneel or offer respect or gifts. I see nothing but a stranger on a throne, one who does not deserve it.

“I killed every single one of them for their crimes—crimes you knew about, that you allowed to happen.”

“What?” he exclaims, looking from the warrior braids to me. “Lycus, what have you done!”

“You knew!” I roar. “You knew what they were doing, and you let them. You have stained my soul. You have dishonoured our people.”

“We can discuss this. You didn’t need to know, my boy. It would have hurt you.”

“And now it is too late. They paid for their crimes, and now, so shall you. How dare you sit on a throne and claim to protect the people of your lands, all the while letting them be killed and raped? How dare you call yourself king? You are a coward! You will die a coward’s death!” Without giving it a second thought, I leap at him and swing my sword, cutting off my king’s head before my people.

I toss it down with the braids, and then I drop my sword, knowing my duty is done.

I blink my eyes open to see tears dripping down Althea’s face as she watches me. “Oh, Lycus,” she croaks. “You didn’t know. It was not your fault. You made them pay.”

“It did not negate the fact that I had allowed it to happen for years. I think part of me always knew, Althea, that what we were doing was wrong, but we didn’t care. I found out later that the ferals were trying to protect their loved ones in the village from us. We were the invaders, the evil, and I paid the price for it. My own people tore me apart, had me drawn and quartered, and then I was selected for this. I came back to avenge those who couldn’t. How could I rest when so many other souls couldn’t because of what I allowed to happen? I had so much death and destruction to atone for.”

“And you have,” she replies, gripping my face. “You are a good person, Lycus. More than that, you are a better warrior. You were blinded by love and following the orders of a king you believed in, wanting to believe the best of your duty, your people, and your brother. You know better now. That is not who you are anymore, and I am honoured to be in the presence of a man who was willing to kill his own to right the wrongs and stop what was happening. You are a true warrior, Lycus.”

With those words, my heart stops aching, and a bone deep pain I have carried for so many years eases.

“I do not deserve you, Althea, but I will earn you. I will fight the rest of my life to be the warrior you believe in. One day, I will deserve you,” I promise.

“You already do.” She smiles softly. “Now, my warrior, we have a ball to plan for, a battle if you will. Shall we?”



“My king,” I purr, watching Conall swallow as I saunter towards him. The others are all busy with preparations, but I know they are taking turns looking in on me. “You are about to check on those I called. Can I come?”

“Always.” He pulls me into his arms, lifting me until I wrap my legs around his waist. “Like I would deny you anything, Althea.”

“Anything?” I tease, scraping my fangs along his neck and making him shudder against me. “So I could ask for a palace.”

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