“Ashes of Dearen: Book 2” is now available on most online retailers.
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Ashes of Dearen: Book 2, Chapter 2
Sean retired to his chamber for the rest of the day, claiming he had work to do.
In truth, his leg hurt so much that he could barely walk on it, and his stomach refused to hold down any food. His hands trembled and his arm spasmed, frequently and without warning.
He didn’t know where Queen Fayr was—no doubt she truly did have work to do—but for once he was grateful she did not linger nearby to comfort him. He did not want her to see him like this, and he did not want her to hear the details of his match with Sygmund, either.
Confined to his room and groaning over a bucket, Sean had all too much time to reflect on what had happened during the match. The moment he’d sprung up from the ground, pushing away Sygmund’s sword and then grabbing his arm, he’d had his old strength back—or, more accurately, the strength of Belazar. In that moment, he’d subconsciously decided to kill Sygmund, and acted accordingly. The resolve—the lack of hesitation, the freedom to hurt Sygmund however he could—had made him feel like his old self again. Then, when he had let Sygmund live, a hole seemed to open inside him. The hole drained up all the strength he’d temporarily enjoyed and then didn’t stop draining.
He understood now that the hole would not be filled until he killed again.
The Wolvens made a living from assassinating people. But they killed for a deeper reason than money alone, he realized now. They were the children of Belazar, indeed. Their own vitality seemed to feed from the life they took from others. His father had once told him of Wolvens who even drank the blood of their victims to increase the strength of this exchange. This was the gift and the curse of the god of wrath. Murder fed them strength.
A life without bloodshed made him wither inside. And he had gone a year without killing anyone.
He did not have the strength to turn and face Gregor right now. The slave had gone through a lot of trouble to tend to his master today, and Sean appreciated that. He also wanted to be alone. He remained crouched over his bucket, turned away from the slave, while his stomach did somersaults.
“I don’t need anything right now, Gregor. Go away.”
“Chief. I thought you might want these back.”
Something in Gregor’s voice made Sean’s blood freeze. He turned and realized that what he heard in Gregor’s voice was satisfaction. The slave’s teeth were gritted with resolve. His nostrils flared with excitement. And in his upturned palm, he held two tiny brown lenses—discs so small that Sean would not have seen them if he had not already feared their presence.
The two stared at each other in silence. Sean considered his predicament. He could kill Gregor now. But then who would fix him tea in the morning?
“What do you think you’re doing with those, Gregor?” said Sean at long last.
Trembling, Gregor curled his hand around his prize, then lowered his fist to his side. “They were in the bowl you used this morning. I didn’t go into your bag or anything!” He said this last bit hastily, perhaps remembering how much he valued his fingers. “I found them … by chance. But I’ve always known you were hiding something, Chief. Well, I’ve guessed it for awhile. And now—”
Sean stood up and took a step towards him. Gregor flinched and drew back.
“What do you think you have found, Gregor?” Sean’s lip pulled away from his teeth.
“I guess … I guess …” Gregor gulped. Sean kept walking towards him, so Gregor kept moving backward. “I guess it could only mean one thing. You’re hiding the color of your eyes. And there’s only one reason you would do that.”
Gregor’s back met the wall. Sean moved in on him, stopping only when their noses were a hair’s strand apart.
“Have you told anyone?” asked the Wolven.
“Of course not. I wouldn’t—”
Sean grabbed his wrist and pressed the bones that made his fingers fly open. The lenses fell to the floor, where Sean smashed them into powder with his boot.
“You’re still my master, King Darius, and I just want to—”
Sean reached up and grabbed his throat. “My name isn’t Darius.”