Chapter Fifteen

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The last few weeks that I spent with my mother were full of harsh words and broken hearts. I can describe it as perhaps the most miserable time of my entire life, and that is saying something. My mother was no longer the strong woman she once had been. When Lilanth fell, she changed along with the rest of the world. She could not stand to face her enemies or herself. Where a queen once stood, only a shell existed, a vessel to move her from place to place in the world, lacking ambition or desire. She was simply there.

She loved me, there was never a doubt about that, but she knew better than anyone what I was being groomed for, what I ultimately had to do. Perhaps I was not always the easiest to get along with. I will adhere to that, but I would not, could not, change the course of my actions to please her—not when it meant abandoning everything I knew, everything I believed.

At first she forbade me to leave for the Sieltacor. I was only a week from my thirteenth birthday and she was taking the stance that she could physically keep me from going. Now, my mother was the only one who thought that was possible, but what was I going to do, hit her over the head with a mallet?

Liras had trained me to the upmost of his abilities. The past few months had proved to hone my skills, though I learned little else as far as new material. Now, Liras was not one to openly justify revenge. In fact, he wished me to alter the course of how I would go about winning the empire back. He knew I would kill my father one way or another. There was no question in his mind that it was going to happen. His hope, however trivial or absurd, was that he could convince me otherwise. One evening, after a long day of sparing, we entered a similar argument. He was trying to explain to me the atrocity that was kinslaying.

“Do you not see that kinslayers are damned by the gods and men alike?” he said through crossed arms and narrowed eyes.

I pointed off to the north. “That bastard is no kin of mine, Liras, and if the gods do not understand that then they are not gods and I need not worry about being damned.”

“And now you mock the gods. Have you learned nothing from what I have taught you over the years?” He was pacing, his hands balled into fists and his temper flaring.

“I mock no one, Liras. I am simply willing to do what others are not to get my kingdom back, to restore my people to their rightful home.” I did not wish to fight with my cousin. I owed him my life, but I would not stand idly by and watch a murderer and tyrant sit the throne, not then or ever.

He shook his head back and forth. “You will doom us all, Kareth. I will not let you forsake the Moon Throne so that you can exact your revenge. This fantasy must stop!”

“I cannot assume the Moon Throne while the Vintish King still lives, regardless of what blood flows through his veins. In no continent, realm, or world would that abide.” I was beginning to get annoyed at having to explain myself, especially to my cousin—the same cousin that looked upon my sister’s broken body before fleeing the City of the Moon the night it was burned to the ground.

Liras moved directly in front of me, his face only inches from mine. “Will you burn your mother’s body yourself, or will you leave that task to me as well?”

I snapped. My blood was set afire and my mind raged. I put an open fist into his side and followed with a kick to his knee that he spun away from. I threw a series of punches and watched him duck and dodge them, but I pushed forward. With all my strength I lunged at him and we hit the dirt in a ball of fists and feet and teeth and blood.

He gained the upper hand in the dirt and rolled on top of me, laying punch after punch to my head, torso, side. I bucked up with my legs and threw him off. We both gained our footing and started again, this time Liras grabbed me by my jerkin and threw his hip into me, tossing me over his shoulder and slamming me into the ground.

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