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Ruling Sikthand: Chapter 40

The sight of Vrulatica stretching into the clear, star-strewn sky had never looked so beautiful. Sikthand greeted Ahea, who was waiting next to the commander’s malginash.

The Leaders’ Summit hadn’t been a success. But it hadn’t been without merit. He’d spoken to many rulers who felt the same as they did. Disgust for the Tremantian Queen’s bribery was high. And though many had resolved to vote for her despite their disgust, many had seemed to be seeking any reason not to.

Sikthand had given them that reason. He’d made his case, speaking at length of his bride and relaying her clever reasoning for favoring Asivva.

King Cueyar had looked on with a smug expression. It could have meant nothing, but Sikthand had avoided the male so he could, in turn, avoid ripping the king’s head from his shoulders.

He itched to get back to Sophia. Thoughts of her haunted him every waking moment. No matter how much bedding he piled on at night, he couldn’t recreate the lovely weight of her arm draped over his torso.

He climbed into Ahea’s saddle before Roldroth had even clambered out of the cruiser, and jettisoned into the sky. It was late, and he hadn’t been scheduled to arrive home until tomorrow, but he couldn’t wait any longer. As soon as the doors to the Summit Hall were unlocked, he’d dragged Roldroth out to a cruiser, and set it to the highest speed it could go.

Would she be waiting for him in his room? She should be.

He’d sent word ahead, notifying her of his arrival. As long as that imbecile messenger had given her the communication, Sikthand believed she’d be waiting in his room. He’d rather not search Vrulatica for her and make a public scene of hauling her back to their wing.

The air cooled as they soared parallel to the tower, swerving by sturdy nests and zooming between buttresses. Ahea’s wings flared wide to halt their breakneck ascent when they reached his landing bay, and he lifted an inch out of his seat. He activated the robust gate blocking access to the royal wing and swooped under the metal bars before they’d fully risen.

He hopped off Ahea, pulling away the stays of her saddle a little more roughly than normal, but then the scents of unwelcome visitors caught his attention and he spun.

Alno, a troop of wary, tense soldiers, and the Guild all waited on the opposite side of the landing bay.

Ice slid down his spine.

They didn’t speak, though each one of their faces held a look of such pity and torture.

“Sire, during the broadcast, the queen…Sophia…”

An iron clamp wrapped around his belly, and his insides threatened to empty. He rocked forward and backward as his chest caved in. Ahea clicked angrily from behind him.

“Is she alive?” Sikthand’s voice was unrecognizable to his ears.


A droning buzz rang in his ears. Not again. Not her.

His mouth twitched back, pulling almost to his ears as pain lanced through his brain. “Is she… Is she gone?” His voice broke.

The answering “Yes” was quieter this time.

His eyes slammed shut. The intensity of his agony was so visceral that he wondered if his body was collapsing in on itself like a dying star becoming a black hole. He wanted to wail and scream, but he couldn’t get any breath to fill his crumpled lungs.

She’s gone.


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