Before I could move, Noah grabbed the blade of the knife in what I assumed was a panicked attempt to stop her. He hissed as it cut into his hand and black blood ran down his arm, but he didn’t let it go.
“Fool!” Emisair fumed, furiously trying to twist the knife out of his grasp. I finally came to my senses and swiped her with my foot, throwing her across the room, and the knife falling out of her hand.
Noah ran and grabbed the knife, where it was swiftly dropped into his pocket. He gave Jhaq a once-over to confirm she was alright before we both turned back to Emisair.
She was staggering towards us. “She’s not safe!” she hissed. “Either we kill her, or she’ll kill us.”
“There has to be another way!” I insisted. “It’s possible! It just happened for fucks sake!”
“You stupid bitch…lightning never strikes twice in the same place. You’re delaying what is inevitable!” Emisair’s eyes were filled with rage.
“We’re not killing her!” Noah snarled. “Not when we can still save her! That’s all there is to it.” He was more furious than I had ever seen him, and he completely ignored the blood gushing out of his hand from Emisair’s knife. I was about to offer a cloth to wrap it with when Emisair suddenly leapt at him and my focus changed.
I managed to push him away in time, but as a result, it was I who was being pushed against the back of the room by a frenzied Emisair, right next to where Jhaq lay. Her nails were clawing into me, as if she were trying to rip out my heart- maybe she was- and as she did, her eyes seemed to glow completely red and her teeth spread into a sinister smile. “Come on out, Shadow,” she said maniacally. “I know you’re there! Come out and plaaaaa-”
With that, I socked her in the face and kicked her away. “Stop it!” Noah yelled at the both of us.
I ignored him. I had no care in the world anymore. “What are you trying to do?” I asked Emisair, walking towards her. “If you want to kill me…” Everything around me sharpened, intensified, amplified. I could see and feel her heartbeat from where I stood, and it would be nothing to rip it out…”Go ahead,” I finished with a grin.
So she did.
Or rather…she tried to.
I dropped to the ground when she flew at me again. She came to a halt standing above where I lay. Still reeling from her charge, she couldn’t block my foot smashing into her chest, sending her flying into the ceiling. It was almost too perfect that a chandelier was dangling right where Emisair was about to fly into.
Killing was far easier sans a human body.
There was a loud crashing sound as the thing shattered and fell to the ground around me, a shower of glass and crystal. I watched Emisair drop before my feet, shaking with rage and pain. Blood ran down her back, mixing with the glass on the ground. She hissed at me and I could see her body becoming longer, her claws scraping against the ground. A feverish grin spread across her face, and Noah started yelling at both of us to stop. But that wasn’t going to happen.
I raised my claw, ready to strike.
It wasn’t Noah who stopped us. Or even Daniel. It was Christan who yelled out “STOP!” from the doorway, perhaps saving the life of Emisair in the process.
Both of us froze and looked at him. He looked terrified, not at all like a natural king, though the crowds behind him wouldn’t be able to see that. “Step away from eachother,” he commanded shakily.
I immediately obeyed, partially out of sympathy for Christan, but also because I was slowly coming out of my psychotic/demon mode and I wanted things to stop. I fell back into my body, the cold of the room reaching me even with Emisair’s cloak. Emisair merely glared at him. “Your human’s slut has physically assaulted me,” she informed him, her body changing back as she spoke. “I shall not stand for it! Either discipline her or I shall gather my men and leave. Now.”
I slowly got up. My senses were still distorted by my rampage. Christan was looking at me, trying to seem stern. “Cat…”
“She was going to murder Jhaq!” I croaked. “That was the only reason why I-”
“It’s true,” Noah confirmed. “It was Emisair who attacked first. Not Cat.”
Emisair flared up. “I was going to kill the demon inside her,” she said. “These two would put their fellow people in danger due to sentiment. I wasn’t about to let her slaughter us all when we knew that she was a danger.” She turned to Jhaq, lying asleep on her bed. “The woman that she was is no more. She would mercilessly murder everyone from her king to her little daughter. And these two would risk that.”
“No…” I took a deep breath. “I had the same monster inside me,” I confessed the boy-king, and the people behind him inhaled. “But I managed to force them out before I could be taken over completely. I believe that Jhaq is capable of doing the same, if she’s given the chance.”
“I agree,” Noah spoke up. “I don’t see the need to take a life in order to destroy what is only a potential threat. We have the time to stop it, it is still-”
“What time is this?” Emisair retorted. “The longer we wait, the stronger that thing is. We’re putting everyone at risk here by waiting for what is inevitable.” She looked directly at Christan. “I will not stand by and wait to die. Either stop this threat…or I’ll leave, with my men behind me.”
Oh please, please do.
Unfortunately, Christan was reluctant to let that happen. “You can’t,” he said weakly. “You know that-”
“I do know. Your forces are far weaker than theirs. Our alliance is the only thing that keeps your people safe. But if you will put them in danger, I see no point in my presence here,” Emisair spoke coldly. “Take a side. Now.”
I knew what Christan would pick, but I tried to speak out. “Listen-”
“What is this?” A voice called out.
The crowds moved around to make way for Daniel who strode into the room. He immediately went to my side and put his hand on my arm. I immediately felt warmer, calmer. “What has happened?” he questioned Noah.
Noah spoke immediately. “The Lady Emisair tried to end Jhaq’s life. Cat managed to stop her, and now Emisair is claiming that she is in the right.”
“I am in the right,” Emisair spoke with utter conviction. “That thing inside her is a slaughtering machine. It nearly took your paramour, and now it is succeeding in taking your servant.”
“And now she’s blackmailing his Grace into submitting to her will,” I spat. “If Jhaq doesn’t die, she’ll leave.”
Daniel’s face didn’t show anything. “Daniel,” Christan spoke. “What do you see?”
He remained silent. I myself had no idea what Christan meant. Noah took Daniel’s silence as an opportunity to speak. “Cat Madigan was able to escape unharmed. I have no doubt that she can assist me in helping Jhaq recover. Just give us that chance, your Grace.”
Before Christan could speak, there was a voice. “Master…Nnnn…”
Jhaq was slowly rising from her bed. “Don’t let her move,” Christan ordered, and several guards dashed in and raised their blades to her.
Slowly, Jhaq backed down, and opened her eyes. Still black. “What is this?” she asked, and her voice made my stomach flip.
“Drop your act,” Emisair ordered. “There’s no doubt of this now.”
“No doubt of what?” Daniel retorted. “Will you explain yourself?”
“Your servant is being taken by the same entity that nearly took Cat Madigan. And now that she speaks, there’s no doubt of it.”
Daniel looked at me in confusion. I bowed my head. “Her voice…it’s Axyl’s,” I admitted. “Not Jhaq’s.”
Emisair turned to Christan. “I believe we have more than enough to confirm this?” she enquired. There was a murmur of appreciation from the crowds, and Christan looked away from us. I knew he had made his decision.
I flinched at the voice of the monster calling my name. I slowly looked at her, but I couldn’t keep my eyes on her terrified face for more than a second. Daniel watched me in silence.
“Now.” Emisair spoke as if the matter had been settled. “Onto the matter of the assault. I want the girl locked up, considering how she cannot be executed. I believe this is fair-”
“What on earth are you talking about?” Daniel spat.
“I kicked her into the chandelier,” I informed him.
Daniel raised an eyebrow, but Noah spoke before he could reply. “An attack which was initiated by Emisair’s own assault.” He raised his hand to show everyone the ugly knife wound that Emisair had given him.
Suddenly, the atmosphere changed. The crowds started murmuring again, but this time, they were discussing Emisair’s own behaviour. It occurred to me from what they said that while Emisair could outrank both Daniel and myself, she was still an outsider, a visitor in this world. And by wounding one of their own…
“He was stopping me.” Emisair replied, unfazed. “That cut was his own fault, not mine.”
That was her big mistake. The people bristled at her for dismissing what she had done, for making herself out to be higher than the likes of themselves. Emisair seemed to realise what she had done, but she couldn’t recant now.
“Put her under house arrest,” Noah interjected. When Christan looked at him, he went on. “Both of them.”
“What?” Emisair spat.
“Noah…” I was about to argue.
“I will not pretend that Cat Madigan is innocent,” Noah said, meeting my eye. I remembered the moment when I lost control, when I was ready to kill the red eyed woman. “But it was Emisair’s actions which triggered her behaviour. If they’re both placed under house arrest, they will not be within proximity of eachother. No more incidents of this kind shall occur.” Noah shifted his gaze to Emisair. “If that does not stop them, then the next course will be, of course, imprisonment in the cells.”
Emisair fumed. “I am not to be treated like her. I do not need to be punished.”
“By that logic, neither should Cat,” Noah replied. “Your actions are equivalent to hers. And one can go on to say that while Cat’s behaviour is expected of her, because of her humanity, you on the other hand should be able to control your actions.”
She bristled. Noah, as the victim in this, had the most influence over her fate, and she knew it. He may not be letting me off the hook for my behaviour- I was about to kill her for fucks sake- but Emisair would’ve murdered Jhaq in cold blood, and he wasn’t going to stop till she was punished for that.
“I believe this is fair,” Christan finally said. “Cat Madigan will be confined to her chamber for a moon, as will Emisair. Remove them now.”
“Wait,” Emisair said suddenly. “For Cat Madigan, this is not a long period of time. More often than not, she’s unconscious in her room. She could sleep for a moon, and wake up when she’s ready to be released.”
Even I had to admit she had a point. If our roles were reversed, I’d find it pretty unfair too. Of course, I wouldn’t be such a bitch and start a fight with her.
Well, maybe. I dunno.
“Then I’ll watch her,” Noah proposed. “I’ll account for when she’s awake and when she’s not. She can be released after thirty days and thirty nights of activity.”
“And separate her everyone?” Emisair interjected, a sudden gleam in her eye. “Including Daniel?”
Daniel put his hand on mine, covering the light that was about to be thrown in her fucking face. “Her chambers are my chambers,” he reminded her. “We can house Noah if he wishes. Either way, her punishment is identical to yours, my lady.”
She scowled. “Fine. But she is still confined.”
“As you are,” Daniel agreed.
She turned on her heel and stormed out, only to be grabbed by a guard. “I know my way,” she snapped.
Another guard approached me, and gestured for me to walk with him. I was surprised that he didn’t grab me. Perhaps he was afraid.
I followed him, but Daniel stayed behind. As the door closed, he raised a hand to me, as if to wave.
That’s when I remembered Jhaq.
“What’s going to happen?” I asked the guard urgently. “Will she be alright?”
“What do you think?” There was no unkindness in his face, he even appeared sorry, if only a little bit.
I shook my head. I knew what I thought. I loved Jhaq…but I was even more afraid of Axyl. And if she attacked me, I knew what my first instinct would be. Still, Jhaq hadn’t hurt anyone. The only signs of Axyl she had shown us were her voice and her black eyes…
“Why can’t Daniel see her eyes?” I questioned.
Unexpectedly, the guard answered my question. “I wouldn’t know,” he said. “Perhaps it’s part of his humanity. That would explain it.”
“But I’m human too,” I reminded him.
“Are you?” he replied. “We all saw you.”
I grimaced. “I have no excuse for that,” I admitted. “But even if I’m not human, I’m still treated like one.”
“We cannot change the manner of our birth,” he pointed out. “We have no control of how our lives turn out.”
I thought of Kaya, one moment a promising politician, the next a deadly weapon. I remembered Nereida’s brutal death at the hands of the same one who killed Kaya, her old friend. Daniel himself had been thrown into this world the minute he left mine. And who would’ve thought I would’ve become this? A depressed paranoid schizophrenic with a growing detachment from Reality, no longer able to feel pain or death. “Believe me, I know.”