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Ruling Sikthand: Epilogue

Sikthand stared at the throne room doors, wishing he could see through the metal. After his mating marks had appeared on his hands, his strength and speed and eyesight had improved exponentially, yet he still couldn’t see through walls—and at the moment that angered him.

How was she? Anxious? Excited?

Sikthand scanned the packed space, mentally threatening each citizen to behave themselves during Sophia’s throning.

The conversations happening around the room all seemed to be hushed, but there were so many impeccably dressed Vrulans packed into every spare foot of the space that the noise in the room was cacophonous.

His hands itched beneath his gloves. He, the Guild, and Sophia had decided that they would reveal his mating marks to the city after Sophia was throned. The moment could not come fast enough. He abhorred covering his marks.

His marks. His mating marks. Sikthand still couldn’t believe it.

All his life he’d been told that Vrulatica was his purpose. He’d suffered and toiled for the sake of his city because that was what he’d been born to do. But he had a new purpose now. His mate.

He would still rule his people, but he would do it with the most glorious female he could have imagined at his side, and his life would no longer be one of loneliness.

His hands clenched around the arms of his new throne, and he peered at Sophia’s covered throne next to his. He needed her to make her entrance and join him. She’d been apart from him all day, and though it was easier to manage than before, he still hated being separated from her.

The soldiers at the door slammed their tails against a golden slab of metal, and a high-pitched ringing echoed through the space. The room fell silent, all eyes pointing toward the massive double doors.

Sikthand blinked to hydrate his dry eyes. They ached to see her.

A loud creaking echoed through the room as the doors opened an inch. Sikthand’s chest swelled as bright red fabric came into view. They opened further and further, and Sophia was unveiled.

Emotion welled in his throat at the sight of his queen. She didn’t wear armor but a combination of soft fabric and metal décor. Her headpiece was constructed of sharp askait antlers like the ones on his helmet and stretched high above her head.

The fine fabric of her blood red, floor-length gown was voluminous and delicate like the material of the dress she’d worn during the umbercree festival. But on her bodice, her bare arms, and crawling up her shoulders to her neck, were black metal designs. They’d been forged to fit her body exactly. Each piece of askait molded over her and highlighted the soft curves of her hips and breasts in a sharp corset.

Sophia hadn’t allowed him to see her outfit before tonight, and now he knew why. The unmistakable inspiration for the metal designs decorating her dress were his tattoos. Geometric thick lines and curves in the same style he favored.

Love swelled inside him until every pore was gorged with it and he thought he might burst. He removed his helmet, though he wasn’t supposed to. He wanted her to be able to see his eyes so she knew how much her choices meant to him.

She’d been peering around the hall at the thousands of Vrulans sizing her up, but then she glanced toward him. When she saw him staring down at her from his perched throne high above, she smiled. As the tension from her shoulders relaxed, so, too, did the tension in his.

Her grin warmed him for a moment longer before a look of determination crossed over her features. She tilted her chin up and stepped forward, walking the long distance to the base of the throne steps.

A slit in her dress opened, and her long lean leg appeared clad up to the knee in an extravagantly forged metal shoe that looked like a beautiful filigree cage on her foot. The shoe had a very tall base and the height it gave her, combined with the height of her antler headdress, made her look statuesque.

Muttered gasps and excited grins were exchanged as she strode by, and his brows knit together. What did her back look like to make everyone she passed so giddy?

Sophia arrived at the base of the long staircase where Madam Ostra, the new Head of trade, waited.

There were six landings on the staircase. Six stops and six sets of vows from the six sacred heads of Vrulatica, before she’d finally make it to him and take her rightful place.

“When you are queen, do you vow to hear me, Madam Ostra, sacred head of trade?”

“I vow to hear you, Madam Ostra.” Sophia answered loud enough that her voice carried through the acoustically miraculous throne room.

After receiving a nod from Madam Ostra, Sophia proceeded up the steps until she reached Lady Lindri’s level, then made her vow again.

Each time she rose from a level, he watched one of his guildmember’s faces light up at the sight of her retreating back. His tail flicked across the floor, impatience to see her up close forcing movement out of him.

As the most senior guildmember, Speaker Besith’s landing was last. Sikthand was nearly vibrating with pride and eagerness as she neared, her expression calm.

After the assassination of his father, Sikthand’s ascension to the throne had been a rushed, dour affair, and he’d been racked with nerves while climbing to his seat. The head of defense had had to ask him to repeat his vow, he’d been stammering his words so badly.

Sophia repeated her vow to Besith effortlessly and grinned at Sikthand in triumph. He tried not to grin like a fool back.

As she ascended the last few steps, Sikthand stood.

“Hello, my handsome king,” she whispered for just the two of them. “How do you like my dress?”

His chest swelled with warmth again. It happened so often these days he must walk around looking like a puffing desert weaver.

“When deciding on what visage of the queen they will sculpt for the Heroes Hall, our metalsmiths will surely choose this one.”

A flush stole over her cheeks, and she slipped her gloved hand into his. He grinned down at her glove—the long, pointed claws extending from her fingers gave her hands a deadly look at odds with the gauzy skirt of her dress.

With a squeeze, she let his hand go and made her way over to stand before her veiled throne.

Sikthand sucked in a breath at the sight of her back. Her dress was open, dipping all the way down to just above her tailbone. The expanse of soft pale skin curving over her spine would have been reason enough to catch his attention, but the glint of metal made his lips curl upward.

Attached at her neck and running down the length of her back were interlocking askait vertebrae. The metal bones continued over her ass all the way to the ground, giving her a skeletal Vrulan tail.

His clever, creative mate was announcing to the city that although she was human, she was also one of them.

Sophia tugged at a knot, and the white fabric covering her chair fell away. The room cheered when the glimmering throne was revealed. It was nearly a twin of his own, with its hollow askait tail plate and inlaid silver metalwork, but the designs were softer, more beautiful and less angular than his.

Taking in a deep breath, Sophia lifted a chain at her hip which attached to the tip of her tail. Rather than using the delicate mallet carefully hidden by her throne for this purpose, she tugged on the chain until her metal tail thumped against the hollow plate. Two booming clangs echoed around the room, proclaiming to the city that she approved of her throne.

Cheers rang out, and the Vrulans tapped their tails on the ground and against plates inlaid in the rows and rows of benches lining the room.

Sophia pulled her lips down, attempting to rid her face of her beaming smile before spinning to face her people. She turned and Sikthand saw she managed it, but just barely.

She took in the booming cheers for a proud moment before peering over to him with an excited smothered grin. Lifting her tail out of the way, Sophia lowered onto her throne.

“Vrulatica,” Sikthand roared into the crowd, brandishing his hand toward her. “Your queen!”

The cheering in the room doubled. Sophia’s eyes grew glassy, and her lips shrunk into nothing as she tried to keep her regal expression in place.

Sikthand lowered into his seat and thanked the skies their thrones were close enough that he could hold her hand.


I’m a queen.

Sophia surveyed the cheering Vrulans in the throne room and tried to keep herself from crying. She knew there were likely those out there who didn’t want her to be sitting here, but all she could see was beaming faces and thumping tails. It made her heart melt into a gooey warm mess in her chest.

She caught sight of Khes hammering his tail on a golden plate, a suspiciously wet twinkling in his eye, and it almost broke her composure.

Sikthand’s hand wrapped around hers, and a tear finally slipped free. “They’re happy,” she choked out.

“They’d be stupid not to be.” He surveyed the crowd, then focused back on her. “Are you ready to see them even happier?”

Her heartbeat picked up again, and she nodded. At long last, it was time to announce their matehood. Finally, Sikthand would get to feel safe. She might not be very strong or know how to fight, but her existence and the marks on his hands protected him, and she was the reason they were there. The knowledge had her spine straightening, her Vrulan spine straightening along with it.

The king rose, pulling at his gloves, and while he was distracted, Sophia quickly slipped off her own. 

“Another cheer for your queen and…” He paused for a tension-filled moment, then lifted his bare hands to the sky. “My mate.”

There was a dead-silent pause, like life itself had screeched to a halt. Then, beginning with a buzz and building to an ear-splitting, throne-shaking barrage, the city of Vrulatica exploded. The sound in the throne room was louder than clapping thunder.

A vise locked over her chest when Sikthand glanced at her and caught sight of her outstretched hand. His expression blanked.

He took her palm in his and ran a thumb over the matching mate marks she’d had Khes tattoo on her a few hours ago.

He swallowed, and the inner corners of his brows lifted as he gazed in pained happiness at her marked hands. “I love you, Your Majesty,” he rasped, loading the words with more adoration than she knew was possible.

“I love you too,” she choked out through a tight throat.

Shirking tradition, Sikthand used his grip on her hand to haul her against his chest and kiss her.

The Vrulans continued to cheer, the sounds of celebration only getting louder as the reality of the king’s marks sank in.

But to Sophia, all noise grew muffled, the world slowing as though it knew she and Sikthand needed time to exist in this moment together.

I am so damn lucky.


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