Assassin: Fall of the Golden Valefar
Page 19

 H.M. Ward

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Eric’s body was responding to the darkness within him, wanting her, wanting to feel her fear him. When Natalia splayed her fingers across his chest, he pressed her back into the wall, forcing her legs apart. He waited for her to beg him to stop, but she didn’t. Her body slid against him, as if she wanted his hands on her, in her. Eric couldn’t clear his head. The lust was too thick, too hot. She didn’t beg him to leave her alone. She craved him, wanting more. He had to stop this. He knew he would hurt her, but he couldn’t control himself. There was no love left within him. He took what he wanted and destroyed what he took.
With every ounce of strength he had, Eric pulled away from her, gasping for air like he couldn’t breathe. Natalia watched him from hooded eyes, swollen lips parted as if she were going to speak. Her hand was draped over Eric’s shoulder, nails biting into his neck.
Eric was still aroused, pushed past the point of sanity. His golden eyes were wide, “You could fight me off, push me away. Why didn’t you?”
Her voice was seduction, slowly stroking every inch of his body as she spoke, “I told you, already. We’re more alike, you and I.” Her pink lips were parted, her chest rising as she breathed.
Eric didn’t believe her. It didn’t matter that her appearance at Carina’s should have affirmed that statement—he rejected it. There was no way she was like him. Eric craved pain, blood, and sex. He wanted all three from her, but knew he could never be with her like that. It was something he craved, something he wanted badly, so badly that he was no longer thinking. Taking her at her word, Eric extracted a piece of brimstone from his pocket.
Natalia watched Eric’s fingers unfold and reveal a black rock in the center of his hand. The edges were worn to points like spearhead. He touched it slowly to Natalia’s arm, pressing the razor-sharp stone against her smooth tanned skin. It was what she wanted him to do at Carina’s, but he wouldn’t. Natalia watched him as he pierced her with the stone, cutting her. Her body tensed as she felt him do it. It was what she wanted, but it wasn’t part of the plan. This was a distraction, but she needed it. He didn’t realize what he was doing to her, how this made her more of a monster than she already was, but it was too delicious to refuse.
Natalia savored every second of stinging pain and heat. Lips parted, Eric was breathing hard, watching her. Moving slowly he dragged the stone down her soft flesh, forming a long red steak as it cut into her.
The girl finally screamed.
She screamed as the stone tore open her skin. She screamed as Eric ran his tongue along her flesh, kissing the trail of blood on her arm. It was almost perfect, but it wasn’t the kind of scream that Eric expected. It wasn’t the terror-stricken scream of a woman in pain. It was something else, something that made Eric’s blood run cold.
Eric had never lost his head like that before. It almost felt as if the darkness were being drained out of him, but when he broke away from Natalia, it surged back into place. Every scrap of pain was replaced, exactly the way it was. It was like all the darkness within him momentarily vanished. It wasn’t just that the agony was appeased, or that it lay dormant, waiting to rear up again. It was gone. In those few short seconds Eric could breathe. His soul no longer ached. Anger no longer coursed through his veins like a deadly poison. But he didn’t understand. Usually when he was with someone like that—they were afraid—and that fear fed his lust, but that wasn’t what happened with Natalia. The truth was, he didn’t know what happened.
Eric fled from her after that, leaving her alone in her nightmare of a bedroom. That bedroom. Those paintings. He never felt so exposed in his life. It was like the girl saw straight through him, like a cheap piece of velum. There was no way to hide anything from her, and yet, she didn’t seem to understand what she saw. He was grateful for that. If she understood what he was doing, she might try to stop him.
But no one would stop him tonight.
The moonlight cut through the splintered trees making jagged shadows on the ground. Eric effonated to the exact point where he knew the man would be. There was no mistaking this residence. Even in the darkness it stood like a gem in the center of a minefield. While the rest of the world went to hell and half the people starved, this Martis lived in opulence, squandering his wealth instead of protecting and providing for the people who starved at his gates.
Until that day, he didn’t think the man could have become so cruel, but hearing the woman’s words—the poor beggar with the lifeless child in her arms—it changed his mind. It was beyond him how this could happen, how he could get this way. The man was blind, and he’d destroy him, as he did Julia.
As Eric paced the immaculately decorated blue bedroom his eyes tried not to linger on the flashes of wealth—the gold gilded headboard, the crystal chandelier, the fur rugs, or the silks that draped from floor to ceiling. All those things disgusted him, feeding his rage, and at every turn of his head there was something else.
Eric finally stopped pacing and took a spot, leaning on the wall across from the door. He folded his arms over his chest and crossed his legs. His stance was calm, like he was waiting for a bus, not waiting to assassinate the eldest Tribunal member. There was no repentance for the Martis. They failed to see what they’d done, or correct it, in all these years since Ivy granted them a stay of execution.
Eric didn’t move when voices drifted down the hallway and into the dark room. He could hear Thomas’ voice. It sounded exactly the same as it did the last time he heard it in the courtroom. Thomas couldn’t believe that Eric would protect Ivy, that he didn’t slay her on sight. The Martis were so fucked up. They completely lost sight of their purpose and Eric intended to remind them. One by one, if needed.
The metal in the doorknob scraped against the latch as it turned. Eric’s perfect ears heard every footfall, every voice. He knew there were five people with Thomas. As the door swung open, the hallway light bathed his target. The men surrounding him were fools. He felt no remorse for them when he opened his palm and blew brimstone dust in their direction. The dust swirled across the air, curling and bending in the rays of light. The men froze, watching it, not yet seeing Eric waiting in the shadows. No one realized what it was. Each of Eric’s assassinations was done differently, but he knew one person would see the commonality. One person would condemn him for his crimes.
The dust swirled through the air like a snake poised to attack. It swept past Thomas before it collapsed in a spray of powder, covering every single person who stood behind him. As they held out their hands to examine the tiny black grains, Eric spoke from the darkness, “It’s not soot—it’s judgment for everything you’ve ignored since your reprieve.”
Their heads snapped in the direction of the light as the remnants of the dust fell on their flesh. That was when the searing pain began. With a wave of his hand, and a few silent words, Eric used his power to grab Thomas before he could flee, and shoved his dying guards into the hallway. As the door slammed shut, Eric could see their faces contorted in agony as the black brimstone dust spidered across their skin. Their pain was palpable. He wished he could sit on a chair and revel in it, be at peace for a few moments before they died—but he couldn’t. Eric was there for a reason, and they weren’t it.
Thomas’ voice was husky, like he smoked cigars for five lifetimes. He glared at Eric with eyes like steel, “So, Julia’s blood was not enough? I thought as much.” He laughed to himself as he walked, half bent over, stopping in front of an ornate chair that was covered in supple blue velvet. He lowered his feeble body, ignoring Eric, “After I learned that you lived, I thought it was only a matter of time. One can’t condemn a man to death and expect him to be anything other than a savage if he breaks free.” He glanced at Eric, looking him straight in the eye. The expression on his face made Eric’s stomach twist. “Can he?” Eric didn’t answer. He stood with his hands in his pockets, staring at the old fool.
“Ah, you had so much promise,” Thomas continued. “You were such a fine young warrior, but you let that girl turn your head. You gave up everything for her, and look where it got us. Death, destruction, and you—you’re more of an abomination than she is. At least Her Highness remains with the evil creatures of her realm. But you—you walk in the light like it was made for you.”
The words pelted into Eric. This was someone who had been like a father to him. Thomas was Althea’s counterpart at one time. When Al had first taken Eric in, and saved him from the Valefar, she cared for him. So did Thomas. But as time passed, Thomas thought Al’s logic was becoming too far removed from the way of the Martis, and he left. The sad part was that Al was straight and true, never bending, always walking in the light. As Thomas spoke, it reminded Eric of Al, and it felt like someone was strangling him. She’d been a mother to him before dying at his hand. It didn’t matter that he didn’t realize what he was doing. Eric didn’t blame Kreturus, the Demon King, for forcing his hand. He took the blame for that death, and many others. Every snuffed life lay heavily on his shoulders, like an inky darkness that no amount of water could wash away.
As Thomas said his last sentence, Eric lifted his palm. The old man’s eyes grew wide as he watched a stream of light form in the air. It was one of the only Martis abilities that remained in his grasp. The light was barely a shape, but it moved toward the old man. To his credit, he didn’t try to run or plead. Thomas knew his fate the moment he saw Eric, and he held his head high like he was a fucking martyr.
Eric spoke as he manipulated the beam, “Light was not made for me, Thomas. I consume it, I devour it. There is hardly any left within me, which is why I can tell that there is no light within you.” Eric pushed off the wall, and walked toward Thomas with his head tilted to the side. “Light calls to light. Darkness calls to darkness. That’s what you are. That’s what you’ve done. Do you not see it? Can you seriously tell me that condemning me to death was right? Or even that you should have such wealth while the beggars die at your gate?” Eric watched the man, but he didn’t blink. Defiance washed over his face in every wrinkle, every inch of his weathered skin.
A soft laugh bubbled up from Eric. He shook his head, and folded his arms, “You didn’t know that there were literally dead people at the gate of your house—that there are children, and mothers, men too weak to work, and all with their fingers wrapped around the bars that lead to your front door?” Eric sat down across from the old man. “For old time’s sake, Thomas, tell me...” Eric folded his fingers in his lap, and leaned forward, his golden hair falling in his eyes, “what is it that Martis are supposed to do?”
Thomas sneered, “Don’t you dare think that you can judge me. I have lived a just life. I have given plenty. I...” but Eric was through. This man was not the Thomas he knew so long ago. He was not the Thomas that Al was fond of. That man was long dead, and his body would soon follow.