Kahlem paces back and forth, furious with the Seelie Queen. She would either recognize his power like the rest or she would die. Those are her only options. She made him look weak in front of his soldiers, weak. He cringes at the memory of all those swords pointed at his throat, threatening to decapitate him. The Seelie Queen is stronger than Malich let on, with gifts that appear as limitless as her love for his brother.
Turning to Malich whose eyes still appear to be focused on where the Seelie Queen just stood, Kahlem says, “You’ve been holding out on me brother. The Seelie Queen grows stronger as the moons pass and her gifts manifest in many forms. What else are you hiding? Where did she come from and is there anyone in particular she cares for?”
Malich shifts under the weight of his gaze, weighing his options. He could defy Kahlem and remain silent, but Kahlem has no plans on allowing his brother to withhold information. “Shall I slit your pretty wife’s throat?” Kahlem arches a brow. Malich doesn’t flinch, and why would he? Killing Queen Grayson would only free him from his marital chain to her. “No…that I’m sure you would welcome so you can resume your place in the Seelie Queens bed. We both know I hold all the cards here so don’t make me ask twice.”
Closing his eyes, Malich sighs, “She was born in the Seelie Court before it’s demise. Her parents are Cassian and Fayrah Vale. Other than that she has a sister and a nephew who both reside within her palace.”
“Vale? Of the Summer Court?” Arokin asks. He knows them.
“Have them brought to me immediately,” Kahlem orders. Two of his guard’s nod and leave.
In order to bring the Seelie Queen down he’ll need leverage, people she cares about. If all else fails, he has one final card he can play. Malich meets his gaze and they size each other up. His brother is just biding his time, waiting for the most opportune time to strike. The only way to keep him subdued is to stay one step ahead of him.
“There will be a gathering tonight to celebrate my anniversary with Sen. I trust you all will attend?”
“Do we have a choice?” His aunt bravely speaks.
“No, you do not.”
Kahlem leaves the throne room and heads to the great hall where Sen and a few of his wives are barking orders at the servants to prepare for the nights festivities. Satisfied with the way things are turning out, he nods to Sen who smiles back at him and heads to his chamber. The moment he steps inside he gets a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. He isn’t alone. Black shadows circle him, subduing him in an instant and a figure emerges from a corner of the room. Audric. He’s been visiting Kahlem since he was a young boy.
The first time Audric came to him he was only five cycles old. Some of the young boys in the palace hated his father because their own father’s died fighting in a war King Simeon started with the Fall Court. They dragged Kahlem away from the castle and attempted to drown him in the lake behind the palace. For a moment he was dead floating in that water, but his soul had gone elsewhere. It had gone to the Deadlands. There he waited for the Gods to stake a claim to his soul, but none ever came. Even though he was only dead for a few minutes, it felt like days. That’s when Audric appeared to him. Kahlem begged Audric to send him back, and he did, but not without cost.
Audric helped Kahlem get revenge on those boys, one by one. As he grew older, Audric would give Kahlem warnings about things to come. The day Malich was born, Audric told him to smother the child in his sleep, but Kahlem disobeyed. He couldn’t understand why Audric would want him to harm a defenseless child until it was too late. Malich surpassed him in every way possible, both physically and mentally. He’d earned their father’s favor early on and Audric warned Kahlem that if Malich weren’t dealt with, he’d take the crown. But the crown belonged to him.
Rather than kill Malich, Kahlem had him framed and imprisoned. He loved his brother. Soon, he realized even that wasn’t enough to stop the great Malich Jarrah. His brother had fought his way from nothing and built a kingdom within the Redlands that rivaled his own.
Audric came to him again, but for once, there was no more talk of Malich. Audric bestowed a new task upon him, one that proves to be more difficult than he thought.
“My master grows impatient,” Audric bears his teeth at Kahlem.
“I’m working on it.”
“Work faster. He grows more impatient by the second. If you are not up to the task then perhaps we will find someone else who is.”
“It is not as easy as you led me to believe Audric. There are obstacles,” Kahlem tried to explain.
“Obstacles?” Growing impatient, he places his palm to Kahlem’s forehead and siphons his memories. When he’s cycled through them all he looks perplexed. “Obstacles indeed.” Audric didn’t say another word before fading back into the shadows, taking them with him.
Being near Audric drains him of his energy. He hurries to the nearest armchair to sit down and promptly passes out. Kahlem doesn’t awaken until both Bevi and Arokin violently shake him from his sleep worried he might be dead. They sigh with relief when his eyes fly open and he starts to bat them away.
“Oh thank God.” Arokin clasps a hand to his heart. “We thought you were dead.”
“It’ll take more than a little exhaustion to kill me,” Kahlem muses.
“We need to get ready for the gathering,” Bevi chimes in.
The three of them head to their chambers, passing Malich, Rhesus, Cassius, Odin and Odious in the corridor. The five of them watched Kahlem like a hawk, and knowing Malich, he’s recruiting them to his cause by telling them our father is alive and well. Kahlem waves to them and they narrow their eyes at him.
Once in his room, Kahlem calls for his servants who help him get ready for the gathering. They dress him in the finest fabric coin can buy, comb his shoulder length hair, and apply balm to his lips so they won’t crack. This moon will be a moon of celebration.
He meets Arokin and Bevi in the great hall and together, the three of them mingle with the nobles. Malich and his other brothers watch from where they’re holding up the walls. His aunt Asherah is enjoying herself at least. By the end of the night she’s beyond inebriated with spirits. She becomes belligerent and two of her royal guards have to carry her away.
Music starts, cueing the royal dance, and he and Sen take the floor. Kahlem places one hand at the small of her back and laces the fingers of his other hand with hers. Together they sway to the music, her dress lightly brushing the floor, and their eyes locked on one another. She’s his favorite of all his wives and soon, she will have his son.
The music stops and she dips into the lowest curtsy her stomach will allow. Kahlem smiles, trying to resist the urge to take her back to his chamber and fill her with more of his lineage. But they have guests, so he settles for a kiss and presses his lips to hers.
Sen kisses him back fervently, her eyes lingering shut. Kahlem smiles. He waits for her to open them, but when she does, her expression fades from a smile to horror. She coughs up blood all over his face and claws at her throat. “Sen?” Kahlem calls out to her as her knees give out. “Sen?” He calls out to her more pleadingly now. “Sen!” He cradles her in his arms as she crumples to the floor, screaming her name. “Get me a Magus!”
Everyone backs away except Malich. He drops to the Queens side and examines her mouth. “Widows kiss,” he whispers. “She’s been poisoned.”
Kahlem’s eyes grow wide. He lifts Sen up in his arms and lays her on the table. “What do I do brother?” He begs Malich.
“There’s an antidote. If I can get to your Magus’ supplies I should be able to save her life.”
Two guards come running back to the great hall, gasping for air, “Your majesty, the Magus is dead and everything is on fire,” they manage to say between gasps.
Kahlem looks around the room as the guard’s words sink in. Slowly his gaze slides to Sen. She lay on top of the table, her womb swollen and her eyes wide open. His favorite wife, his first loveis dead.ns18.104.22.168da2