I’ve got news from Toke. Within short notice finally I will satisfy my curiosity about that mysterious Queen almost no one knows. I made teasingly mild regular attacks at her Kingdom’s borders just to annoy her enough to agree to meet me. Porir was proud to take the lead. Something had to keep his energy busy. I lightly laugh at that though. Looks like it paid off double and tonight I’ll be accompanied by one of Tokes guards to show me the way to their palace. I put on my bulky rings, the deep red family stick with birds head at the top of it, clean invisible dust from my festive outfit and rake my hair up with wet fingers. My fist knocks a few times at my chest wishing me luck. Tonight I’ll present the whole Cymru. Maybe I didn’t start well with Andvari and following Toke, but she is dare to Estrid. I have no idea what to expect from their Queen, but it won’t be wrong to make a good first impression on Rhia. I hide my dagger under the sleeve and a few more sharp blades. Let’s gain me her favour.

  • I’m your guide for tonight.

Low voice breaks silence and one muscular body fills a place not far from me, but still in a respectful distance. I nod and gesture him to lead the way.

  • Where do you take me? I was promised the meeting in the palace. I won’t agree with anything less.
  • This way is shorter.

He points to the river. I grab his collar and fist it tight around his neck tilting his weight from the ground.

  • I am not a fool to play me around! Palace is that way.

My finger points in the other direction. I did my research and I am well aware of what my spy told me. Guard’s eyes glisten with fear, he tries to swallow, but struggles under my tight grip.  

  • And I thought Toke would be honest..

I shake my head disappointed and let the guard drop. Anyway he just does was he was told.. I turn my back on him and leave. I will pay them a visit with my army. Toke will know how to fool me.

  • You go or what?

The guard’s voice makes me curiously spin around and face his boldness. He stands in a wooden boat with his hands in pockets and respectfully lowered eyes.

  • That’s not my way.

I’m still disappointed and maybe more angry than that. He tilts his shoulders casually in response.

  • It was Rhias direct order to bring you this way. Rhia is never what any of us expect.
  • Not Toke’s? What do you know about her?

He hesitates at my harsh tone. I can feel him weighing his answer.

  • The less we talk about her, the higher is our reward.
  • Why is that?
  • She values her privacy.
  • What does she hide? What is she afraid of?

He misses to catch his laugh leaving me lost, but composes himself quickly and brushes a strand of his raven mid-long hair.

  • Better we get going. I don’t want to miss this year’s awakening party. Hot chicks will be there.

He takes a long pole in his hands. I still stand on a river bank.

  • As you wish. That’s your last call.

Somehow I feel that prince Toke plays with me, but he forgot he is not in my league. He will face the outcomes of his decision.

  • … but to miss the opportunity to have her..
  • Wait!

I jump right into the floating boat already separated from the shore and we both have to work hard to keep it in balance on the water as the boat swings dangerously deep to the sides.

  • Hey!
  • Shut up and bring me there.

I have to see more of that Kingdom myself, to know it a bit better before I strike that weird family down.

Twenty minutes we spend on a boat till I see our river narrowing and running into a gorge between two high slopes. Just behind them we are met by a few dragon statues carved in the slopes on both river sides. I look almost at the sky as they are larger than me fifty times. We cross them and hop off on the bank. It’s buttoned with large stones, but covered well in trees. Quite steep.

  • Don’t say you can’t keep up!

He cuts off my observation and I look at the voice’s direction. Guard makes his way up effortlessly jumping and hooking his arms at the branches. He gives me a hard stare.

  • Lead the way!

And he does, whistling some melody and paying not much attention to me. I scan the surroundings again looking for weak strategic points for my attack. We will have to return and this way won’t help us to strike easily. As we go further greenery starts to fade as we climb higher and higher. We reach one more statue. Three redheaded women are builded one top of each other. One has covered eyes, the other one – ears. The third one’s mouth is covered with a bleeding palm. They are still alive, but can’t leave this spot. They are poled.

  • What is this?

I stop to look at them. Guard doesn’t stop, just throws a short glare to check on what I’m interested in. He pushes his way forward.

  • It’s a privacy mark. We reached personal Rhia’s grounds. This way.

He points a bit to the side of the live statue and I follow his steps. We cross the old stony bridge and enter through the timeless gates. Tower looks like a snake’s skin and my eyes follow it from the top till it reaches steady ground. We are heading towards the snake’s open mouth. Doors open and a guard whispers something for the other two guards in the doorway. They nod slightly, point to the right and open the path for us to go guarding from the sides.

  • From here you don’t need my assistance. Follow this white pattern on the wall and you will find the right place.

I eye him and the other two still standing calm next to the entrance. I feel my muscles tense and readying for the fight though my head nods and my body turns and heads the specified direction. My feet explore the hard lava stone floor and ears catch any small sound. I am ready to deal with whatever comes here. But no one follows me and my fists unclench. I hear HER captivating giggle. My body tenses and stops immediately. I hopelessly close my eyes. Her voice. So short and so real. Is it in my head? It’s not the time, Sunshine. 

I compose myself, check my daggers, tide my clothes and enter the hall. Sinns! It’s enormous. Here swing as trees in the forest five times higher than me red goblets, martini and champagne glasses. Different shapes, but all of them are in shades of red. Don’t be mistaken. They are not meant for drinking. Enormously large and high. Some of them are almost transparent and swing my imagination immediately. From the size and sounds I hear, I can tell there are beds in them up high for more privacy. Edges are covered in poisonous ivy that flings a bit in a light wind through the opened windows. Tiny lights enlighten the whole place and create shadows. Her giggle again. My heart starts beating my chest. It’s always so when she is near. Sinns, Sunshine, are you also here? I look around, scan every head I can see, but can’t find her. It makes a fireball in my gut and it widens. I shut my eyes again hoping to take away thoughts of her. It sounded so real.. I gulp fresh air deeply and it starts to calm my insides inch by inch.

  • I wish I could say I am happy to see you.

I open my eyes just in time to greet Toke’s look.

  • You could misguide me.
  • I was tempted. Really tempted.

I can tell he believes what he says. And still he didn’t. I give him a little smile.

  • You showed up yourself as a man of honour.

Toke makes a weird smile obviously trying to hide his real feelings.

  • What do you know about honour?
  • I don’t have to prove you anything, Toke. You are free to believe what you want.

Toke opens his mouth to say something not letting my eyes go, but I still turn them scanning the hall. He says nothing.

  • She is not here, Toke.

He stands next to me with his chest pushed forward. My brain creates pictures of what I could do to him now. I only need to outstretch my hand.. My hunger grows to take down weakness standing nearby.

  • You are very impatient.
  • Contrary. 

Toke sighs short and silent, but doesn’t comment. 

  • It’s not what we agreed.
  • How many times should I repeat myself, she is not taking orders. Maybe she is not here yet. But she will come. It’s her night.

My eyes stop on the man in one of those goblets.

  • Do I see.. Fergus up there?

Toke’s eyebrows shoot up quickly, not hiding surprise.

  • Fergus. How do you know him?!
  • We have a common friend.

I say not letting my eyes down. Fergus holds the woman’s wrist frimley, tugs it just enough to reach her fingertips. She stays hidden inside the goblet’s cup. He leans into her with his lips spilling words just for her to hear and then his bright laugh escapes together with a woman’s giggle. He reaches for her fingertips and carefully kisses one. Then says again mysterious words and her giggle follows again. He kisses her second fingertip looking at her. My anger builds instantly. Sunshine, you ARE here! That hell’s f*cker! Toke’s laugh brings my focus on him.

  • Just look at you! Your gaze could kill and you say it’s meant for a friend!

His continuous laugh doesn’t calm my anger. My steely finger wrap his chin and lock his teeth in place. I spit silent words in his pale face. 

  • You have to learn how to listen. I’ve never told, he is my friend.

He somehow starts to get under my skin and that alarms me on top of what is already going on inside me. He leans into me and says almost in a whisper as we were conspirators.

  • Anyway, you are not going to join him now, right? He looks.. you know.. busy.
  • That’s exactly what I’m going to do.

I turn my back at him and his firm palm wraps my arm stopping me.

  • Leave him. He hasn’t had such a great time in years.

Toke’s playful tone pisses off me even more. I whip around and narrow the gap between my eyelashes.

  • Who is with him?

My eyes try to find a hint though my heart already knows the answer just the brain refuses to believe. We’re bonded. It whispers to me. Heart argues with a stubborn brain: they are together.. No, no, we are bonded in true love! Oh nonsense, she exchanged you to him! What did you expect? She has never chosen you. She is Black. But Fergus isn’t! I bubble and my head starts spinning. 

  • Newbe in our Kingdom. She cheers him up lately.

I leave him behind and follow my eyes looking for a possible entrance to reach that high red edge. My jump won’t be enough. I search for a reliable shore or pillar.

  • Leave him!

I’m not the one to listen to him. Brain and heart tear me apart. I have to do something.

  • New..

What does he mean by new? How long is new still new? I hear HER voice. She is laughing. It sounds louder. Fergus back then in that forest ensured me he was not with her. She is bonded, he told. And I was stupid enough to believe that bulshit. He saved his ass lying. All that time along with Andvari they fooled me and kept me away from her. Of course they were together. All the time together just here, right by my nose, like most poisonous snakes. 

  • How could she not know? Is she playing with me?

There is no moment to think again. My hand snakes Fergus’ neck and he starts to choke instantly. My fingers squeeze his life as his neck would be some running water not feeling flesh underneath. His hands try to help him escape. Despair. I want him to suffer. I have to let go of the anger and pressure blowing in me. Woman screams from her lungs backing her at the edge of this round space. The voice is foreign. My eyes stick to her and don’t let her go. Not her blue eyes, not her lip’s curl, not her silky hair, not her sweet smell.

Continue reading chapter 27