Tears would not stop falling.
As the Ancient Tongue was used to drag her out into the courtyard, they fell. As spells were used to bind her wrists and tie her ankles together, they fell. And as she was forced into the large carriage that awaited, still they fell.
Amara's heart ached for Malloron. She never expected to feel so disappointed to learn he was exactly the kind of man she had always thought he was, exactly the kind of man that she could never love. The ache pulsed so deep it consumed her—she could barely function or even notice what was happening. Her wild and raw emotions were echoed in the magic that swept around her, constantly surrounding her and blocking everything from view, and when she fell onto the seat of the carriage, she just laid there, her mind and heart conflicted.
The thought that the children’s souls or energy had been inside her this whole time made her nauseous. Not only had Malloron put them inside her body, they’d been used by almost every king, including Malloron, that had reigned in Eiros. It was a selfish and cruel crime, and Malloron of all people should have put a stop to it. His own desperate need to never be vulnerable had scratched out his morals, but it went so much deeper than she thought.
He didn't know anything about what it took to truly love another beyond the physical aspects of sex, and he almost made her believe that he was her true mate, but how could it be true?
He had purposefully kept the origins of the tenebris from her for so long, even though he knew she was concerned about them. Part of her scolded her reaction—she had always known what kind of man he was, and he never pretended that he was anything different. What could she really expect? But something changed over the last month. She had seen the man beneath the mask—the man who was insufferably arrogant but who was learning to trust, the man who was protective of her, the man who revered titles and status, who repeatedly awarded her with the highest title and status he could give her; queen and true mate. She had begun to see him as more than the monster she always hated. She started to see past that, beyond his reputation, and even his atrocious actions against her. And still, he’d been able to surprise her with something even worse. Something she couldn’t forgive, especially when he wouldn’t even entertain the idea of giving it up.
But she would have to give him up. And the idea of that cut her deeply. It was bad enough that she already missed him; and not just his purr and his scent and his body as he enclosed her in his arms, but his smile, his touch, the way he looked at her. Even his persistent arrogance and total dominance appealed to her in a way she’d never thought it ever would. She would never have that again now. It was impossible to choose him over the children. They were the vulnerable ones, just like Omegas were. They couldn’t be abandoned when she was the only one who knew the reason for the red dungeon and why they were there. She needed to get the tenebris back to them, somehow. And if she couldn't, if she failed at that, she would rather die and try to take the tenebris with her.
By the time her sobs quietened, night had fallen. The carriage raced down a wide road, but the windows gave only a limited view of the outside due to the shutters that maintained the privacy of the carriage.
Opposite her, the large, heavyset Duke Brecc sat watching her with cold black eyes, an enormous bandage wrapped around his fat neck that was already soaked with blood.
Amara eyed him, wondering if he would truly survive the night. Malloron’s spears had been thick and pulsing—it was quite incredible that Brecc survived. Clearly Malloron had been right to try to secure her by the soul-bond. If this man could control the tenebris, it didn't bear thinking about.
Malloron was the cruelest ruler in the Western Lands, but Brecc wasn't far behind. The power struggle between the four largest territories was well-known and Norryth, arguably the largest country after Eiros, had many alliances with the other countries. Most knew that Brecc was a cruel sadist, but he was never as visible as the royal family. Probably because he was fucking ugly.
“I'm glad to see that you have calmed down, my queen,” Brecc said, somewhat wetly. He spoke with difficulty, a slight gurgle in the back of his throat.
Amara sat up in her seat, struggling to do so with her bound limbs.
“I apologize for my hospitality,” Brecc said, gesturing to her binds, “but I'm sure you can understand that I am extremely wary of you.”
“Do you think that binding me will stop me from being able to use magic?”
“Yes,” Brecc said simply. “Those binds have been charmed using a method straight from Malloron's grandfather’s research.” A grin spread across his face. “He bound the Omega he had too.”
Amara's mouth tightened as her mood descended. “What is it you want with me?”
Brecc jerked forward. “If it were down to me, you would be fucking dead,” he spat. “You killed nearly all of my family when you destroyed my house. You deserve to die.”
Amara stared back at him evenly. She didn't even remember what her state of mind had been when that happened, but she did know it wasn’t unprovoked. “I didn't realize your family was in the house,” she admitted. “I apologize for what I did, but your men attacked me. They bound me, like you have bound me now, and when I try to protect myself, they shot magical weapons at me. I was simply protecting myself.”
“You destroyed my weapon!” he thundered. “I had been working on that for years, and you destroyed it within moments. Everything I had planned, everything I was owed, was tied to that weapon succeeding, and you are to blame for its destruction.”
Amara stared at Brecc, taking in his expression. She had no idea what weapon he was talking about, but he was clearly angry and not looking for an apology; he simply wanted revenge. And that was what made him dangerous. “What do you intend to do with me?”
Brecc leaned back in his seat, his eyes on her. “First, I will fuck you,” he said calmly. “I want to know what it’s like to fuck an Omega.”
Amara almost choked on the bile in her throat but stayed silent.
“Then you will die, but not before you help me take Eiros.”
“I will never do that,” Amara shot at him.
“You have already done the hardest part of it,” Brecc snapped. “Do you think I didn’t notice what happened back there?” His eyes gleamed in the darkness of the carriage. “King Malloron bit you. He attempted to soul-bond with you and you did not bite him back.” He leaned forward again. “How long do you think he will last? I’m thinking it will only be a week or so until he is completely brain-dead, and who do you think will take Eiros once that happens? His siblings could never rule now, not even his sniveling brother. There is no other that can claim his throne.”
Amara pushed down the wild panic that rose in her at the idea that Malloron would die. It was accompanied by the stinging guilt that she had not secured the bond. Of all his faults, he tried to protect her and in return she hadn’t protected him back.
“He clearly cares a lot about you—I have never known him to care about anyone. I hope he feels everything you feel when I fuck you raw,” Brecc sneered. “Then he will know I have taken everything from him there is to take.”
“You underestimate him. In a week he could protect his throne and find a way to protect himself from the one-way bond.”
Brecc laughed stiffly. “That may have been true at one point,” he said, raising an eyebrow. “But he no longer has the history and knowledge of his ancestors.”
“What are you talking about?”
“He destroyed the Visant temple in a fit of rage,” Brecc said. “And that probably was the only thing that could have helped his current circumstance.”
A blinding horror rose in Amara as she realized the run-down room Malloron had taken her to was the Visant temple. No one knew where it was located but it was known to be extremely sacred and highly valued by the Visant family. Tears threatened again that Malloron had even taken her to a place so precious and sacred to him.
“Things are about to change, Omega,” Brecc said, his smug expression somewhat eerie. “Thanks to you, the Visant rule is over.”