Page 146 of Court of Nightmares

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Nothing will.

“A little while ago, you asked who we are to carry out our laws. Would you like to see?” I call, my voice echoing around the room.

Our guests gather closer as Simon and his mate close the doors to keep them inside. Our monsters fade into the shadows with a cackle, knowing what is coming. Without waiting for a response, I wave my hand over my face, my sardonic grin the last thing they see. My mates do the same, conjuring their masks which are an extension of our power. I don’t openly do this a lot, as it costs power, but it’s worth it for the loud gasps as my seven kings and I stand before our thrones, our masks glaring at them. Our powers flow freely through the room. Shadows gather together and reach out their hands, the cold air of death making our guests shiver, and nightmares come to life, writhing through the room as they search for prey.

For sinners.

“We are the blood kings and queen. We are the law. We are the creatures who go bump in the dark. We are the watchers of crimes. We are the scales of justice. We are the hands of the gods. We are the sinners reborn. We are the judges,” I boom, and the pillows on the floor catch alight, burning away to expose the judgement blood circle we had hidden underneath. Laughter peels from my lips at the fear now consuming each soul here. They might not know what we are, but they sense the touch of fate and death deep down, and it echoes around the room as my kings join in.

“What is the meaning of this?” my ex-mate, the Vermillion king, demands, still confused and trying to appear in control.

“Oh, you are pretty but quite dumb, aren’t you?” I smirk behind the mask. “The council isn’t doing their job properly. Our race is saturated with those willing to murder, steal, rape, and take what isn’t theirs. Those in positions of power grow richer and more powerful, while those who are considered lesser struggle just to survive. The gods have grown angry at our wasteful use of our gifts and our spoiled attitudes, so they picked us. We are vampyrs chosen throughout the centuries who have been wronged by our race and given a second chance—a second chance to stop this from happening anymore. Over the years, the judges have silently watched and punished those who were deserving, but time is up. We have observed and waited for too long. Nothing is changing. One death makes a ripple, but many make a wave. You have forgotten what we are—who we are. You have forgotten our laws, and the judges have been ordered by the gods to cleanse the race or we will all be killed.” For a moment, there’s no movement, and then someone starts to laugh.

Others awkwardly join in.

“Funny, really funny.” The Vermillion king chortles, turning to get the crowd to join him. “They are trying to justify their murder of our people! Ours! They are killers, nothing more, and the council will always protect our people.”

I see some hesitate and head for the doors, clearly wanting out. I simply snap my fingers, and every single door and window within this room slams shut and locks, and they will not move until I release the blood binding I put on them earlier.

“The council has done nothing. It has grown weak. There is no escape, not now. Everyone here, every member of every court, will be judged. The wicked will be punished, and the innocent will be free to live a better life and create a better future for our people. You can laugh all you want, but it will not change the outcome. The powerful have preyed upon the weak for too long, but no more.” I nod at my men.

It does not matter if they believe us. We are doing our duty because they failed, and it is time to begin. Unlike the others, we need no fanfare. This is real, this is life and death, and it will be conducted with dignity and the appropriate respect.

My mates fade into Conall’s shadows and appear in the crowd beyond. There are some screams and shouts as people try to fight their way out. Simon and his mate come to stand behind me, and my monsters gather at the entrances and exits to scare those wanting to run. I do not enjoy this—okay, well, a part of me does, but a part of me is also sad that it has come to this. There will be so much death, so much waste—no, we will not enjoy taking all these lives, but we will do it. I made a promise and took an oath. The mark on my chest burns with purpose and power, ready to carry out our sacred duties. More guests turn to me and begin to beg, but I simply wait until my mates bring forth seven people—a mix of men and women. My mates push them to their knees before me, placing a hand on their shoulders to stop them from moving.

“You are to be judged. Do you wish to confess any sins beforehand?” My voice carries through the room, guided by a power much bigger than any of us. Sometimes death is necessary, and sometimes you simply cannot have hope. Sometimes bringing upon an ending is needed for a brighter beginning.

“Fuck you!”

“Let us go!”

“Council, save us!”

“My king!”

“They cannot save you now,” Osis says so calmly that they begin to struggle more.

I nod, and Conall lifts his man with one hand and drops him into the circle before producing a knife and cutting his throat, spilling blood into the waiting bowl. I’ve never done a full judgement before, but I know how it goes. However, I didn’t expect the bone-deep power that flows through me. Beginning with Nathair and his tie to the blood circle, it flows through us from the bond, showing us this man’s life and powers. He sees it too; I know that from my own judgement. Tears fall from his eyes, and for a moment, I soften towards him before I receive some of his more recent memories.

He was a good man once, an enforcer, but now?

Now, he uses his position for personal gain. I watch as men and women are forced to serve and feed him for protection.

“You are found guilty.”

Conall quickly and humanely rips out the man’s heart and tosses it aside. His body is lifted from the circle and placed to the side, his blood covering the floor as the crowd screams.

The dragon roars at those trying to fight their way out, and the council gathers together, glancing around and ready to go to war.

It will not help them.

I turn my attention back to the waiting vampyrs.

We judge them one by one, and I speak the words out loud. Groups have formed, led by the council, who are ready to attack us, but I simply use my power to push them all to their knees, even those struggling to ram the door with a bench. My monsters flood the areas they left, blocking their escape even more with cruel laughs.

There is no escape.

Tonight, the Court of Nightmares will either be their tomb or their salvation.