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Introduction:

I'm sorry if the pacing seems slow in this story. It'll pick up soon.
Chapter Fifty-Two

ADRIANNA

Riding a warg wasn’t anything like riding a horse. With a horse, I felt the power of the beast as it beat its hooves against the ground, springing me forward with each stride. With a warg, I didn’t even notice the ground it ran upon, for the warg didn’t beat the ground, but ripped through it, its massive paws tearing into the earth to create footholds for it to launch forward with each ferocious drive. The muscles on Sasha’s back rippled along me as I clung to her mane, and peered through my wind-swept tears toward the western horizon.

It was the dead of night when I found the orc camp. The wargs that were there sounded their howls upon my approach, and raced toward me, Sasha and Jala. I sat upright and high on Sasha’s back, projecting strength and fearlessness when the pack came sniffing me. One hint of unsureness would’ve turned them on me in a frenzy, and so I showed only my hard gaze when they stared at me with their red eyes. After each had tested me, they meandered about, accepting the newcomer. They communicated with Sasha and Jala through snorts, growls and sniffs, and some whined and whimpered upon the realization that three of their brethren would not return.

I was led by the pack into the encampment. There was no guard to stop me, which made sense considering the guard dogs, and so I made quite the entrance when Sasha strolled into the center of the fire circle, and plopped contentedly upon her haunches with a hybrid elf on her back.

For a moment, the circle of orcs just gawked at me. I took the opportunity to dismount from Sasha, and tidy my cloak before stepping before them all.

“Gentlemen,” I said, “you are supposed to bow when nobility addresses you.”

Many of them did, dropping to their knees with awe on their faces. The rest were unsure, and might’ve followed their comrades’ veneration had a low voice not stopped them.

“We don’t bow to you.” Gorlok Hertaki said. I barely recognized him. It had only been three years since we’d last crossed paths (and swords), but now he was so scarred that his face was nothing but knotted tissue and gouges. He struck an impressive figure, massive and muscular, but the most impressive thing about him was the wolf that relaxed behind him. The famed ‘Ginger’ was nearly the size of an elephant, and looked fit to tear a hole through God herself if she was so inclined to. She lounged around her rider, conveying the respect and love that bespoke the true bond of their relationship. She kept one red eye fixed on me, suspicious and uncaring of my race.

“Ah, you know these beasts well.” Gorlok mused, examining me, “Most people just pretend Ginger isn’t there, but you address her before you even look at me. Most people don’t know that I’m not the master of this duo, but then again, most people aren’t you, Thomas Adarian.”

I looked at him then. “I’m surprised you recognized me after all this time.”

He sneered, and the scars on his cheeks twisted horrifically. “You might be a hot little piece, but your face didn’t change much.”

“I wish I could say the same for you.”

He snorted. “I think I’m prettier this way, actually.” He looked down at the woman in his lap—the woman I’d been trying to ignore. “What do you think, Dog Meat?”

Dog Meat was a high-elf woman, perhaps in her twenties. She was beautiful, blonde, pale and slender, and she had no arms or legs. Her arms had been severed just below the shoulder, and her legs had been taken off at mid-thigh. Little pink stockings were placed over the stumps, a mockery of cuteness. They were the only clothes she wore. She was spread out and naked in Gorlok’s lap, her pink pussy stretched wide by his thick, green cock, her clit and nipples all crudely pierced with gauges in the Hektini tribal fashion. Her face had been tattooed with obscene works of art, her crotched had ‘Highland whore’ etched with ink, and her inner thighs all had arrows that led to their apex. Her expression was vacant, a broken smile plastered to her lips, her eyes bulging manically. She moaned as she was slowly spitted by her master, his cock forming a bulge in her pelvis that traveled slowly up and down as he hoisted her gradually by the hips

“Yes, Master,” she giggled, every word drenched in terrible pleasure, “I think you’re very pretty.”

“Of course you do,” He growled into her pointed ear. She craned her neck receptively, her stumpy arms and legs wiggling in delight when his lips found her throat, and his molesting hand found her clit. He pinched the pierced node, and stretched it, and Dog Meat squealed in pain and ecstasy, shimmying on his lap as her eyes rolled back. He collected her nipples in one hand, and pulled them too, stretching her small breasts into conical points until I could see the grotesque void-space where her piercings opened. She squealed and sputtered, her pussy mouthing in salivating clenches around his reaming shaft, her distended abdomen flexing and twitching with orgasmic spasms. She wiggled her little stumps, and sparkling dust sprinkled from them. She was a mage, an untrained and unskilled one, and with no fingers to cast her spells, the magic exited her sporadically and wildly, forced out by her orgasmic ascension. She threw back her head, and choked out a sob, then squirted all over the ground before her. Gorlok grunted, then pulled her off of him, and tossed her in her own puddle. He snatched her by the head, and forced his meat all the way down her throat. She gagged and heaved, but she took him nonetheless, and when he came down her gullet, I could tell by the arch of her back, that she enjoyed it immensely. He pulled her away by the hair when he was done, and hoisted her back onto his lap. She dutifully nestled her crotch onto his cock, and eagerly awaited the moment it would become hard for her again.

“I always leave one survivor.” Gorlok muttered, running his hand through her hair, “An untouched girl to tell everyone of my deeds. This time, that untouched girl had a twin sister. They were scouts in that rebel group. Bunch of fucking dykes playing at war; we showed them what war really is.” He grinned up at me, and framed Dog Meat’s face in his massive hand. “Go on, girl. Tell the nice lady what I did to you.”

Dog Meat beamed manically at me. “He made Juliet do it!” She wiggled her limbs, threw some sparkling dust, and giggled, “Every day, he made her choose which limb I would lose. Then he’d make her cut it off me with a blunt saw!” She laughed again, but it sounded like a scream, “Then she would feed it to Ginger in front of me, so that I would know my place!” Her smile was like a death-grimace, “I’m Dog Meat! That’s my name! Woof, woof, woof!”

“Woof, woof, woof.” Gorlok echoed with a chuckle, watching me carefully. “It’s the rightful place of all Highlanders. What do you think, Ranger?”

I tilted my head nonchalantly. “I don’t really give a shit about what you do with your toys, Gorlok. I’m not here to take them from you.”

His brow elevated a fraction. “So, it’s true then. The ranger really is dead.” He ran his eyes up my body, “I heard it was so, but I couldn’t believe it. People don’t just change like that, but I guess…” His gaze lingered on my midsection. “Is it true that Trenok’s bastard festers in your belly?”

“Yes.”

His gaze finally rested on mine. “Then I suppose there’s nothing left of Thomas Adarian after all.”

“It’s only ‘Adrianna’ now.”

He nodded, then spat onto the ground before him. “I don’t give a fuck. I know why you’re here, Governess. The war’s over, and now my use has run out. Woof, woof, woof; time to put the mad dog down."

“The Dark Queen didn’t send me."

“Bullshit.”

“If Yavara were to drop between us right now, she’d kill me first.”

Gorlok raised his brow another fraction. “What did you do to piss her off?”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m not here to exchange words with you, Gorlok.”

“Yeah? Then why the fuck are you here?”

“I have a proposal for you.”

“Then get on one knee and propose, Governess. We can start our wedding night right now.” He leered at me over Dog Meat, his cock twitching between her slender stumps, “I’ll clean Trenok’s bastard right out of you, and give you a daughter worth bearing.”

Laughter sounded from all around, low and sardonic. I added my laughter to the chorus until only my musical voice sounded over the sudden deathly silence. I kept chuckling as I met each orc’s eye, and my laughter only intensified when each of them looked away. My legend had carried this far, but I didn’t need it to terrify these beasts. I had come back to the camp covered in the blood of their scouts, riding two of their wolves. Only Gorlok held my gaze, unflinching and steady.

I undid the clasp of my robe, and it fell from my body. The cold winter air caressed me about the nipples and between the legs, whispering of my exposure. Gorlok’s gaze feasted upon all of me, his hate turning to avarice in a second. I strutted over to him, my hips swinging, my ass protruding from cheek to cheek, my feet breaking the cold snow, my footfalls watched by everyone in the circle. Gorlok tossed Dog Meat unceremoniously off his lap, and opened his enormous legs. His thick cock pulsed with readiness, the delicious veins standing taut through the thin flesh. I stepped between his thighs, and crouched slowly, letting all see the berth of my hips as my cheeks bulged and spread in my low squat. I smiled at Gorlok, reached between us, and grasped one of his heavy testicles. Oh, how it pulsated in my hand, swimming with his foul, delicious milk, roiling with his seed. I massaged it with my thumb, and gently caressed it with my fingers as they curled.

“You’ll give me a daughter worth bearing?” I whispered, my forefinger trailing behind his nuts to press against his taint.

“Aye.” He growled, a satisfied smile creasing his disfigured face.

I smirked back. He was quite attractive in his brutishness. A vicious man, an evil man, but a man who was wholly and unapologetically himself. The sex would be violent and filled with hatred; the kind of sex I woefully needed. To be manhandled and speared until I could feel it in my guts; oh God, it felt like it had been so long!

“I know your daughters, Gorlok.” I grinned, licking his tusks, “I fucked every one of them, and not a single one was worth my time.” My tongue flicked across his lips as I gently squeezed his testicle, “I think the world has had enough of you.”

I crushed it. He jolted backwards, his eyes bulging, a scream poised on his lips. I smiled at him as my teeth became fangs, my flesh became pale, and my elven body grew three feet in less than a second. By the time the transformation was complete, he was screeching. I grabbed his other testicle, and burst it with a sickening crack, sending him hurtling backward, vomiting in agony. Ginger had gotten to her forepaws, and was poised to pounce on me. Her lips peeled back in a snarl to reveal a set of bared teeth, each one longer than a sword, each one dripping with blood and rotten flesh. I punched through her teeth like they were made of glass, shoved my fist down her throat, grabbed her spine, and tore it off. Her head ripped off with it, and I used the three-hundred-pound prop to beat Gorlok Hertaki into the ground. I didn’t stop swinging until he was nothing but pulp, and Ginger’s skull had broken so much that her head was but a bag of loose shards. I dropped it onto the remnants of her rider, and transformed back into my elven body. I looked up at the stunned troop of orcs.

“I am your commander now.” I said, “Does anyone have any objections?”

No one even moved.

“Very good.” I said, wiping the specks of blood and brain from my face, “We will be rendezvousing with a troop of elven rebels. I’m sure you’re aware of them. They hate you, and you hate them, but you two are going to play nice together, right?”

There was a chorus of disheartened confirmation.

I pouted my lips sarcastically. “Don’t be so glum, gentlemen; just because I’m in charge, doesn’t mean the fun has to end.” I glanced down at Dog Meat, who was staring with a slack jaw at the remnants of her master. “But this kind of fun is over,” I said, then glanced up at them with a wicked smile, “for now.”

Their interest was suddenly piqued.

“Oh yes,” I chuckled, and sauntered over to Dog Meat. I picked her up easily, she was so light, and cradled her beneath her breasts with one arm. With the other, I trailed my hand down her belly, through her pubic mound, and pushed all my fingers inside of her. She cried out, life suddenly returning to her eyes, her amputated stumps wiggling in glee, the magic sparkling from them. “What a fun toy she is,” I mused aloud, “so easy to play with.” My fingers worked expertly inside of her, curling against the spasming spot on her ceiling, pressing and rubbing until her entire channel was contracting. “And she is pretty, I guess, but she’s only a country girl. Have you seen the women of Bentius?” I snuck my pinky and ring finger down her crack, and pushed them into her asshole. Her filthy rectum sucked my digits greedily, pushing up against my penetration and contracting around each knuckle. “The women of Bentius make this thing look like the pig she is, but I can assure you…” I twisted my hand, and Dog Meat screamed in delight, “…they squeal just as loud. There has been a coup in the capital city, gentlemen. The city watch has been decimated, the royal guard is gone, and the new king is more worried about the threats from within, then those from outside.”

I could see the idea travel through the band of orcs. Their eyes lit up in the night, their minds filling with images of wealth, gluttony, and horror. Oh, such horror. They had tasted the darkest of desires, and their souls had been twisted into knots by them. I had tasted it too, and it terrified me. I could not deny that I was aroused by what had been done to Dog Meat—not by the agony and trauma she had endured, but by the way she had been changed. Mutilated to be made as helpless as a babe; stripped of limbs so that she was nothing but a torso and head to fuck; tattooed and pierced to denigrate her to a level below slavery, below even livestock. She had been a beautiful woman full of grace and life, and the ugliness she’d been reduced to made her all the more beautiful to me, though in a much different way. It stirred something horrible in me, and I was glad that it made me sick. I still had my soul after all.

As the orcs began to cheer my name and encourage my defiling of Dog Meat, and as she herself sang out a wretched soprano note, I put my lips to her ear, and made her a solemn promise.

“I will take you to a man who can heal you.” I whispered, “He will give you back what has been cut from you, but he cannot fix you. No one can.” She squirted with a delighted scream, tears streaming down her face, the anguish bubbling just below the surface of her ecstasy. The orcs cheered, and she smiled to them all behind a shattered grin. “You are broken,” I whispered, pleasing her to fruition, “but I know personally that being broken isn’t the end. You will never be the woman you were, but you can still live a beautiful life. I can help you start anew.” I retracted my fingers, and brought them to her lips. She sucked them greedily, enjoying the degradation, savoring the taste of it. “And I want you to know something,” I hissed, “Every one of these bastards is going to die very soon, and you are going to watch it happen.”

I wondered if she understood me at all, for her only reaction to my words was to continue contentedly slurping upon my fingers. Then, I felt her plush lips crease into a smile.

LEVERIA

The dungeon beneath the arena offered no sunlight. Only the alcove torches illuminated the stone walls and metal bars in hues of blood red. All night long, vampires meandered before my cell door, watching me with their crimson reptilian eyes. Many of them had been elves, and most of those had been officers in the Highland army. Now most of them were women. Some made idle conversation with me, and some laughed nostalgically about their former lives as Highlanders, but none showed any pity for me, much less mercy. I was but a curiosity, a relic of a time and place they no longer identified with. The queen of the Highlands; to them, I might as well have been that class president who ended up becoming a homeless drug addict.

“You didn’t tell me about Adrianna.” Yavara said. She was in my cell now, flanked by Zander Fredeon and Furia Augustinia.

I sat upright, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. “What’s there to tell?” I groaned, “She was easy to use, so I used her.”

“We know about Prince Arthur’s fleet.” Yavara said.

“I suppose it’s ‘King’ Arthur now.”

She curled her lips. “Yes, we know about that too.”

I inclined my head. “So now you’re here to torture me for the rest, is that it?”

“We’d prefer not to, actually.” Zander said.

“Speak for yourself.” Furia hissed.

I ran my eyes up her robed figure, met her steely blue gaze, and smirked. Her face reddened with wrath.

Yavara put a hand on the hermaphrodite’s shoulder, and stepped toward me. “What exactly was the plan, Leveria?"

“I’m curious, Furia,” I said, looking past my sister, “if you were alone in a room with me, what would you do?”

“Don’t talk to her.”

“Where is your precious Adrianna?” I asked, flitting my gaze from her, to Zander, “I guess someone wanted to coverup something a little embarrassing, hmm?”

Yavara looked over her shoulder at him. “What’s she talking about?”

Zander shrugged.

“You left your staff leaning against the Jonian Spire in the background of your reflection, you fucking genius.” I sneered, “That’s how I knew you were monitoring our communications.”

Zander turned slightly pink. “Oh.”

“Oh,” I echoed with a giggle, “Yes, that was quite the whoopsie-daisy.” I looked to Furia, “Your noble and good Adrianna had already agreed to kill Prince Matthew at that point, knowing that his death on Alkandran soil would cause a diplomatic crisis with the Lowlands. That was the original plan, anyway, until boy-genius over here tipped his hand to his surveillance. Then, I changed things up, and… well, I’m sure you know the rest. Your lover—”

“I told you not to talk to her.” Yavara said softly, and my hands were suddenly forced behind my back, “Now, tell me what the plan was. The whole plan.”

“You brought her for a reason, Yavara.” I spat, “You don’t really care about what I have to say; you just want Furia to hear it from my lips. Adrianna is dead, but her memory is still a threat to you. What if she was right to betray you after all? What did she see in you that drove her to commit treason? The others will know in time. You will show them why you were never to be trusted.” I grinned at Yavara, “And once again, those you love the most, will choose someone else.”

Yavara’s face flickered in momentary wrath, but she kept herself remarkably composed. “I brought Furia here to show her how you destroy people, how you use their love and trust like a puppeteer’s strings, and turn their loyalties against those they love. Thank you, dearest sister, for showing Furia that.”

“But she doesn’t yet know the ultimate betrayal, Yavara.” I snapped, “That you will burn Bentius to ash after my death! Have you told her what you will do our homeland?! Have you—”

“Shut up!” Furia screamed, and marched past Yavara’s outstretched arm to level her face with mine. “You asked me what I would do if we were alone in a room together?” She snarled, “I would cut out that lying little tongue of yours, and make you eat it!” She squished my cheeks together in her grip, pushing my lips outward. “Then you could never again hurt someone I love with your lies.”

“Lies?” I whispered to her through my deformed lips, “She will be the one who feeds you lies, Furia.”

“I can cut it out now, Your Highness.” She hissed, “You don’t need it to scream in the arena.”

“Why didn’t Adrianna tell you about our plan?” I hissed back. Furia face faltered a fraction. It was all I needed. I glanced over her shoulder at Yavara, confirming by her expression that she couldn’t hear me. “She couldn’t trust you, Furia.” I whispered, “She was afraid that you were too far gone.”

“Don’t fucking tell me about Adrianna!”

“I knew her better than you!” I snapped, “Tell me, did she ever conspire with you before? Did she ever tell you about her fears?”

Furia didn’t answer, but that was all the answer I needed.

“Adrianna knew about Elena and I.”

Furia didn’t answer again.

“She knew what Yavara would do if she found out.”

Her eyes stared steadily into me, and her head offered an imperceptible nod.

“Yavara knows, Furia.” I mouthed so quietly that no sound came out, “She knows everything now, and her hatred has consumed her. She will fake an attack on the horde—you will see, and she will use it to commit genocide against the Highlands—our people, Furia. Adrianna remembered them. Do you?”

For a moment, Furia’s face was an open book. Then it slammed shut, the wrath returning to it, and she wound back her fist and delivered a strike across my jaw with such speed that I didn’t even have time to flinch. I was blasted into the wall, my head ringing, blood and spittle splattering the stones.

“You’re just a bitter, dead cunt.” Furia snarled above me, “I can see through your lies! They’re desperate, and you’re pathetic.”

“She remembered!” I gasped back, cowering in the corner.

Her hand poised for another strike before Yavara’s came around to clasp it. “Don’t give her what she wants, Furia.” Yavara said soothingly. Though she wore a mask of concern, she seemed quite pleased with herself. She couldn’t see that Furia’s rage was just a surface emotion, a reaction like a sneeze to an infection that was much more insidious. It would fester inside of her, playing with the doubts she already had buried within her, growing like a cancer as Yavara took each inevitable step toward her fate. The Dark Queen put her arm around Furia, and escorted her victoriously from the cell, but Zander remained behind.

The wizard studied me, his skulled and crowned staff glowing with power in the dim light.

“What do you want, Fredeon?” I groaned.

“It’s never really mattered what I want, Your Highness. I am but a servant.”

I rolled my eyes. “Why are you here?”

He gestured to the ceiling corner of the cell, where a gemstone twinkled. “I’ve been watching you.” He tapped his ear, where an identical gemstone hung from his earlobe, “Listening to you. I heard your conversation with Eva Alecia last night, and I heard your conversation with Furia just now. An attack on the horde? I’m sorry, Leveria, but that’s a reach. Yavara already neutered the horde by killing the tribe leaders, and she’ll need the manpower to face off against the Lowland fleet.”

“She’ll need some way to justify what she’s going to do.”

“She’s not going to do anything.”

I sneered behind bloody teeth. “I don’t really care what you think.”

He gave me a scrutinizing look. “I know what you’re trying to do with the hybrids.”

“You should probably stop letting Yavara’s pets come visit me then.”

He snorted. “As if I had that kind of power anymore. I’m on such thin ice with Yavara that one misstep will end me.”

“What do you want from me?”

“Nothing,” he said, pondering me, “I just wanted to get a good look at you. We’ve never met face-to-face before—not in the flesh, anyway—and you’re such an integral part of everything I hold dear.”

“I still remember the way Prestira’s tongue felt in my cunt.” I sneered at him, “I remember that slutty little expression on her face when my men raped her mindless. I remember the way she moaned when they pissed all over her.

Zander just snorted. “That sounds like Prestira’s typical Tuesday. Try harder.”

I shrugged, “There’s no point.”

Zander assessed the room for a moment, then eased himself gingerly onto a stool. “I should probably leave,” he said, “staying here does me no good at all. I like to think I’m immune to you, but I know it’s not true. Every word that comes from your mouth is a calculated strike, and even I can’t grasp the full intention of each attack. Perhaps you knew that I wouldn’t rise to your bait, and now I’m doing exactly as you intended by continuing this conversation. Perhaps I’m playing right into your hand by ruminating on your tactics. Furia’s right, we should cut out your tongue.”

“So why are you sitting down?”

He stroked his beard, and pondered my question for a moment. “Wisdom is knowing that you know very little, and that insight can be gleaned from the most unexpected of sources. Brock Terdini’s last words to me have been eating at my soul ever since he uttered them. I guess he gave me a piece of wisdom. Alkandi gave me much wisdom, both in her life and afterwards. Maybe you will give me some wisdom now.”

“Go ask Yavara for some.”

His pure-white eyes rested on me as he caressed the skull that adorned his staff. “Yavara has none to give me. All that she has accomplished has been gained through her power, and not by making the right choice.”

“Power is the right choice, Zander Fredeon. Alkandi knew that, now Yavara does as well.”

“Yavara is powerful; Alkandi gained power. There is a difference. Alkandi was not nearly as magically gifted as Yavara, and so she had to create her own power. She was the boss of a street gang before she was a queen, and she didn’t get drug-dealers, racketeers, and slavers on her side by flexing and fucking. She was a master manipulator. Yavara can’t manipulate her way out of a carboard box. If she can’t fuck someone into submission, she’ll simply destroy them.”

“You don’t need people skills if you’re a god.”

“You need them if you’re a queen.” Zander said, “Yavara is a good woman—”

I burst out laughing.

Zander waited for me to finish. “Yavara is a good woman, but her capacity for good is dependent on those around her. Elena, Adrianna, Prestira were all—”

“But not Zander?”

He smiled ruefully. “No, not me. What is it all those people have in common, Leveria? They’re all gone, and now the only love she can count on, is that of the mob she rules. Do you see what you’ve done?”

“What we’ve done, Zander. I didn’t kill Adrianna.”

“Neither did I.”

A dangerous hope flickered in my chest. “Why not?”

“I’m just hedging my bets.” He said, taking out his pipe and sticking it in his mouth, “I’ve become uncertain. Brock made me uncertain, that bastard.” He lit his bowl, and let out a great plume of smoke. It lingered in wisps between us, filling the silence. Finally, he spoke again. “Your plan has failed miserably. The horde will return a day before the fleet arrives. Arthur will act foolishly, and Yavara will act in kind, and the Lowland armada will be destroyed. After that, the mob will demand vengeance, and Yavara will give them what they want. Conquest, pillaging, rape and slavery.”

“She is the Dark Queen; it’s what she does.” I spat, “It’s why I did everything in my power to stop her.”

“You were planning to invade the Midlands since you were in diapers. Yavara just gifted you a reason.”

“The Dark Queen is evil incarnate. That’s not being gifted a reason—that’s being thrown into a crisis.”

“You’re evil, Your Highness.”

“Don’t try to equate us.”

“I’m not equating you and Yavara.”

I cocked my head, and studied him. “You have doubts about her. Are you trying to glean something from me about her? Do you want me to regale you with stories of her glorious childhood to reassure you of her character? Fine then. When Yavara was a kid, she was a little snot who could run fast and shoot arrows. People thought it was adorable. When she was a teenager, she grew tits and an ass, and played hard-to-get with every bachelor in Bentius. Everyone wanted to fuck her. There’s no great mystery to my little sister, Zander. She’s an attention-whore starving for affection.”

“She’s more complicated than that.”

“No one’s complicated. People are what they want. They don’t often know what they want, and that’s what gives them ‘depth,’ but I can see right through it. You say that it doesn’t matter what you want, but what you want is all that you are. That’s why you’re so fucking conflicted, Zander. You don’t know.”

“But you do?”

“No, but you’re about to tell me why you’re really here. Then, I will tell you what you want.”

He let out a puff of smoke, and watched it form tendrils in the air between us. “My purpose was to put Alkandi’s incarnation back on the throne, and so I have done it, but the curse that bound me to my purpose has not been lifted.” He stroked the skull that adorned his staff, and frowned. “I knew all of Alkandi’s incarnations. I knew them all intimately, and I saw a sameness with each of them. They all shared the same kind of soul—all, except for one. Yavara is nothing like Alkandi. When Alkandi attempted to merge with her, Yavara rejected her outright. I should’ve seen it then; they were noncompatible, but Alkandi was so enamored with the magical potential Yavara carried that she risked everything to merge with her. It nearly killed everyone involved. It was an… unnatural marriage of souls.” Zander tugged at his beard, seemingly lost in his own mind. “Alkandi chooses her mothers, you see, not her incarnations. Your mother was marked before either you or Yavara were born. Alkandi didn’t know who Trenaria Tiadoa was, for spirits don’t have names or faces, but she knew that Trenaria’s womb would carry a daughter who was kindred to her.”

My heart knotted in my throat. “Zander, what did Brock say to you?”

He studied my face for a very, very long time. So excruciating was his analysis of me, that I visibly quivered beneath it. Finally, he said, “Brock told me that Alkandi picked the wrong Tiadoa princess. Now I know he was right. You, Leveria Tiadoa, are the true Dark Queen.”

“Bullshit!” I hissed.

“Talking with you is like talking to an old friend. I know the cadence and notes like it’s a song I’ve written—a duet that spans lifetimes. The voices are different from woman to woman, but the song is always the same. I wondered why I never could find that song with Yavara, but I found it so easily with you.”

“I’m not Alkandi, you old fool!”

“But you were supposed to be.” He said so softly, so sadly. There was no lie behind his eyes, but I could not stomach one more word of what he had to say.

“You’re nothing but a bitter liar!” I screamed, as if the volume of my voice might give it more truth.

Zander shook his head. “I am no liar,” he said with a raspy voice, “I cannot stomach another lie. I am just an old fool who realizes his folly once it’s too late. It’s always been too late with you. Every time you have risen, I have failed you.” A tear ran down his cheek, “Now, there is nothing I can do. I have filled your seat with an imposter, and she is far too powerful, and I am a coward.”

He wiped the tears from his eyes, and turned around, not meeting my gaze. Though he moved with the grace of a younger man, the hunch of his shoulder bespoke his true age, and the bow of his back whispered of how his spirit was broken. He opened the cell door, and closed it gently behind him. Then, he was gone.

YAVARA

I would not attend the arena today. The distinguished members of Faltia’s city watch were being honored today, and though Faltia’s was generally more sexually masochistic than sadistic, I had a feeling she’d be instilling some harsh military discipline directly into my sister. I’d make sure to get the mirror recording from Eva for posterity.

The coastline below me was clear on this winter morning, and I watched the snow-covered cliffs become lush temperate forests as I moved south. The cold wind became warmer, and the rough seas became calmer. It took me an hour to travel two day’s maritime distance, and that was when I came upon a dense patch of fog that hugged the coastline. I stopped in the air, and watched the fog slowly work its way northward. It was immense, several miles long, encompassing the entire Lowland fleet. How many ships? It was impossible to tell. Each ship would have a Lowland mage, and these were arcane masters trained by Prestira Rasloraca herself. It would not be like my battles with the Highlanders. Though none of the Lowland magic-wielders could match me, each of them had the potential to be lethal. It would only take one mistake, one moment of recklessness. I smiled, and dropped from the sky.

A second later, I was on board the deck of a galley, staring at the dumfounded face of its captain. “Boo.” I giggled.

He blinked, his mouth hanging open.

I turned on my heel, and took hold of the mage behind me, my mind ensnaring hers. The rest of the crew aboard the deck was stuck in a similar state of paralysis, all of them frozen in the tasks they’d just been doing. A mop bucket spilled, a rope was dropped, and a harpoon rolled between the ballistae. Those below deck ignorantly rowed the vessel onward, the cadence of the drum-master not breaking a moment.

“Steer your ship, Captain.” I said, placing his hands on the wheel. He did so, though his bulging gaze never left mine. I let him silently navigate through the fleet as my mind wandered from ship to ship, searching for that of Prince (now King) Arthur. When I found him, I jumped overboard, dove into the sea, and shot through the water like a torpedo. A thousand feet later, I burst from the surface, and landed aboard the royal man-o-war. They were ready for me. A score of mages stood in a semicircle, pinning me to the railing. Their hands and staffs were poised and alight with magic, their eyes glowing. I put up my hands, and offered a congenial smile.

“Is the prince available for a chat?”

“The king is aware that you are here,” one of the mages said. He was an older man, and by the color of his robes and the power radiating from him, I deduced that he was the head mage of the academy, Robert Usich.

“Oh. I didn’t think he’d get the news after rounding the Alkandran Horn.”

“When we are legion, our vision precedes us for hundreds of miles.” Usich said, “We see the atrocities you commit in your capital this moment. We saw what you did to Prince Matthew. We saw what befell King Albert. You will not take one step forward. You will never see the king again.”

“Will you be our intermediary then?” I asked him.

He nodded. “The king sees through my eyes now.”

“And what does he have to say to me?”

Go back to your wretched city, and prepare yourself,” came Arthur’s voice from the mage’s mouth.

I rolled my eyes. “Arthur, be reasonable.”

You are not one for reason, Queen Yavara Alkandi.

“And you are not one for war. Didn’t you once tell me that militarism was the cheapest form of power? We can talk.”

Talk has little use for those who don’t listen.

“I’m listening, Your Highness.”

But I am not. Lucas Ternias betrayed us and delivered Leveria Tiadoa to you the same day that my father and brother were murdered. I know you will tell me this was all somehow a plot woven by your sister, but even as we speak, she is being tortured and raped for your people’s amusement. Just like how my brother was decapitated for your people’s amusement.

“You must know it’s not that simple.”

The nuance is irrelevant. Your nation is a cancer, and you are the carcinogen. There is no negotiating with a disease. You simply have to cut it out.

I narrowed my eyes at Usich. “My horde will be back tomorrow night. When you sail into the Alkandran Bay, our numbers will blacken the shoreline.”

And so will their bodies.

“After I sink your fleet, my people will demand retribution for the attack. Ardeni Dreus will be dust.”

Then we are on even terms, Your Highness.” Arthur hissed through Usich’s mouth. “If you wish to end the war right now, by all means, take your shot.

The mages in the semicircle glowed with energy, their auras becoming so bright that their forms dimmed behind them. I did not waver, but simply pivoted my feet into a less threatening stance.

“You have two days to reconsider, Your Highness,” I said, and stepped onto the railing, “I pray that you will.” I launched myself into the sky.

ELENA

Mom usually wore her hair in a tight bun. It pulled her hair back to expose her forehead and high hairline, and gave the appearance that her entire face was being stretched gauntly over her bones. Today, her silvery-blonde hair flowed easily over her shoulder, framing her relaxed face beautifully. Though the lines around her eyes and lips bespoke her age, she seemed to somehow look ten years younger. Perhaps it was the secret smile she shared with me when Lady Jonias wasn’t looking, or maybe it was the knowing twinkle in her blue eyes every time we connected gazes. Her mischievousness was infectious, and I felt like a snickering schoolgirl sitting across from her at the lunch table, our feet playing beneath it. Lord Feractian had been by to inform me that my meeting with his barons would be tonight, and Lord Huntiata had made a brief visit to tell me he was close to getting a mole in the city watch. Lady Jonias had been uncharacteristically quiet throughout the morning, and only offered terse answers when I asked about her progress with riling-up the city’s dissidents. Now, at the lunch table, she was deathly silent.

“My lady?” Mom finally asked her, “Is there something you want to say?”

Jonias looked at Mom. “Is there something that needs to be said, Lady Straltaira?”

“I don’t believe so.”

Lady Jonias blinked. “Lady Straltaira, I always held you in the highest respect. You were a beacon of propriety and civility for all the nobles to look up to.”

Mom swallowed her food. “And I’m not now?”

Lady Jonias pursed her lips. “You’ve been unusually lax with your manners as of late.”

Mom looked a little insulted. “My apologies for being a rude guest, my lady. Please tell me where I’ve erred.”

“Don’t concern yourself with it. It would be even ruder for me to point them out.”

“I must insist.”

Lady Jonias swallowed her food, and daintily blotted her mouth. “Well, for one, you didn’t take your shoes off last night when entering the house. Secondly, you left some of your toiletries out on the bathroom counter. Thirdly, you forgot to close the bedroom door while you were fucking your daughter, my lady.

Mom turned a shade of red that would’ve made a rose blush. She might’ve died of mortification, had I not burst into uproarious laughter. “She was just helping me get to sleep, Lady Jonias!” I hacked, “As any good mother would!”

Jonias’s face twisted. “If word gets out that the queen is FUCKING HER MOTHER—

“It will be business as usual in the Highlands.” I giggled, wiping my eyes.

Lady Jonias just stared at Mom. “Lydia Straltaira, I cannot believe you. You of all people! Your own daughter?!

“Oh, shut up.” Mother grumbled, nursing her tea to hide her face, “Like I’m going to take sexual criticism from a fucking virgin.”

Now it was Jonias’s turn to grow red. She huffed, guffawed, harrumphed, then stood up so quickly that her chair crashed behind her. Without another word, she bolted up the stairs, and slammed her room door behind her. Mom and I watched her go, then looked at each other, and burst into laughter.

“Do you think she’ll kick us out of the house?” Mom giggled.

“She would never deny the future queen of the Highlands her hospitality.” I snickered back.

Mom’s expression became impish. “Well, we wouldn’t want to take advantage of her hospitality, would we? Perhaps we should ask her to join us!”

“Mom, you are so bad!” I squealed, and tossed a roll of bread at her.

She caught it, split it in half, and licked lecherously between the part. “I’m the absolute worst.” She whispered huskily.

I stood up, threw my hair back, thrusted my chest out, and began to saunter sensually around the table, my hand trailing down the wood. It was only after I’d taken my third step, that I realized I was walking on my own. Mom had realized a step before, and was beaming joyously up at me.

“Oh my god!” I gasped, savoring the feeling of my legs flexing to bear my weight. I curled my toes into the carpeting, and groaned when I wiggled them. “Lady Jonias is a miracle worker.”

“Well, don’t give her too much credit.” Mom said wryly. She swiveled on her chair, and opened her legs. Her blue dress hugged her thighs, becoming tighter and tighter until the material stretched past its elastic point, and snapped to her hips. My mouth watered at what I saw between her thick, pale legs, and my cock pointed the way for me through my evening gown. I waltzed over to my mother, hooked my legs around her hips, and straddled her lap. We kissed, long and passionately, dancing our tongues as daughter and mother, loving and sensual. My cock poked her in the belly, my breasts flattened atop hers, and I enjoyed playing the woman’s role atop her as her hands traversed my slender back, and gripped me tightly on the ass.

“This is different.” Mom smiled against my lips when our kiss parted.

“You made a lap for me, and I sat in it.” I smiled back, running my fingers through her hair, “That’s what daughters do with their mommies.”

She dragged my gown up my backside until it popped free, and I could feel her fingers against my bare ass. “I’ve heard all the stories about you, Elena.” She said, “You’ve fucked men like they were whores.”

“Is that how you want me to fuck you?” I asked softly, and teased a tug on her hair.

Her eyes twinkled a little, but she shook her head. “No,” she winked, “not yet, but there may come a night when the queen needs to put her uppity mother in her place.”

“I’ll have you thrown in the dungeon.” I giggled, “Strapped down to the torturer’s table so that you can’t move, with your sexy ass spread open so that I can do whatever I want.

Mom shuddered beneath me, the scent of her arousal wafting between us. “Or maybe I could do it to you.” She whispered back, “Maybe I’ll put this little girl-cock in a vice, and make you beg for my forgiveness.”

“Oh, you’re evil…” I muttered, though my mood had suddenly soured.

Mom’s brow furrowed. “It’s Leveria, isn’t it?” She ran her fingers soothingly up my back, “She used to do things like that to you, didn’t she?”

I nodded, a tear forming in my eye. “I think I just need a mommy right now.”

Mom embraced me tightly, and I wept silently into her shoulder. “I can be that, Elena.” She said softly, running her hands through my hair, “You’ve told me about Yavara, but you haven’t talked about Leveria with me. Whenever you’re ready, we can have that conversation.”

“I’ll never be ready.”

“I understand.” She whispered, and for the second time, Mom helped carry me up the stairs. She pulled off my clothes, and I pulled off hers, and she made love to me as a mother, sucking all the fear and pain from my body, and taking it deep into hers.

ADRIANNA

It was near dusk when the warg-riders and I crested the ridgeline. An alarm sounded, and the rebels below sorted themselves into a panicked formation. It was sloppy and uncoordinated, but it wasn’t bad considering they’d only had one day of formal training. I waited for them to settle into their defensive line, then I alone rode out, my hood down so that all could see my platinum air billowing in the wind. An order was shouted, and a lone rider raced up to meet me.

“Adrianna?” Esmerelda called, stopping fifty feet away from me.

“Who else?” I called back.

“Explain yourself!”

“Come here so that we don’t have to yell!”

“I’m not coming any closer to that thing!”

I flexed my thighs around Sasha, and she leapt forward. We stopped five feet from Esmerelda and her horse, both of whom were gawking at me with bulging white eyes.

“I thought you wanted to win the war?” I said.

Win the war?! Adrianna, these beasts are more hated than the Dark Queen herself! Allying with them is suicide!” It was then that she noticed the limbless woman cradled in my cloak. “Justina?!”

“Dog Meat!” Dog Meat giggled, wiggling her sparkling stumps happily.

“Oh my god, Justina, what did they—”

“My name is DOG MEAT!” Dog Meat screamed, and Esmerelda went silent.

I hid the amputee in my cloak. “Her sister is here?”

Esmerelda nodded.

“Don’t let her see her.”

“Juliet needs to know she’s alive.”

“I need to take her with me to Alkandra. There are people there that can help her, but she can’t be saved. She’s Dog Meat now.”

Esmerelda bit her lip, tears forming in her eyes. She grasped her sword, and pulled out three inches of steel. “If you ally us with these beasts, I will fight you to the death right now, Adrianna.” Her face was resolute and unwavering, “There are lines I won’t cross.”

“Bentius is locked down, Esmerelda. If you want to get into it, someone will need to charge the gate.”

“I will not build my nation on the backs of—”

“And someone will need to save the city.” I said calmly, “The city watch are too few to properly man the walls. They’ll be overtaken in half an hour. And who will save the city then, I wonder? The army’s too far away; everyone is doomed! But wait—who’s that out there? An army of women? Who’s ever heard of such a thing? Wait, is that Esmerelda’s rebellion?! But I heard they were savages! Oh, how resplendent they look riding full-tilt into the flank of the terrible foe, oh, they have saved us all! Throw open the gates, and welcome the victorious heroes!” I finished with a grandiose applause, and Dog Meat happily cheered with me, wiggling her sparkling little stumps.

Esmerelda just stared at me. “You have no honor, Adrianna.”

Honor?!” I spat, “I told you I’d get you into Bentius. Do you want to be greeted with rose petals, or arrows when you get there?”

She twisted her lips. “Rose petals, you bitch.”

I smiled back at her. “See? We’re starting to get along after all.” I gestured over Esmerelda’s shoulder to the camp below, “Tell them the plan.”

“So that they can hang me from a tree?”

“Tell them I’ve infiltrated the enemy camp, and have convinced the orcs not to attack them, but the tradeoff was to reroute the orcs to Bentius instead. Tell them you’ll be shadowing the orcs’ movements to aid in the city’s defense when the time comes. It’s not entirely untruthful.”

“The best lies usually are,” she grunted. She kicked her heels into the flank of her horse, and rode down to the rebel army to bring them the news. When she was gone, Dog Meat curled into my breast, and began to weep. She didn’t seem to know what about Esmerelda made her cry, but I did. Dog Meat had been born from the death of Justina, and Esmerelda awoke the memories of a dead woman. I remembered how seeing April again in Gloria’s library had been so agonizing. I remembered how terrible the relief was when she died, and I knew I would never have to see her again.

LEVERIA

Faltia had put me in a skimpy little soldier outfit, then ran me through the ringer of debauched military drills. Double-cock-squats, blowjob good-mornings, spread-legged pullups, tit-fucking pushups, and of course, anal planks. After that, we did a plethora of drills. We started with equestrian drills, where I was the horse. I was ridden by every goblin in the barracks; a bit stuck in my mouth, my braided hair used as reins. Then, there was an obstacle course. The obstacles were… well, they were ogre dicks. Thirty of them. I had to make each of them come in under a minute, or I had to start over. I started over three times before I finally got it. Needless to say, I waddled around bow-legged for the rest of the drills. Then we had wrestling matches. I was pinned and raped in a myriad of twisted positions. I’d never before given a leg-locked blowjob while stuck in an anal full-nelson and getting cunt piledrived. That was certainly an experience. And last but not least, there were military games. Commander Faltia dressed me as a spy, and gave her troops the following orders: find the Highland bitch, interrogate the Highland bitch, turn the Highland bitch into an asset. By the time they were done with their interrogation, I was completely on their side. Funnily enough, the feeling was mutual. The boys and I had been at it all day, and nothing bonded people together quite like the strenuous breakdown of military exercise; except military exercise and mind-numbingly good sex. While their bodies heaved against me, and they spitted me between their cocks, we were laughing and joking between our grunts and moans. They smiled at me between their ferocious tusks, and I smiled back behind my thick mask of cum, and when I orgasmed again and again, I gave them every ounce of me until I was sapped of breath. By the end of the day, we were all on a first-name basis.

“Third company wanted me to give you this.” Commander Faltia said through the cell bars, and slid the plate of sausages beneath the door.

“I can’t believe Ron actually did that, the crazy bastard!” I giggled, and reached out for the plate. Faltia’s foot pinned my hand to the ground.

“Ron?” she asked, “As in, Captain Ronald Hektini?”

“I just call him, ‘Ron.’”

“You don’t call him anything, Leveria.” Faltia said coldly, and pressed her heel harder on my fingers.

I smiled through my pain. “I’m sorry, but he told me to call him, ‘Ron.’ He even asked me to wave to his wife and son in the audience while he ass-fucked me. I couldn’t find them, but I waved in their general direction. He was delighted.”

She ground her heel harder, and I winced. “Is this a game to you?” She hissed.

“Everything’s a game, Faltia.” I growled, “War, sex, love. I don’t stop playing just because I’ve lost.”

“And Alexa was just a pawn to you.” She pressed her heel until I was shaking in pain.

“Alexa wasn’t supposed to die!” I gasped, “It was supposed to be Soraya!”

“You think that makes it better?!”

IT WAS WAR, YOU FUCKING PUSSY!” I screamed. Faltia pulled her foot off, and the blood rushed blissfully into my swollen digits, suffusing them with warmth. I gasped, clutching at my hand, then I looked up at Faltia. “Alexa was my enemy,” I growled, “she was a ranger, a warrior; she knew the score. You all did.”

“You sent an assassin.”

“I did what I had to!” I snapped, “Just because you didn’t fight on the frontlines, didn’t make you civilians. You were dangerous enemies, high-profile targets, and you all fucking knew it. You got lazy and lost your edge, and you only have yourselves to blame!” I spat at Faltia’s foot, “You especially, Watch Commander. If your troops were better trained, they would’ve caught my assassin, and Alexa would still be alive.”

Faltia kicked open the cell door, drew her sword, and charged me. I scrambled onto the bed and squealed as I held up a pillow to defend myself. Then, I was simply holding two halves of a pillow, the feathers floating in the air. Faltia’s sword was imbedded in the mattress. She stared at me from the tops of her wrathful eyes, her muscles tensed, waiting for me.

“It was war,” I whispered, “My people were starving, Yavara’s wolves were ravaging the countryside, and rebellions were being formed. Your army had mine pinned at its own border, and your queen was content with letting us all rot. I needed to do something to hit you where you lived, to put the pressure on so that my people could have one moment to fucking breathe!”

“You don’t give a damn about your people.”

“You don’t know me.” I snarled, “You’re a good little soldier, aren’t you? You just eat up whatever bullshit Yavara feeds you. Adrianna and I ran an operation. Circumstances changed, and I had to act on my own. She hated me for what I did, but she fell in line because she knew it was bigger than her or me.” I grasped Faltia’s blade, and brought it to my chest, “It was war, Commander. Adrianna was a soldier. I was a soldier. Alexa was a soldier. We all did what we had to do.”

“You’re no soldier.” Faltia hissed.

“Didn’t I just go through basic training, Commander?” I whispered.

She angled the blade against my chest, digging the point into my sternum. She pulled it away, then dropped it. It clanged on the floor. When she looked at me, her blue eyes were searching mine, exploring, not understanding what they were seeing. I eased myself backward, displaying my body unthreateningly. It was bruised and battered, my holes loose and gaping, my feminine curves besmirched with handprints and dried fluids. I was nothing compared to the bronze beauty before me, and yet, she seemed to look upon me with a strange reverence.

“Zander is watching.” I whispered, and gestured to the gemstone in the corner.

Faltia pulled off her robe, and whispered back, “I don’t care.”

She was rough with me. She punished me for Alexa at every opportunity, and made me blubber out apologies. She criticized me for my lack of skill with other women. I apologized for that, and asked her to train me. She did. For two hours straight, Commander Faltia drilled me in how to properly eat her cunt. By the end of it, I had her sobbing into the pillow, her body squirming wildly, her legs locked around my head. My dexterous little tongue truly was my greatest weapon. Still, she dominated me easily, outmaneuvering me, performing acts of flexibility and grace that left me breathless. I was but a high-elf, after all, and she was something far greater. I danced with her clumsily, always racing to catch up, always reacting too late. She was patient with me, and by the end of the night, we were making love nearly as equals. When she left my cell with her clothes in her hands, she couldn’t meet my gaze. I sighed into my pillow, and smiled victoriously to myself.

“Did you enjoy the show, you old pervert?” I asked the twinkling gemstone. “Are you currently cleaning the shame out of your robes?”

The gemstone didn’t answer, of course.

I frowned at it. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten that bullshit you tried to feed me. This proves nothing.”

The gemstone just twinkled back.

I turned until I faced the corner from where it shone. “The hybrids are all sluts. They all want a taste of Highland royalty. I give them what they want, and I add a little extra. I’m just doing whatever it takes to survive.”

The gemstone continued to twinkle, uncaring, noncommunicative. It just showed me in its kaleidoscopic reflection. Only, my reflection was somewhat distorted; my skin looked unusually dark, and the illumination off my hair gave it a black luster. And when the light twinkled from my eyes, they appeared orange, seeming to blaze from their sockets.

“Fuck you, old man.” I hissed, and pulled the covers over my face.

YAVARA

I stood outside Zander’s door, feeling incredibly awkward. Maybe it was because I couldn’t remember a time when I’d ever had to come to him. He’d always been at my side when I needed him, but since we’d returned to Alkandra, he’d been nearly a ghost. I took a steeling breath, and knocked on his door. There was a pregnant pause, then the door creaked open.

“Your Highness?” Zander asked from his desk, removing his spectacles.

“I’m not bothering you, am I?” I asked.

“Of course not,” he smiled. It was a warm smile, and there was honest affection behind it, but it seemed forced.

“I’ll uh… I’ll just go, and—”

“Come in,” he said, beckoning to the chair in front of his desk.

I walked into his study, feeling like a schoolgirl readying herself for admonishment. There was a time not too long ago where I would’ve boldly sat in Zander’s lap, but I instead parked myself in the chair opposite to him.

“This used to be Adrianna’s office.” I muttered, looking around.

“Indeed,” Zander said, “I decided to take it for myself. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Of course not.”

He eyed me studiously. “What is it you wanted to discuss?”

“Nothing,” I forced a laugh, “I just… you know… wanted to talk.”

“About?”

I shrugged. “About whatever it is there is to talk about.”

Zander sighed, and rubbed at his eyes. “Have you ever known me to be gifted in chit-chat, my queen?”

“Practice makes perfect.”

He smiled tiredly at me. “I think you might find more enthralling conversation amongst your own kind.”

“The hybrids are not my own kind.”

“They are of your flesh and blood.”

“They’re different, Zander. Different than me. Sure, they like to have a good time and they fuck like champions, but… I don’t know. It’s like they’re wolves, and I’m a… a…”

“A tiger?” Zander inquired, “Like Elena was?”

“Yes,” I whispered, “that was what Adrianna called her, right? Tiger. But she changed, Zander; they all did, and I stayed the same.”

“You’ve changed quite a bit, I’d say.”

“No, I haven’t, Zander. I’m still me, I’ve just done a lot more.”

He raised his brows. “And who are you then?”

“I don’t know.” I muttered, “I… I… I don’t feel like I am who I’m supposed to be.”

“That’s not an uncommon feeling. Expectation and reality rarely overlap.”

“It’s different than that.” I muttered, meshing my fingers together, “Did Alkandi ever doubt herself?”

“She was sometimes unsure of her choices, but she always understood why she made them.”

“I don’t. I mean, I get why I did something, but when I look back on it, I don’t understand… if that makes sense.”

“You weren’t thinking rationally. Sense and emotion are separate worlds entirely.”

“What if the emotion doesn’t make sense? What if it’s… alien?”

Zander studied me for a moment, his fingers steepled. “What do you think it means?”

“I’m not sure.”

He nodded. “I suggest you get some sleep, Your Highness. I can sense your exhaustion. I can, if you wish, put you into an ethereal slumber.”

“No, no.” I said, shaking my head. I got out of the chair, and walked away, “I just wanted to talk to a friend.” I said so that he couldn’t hear it, and shut the door behind me.
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