It had taken Furia and I a lot less time to get back to Alkandra. We didn’t bother going through the mines since Arbor had already caught us, so it took just two days in our swift vampire forms before we saw the candle-lit skyline of Alkandra between the trees. We transformed back to our elven forms, donned our stately robes, and rubbed the wrinkles out of them. I peered out from the tree line, and looked both ways. The agrarian fields were empty, the last harvest already done. No one would see us scamper across, and once we got to the river, all we had to do was—Yavara dropped in front of me.
“Boo.” She giggled, “Did you two enjoy your trip to the Highlands? How did Elena look?”
“G-g-g-good.” Furia stammered beside me.
Yavara smirked at me, “Much more attractive in person than on the mirror, right, Adrianna? How much money did you give her?”
I let a long breath out through my nose, and mumbled, “A million.”
“Ooo, and the going rate for an Alkandran whore is just ten a night.” She pouted her lip sarcastically, and put a disingenuous hand on my shoulder, “Obviously you two aren’t normal whores. Why, foreign dignitaries might pay thousands for a night with you! All-inclusive, of course. Nothing off-limits. No safe-words. Foreigners can have such strange appetites, and Alkandra has a reputation to uphold.” She adjusted my robe, and smiled broadly, “If you have the right entrepreneurial spirit, it should only take you a year to pay me back the money I so generously loaned you. I know you won’t disappoint me, Governess, nor you, Magistrate.”
“Yes, Your Highness.” We grumbled in unison.
“Is that the kind of attitude world-class whores have?” She demanded, and shoved her hands up our robes. Her fingers entered us, the index and middle penetrating our slits, the ring and pinky pushing into our asses, both hands stirring expertly, making us weak in the knees. “Come now, ladies,” She growled in our ears, “let me hear some of that Alkandran enthusiasm.”
“Yes, Yavara!” We cried out together, each of us leaning into her shoulder. She grinned delightedly, and took my kiss on her lips, long and passionate, before she did the same with Furia.
“I missed you two.” She sighed, “This place has been so on edge the past few days.” She licked my ear as I gyrated on her hand, saturating her palm with my dripping nectar, “This city needs you, Adrianna. I need you. It’s been falling apart since you left, and you’re the only one who can keep it together.”
“I left Eva and Soraya in charge.” I gasped, undulating against her.
“Something happened. It’s shaken them.”
“Oh no, what now?!” Furia half-moaned, half-cried.
“No one died, but… well, let me finish you two off, then we’ll talk.”
I breathed a long sigh of relief when our carriage rolled through the gates of Bentius. We had encountered warg riders in the night, undoubtedly a platoon of Gorlok’s terrorists, and they’d shadowed us all the way there. Had I not stood prominently at the front of the caravan, I was certain we would’ve been ambushed. Our terrifying escort drew me some strange looks from the watchmen, but they no longer treated me with contempt. When my mere presence staved-off a pack of half-ton wolves, they treated me with a bit more respect.
I went into the back of the carriage and kissed Huntiata goodbye, then made my way into my manor. My guards nodded to me, and I nodded tiredly back, and stumbled into my bedroom to flop on the bed.
“Come to rescue me?” Sofia giggled. She was handcuffed to the railings of the headboard, dressed in garters and fishnet stockings. She was on her knees, her arms outstretched before her, her fat little ass wiggling excitedly in the air. I suddenly wasn’t very tired.
“How long were you like this?” I grinned at her.
“They sounded the approach bell thirty minutes ago. I had to sprint to get here before you.” Then she cleared her throat, and effected a higher voice, “The bad men handcuffed me to the bed, Elena! They were going to have their way with me, but then you came, and they scurried out the window.” She wiggled her ass, and arched her back, “Thank god you’re here to free me.”
I walked toward her, my heels clicking on the boards. She watched me with an expectant smile, her blue irises tracking me to the corners of her eyes. I climbed onto the bed, and knelt behind her.
“Elena, the keys are in the box.” She giggled, motioning to my box of toys on the mantle.
“I’m not going to get the keys, Sofia.” I said, and grabbed her ass.
“What?!” She cried in faux alarm, “Elena, what are you doing?!”
“Those men were my men, you little fool.” I chuckled sardonically, kneading my fingers into the succulent fat, “They left you hear for me to play with. All. Night. Long.”
“No!” Sofia cried.
“Yessss.” I hissed, and spread her thick alabaster cheeks. My eyes fell upon the ruby plug in her ass, and my heart skipped a beat. “Oh, Sofia.” I muttered, “It’s beautiful.”
“I practiced putting it in just like you showed me.” She smiled around her shoulder, “It felt weird at first, like I was pooping in reverse, but then I got used to it.” Her smile turned wicked, “Then I started to like it. I want you to fuck me like I’m the Dark Queen.”
“Like you’re the Dark Queen,” I echoed, feeling once again like a total piece of shit. But my guilt was easily overpowered by my arousal, and so I compartmentalized it, and focused instead on the sparkling ruby that bejeweled Sofia’s perfect, virgin, eighteen-year-old pink star.
“Safe word?” I whispered.
“I trust you.” She smiled back.
I pulled my sword off my hip, undid my belt, and threw my dress off. My erection was throbbing nearly to the point of pain, and my heart was beating low in my chest. Huntiata had used my female parts brilliantly, but my masculine side had been left sorely unattended for nearly a week, and it was raging now. I wrapped the tips of my fingers around the plug, and pulled gently. She whimpered, resting her head in her hands, looking back at me. I pulled until I could see the metal bulge slowly being birthed from her clinging pink rim, the hole so tight that her pelvic floor distended. She mewled, her brow furrowing, her smile fading. I pulled harder, and it popped free. She let out a yelp, then donned an expression of pure need as her tight virgin anus coalesced before me. I spread it gently with my thumbs at the side, and planted my face between her cheeks.
“Oh wow!” Sofia gasped. I winked at her as I pushed my tongue inside, enjoying the sensation of her hot sheath coiling around me with her uncertain clenches. I probed her tight center, and circled her rim in lathering caresses, awakening the nerves there.
“Oh god!” She moaned, and I smiled around her ass, and brought my lips to it. I formed an oval with my mouth, and sensually drew suction, swelling her anal ring as my tongue swirled it, making it ever receptive to my violation until it was winking, and her insides were relaxed. Then, I burrowed wetly into her until I could no more, and began penetrating her over, and over, and over.
“Elena, please!” She cried, though what she begged for, even she didn’t know. I tortured her delicious ass, rotating my lips, tasting her tight filth, sheening her ruby insides until they fluttered with sensation, open and ready for me. I pulled my mouth away, and moved atop her.
“Kiss me.” I whispered in her ear.
“Yavara wouldn’t be able to resist. I thought you want me to fuck you like the Dark Queen.” I licked her cheek, and grinned, “Taste your asshole on my tongue, you Highland slut.” Before she could say another word, I squished her mouth open with a squeezing hand, and plunged my tongue into her. She resisted for a second, but she couldn’t resist for long. I inundated her mouth with my flavor, sliding my tongue against hers, and she reacted curiously, testing the taste, then melting into the wanton carnality of it, and kissing me in full. By the time I parted her lips, her eyes were closed in bliss, and her mouth stayed open, hopeful that I would kiss it again.
“I’m going to fuck you’re little asshole.” I whispered into her pointed ear, “You’re a scared prim Highland girl now, but after I’m done with you, you’ll be nothing but my filthy anal whore, crawling on all fours and wiggling that slutty ass for me.”
She shuddered from head to toe. I placed my hand against her pussy, and it was wet with just a graze. “Oh, you like the idea, don’t you?”
“No!” She cried through a moan of pure ‘yes.’
“Once I take over the noble court, I’m going to use you as my closing girl.” I chuckled, positioning myself behind her, “I’m going to tape your pussy shut, and let every nobleman who makes a deal with me use this filthy little hole.”
“And you’ll beg for it just like that, Sofia. I’m going to ruin you tonight, and you’re going to thank me for it.”
“Yessss.” She hissed under her breath.
I pressed my tip against her pink aperture, and slowly pushed forward. She whimpered as her pelvic floor bowed inward, the taut alabaster flesh shadowing with the depression of her rim. It pulsed with her heart, slowly widening, resisting me with more and more tension. She whined, then gasped. I broke through. Her anal ring popped around me, clenching around my throbbing shaft, sucking me. I moaned, sliding myself gradually inside her, gauging how much she could take by the pitch of her little cries. Her smooth back twitched with the contractions of her insides, her shoulders pinched, and her spine hunched. I massaged her succulent cheeks, soothing her as best I could as the last inch of me disappeared into pristine virgin asshole.
“Oh, wow.” She muttered, acclimating slowly to the depth and girth of me. I moved subtly, stirring her tense insides with gradual rotations, groaning in pleasure. Oh, she was tight! Her warm sheath embraced me, pulsating and fluttering with every minute spasm and twitch. Eventually, the pained contractions within her eased, and the hunch of her spine flattened. Her shoulders relaxed, and her lower back gently dipped, creating an arch that tilted her pelvis and angled her ass upward. She glanced back at me, her blue eyes cast in slutty need, her perfect cute face, that face of dignity and innocence, now corrupted with such a heinous desire.
“It feels really weird.” She whispered.
“But you like it.” I grinned, stroking her back.
“Your cock is so hot inside me!” She moaned, wiggling around her penetration, “Oh Good Mother, I’m not supposed to like it this much!”
“There’s no going back now, Sofia.” I giggled, and began to pull out, “I want you preparing this hole for me every day. I want you thinking about how good my cock feels stuffed up your little shithole when you’re all alone.” I collected her fine blonde hair in my fist, and tugged it. “From now on, every time you touch yourself, you won’t be able to resist sneaking a finger back here.” I stared at her enraptured inverted gaze as I slowly pushed my cock back in, “You’re a filthy fucking slut forever now. Moan for me, my little Highland toy.”
And she did, her eyes so expressive as I pushed all the way in, bottoming-out her vaginal floor from the wrong side, hollowing her vulnerable sheath. I pulled out, and pushed in again, harder this time, and my crotch slapped against her taut flank, the alabaster flesh rippling.
“Your right!” She cried, her lips pouting, “I’m your anal slut! Fuck me!”
I growled, and began thrusting in earnest, opening her pink button, plunging deep into her hot filth, pressing the fat of her ass into succulent wrinkles. I pulled her hair harder, exaggerating the bow of her back, forming creases along the hollow of her spine.
“Fuck me! Fuck my little fucking shithole!” She cried with that innocent voice, her face like a doll, her body smooth with youth, her ass filled like a depraved whore, sucking on my cock, pulling out like a fleshy tent on my pole every time I withdrew. I fucked her with a fervency, becoming rougher with every thrust, slapping her ass and squeezing it with relish. She cried out with punctuated breath, her blue eyes staring back, wide and wonderous, her pink lips gaping. I plunged my tongue into her mouth, kissing her upside down, dominating, controlling, owning her and making her submit so sweetly. Oh, she did, mewling with receptive lips, begging me with sobbing breaths to violate her, to do such horrible things to her. I breathed hard into her mouth, my breasts flat against her back, my cock finding new depths within her tightest channel, the forbidden pleasure radiating through her rectum, churning in her bowels. Her arms strained in their straightened position, her hands white with pressure above the cuffs. She sounded exerted tones of sexual suffering, staring wondrously up at me.
“Can I come?” She squeaked, asking for my permission.
“No.” I grinned.
She whined, her body writhing beneath mine. She began backing into me, losing control of herself, fucking her own ass with my cock. I assisted in her self-violation, guiding her with my hand, meeting her in the middle so that the impact hit her deep. She undulated beneath me, her back a wave against my belly and breasts, the little pockets of fat that adorned her jiggling with every motion. She wiggled until her complexion was rosy, her platinum hair plastered to her glistening face, her eyes hazed with pleasure, guttural tones coming from her mouth. She was like a beast now, the innocence all faded, only the slut, only the whore who would fuck her own asshole to the point of insanity.
“Please, Elena.” She rasped, her voice possessed, “Let me come.”
I pulled on her hair until I knew it hurt her, and felt her clench around me in gratitude, her shitting muscles encasing me in the fleshy cuff of their embrace. “Yes.” I whispered, and thrusted with her, pounding, pounding, pounding until the boiling in my loins passed the point of no return. She was panting heavily, her eyes unfocused and watery, a string of drool falling from her mouth. With a final moan of pure ecstasy, we came together, exploding mutually. Her pussy showered the bed, and I burst into her rectum, shooting my love deep into her colon. I plunged into her four more times, then collapsed, spent from my lust, and spent from my journey.
She breathed heavily for a minute, then turned her head until we were cheek-to-cheek. “What would the Dark Queen do now?” She whispered.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“She’d want me to let her clean it off.”
Sofia went silent for a moment, then whispered, “I want to do that too.”
“No you don’t.”
“I promise I do.”
I slowly pulled out of her, my cum spilling down her taint, pooling along her slit. I moved to her mouth, my stinking organ right next to her face. She smelled it. She smelled it again, inhaling deeply, closing her eyes to learn the scent. She opened them, their blue hue cast in a sensual luster, and she lowered her mouth to me, and took me in. Slowly, she sucked me to the base, her tongue lathering every inch. She gagged as I knew she would, but the arousal never left her eyes. She loved it. She swallowed with me still inside her mouth, then withdrew to reveal the cleaned length of me. I eased my face to hers, in awe of her, and I shared in her kiss, and tasted my ass and cum on her tongue.
“You’re amazing.” I said when we parted.
“No, Elena. You are.” She whispered, and I thought I saw love in her eyes.
I cupped her cheek, dotingly running my thumb over it. I couldn’t deceive this woman any more. “Sofia, there’s something I need to tell you.”
She saw the worry on my face, and her expression soured. “Whatever it is, I’d rather you tell me when I’m not in handcuffs.”
I nodded, and went to my box of toys. “I had a talk with Yavara about you.” I said, digging through dildos and plugs until I found the key, “There was… a bit of a hang up.” I took a deep breath, dreading the expression that was undoubtedly already on her face. “I couldn’t convince her to change you.” I said, turning around. She wasn’t there. The handcuffs were still on the bed, opened. There was a gurgling sound coming from the other side of the bed. One of my knives was missing from the belt.
“Oh god, no!” I cried, rushing to her, “Sofia, why did you—”
Percian Feltian was straddled atop Sofia Droughtius, stabbing her repeatedly in the throat. I tackled him, wrenched the knife free, raised it overhead, and he snatched my arm and held me high. He was stronger than he looked. Much stronger.
“Help!” I screamed, and he plastered his hand over my mouth. I bit down hard, and tasted iron as my teeth cut through flesh and muscle. He growled, squeezed my face, and twisted my neck. I tried to wrench it back, but he held it there, forcing me to look at Sofia. Blood bubbled from her lips, poured from her nostrils, ran from the holes in her throat. She stared at me with bulging eyes, the horror raging in them. She held a crossbow in her hand, the point of its bolt dripping with poison. She tried to say something to me, but all that came from her lips was a steady flow of dark blood. Her eyes rolled back, and she went limp.
“She had it under the pillow.” Percian said. His voice sounded different. The Highland accent was gone, and it was deeper, full of rich baritone. I recognized that voice. His grip on my face released, and I turned to see Verto the incubus staring up at me.
It would be a bloody night. I knew it the moment I saw the caravan ride through the gate from my high tower. If I convened court in the morning, I would be doomed. If I tried to cancel it, Ternias would convene court in absentia anyway. I only had one choice then. I finished my mirror-conversation with General Krakis, and he nodded solemnly when I said my salutations. Then I turned to Sir Raftas.
“The men are assembled?”
“All one hundred are accounted for.” He answered.
“I am issuing an arrest warrant for Lord Sherman Huntiata for the charges of smuggling and racketeering. You are to recruit the city watch to aid you in his arrest. If they refuse, they are traitors, and you have free reign to do violence upon them.”
He took the formal scroll, his face set. “Yes, Your Highness.”
“Huntiata must be brought to me alive and unharmed, Sir Raftas.” I pulled out another scroll, “This is an arrest warrant for Lady Elena Straltaira for the charges of smuggling and abetting the enemy. She must also be brought to me alive as well, but she is of much lower priority. Huntiata is your primary objective.”
He took that scroll. “And Lord Ternias, my lady?”
“What did I tell you about asking questions, Sir Raftas?” I snapped, “You bash in doors and arrest people. You don’t fucking ask questions!”
He bowed his head. “I must ask one more, my lady. Forgive me.”
“Who will guard you?”
I grabbed him by the chin. “If you can’t get me Lord Huntiata, we’re all going to die, do you understand?”
“Good. And if King Shordian tries to give you an order,” I handed him another scroll, “here’s an arrest order for King Eric Shordian for the charges of high treason.”
Sir Raftas’s eyes went wide, but he did not ask any questions. He took the third scroll, saluted smartly, and left. When the door slammed behind him, I chewed on my fingernails, and looked out from the tower to see how things would unfold.
Prince Matthew Dreus was in chains. The cell was a posh bedroom at the top of the tower, ornamented with all the niceties and warm with a roaring fire, but it was a cell all the same, and no amount of silk sheets would comfort a condemned man. I could tell Yavara was examining my mind with keen interest, and so I fed her a thousand different surface thoughts as I put the pieces together. I had always known Leveria was the most dangerous woman on Tenvalia. I had seen her cruelty, intelligence, and daring, but I had never truly grasped it until then. If she were there, I would’ve given her a standing ovation before I drove a sword through her guts.
“The assassin’s half-bow was hidden in the embassy.” Yavara said, “She’d stayed there overnight, and used it to hide during the search. Soraya told me every nook and cranny of the city was turned over, but you obviously wouldn’t dare order a search of the embassy. When Zander investigated the site, he found food cans, opium needles, and a broken vial that contained remnants of a transformation potion. He found a hair that turned out to be human.”
“An orgy of evidence.” I said.
“Zander was suspicious as well, but he’d been tracking communications between the Highlands and Alkandra. Matthew was calling Leveria every day. Adrianna, I know you like him, but he was never truly your friend.”
“Your Highness, you must see that he’s being set up by Leveria. She wants you to start a war with the Lowlands.” I almost said, but caught it on my tongue. If I said that, I might convince her it was true; Yavara held my opinion in high regard. If I did that, then Alexa would’ve died for nothing. If I confessed, then we would both have died for nothing. I was but a piece on Leveria’s gameboard, and I had to finish my move. I had no choice.
“I can’t believe it.” I mumbled.
She looked at me. “He says you did it. He says you must’ve framed him using his sigil. You were the only other one with access to both a mirror and the embassy.”
I looked back at her. “You think I would kill one of my own for Leveria? Have I not shown to you personally that I would die for them?”
She looked away, an expression of shame on her face. “I wasn’t accusing you. I know you love them more than anything. It’s why you betrayed me to help Elena.” She sighed, watching the prince scribbling away at his desk, “I have to execute him, Adrianna. There is no way I can let him live. How will I explain that to King Dreus?”
“Tell him the truth.”
“He denies it, of course. Even with all the evidence I presented, he says it’s an Alkandran plot, that you must’ve framed his son for some reason. I can’t get ahold of Leveria, and neither can he. Even Elena hasn’t been available for nearly a week.” She chewed on her lip, “I’d hold him indefinitely until a solution could be reached, but Eva told everyone. I can’t wait much longer. The people demand justice.”
“Are you asking for my counsel?”
I took one breath through my nose, then another, and let them both out through my mouth. “The Lowlands will never forgive you if you kill him, but Alkandra will never forgive you if you don’t.” I looked her steadily in the eyes, and said, “I will never forgive you if you don’t.”
“Zander sent me to Feltianas to kill Percian Feltian and take his place in the Noble Court.” Verto explained, “Zander knew Percian would soon be called to represent his family. His father was so frail.”
“Zander sent Gorlok over the border to terrorize Feltianas.” I said, watching Verto wrap Sofia’s body in bloodstained bedsheets.
“I don’t know anything about that.” Verto said, “Zander just wanted his man on the court.”
“And you thought you could just take over a nobleman’s life without anyone noticing the difference?”
Verto shrugged. “His father spent considerable capital ensuring that his son’s homosexuality stayed a secret, and so Percian stayed a secret to most everyone. Women were paid off to tell tall tales about Percian’s exploits, while Percian himself wasn’t allowed to leave the estate. His only contact with someone his age was Sofia Droughtius, who was his arranged betrothed. Perhaps his father hoped spending enough time with a woman would cure him of his gayness.”
“How did you learn so much about him?”
“I had to be a bit of a bastard.” He chuckled, “Even I felt a little bad about what I did. He was a young lonely gay man; the easiest of marks. I transformed into a dashing young high-elf, hopped his estate fence, slipped past is guards, and climbed into his bedroom window. After the first night, he was in love with me. He told me everything about himself, and I observed him carefully throughout, picking up on his mannerisms and speech affectations. After a week, I’d learned all there was to know about Percian Feltian. I knew him better even than his own mother. So I killed him, ate him, and donned his visage.”
I looked at the wrapped corpse on the bed. “Then Sofia came to you.”
“Yes,” Verto looked at the corpse fondly, “For all that she was a schemer and a manipulator, it shocked me how she could not see that Percian was hiding himself from her. I guess we all have our blind spots. It made it very easy for me to impersonate Percian, because even Percian had impersonated Percian their whole relationship. When Percian’s father abdicated, she came to me, seeking an ally. Well, perhaps not an ally; more like a lacky. Percian was very meek, and keen to do whatever she said. She told me about you, and she told me about Lucas Ternias.”
“What did she tell you?”
“She feared that her family was on the brink of collapse following her father’s disastrous defeat at the Tundra. She knew the only way to secure her family’s standing was to make a powerful ally, and the queen was so disgusted with her father that Sofia dared not broach her. It was Ternias who saw the opportunity in Sofia, but really, it was you he wanted.”
“We were both too smart to trust each other.”
“So he tried to get you a different way.” Verto inclined his head to Sofia’s body, “He knew you were the only one who had the charisma and resources to collect the nobles, but he also knew you didn’t have the inside relationships to make the initial contact. He sent Sofia to you. She was an insider, she could get you meetings with Huntiata and the Feractian barons, and you could do the rest.” Verto smiled wickedly at me, “He also knew you wouldn’t be able to resist virgin Highland cunt. She got her hooks in deep, didn’t she?”
I glared at him. “Very deep.”
His smile softened. “You’re not evil enough to play this game, Elena. Sofia was as ruthless as they come, and she played you like a fiddle.”
“And you let her.”
“I tried to get you alone to warn you, but you stubbornly wanted to have a threesome and fuck me in the ass instead. The next day, you left Bentius.” Verto sneered, “For a woman, you sure think with your dick a lot.” He picked up Sofia’s body, and shouldered it, “If I had known you were in mortal danger, I would’ve acted sooner, but I wasn’t sure until tonight what Ternias’s intentions were.”
“What are they?”
“There was a vote in the Noble Court while you were gone. Leveria proposed that we follow Ternias’s plan to attack the Highlands, and Ternias was the deciding vote. He killed the proposal. It was only then that I realized he’d just been tying Leveria up in pointless arguments to prop you up. Once you’d collected all the nobles he needed, he’d have you murdered, and Sofia would become the leader of your faction. He would then coopt your position of peace as his own, demand a vote of no confidence, and have Leveria forcefully removed from office with the aid of Huntiata’s watchmen.”
“Huntiata has said he’d never vote for a lasting peace.”
“Haven’t you convinced him otherwise?” Verto smirked, “Ternias knew you could be very convincing. It was why you needed to die tonight. Your faction would vote as you vote, and Ternias didn’t think you’d vote for no confidence.”
“And Sofia? Why did she go along with all this?”
“She would become Ternias’s queen. Ternias would abandon Jonias, and Sofia would abandon Percian. A match made in hell if there ever was one.”
I ran my hands through my hair, my mind pulling in ten different directions. “So… the threat has passed then. Sofia is dead, and Ternias cannot hope to claim my faction.”
“You really think Ternias trusted everything to the unsure fingers of a noblewoman?” Verto asked, “She was the bait. You were supposed to be dead fifteen minutes ago. I had to kill five assassins just to get into this room. Your guards are all dead, and the manor is surrounded. If you open that door, you’ll die. If you look out that window, you’ll die. They’re waiting for Sofia to leave the house, and if she doesn’t, they are going to burn it to the ground.”
Yavara closed the door behind me. I waited until I heard her footsteps fade down the hall, then I approached Prince Matthew. He continued to scribble away at his desk, not looking up at me even when I stood five feet away.
“It’s rather ironic,” he said, still writing on his parchment, “that being trained at a young age to defend against telepathy has doomed me. My only savior is the unfettered truth, and yet, Queen Yavara refuses to believe the truth in my mind. I wonder what she would see in yours?”
I didn’t answer.
He dipped his quill in some ink, and continued his ***********, the chains around his wrists clinking. “I am penning a letter to my older brother, Arthur. He was the only man who knew me for what I was, and loved me all the same. That was, until I came here. Then I found love all around me, and most importantly, within me. It was you who did that, Adrianna.”
Again, I didn’t answer.
Matthew still did not look at me, ensconcing himself in his writing. “The past fifty days have been the best of my life. No longer did I wake dreading the day to come. No longer did I stand terrified in the corner, afraid of showing others who I am. You set me free, and for that, I am eternally thankful.” He looked at me then, his bloodshot eyes full of tears. “And you have torn that all from me. All the love I’ve made has turned to hate, and those I once thought of as family now wish me to die. How long have you been grooming me for this fate, Adrianna?”
“I never wanted this.”
“But you have it!” He spat, his voice tight with panic, “The sacrificial lamb to save the Highlands from itself! I loved Alexa like she was my sister, and you killed her! You killed her!”
“No, you did.”
His face fell. “Even now you have no shame. Do you fear listening ears? Would they even believe what they heard?! I am guilty because I am an outsider, and it is unfathomable to everyone that the real outsider is you!” He shot out his hand to point the finger, but the chains caught it, allowing him only to gesture accusingly at the floor. He stared at me with eyes full of hatred, then his finger began to quiver, and his expression became one of terror, “Help me, Adrianna,” he squeaked, “tell them the truth! Yavara will be merciful to you! She will understand why you did it!”
“I would never do that to Alexa.”
“But it was done!” Tears streaked down his cheeks, their tan hue now pale with fear, “Don’t do it to me too, Adrianna.”
I took a step toward him. “There is only one way I can help you. You need to confess.”
“I will never!”
“Tell them Leveria tricked you. Tell them you didn’t know it was an assassination, but you must tell them something.”
“I would rather die than admit to this!” He snarled.
I stopped before him, and took his shaking hands in mine. I looked up at him gently. “Are you sure, Matthew?” I whispered.
The terror behind his quivering lenses belied the truth. “No,” he whimpered, “Adrianna, I don’t want to die.”
I stroked his hands with my thumbs, and said, “You are going to, Matthew.”
He wailed, dropping to his knees before me. He took my hands in his, and brought to his lips, kissing the rings on my fingers. “Please, Adrianna,” he groveled, “please don’t let them kill me.”
I ran my fingers through his locks. His beautiful thick hair was falling out with the stress, tainting him in the bloom of his youth. “Do you know how orcs kill traitors?” I asked him softly, “I saw it with my own eyes when I was a ranger. They cut off the traitor’s cock and balls, and feed them to him. Then they cut off his fingers and toes, and feed them to him. They put spikes through his hands and feet, and tie weights to the end, then they lower him onto a pike, and impale him through the anus. When it comes through his clavicle, they put him on a spit, and roast him. He screams for a day before he cannot scream anymore, but he lives for much longer. They don’t waste the cooked flesh. They sustain him with himself.”
Matthew had gone deathly still when I finished. His breathing was short and fast, his skin prickled with goosebumps.
“If you fight this, if you demand a trial, it will only serve as a spectacle to raise Alkandra’s anger. Furia will convict you, but she will not be able to sentence you. Yavara will take that duty upon herself, and she will listen to the will of the mob she rules. No one deserves to die like that, Matthew. If you confess, I will beg Yavara to be merciful to you. A quick beheading in the stadium is hardly anything at all, really. It’s a short walk of embarrassment, then you kneel on a padded surface, put your head down, and close your eyes. No pain. When you next open your eyes, you’ll be with your ancestors.”
He stayed still for a long time, the weight of my words seeming to bow him. When he next looked up at me, his expression was nearly that of astonishment. “Adrianna,” He said softly, “you are an evil woman.”
I nodded, a tear running down my cheek. “I know.”
Verto had Sofia’s crossbow in his hand. He was pressed against the wall next to the door, and I was across from him, two daggers in my hands. He nodded to me. I grabbed the knob, twisted it, and took two successive breaths. Then I threw open the door, and Verto fired the crossbow. Someone screamed, and I rolled through the threshold, sprang into a leap, and sunk my daggers into the opposite sides of a man’s neck. I ripped them out, squirting red over my face, and I spun, letting his body fall behind me to catch three crossbow bolts that had been meant for my chest. I whipped around, pivoting on the balls of my feet, and I flung one dagger across the hall. It hit the assassin square in the chest, and he gurgled, clutching at the wound.
Verto was moving down the hall in a flurry, his sword singing through flesh and metal. He took one man’s head clean off, put his blade through another’s stomach, then spun and ducked as an axe sailed over his head. I caught it as I rushed after him, and tossed it end-over-end to its owner. It caught him between the eyes, and he stumbled like a drunk before pitching forward, and splitting the rest of his skull against the floor.
“Left!” Verto shouted. With out looking, I threw my other dagger to the left, and hit the man in the shoulder. I brandished my sword before he even registered that he’d been struck, and I sliced clean through his throat. Blood spurted from the smile in his neck, and he went down to reveal the man behind him, a crossbow aimed at my face. He fired. I raised my sword. The bolt clanged off the metal, and I was on him half a second later, cutting his hand off, spinning, and taking his head too.
We sprinted into the main hall, and slid to a halt before the threshold.
“How many?” I asked.
He sniffed the air. “Fifteen.”
“Shit.” I dared a peek around the wall. The wide landing was bathed in the moonlight from the ceiling window, and before it, the winding double staircase went into pitch darkness. Twenty feet from its base was a cellar trapdoor, and from there, a passage that went into the adjacent alley.
“They’re not going to shoot until we’re in the light.” Verto muttered, loading his crossbow, “Ten feet to the stairs, twenty to the floor, ten more to the trap door. Five seconds, Elena. No more than thirty footsteps or they’ll pin you.”
“We could go over the railing.”
“You do what you want. I’m going left.” He took a deep breath, “Ready?”
We charged into the light. I dove, rolled, and was struck in the forearm. I ascended into the shadows, ripped out the bolt, and sucked the poison from the wound. I didn’t have time to worry if I got it all. A glint of light danced before me, and I ducked before the sword cut through my face. I put the point of my blade into his soft belly, then heaved forward, toppling him backward. I ran after, my feet thundering against the steps, the man before me threatening to send me sprawling forward. He screamed as he caught the bolts that were meant for me, and I leapt over him when he went down on his back, and sliced blindly through the air. I cut into meat, and someone shrieked. A blade dug into my ribs, and I screamed. Twirling, I danced through the darkness, ducking and leaping on instinct, guessing where the strikes would land from years of practice. I guessed right on enough. I killed one man with a slice through his throat, chopped another’s hand off, whirled forward and opened a man’s belly to spill his guts onto the floor. I slipped on the entrails, and went sprawling forward, my sword flying out of my hand, but the handle of the cellar door filling it. I threw it open, drew a dagger, and launched it blindly into the darkness below. A scream answered, and I dropped before the whistle of a blade that nearly cut my head in two.
My feet hit the soft parts of a man, and my victim grunted. I pulled the last knife from my belt, and ended him before leaping out of the way. A figure crashed atop the man’s corpse, and sprang forward just as a salvo of bolts was launched from the trapdoor entrance.
“It’s me!” Verto gasped as I prepared to stab.
“Were you hit?”
“I was, several times.” He groaned, “But I’m immune to most poisons, and those I’m not immune to, Highland assassins would never think to use.”
We backed away from the square of dim moonlight that shown from the trapdoor. The dead man at the bottom of the ladder wore the crest of House Straltaira on his helm. Jasonian, I believed his name was.
“He must’ve hidden down here.” I said, “I killed him.”
“Don’t feel too bad. Any of your men who still live are the ones who betrayed you.”
“Or he was just trying to sneak some wine out of the caskets.”
“Isn’t it easier on your conscience to believe me?” Verto asked, “Come on, let’s get out of here before they light the place on fire.”
We ran through the back passageway, and stopped before the secret door into the alley. I looked through the peephole, then opened the door, and held my guard’s body out. A dagger was immediately imbedded in his head, and I snatched the assailant’s hand, and hauled him off the top of the doorframe before Verto put a dagger in his eye. We rushed through the alley, took a sudden sharp turn onto Flower Street, and dove into the river. We were carried swiftly downstream through the refuse of Bentius, passing through tier after tier of city walls before we managed to haul ourselves out at one of the outlets. We were well out of the noble district by that time, and into the merchant district. We hid behind a butcher shop, catching our breath.
I had never seen Bentius like this. In all my life, I’d had servants who went to the lower wards of the city, and I had only left the noble district to travel quickly by carriage down the main promenade and through the gates. Up in the noble district, it felt like I was atop the city. In the merchant district, it felt like I was in it. Castle Bentius loomed hundreds of feet overhead, backed by the imposing triangle of Mount Tinsar. The great manors of the noble district were obscured by a high wall, and the tiered districts moved down the grand hillside like great steps. The merchant district was one of the lowest tiers, and not a place I could ever be seen in. I could walk without a veil in the noble district, where all knew who I was, but past those walls, I was a monster.
“Here,” I said handing Verto my coin sack, “buy me a habit of the Holy Mother, a thick veil, and gloves. I cannot be seen in this place.”
“You can just buy habits?” He inquired.
“Where do you think nuns get them?”
I laughed. “The church is too busy paying to keep the alter boys’ mouth’s shut. Nuns buy their own clothes.”
He raised his brows. “You Highlanders are an interesting breed.”
He was gone for thirty minutes. By the time he was back, I was shivering. Thankfully, Verto had also bought a couple towels and a bar of soap. I washed the filth from my body and hair, then dried myself off, and donned my new outfit.
“What the hell are you wearing?” I asked.
Verto grinned wolfishly at me, posing in the outfit that showed his bare chest and belly nearly to his crotch, which was hugged by a pair of leather pants that showed the full extent of his bulging manhood. He’d taken on a different elven face, one that was so beautiful it was almost painful to look upon. “The only action I’ve gotten for nearly a month has been a nobleman’s small cock, and a noblewoman’s small cock.”
“I’m sure.” He chuckled, “Though I like to dabble in the pleasures of men, I am made for women.” He sniffed the air, “Are we in the fish market, Elena?”
“That’s on the other side of the city.”
He grinned back at me. “Then I guess I’m in the right place. Zander has a portal set up in the abandoned mill down the road. It’s the drying room with the wooden sign above it. Do look me up when you get back to Alkandra. I’ll be in the biggest fucking house in the city.” And he strutted away, catching the eye of every man and woman he passed. I followed the tantalizing swing of his hips for a while, then turned my veiled eyes to the noble district. The walls of Castle Bentius were dimly illuminated by a flickering orange flame.
I loved my wife, but our bedroom had been dead for ten years. She just wasn’t a sexual woman anymore, and I was fine with that, but it felt ridiculous that a man such as myself with some juice still left in his balls should have to go celibate just because his wife also chose to. What the fuck was there to be jealous about?! She didn’t want my dick anymore, so it wasn’t like I was denying her my carnal affections. If she decided to push the beds together and have a romp, I’d give her a romping that would snap her tits back into place, and I’d forget all about Elena Straltaira!
Well, that wasn’t true. That wasn’t true at all. I wasn’t in love with Elena, but I was in love with the way she made me feel. Oh, did she know how to treat a man like me, good god! I felt thirty years younger after a night with her, and she was always ready for more, that devious challenge in her blue eyes, that evil grin on her lush lips. She had a body like a goddess, holes tighter than a virgin’s, and I had to concede that her cock did add something to her allure. Very few women could pull it off, but it just worked for her, and damn it, I wasn’t ashamed to stroke it! I was, however, a little ashamed to be stroking my cock in the bathroom at twelve in the morning. I tried to stay quiet as I imagined Elena grinding on my shaft, her organ stiff and leaking, pointed up at her own face with arousal. She looked down at me, her pink lips agape in pleasure, her brows knitted together in wonder of what I was doing to her insides. ‘Come in my ass.’ She moaned, and withdrew from her sopping slit to shove my meat into her tight filthy heat, pushing deeper and deeper until—“Sir!”
“What?!” I yelled.
“The queen’s guard is at the door! They demand to see you at once!”
“What the fuck does she want?” I grumbled, tucked my boner into my waistband, and buttoned up my pajama bottoms. I stormed across the bedroom, pulled on my combat boots, grabbed my longsword, and headed out the door.
“Sweetie?” Delores groaned sleepily.
“Yes, Bumpkins?” I asked.
“What’s going on?”
“Nothing. Just the royal guard coming by to do a wartime rations check.”
“At this hour?”
“We’re at war, Bumpkins. Now, go back to sleep.”
I went down three flights of stairs, and met with my men. These weren’t just my housemen, but watchmen, freshly paid and freshly loyal. Ten of them followed me out the front door, and we were met with fifty royal guards in full plate.
“Lord Huntiata,” a big mother fucker said from behind his facemask, “by word of Queen Leveria Tiadoa, you are under arrest for charges of smuggling and racketeering.”
“Aye? And what did I smuggle?” I spat.
“A judge will figure that out. Put your weapon down and step forward.”
“My lord,” Watch Commander Darius whispered, “Flower Street.”
I looked to my left. Twenty houses down, a fire was roaring, consuming a large manor that occupied its own city block. The Straltaira manor. My gaze slowly turned back to the royal guard before me. “And if I don’t come with you, are you gonna torch my house too?”
“It wasn’t us who did that. For your own safety, you need to come with me.”
“Aye, so that you can cut my throat in the shadows and dump me in the bay?”
“We have a warrant—”
“You can shove it up your mother’s cunt!” I roared. Watchmen from all around were gathering, two score surrounding the perimeter, and more coming. The royal guards looked around, their massive golden shells twinkling in the torchlight. They were the best warriors in all the highlands, and outfitted like it. One of them could take ten of us easy, but we were everywhere. The big bastard assessed the situation, and looked down at me.
“I have orders to take you alive, old man.” He growled.
“That ain’t gonna happen, shiny.”
“You can live without your arms and legs.”
“But can you live without your cock?” I asked, angling my sword between his legs, “Actually, I guess you’d be the man to ask, eh stumpy?”
He might’ve smiled beneath his facemask. “Fuck it. The Dark Queen’s gonna kill us all anyway.” He stepped back, then roared, “No quarter!” And charged me.
I took one step back, and slammed the door in his face. He thudded against it, the wall surrounding it cracking.
“Get my wife out of here.” I said to the guard beside me, the turned to Darius, “Take the alleyway exit and haul ass to headquarters. Get the entire brigade up and go for the castle!”
I grabbed a bottle of whiskey off the counter, ripped out the cork with my teeth, and took a swig of fire. Maybe Elena had been my fountain of youth, but nothing made me feel more alive than killing a fucker. The door pounded once, twice, three times, then caved in, and the big fucker came charging into my foyer, swinging his big fucking sword and cutting through my men like they were butter. One man was split clean down the middle, another was cut in two at the ribs, a third was decapitated, and a fourth was gored. The big fucker barreled through the rest, and came roaring at me, his sword poised overhead. I launched the whisky bottle into his face, and it shattered into a million pieces against his mask. He shrieked, flailing wildly, and I stepped into his guard, ducked a swing, and jammed my blade into the slit of mask. Pink blood gushed from the eye hole, and he went down. I spat on his corpse, pulled my sword out with a shearing sound, and walked out the door.
“What do you think they’re doing up there?” I heard someone ask.
“Fireworks and parties, that’s all those nobles do.” Someone answered derisively.
“No, I think the district is on fire!” Someone cried.
“It’s a light festival. That’s where all our whale oil’s going. Fucking rich people.” Someone responded.
I moved carefully through the crowd, cognizant of the eyes that searched my veil. Brushing past the night revelers, I noted the way fear played across their smiles, a surface-level terror reaching their eyes. I hadn’t known until then how tense the war had made the populace. It was omnipresent, but it was never alluded to directly, almost like acknowledging it would speak it into existence. People drank wine because wine was not rationed, but the restaurants served only bread. The butcher shops were shuddered, the blacksmiths were closed, and the stables were empty. The constables watched the people with suspicious eyes, seeing a spy in every face. I kept my face downcast and my arms folded in my robes, sticking to the center of the road. All it would take was one errant exposure of flesh, and I would be undone. I had to get out of the light.
I rounded a street corner, and came upon a dark road. None of the houses were illuminated, for whale oil had been rationed, and timber was hard to come by in the city. I clutched the dagger beneath my robe, and made my way down the center of the street. I was halfway down it when my ears picked up on the sound of footsteps. Softly padded feet moving quietly, four pairs of them. I stopped, and let my arms rest at my sides. The shadows moved before me, creeping along the edges of the road. I could not discern them from the pervading darkness, and they slipped in and out of sight. I squeezed the hilts tightly, and placed my left foot behind the right, angling myself on the balls of my feet.
“Bless you, Sister.” Came a voice from the darkness, “Here to the Fedar Gates.”
“And to paradise or perdition you go, and with a light heart.” I replied.
The shadow nodded, and the others passed me by. I let out a long breath, and continued down the dark side streets. I came upon one of the inner walls of the city, and followed it down until it nearly came together with a large warehouse. Looking both ways to ensure no one was watching me, I pressed myself between the warehouse and the wall, and ascended. Halfway up, the warehouse ended, and I had to rely on my climbing skills to get me to the top. After three nerve-wracking minutes of finding handholds in the dark, I hooked my fingers over the top, and peered over. There were no watchmen on top of the wall. The guard towers were empty, and the beacons were unlit. I hauled myself over, and ran along the wall until I found the steps into the next tier.
This was the banking and commerce district, and it was dead. Not a single street was lit, and not a sound could be heard. Here, I kept to the shadows, fearing the moonlit centers of the road. No one was supposed to be here. The banks were all closed, the stock exchange was abandoned, and the lenders were out of capital. The district had been all but abandoned after the battle of the Tundra, and anyone still in it was not the kind of person a lonely nun wanted to cross in the middle of the night. I scanned for movement with every step, my keen ears pricked for any sound. I cringed at how loud my footsteps seemed to sound. I’d been trained to keep my feet soft on dry leaves and brush, but grand streets of the banking district were like stone halls, and every sound, no matter how tiny, was amplified. I saw faces in every dark window. I saw figures at the end of every alleyway. They disappeared as soon as I looked at them directly, then teased me in my periphery once more. I knew they were fabrications, the same fabrications my mind created in the shapes of the forest, but rationality was of little comfort when immersed in such opaque blackness.
The next wall loomed before me, nearly twice the height of the previous barrier, impossible to climb. On the other side, I could see the orange glow of flame rising into the night. The noble district truly was on fire, and it wasn’t just my manor. The glow bubbled all along the wall, and with each step, the sounds of battle became louder. Like the merchant district’s wall, this one was unoccupied, no beacons lit, nor men posted on the turrets. I moved carefully through the side streets parallel to the wall until I came to the main promenade. The inner gate was wide open. I breathed a sigh of relief, and stopped myself abruptly before I rushed to it. There were shadows above the gate. No torches illuminated them, and no moonlight glinted off their helms. They were at ease in the darkness, and they waited for someone who was not to come running for the light.
“Shit.” I muttered. I could see the silhouettes of battle through the gates. Men clashed before the inferno that was a manor, great-shelled royal guardsmen hacking into the lines of watchmen. Leveria had made her move. The royal guards fought like demons, but they were woefully outnumbered. The watchmen pushed them back to the castle moat, and there, the battle became a slaughter. A score of guards held the bridge, and the watchmen died by the dozens trying to take it from them. Man after man charged headlong into the wall of armor, and man after man was sent in pieces over the side, or was added to the growing pile before them. Soon, the watchmen had to scale a hill of their own dead just to get to the guards, and the only succeeded in making the pile taller. After a hundred or so men had died, the watchmen pulled back from the bridge.
My eyes ran the length of the castle, resting on the high tower. The window was lit, and if I squinted, I almost thought I could see her standing there, looking down at me.
Sir Raftas was dead, along with a quarter of my men. Those who hadn’t fallen back to the bridge were fighting in desperate pockets all over the noble district. Huntiata had rallied the bulk of his force around the moat. Two ballistae were being wheeled in from the wall. It would take a half an hour for them to get into range, and then the bridge would be lost. It would be only a matter of time after that before the watchmen fought their way up the castle, and into the high tower. I could, if I so desired, flee down the hidden passageway that led to the Bentius Bay, but then what? Become a fugitive in my kingdom with no sanctuary to be found? No. I would die a queen.
“Well, dearest husband,” I sighed, taking a sip of my wine, “it looks like this is the end for us.”
Eric might’ve said something, but I wasn’t sure what it was. The first thing I’d cut off him was his lying little tongue. He was tied to a chair in my bedroom, naked and bloody. The moron had answered the knock on his door like the fucking girl scouts had come to sell him cookies at midnight. It galled me to no end that this genius had been the harbinger of my defeat, but it made sense. When playing chess, the most dangerous opponent is another grandmaster. The second-most dangerous opponent is a complete moron, because a moron’s strategy is so rudimentary that a grandmaster will discard it for what it is, and end up playing against herself. I had played myself brilliantly with Eric.
“At least we’re together.” I said, and removed his pinky with a squeeze of the cutters. He screamed, every muscle on his body tensing.
“I’ve never felt closer to you than now.” I chuckled, tossing his finger off the balcony, “We’re being truly honest with each other for the first time in our relationship, and it’s quite refreshing. I wish we had more time to explore this new dynamic, but alas, time is a luxury we can no longer afford.”
I removed his middle finger, forefinger and thumb, leaving only his ring finger with my wedding band still upon it. As he shrieked, I tossed the digits off the balcony, and watched them disappear into the blackness below. Would I jump off this balcony when the watchmen burst through that door? They’d rape me if they got their hands on me. Every man would want his turn with the queen, and they’d all laugh and jeer as I was desecrated, turned into a screaming, begging beast before their eyes.
Good god, did that just make me wet? I mused to myself, I’ve spent far too much time with Elena.
No, I would rather jump off the balcony and keep my dignity than succumb to such a fate. Even if they didn’t do that (which they would) Lord Ternias would want me humiliated before the populace to destroy my image and cement his own. Women weren’t usually publicly tortured—that was generally reserved for private rooms—but the country was under a lot of stress, and Ternias would give them someone to blame. Likely I’d be put to the rack, and my screams would carry out for all to hear, a sacrifice to cleanse the Highlands of their sins. It was somewhat poetic, I guessed, that I would instead join my husband in the waters below. I wondered if they’d write ballads about us? History often misconstrued… well, everything. For the sake of a palatable story, Ternias would say that Eric and I conspired together to destroy the kingdom, and Ternias had valiantly fought side-by-side with the brave and noble Lord Huntiata to prevent some unknown terror from coming to fruition. In all of this, Elena would never be mentioned. The hermaphroditic Alkandran who had made it all possible had no place in the story of brave, benevolent King Lucas Ternias. I looked out at the ruins of her manor, and swallowed my tears. What a fool we both had been. She, to trust Ternias, and me, to trust her.
“Goodbye, Eric.” I said, and cut his throat. I no longer had the appetite for torture. As he gurgled around the spurting blood, thrashing in his chair, I went to my closet, and ***********ed a dress Elena had worn only a few days ago. It was a dazzling red garment, and it still smelled faintly of her. I stripped my clothes, and donned the dress, enjoying the scent, pretending I could feel her warmth against me.
I took two deep breaths, and stepped out into the street. The fire illuminated every cobblestone of the wide boulevard, and cast my shadow twenty feet behind me. My keen elven ears homed in on the sounds before me, and I walked slowly toward the gate. I heard the tense whine of drawn crossbows, and the click of them being set. I stopped. There were five of them above the gate. They stood there, waiting for me to make a move. I took one step forward. The bows released at once, and I shot into a combat roll, leapt out of it, and sprinted. The whine, the click, the twang. Five more bolts whistled through the air, and I stopped abruptly. They ricocheted before me, and I snatched one from the air that was redirected to my chest. The rank smell of poison was on its tip, and I tossed it aside before the chemistry ate through my glove. I sprinted in a serpentine motion, barreling behind a bench just as five bolts flew to where I’d feigned my next move. I jumped from cover, the gate now looming just thirty yards away. I put my head down, and charged, then stopped on a dime and backflipped just as a sword came across me.
I landed on one hand and the ball of my feet, my dagger drawn. They dropped from ropes before me, all five of them holding long curved swords, the blades shining with poison. They spread out, moving into a semicircle, giving me a wide berth. I didn’t let them get into position. I moved like lightning onto the middle man, deflecting his blade off my hilt, and sliding easily into his guard. He was wearing a mask, but I saw the way his eyes widened, and it almost brought a smile to my face. These assassins had lived their entire lives thinking they were the quickest, deadliest fighters in the Highlands. An ex-ranger probably seemed like easy money to them. The other four realized what the first man had when I eviscerated him before he could even raise his guard. They should’ve stayed in the shadows. They should’ve let me go. If they had brought twenty men, maybe they would’ve had a chance.
I wheeled on number two, planted my dagger into his skull, ripped it out, ducked number three, cut his belly open, leapt over number four’s sweep, slashed number five’s throat, then turned around and buried my blade into number four’s eye socket. The movement was so fast that all four men dropped only a second after the first one had. I ended number three’s suffering, then wiped the blood off my blade, and stepped through the gate.