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Chapter 2

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A contingent of guards escorted Midna from the premises. When the throne room was empty of everyone save Richard, my father turned on me.

"You are not to leave this house under any circumstances," he said.

"But I won't be able to fight if I'm stuck here," I pointed out, confused. I'd had the same training as Arthur. I was one of our best warriors, not to mention an advisor to the throne, a position I'd secured thanks to my magic. How was I supposed to do my job effectively if I couldn't get involved in the war effort?

"Exactly," Father said. "You're the last in line to the throne, Chance; the last surviving child of your mother, and all I have left of her in this world. You're staying put. That's an order."

I beseeched him to rethink the matter — a mistake. He took my plea as a challenge and stalked forward, the vein in his forehead bulging. Dominance flooded the room in a rush that threatened to unbalance me. The unseen extension of Father's will was like the tide, insistent and cold, permeating the air with the ghostly taste of salt. I tried to shove back with my dominance, but the force of my mind was but a candle flame, paltry in comparison to his. With each pull of his ocean, it flickered weaker, until it threatened to sputter out all together...

My resolve buckled. I bowed my head, breathing hard. "As you wish, sir."

"Good." The aggression drained from his stance, leaving behind an exhaustion that was uncharacteristic of the City Alpha. Knowing that he'd outlived his only son made him look older, somehow. "Now, I need to summon the City Pack to discuss my options. Take Richard to the infirmary on your way back to your room."

I knew he was excluding me from the meeting because I'd argued with him. As an extension of the City Pack and an advisor to the throne, I had every right to be amongst them, deliberating on the future of our people. I opened my mouth to say just as much when a chill ran down my spine, a frigid reminder of the futility of my frustration. He'd already defeated me in a mental battle; did I really want this to come to blows?

"Come on," I huffed at Richard, hauling him to his feet by the collar of his shirt.

Richard swayed like a drunkard as we made our way to the infirmary on the third floor. The mansion felt reminiscent of a hotel at this time of night; without the bustle of daily life, the rows of doors, crystal chandeliers, mahogany fixings and lush, maroon carpets seemed decidedly corporate — especially in comparison with the modest homes I'd seen depicted in shows and movies. Only the occasional glimpse of a modern appliance testified that the building even existed in the twenty-first century.

"Wait up," Richard wheezed.

Glancing back, I realised he was leaving a very obvious trail of blood behind us. "The cleaners won't be happy about that," I remarked.

Richard's shoulders went rigid. "My heartfelt apologies, Lady Nightshade. The next time I'm attacked by vampires, I'll ask them to lend me some paper towel."

I snorted. "That simply isn't true."

"Get off my case," he complained, limping past me.

I stopped short, realising that I hadn't even started to get on his case. I'd been trying so hard not to think about my brother's death that I'd almost squandered a vital opportunity to interrogate a key witness to it.

"How did you survive?" I asked abruptly, grabbing Richard's arm.

He turned around with a look that could kill pigeons mid flight.

My answering one could kill pterodactyls.

"I ran," he said eventually, looking away. "The Irephang boy... he fights like something else. I wouldn't have survived if I took him on."

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