Found Part Thirty-Seven
Read parts One through Thirty-Six here.
The silence was alive with trepidation. No one dared to move or breathe. At the gates of Haven’s End, silhouetted by the glow of dawn, was the protagonist of my nightmares. Everything I had gained since my escape melted away. Nox was gone. I was the nameless boy in the cell. His prisoner. His puppet. His past time.
“What a chilly reception,” he mocked. His guards flanked as he strode into town atop a majestic horse towards Arion’s Tree. Every eye followed him as he passed. His gilded armor reflected the silver and pink hues of morning. They highlighted the old stains that were littered across the once smooth metal. I was sure he’d seen me. He was playing with me, prolonging his game. It was one of his favorite punishments. He’d dangle the anticipation in front of me. A dull blade dragging across the surface of my skin, a silent stare that held for hours. Anything to hold me in depraved apprehension. Haven’s End was part of that game now. They were an unwilling captive audience to our twisted sport.
“It’s good to see you… Nox,” he spoke with a serpent’s tongue. The last time I heard those words, they sent a cold stab to my heart. This time, I felt a sickening heat coil in my stomach. Whether it was fear or rage, I didn’t have time to discern. “I see you’ve made many new friends.” He said the word like a slur. Gasps and whispers erupted around me.
The faces of the all those that had been affected by my darkness flashed before me. Linnea. Mara. Calum. The countless nameless faces that had suffered at my hand were there as well. Eyes that would forever stare at me in horror plagued me. A broken boy with all of the light beaten out of him was the last thing they would ever see.
He dismounted the imposing stallion, and there was a collective flinch. Maynard sauntered towards me, like a predator. My hand was a vice around my staff. It was my lifeline.
“What have I taught you about friends?” he hissed. Violent tremors quaked through my body, and my heartbeat shuddered with torturous agony. A flash of anger lit up his baleful eyes. His hand shot out and wrapped around my throat, and lifted me towards the sky. The action broke everyone out of their trance. Their nightmare was here.
My senses were bombarded. Piercing cries and screams filled my ears as the guards began to cut off any means of escape. They corralled everyone into a large group. They are easier to subdue that way. Cyrus’s voice rang high above the pandemonium.
“Don’t touch her!” he raged at a guard.
“This one is pretty. I may ask His Majesty to let me keep her,” he jeered.
“Keep your hands off of her!” Cyrus lunged at Dasha’s captor. The guard punched him in the face. Dasha cried out, and people began to yell in the crowd for Cyrus to stop fighting.
Pain shot through my body and currents of shadow fell from me. The paralyzing grip of fear Maynard’s presence had on me began to melt. No, I wasn’t supposed to have friends. But I did. And I would not lose any more friends. One hand still clung to my staff and the other hung limp at my side.
“I have forgiven your transgressions time and time again. My benevolence has limits,” he said through gritted teeth. His careful façade cracked away, revealing the loathsome fiend I knew him to be.
“Stop toying with me,” I challenged him. Anger pooled in my stomach. “If you’re going to kill me, just kill me.” His hand tightened around my neck, but lances of torture sliced all over me. Control was creeping away.
“Oh, dear boy. I would never put you out of your misery like that. You will suffer at my hand for as long as I desire. Your life is mine to mold and break as I see fit.”
My heart crashed against my bones. I grappled to restrain myself. Everything bubbled and boiled beneath my skin. Linnea’s purity, Calum’s wisdom, Mara’s joy and then her sorrow. Because of me, these came to an end.
I have to hold on.
“Please don’t hurt him!” Dasha called over the sounds of flesh hitting flesh, and a cacophony of shouted protests. I could see a guard toss aside Cyrus’s limp body and another struck Dasha across the face.
I have to let go.
A burst of power exploded from my chest, knocking Maynard a few feet away. Magic kept me off the ground. Fury kept the demons at bay.
“My life may belong to you,” I growled. Red. Everything was red. “But theirs do not.”
“Every life is mine! Guards! Kill them all!”
Screams erupted as guards began to snatch up victims for slaughter. But soon, screams of panic began screams of shock as Arion’s Tree became awash in fire. The blaze licked the sky. An unseen force guided the flames towards Maynard’s guards. It encircled them in a cell made of fire, drawing closer and closer to their King. They begged to be released, called out to their King for help, but the flames only grew more intense in response to their pleas.
“RUN!” A voice called to the crowd. All around me were blurs dashing in every direction. Swirls of heat, red, pain, screams, cries, hands surrounded me. It was too much. And just as soon as it came, it was gone.
Featured Image by LoggaWiggler, courtesy of Pixabay