Flight of Fiction (16b)

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A hush settled over the throne room. The last of the Kharmaán nobles had walked down the long carpet that stretched to the foot of the throne. The procession should have been over—the king should have risen from his throne and greeted those who had come from the far corners of Berasia for his daughter’s Festival. But he did not stand. He simply gazed ahead of him, towards the arched entrance to the throne room, as though expecting something more.

The little herald that stood at the entrance looked at his list. Ameryn watched him fidget like a frightened rabbit. He was looking at the last name on the list. His lips were forming the name. His eyes darted over his shoulder. He could not raise his eyes to the throne and the steady, unshaken gaze of the silver-haired king.

Ameryn felt the hair prickling on the back of her neck. There was something in this anticipation she did not like. She trusted the king—but who else was there to walk through that arch but one of the Naréon? The House of Wolves was well-represented—no nobility remained in Berasia but the ill-reputed House of Rats.

She heard the groan of an opening door. A gust of autumn wind rolled down the gaping hall from the palace doors and stirred the heavy curtains that hung over the throne room entrance. The little herald trembled.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the king grip the wolves’ heads that supported the armrests of his throne just a little tighter.

A gloved hand pulled back the curtain, revealing the anticipated newcomer. Without waiting to be announced, he strode into the room, his entourage behind him, their armor clanking.

Ameryn felt her breath blown from her body. She had never seen this man before. Nothing in his gait or bearing was familiar. His coal black hair and deathly-pale skin told her no more about him than that he was a Sprite. His dark, heavy armor betrayed his rank; the long, double-tongued sword strapped to his side told her he was a warrior.

But his smile—a perfect smile, stretched across his chiseled face and revealing a line of straight, white teeth—and the glowing green of his eyes were all too familiar. She knew those eyes. She had seen them before. Those eyes and that smile still mocked her in her darkest nightmares.

“Nayr, High Sprite Lord of Nanduvar—” squeaked the herald. Ameryn held her breath, awaiting the rest, knowing full well what she would hear:

“—Son of Sucraám.”

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