Chapter 1

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 © 2013, Gem Higa

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author.

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Chapter 1

Thea felt the man’s Fear. It was the body’s most experienced emotion other than happiness. Within these four walls even the bravest of souls turned to fear, the darkness of it filling them with an almost rotting sort of stench. Thea dropped her mental shields a quarter way and allowed his emotions to pass her walls, taking them in small doses as to not confuse them with her own. His fear tasted like metal rubbing on her tongue, its sharpness leaving an odd lingering aftertaste. She knew it better than most, having dealt with it her entire life. Her body felt the man’s guilt, the tremble of his limbs.

Not everyone who committed a crime was sent to her, but a special few had the privilege. Most never lived long after. 

There was not anything seemingly frightening about Thea. No one had ever cowered when meeting her for the first time, some even laughed, thinking no harm could ever befall them with such a small woman in their presence. But for Thea, size was not everything. She could stop a man dead in their tracks without even lifting a finger.

“I have done nothing wrong, how dare you!” The man said, struggling in his seat. “Cut me out of these binds immediately. Do you know who I am?” The ropes cut into his skin. “I am the keeper of the coin!”

The anger in his tone did nothing to conceal the fear. Thea took a deep breath and fortified her lowered shields, only allowing a trickle of his emotions to pass. She stayed cloaked in the shadows arms, not allowing him to see her face. “You have committed treason against the-”

“I have not! That is a lie.” He said, cutting her off. The cloth of his blue tunic ruffled as he tipped himself forward on the wooden seat and looked to where she stood. “Look here girl, I don’t know who you are, but if you would like your life spared, untie me.” The words were low and said through gritted teeth. He tried to look menacing, hoping his nobility and power would instill some fear in her. 

His tactics didn’t work. Thea feared only one thing, and that thing was sitting in the throne room with a crown atop its head. She dropped her shields a little further. There was a part of her that hoped he was speaking true, allowing her a small reprieve from passing sentence on yet another soul. She created a bridge, linking them. She began navigating through the treacherous mazes of the man’s emotions, trying to look for the one part that would either prove innocence or confirm his crimes. She didn’t particularly like the man sitting before her, his methods of retrieving the king’s tax from the people were simply barbaric. He had neither remorse nor mercy when it came to collection, using whatever methods were available to him.

His wealth was evident on the cloth he chose to wear. Most of his clothing were made entirely of silk, with the seal of his title embroidered wherever anyone could easily spot it. The keeper was a powerful member of society, and he made sure everyone knew it. Thea was sure the kingdom would not mourn his death. 

“Answer me when I’m speaking to you!” He said, irritated by her silence. She didn’t acknowledge him. “I’m talking to you. I order you to fetch a guard this instant! I handle all of his majesty’s finances and he wouldn’t be all too kind to you if he found out that I had been prohibited from doing my duty.”

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