Page 13 of Court of Nightmares

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The Court of Nightmares?

There are only four courts. I’ve never heard of another, but as I look around, it seems forgotten, so maybe that’s why.

“Your crimes against your own kind and that of others have been noticed. You will be judged.”

They sit as one, resting their leather-covered hands on the arms of their thrones. We see nothing of them, yet I feel them brushing against me.

“Judged? Who the hell are you to judge us?” one man yells. Looking at his long hair, I would say he’s a noble, and the entitled attitude he sports only proves it.

“We are the blood kings, chosen by those who made us to be the seven judges of fate. You will be judged.” One leans forward, his voice deep and dark. “And you will pay for your crimes, no matter who you are or where you came from. Nobody is exempt here.”

“You have no authority over me!” the vampyr roars, yanking on his chains. “Release me now or you will feel the wrath of my court.”

One of the seven kings stands slowly, effortlessly, like water. His head tilts, and suddenly, shadows thicken in the room, and the struggling vampyr is wrapped in shadows, dragged into the circle, and deposited there as easily as one would move a child.

He sat once more, and the judges blended together, but I upped my estimation of their power and age. I have never seen someone control shadows like that.

Not ever.

“It is time for your judgement,” one calls.

The vampyr continues to yell, but then a deep gash appears across his throat, making him gurgle on his words. His blood hits the air, making us all sit up, and we watch as he falls forward, his blood spilling across the drawings and into the bowl where it begins to sizzle.

“You are guilty. Your crimes are numerous, and you have been sentenced.”

I watch on as one of the nameless masked persons leaps down from the throne, stops before the kneeling vampyr without breaking the blood circle, and snaps off his fangs before tossing them away.

The resounding agonised scream echoes the one that’s always trapped in my throat, but hope fills me—hope that they will do the same to me, stop this infernal hunger, and stop me from hurting people.

A vampire’s fangs never grow back, and without them, they slowly die.

They do not leave him to expire however. The one who snapped off his fangs slams his fist into his chest, rips out his heart, and holds it up.

“You pay the judgement. I, Nathair, King of the Serpents, declares your debt paid.” His fist clenches around the heart, crumbling it to dust as the vampyr collapses and disintegrates until he’s nothing but a skeleton.

That tells me he was an old vampire, truly old, so no wonder he had such a sense of entitlement.

His body is wrapped in shadows, and then it’s discarded to the side, while Nathair sits down on his throne.

“Next to be judged,” another voice calls.

I watch as those gagged and bound like me are brought into the symbols in the middle of the room. They all cry, scream, and beg, trying to make deals or pleading for their lives, and yet each one’s blood is spilled and then a voice rings out true and strong, proclaiming, “Guilty,” before their fangs are torn out and their bodies are dragged to the side to be burned in the fire to the left.

Another is pulled into the blood circle, sobbing, and after her blood is spilled, she also has her heart ripped out and is added to the pile of corpses. One after another, each person is judged and found guilty, until I am the only one left to be judged, found guilty, and killed.

I suppose I should be scared, but I’m not, and instead, something akin to peace fills me.

“The last will now be judged,” a voice calls.

Not waiting for the shadows to grab me, I stumble to my feet and walk to the circle and pass through it, and then I willingly drop to my knees. I tilt my head back, facing my fate. I know I have been living on borrowed time, and I am prepared to meet my makers with a warm smile and gratitude.

This seems to shock them, and they all lean forward, but I refuse to face death while screaming or crying. I have been dead for a very long time, and I am done running.

I go willingly with open arms.

“You do not need to bleed me, though you can if you wish, for I am guilty of all my crimes. Kill me.”

“You are . . . asking for death?” Nathair asks.

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