Nearly all traces of sunlight were blocked from entering the room. The heavy red curtains had been pulled over the giant window in spite of the fact that it was almost midday. A few candles had been lit but they did little to illuminate the room.
However, though much attempt had been made to keep the room in darkness, light managed to slither its way through the gaps in the curtains and seemed to inundate the room. The harassing glare brought to view the sight of five shields and swords strewn haphazardly about the large rug that covered the floor. The freestanding candles lay on their sides all around.
But worst of all, the sun brought to light the stain. It was a large stain, red so that it matched the rug. It was not obvious, only slightly darker than the fibers around it. Much had been done to remove it and had someone walked in, they would surely not have noticed it. Only someone who knew it was there would be able to find it. Only they would be able to discover the spot where the preceding king of Belasi had died.
And it was at this spot on the floor that the young man on the throne sat staring. He knew where to find the spot, for he had been the one to slay the king. He was the one who had murdered his own father.
Fixated on the stain he reminded himself, as he so often did, that he had done so to avenge his mother whom his father had killed. He had made her killer pay for his crimes. So had the young man not done what was necessary? And his disposal of Klarette, wasn’t that necessary as well? For without her, his father would never have had a reason to kill his mother.
He had done what he was supposed to. As her son it was his duty to kill the people responsible for his mother’s murder. Klarette and his father were dead.
But they weren’t the only ones who had betrayed him. The people of Belasi had pay too. They had betrayed him by siding with Klarette and turning their backs on the prince.
Vengeance was justified.
Vengeance was right.
But no matter how many times Exendrik repeated those words in his head they failed to ease the torment of his mind. He could not remember the last time he had slept the whole night through. Not since the Anzoniran queen had brought him out of his induced sleep. Now his nights were filled with nightmares when he actually managed to visit the realm of the unconscious. They varied from reliving his mother’s murder to the dead Klarette and king rising to torture him.
Though as frightening as his dreams were, at least he was able to wake up from them. More terrifying by far than the nightmares, were the visions. For it was from those that he was unable to escape and as he sat there, staring at the stain on the rug where his father had bled to death, it grew darker and darker. It bubbled out of and over the fibers of the rug. The thick, red liquid slid slowly across the floor, creating a large pool of blood.
Exendrik gasped as it widened and lengthened, creeping closer and closer to the throne. It wrapped around the swords, shields, and candles with red tendrils and began pushing them around and around his chair. It reached the corners of the room quickly but continued to move slowly inward, circling toward him. Exendrik flattened his back against the throne as he looked around him in a panic. A churning whirlpool surrounded him, with him at its center.
And as he watched, it finally reached the first step and lapped over the edge. In contrast to the roiling hurricane around him, the red liquid was calm and slow. Like the bank of Ney Wey, it steadily slipped over the first step. It was not long before it was at the base of the second.
Exendrik shook terribly as he gazed over the ocean of blood, his father’s blood, inching gradually higher. His heart was held in an iron grip as he knew it would drown him.
With a trembling hand, the young king leaned forward and reached out to the deepening pool. He held his hand suspended over the rippling, writhing liquid for what seemed to be an eternity. Then, plunging his hand into it, the door to the room was thrown open and the swirling lake of blood vanished.
His hand still stretched out, Exendrik lifted his head to see who had dared to enter his throne room. For a fleeting moment, the idea of serving the intruder to the Nox-i slipped enticingly across his mind but he dismissed it immediately upon recognizing the fiery, red hair.