Ruling Sikthand: Chapter 26

Sikthand’s mind came back to him slowly. There was some confusion niggling at his brain, but he chalked it up to the same confusion one always got in the moments between sleeping and waking. The scent of Sophia wrapping around him made him want to drift back into slumber. Had he been dreaming of her again?

The memory of falling flashed through his mind, jolting him awake. His limbs were weak, sluggish, and his vision danced as he tried to keep his head from spinning.

There were people in his room. Commander Roldroth and Medic Vezel and…

He swung his head around, sure he’d spot the human nearby since her smell permeated his senses, but she was nowhere to be found.

He refocused on the two males standing a healthy distance away and tried to get his mind to catch up. Why were they here? What was the last thing he remembered? The storm. Pain.

His head snapped up. Falling. He’d been falling.

Each second that passed had his fury building. His eyes slid closed.

Again. He’d almost been killed again.

Sikthand rose from his bed, tail swiping against the floor, fangs pulsing for blood. “Who?” The snarl in his voice held the promise of pain. Both Vezel and Roldroth had the good sense to take a step back.

“We can’t say for sure yet, but—”

He launched the metal table by his thigh into the wall. Stone crumbled inward and rained down over the crumpled metal. “Who?” he roared.

Vezel skittered to the door. “I’ll leave you to…your…uh. Call on me if you need a medic.”

Roldroth eyed the retreating doctor as the door slammed shut. He straightened. “Word from Lindri came through not five minutes ago. Did you take your armor for repair in the last week? They found a metalsmith dead. We’re working on a theory that someone coerced…” Roldroth’s voice was low and careful, but Sikthand couldn’t focus on it.

Her smell. It was everywhere. He turned in place, trying to find her.

Muscles thrumming, he brought his hand to his nose. He smelled like her. His skin, his fingers, the air.

“Where is she?” He turned on Roldroth, who was still rambling. “Why is her scent all over me?”

The commander swallowed. “She stayed with you while you slept.”

Sikthand prowled forward. He must not have heard the commander right.

“I don’t believe she had any part—”

Before Roldroth could flinch, Sikthand had thrown him against the wall, one foot trapping his tail to the floor. A blade grasped in Sikthand’s own tail, pressed into the soft expanse of Roldroth’s neck. “In. My. Bed?” He bared his fangs. “You allowed her to sleep in my bed while I lay unconscious?”

Roldroth sputtered, flattening his spine against the wall to keep the blade from puncturing his skin. “You wouldn’t let her go, sire.”

Sikthand froze. “What?”

“You gripped her in your sleep. Your tail kept her trapped. You growled whenever she moved away. I stayed and watched over her the entire time—I vow it.”

He backed away, tossing his blade to the floor. His breaths were deep, and for a moment, he thought he might be about to rage, but then he laughed. It began low and dry, then worked its way into his belly until he was all but wheezing.

Roldroth slipped out of his room, throwing him a horrified look, but he couldn’t stop himself.

He’d been betrayed by nearly everyone he’d ever cared for. Sikthand had grown into a master of control. Always keeping himself locked down, always holding back and staying hard.

But how could he have prepared for this? His unconscious body had betrayed him.

A deep, ringing emptiness filled his chest.

He sunk onto his bed and buried his face in his palms. Almost immediately, he tore his hands away. His fingers twitched as if they could still feel the ghost of her. Where was she?

Fury sparked through every cell, but he couldn’t tell if he was livid because he suspected her of something nefarious, or because she wasn’t here now. He wanted to hunt her down and…what?

Throw her in a cell? Question her? Wrap her up in his arms so he could ensure her scent on his skin remained heavy for the rest of time? He didn’t know what he’d do when he found her, only that he needed to. More than breathing, more than seeking vengeance, more than anything, he needed to get her in his sights.

All of a sudden, he noticed his hands. He’d been looking before, but he hadn’t really seen them.

He pulled them back, twisting them in front of his eyes. His tattoos were gone.

He peered down and realized he was nearly naked, clothed only in thin medical pants.

Stalking toward the mirror, he tore the pants away and took in his reflection. He was unrecognizable. No scars. No marks. Just pale, clear skin.

The sight turned his stomach. The image didn’t match, and it made his battling emotions more muddled than ever. This isn’t me. I am not pure. I am not unmarked.

He stomped into his study, ironically the room that smelled the least like Sophia, and snagged the jug of renwaeder off his desk. Sikthand didn’t know if the spirit would help or hurt, only that he needed a reprieve from reality.


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