“Shit.” Alara curses behind her. “Shit. Shit. Shit!”
Alara paces back and forth, her eyes focused on two men Arya has never seen before. One is dressed head to toe in black armor and the other is draped in onyx jewels and fine clothes. Both are sinfully beautiful and the latter has his eyes locked on Alara.
Arya watches Alara watch him and understanding washes over her. His dark hair, his perfect nose and those pale gray eyes reminiscent of her nephews still changing gray eyes. He’sYael’s father.
Preceptor Mekhi sees him approaching and raises his hand once more. The remaining Alumni soldiers fall back to make room for what looks like thousands of Darkin soldiers approaching. The Darkin soldiers form a straight line behind the two beautiful men with their right fists clasped against their chests over their hearts.
The closer they get, the more intense the sick, oily feeling in Arya’s stomach gets. She struggles to stand upright with a blank face as both men stand before them now. The one who looks like royalty rakes his eyes over Alara before turning his gaze on Arya.
“Queen Arya,” he inclines his head.
Arya makes no move to do the same. Instead she asks, “And you are?”
“Lord Balor,” he extends his hand to her.
Balor. As in theGod of death? Arya blanches. Her mind goes back to the Darkin she encountered the day she and Evander met, remembering the things he said about Lord Balor. She quickly unsheathes a stiletto, pressing it into his throat. The blow was supposed to kill him but for some reason she stops short. She tries again and he makes no move to protect himself. No matter how hard she tries though, she can’t do it.
Stepping back she looks down at her hands and whispers, “I don’t understand.” Alara’s shadows are holding her back. But why?
“My life is tied to my sons. If I die, so does he.” Lord Balor returns his gaze to Alara. There’s something like love present in his eyes when he looks at her, but Alara seems more frightened than smitten. She meets Arya’s gaze and there’s an apology present in her eyes.
“I can’t let you kill him,” Alara sniffles, tears forming in her eyes.
Shaking her head Arya says, “I won’t let him take you. I won’t let him hurt you.”
“Hurther?” Lord Balor frowns, “I would never hurt her, she knows that.”
“Then why are you here?” Arya asks confused.
“Your sister made a promise to me. She promised not to leave and she promised never to take my son from me. She broke those promises.” He circles Alara. “Do you remember what the punishment was for lying to me and betraying me my love?”
Alara’s eyes slowly slid to Arya’s. Suddenly it hit her. Sheis Alara’s punishment. Lord Balor plans to use her to punish Alara.
Lord Balor takes a step towards her and Arya blasts him with a jolt of light. He quickly recoils with a look of surprise on his face. “The Litri blood runs deep in you girl,” Lord Balor looks upon her with fascination. “Unfortunately, it won’t protect you from the torture I plan to put you through. You can thank your sister for that.”
“Touch me and I’ll kill you.” Arya warns.
Lord Balor moves to strike, but Audric stops him, his eyes studying Arya from head to toe. “She’s been blessed by the Goddesses of light,” Audric warns, “She reeks of their power.”
Balor carefully examines Arya himself and comes to the same conclusion. “I might have a way to solve this problem of yours,” Kahlem announces. He stands just out of reach and shoves Malich to his knees before Arya, the tip of his sword pressed between the base of Malich’s skull and his neck. “Surrender or we will kill him,” Kahlem demands.
Arya meets Malich’s gaze and he shakes his head. “Remember what I told you,” Malich speaks, “remember your promise to me. Let them kill me.”
“I can’t.” Arya shakes her head.
“You must!” He shouts at her.
Tears form in her eyes. Yanking Malich’s head back, Kahlem digs his sword deeper into the back of his brother’s neck, piercing the skin. Malich hisses. “Stop talking!” Kahlem warns him. He returns his attention back to Arya who looks all but ready to give up, her eyes on Malich.
“Anan bless Malich’s ability to elicit the full control of the women he beds,”Kahlem smiles. As long as he holds Malich’s life in his hands, he knows Arya won’t move against him. “Well done brother.”
Arya hesitates and Kahlem presses his sword further into Malich’s flesh. Malich hisses and blood runs down his throat, soaking the collar of his tunic. “Okay!” Arya shouts, tossing her weapons to the ground.
“Arya don’t!” Malich shouts, pleading with her with his eyes. “I’m not worth your life or the life of those in your Kingdom!”
She wars with herself about what to do. She could recall her weapons to her hands or opt to take them all out with a thought, but would that work on Lord Balor? Arya tries pressing into their minds but she can’t.
Kahlem wags a finger at her. “Naughty of you to attempt to infiltrate our minds Queen Arya. I anticipated you might attempt something like that and took measures to protect myself against it. It cost me handsomely too. But you see…I’ve spent many terms studying you and provoking you to see just how much you were capable of in order to devise countermeasures against you. It looks like my Intel has paid off.”
Arya is at a disadvantage. She can’t simply drop them where they stand and if she’s not quick enough, Malich will die.
“If you kill me, he has no leverage,” Malich begs her to take his life.
Kahlem laughs. “This is all very amusing, but I’m afraid none of it will help you.”
“Surrender to me.” Lord Balor holds his hand out for Arya to take. “I’m not interested in your kingdom or the kingdoms of your allies Queen Arya, I am only interested in you. Surrender yourself to me and you have my word that this war will end.”
Arya sinks deep into thought. There’s no way out of this, but if she can save her people then it’s still a victory in her book, right? “Do I have your word that no harm will come to my people or my Kingdom?” She asks. “I want a truce between the Courts, and for the Fall Court to go to King Rayne in my absence.”
“You’re in no position to barter,” Kahlem scoffs.
“You have my word.” Lord Balor assures her.
Taking a deep breath, Arya steps forward, kneeling before Malich. The two of them hold each other’s gaze as if a silent conversation is being held between them, and Malich shakes his head. Arya glances back at her Kingdom and what remains of her soldiers. She’s failed them. Their Queen has fallen and King Kahlem Jarrah wins again.ns 188.8.131.52da2