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I step out of the bathtub, feeling the cold floor underneath the soles of my feet. I quickly dry myself to stave off the cold and head towards my closet for the second time tonight, grabbing my bracelet on the way there. The Hunter’s delegation should have arrived by now. Which means I’ll need to hurry if I want to at least catch a glimpse of them entering the castle.

 

My mother’s crown rests on the pedestal in the middle of the closet. I gently run my fingers over the ruby gems inlayed on the black Revnite frame of the crown. It feels cold to the touch like always, but I let my hands slowly drop off of it. I can’t bring myself to wear it again. I’m not her.

 

Instead I quickly look around for something to simple to wear and find something comfortable to slip into. A loose fitting lacey black dress that reaches down to my ankles. Perfect. I pair it with some sapphire earrings and a simple teardrop necklace.

 

I begin brushing my hair, but a series of knocks interrupts me. It must be Josiah again. I ignore it and continue brushing my hair. Should I accessorize? My short hair seems a bit plain. I reach for my silver tiara that’s resting on my vanity, but another series of knocks on my door stop me. Reaper’s kiss. What’s so important? I get up and walk to the doors. Again, another series of knocks. I’m going to kill him. I violently pull open one of my doors.

 

“Josiah didn’t I tell-” I stop myself.

 

A small platoon of Revnian Stalkers stand in front of me. Fully covered in black Revnite armor, weapons drawn and at the ready.

 

“Your Highness.” They bow low.

 

The elite guard? Something’s wrong.

 

“What has happened?” I ask, leaning my weight against the door.

 

“We are here to escort you to your father. Immediately.” The Captain in front addresses me directly.

 

“I asked you what has happened, Captain, not why you’re here.” I reply in an annoyed tone.

 

“Forgive me, Your Highness.” He continues. “The diplomatic meeting has fallen through. Noble Aliyah is dead.”

 

The words shock me. Aliyah? Dead? How is this possible? She’s a Noble.

 

“Your Highness? We must go. Your father has asked to see you immediately.”

 

I completely ignore him. “My father, is he okay? Josiah?”

 

“He suffered no injuries that I know of, Your Highness. Josiah is with him as we speak.”

 

Thank the Reaper. I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to my father. I have to see him. This changes everything.

 

“Take me to him.” I command.

 

As I walk out of my bedroom chambers the Stalker guards turn in unison and surround me in a circular formation. They begin leading me to my father.

 

“Why wasn’t the tower bell rung?” I ask as we walk.

 

“As I know, Your Highness, everything happened too quickly. There was no time to alert the castle.” He replies.

 

Incredible. Either this was planned ahead of time or something went horribly wrong during the meeting.

 

“Was anyone else injured?” I ask.

 

“Unfortunately, in the ensuing battle, six Stalkers were killed. Seven injured, but with minor injuries.” He replies.

 

Six? And Stalkers no less? The Hunters are getting more and more powerful by the day.

 

“The Hunters, what became of them?”

 

“We believe half of their delegation was killed, and the other half managed to escape. In total we counted twenty dead. We took one of them captive.”

 

“What a mess. This was supposed to be a peaceful meeting to end the war.”

 

The guard doesn’t reply. I’m sure he doesn’t know what to say. This is unprecedented. A diplomatic meeting has never gone this poorly. And to end in a bloodbath no less.

 

We pass by multiple detachments of Revnian guards scouring every inch of the castle. They knock on chambers and check every room, rushing from chamber to chamber.

 

“Are they looking for someone?” I ask.

 

“The king has ordered the guard to search every corner of the castle for any signs of collusion. As for us, he’s ordered almost all Stalkers to help commander Ivis. He said he did not wish to risk missing a single thing.”

 

“I see.”

 

Father wouldn’t do that without a reason.

 

“Let’s hurry.” I urge the Stalker as we pick up the pace.

 

As we pass by corridor to corridor, I see the chaos that has ensued in the wake of the diplomatic fallout. My people are in a panic, being escorted out of their rooms as the guards search every room. We pass by a two guards pushing a woman out of her room and throwing her to the ground, with an Elder behind them.

 

I immediately stop and turn to head in her direction. The Stalker guards change direction with me.

 

“Your Highness?” The platoon captain asks.

 

“Follow.”

 

“As you command.” He quickly replies.

 

The Revnian guards and Elder see me coming and immediately stand at attention.

 

I recognize the Elder. Talon. Another member of my opposition advocation for my removal from the throne.

 

“Your Highness!” They all bow, before taking several steps back as I get closer.

 

The stalker guards ahead of me don’t stop moving and push the 3 of them back.

 

“Why are you mistreating her?” I ask plainly, stopping a few feet in front of the woman.

 

They hesitate for a moment unsure of what to say before speaking. “She refused to let us enter her chambers, Your Highness.” One of blurts out.

 

“So you ripped her clothes and threw her to the ground?!” I reply, feeling a heat rise in me.

 

They look at each other as if confirming that they did such a thing before looking back at the Elder who’s silently standing.

 

“Don’t look at each other, look at me!” I yell.

 

They instantly lock their eyes on me again. Terrified.

 

“Did you or did you not just throw her to the floor?”

 

“We did, Your Highness, but we only do so under Elder Talon’s orders.”

 

I immediately strike Talon with a sharp gaze. “Talon? What is your reasoning for this mistreatment?” I ask.

 

“I have reason to believe this woman is a traitor…Your Highness.” He bows his head.

 

The way he said that sounded like a mockery of my royal status.

 

“A suspicion is not reason enough to mistreat one of our own people. The law for such a claim is done with proof only.” I reply with a low tone.

 

“And what would YOU know of our own laws?” He snaps back.

 

I scoff in disbelieve, but don’t respond. Instead I pause for a moment to take a deep breath and calm down before speaking.

 

I look at the guards in front of Talon. “You should know better than to treat your own people this way. We are not savages.”

 

“Yes, Your Highness. Please forgive us.” They reply, kneeling on one leg and bowing their head down.

 

“Enough. Raise your heads.”

 

They look up at me, still kneeling.

 

“We are not Hunters, we don’t harm our own people.”

 

They both nod at me in agreement and I see Talon roll his eyes in the back.

 

I let out a light sigh. I feel like a mother scolding her children.

 

I turn to the terrified woman and kneel down beside her.

 

“It’s alright, they won’t hurt you again.”

 

I take her in my arms and help her up.

 

“Don’t help her up! She’s a traitor!” Talon yells.

 

Talon takes a step forward towards me but before he can take another my Stalker guards move in a quick blur that’s too fast for even me to see. They have their spears pointed at his throat and he’s frozen in place unable to move. He looks terrified now, his face is pale and I can see a single drop of sweat run down his face. Coward.

 

“Your Highness, are you alright?” Asks the platoon Captain.

 

“I’m perfectly fine, thank you, Captain.” I reply.

 

“What are your orders?” He asks bluntly.

 

I take a glance over at my terrified enemy. “Arrest him. Two of you should be enough to accompany him.”

 

“As you command.” He bows his head and motions for two Stalkers to take him away.

 

I continue. “Have him stand trial for conspiracy to frame and…” I pause for a moment. “And for treason against the crown.” I smile smugly at Talon.

 

His face instantly lights up a bright red color and he clenches his jaw. He snaps. “You dare?! You false Noble!” He spews. “You should have never been born!”

 

The stalker guards grab him and slam him on the floor holding him down. “Long live the Night King! Long live King Viktor!” He screams, before my guards strike him in the back of the head with the butt of one of their daggers, knocking him unconscious.

 

They turn and bow to me, and I nod in reply. They pick him up and carry him away.

 

Decrepit old fool.

 

I turn to face the woman, still trembling in my arms.

 

“Are you alright?” I ask.

 

“Yes, Your Highness. I’m so sorry to have caused you so much trouble.”

 

“Not at all. Don’t worry about such a thing. I couldn’t let them keep mistreating you.”

 

She manages to crack a smile at me and I return her smile with a larger one of my own.

 

“It’s true what they say about you, Princess.” She says.

 

“What do you mean?” I ask.

 

“All the commoners talk about you. How you’re kind like your mother once was. Reaper hold her.”

 

I feel a tightness squeeze at my chest. To be compared to my mother feels bittersweet.

 

“Captain” I turn my head to look at him directly. “Have one of your men escort her to her room and have them search it themselves. I want zero mistreatment.” I give him a warning look.

 

“At once, Your Highness.” He replies, motioning for one of his men forward. The Stalker takes the woman in his arms.

 

“Do not worry, Your Highness. I will follow your orders as instructed without failure.”

 

I nod at him and allow him to take her away. I squeeze her hand tightly to let her know that everything will be alright and she squeezes back, before following my guard.

 

I turn around and take a deep breath. Now to see my father for answers about this whole mess.

 


 

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A note from AeroKaia

So I hope you're enjoying the new chapter lengths. I've roughly doubled them from earlier chapters. I feel like the story can be told better this way and it allows for more freedom of expression. Thank you so much for sticking with me this far. I hope I can write this story in a way that you'll continue to love. -Kaia


About the author

AeroKaia

  • Under Lexa's Boot
  • YA Novelist - Fantasy and Sci-Fi Addict

Bio: Hey I'm AeroKaia. I'm an author who's currently writing Reaper's Kiss and trying to keep up with my own release schedule (fingers crossed). It's always been a dream of mine to become a writer and share my stories with the rest of the world. Although I prefer to stick to Fantasy and Sci-Fi with a romance focus, I love writing all kinds of stories within the teen fiction category. I plan to release a YA Sci-Fi story at some point after I feel ready. One story at a time, right? Haha.

I'm a huge fan of The 100, A Discovery of Witches, and I'm currently watching Shadow and Bone.

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