Chapter Twenty-One

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She heard humming.

No, it was chanting. Low and melodic.

It wasn't English, and though it sounded familiar, she couldn't decipher it.

She smelled burning. Candles and incense.

She felt achy, and wondered if her collision had broken anything vital to her existence. But the surface she laid on was softer than the floor, so at some point she was moved.

She attempted a deep breath in, which hurt, but not enough to cause concern.

She coughed and moaned. Bruised and battered, but alive.

Still, her head pounded, but was it due to a concussion or the incense?

"I'm sorry, Empress, but you gave me no other choice."

Reylor's voice brought her out of her haze and she slowly opened her eyes to a darkened room. She tried to rub away the grogginess, but her arm would not move when she attempted to bring it to meet her face.

Panicked, she looked up to her wrist and in an instant her fears were confirmed. Both wrists were shackled above her head and chained to the bed's headboard. She frantically tried to pull her hands down and out but was painfully unsuccessful- her efforts only created fresh cuts where the metal dug into her skin.

Craning her head down, her ankles suffered from the same fate. Each leg had its own manacle and was chained apart from the other to opposite posts at the foot of the best. She tried to free them, but again her efforts were in vain and she screamed out at her frustrations.

"Fighting will get you nowhere, Empress."

She almost forgot he was there- or at least she wanted to.

Alex followed the sound of his voice towards the end of the bed, where he stood leaning against one of the posts with his arms crossed against his chest. The look of pure satisfaction across his shadowed face made her stomach churn, but it was in his eyes, with their unnaturally deep red glow, that gave her the greatest unease.

"You bastard..." was all she could spit out amidst her fury.

He shrugged. "I've been called worse, I assure you, but no, not this time. I gave you the chance - the choice - and you chose, well... poorly."

He walked along the edge of the bed, his finger tracing the outline of her leg as he passed. Her eyes followed him through every step, but she was helpless as he leaned over her, his hands rested on the bed by either side of her head, his face right above hers.

"I would have given you everything, Alexstrayna, but you chose to run away from me. Maybe I gave you too many opportunities to make your own decisions, and that was my mistake to make. So now, it is my turn to make the decisions for you."

She growled at him and she tried to release her limbs from the chains again, but it was of no use.

He stood, laughing at her. "I could have – should have – just taken care of it the first night you were here, but the scrolls were harder to decipher than I expected. But then, the longer you were here, I realized that the hardest part was already done for me, therefore I was able to manipulate the scrolls better to serve my true purpose."

He turned around to face her with a sick gleam in his eyes. "Initially I thought I would have had to start the entire process from scratch, but like a good Prince, Treyan has already done it for me."

She glared up at him upon hearing Treyan's name. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"Don't be so naive, Alexstrayna. Do you honestly think he fucked you out of sheer desire or pure romance? Never! It was sheer duty. His predestined duty."

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