Ring of Cren [ 18 + ]

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

◦•●◉ RING OF CREN Chapter 1 ◉●•◦
Anastasia’s POV
I was the last of the Ice Seers. I could see into the Ice.
This was predominantly a male ability in my family.
But my family was dead.
I was officially the only one who could open the vault. I had the Ring of Cren so the Court of Cren ordered I be protected at all costs.
A little unexpected for everyone, but my father intrusted it to me before he went off to die.
Anyone who had the Ring had a veto over everything.
I was a default Queen right now, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. I had the blood that allowed the spell to work to get the vault open. The vault itself contained the Cren. It was said to kill any one who stood against my blood.
I don’t know what the spirit looks like or how it does what it does, but everyone has seen the effects of it before, so only those loyal exist – and those disloyal die.
Forced loyalty was still not an ideal, I knew that ruling in fear was short lived. For my family the Cren was the foundation, the bedrock to holding power, but I had to earn the love of the people to make it a rule worthy of my bloodline.
The only problem with being the ruler… is the system in place.
All the females were owned here.
All of them. At least, the ones who were taken by a man.
I was a free woman at 25 with no collar to signify my servitude to a husband.
And to say it was daunting being a free woman and the only ruling entity in place… was a bit of an understatement.
Not that I had time to be scared.
I take my daily walk down the cold runs, a declining cobble path, which led through Cren’s city centre.
Each time I walk through the winter cold, I remember my father doing the same.
It was to show intimate connection with the people.
I’d stop and talk to a few if they asked – but my first walk is met with silence and fear.
Word hadn’t spread that I was wearing the Ring.
My protection are four knights who flank me front and back.
The powerful men don’t talk to me.
Having a top rank in the kingdom, they never talked to women.
Unless it was instructing them.
It was weird – being in control of them.
They were forced to follow my instruction – and they did, whatever I asked. I just noted their stoic silences and stares the past few hours. They’d stare and try to make me look away first. I never did. I always stared back until I’d instruct we were walking again.
They were… different. To say the least.
Damion was walking in front with Axe – not a weapon, it was his brother.
Behind me I’m flanked by Krystoph and Rurx. They were brothers too.
The only reason my best warriors didn’t die on the battlefield is they were ordered to stay behind and defend me – much to their confusion.
Until the news came.
My father and three brothers died fighting the Boned people. While our kingdom believed in containing the four maleficent spirits of the earth – the Boned people wanted them free.
They hadn’t released any but their own. The Ring of Bone was destroyed, and they were all possessed by death.
Without thought, they ceased to talk and only focused on collecting bones. Every dead person they killed was fed to their Bone spirit. So no trace was left. None at all. I would never get to lay my father and brothers to rest.
The Boned army could wipe us out and there would be no memory either.
The Cren was about power.
The Bone was about death.
The Eye was about magic.
The Mal was about evil intention.
The Mal and the Cren kingdoms were allies because we contained out spirits successfully. We were standing in Bone’s way. The Eye wasn’t really a kingdom, but a spirit people. They drifted everywhere as ghosts, passing on ancestral magic. Everyone became a part of the Eye when they died.
My father and brothers visited me in my sleep last night.
That’s how I was given the power to control the fate of Cren.
Right now, I had been rather numb to it all.
I stand cloaked outside a fruit shop, looking at an appetizing pink apple for sale.
“The pink one, Damion,” I tell him, and I see him pay the shop owner and turn to pass me the apple.
They’d been good to me for… 2 hours? Aside from the constant staring.
Now one is about to show me his first sign of disrespect.
Damion domineers me just in height, not to mention his menacing battle prowess. He was a fighter, not a guard. Nor a babysitter. And I guess it’s driving him mad. I can see it in his eys.
The apple slips through his fingers and lands at my feet.
He grumbles a fake apology.
Damion,” I just say his name and keep staring back. Always staring, like that’ll change anything.
Even if they wanted to kill me, it’d only guarantee the death of everyone here.
Only I could open the vault. Only me.
Without us protecting you, Anastasia,” Damion’s first real words, finally spoken to me, “They’d all tear you to pieces for wearing that,” he motions to the ring, and I hide my hand in my thick cloak.
“I’m glad you could finally get that off your chest,” I whisper, “Now pick it up.”
Damion glares at the apple at my feet, annoyed I didn’t bend over, but then he seems to realise he is angry at a fruit, and he finally picks it up and shoves it into my open hand.
We continue on along the walk.
I’d lie if I said my ring protecting me, provided me with a full range of confidence.
Everything about me this morning, was bluff – an act.
One meagre sign of weakness and these men who were used to obeying women or not even listening to them – would probably toss me in chains.
I’m surprised none of them thought of that yet. They just needed to protect my body and therefore my blood, not anything else. But I figure that my resolution to keep acting like the empirical point of power, has saved me from experiencing that.
I didn’t want to disappoint my father.
He was kind to me, even when my mother died in childbirth as I was born.
He was kind to me still, even though I was to become nothing but a spinster with old age.
I wasn’t allowed to marry. So as not to allow anyone an opportunity to seize power – let’s use my knights for example – Damion, Axe, Rurx and Krystoph were not going to get anywhere near the throne.
Not a chance. They’re own blood lines were not equipped for it. They were blood thirsty warriors, not levelheaded kings. That calm thinking was in my blood.
You killed them, you power seeking witch!” I hear a rough scream from my left, and a drunken tubby man is sprinting at me with a sword, after he had been hiding behind a door ajar to the local blacksmith.
I knew this would happen eventually, I didn’t expect it would happen so soon.
Seeing the weapon raised and the passionate fury in his eye causes me to feel completely ridden by terror. I thought I’d be ready for this kind of reaction, but I’m not.
Krystoph and Rurx turn to face any threat at my back, while Axe prepares to use a soul swipe, pulling back his hood. He doesn’t get a chance to look into the man’s eyes, however, because Damion wants a piece.
A minute ago he was taunting me about an apple, now he sees his first chance to kill and I can barely watch as he puts himself in danger. Damion walks into the barrelling man without drawing his own sword. Instead Damion catches the assailant’s wrist, he just breaks it with one twist, then takes his sword – and…
I spin so fast I almost trip.
I’ve turned to Krystoph, and he looks at me briefly to see me shying away from the slaughter that just took place.
Damion cut the guy in half.
What the fuck?
It also scared the living day lights out of me.
What if he wanted to kill me – I doubt he’d spare me a quick mercy. Then I remember the Ring of Cren.
I’m safe. I’m safe. I’m the only Ice Seer now.
They have to protect me.
I hear a deep lulling voice and I don’t even know whose it is, since they never bloody talk to me.
I turn to see it’s Axe now, facing me, through his dark hood which covers his eyes is back in place, so I can’t be hurt by his lethal gaze.
I see Damion facing me as well, he’s tossed the bloody sword aside but he’s veins are pulsing in his head, he’s pissed that I’m standing still and not moving pas it.
“Let’s continue on,” I speak as clearly as I can.
My voice doesn’t waver.
At least I like to think it didn’t.
I walk forward with a straight back.
The sudden rush and smell of blood and guts makes me dizzy.
I try not to show it, as I make it to the petrified tree at the end of the long road, carved into a snake that’s eating a little bird. It was just a decoration piece – there were a lot in our city, a lot of artists and such.
I stare at it for a bit, remembering I need to be the snake and not the bird if I’m to survive this.
I turn around, and I head back to my castle, knowing I have to walk past that corpse again.
As I walk up the path, to my relief his corpse has been removed, and only a large bloody stain in the ice remains.
I don’t know if that’s a consolation.
Did my father or brothers die so barbarically? Did they get chopped in half?
I had not thought of it, but Damion’s brutal killing has now put that thought into my head.
My strength is diminishing. I quicken my pace.
I have to return now.
I can’t shed a tear for them.
It’d be the end of me and my freedom.
I manage to get back in half the time I’d usually take, and I stop by the throne made of crystal quartz. I put my hand on the back of it as I turn to the four knights lined up behind.
“Go eat something,” I murmur to them, “I’m retiring this day to grieve my family. Don’t let anyone in. And if anything is that urgent… well, knock three times. My door will be shut for privacy, but I will hear.”
“Not a chance, princess,” Damion immediately interjects, “We were charged with protecting your body, you can’t be left alone,” he doesn’t look at me when he says it, he looks at the ceiling.
Great, now I’m too beneath him to even be acknowledged with sight and speech at the same time. Such an asshole.
“I appreciated you guarding my room last night, while I couldn’t sleep a wink – but no one can get up there, so don’t worry,” I murmur to all of them.
“Shadows can,” Axe murmurs back.
“Any assassin can, if they’re prepared enough,” Rurx talks for the first time to me, his own profession being just that. An assassin. His voice was a husky whisper.
“I know. One. Of us should go with you,” Krystoph adds eloquently, like a high-born lord – which is what he was, before abruptly turning and walking away.
Rurx looks at me and his friend, and follows Krystoph.
Axe and Damion turn at the same time, but as Axe walks away… I see Damion pause.
He turns back to me, slow.
“I guess it’s me,” Damion says, clearly smirking and sinister at the same time. He lowers his hood finally and I see his black hair frames his face perfectly.
I see his black eyes – he wants to fuck with my composure. He wants to see me cry before I can hide it.
“I didn’t order any of you to leave,” I say, bored, pretending not to care.
“You ordered all of us too,” Damion adds, “But your father’s last wish overbears your own. Your body, ours to protect,” he likes saying that, like he’s implying something else.
I don’t want to cry anymore, I want to scream.
Instead I reach into my coat, take out the apple and take a bite in front of him. I slowly chew, and Damion realises I’m just having my own back, in any way I can.
It’s not like I can fight him.
I could only fight mental battles.
And I feared if I needed to punish them for misbehaving, none would be strong enough to enforce the punishment.
I had no choice but to try and get along with them.
“The future is ours. We can run the Cren together – or die together,” I tell Damion, using my first bold threat.
I swiftly turn before I can see his reaction.
All I know is he immediately follows.
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◦•●◉ RING OF CREN Chapter 2 ◉●•◦
Anastasia’s POV
I can’t get privacy to cry when Damion follows me into my bedchamber, so I just sit next to the fire and he stands guard at my back, behind my couch.
“Sit down,” I command him after ten minutes of having my skin crawl with him staring at me.
I know he’s staring. He’s up to something.
Damion listens, though.
To my shock and horror.
I watch as he gracefully sits opposite me, still staring at me.
“Speak,” I say one word because I see he wants to talk.
“Everything your father saw in the Ice – kept us alive,” Damion mentions, “You’re an Ice Seer?”
“Damion, I’m not meant to talk about that with anyone but the elders… no offence,” I look at him and see he isn’t perturbed, “…do you hate me or something?”
“I had no belief in you,” Damion murmurs, admitting the truth, his eyes half shut as he keeps himself brutally honest.
“Had?” I bite on that, raising a brow.
“Time will tell what I think,” Damion shrugs, “Not that it matters if we’re all dead.”
“We won’t die as long as I’m alive,” I add this with a hard stare back, throwing my apple core into the fire.
“You don’t trust us to defend your life?” Damion asks in a low drawl. I can’t look back at him and it’s my mistake, as it gives him my answer, “…ahh… you don’t trust us… is that it? That’s it. I can see it.”
I can’t speak.
It’s truth. What the Crow said.
Damion takes out his short sword suddenly, and I quickly turn my gaze back to him, as he cuts a line on his palm, and holds the bloody hand out to me.
“Your turn,” Damion whispers, “This is a vow, princess.”
“I know what that is,” I whisper, holding out my hand.
To my dismay, my fingers tremble, but Damion doesn’t comment.
He gives me his weapon.
I take it and place the blade on my palm.
“Careful,” he warns me, the only sign he can be kind, but I’m scared I can’t do it.
I press a little and it cuts instantly. Fff. Fuck. I bite my lip hard.
I give Damion back the short sword, and he cleans it in his cloak and sheaths it.
I hold out my slit hand and he holds out his. Damion and I shake on it.
We both stare at each other now.
But the energy has changed.
“What’s your vow, Crow?” I ask, as demanding as I can manage.
“I vow to protect your purity from any suitor who may dare try and take it,” Damion slowly smiles, “I vow the Crows that I lead will protect your body and blood. I also vow to you that the blood you pass on, will be laced with Crow. No one will claim you, Anastasia – no one but us.”
He was rather demanding.
“I vow in return…” I try to think of  a quick come back, “I vow to resist whatever maleficent crude plan you just suggested… or vowed… you are a curse on me, Damion.”
“Anastasia,” Damion lets our bloody hands slip from each other, as he looks me over, “We will run the Cren together – or we will die together,” Damion finally stands up, throwing my words back in my face, “Shall I go or stay now, my Queen?
I stand to glare at him now, how dare he act like he could be King.
“Your vow is repulsive to me,” I drawl at him, “You can sleep with any of the concubines at your leisure. I’m sure they’re lonely. And yes. You should go.”
“I’ve had them all,” Damion growls, “…I haven’t had you… and by the time I do, you’ll be collared like all the wives in the Cren. It’ll be then you do as you’re told, and not I… when that happens, we will fuck at my leisure.”
Damion stalks from my chambers.
My legs feel weird.
I turn and look into the fire. Sitting down.
Damion’s vow was ludicrous.
But everything about this situation was bad.
So, it couldn’t get any worse.
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◦•●◉ RING OF CREN Chapter 3 ◉●•◦
Anastasia’s POV
I can’t let myself be intimidated. I let myself shed a few tears but only in my wardrobe, where I’m surrounded by countless winter coats and boots… and some particular dresses I had made up as costume pieces. They were my little indulgence. I take out my favourite. I had this one made with chain mail. It was expensive but it was to mimic a goddess of ice in one of the stories I read in the library.
I never had a chance to wear it, but now I feel it is appropriate.
It’s just chain mail for the breasts, and below it’s a metallic skirt that hangs around my waist, purple, thin, with silky purple fabric hanging beneath that.
The chain mail top is sheer, and not as heavy as what men wear. It still looks like armour.
I put all of it on, and I immediately feel united with my favourite character in my favourite book. My heroine – she was a human who ruled a kingdom of elves. She could freeze over oceans.
I had no such power, but I could open that vault, and I could see into the ice – giving us all fair warning about the threats to the Cren and where the best power was centred.
I have shed four tears, for each family member lost, then I shoved it all away for another time. In every book I read the rule of war was repeated over and over – grieve after the war is won.
No point crying when I could be dead soon. You could only cry in peace times.
My hair is peculiar, because it was so silver it looked like ice. But it was just normal hair.
When I’ve dressed myself, not asking for assistance, I make my way to the Ice, to practice being a Seer.
It’s outside my chamber, down a blue encrusted hall that slowly became nature more than architecture.
The castle was built into a glacier.
I leave my coat behind, because I don’t want to feel comfortable, I want to feel something distracting, slightly painful and raw. The cold in the Cren was enough to give you that.
The Ice is just a carved and polished oval just like a mirror, and it melts sometimes, becoming dewy, showing different things, before freezing over again.
I look into the Ice on my own, no words need to be uttered.
I’ll just see.
But the Ice is more dewy than I’ve ever seen it, and only one thing keeps showing to me.
One face.
One threat. Or power.
It’s not a normal reflection – it’s truly a vision. It’s me, wearing exactly what I am now, but it’s me in the future. I don’t look in at her, she looks out at me, smiling, reaching out a hand. She points to me and brings her fingers to her eyes.
Did I smudge the charcoal?
It’s like she’s telling me to fix it.
I shake my head and turn away from the vision. I walk to the well behind me, another oval shape, but this is just full of water. This one acts as the normal mirror.
I lean over and look at my face.
I have charcoal dripping down my cheeks, it looks like black tears – but I haven’t been crying, I’ve just applied the makeup wrong.
When my father applied it, he had a certain process. I didn’t know what that process was and now I didn’t do my face right.
My hair is starting to frizz and looks unkept, not sitting as nicely as I thought it might.
The makeup artists that helped the concubines had never helped me. I wasn’t about to ask for assistance.
My father made sure I was isolated from everyone. My life was by his side, with my family, or in the library – or by the Ice.
Right now I feel like I’m five years old, like my experience is totally inept for the challenges that lie ahead of me.
How can I be 25 and know so little?
The answer is pretty simple.
I was shielded and I took peace for granted.
I couldn’t imagine a world where father died. Where my loving brothers were all gone.
I stop staring in at the reflection and I look up to see my guards approach together.
Damion had gone to fetch the other Crows. I watch them check my chamber. They realise I am not in there and they turn to look toward the Ice down the hall.
Even from a hundred or more feet away from me, I see their reactions at what I’m wearing.
I step around the well and I keep my head high.
I’ve managed to evoke a reaction out of them that isn’t totally standard.
Damion doesn’t even look like he’s breathing. Krystoph drops whatever he is holding. The forever graceful lord in him picks it up and puts it away into his silver coat, whatever it is. I didn’t really look.
Axe gazes out the bottom of his hood for a moment – a rare moment indeed.
Rurx finally pushes back his own hood, and his long dark brown curls are flowing about his face, more beautiful than any woman. It’s kind of annoying how perfectly thick his hair is, but he is the first to stride toward me, looking proper for once.
They actually reach me as I wait for their company, and I face the Crow who vowed to take me with the others.
He promised me his desire and I was promising him my response in my heroine’s dress right now.
I didn’t think much about it, but now I do. My tits are on display in this dress, hidden behind the chain mail, but it’s not to seduce. To me, it’s a representation of every woman enslaved or owned in the Cren. I was one with them, even though I wasn’t owned. They were often topless and I wanted to relate. It was just tits, anyway.
Tits that have completely captured my knights.
I can’t help but look them over as they stop in a formidable, disciplined line in front of me, at my beck and call.
“You have Ionen requesting backup in the throne room,” Damion manages to tear his dark eyes from my tits.
I nod and say nothing.
I start to walk ahead, but Damion stops me, a hand on my shoulder.
“Like that?” he asks, a low snarl. It’s not a command, just a truly anxious question.
I turn to him.
“Exactly,” I speak. Damion can’t find the words as he looks me over and back up to my eyes, “If you have something you want to say, you best say it honestly. And quickly.”
Damion forces himself out of the apparent allure I’ve cast over him, and he manages to look pissed, but he refrains from speaking his mind.
So, honesty now would betray his power? I bet. I knew what he was thinking.
I look to the others, who are silently watching the interaction.
Krystoph holds out a letter, “Can you read?” he asks.
“Yes,” I hiss, truly annoyed by this statement of all, “All my life I’ve spent in that library to your left, and you, who have been in these halls all your life also, you did not notice me?” it’s the first time I crack under the pressure.
I guess for me it’s insulting my reading inability.
And for Damion it’s an apple. I wonder what would tip Krys and Rurx over their edges.
Regardless, my knights enjoy my fire.
“Never saw you, Ana,” Krystoph answers smoothly, “…girls don’t read.” He dare call me Ana. I glare at him, but I don’t make it an issue just yet.
“My father taught me,” I just open the letter and I read what Ionen is requesting, “No, I’ve always distrusted this snake,” I whisper, “I’m going to kill him myself for being so blatantly disloyal to the last Ice Seer. How dare he talk to me like that.”
I turn and start walking.
I drop the letter and I don’t care who picks it up. I just have to face the bastard.
Ionen was a General only by riches. He was born into gold. He had come for more men for war and wanted me to direct him to the closest male authority who could entrust anything I saw in the Ice wasn’t a lie. Some kind of guarantor of my word.
I reach the throne room with my knights in tow. They say absolutely nothing, which I find suspicious. But I couldn’t focus on that right now. Right now I had to address the court.
Ionen stands in my court with chains behind him, connected to fifty or more women, all prisoners of war.
He was known to walk about with his flesh prizes.
I closed the court,” I tell Ionen, who is as fat as you can imagine. He would strategize like my father, they had been childhood friends – to my dismay. He looks at me with pity.
“The sentries let me in on face alone,” Ionen explains very, very slowly, so I completely understand.
“It’ll be the las time,” I answer, “You want men, you’re not getting any. Our King is dead and you come here to insult my blood. Leave before I label you a traitor.”
“Everything he did was to protect this Kingdom,” Ionen replies, not fussed by my strong words, “Where is your guarantor? I want you to take me to the Ice now. It’ll be whatever your Father saw last and I want to know what it was.”
I can’t deny Ionen this… it keeps me quiet.
Until I decide to tell him.
“I was at the Ice,” I tell him, but less aggressively, “It was me. I was in the Ice. You’re telling me that is the last thing my father saw?”
I thought I was doing it wrong, but it made sense why the Ring was given to me before they left to fight. It would mean I am not the threat, but an answer. The Ice always showed both. Threat and answer.
Ionen approaches me, and I forget to order my knights to tell him to stop, so they let him through.
Ionen stops until he stands over me, picking up my hand with the ring, I watch in horror as his face tries to convey empathy and horribly fails, “I will take you as my wife, and you won’t have to worry about matters concerning the throne. I’ll give you a diamond encrusted collar. You don’t have to cry anymore,” he touches one of the charcoal tears on my face, smudging it further.
I take my hand from his and I say nothing as I step backward, out of his range.
Ionen smiles, nods, assuming I’ve agreed, as he turns to the sparse court. Most were in mourning.
“I am not your King,” he says with a hand on his heart, “Well, I will be soon, I was promised to you, yes, yes, all of you, by your father, Gendaw,” he turns to me, Ionen had this weird way of speaking to crowds, where his voice went high pitched, and he sounded like he was singing out of tune – it was every time he told a lie.
I could tolerate it – but he was being a traitor right now.
Don’t say my father’s name,” I lose myself to the mention of Gendaw; he had no right to use his name in search for power.
As Ionen waves a tubby hand at me and reaches into his coat, taking out his knife, he cuts his hand for me, attempting a vow, “Now you. Come on, no more tears. None. I’ll lead you as your father desired me too,” he laughs and smiles to everyone when I approach.
I take the knife from him and he gives it to me – fool he is.
I hold it over my hand just to see what he does as he looks at me, and I step forward and give it back to him.
Straight. Inside. Him.
I slam the small knife through his chest.
I don’t know how to do such a blow in the right fashion, but practicing it on this bastard is easy. However, I think I’ve missed a killing blow – as Ionen screams and starts stumbling around in a circle, before awkwardly dropping to his knees and looking back at me, “You stabbed me.”
Yes, I did.
I just stare at him, no more words for him as I reach for his belt and take off the loop with the chains linked to the slaves.
They were mine now.
Ionen watches me, while I feel heat at my back – and his eyes go up.
I watch his eyes crust over with black ink and he falls to the floor.
Axe soul swiped him.
I lean down and grab the keys from his belt too, and I throw the chain and the keys to the prisoners of war.
“Swear allegiance to me or die,” I mimic what my father used to say to prisoners of war.
I don’t even know if it’ll work.
I step back and I hit two torsos, my hands feeling across two more.
When I look behind me, Damion, Axe, Krys and Rurx are right behind me – they seemed ready to catch me if I fainted.
I was not feeling faint.
I wasn’t really feeling anything.
I guess that’s a good thing when you’re a monarch – you have to be numb to some things.
Ionen died for using my father’s name in a lie after his death. He deserved it and worse.
I push through Axe and Krys, to move back to the quartz throne.
I sit on it, and I watch as the filthy women, wearing scraps, use the keys to undo every chain on their bodies.
Guards at the door step in, knowing the process as if Gendaw was still here.
I see a distinct change in the room from other mourning court officials. Those who have been sulking desperately to paintings and murals on the wall, now turn to me and give me their full attention.
Without another word I watch as the women whisper to each other, whoever is family or friend among them.
Then I see my first prisoners, they kneel and bow their heads.
I prepare to stomach the death of more people in this throne room – knowing not all of them will capitulate. It was highly improbable.
One by one, they submit. My knights resume guarding the bottom of the podium, also preparing to kill any who are disloyal. I’m glad they’re quiet for once.
It’s not long before every woman gives themselves to me.
When they’re all on the ground, I feel completely confused. I hadn’t dealt with this before.
Not even as a witness.
The mood in the room is… power – and it’s given to me. Whoever is here right now, I’ve somehow earnt they’re eyes.
I feel overwhelmed by this luck. But that was the power of the Ice. It gave answers – and it told me to trust in myself. So I did. And it worked.
“Slave Master,” I think of more words my father had used, and I watch as the elderly man shuffles forward, looking concerned at all the new potential staff for the castle, “Bathe them and give them all back to the injured soldiers who caught them – I just want the women to help heal them and give them company. And if they find partners, well they can marry. And if not, they can go anywhere they please. But they owe the soldiers who didn’t kill them. So they’ll serve them for a half-year. Then the debt to their life will be repaid and they’ll be freedwomen.”
I am surprised.
At myself.
It’s like my father is in my head, my brothers too. Their words are my words. Ancestral magic through the Eye.
It feels like a miracle to me.
“And the court is retired today, so please go home,” I finish with that.
When I’m done, I get up and leave quickly, my knights always following.
I march from the throne room and I walk into the adjoining courtyard to watch the snow. It was a place to take guests, but I go outside to revel in my moment.
“Come closer,” I ask the Crows to approach for a chat, as I move toward a frozen fountain, with frozen fish inside.
I am freezing and shaking but I don’t care.
They stand at my back, all of them, while I look at the glistening garden.
I turn to them and walk into their circle, to huddle with them for warmth.
I somehow feel right standing in the middle of them, these giants of war.
“You’re keeping me warm,” I smile, “Thanks. I wanted you to come close because I need a favour. Tomorrow is the Harvest. You know it’s one big social event,” more like an orgy, “…I don’t have a partner. I don’t want one. I want four. Of you. What I’m asking, is for you to protect me and stay by my side… it’s not the kind of event where you need to watch me but I’m asking you to keep me company anyway,” I definitely use too many words but I ask it in good faith, then I remember to add, “…any concubines available that you see and like, I’ll allow you to take them but… I prefer not to be alone. Will you be my company? The reason I ask… I have no friends. It will be awkward for me otherwise.”
The silence is compounding and I’m starting to feel utterly weird for asking it when they barely knew me.
I turn to Damion, since he vowed to me. Even if it was… well… whatever it was.
I look up at him.
He catches the eye of his Crows.
He breathes out a breath of fog and warmth into the icey air.
They run so hot they don’t seem to feel how cold it is out here.
“Yes, you’ll have me,” Damion answers, short and sharp.
I try to keep in a grin, lest it angers him too much – that I’m happy with his compliance.
I turn to the others, and I wait for their answers.
Krystoph swipes up my fingers, holding them, he says honestly, “You’ll have me.”
“You’ll have me too,” Axe’s soft voice is that husky lullaby. His whisper sounds like a sensual promise of romance.
Rurx is last, he just nods, looking me over.
“Thank you,” I breathe it out, and I mean it, even as my shakes get worse.
“…why… are you still standing out here… literally freezing your tits off, princess…” Damion finally asks what’s on his mind.
I turn to him, and I’m still shaking from the cold.
“It’s better than feeling nothing at all,” I answer, especially after this morning.
“Then I insist on saving your tits, Anastasia,” Damion gives a knowing look to Axe behind me. Damion pushes his hand to my collar bone, pushing me into Axe’s front. My whole back warms instantly. Then Damion reaches under my chain mail and grabs a hold of my left tit – while Axe reaches under my chain mail, his arm snaking in as he grabs the other.
They’re not lying – they’re warming me up quick.
Also… what the fuck just happened? I’m just… also… um… I’m frozen.
Because every bit of me should scream a protest… and I don’t want to.
“Um, thanks?” I snap out something, looking down at Damion’s gloved hand, and Axes – as they knead and squeeze my tits so softly.
“Your lips need saving too,” Krys side-eyes my mouth, his white hair is short and styled but it gathers snow flakes out here. I’m looking up at his grey eyes and hair, wondering how he makes it look so perfect all the time, when he reaches in to kiss me.
Gosh, my brain was slow.
His mouth moves on mine, even as my lips are still, I half close my eyes – breathing manually.
I didn’t have time to process any of this before it was happening.
Rurx roughly shoves Krys off me, into the fountain, stepping in to kiss me too.
He tilts up my head, and I kiss Rurx back.
When I dare to return it, every part of me feels alive in an entirely different way. Rurx’s tongue slides into my mouth, and I breathe in his breath. I could kiss a man for hours if this is what it felt like. His finger tickles under my chin, as if he’s saying good.
I start to pant and I suddenly remember who I am and what I represent.
And Damion’s threat… being followed through while I submit already.
This was unacceptable.
“Get off me,” I beg Rurx, as I shove him off me and he moves for me.
Axe and Damion let me go too… it’s clearly a mercy.
I see it in Damion’s smug eyes, although he says nothing to rub it in, as I turn – and I run away.
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◦•●◉ RING OF CREN Chapter 4 ◉●•◦
Anastasia’s POV
Next Morning
I slept last night. I didn’t expect to, but I did. I went for a walk early that morning, thinking I wouldn’t find any of the Crows awake at that time.
I didn’t know how to face them after yesterday. Because even I didn’t understand my reaction to them. Ionen approached me so bold and I stabbed him. Damion slipped his hand under my chain mail to warm my freezing tits – something that should have warranted a scream or at least my immediate reprimand.
Instead, I felt like I enjoyed it.
It had nothing to do with him being handsome and strong. I was immune to vanity on that scale. I had seen them from afar most of my life, I was often happy to keep my distance. And his vow – maybe it was the vow. I don’t know. I don’t understand my reaction to him or the others at all.
I experience the same nervousness and desire intertwined when I spot them before they spot me. Outside I’ve found them. Beyond the snowy private courtyard, this one is only accessible to me and trusted staff.
I’m behind a pillar after just existing my walk through the laundry to grab a new towel for my room.
I serviced my room myself.
I hold the steaming hot towel to my front, as I still wear my grey shift from when I went to bed. In my other hand I hold a cup of tea, which is almost empty.
I sip it as I see the knights casually making their way out of the men’s bathing house, located across the courtyard. They wear nothing but loose trousers, and they towel through their wet hair, talking and laughing to one another good naturedly.
Even Axe has his hood off and he is able to look them in the eye, his hair is cut short to his head, the opposite of his brother Damion.
Krys and Rurx couldn’t look any different but still, they are somehow related. Krys has well defined and well fed musculature, while Rurx is leaner and a little taller, his long, long, long locks of brown hair still settle around him like doll’s hair. I still hate how thick and perfect it is. It’s just not fair. My hair frizzed from the slightest moisture, so I tried to braid it whenever I could be bothered, although most of the time it was just wild and untamed around my head, floating just past my shoulders.
I wait for them to cross into the connecting guest chambers, separated from my side of the castle, but instead of turning back to their rooms, they start to round the courtyard, following the stone pillars, still talking, and clearly speaking of food.
They’re hungry now.
I was hungry too.
I was making my way to the kitchens next to grab a fresh bit of bread and run with it back to my room.
We were going to intercept, or they were going to see me spying from just outside the laundry.
I have to make a decision quickly.
I am so nervous I don’t know if I can approach them without chickening out.
I try to channel the power I had yesterday, the kind of power that I really had to try to hold onto around them with every word and look, calculating everything. I couldn’t slip. I slipped into kindness for a moment yesterday, I got too close and smiled too much and welcomed them – and then they all went for me.
I let it happen and I forget the world.
It was a dangerous feeling. An escape.
I walk with my tea cup on my hot towel, heading for the kitchens, and I decide to quicken my pace.
I am closer than them, but their strides are quicker.
As I approach the corner which opens to the kitchen and the smell of freshly baking bread, always on par with the winter sun rising, I hear the silence of their sudden sighting of me.
I step into their path and I look them over, but I quickly turn and stride into the kitchen with them behind me.
Wiping through their wet hair or rubbing their towels across their shoulders, they had stopped to stare. I was so tempted to look at Axes’ eyes, but I stopped myself at the last moment.
I just felt them from the corner of my vision as I turned.
No one says good morning to me.
But neither have I said it to them.
So, whatever.
I hurry in, placing my towel on top of a barrel with my empty tea cup, I pass the tables to reach the fresh bread on top of the counter next to the kitchens and I take a bun, then I take some butter and I spread it through the middle. The chef smiles at me, I smile back.
I am too hungry to speak. I take a bite and chew, while my stomach rumbles.
I had forgotten to eat yesterday, too consumed with nerves and grief combined.
The Crows move around me, taking their choice, while other staff show up yawning and stretching their arms above their head, rubbing their eyes as they also quickly line up for breakfast.
I move back to my towel, and I see the naked backs of Damion, Axe, Rurx and Krystoph as they just focus on their food, paying me no attention.
I hold my towel and my empty tea cup and I stay for a moment, glaring at their inattention.
Only masters treated their slaves with such disregard.
I had seen it timelessly, even wives, classified as men’s slaves, they were barely acknowledged – unless they were of some immediate use. Like pleasure. Mostly just pleasure.
Now that they didn’t feel like groping my tits, they were leaving me alone.
This makes me weirdly furious.
I keep glaring at them, feeling my anger rise.
I take another bite of my fresh bun and storm from the room, heading back to my room.
On the way out of the kitchen, I see four new faces.
Concubines weren’t allowed in the general vicinity.
But I see four of them, makeup all scattered, their lips puffy from being kissed all night – and their clothes cover their thighs but not their tits. They have love bites all over, and they’re all blonde like me.
I don’t know why I think that.
But I stop next to them and I stare at one of their thighs… all of their thighs.
They were cut by a knife. Marked by their initals.
The concubines don’t seem too upset by this, in fact, one of their fingers trails over one wound.
“Jealous?” she whispers at me, her light blue eyes alight with a satisfied fire.
“Why would I be jealous of a whore?” I ask, feeling my voice tremble. The girl looks taken aback. I almost cry, and she almost looks guilty. I don’t think she meant to tease or taunt, she was just making light of the brutal way they were owned by the Crows, “I… apologise,” I quickly add.
The concubines don’t know what to say, they stare at me, speechless.
I turn to run and one of them grabs my wrist, but lightly, she tugs me closer, to whisper in my ear, “They asked us to be you.”
“What?” I tug away from her, “What?
“Be careful,” the first one speaks up again, “All they talk about is you,” I don’t stay around to hear anymore, “See you tonight, Ice Seer!” she adds, and she actually sounds friendly. I shouldn’t be so surprised, the concubines were always friendly. They were all willing.
I quickly move back inside, finding the staircase to head back up to my level and my bed chamber.
I didn’t expect such kind words from them.
And I also feel guilty.
I don’t know why I feel guilty.
I wash quickly, with a sponge and tap water. I don’t have time to heat a bath.
I dress in a light blue dress, which covers me from my neck to my ankles. It was a fine dress, hugging every curve, and I also had cute white gloves that went with them too.
I liked this look.
I wanted to open the court today and talk more.
It would be a good distraction before the Harvest.
Maybe an hour later I hear them outside my door, talking to each other.
They’re awfully relaxed.
I open my door and face my Crows.
This time my hair is braided, and my charcoal is more lightly applied around my eyes so it doesn’t start to mix with the humidity and drip down my face.
Damion, Axe, Rurx and Krys have a respectable distance for now, waiting by the opposite wall, leaning on it, waiting for me.
They give me their full attention now.
Axe, in his full black coat and hood pulled over his eyes, Damion in his usual scuffed and thick armour, Krys with his shiny rings, glamours belt and shiny black shoes. They all wear their black coats as well, for any travelling involved for the day.
“Do any of you know, if anyone like Ionen is coming today?” I ask.
“Probably his first wife, with a rage for you… every other house that bides by what you see in the Ice, is out protecting the usual territories. The Boned people don’t rise again for another month until the new moon, it should be a quiet day,” Krys says this all smoothly, as if he prepared it.
“If it’s too quiet, I’ll retire the court early,” I respond.
I then walk past them and make my way for the court.
I couldn’t look at Damion.
He had a fire in his eyes. He wanted to tease me. I could feel it coming before he even airs it.
“How can we please you best today, Anastasia,” he drawls it, sounding ready for a fight.
“You can break your vow, that would be a start,” I growl it under my breath.
Damion chuckles, “…I don’t think I will, princess.”
“You can have anyone here,” I hiss back at him, and he’s right there, right near me, eager to see my screwed up face.
Concubines don’t fight back,” Damion tugs my braid once before he falls back into step, “…although none of us thought you’d be one to… run from us.”
His deep voice is full of pleasure.
Pleasure at my apparent weakness.
He had to go there.
I spin in an instant and I approach Damion’s front, reaching for his belt and looking for his short sword.
Damion keeps his hands up, as I unsheath his weapon and press it to his throat.
“Shut. Up. You. Vile. Man,” I hiss at him.
But Damion gives me his throat.
Hands still in the air, looking… happy.
Even though Axe looks nervous by his side and the other two aren’t moving.
“If I offended you, I’m sorry,” Damion says it so smoothly, even arching a brow without twitching.
“Why aren’t you fighting back?” I ask, “Huh?”
“Well, you’d lose miserably,” Damion states the obvious,  “And we couldn’t keep playing together, now, could we? If I threw you in chains… it wouldn’t be any fun,” he watches me lower the sword and push it back into the sheath at his belt, as I shake my head and spin around, marching forward again.
Why did I fall for it?
Why did I like it?
Why did I like him? Or any of them?
It wasn’t a game.
This was my purity they were coercing.
I hated it.
I hated that I was giving in, in small ways.
The moment I caved completely; they’d lose interest.
I had to remember that. Their interest in me in the first place was one of the reasons I was defended.
And my interest in them was the reason they stayed.
It was both ways.
But, fuck, they were an unhealthy distraction.
I almost felt safe with them.
The moment I felt safe, they’d put a collar on me and be done with me. I had to remember that. I had to remember.
If they took me, if they owned me – I wouldn’t exist.
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◦•●◉ RING OF CREN Chapter 5 ◉●•◦
Anastasia’s POV
The court was quiet. I answered everything as best as I could, then I decided to retire the court to look in at the Harvest celebration as it was being prepared early.
A feast, fires, music and high-born lords mingling together all night. They’d bring their wives, but that didn’t mean concubines weren’t handed around either.
It was a strange event.
In the middle of the hall was an ice statue of a shield with the Cren’s symbol. Which also happened to be a Crow, for our people and our spirit that we protected.
My Crows were just following suit, named after our spirit.
Damion admires the ice shield while Axe stares into the massive fire place, fifty feet wide, it tended to provide enough heat to those fucking on the rug. Rurx is already eating some of the food being brought out early. Krystoph flanks me, as I speak to the connecting kitchens out the back.
“Only display half the ale and wine,” I tell the staff, “Last time I heard there was throw up everywhere in the morning – I don’t want that happening again… everyone should be advised to have some restraint – their King just died. I don’t want disrespect shown to his passing, or my brothers.”
“We’ll keep the rest in storage,” the head chef agrees, and I turn into Krystoph’s shoulder, as he stood so close, following me around.
I slide past him and he follows, “We can always retire the Harvest early, if there is trouble,” Krys suggests. I look at his grey eyes and then his lips. When he dared kiss me yesterday and called me Ana. I liked to reimagine it was said with admiration and affection.
“I was thinking of that,” I admit, “…why are you looking at me like that?”
“I have affluence with your allies, if you have trouble addressing them, I can always help,” Krys suggests this very carefully.
“Does it look like I need help?” I ask, offended.
Krystoph doesn’t answer me, he looks quietly smug and his eyes swipe past me to the Harvest hall, where the others wait.
I walk with him back out to see my Crows wondering about, not paying me any attention as I walk through and stop briefly, looking toward the top banquet where I’d sit, where my father once sat.
I had never joined.
I didn’t like it.
I’d be alone up there today, and I wanted the four extra seats to be filled with my four Crows – the only other people I knew well enough to take those seats.
It would mean a lot to me… as long as they behaved.
For some reason the thought of being the only one on that top banquet would drive it home that my father and brothers were never, ever, coming home. Then I’d most likely cry in front of everyone. Everyone you shouldn’t cry in front of.
Krystoph, perhaps, understands me, and it’s why he flanks me so close. His eyes follow mine to the top banquet and I know why he suggested we retire it all early… if there was trouble.
Not from the allies at all.
But from my own emotions.
It would only be a matter of time before I realised dressing up as my heroines could only distract me from the truth for so long.
That I was the very last Ice Seer – and that meant I had no choice but to do the impossible. Maybe deep inside it’s the last thing I wanted. Maybe I just wanted to read and disappear and be a kid again. Already I had a duty to make offspring and that’s something I did not want to think about right now.
Is growing up this hard for everyone else? Or am I the only one complaining about my growing responsibilities?
I don’t show it to them.
But I feel pathetic inside.
I wonder if the Crows know that, deep down – I am fragile.
I quickly leave the hall and they all follow me now.
“Do you have a wife?” I ask Krys, as we walk side by side, and I choose to head back to my quarter of the castle.
“No,” Krys answers, sounding offended, “Why do you ask?
“You’re very mysterious, like you have a secret wife and secret children running around town, wondering where you are,” I don’t know why I think that, but when I look up at him he’s quietly amused.
“I live by my sword and I’ll die by it,” Krystoph answers, smooth, “I have no time for a family.”
“Do any of you have wives?” I ask, looking over my shoulder to see Damion, Axe and Rurx walking together, eavesdropping on our conversation.
Damion looks distraught by the question, “Fuck no.”
I look to Axe, he shakes his head.
I look to Rurx, he winks, his eyes looking deep into my own with pure intention. He wants me.
And that’s my responses from them. No more words other than ‘fuck no’ from Damion.
Well, we’re definitely not making progress.
“I’m just going to…” I start to speak openly, kindly again… I stop myself from finishing the sentence as I reach my bedchamber door, laying my hand on the door knob. I turn around to face them, they wait for me to finish speaking.
I just sigh and walk into my room and slam the door shut.
Why even bother telling them my plans before the Harvest?
They’d do what they wanted anyway while roaming my halls.
I walk to my wardrobe, and I eye the rest of my costumes.
All these pieces I had made for me – I thought I’d never, ever get to wear them.
I used to just admire them on the rack.
I shut my wardrobe door and I see a few candles still burning from last night, giving my large wardrobe a golden ambience over the thick red rug and golden wallpaper – and the huge mirror.
As a kid, it was where I played. Everything in it used to belong to my mother. Her clothes are on the left, still there, and I still maintain them.
I had never worn any of them either though. I just admired them.
I go to my costumes and I feel my mind run wild with how I can present myself tonight.
How about, Princess Jewel, from another novel I admired. She was a slave, picked by the prince of darkness to be a concubine, but she eventually became queen, and found out her lineage was connected to royalty from the enemy kingdom anyway. A crazy, preposterous story. She was always a princess and didn’t even know.
Maybe it’s reversed for me. I’m a princess and the whole time I have… a different side in me.
I have to stop my thoughts before I let them manifest.
Damion’s vow was still fucking with my head.
I look at my cut hand, healing into a pink line.
A man, vowing to me.
I had never imagined it.
Even if his language was crude, the fact he promised his blood to mine is… well, deep inside, I guess I thought it was romantic sort of, kind of…
I could never let them know that. I feel cheeky as I pull out the dress that’s made of thin golden chains and many, many jewels. It’s entirely see-through. A step up from the chain mail.
I undress and put it on for fun. Every move I make into the special costume has to be the right one, or it’ll all get tangled.
When I’m ready, I face the mirror.
I had never put this on, but I’m in love with it. The tiny jewels over the chains, hang across my skin and sparkle in the candlelight. I look amazing! And entirely naked at the same time.
Two knocks – at my wardrobe door – and then one of the Crows opens it, “…princess?”
I turn around, my heart racing.
It’s not Damion.
Rurx is holding out a sealed scroll, “I thought I better…” he pauses when he really sees what I’m wearing. I hold out a hand for the scroll and he steps in, pulling in his coat as he shuts the door a little too hard behind him.
He wants me all to himself, huh? I see it.
I returned his kiss yesterday. His tongue had slipped into my mouth – and I welcomed it. He knows that. Rurx comes forward, his eyes devouring every inch of me.
“You’re wearing that tonight?” he asks quietly, anxious for an answer.
“Should I?” I ask him as I take the scroll from him and put it on a stool next to me.
“You know… what Krys was saying down below… is he meant you can celebrate the Harvest, alone – in your chamber. You don’t have to join the festivities.  You can choose your own place,” he adds, seeming to want me to choose that option.
“Why would I want to… eat a feast… alone… in my room?” I ask him, truly confused.
“You’ll have us –” Rurx drawls, and I realise immediately what Krys was trying to do earlier.
“Get out, are you always so horny?!” I hiss.
Rurx turns to walk out at my hiss.
He reaches the door and looks back at me one last time, “About having a wife,” he dares to open his mouth.
“What about it?” I ask back.
Rurx stays by the door as he keeps running me over with his eyes, “We joke about… sharing a wife… and we love sharing you between us.”
My eyes pop.
At least he’s honest.
“Uh… well… Damion said something similar in his vow… just more vile,” I add, “He wants to fuck me at his leisure…” I scoff.
“We will,” Rurx agrees with Damion, then, and he just tells me straight, “It’d be expected.”
“And my future children would have Crow blood,” I add, “He thinks he owns my body too already. Do you think so, Rurx? Do you own me? In your conversations?” I really ought to know.
“Think of it this way,” Rurx considers himself carefully, “…if you’ll allow the thought to enter your mind… Anastasia… we would fuck you all the time…”
“I am… still pure,” I add, awkwardly, not knowing if they even know that. Rurx seems honoured I’ve admitted this. He raises his head a little, and he looks at me with a different light in his dark eyes, “…why should I… Rurx… why should I allow any of you to take me for your pleasure?” I am scared for his answer.
“Ice Seer – you are a woman,” Rurx reminds me with a bit of impatience, “You belong to us already.”
His indignant tone. Like he’s my master. And I’m his slave.
I could kill him for saying that.
Rurx leaves before I can attempt to thwart him.
I had balled up my fists. He had left and slammed the door.
What a… what a prick!
Is that how they saw it?
Is that it? I look at myself, and I feel my skin sweat with a new round of nervous anticipation.
They didn’t talk about wanting me.
Be careful, she said – one of the concubines.
They talk about you all the time.
They had me. That’s how they see it.
So, then.
Every word, every bloody thing they did and said to me, pretending to listen – I was still a plaything to them.
Damion said, I’d lose miserably.
That’s why he wasn’t even trying.
They were just toying with me. Playing with me.
What were they imagining? What were they planning for me?
Just the thought of them all grabbing me, ripping my clothes off and making me do whatever they want… smiling the whole time because some twisted side of me complies and lets them do it… when I angrily turn to my stool and my legs twist… I feel it… the wetness gathering between my legs.
I reach down and it’s more cream than I thought. Way more.
What was wrong with me?
I had to bring a new sense of courage with me tonight. I was going to need it… because I feel like I’m about to break.
They couldn’t have it that easy.
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◦•●◉ RING OF CREN Chapter 6 ◉●•◦
Anastasia’s POV
That night I watch the Harvest from afar. It’s a larger crowd than expected. I wear a thick coat around my shoulders, hiding my jewel dress beneath.
In the crowd of the Harvest I see the usual faces, and some new ones. The scroll passed to me earlier today from Rurx said to watch my back, word the Cren was seen as up for grabs, was spreading. It was an unknown sender.
The Bone kingdom was more interested in death. They were dead once they released their spirit. The Eye were all ghosts.
The Cren and the Mal were the two co-existing ruling entities.
The Mal Kingdom was visiting, they were meant to be our allies, but I had my hackles raised. We were meant to be unified in battle, to defeat the Boned people, which we were, but…
I always considered my only threats to be people disloyal to me, but then again, Mal could always try and take control of the Cren spirit as well.
Their maleficent spirit, the Mal, if released, would corrupt minds. They wouldn’t be interested in death, as much as things like torture and pain.
One of our agreed pacts was to stay separate, only our armies mingled on the ground.
When their officials were sent to speak with my father and brothers – it was rare, very rare.
We had the Ice Glacier, between us, fertile lands we shared for food, and on the other side – the Mal Kingdom was centred in a dense forest. They were intensely interested in magic, so finding your way through their cursed forests was their biggest defence.
Ours? Aside from the Cren – it was the cold. It was bitterly bleak for us, but the Mal people liked the warmth, and it was enough to kill any troublemakers that thought they might wander this way.
Any travellers that came this way had to be escorted by our guides.
That’s why the Mal being here without warning, is a worry.
They’re striking while I’m weakest.
48 hours into my father’s death, they must have travelled here nonstop – eager to face the last Ice Seer.
The Mal King’s two adult sons are here, I see them enjoying the food and the Cren’s concubines, known to all to be a one of a kind beauty that couldn’t be found anywhere else. There is a large party of Mal officials also mingling with my allies. I take comfort knowing they are all unarmed since they came in here.
I stand on the balcony outside the library, it had a view of the courtyard connecting to the Harvest hall. Firepits hold some crowds of my own local allies, as they talk about the newcomers in the hall.
Rurx was the assassin in the Crows, so he is already mingling with everyone, trying to get information.
Axe and Damion stay with me.
Krystoph worries for his little brother, and he watches from the firepit down below, also from afar, occasionally looking up to me and Damion and Axe as they flank me above it all.
My fur coat ruffles with the wind.
“I think I have a plan,” I whisper, finally speaking since my spying of the Harvest. I take my hand out of my cloak, showing my ring with the crystal in the shape of a C, “I could open the vault. Release the spirit. The Cren will kill any disloyal here.”
Damion makes a noise, a kind of sigh of worry and growl combined.
I look to Axe and he is looking at me, he is tall enough that when I stand below him I can see his eyes clearly below his infamous hood.
I look to Damion, since Axe has no expression or words forthcoming, “Damion,” I ask him now, but with a firm voice, “Your thoughts on this?”
“The Cren is reserved for when the Kingdom is under extreme threat, specifically, if your rare blood line is under threat of extinction, and you being the last Seer, you may see it that way,” Damion glares over the courtyard, “It is your choice, Anastasia.”
“They may see it as an act of weakness, too,” I add, “Panic.”
“Not if they’re all dead,” Damion cocks a brow, finally looking at my pleading stare.
“Do you think… it’ll kill everyone?” I ask, “What if they’re all disloyal. What if none are loyal?”
“That is where you must be careful,” Axe speaks up, his lullaby voice is a like a poison all of it’s own, he barely sounds human at times, “You should talk to the Mal princes first, see what their intention is.”
“I don’t want to talk to them,” I growl under my breath, “I didn’t invite them – they’re already breaking the rules which are steadfast between our kingdoms.”
“If the rules are broken, you can break them too,” Damion growls this low over me, almost seeming to regret saying that.
“I need to appear strong,” I talk it out, “…will you at least obey me in front of them?”
“Always, princess, our job is to protect and defend you. We’ll do whatever it takes,” Damion admitting this, gives me confidence.
I smile a bit, as I turn around and I add, “Then I will face them… and find out what they want. I will not drink or eat anything, in case there is poison.”
“The Mal would not poison… you are too naïve,” Axe looks to Damion, “We could just bar her in the library. It may be safer,” I spin and put my hand on Axe’s shoulder, turning right against him, stepping closer. I slip my other hand into his coat, looking for a weapon, but his hand falls on mine, looking for a knife. He just stares at me. He won’t let me take his weapon. He doesn’t trust me like Damion did. Or maybe Damion was just crazier.
“You need to stop that,” Damion drawls with annoyance into my ear, his hands grabbing my forearms, pulling my arms back and then shoving my front harder into Axe’s. He squishes me between them, so I’m kept still.
My forehead rests on Axe’s coat, as Damion kisses my temple and my ear, “Stop,” he warns me, between kisses, “Being. Naughty… now… are you warmer yet?”
“Yes,” I answer, licking my lips but hiding that I do it.
“You shouldn’t get so cold that you shake,” Damion holds me a bit longer between them, his hands still on my arms, forcing me to stay still, “When you enter the hall, stay by the fire. That’s not a suggestion,” he presses his cheek to mine, “Yes?
“The fire,” I agree with two words, even though I enjoy the heat between them. Damion rubs his hands up and down my arms, warming me up even more.
I press my cheek to Axe’s front, and I’m actually glad I’m squished right now, as I do feel stronger as they help keep me warm.
“…Anastasia… your lips are turning blue,” Damion sees and I hide my face in Axe’s front. But Axe reaches for me instead, pulling out his blade – I get a fright so I look up, as he puts the blade to my throat, keeping me looking up and nowhere else.
Axe looks calm and in a psychopathic kind of way, he is happy I’m so frightened, as he leans down and presses his hot mouth to mine – kissing me silent.
I stay still so the blade doesn’t cut, but he holds it flat against my skin anyway.
I close my eyes as Axe keeps his lips gentle on mine. It’s not a hard kiss.
But it does send a fire through my loins.
Every part of me bursts with renewed flame.
It’s scary how hot I feel all of a sudden.
“I’m too warm now,” I complain, pulling my face away from him.
Axe lowers his knife, and sheaths it back into his coat silently.
Damion puts a hand to my cheek, still keeping me between them, he makes me turn toward him, “I don’t like kissing that much,” he admits, “But they’ve all had your mouth and I haven’t.” He sounds pissed about that, as he presses his scowling lips to mine. It’s a quick kiss, but he is happy he finally got a taste. As he leans back, I let out a long breath I had been holding.
“I said I’m warm,” I state, “Release me.”
Damion steps back, Axe also.
I flutter my eyelids as I look between them. They made me feel alive. I was actually in love with that feeling. Being wanted the way they wanted me.
They wait to see if I’ll complain about their treatment of me.
But I don’t scold them for it.
Strangely… I enjoyed the risk they posed.
“Let’s make my father proud,” I suggest, with tears in my eyes, “And show these Mal princes their place. If they dare suggest a vow to me… thinking I am available to take, or even if they show me disrespect, I want you, Damion, to cut a hand off – let them return to their King with the consequences of crossing the last Ice Seer in her own Court of Cren. And make sure you show them this,” I grab Damion’s hand, bringing it up, I open his fingers, looking at the pink scar he made for me, “Show them who protects me. Not a Mal. A Crow. My Crows.”
Damion looks to Axe and they share a smug smile between them. Brotherly affection. Knowing what the other is thinking. But they’re also happy with me.
I turn and I lead the way.
I wasn’t scared anymore.
My Crows were protecting me.
I was ready to face the enemy.
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◦•●◉ RING OF CREN Chapter 7 ◉●•◦
Anastasia’s POV
I enter the Harvest with Damion and Axe flanking at a distance, so it appears I enter alone.
I walk slowly toward the fire, the eyes of every ally and the two Mal princes in the room, follow me as I unhook my coat and let it slip to the floor.
Naked and covered in jewels, I channel the power of the Jewel queen.
No matter what she was judged for, she was born into power, enslaved to it and eventually embodied it.
I let the fire warm my skin, while Damion and Axe have paused by the food, I feel their eyes on me – shocked that I am practically naked in a room full of mostly men.
I look to the two Mal princes, with concubines on their arms. New ones, they look freshly hired into the service. At least they’re distracted.
“Come here,” I demand the Mal princes to come to me – and they do.
The room is silent as they abandon their food and pleasure and walk toward me.
Both brothers seem a similar age but it’s obvious to me right away that neither like each other. They both try to get a head of each other, before trying to dispel the look of rivalry from their expressions. They slow and stop before me, but already I have what I need.
Both Mal princes have strawberry blonde hair and hazel eyes, but their Mal tattoos of swords cover either side of their necks. A maleficent spider badge is on either of their coats, signifying their alliance with Mal customs.
“Your name?” I ask the brother with a scarred lip and down cast eyes; he has a fascination with the red jewel covering my naval.
“Sorer,” he introduces himself, and I look to the older more dominant brother, whose brows twitch repeatedly with irritation at being ignored. He is interested in material. He has golden rings on every finger, a golden chain around his neck with a symbol of a naked woman dancing, hanging from the chain.
“Fanguard,” the older one answers and I interrupt quickly.
“Why are you here?” I ask, quickly, looking to Sorer.
“Our condolences,” Fanguard attempts to answer.
Sorer looks up at my face and his eyes are sharp, I feel right away he knows what I’m up to, so I focus back on Fanguard, changing tactic.
“That’s very thoughtful of the Mal royal family to send their two princes to me,” I hold out my hand to Fanguard, to kiss if he were to dare it.
He looks at it like my hand might burn him – but even so, he doesn’t get a chance to try and touch me.
Damion walks over and puts himself between us, facing Fanguard, “The Ice Seer is untouchable,” Damion’s growl is utterly guttural with a threat – and I feel my skin shiver with the passion in his voice – and the power, the potential violence he could wield like magic. For me. Just to possess me.
Anastasia offered her hand,” Fanguard starts to smile. Damion starts to snarl.
“Crow, back off, now,” I growl it and even though a small part of me wants to giggle, I abolish that ridiculous thought.
Damion steps back instantly but the look he sends me is still full of passion – and now directed at me.
Regardless, the sharp Crow holds himself well when asked.
I notice Krystoph and Rurx in the back of the hall, walking along the wall, looking through our guests’ things.
“We’d like to see the Ice and your ability,” Sorer speaks up now.
“No,” I answer him with one word, “…not tonight. Why are you really here without invitation?”
“Our people are dying together, we should be together, in close discussion – not as distant witnesses to our people becoming the Vanished,” Sorer is getting quite passionate about this.
“The Vanished?” I ask, never hearing this word before spoken out loud, but certain I have read about it.
“You don’t know, do you,” Fanguard raises his chin now, “Our Mal spirit joined the Boned.”
“What,” I let my fear out in this second, “Who released the Mal?”
“It’s a good thing you have not released the Cren, Ice Seer. Our father panicked. Released our spirit. It left our kingdom and it joined the freed Bone spirit and the Eye. Now the dead aren’t dead, they’re trapped in an eternal hell, alive but forced to be in the Maleficent Castle. It’s lore we’ve all forgotten, but three centuries ago the evil spirits once all joined together, are able to open the door between the Eye and our reality… for all us to cross, it can release untold magic, threats none of us can hope to counter. If that door opens, all our lives are at risk. We came here to tell you to never release the Cren,” Soren looks distraught by this just as much as I.
“I’ve read all the stories… I thought they were just stories,” I admit, and I decide I like Soren as he is also well read. He nods and looks away, avoiding staring at my naked body any further. Fanguard, however, is still ogling me all over.
“You are the last one alive keeping us all safe, I believe it,” Fanguard licks his lips as he asks for more wine, taking it from a servant, he drinks, “Our father will not listen.”
“He doesn’t know,” Soren adds, looking back to me, hesitant, “That we’re here in secret.”
“You have my protection,” I say right away, “Did anyone see you come in?”
“No rumours have spread,” it’s Krystoph who speaks, coming in from my left, looking in my eyes as he places a protective and possessive hand on the small of my back, “The only ones who know they’re here – are the high born allies and the staff.”
“Good, I want them to be in our best guest chambers, if you’re in them, vacate them, and I mean all of you Crows,” I look the offended Krystoph in the eye, and I see Damion looking so furious he can’t even meet my look. Axe has heard but stays back. Rurx is somewhere I can not see for now, but I know he also listens, “As you are my Crows, you have my permission to take any other room, just make our guests comfortable – and we will discuss this more tomorrow,” I promise Soren.
Fanguard is already drinking himself under, clearly scared of the retribution from his father. They could be disowned for thwarting him. Rule and hierarchy in their kingdom was extremely strict, even worse than the Cren.
Soren looks exhausted, he nods and walks off to find soft company.
The rest of the allies go back to their circles to talk while Damion stalks over and lifts up my coat from the floor, placing it back over my shoulders, he tugs it around the front and hooks it up for me, his dark eyes on fire.
“You have to vacate your guest rooms now,” I remind him, my eyes hardening, “Now, Damion. Don’t make me repeat myself a third time.”
He promised to obey me. I had to appear powerful. He had to help by respecting me.
Damion is on the edge. Even Krystoph’s hand on my back is quite rigid.
“You too,” I turn to Krys, “Now.”
“Where will we go?” Krys asks.
“Oh, I’m not your staff master, or your house maiden, you know these walls well enough and the Court of Cren is massive, work it out, you’ll probably find accommodation somewhere close to pleasurable company. Also, I will put myself to bed,” I don’t know why I have to rub in my power trip right now. I didn’t want to be like that, but my nerves are on edge and I am ready to let out my frustration at my Crows.
I appreciated them of course, but they were painful to deal with.
I was always behaved and trying to appear good natured. They could at least just do as I ask this time without a fuss. It wasn’t a big deal at all.
I was truly the one who had a right to be stressed. After Soren’s words, right now I wasn’t just the last Ice Seer. I was the last thing standing between evil pouring back into the world.
My ring and I.
It’s enormous pressure. I need them to listen.
My Crows depart rapidly, much faster than I anticipate.
I walk around to the allies.
I make small talk.
I feel safe.
For the next hour or so, I mingle.
Most of the conversations I have are small talk, but one thing remains consistent.
Every ally is loyal, as they should be.
I actually think I’ll sleep well tonight. Finally. Something goes right.
I go to Soren and Fanguard last of all. I usher more staff closer.
“Damion advises the secured guest rooms are empty and ready,” a manservant tells me, and I tell my guests.
I see to it that Soren and Fanguard are being safely ushered outside the Harvest hall and being escorted to bed.
Now, I finally take my leave.
I was tired.
And I was annoyed.
Even though I said to the Crows that I’d put myself to bed, I thought at least one of them would come back to check on me.
I know I sound selfish and up tight and bratty and spoilt. But I just had that in me. My father and brothers spoilt me rotten and I missed the pampering for being the only girl in blood line.
None of this attention-seeking is justified. But maybe I just miss my father. My family.
What if they’re alive?
Just trapped. In the Maleficent Castle. Being tortured.
The thought is enough to almost knock me out with anguish and hope simultaneously.
I think about all this as I exit the courtyard and walk by the firepits. I feel eyes on me out here.
I look up to the second story balcony of the library.
I see the edge of a cape and a shadow move. Was that Axe watching me from afar?
I feel a little better. So one did return to watch my back. I’m glad they don’t hate me. I’m glad they do care about my safety, even after I was a little mean to them in front of the guests.
Anyway, I was only human.
I couldn’t be perfect, I was just trying my best!
Admittedly a little drunk, I finally retreat up to my room.
The walk back alone is refreshing.
Time to be alone and think.
And soon, bed. And maybe, time to re-read the Honey Princess, which was the title of the Jewel princess and her story with the prince of darkness. I had started to read it again and left it on my bed. I wring my hands together, excited to get lost in that make-believe world.
As I reach my bedchamber…
…the door, I see it’s left ajar. I never leave my door open.
My heart races for a moment, until I hear smug voices from the inside.
I open the door, looking into my private chambers.
All my Crows – with all their things. Scattered everywhere haphazardly, their man-smell quickly permeating everything.
“What is this about?” I ask, at first angry, and then worried, “Oh. Are there no rooms?”
I look all around. Rurx and Krystoph sit by the fire on the velvet red couch.
Damion stands waiting for me in the centre, right there, hands clasped behind his back, his loose pants his only remaining garment. I try not to stare at his glorious hard defined abs. It wasn’t fair – but he was a warrior so what should I expect? I bite my cheek as I glare at him, mimicking him by putting my hands behind my back too, clasping one wrist tight.
But then I also happen to notice Axe is behind Damion, lounging on my bed – boots off, making himself quite comfortable, his hood still over his face even as he reads through the book I’d been reading! A romance! Axe looks rather bored by it, but he is also smiling the whole time, clearly understanding my brain a bit more – probably realising just how girly I am.
I blush but I try not to react.
“I… I d-don’t understand,” I stutter.
“It’s what you said,” Damion drawls finally, “You have my permission to take any other room. You said it quite aggressively, Ana, so we took the order very seriously… or do you deny your own words… Jewel princess?” that killer smirk that pulls across Damion’s face at the end has my cheeks flaming red.
I could die right here, right now. Axe told him what I was reading. They were discussing my interests. I go so red, and I feel so upset, I barely know what to do or say.
I try to stick to logic.
“There is one bed,” I tell him, too exhausted to argue but here I am at midnight still having to debate everything with my Crows.
“We will make do,” Damion lowers his voice, he looks too sly.
I lose it. My temper unleashes.
Oh, will you, Damion? Then like dogs, you’ll all sleep on the floor – not on the bed,” I can’t help myself. And I don’t know where my tongue comes from. I let it fly as sharp as their eyes, “I am the princess. You will obey me.”
“So we can stay?” Damion grins and laughs to the ceiling, and it’s deep and resonate – but it’s way too relaxed.
I’m in trouble.
They’re encroaching on me, quick.
I almost cry – but I remember they can’t see that.
They’re too in control. They’ve struck while I’m tired – exhausted – vulnerable.
In a panic, I walk by him, shoving into his shoulder, he barely moves, like smacking into a wall. I hurt myself doing it, but I keep pacing through my bed chamber looking for a place to escape before I let the tears fall.
My salvation.
I strut to the wardrobe with a high back and I go in and shut the door quietly.
I put my back against it, my breathing shaky.
I had a good night.
But the Crows in my room – it was against my powerful narrative, my attempt to be the heroine.
I needed support.
I didn’t know how I could survive… four of them taunting me.
When I wanted them. But they wanted me collared.
Even if I could think of a witty solution I am too tired. My best solution is a dress pile, and to sleep on my costumes. It would do.
I’d sleep in my wardrobe.
I’d deal with them tomorrow.
…but… what if I needed to pee?
Well… I look back to the shut door… I’d go when they were sleeping…
And I’d have to tip-toe.
It’s all I have for now. That’s my ‘amazing’ plan.
It’ll have to do.
It was the wardrobe and my freedom – or them.
And maybe I wouldn’t mind that.
But I couldn’t afford to back down – my freedom and room to wriggle was just getting smaller and smaller. It was looking like soon I’d have nowhere to go but right into their arms.
And they knew, I could fucking tell, they knew that’s exactly where this was headed.
They had all kissed me.
I wonder what else they wanted?
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◦•●◉ RING OF CREN Chapter 8 ◉●•◦
Anastasia’s POV
I can hear a snowstorm outside, the howling wind sounds like an omen to me and I hope everyone in town is somewhere warm, or else they’d die out in that weather.
An hour or so pacing the wardrobe’s small length, I undress and put on a white shift. It’s loose, no showing off my curves or anything like that. My makeup is still on but I’m going to wash it off once I creep across the bedroom and enter the bathroom.
My Crows went quiet awhile ago, and the lights were out. The only light left was the fire.
When I am brave enough, I walk to the door and I think I see a shadow underneath – but it flickers away.
It’s just the way light dances from the hearth.
When I’m brave enough, I place my hand on the door knob and twist, inching the door open as slow as I can.
Without a sound, not even a creak, I lean my head against the wood and peek out into my bedchamber.
I expected?
Well, what could I expect – other than men, sleeping soundly. Or men, perhaps reading in the dark.
What I see sends a chill through me.
The room is very dark. The light of the fire has burned so low, only embers and a small flame licks around the black wood, caving in, sending out a flurry of embers as the last fuel is used.
I feel like I’m staring at grey statues.
I almost forget they’re alive.
I almost forget they’re men.
Damion stands exactly where he stood before – but he faces me, a dark silhouette – it’s extremely unsettling. Axe isn’t on the bed but he is by the window coloured by the violent blizzard. He is standing still, hood pulled over his face, his side turned toward me.
Rurx and Krys are pretty much half naked like Damion now, only in their loose trousers, both by the dying fire – and the light of it licks a grey, low amber light across their rippling shoulders.
Rurx’ doll like hair is still flowing in perfect curls like it’s just been made, pushed off one shoulder.
They have moved to the couch opposite the one they were on earlier. So now they face me – staring at the princess peaking out of the wardrobe.
Four men being totally creepy in the dark.
There is no way I’m going out there.
I slip my hand off the edge of the door, I had been about to open it, now I’m about to close it.
But I need to pee bad, it’s not like I can wait any longer.
I just didn’t expect them to be silent as stone and watching me – as if they were waiting for nothing else.
I need courage.
Be the Jewel princess – she feared nothing.
I shove open the door, heaving in breaths to try and breathe in confidence as I ball my fists and walk into the darkness of the room.
As I march across, no one says a word, no one moves.
My heart flys into my throat, as I make it to the bathroom, but I felt their eyes follow me.
I do my business as quickly as I can, and then spend a while at the sink, washing my face, over and over, worried by how wide and scared my eyes are.
I look like I’ve been through hell.
Really, Anastasia?
My Crows protected me. What was I complaining about?
Why was I still sacred of my own men?
Hmm… my own men.
“Mine…” I mouth the word at myself, finding the answer.
My men. I had to own that.
I dry my face and brush through my hair. I walk back out into the room, and this time I don’t march across.
I walk slow, watching each of them, still as they are.
I walk up to my bed, still made, and I sit on the covers, placing my hands on my knees, as I sit back on my turned feet, “What’s wrong with you?” I ask into the air, still warm but getting cold.
I look to Damion for an answer, since he is the one standing so rigid, hands still clasped behind him, his silhouette still facing me.
“Do you always speak to yourself… Ice Seer?” I hear a strangers voice to my left, and I turn to see a cloaked assassin by the wardrobe, smirking and whispering to me, as he shows me the blade hidden beneath his furs, “There’s no one here – just you and me. You can scream but no one will hear – the blizzard itself screams louder.”
I look to Damion but he doesn’t move otherwise.
I look to Damion’s feet and I see shadows swirling.
Oh. My Crows are using a glamour. Forbidden Mal magic.
What the hell?
The assassin cannot see them. Only me.
I scramble off the bed as the assassin goes around wide, side stepping, blade held out, as he watches me. Just a paid sword. This is a job.
“You can’t touch me,” I tell the assassin, “I am untouchable.”
“Is that what you believe?” he pulls down his hood, and I recognise the man as the sword of Ionen – and he is also Ionen’s widows brother. So not hired – this was vengeance? “You don’t seem very scared of death…” he whispers, “but I guess the power of the Cren has given you a false sense of protection,” I just stand still and listen, as he moves closer, step by step – but as he moves, Damion does too, mirroring him, ghosting his moves, right behind him, still silent like a stone – even as he moves with a killer’s grace.
“What will taking me achieve?” I ask, trying to appear scared, I put a hand to my shift and clutch it over my heart, “I know who you are. Please. What is it you’ll gain by doing this for your sister –”
It’s not revenge for Ionen’s death,” he admits in a hiss, “It’s that,” he looks to my hand over my heart and the Ring of Cren, “No woman should wear that ring. I’m saving everyone from a woman who thinks she can rule,” he hisses as he lunges for me. I don’t flinch.
He can suddenly acknowledge the confidence in my eye too late.
I don’t know his name, I don’t remember it, but his eyes widen, and he turns, just too late.
Damion’s hand clamps down on his wrist, squeezing until I hear tendons snap and a bone breaks. The blade falls and levitates through the air, back into Damion’s open hand, as the assassin spins to my Crow – Damion smoothly slices his throat in one silent swipe.
The body drops, every bone breaks – I hear the snapping. I don’t know how. I watch as Damion opens his hand and the assassin levitates up a few inches from the ground, as his neck is coated red. Damion then kneels down and slams the blade into his heart. The man twists and curls into black shadows… one second he is real… the next… he vanishes.
Every drop of blood is gone, every bit of him that existed doesn’t exist anymore.
But my Crows never had that kind of power?
My mind races. If the Mal infected them, it would explain the inhuman silence… the menacing stares, the waiting.
What if I’m their next victim? But instead of death, it’s just torture. I bet they’d love to torture me. I don’t know where the thought comes from. But I know they love to play. And I know what they did to those concubines.
Damion gets to his feet and I see his black eyes – they look evil to me.
I’m next. I can’t shake the thought.
“Anastasia,” Damion tries to calm me down, I see his open hand, gesturing in a fashion that he means no harm – but his expression is entirely different, and his voice is becoming like Axes’ lullaby. Inhuman and strange.
What the hell are you?” I cry out the question as I run past him, and I see Krys and Rurx stand, but Damion barks at them.
“Don’t,” Damion keeps them off my back… but the sudden laugh at the end is short and precise, a perfect song note.
Where will you run to?
That’s all I hear.
Well, I had my plan.
And I don’t care if I’m panicking like the Mal King.
I sprint for the Ice chamber. Once there, I turn into a cut in the Ice, walking into the freezing cold, I carefully navigate the ice corridor. At night it’s silver, and I barely see a thing, but I do see moonlight at the end.
I run for the open room, empty of everything except the ice vault.
It’s a massive opaque circular door, thick and fully shut.
I stand in front of the door and I hold my fist and the ring out toward the Ice.
I’m opening it.
The whole door sings and cracks – making all kinds of beautiful noises that only ice can make.
It starts to swing.
I had no choice.
If my Crows were maddened by the evil spirits in our lands – I only had the Cren to defend me.
Whatever it was. Whatever it could do. The Ice swings open, revealing the sparse insides.
Inside the glacier I see furniture carved from the ice, every inch of what I see in there looks amazing – every surface is reflective or silver or translucent.
And the spirit?
Nothing rushing out.
There is nothing.
Because the vault was already emptied.
“Hello?” I call out and my voice echoes, “…Cren?” I whisper it.
I hear footsteps behind me and I turn, my Crows sneaking up on me.
I face them with finality in my heart.
I think I’m going to die.
“Your father did it,” Damion drawls.
“What?” I whisper, “Did he open it?”
“Yes. The moment you were born and when your mother died. He wanted us to protect you, his only girl, you meant the world to him,” Damion answers, straight to it, “…and after all, we value Ice Seers and their blood. We’ve been looking out for you ever since.”
I look them over.
My hands open and close at my sides, my eyes scattering over their forms, not so human now – even though that’s exactly what they look like.
But they never aged… and I never noticed.
I don’t have words, Damion can see it’s too much for me.
I look at my ring… my useless ring.
I look back up to my Crows, they’d all kissed me… and the whole time I had no idea they weren’t even human.
They were something evil.
They came from the Eye.
“You’re not human,” I state, “You’re the Cren.”
Krystoph nods, explaining for me, “We were human once. But we wanted to control the Eye and everything within it – we did that by becoming Crows, the Eye gives us eternal youth. But we had no magic out here while the other spirits were locked away. You need to understand why. The bone spirit delivers the dead to the maleficent castle and the mal devours and spits out magic from the cracked bones. The cost of magic is bones. All magic comes from bones. Bones make blood. In the Eye, bones make magic. It’s all connected.”
The Mal that makes all magic,” I whisper, “Is evil.”
“It’s just magic,” Damion uses a more gentle voice, “…and we have always kept our promise to your father… we’re not going to kill you.”
All magic is evil,” I add, trying to understand, “So t-that m-means you’re Evil. All the spirits have been released. The Bone… and two days ago, the Mal… and now you’re… charged – with magic? What does the Cren… what do you do exactly.”
Now Axe steps forward, pushing down his hood, he is happy to answer, “We are the Princes of the Eye,” he sees my own eyes widen but he continues, “We lived within it, until we were taken out by an ancestor of your bloodline. An Ice Seer. We made a deal, we’d protect them and their bloodline – keep them ruling this glacier… and they wouldn’t kill us… at the time, it was complicated…”
“But,” Damion continues the story, “…if the spirits were all released, we’d be as powerful as we once were again, not just eternal knights – but Princes and Sorcerers of the Eye. The Cren, what we are, is the most powerful weapon anyone can have. That’s what we wanted. Eternality and power,” Damion is proud of this.
“Why both those things?” I wonder.
“…ambition,” Damion answers very personally, “What I want… I always… have,” he stares a little too darkly at my pink cheeks, “Same goes for us all.”
“I just realised this changes nothing and I’ll be going to bed,” I state, rather hysterically, trying to escape this room.
“Look into the Ice,” Damion commands me, stepping in my way and clasping my elbow. He stops me. He turns me and pushes me toward it.
“The Ice is back out there,” I say.
“Any part of it, look, I’ll let you see,” Damion murmurs.
I give in. I walk up to the glacier and find a smooth part. I kneel down and place my hands on the Ice.
My Crows follow me.
I look in and I watch for a premonition.
A threat. An answer.
One, or the other, or both. Sometimes it’s one thing. Sometimes two.
It’ll be whatever is in my future – my fate.
Seeing it early can help me change it.
All I see is Damion and I in the reflection, as he gets down behind me, and moves his cheek next to mine. His black hair touches my cheek, and his eyes eat me alive.
“See?” Damion asks, his voice a song.
“What?” I watch him through the reflection, “What should I see?”
Damion places his large scarred hands over my shoulders – gently caressing my skin. I let it happen and I watch him move them in the reflection. His hands slip under the material of the shift across my collar bone and shoulders, then down my arms. He grips and pulls in either direction, ripping my dress in half.
I flinch from the material breaking, but he leans in to kiss the curve of my neck, his hands sliding across my bare arms, sliding across my exposed rib cage, on both sides. My blood rushes hot and I whimper as I try not to gasp, as his hands slide up… he holds both my breasts in his hands, squeezing gently but holding them so possessively, he kisses the side of my jaw and looks me in the eye through the reflection. Damion presses his cheek against mine, he smiles slow and handsome.
My cheeks are red and now I’m the one silent as stone.
Damion doesn’t have to say a word.
I know what I see.
I slowly close my eyes.
I gulp… as I realise.
The evil spirits were all released when the Mal was released.
It was over.
I belonged to them now.
Damion was making it clear.
From this moment on I was enslaved to the Cren.
And the look on my face and the feelings in my heart were one and the same.
I was submitting to it.
Not them.
But the feeling. The feeling evoked in me – making me feel alive while held captive by dangerous maleficent beings.
I was letting that feeling in.
I wanted to know more about it.
What did surrender mean?
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◦•●◉ RING OF CREN Chapter 9 ◉●•◦
Anastasia’s POV
Without fully turning my body, I slowly look back into Damion’s face, as I ask, “Will you protect me… forever?” Damion nods, making a dark noise of confirmation. I turn back to the ice and look down, my dress has ripped in the reflection and not in real life, and it makes me mad. Of all things…
But it’s just what I feel.
I reach up and place my hands on his, as he has placed them on my shoulders. I grip Damion’s scarred and rough hands and make him grip the material. I look back once more, leaning up to kiss him.
It’s the first time I initiate with a Crow.
It seems to be the thing Damion was waiting for.
Was I ready.
“It’s too cold,” Damion growls into my wanting mouth, his eyes alight with fire. He refuses to take my shift off, so I grab it myself, pulling it over my head. I throw it aside and Damion’s eyes fall over me, as I sit up from kneeling, reaching for him. I press a hand over his abs, my fingers touching his mouth. As he stands, he grabs my wrists and pulls me up and into his torso, clutching me to him so my front is warm against his skin.
He… he is warm all over – with strong magic running through his veins, I feel it while pressed against him.
Damion is suddenly more than a knight to me. However, my knight shakes his head in disapproval, “You may be ours – but you are extremely disobedient, Anastasia. To the core… do you even want this?” A dangerous and provocative question when I’ve already kissed him and demanded he take this shift off me – only to deny me.
I see Damion means to trick me, while also curious with his honesty.
“I don’t care if I’m cold,” I almost cry with my need for him to understand, “I like the cold.”
Damion smirks and swings me around, still holding onto me, his hands run over my bare skin across my back. Now I smile.
The Crows come forward, but not too forward.
They watch me, my naked body being clutched and my submission to it.
I look back at them.
“I want it,” I answer to Rurx, my eyes sliding to Krystoph and Axe’s lowered hood as he paces, seeming impatient.
“To the library, Damion,” Axe murmurs his cruel lullaby, a cruel smile tugging at his mouth.
“Yes,” I answer right away, and Damion reluctantly lets me go, spinning me instead and smacking a hand over my ass. It tingles!
“Go,” he commands me to move and I move.
I attempt to run ahead of them, I’m stopped only briefly by Krystoph as he holds out a hand and lightly grabs my wrist, sweeping me around to him, I skid to a stop and he puts a finger under my chin, lifting my eyes, “Bold, Ana,” he smiles, “You would be naked all the time for us.”
“Oh, shh… my purity is still intact,” I whisper at Krys, and he loses his polished smile as he realises I am correct.
They don’t really own me like that.
Not yet.
I hear a beautiful chuckle from Rurx as I turn and run away into the ice corridor, to the Ice itself, and I keep moving for the library.
When I look over my shoulder I see them coming, Axe at the forefront, eager to catch me.
I don’t know why they want the library to be where we can play all together.
The Cren and I.
They vowed to protect me.
As they vowed to have me.
The world was falling apart, and I was going to enjoy this night with them, even if they were the problem.
I was just one girl in the face of impending doom and the spread of evil magic that had been contained for so very long. What could I do? Oh, what, what could I do? Really? Nothing.
I feel giddy with hysteria but the kind that makes you high.
Life was over as I knew it. A darker life was blooming and I had four of the most handsome knights intent on me, somehow, captivated by me?
What did I do to even command that?
Would I lose their attention? If I did, I’d surely die of grief.
Nothing compares to this feeling of being lusted over by power itself – power that can have anything. And the Cren were the ultimate power.
I skip into the musty library, circular, with a centre stone sculpture. It’s my favourite art piece in the whole world. Not that I’d seen much of the world. A woman carved from stone, holding a sword as big as herself. This fictional goddess, she was the mother of wrath.
She cried red and it was painted on the grey stone, dripping from her ruby eyes.
I stand at the bottom looking up at her, looking down at me.
“Why the library?” I ask into the cold air, as I hear my Crows approach.
“The Eye… can you spot it?” Axe stops right behind me, a whispered dare, telling me.
But… The Eye wasn’t… real.
Although maybe now… I wonder what he means, but I look around the room and then I look up at the ceiling. It’s painted over but the etchings had always been strange to me, like they didn’t make sense. A window at the top shows the crescent moon and pelting hail as it smashes into the roof with the storm. Then the moon disappears as a violent low cloud passes over, and the eye almost looks like it’s blinked.
“I see it,” I answer, “This is the Eye?”
“You like this place?” Axe asks, too kindly, his voice floating by my ear. I turn to him and he is right there, looking down at me from the side, “Would you like this place to be your golden cage?”
“Why a cage,” I challenge Axe immediately, spinning to him, “Am I war booty to you?” I ask it with a cheeky tone, though. Axe smiles softly, but has no words. “So… I am… your slave… whether I like it or not?” I whisper, pursing my lips.
“Whatever keeps your body safe,” Axe answers cryptically, “Which we vowed.”
“Oh please, you can stop lying to me now,” I dare him now, as my heart rate flies, as I feel myself about to admit all my fears, throwing caution to the storm, “My body is naked, Crow. I am literally inches from death – if the Cren wants the Kingdom, Princes of the Eye – and I, blood of an Ice Seer who took all your power in the first place… your revenge must be so deeply sowed,” I use my royal wit now, ingrained into my blood, as I lower my tone, no longer smiling, “If you wish to use and kill me, all I’m meaning to say is do it sooner rather than later– my father and brothers will see me. I know what you want –”
“Do you?” Axe is amused in the face of my sudden seriousness.
I see Rurx, Damion and Krys pacing closer, especially Damion, listening intently to Axe’s choice of words.
“It’s obvious what men do in war – and no royal woman escapes any woman’s fate. To be had and buried by the enemy – I accept I’m dead. It makes no difference you’re all sweet to cover your vile intent,” I look them all in the eye, each one.
I have spoken offensively.
I do not know it until I see the look on their faces.
Axe pushes back his hood slowly, glaring at me, “…is that what you think of us?
“You bitch,” Damion whispers it, actually shocked, and full of sudden and righteous anger, “We aren’t evil. We are ambitious and this reign we earnt. I’ll tell you our plans before your own warped mind drowns you in emotion. You are clearly still bereaved. So take my advice and stop thinking – let us do that for you.”
“Just tell me exactly what you want,” I whisper back, feeling slightly embarrassed that I got it so wrong.
“I was going to,” Damion growls over me, “We are ambitious. We’re secure here. We will stay here. And you will remain. You belong to us. As we, the Cren, belonged to your oath. In time, it was bound to be repaid and you are the repayment. Your skills are still necessary. Your body is ours. Your tongue though… I’m not sure you need it,” Damion narrows his eyes, his lips twitching up in the corner when I back up and raise my fingers to my mouth, as if to protect it, “Still drunk, princess?” argh, Damion is just teasing me, the buffoon.
Hardly,” I lower my hands, answering, sultry, “I barely had a… glass.”
“…good, because we’re going to make that body our vessel for our blood,” Damion catches me off guard, “Princes of the Eye – with their prized magic blood. Congratulations, Anastasia, you’re going to be our breeding-bitch…”
Don’t say that!
“You’re the one who called us dogs, Ana,” Krys speaks, snidely, and I shut my mouth.
“Mm, well,” I shrug, “How do four… princes… even share a woman? It’s impossible. Not even the Jewel princess had more than her lover – the prince of darkness, and he was more than enough,” I add, “…why me… anyway…” my voice tapers off to a whisper and then I lose my thoughts…
Because my eyes.
They wander.
Axe is still in front of me, watching my mouth move, listening to every word – waiting to strike.
My Crows come closer, and they all watch as I’m reduced to a quiet nervousness and maybe a little awe.
“We don’t want anyone to know we’re the Cren,” Krys has to speak of politics, as always, he leans into me, suddenly explaining, “So we’ll keep up the façade.”
That you’re mine?” I ask too quickly, my voice all high pitched and girly, way more than was necessary. My excitement got the better of me and they immediately all laugh at me.
It’s kind though, even though I want to die on the spot from the hard blush hitting my cheeks.
“Mmhmm, princess, you shall remain the last infamous Ice Seer of the Court of Cren,” Krystoph agrees with me, after he contains his short, sweet laugh, “Now you know the rules, don’t you?”
“What rules?” I ask, confused.
“What does a woman do, for the man she serves…” Krys waits for me to answer.
Men. Please, women have to please,” I answer without too much thought, “I’m good at that, right.”
“Not really,” Rurx moves in next to Axe, who looks protective of having the best position before me, as Axe shoves his shoulder into Rurx, keeping him back from getting too close, “Then you do it,” Rurx hisses into Axe’s ear, and Axe smiles, it’s all I see as he reaches into his coat – oh no, not that blade.
I stiffen as he takes it out of his coat and presses the flat end to his lips, and his gloved finger to mine.
Axe’s eyes, a glint and a swirl, glance at me from under his hood, as that soft all consuming smile of his says it all.
Quiet now.
I nod against his finger slowly, my eyes fixated on the blade.
Would they mark me like the concubines?
He knows I’m thinking it.
Axe lowers the knife… and places it back into his coat.
I finally let out a long shaky breath of relief. Maybe I’d be spared that.
But I don’t speak, and I’m reminded, since Axe is still holding his finger against me.
“Now,” Axe speaks firmly, almost scaring me with how authoritative he can sound. He grasps both my shoulders, “…Ana… it would please us…” he leans in closer, “If you’d close your eyes,” I do, as he leans closer and even closer, until I feel his hot magical breath over my cheek and then right next to my ear, his mouth caressing me, “Listen. Obey. Obeying is very important. Will you please us… Ana? You only have to nod, if you agree…”
“What if I…” when I speak, Axe moves back to glare at me, already annoyed I stuffed up, I spoke and opened my eyes. I shut my mouth, not asking the question.
Axe knows what I was going to ask. What if I don’t agree to be well behaved?
So, he finishes with an answer.
Axe holds both my cheeks, in both his hands – and he leans in and kisses me, hard.
It’s perfect.
Perfect in every way.
I feel my breath taken from me by his passion. His mouth is hungry as his lips slide across mine to feel how soft mine are, owning my mouth in this moment. Taking my words.
Until the end, Axe uses his sharp canine to nick my lip and I taste the iron even as I whimper from the bite – and Axe licks my wound, only to let his tongue explore my mouth too, pulling me in all the way. My body, jerked up. Axe is moving me onto his thigh, that he sticks out for me to rub against.
It feels good, especially the way he rubs his leg between mine and up high…. but just as I enjoy it, Axe releases me.
I fall to the floor, panting and embarrassed by how quickly I lose strength and focus from standing.
I look up since I’m now sprawled on my knees and hands, and Axe has his knife again, as he holds a thread of my hair – and he cuts it off, wrapping the silver hair around his finger, putting it into his pocket, “I can do all kinds of things with that,” Axe warns me quietly with a poisonous growl, “Obey or be punished like the naughty slut you are. You taste exactly like a brat.”
He means it, but his words strike a nerve.
I’m both furious and… and… in love. Ah!
The indecision on my face must show my every emotion, but my tongue is still and I’m just towered over by all of them, as they look in at me… with that adoration… mixed with that… that look.
That hard but soft look.
“It’s difficult but you’ll adjust,” Rurx adds, drawling at me, “We take your existence very seriously, Ana. Will you return the favour and be good.”
“I’ll try,” I growl it out.
Axe looks disappointed I spoke again.
“Practice makes perfect, some are slower to learn than others,” Damion whispers off to the side, “Shall we put the princess to bed? She’s had enough.”
Don’t talk about me like that, like you know when I’ve had enough!” I get so annoyed, I spring up to my feet. I shove past Rurx and Axe to shove my hands into Damion’s chest, as he just catches me close. Damion smirks so big, he holds me with one arm, holding me squished against him, as I heave, clenching my fists next to me, since he has trapped my arms to my sides.
“I just wanted a reason to punish you,” Damion admits, a growl over me, “Be naughty with me and you’ll find my hand quite likes your ass, princess.”
He releases me too.
From warmth to empty air.
Damion nudges me with a hand on my shoulder, pushing me again.
To bed.
The others want to follow me again.
Meanwhile, I have stumbled forward, barely finding my feet on numb and jellified legs, face red, my mind now having unholy thoughts of Damion’s hand on my ass and how that’ll turn out.
I can almost feel the tingle of pain already, fighting with the pleasure of being touched.
My Crows were being cruelly patient in their seduction.
I guess to them – they had eternity.
I don’t know if I appear a fool or a catch.
Either way, I’m enjoying this game they’re playing, and I really shouldn’t be.
They expected me to follow rules in the bedroom. I could submit to a feeling. Rules, though… I had never had rules. I was the princess.
Mmm… damn it… I wanted them to touch me again. Now. Already!
Oh, no.
But how.
How to be good?
They won’t progress to the next part if I’m not good to them.
Axe punished me.
Damion also, holding me and releasing me.
Torture. That’s what it is.
A different kind.
Torture by cold. My Crows are… strange.
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◦•●◉ RING OF CREN Chapter 10 ◉●•◦
Anastasia’s POV
Stand still and close your eyes. A very simple command.
That’s what Axe murmured to me when we returned to my – our – bedchamber.
I wanted to try and be good.
So, I stood straight and still while already naked, in the middle of my room. My eyes were tightly shut, while I heard them all undressing, throwing off their trousers – and I? Ah, well I was officially too scared to look at them completely, utterly, totally naked.
Half-naked Crows were already a handful.
I can feel how it gets colder and colder because the fire died and we were too unfocused to stoke the flames with more logs.
But who cares right now.
Fuck the fire.
We were the fire.
It’s a romantic thought, but the reality of submission is a lot harder than the real deal.
It’s already a battle for me, since I feel I am both strong and timid at exactly the same time. Maybe it was a curse on all women to feel so much that you become indecisive. But I also had crazy thoughts too, to feel like their natural energy of intimidation is something I can change to my own benefit. To play with.
Taking their masculine energy and making it flow around me like it’s my own magic.
I always wondered why men never understood women and women never understood men, a riddle as old as time. You’d think we’d work it out. But…? Well. When it comes to sexual feelings, when we come together, that’s when the fire burns. And you need friction to cause a flame.
I imagine my Crows touching me before they even do, forgetting they’re even here for a moment, until one Crow makes the first move.
“Here,” I hear Rurx murmur some encouragement by my head, and I feel his hand grab my hand, his fingers splayed undermine, as he lifts my whole arm up. His finger slides across my Ring of Cren and that is when I open my eyes.
I can see the others naked around me and standing back but I focus on the Ring.
Rurx is naked too, as he keeps his distance standing behind me, other than his hand, touching mine.
“What about it,” I ask, as he holds my finger steady.
“If you turn the moon around, it’ll lock… and we’ll be forced back in the vault,” Rurx says this very, very quietly. His tone is not just serious… but also trusting? I gulp and nod, “If you want us locked away, that’s all you have to do to activate the curse on us.”
“Why would you tell me this,” I whisper, staring at the ring with sudden terror at it’s power over my Crows. I didn’t know I could put them back inside.
Rurx steps into me, his hand slides from mine up my arm to my elbow. He just holds my elbow lightly, as his whole naked front steps into my back, and I feel him right behind me.
He slides his second hand lightly down my other arm.
“In case you get scared,” Rurx kisses the back of my head, over my hair, and I immediately close my eyes as my lips pull up in the corner with a small smile.
I don’t have words to respond to that.
Rurx now tests my reaction to his naked skin on mine.
I’ll admit… I was fucking frozen.
I wasn’t about to crawl all over them, I had no idea how to do that, how to even start showing them what I feel. All I have inside my middle, is this warmth that I like. But I don’t know where to even begin. I let out a long exhale and relax back into Rurx… that’s a good start right? Feel him even more. He’s hard and warm… I shuffle back until I swipe a hand behind me, curious if I’ll touch the –
His shaft – there – crap – I make contact with Rurx’ hard cock and I jerk my hand back, giggling under my breath, then immediately feeling embarrassed and sighing at my own reaction.
“I don’t know what I’m doing,” I whisper my admission, my eyes shut again. I hold my left wrist with my right hand in front of me, as I twist it anxiously, “…help me?”
“We’re your Crows, open your eyes,” I hear Damion and I quickly obey as he walks in and around me – all of him – his height was always intimidating but right now I just keep my eyes focused up so high on his jaw and his mouth and his eyes – just anything other than below, as he slides to my front, his black hair is just like a raven’s, absorbing all light, reflecting midnight blue – but his dark eyes, I’ve just now noticed how thick his eye lashes are… and I focus on that because – “We are your help, Anastasia – it’s our oath,” Damion growls over me, as Rurx is playing with my hair, lightly pulling it behind my shoulders. Damion waits for me to respond. He seems to realise I can’t form words because I’m thinking way too much and he licks over his canines – a simple instinct, just some strange thing I notice. But I like it. I really like it, and I feel so weird by how much I like it that I look at his neck instead, while at the bottom of my vision I see another very high and hard dick. To my relief, Damion reaches for my tits, and his arms temporarily half-way block my downward view. He squeezes them generously, holding them both completely, warming me up.
“I can’t think straight,” I whisper to Damion now so he understands how much guidance I need. All I can feel is how wet my thighs are, and I’m kind of worried they’ll make fun of me for it. I squeeze my legs together self-consciously to hide it, as I shuffle my feet together and look at his hands on my breasts. His fingers pinch my left nipple, and Damion smiles as he makes it small, while his other hand slides up my chest – toward my neck. Damion pops a thumb under the side of my jaw as he makes me look up again as he looks down. Fuck me, this blood thirsty warrior just wants me right now – there is nothing sexier than that soft look in his eye, when I knew what he could do with that passion raging inside him.
Damion says nothing, he just keeps my head up, as he leans down to my mouth, but not for a kiss. He just moves closer to me as his second hand stops playing with my nipple, to slide down my front instead, his hand turning, and his fingers dipping lower.
I hitch my breath.
He notices immediately.
Damion holds my gaze steady the whole time, watching my eyes. Even as he sees the fear in me, I stay as strong as I can. It’s just that no one had ever touched me down – there before
He makes contact, forcing my legs apart for his hand. It’s easy for him.
I make a slight high-pitched noise and immediately lift myself to my toes, just from the effect of Damion’s hand. He slides his fingers through me, not into me – and I’m so slippery it’s ridiculous. He gathers so much wetness with one stroke across.
I wait for him to laugh or smirk, but Damion does neither.
“That cream helps us fuck you,” he drawls slowly.
“I know how it works,” I hiss, gritting my teeth, unable to keep in my defensiveness.
Damion shakes his head, unfazed, “Don’t be naughty or I’ll make you taste it,” he sees my eyes widen and then he does smirk, “It’s not bad – but don’t worry, you can taste us instead,” he suddenly grabs the outside of my thigh – lifting my leg, jerking my body toward him. My exposed pussy is open for him now. He places my leg around his hip, holding up my knee. I hop forward, suddenly scrambling for him. I grab his shoulders to keep myself steady, I also look down as his hand slides across the small of my back, and his cock is near my tits.
As I use my tiptoes to try and move my body backwards – Rurx steps in closer and simultaneously wraps his arms around my waist and ribs, his mouth diving for my neck.
Damion pulls me back into his front one more time, his fingers dipping and sliding through my pussy again.
I’m tightly squished between them, but their heat is welcome.
Fuck, I love their strength while holding me, pulling me to the perfect position for their own needs. I roll my eyes back as I whimper with pleasure uncontrollably, and then I see Axe and Krys waiting. Krys has his arms crossed over his chest, patient. Axe, not so patient.
He looks right at me and he looks like he could punish me just for making him wait – even though I can’t stop Damion and Rurx from doing this.
“We consider your body ours, Ana,” Damion reminds me, “You got that?
It seems like a command. I look back at him, while Rurx kisses the corner of my mouth.
Mm,” I nod, as Damion slowly starts to dip a finger inside me, and then two fingers.
“Oh. Oh. Um. Why,” I think of a question, “Why do I feel like I like you doing – uh-h?” Damion pushes his two fingers deep, thrusting them in hard. I squeeze.
“This?” Damion wonders, and I quickly nod, “Because, princess, you’re made to be fucked like this,” he whispers with a small smile hovering over my mouth. The moment I scowl, he grins as he takes his fingers from me and I make a noise of complaint, just to see him show me his glistening silver threaded fingers, covered in my cream. I look on, intrigued and terrified as Damion licks both his fingers, sucking them clean in front of me. Meanwhile Rurx keeps holding me up, his embrace a true support in this moment, while Damion’s eyes flash.
“Fuck,” Damion whispers, losing himself, as he drops to kneel so he can lift both my legs up violently, he keeps his hands under my knees, keeping my legs back, spread and out of his way.
What the hell is he – !
I can only watch.
Damion holds up my weight like nothing. He looks right at my open pussy and I feel my blush spread all over my skin.
He moves closer to smell me.
Then I just watch, aghast and excited as Damion licks right through me, but it’s not like a one-time thing.
The shock of it has me crying out with the sudden spot he touches that sends extreme pleasure shooting through me. My clit?! Directly. He keeps massaging it with his tongue, his hands now hold my thighs right apart, refusing to let me close my legs the moment he notices me trying to in protest.
“I can’t take it,” I beg Damion. Rurx holds me tighter, so I can’t escape through wriggling and writhing. He presses his mouth to my ear though, to remind me.
“You know what to do if you get too scared,” Rurx ends that reminder just as I let out a half-scream, because Damion assaults my clit quick and rough with his tongue. I try kicking my legs and he leans up, chuckling as he wraps his arms right around my thighs, until I’m completely still and locked into place, open for him to continue to eat.
“She’s almost there,” Krystoph speaks formally, even now. I don’t know what he means, until he walks over and looks at what’s happening to me, his hand sliding across my stomach. He splays his hand over my womb, “Let go, Ana,” Krystoph’s possessive hand, and lastly Axe… he just growls as he watches.
I hear the noise. It’s like a dark approval. And Krys’ eyes are focused between my legs.
Your body is ours.”
I don’t know who says it. It could be Rurx – or Krys – or Axe. Maybe all of them.
But Damion’s tongue licks through me, taking as much cream as he wants – massaging me until my blood boils.
I’m done, I’ve reached some horizon and I fall off the edge.
Every muscle in my body contracts and the moment I scream, Axe appears to slide a hand over my mouth, keeping me quiet as he smiles in triumph, eating me up with his poisonous glare as I climax, looking right at him.
I can’t stop the feeling rising up and exploding in waves. It’s like torture how sensitised all my nerve endings are. Whatever feeling this is, it doesn’t end – it threatens to get worse and worse.
I keep screaming into Axe’s strong hand, as Damion pulls me even closer and keeps eating me out.
I can’t move. I can only feel my body trying to.
I want to fuck. I want to escape. I want both.
Fuck, this is the best feeling in the world.
Somehow, I reach a point where I can breathe heavy, no longer screaming, but my body keeps singing.
Damion miraculously stops licking me, abruptly he pulls back, looking up at me as I look down, Axe’s hand still covering my mouth, Rurx still embracing me from behind, as Krys keeps his hand on my belly.
Damion slowly stands up, releasing my legs as they flop down to the floor, and my whole body heaves as I breathe through my nose.
I feel them all releasing me at the same time.
When I can stand, they’re all around me, huddled close.
I rest my face dramatically on Damion’s chest, while I feel Axe and Krys move in and slide their hands between my legs at the same time, just to get an idea of how wet I had become. I wince and cry out as Axe dips two fingers inside me, fucking me a few times, making my body tremble as I clutch Damion for support while Krys rolls my clit once or twice between a thumb and finger, smirking as he tries to see my eyes but I hide from his cool stare.
Damion snarls over the both of them, “Enough,” he wraps an arm around my waist, and swings me away from them. As I’m still shaking against him, Damion’s hands slide down my back to my legs, lifting me up, hoisting me onto his front so I don’t have to walk.
I hold onto his shoulders, my legs wrapped around him as he walks us to the bed.
I hold on tight, as if he’s my saviour, even though he was the one to suck my strength away.
Damion pulls back my sheets and I drop off him into the covers, as he kneels by the bed, and he leans on the mattress with one arm, his face close to mine.
“As ours,” Damion starts, “…did you enjoy that…” his voice drops to a lower octave. I just nod, “What did I say the other day?” he murmurs.
“Um?” I whisper, “Oh…” I purse my lips, “I know what you said…”
“I will fuck you every day at my leisure,” Damion nods, knowing I’ve remembered as he repeats it anyway, “We all will.”
“Is this a mercy or something?” I ask, quietly, “Not fucking me now.”
“Don’t be a brat,” Damion slowly smiles, “You’re not ready.”
“I’ll be good,” I whisper.
“No, you won’t, don’t lie,” Damion growls over me, “You don’t really understand how we’ll move forward with this. We fuck to own – your body isn’t to love. Yes, you’ll bare children but your pussy will be the sheath to all our cocks. Your mouth too. Your ass when you’re really naughty.”
Damion,” I gasp.
“I’m serious,” Damion looks so evil in this moment, just casually smiling at me, “Sleep.”
I was going to,” I growl back, “…but… where will you all… sleep?”
“Axe and I will take the couches – Rurx and Krys want the bed with you tonight,” Damion growls deep and rolls his eyes, “They need their beauty sleep, or haven’t you noticed how fucking manicured they both are?” he stands up playfully glaring at them as they come over, and Damion side eyes me one last time, “Sleep, slut our pussy needs rest for the workout it’ll have tomorrow.”
My whole-body shivers, and Damion’s eyes spot that positive reaction immediately. He looks deeply satisfied with that response.
I glare but I say nothing.
Damion stalks away and Axe just kisses me with his eyes but also heads to the couches by the low burning fire.
I turn to see Rurx hop on one side of the bed, sprawling out on his front. Krys comes up toward me. He casually rolls me over into the middle of them.
As they get comfortable, I wonder what I’ll have to do.
But it’s not that hard, when they manoeuvre me for me. Krys pulls me onto his chest, holding my wrist across him, making sure my cheek is against him. His other arm goes around my back, and I can snuggle him easily if I want, but there is Rurx too.
He just lays a hand over my ass.
That’s all he does, and my blood sings again.
I watch Krys shut his eyes, and quickly peep out through half closed lids at me, still staring up at him.
Just the look is enough.
Go to sleep.
I quickly close my eyes.
I have a bit of a conundrum.
I’m tried, a bit drunk and very comfortable in this position.
but… sleep?
I’ll try? It’s hard to turn off with them naked, so close – and so… touchy.
Argh. Fuck no, I’m going to go crazy with them touching me.
I can only wait for sleep to take me. And hope it does. Or I’m going to be exhausted running this kingdom.
Just the thought of being tired tomorrow makes me clutch onto Krystoph in growing anger and stress, and I suddenly kick hard back at Rurx.
He gets the message, and his hand leaves my ass, as he laughs handsomely under his breath.
Krystoph sees I’m stressed as I claw at him, so he lets me go too, shoving me roughly into the middle of them.
So that’s that. I end up in the middle of my bed, on my back, my sheets curled in my fingers, with my own space.
I breathe in deep and let out an even deeper breath.
At least they were understanding and compassionate – sometimes?
Strange Crows.
As my breathing slows, and I feel safe with them, my eyes naturally flicker shut. Way more quickly that I’d anticipated, I fall into a deep sleep.
The best sleep I’ve had in a long, long time.
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◦•●◉ RING OF CREN Chapter 11 ◉●•◦
Anastasia’s POV
The next morning, my Crows have gone early to the baths, so I wake up alone in my room. I use the time to get ready, and I can feel how it’s extra chilly out, even with my fire roaring in the hearth.
I pull out a new costume, this one a thick dress, with one difference. The middle is exposed, around my waist – it’s an area I’ve left for a slave chain, fashioned into a belt.
I also take the shackles fashioned into bracelets, and I put them on my wrists.
I would always show the women of the Cren Court that I was connected to all of them in our combined misery of slavery and submission.
If a princess and Ice Seer could wear such things as fashion – it was no longer a vice, it lost it’s meaning as just weight on our bodies.
I’m in the bathroom, making sure everything is centred, the glacier-coloured wool, the bronze arm bands. Lastly I dust some bronze sparkling powder to my mouth.
I brush out my hair one last time and then stand back. The material hugs my breasts but you can see the belt looping around my skin in the middle, and it looks dangerous – like I’m a chained up lunatic.
As I admire myself, I did not hear my bedchamber door open, because I get a fright when Damion walks around the wall to appear in the archway to my bathroom, looking at me – while he wears his trousers, his bronze torso clean and uncovered. I know what they expected of me today – and I was quietly looking forward to their seduction again. I loved thinking about his mouth between my legs, lapping up my desire, but it will have to wait until I address the people.
Damion pauses to take in the chain, the unlatched shackles, and my new dress.
He keeps in his amusement, no outright laughter thankfully, but I see the look in his eye.
“I have questions,” I ask formally, “Perhaps you can answer me openly, Crow?”
Damion slowly paces toward me, “…Good morning, Anastasia…” he paces to my back and around to my other side, inspecting the outfit, “Ask.”
Instead of turning to him and his glorious hard body, I look at myself in the mirror as I pat down my dress a few more times.
“When people Vanish… like my family – when they were murdered, do you benefit…?” I already know the answer, but I want Damion to tell me if my Crows are secretly enjoying the waves of death throughout our lands.
“It has always been that the bone spirit reaps the living and then magic is spun in the Eye, by the Mal,” Damion explains slowly and gently, “The magic was waning, the bones were gone, so the price was high to refill the Eye… we were human once, too, Ana, and we knew this, we learned to tap into the realm and system already in place. Axe, Rurx, Krystoph and I were great strategists, and perfect comrades… but we were sick of fighting with our mundane hands, battles that never ended, knowing one day our only reward was old age, disease and death. We wanted to match the monsters beyond who feed off our own Vanished. The journey is too long to tell you now. But the end result was the same. Now we not only live eternally but we can also harness that death magic as our weapon. We will always be warriors first and monsters second. When we were named princes and sorcerers of the Eye… it was more the majesty of such titles for our achievement… but we are and always will be defenders of mortals,” I nod because I appreciate the detailed answer. I feel like Damion despises me slightly less now for being in command of him – he even trusts me to hear their truth. I give him my approval with my respectful silence, absorbing all that information. He then drawls to me, generously offering, “Any other questions, princess?”
I ask immediately, my mind already swimming with ideas and wonderous thoughts, “Damion. Now that every evil spirit is released, travelling these lands… what will happen now? How do I address this as my people die across the kingdoms.”
“It will all settle in time. As Crows we control access to the Eye and the realm beyond,” Damion picks up my wrist and my hand, grabbing my direct attention as he holds my fingers in his grasp, quite the gentlemen today, hmmm? I wonder what he wants. Damion’s dark eyes half shut as he gazes down upon me, gently pulling me closer. I turn and step into his front, placing my other hand on his middle, directly over his rippling abdominal muscles – I’m trying to keep us separate, so we can start the day with success, but I can’t help curling my nails into his skin and clawing down him just a little. Damion watches my hand, and he lets me play with him, as he further adds to the topic, “We can open the Eye and unleash what’s within… but we wouldn’t want to scare you… the monsters within are not the kind of company you would enjoy… we will harness them if our Court is threatened. From here, in this land, we rule. There is nowhere to go, Anastasia. This is the centre of magic and the home of all the greatest kings and queens to have ever reigned on this earth. We are the front line. That is why you will command this place – continuing the tradition of keeping magic in the royal blood. We will defend that status. Always.”
“…so the magic is contained until you open the Eye yourselves? And it will come from the library,” I gulp, as I take my hand from his torso, but he does not release the one he holds in his grasp, “…the stone statue, the goddess below – the mother of wrath… is that just a statue… or does it mean something else… there’s no name for her, I don’t understand the origins, how old she is, why she’s in our court… do you know what she represents?”
“You’re very observant, princess,” Damion smirks, “Why do you wear such things as garb,” he nods toward the slave chain I’ve put on as a belt.
“To connect with my people, especially the women, not just those married or born to elite classes, but the women who suffer, often in silence,” I reply easily with my answer, “As slaves or otherwise. I represent those who have everything and those who have nothing. Because at the end of the day, women have no true rights here… we are all somehow slaves,” I feel my eyes tear up with my heart aching for all of us, and Damion sees my expression bleed with my own inner-wrath.
“You’re so cute…” Damion whispers, dark and sexy, as he brings my hand right up to his lips, kissing it, and lowering it, low, lower – all the way down to his trousers. My gaze flickers down as he casually lets my hand rest on his hard dick covered by his thin trousers, holding my hand there, he casually continues to speak, “You’ve answered the question yourself. The statue does the same thing, that mother cries for all women – she is all women, whichever female gazes on her, can imagine their tears have power,” Damion murmurs, eating up my face, as I look from his dark eyes to his trousers and back again, “…your ancestor… the first Ice Seer… she was a woman – but then she only had sons and their queens would only have yet more sons. Being a Seer overtime appeared to be a man’s power. You’re the first female Ice Seer since her reign.”
“Was she the one who put you in the Ice?” I ask, gently.
“Yes,” Damion murmurs, “She wanted to separate magic from the human realm to protect all humans from being fed to the Eye. She made the rings for Mal and Cren and Bone.”
“She defeated you,” I whisper, “How?”
He stands taller, growling under his breath, “…what do you mean?”
“How did she capture the Crows,” I tease him, as I tickle his dick, and he palms my hand off back to me, annoyed by my insolence, “Tell me, Damion.”
“She also had a propensity for nakedness,” Damion admits, “She ran through these halls without clothes, teasing us by calling our names – she also had an inclination to tease and then decline us… so we ran blindly into the vault and she sealed it shut. A woman’s trick.”
“The vault looks cold,” I clasp my hands in front of me, “Pray I don’t…” I wriggle my finger up with the ring, as I slowly smile, “Seal you back in.”
Damion goes silent, starts to look quite annoyed by that, so I step back and roll my eyes over him, licking my lips, before I murmur, “Get ready. You can’t come to court like that.”
“Bitch,” Damion whispers under his breath as he stalks by, smiling again.
I bite my lip as he walks out.
In his place, Rurx and Krystoph appear in the archway. Krys is sliding on leather gloves, his midnight suit pristine and perfect. Rurx’ hair, as always still pissing me off by it’s perfection, while he wears his loose shirt and thick pants, swiping on his black fur robe to keep out the winter chill.
Krys keeps his off, but his eyes slowly take in my dress.
“Give me a kiss,” he asks, suddenly.
I like how bold he is.
Without words, I smile as I skip forward and grab Krystophs’ shoulders, leaning up on my tip toes as I gift my lips to his. Krys slides a hand under the chain at my belt, holding me close as his mouth has not moved on mine, he just let me kiss him as his judgey eyes roll over my dress from much closer up.
“You’re quite the trouble, aren’t you,” Krystoph clearly doesn’t like the way I wear slave attire – destroying it’s meaning by the way I mock it on my skin with my royal dress, “Our chains are of the soul,” Krys mutters this cryptically, his hand releasing the chain at my waist.
I step back from him and end up feeling Rurx behind me.
I turn into Rurx next and he kisses my forehead, his finger sliding under my chin, tilting up my head as he smirks down at me.
“Good girl,” Rurx approves, “You’re being better behaved.”
“Why did you have to say that?” I ask, “I am the same.”
“For accepting your subservience,” Rurx explains, still ticking his finger under my chin.
“How do you know I did?” I ask.
“Give me a kiss now,” Rurx tempts me, leaning down to my mouth as I lean up on my tip toes again.
I kiss Rurx.
But he too doesn’t kiss me back, his lips still.
I sit back on the soles of my feet.
I pout.
“No kiss for me,” I whisper, “Why not?”
Rurx slowly shakes his head, “There is no time to fuck you yet and tasing your mouth will set us off on a different path. But. Tormenting your pussy…? You can wait,” he drawls this slow, holding my shy eyes, as I gulp.
I can wait. Like it isn’t just tormenting them in return!!!
I close my eyes, I regain my focus and I sigh dramatically as I move past them both.
Axe is waiting by the fire, looking into it’s flames as he pokes at it with an iron stick.
No welcome or good morning from him.
Damion is still dressing, so before I leave the bedchamber I stalk up to Axe and his large robe trailing across the rug. I step over it but I can’t avoid it.
“Good morning,” I sing song as I step in front of him, “Do you want a kiss –”
Axe’ sexy mouth sneers as he pokes the fire a bit more aggressively, embers flying out over us, making me flinch back before it catches my dress on fire. As I prance backward, he turns his head, his eyes warring with mine.
“Okay, no kiss for you then,” I hold up my hands in surrender as I keep backing off.
“Axe isn’t a soft man,” Damion laughs, “He doesn’t want a gentle kiss from you, love. He’d rather put clamps on your tits and laugh when you cry.”
C-clamps on tits… are a… are a real thing?
Um. Don’t dwell on it.
“Mm, no, he just wants me locked away in the library,” I accuse him, as I keep backing away, “Feral man.”
“I’m not feral, still your tongue, Ice Seer,” Axe finally speaks, and his voice is mellow with masculinity and I love it – no longer just a poison in this moment but a manly warning not to label him as anything else other than what he is.
“I’m going to the Court,” I suggest, “And then I’m going for a walk. Come on,” I leave the room first, “We have a big day ahead of us.”
I am trailed by Rurx and Krystoph first, while Damion and Axe get left behind.
Rurx and Krys both speed up to flank me either side, as we walk down the hall… it’s strangely misty.
“It must have been a bad blizzard,” I whisper, “I’ll have to see the damage.”
On my way down the stairs, a messenger boy starts to run toward me.
He looks like a squire, but he is also haphazardly dressed in a too large shirt and breeches he must have just thrown on, as his eyes are wild and scared, a tremble in his hands as he holds them out toward me.
“Miss, Ice Seer!” he skids to a stop when Rurx and Krys step in front of me, keeping the boy at a distance as I step down the last step onto the cold tiles.
“What is it?” I ask, worried.
“Half the city,” the boy states, his hands on his knees as he gets his breath back, “They’re gone.”
“…there was a darkness…” the boy stands back up, his black hair and face are wet from the heavy mist, he looks so cold, his skin ghostly, “Last night – in the clouds. Anyone who was caught outside and touched by the black snow – they vanished. The whole of Cren is quiet, so many are gone. My own mother, she turned to air before my eyes. And there’s Eye preachers who travel the streets, the survivors of the massacres in the war, they arrived at dawn, they are preaching for submission to the Eye. Everyone is scared Ice Seer. Please. I’m begging you. Release the Cren. Save us all. Before we’re all gone and only evil remains.”
I am humbled this kid got in here just to tell us himself, he would have had to get past the guards, and then his speech after all that was concise and articulate – speaking for his intellect.
“Thank you for this report – if you can go home for now and keep yourself safe–”
I can’t go back home,” the boy begs, cutting me off, “My mother was all I had. I don’t want to go back out there. I’m– I’m scared, I’m sorry,” he looks down, looking embarrassed.
“Then come with us,” I suggest. I look to Rurx, who has pity in his eyes.
Krystoph steps forward to the boy, taking the lead.
“Chin up,” Krystoph intercepts the boy, grabbing him by the shoulder and getting down on one knee to look him in the eye, “The bane of all evil – is courageous men.”
“What about my mother…”
“She was the most courageous – the Eye demands a sacrifice and she wouldn’t let it take you, your fate is to be a man of honour, a protector of our realm. You remind me of a brave boy I once knew, what’s your name?”
“I’m Damion,” he says, his eyes wide with shock and some slowly calming adrenaline, he seems more at ease with Krys’ words.
“Damion, huh,” Rurx chuckles under his breath, as he looks back and so do I. Axe and Damion finally reach the top of the staircase, coming down to join us.
“Go to the hooded man behind me and tell him Krys said I’m to be your squire,” Krystoph pats him on the shoulder, murmuring so quietly I almost do not hear the last words, “He had a son and lost a son, now you will be his son.”
Little Damion walks around us, pausing as he looks up to Axe – who is quite intimidating with his large hood covering most of his face.
I had no idea he had a history like that at all. I’m so stunned I do not speak.
I watch as Axe doesn’t sneer, he simply grabs his hood and throws it back off his face to look down at the kid, who waits for him quietly.
“Sir,” the kid speaks, “Krys said I’m to be your squire.”
“No,” Axe speaks normally and then moves on from him, not even looking at him twice, refusing to acknowledge his presence.
I glare at Axe but his eyes look rather fierce as he glares hard at Krystoph, who adjusts his cuffs and pretends not to care. Clearly it was a risky move.
Damion looks intrigued so he jumps down the last step and intercepts the boy.
“What’s your name?” Damion growls over the scruffy kid.
“Damion,” as the kid answers, Damion’s eyes light up immediately.
“Are you 12 yet?”
Yes. I’m 12 now! How did you –”
“It’s the age a boy can first practise holding a sword,” Damion slowly grins, “Do you want to learn to cut men open – and see their guts decorate the pavement?”
Damion,” I growl under my breath, but both Damions ignore me.
“Um… hell yes,” the kid whispers back.
“But are you strong enough?” Damion growls low, glaring at the kid, challenging him, “Or are you weak?”
Of course I’m strong enough!” Damion yells at Damion, and he balls his fists as clearly wants to fight him already to prove his strength.
“Oh really? I could eat you for breakfast, kid, you’re tiny. You better come with us to eat some meat to get some muscle onto your bones. Do you know how to take orders or will I have to snap your scrawny little arms off to teach you how to behave… maybe you do understand what real strength sword dancing requires, but I don’t think you’ve got it in you, kid, want to prove me wrong?” Damion takes his sword out of his sheath at his belt, lunging forward, pretending to chase the boy, and poor Damion Jnr. runs back – all the way to me. He clutches onto my dress, hiding in front of me as I fight back the urge to laugh.
I ruffle up his hair, he is small from being underfed, but he has a fire in his eyes that all kids have – hope for more.
“I’ll protect you from Damion,” I tell little Damion.
“Who?” he asks me, confused – as Rurx grabs the kids arm and tugs him off me, pushing him back.
“That’s his name,” I murmur to the boy, smiling, “And you’re his son now. I command you obey your new Father.”
“I’ve never had a father,” the boys eyes light up, “But my queen, he said he’ll snap my arms off.”
“You could cut his tongue out for me,” I whisper at him, “I’d really appreciate –” actually, Damion’s tongue was mean with his words but also perfect in other regards, sooo…“Hmm. Never mind,” I wink at the kid, who stands with his hands clasped behind his back, tears glimmering in his eyes. He’s been through so much, the least we can do is give him a safe space to heal and feel safe.
“Don’t get used to this, kid,” Axe hisses off from the side, “You annoy me? If you even so much as talk to me, you’ll regret it.”
We all go quiet to look at Axe and his temper, as he shakes his head sharply and pulls his hood back over his face, stalking off for the kitchens.
The kid gulps, shuffling from left to right, eventually following us as we make our way forward as a group.
I glance up to Damion and he looks very fucking proud of his new squire.
Then I look to the back of Axe’ robes and I feel terrible.
“I had no idea he lost a son,” I whisper under my breath.
“And his wife,” Rurx answers me, just as quietly, “It was a bolt from the sky, brought by the Eye… it burned their house down… Axe was on campaign, he came back to their charred bodies. He was a farmer once.”
I stay silent.
I had no idea Axe had such a tame history.
Now he was more magic than human. With his Soul Swiping gaze… one look and he could kill.
But I guess there wasn’t much human to be left in any of them… it makes my mind race.
If that’s his story… what are all their stories – as individuals… when they were mortal. Did they lose mothers or family like little Damion did? Like I did?
What pushed them all to seek such power? I can only imagine.
They have deep histories, hidden wounds and hidden scars.
I had never thought it until now.
And I’m rather embarrassed by how slow it took to realise… my Crows are brave and courageous men. They’ve been through their own hell.
Slowly they were opening to me – and I vow silently to cherish them for it.
No matter the difference between us and our lives now, we all shared pain.
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◦•●◉ RING OF CREN Chapter 12 ◉●•◦
Anastasia’s POV
After a brief breakfast with my Crows and Damion Jnr., I speak to the court or what little is left of it. Truly – hardly a soul appears, and I wonder if anyone is left at all!
From my throne, I quietly ask Damion, Axe and Krystoph to help survey the city and do the rounds – they seemed eager to check, to see how many had truly Vanished. It was suggested most of my citizens were cowering in their homes, too afraid to come out lest they also disappear if another cursed blizzard was to suddenly blast through.
I made sure Damion Jnr. went with my Crows – but even as I retreated to the Ice, I wasn’t to be left alone. Rurx volunteered with one look, and I accepted by giving him my hand.
He led me from the Court, and we walked together back to the Ice.
“Rurx, I am confused. Armies, dead, Mal princes, absconding from their own kingdom to our Court. A magical blizzard, causing half my population to disappear. It’s like humans are on the brink of extinction and there’s nothing I can do,” I murmur my concerns to Rurx as we walk side by side, my hand tucked in his elbow, “I wonder how many fighters are truly left? And what evils will still return, through the Eye… when you eventually open it, and I don’t know why you would, but I know you will…” I confess my racing thoughts, and Rurx listens intently, “Your thoughts on this, Crow?”
“No thoughts, princess, none of the kind you would appreciate,” Rurx murmurs quietly, always prompt and short, this time with his gaze running over me.
“We are in peril, and you’re focused on thoughts of me?” I ask, furrowing my brows.
“The only threat you have to worry about, Ice Seer – is what you see in the Ice,” Rurx replies too formally now, looking ahead, no longer perving.
“Mm, I’m afraid you’re right,” I murmur back as I take my hand from his elbow and I walk ahead, taking the lead to the Ice. We’re already here.
Rurx stands back, giving me space, while I look into the polished glacier, looking for the threat… and the answer.
I’m sick of seeing my own reflection.
Surely now, I would see someone or something else.
An image starts to form.
At first I’m disappointed by what I see… and then seconds later I’m terrified.
In my shock, I have stopped breathing. Then I feel heat at my back. It should be comforting, but I almost jump right out of my skin.
“What did you see… Ana?” Rurx asks over my head, and I spin quickly, into his front. I shove my shoulder into Rurx, moving him aside as I pace away from the Ice. I aim for the library – my safe haven.
I’ve forgotten to answer him, too shocked and needing to move.
I keep walking faster, my throat dry, my skin… cold… my heart racing.
I – I saw…
I push the image away, Rurx trailing behind but giving me just enough space to make it feel like I’m the one in control here.
I pace into and through the grand library, pausing to see that the heavy mist has found a way in here too. I wonder if lighting candles would somehow help. I’ll do that later because the fog is only growing and it’s ominous, almost looking like the remnants of lost souls. I glance up at the Eye on the ceiling, then I glance around to the aisles of books. I power walk my way around and through them, trying to dispel the adrenaline still flowing through me, making me flighty as I wring my hands together in front of me.
Rurx has stayed in the centre of the library, leaning against the mother of wrath. He kicks back a boot, arms crossed over his chest, his robe in place, his hair curling through one of his fingers, as he tugs it once, bored and equally patient as he glances at me, staring down at him.
He’s awfully handsome.
What I saw was…
I saw not just me in the vision but all my Crows and their other sides. The monstrous blood and power and soul-sinking depravity in their eyes, on handsome faces – with their humanity peeled away.
What was left of them was… awful.
I walk down and stand below the mother of wrath.
I’m starting to understand the blood red tears.
Rurx rounds the statue, as he was on the other side. After he shuffles around her, still leaning back on the statue casually and now watching me, I finally speak with him.
“Why did Axe want me locked in here?” I start with that, wondering if Rurx will be more open now that the others are busy.
Rurx’ soft dark brown eyes hold onto mine, nice and steady – his mouth doesn’t move, his expression is calm, yet he says absolutely nothing.
Simple silence. It’s powerful. And I feel weak in his power over words, when my own mouth ran away with itself sometimes.
Rurx was a typical master. Men did not respond when they did not want to, toward women – and I feel the brunt of his cold shoulder now, even with his eyes caressing me and the worry on my face.
Frustrated, I turn my back on him, and I also lean on the statue, crossing my arms over my chest as I look up at the Eye – briefly… and quickly… looking forward, just thinking.
About the vision.
And the fact there was no answer.
I was…
I close my eyes, and the vision is clearer. I let it in, too scared to have acknowledged it completely.
Now, I just remember every image, every word, every feeling.
I’m naked, I’m dirty, the look on my face is filled with excruciating pleasure. I’m chained to a black silk bed, in a place that looks familiar.
Rurx is eating me out with pure greed, his tongue is forked and long as it laps through me.
His eyes are a poisonous turquoise.
The skin over his arms is scratched and bleeding from my raking nails. I had been so rough on him when I had been clutching to him earlier.
“Do you want more?” Rurx asks me, his eyes expectant.
Yes. I scream it. Or do I even say anything at all? Maybe it was just a feeble gasp. I barely know.
But I don’t even want it.
If he licks me again I’ll die from the over sensitisation.
Rurx smirks between my legs, pulling back briefly to look down at me squirming, drawling monstrous words, “Good slave, your cunt is very well behaved… for me,” Rurx moves back down and slides his tongue deep into my pussy, massaging my walls, feasting on the cream.
I cum for him again. I’m crying and begging for him to fuck me instead, but the words are gibberish, I’m completely sex-drunk.
What’s worse is the location of this vision.
I think it’s the Eye.
The bed looks like it’s in the middle of the library – but there’s no books, there’s no statue, it’s an empty room with the bed centred. The walls are carved with ancient symbols as blood pulses from the crevices between the bricks.
When Damion enters the room from the hall, he’s two fangs are sharp and far too long – like a vampire, but he also has two massive black horns, straight out of the top of his head. At his side, Krystoph is no longer pristinely dressed but glassy like a ghost – hair translucent as his skin. A phantom. Axe is the same as I see him now. The power resides in his eyes. The only difference is the gruesome whip in his hand. That’s when I notice his nails – transformed into ten-inch claws, each one its own blade.
It would explain the small straight marks on my skin, from where Axe attempted to hold me at some other time.
And the ending.
Damion closes the distance between us, watching me lurch and whimper, he leans over me, looking deeper into my wide eyes, his own eyes vibrantly ruby red, swirling with cursed tears, “I can’t wait to meet you,” Damion growls so low over my lips, his fangs pushing against my chin as he looks at my neck and then back to my face, trailing his fangs along my cheek, as he smiles and explains, “No, not your neck, Ana… mm, no, no… I’m going to drink the blood straight from your cunt – we all will.”
The growl in the base of his throat, the malice in his eye, as I notice the clamps on my nipples – the chain now in his hand as he tugs and hears me scream.
Sadistic monsters from the Eye.
They make the Crows in their human forms look like angels – true defenders of humanity.
I remain in the present, not lingering on the vision, as Rurx intercepts me – after seconds to myself, having all that flood through me.
Rurx tilts his head to the side, looking right down at me, matching my stance, his arms also crossed.
“What did you see, Anastasia?” Rurx demands an answer.
“Threats with no solutions,” I answer honestly, trying to keep the heat out of it, “Just defeat.”
“To whom?” Rurx asks, “There’s no one you’re fighting,” he blinks slowly, holding out his open palm, “You are not just a princess, you’re a queen,” he winks, “Outside of our promise to you. You still belong to us.”
“Well it’s a good thing you take good care of me,” I mutter it quietly, “Rurx, I have a bold question, how do I please you?” I look at the ground and I look back to him, “…how do I please all of you…? I know I’m being bold but… give me a hint.”
I’m hoping by being indirect, I get some answers.
“If we need you, trust us, listen and obey, when we give you permission to cum, you may, and when you ask us nicely to fuck you, we’ll oblige, it’s quite simple,” Rurx answers far too pristinely and correctly. It annoys me.
“I meant… how do I… manage – four Crows, surely not… all together, and all in a night, or day,” I am unsure how to structure this, but I try, “I am just one woman.”
Rurx smiles softly – so handsome, his eyes always so kind yet so stern, “A woman can be used multiple times.”
“Used?” I gulp, uncomfortable with the word, especially after that vision, “Details, Rurx… stop being vague.”
Rurx reaches out a hand for my mouth, “May I?” I nod and he seems to have amused himself by asking my permission. He trails his fingers on my lips, “I could lay my cock into your mouth, over your tongue, fuck your cheek, or deep into your throat… of course, you wouldn’t breathe if we use you so thoroughly, but we’d train you to handle it better,” Rurx sees my blush bloom across my skin but continues as he lowers his hand, picks up my own and directs mine to my dress, “Your wet royal pussy. The greatest pleasure of all,” Rurx doesn’t need to explain that any further. I nervously smile up at him, but he suddenly steps forward, pressing his warm front into mine and violently backing me up against the statue. I gasp in excitement as Rurx’s hand slides behind my waist – curling down and spreading over my ass, clenching and kneading my cheeks, as his firm eyes continue to hold mine, “That would be to punish you.”
“Will you take turns?” I whisper.
“Multiple times,” Rurx is so straight forward, it makes my blood rush low instead of just to my face.
“And sometimes all together?”
“Mm… you dirty girl,” Rurx is hesitant, “But only if you’re good.”
I bite my lip as I place my hands over his coat and I lean up, wanting to initiate a kiss with my Crow – but he notices my intent and refuses to participate.
Rurx releases me, snaking his arm from around my waist, he steps back three paces, before asking again, “Tell me, Ana… and be honest. What did you see…?”
I open my mouth and hesitate, “I can’t… tell you.”
Rurx tries to keep a straight face, as the smugness is slowly seeping out, “Why not, Ana?”
“…because you already know it…” I hiss the guess, and his eyes sparkle.
I’m right!
Rurx half smiles as he slowly licks over his teeth, and I just glare at the way his tongue moves with precision, “Ana,” his voice drops to a knowing growl, his eyes hooded. Rurx hesitates suddenly, wondering how much he should tell me, as he points his finger at me, he looks me over, and finally utters, as if forcing the words out, “You are in trouble with us,” he murmurs the final warning, eyes downcast.
At the end, Rurx looks me in the eye and then quickly turns and walks away.
Out of the library.
And directly out of sight.
I just stare out at the empty air, in his abrupt absence.
I don’t think Rurx was meant to tell me that.
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◦•●◉ RING OF CREN Chapter 13 ◉●•◦
Anastasia’s POV
When Damion, Axe and Krystoph return with Damion Jnr. from the city streets, they come for me, but I’ve separated myself from my knights, and distanced myself from Rurx.
I am in deep thought, so I go to the northern tower in the Cren.
I walk up a hundred steps until I reach the dusty tower. When I enter, I lock the old and heavy door to secure the space for myself.
I go to a dusty rotten chest, and I take out a diary from my brother Tristin.
He was always writing down his thoughts in here. The tower was his space to brood. No one could come here. He was the eldest son, he would be King, so he liked his privacy to think, and this was his favourite spot.
That was until… my father… and my three brothers… were taken into the Eye.
Quickly dead from the lost war against the Boned.
I’m surprised to see his last entry was actually a day before the battle. He was happy and hopeful for the future.
He was much better at seeing into the Ice than I was. He could see entire visions, while I only saw glimpses.
To be fair he was trained all his life and I was still learning.
I read his diary.
I saw into the Ice. A river that never dried. A green that never died. I found Priscilla waiting for me, dressed in a silk gown.  This was an odd vision, but a sweet one. Priscilla was a young girl he had loved when they were just children and betrothed – until she died from illness at least a decade prior. I had only been a few years old myself. So what he described was utopia or plainly impossible if she was alive. He went on. Eli and Deren were playing chess, at peace, no longer fighting as there was nothing to quarrel over. Father was quiet, reading in the library, all his favourites. Anastasia was in the garden with highborn ladies, preparing for a wedding, I believe; but to whom I did not see. No one was enslaved. No one was seeking destruction. I was King, but I didn’t wear a crown. All evils were free, but quiet. Why? I fear, they were not hungry, but well fed. – Prince Tristin.
I had been too upset to read his diary until now.
It brings me some peace.
Even though he’s dead.
And so many others; gone too.
Eventually, at some non-important time of the afternoon, Damion knocks at the door to the tower, but I grumble at him to leave me be.
To my surprise he does leave, threatening to return at nightfall – before gallivanting away with Damion Jnr, soon threatening to teach him how to stab better.
Hearing their banter made me smile, but hearing the quiet made me even more happy.
It was time I had… time.
To myself.
I knew the Mal Princes, Soren and Fanguard, would be wanting to speak with me further about what action to take.
But right now, as Ice Seer and Queen of the Cren, with my ring still safely adorned on my hand, I wait with Tristin’s diary in my hand.
I read through it all, and it brings me further knowledge about how to see better into the Ice.
Eventually the sun starts to set, I start to get hungry, and I find the courage to open the shutters, looking down to the half-vanished city.
I expect to see dark clouds, but instead I see a clear sky – a never sight in the Cren. It was always cloudy. I don’t know if I had ever seen a cloudless sky before.
And I hear… water… running…?
It sounds like a river but I don’t know where it’s from.
I look over the Cren, and it all looks the same… then I look behind me, at the glacier… and it looks different. It looks like its moving.
Perfect rivers are sliding down the walls of the mountain made of ice. And the river is flooding out and circling the city. It’s not a normal event. Because with the river, strange sparkling mist flies out from the water, in clouds of silver and gold and pink and purple – it floats out and settles on the roof tops and muddy streets.
Everywhere it touches, I see sprouts of green start to grow rapidly.
I hear the ice sing as a large chunk of the glacier cracks open, and the Cren shifts beneath my feet as the architecture groans with the sudden earthquake.
It all settles, and I’m fine – nothing collapses.
I keep watching the glacier as strange magical light beams up through the cracks, up into the night, making it day.
I can hear music from the glacier getting louder. It’s like a gate opening.
And I can hear something else.
Cheering…? Clapping? Excitement? From inside the glacier?
It sounds like an audience to me.
Something is happening and my heart is now racing.
I turn back into the room of the tower, and I walk up to the door I locked earlier.
When I open it, the staircase that was cold and grey is now covered in moss and little blue butterflies.
I get down onto my knees and stare at the steps covered in nature and more bugs that appeared from nowhere.
I reach a finger out to the butterfly closest to me, and it turns to me, flickering its wings as it jumps to my finger from the wall. It sits there, watching me, like it’s trusting me or something.
“Where did you come from, tiny creature?” I whisper to it as I bring it closer to my face, lifting my hand.
As I do, I feel warm sunlight shine across my back, and I turn around to see a warm breeze push into the green tower. Outside the shutters is a baby blue sky and a rising sun.
I look back to my new friend and the butterfly flicks its wings open. I see a pattern I missed before.
An eye. On the wings.
The Eye.
So I was… in the Eye?
Or someone opened the Eye. Yes. That’s it.
That someone being four-someones, namely, the Cren, my Crows – the Sorcerers and Princes of the Eye.
I thought all manner of untold evil would spill from that gate once it opened, but all that’s happened is beyond anyone’s wildest dreams for this once ice-cloaked Kingdom.
We had all grown up in the freezing cold.
I had never known warmth by anything but the fire – or my Crows, pressing into me.
I try to understand what I’m feeling. Because I know I’m feeling everything. Everything being a feeling of overwhelming excitement – and overwhelming confusion.
Two feelings at the same time.
I hear footsteps coming up the tower, and I scramble to my feet, backing up.
I recognise that pace.
“Damion?” I call out, wondering if it’s him.
The foot paces certainly sound the same.
A giant man, a shadow rounds the corner –
The familiar Prince turns up the last few steps, and I see him entirely.
He’s wearing new armour, no injuries present, and his long ice-blonde hair is even braided down his back, as his purple eyes glint with a smile for me.
“You found my diary,” Tristen drawls at me, like he never left.
You’re alive,” I whisper. As he climbs up the last few steps, I can’t contain myself as I barrel into him and we embrace – and he’s very, very real, “Is father okay? And the others? Are they –?”
“Yes,” Tristen confirms it, “We went to the Eye and we won, Anastasia. We never lost, it just took some time.”
“How?” I finally pry myself off him and skip back, wringing my hands together.
“I was hoping you’d hold this side in-tact, which you did,” Tristen happily explains, “I had the power to open the Eye from the other side, and I did.”
“What took you so long?” I whine a bit, I can’t help but be the bratty younger sister in this moment. I had the luxury to see his easy glare, so I was taking it.
“Well, opening the gate involved a promise, and that promise was you, little sister,” Tristen sounds warm and excited telling me this regardless, he even winks, “You’ve been betrothed. You’re to be married.”
“To whom?” I ask, shocked and slightly pale.
“To the Dark Prince,” Tristen cocks a brow, and he slowly raises a finger, “There is a catch, but hear me out, Ana.”
“My ears are pricked, big brother,” I squeak out, “The Dark Prince? Whom is that? And what is the catch, exactly?”
Tristen is always a smooth talker, but he does awkwardly cough and clear his throat, banging on his chest with his fist as he avoids my eye and walks to the open shutters, looking over the paradise.
“The Dark Prince is one of the Cren. You’re to marry Rurx. The catch is painless but you may faint hearing it – he needs your blood,” Tristen turns to me, “…he thinks you’ll like it…”
“Okay, that’s enough information for now,” I laugh awkwardly, “Uh, Rurx… and not Damion? I thought you’d say –”
“Damion is brutal but a warrior first and last. Rurx is the Shadow Prince and he wants you. He did ask you obey all his commands – as a good wife and Princess of the Ice, of course.”
“It’s okay, you don’t have to convince me or overexplain. I know how it works and for what it is worth, Tristen, I do like Rurx,” I admit, forcing on a smile, “I will now think about what’s next, you should –”
“I should make the rounds,” Tristen agrees, walking by me, “One last thing, Ana… if you have second thoughts, I’m afraid there is nothing we can do. We made a deal and often alliances rest on marriages holding up faithfully…”
“Don’t you worry about me, big brother,” I swat him away, down the stairs, “Off you go. I’ll be down soon. I’m just going to – breathe a little bit…” I murmur as he nods and departs, walking quickly down the steps.
Later, down the bend and somewhere near the bottom, he yells back up to me, “I’ll send the Dark Prince your way, shall I?”
“Of course! Please do!” I yell out, all happy.
On the inside, though… shit.
I back up and lean on the windowsill, on jutting rocks that cut into my palm as I hold them too tightly.
I just had a funny feeling…
The Dark Prince Rurx… was not Rurx, my Crow.
He was the monster-version. Wasn’t he?
The one with the forked tongue.
My last vision.
The chains. The nipple clamps. The torture through sex.
It was unfolding – and ironically – peace times were unfolding with it. Including the resurrection of my whole family.
I should be happy, and I was.
I just… had to give it up.
My virginity.
My purity right now was still mine, for now… I somehow had to find a way to keep my virginity exclusive to me. I had to delay them taking it.
I was about to meet the Cren at their most powerful.
My knights… they had monsters locked inside.
With the Eye now wide open, opened by Tristen, the monsters within my Crows would be unleashed into this world.
I saw it in the vision.
They were hungry.
And I was the apple.
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