The Ones Who Serve, page 1part #3 of The Braykith Series
THE ONES WHO SERVE
Book III in the Braykith Curse Series
Copyright © 2019 by Jennifer R. Kenny
Written and edited in New South Wales, Australia
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and specific other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Book and cover design by Jennifer R. Kenny
Image from unsplash.com
The room was cast in low light. The flickering orange glow was being created by the dying fire. Kyleigh sat alone in her personal chambers. Her wedding dress stood in the corner, draped over a human form and waiting for the morning.
Kyleigh was the youngest from a somewhat unknown family in Eoboven. New money and struggling to fit in with the other Lords and Ladies. When Quintus had asked for her portrait over a year ago, Kyleigh’s father had thought it was a joke. She smiled to herself. It was no joke, and tomorrow there would be no turning back.
Kyleigh reached for her tea, the spiced water was cooling quickly in the draughty castle, but she did not want to drink it. The smell was one she knew and treasured, a personal blend of leaves her mother had gifted her before leaving her home in Eoboven. They had both known it might be some time before Kyleigh would be able to return. Quintus had been so direct on what she could and could not bring with her that Kyleigh had been sure the tea would have been confiscated upon arrival.
However, it had not been. Rationing the tea was a priority since Kyleigh had arrived at Braykith over a fortnight ago, but tonight she ignored her better judgement. A large pot sat on the small table, the cup filled to the brim and Kyleigh had been sitting and watching the firelight die and swallowing down the nostalgic steam. It had done nothing for her nerves. Self-consciously she reached for the necklace that adorned her throat.
Quintus had laced it upon her throat on her first night here. The necklace had felt heavy at first. The large onyx stone was set into a diamond shape of gold. The colour combination was like nothing Kyleigh had witnessed before. Compared to the intricate silver pattern that she preferred, the chunks of gold should have disgusted her. She supposed though that in Braykith the necklace fit in. She rose from her seat, taking the teacup with her as she crossed the space and went to the window.
Night had well and truly set by now. Inky light touched as far as she could see. The stillness and subtle whisper of the wind as it crossed her window reminded Kyleigh of being on the boat which had brought her to Braykith. The extended scene had been expected then. In the middle of the ocean, there was no predicted disruption, and the horizon bled into the sky at night, leaving everything in a pitch blackness that wasn’t entirely black. Indeed it had been a deep blue.
Braykith was black. Like someone had allowed the sun to set, and while the Gods backs were turned, they dropped ink over the landscape. Before anything could be done, the ground had soaked up the colour and passed it on to the neighbouring posts. Kyleigh had been told about the farms and livestock that survived beyond her views, but she was yet to see them. The painted ground that looked so much like ash and the remains of a great flood had kept her from exploring far.
The lands of Braykith made her chest tight and her knees weak. Inside the castle, Kyleigh was greeted by beauty at every turn. An intricate tapestry hung on the walls. The soldiers themselves, positioned strategically through her new home, looked like art. The fine needlepoint of their uniforms was not the only beauty she was grateful for. The clothes that were waiting for her had at first seemed too beautiful to wear. Now, Kyleigh still felt overdressed for every occasion, but she knew the clothes looked better than anything she had bought with her. She would be Braykith’s queen, and Quintus had told her that appearance was far more important than knowledge.
She blushed at the memory of it. She had been sitting in the library, her ladies in waiting working on embroidery and merely keeping her company while she struggled to remember the facts that surrounded Braykith.
Quintus had come into the library just as she had groaned out in frustration and laid dramatically on the table in defeat. She had only noticed she was no longer in a private moment when Kyleigh heard the rustle of skirts from her ladies and a chorus of your grace in hushed tones. Kyleigh had attempted to move, but instead, Quintus had sat beside her, an easy smile on his face. He had spoken to her so quietly, invading her personal space in such a manner that it boarded on obscene, and yet Kyleigh had not distanced herself from the King. Instead, she had leant into him as she disclosed her fears of failure.
“If you smile, the world will always think you know what you are talking about.” It had been his advice then, and Kyleigh felt a tug in the corner of her mouth now at the memory of it. Pulling away from the window and the dreary sight, Kyleigh had just put her cup down when a knock sounded from her door. She paused, a hand going to her hair to ensure it was still tamed in its comfortable and natural design. She was supposed to be sleeping. Why would anyone be knocking at her door at this hour?
She opened it just enough to see and relaxed when the bright eyes of her betrothed looked down at her. “I hope I am not interrupting,” Quintus said, pushing gently against the door so he could walk in. Kyleigh did not think about stopping him. He looked around the room, his eyes falling on the wedding dress where it stood. “Can’t sleep?” he asked
Kyleigh shook her head. “It is all still a little much for me.” She shut the door, leaning against it as she watched him. “Do you like it?”
“It matters very little if I like it.” Quintus had been married before, and he had come to terms with the fact he may need to marry again should Kyleigh prove to be too weak. “I only care if you like it.” He turned away from the dress just in time to see a deep red flush over her cheeks.
“It is amazing.” She couldn’t look away. “It seems a shame only to wear it once.”
“Traditions.” Quintus waved off her concerns. “Kyleigh, I have to show you something.” His voice quivered, and for the first-time Kyleigh could see that there was something different in his demeanour. Quintus had always been so in control and sure of every decision he made. His speech was perfect, the sound of his voice demanding but rarely tough. Kyleigh was shocked into silence as she tried to consider what could have
“Do you trust me to keep you safe?” Quintus asked, breaking her frozen moment.
“Of course, I do.”
“Strange how you do since we barely know each other.”
Kyleigh frowned, but the displeasure on her face did not last long. “It seems to be quite a lot of effort you are going through just to hurt me.” She relaxed when Quintus smiled at her. “I trust you, King Quintus. Whatever it is you need to show me will not change that.”
Quintus was not so sure of her resolve, but he needed this to be over with. If the curse did not make her run and hide, then the marriage could go forth as planned. Quintus might be tired of marriages and wives in his old age, but it just seemed like common sense now to test the resolve of a woman before the binding vow before the Gods could be performed.
He nodded, offering her his hand. Kyleigh took it without hesitation, and Quintus was quick in delivering her to the door of his chambers.
“You have brought me here?” Kyleigh asked, confused as she looked left and right at the guards who stood at attention on either side. “Quintus?” Her mind raced as she considered what he meant to do with her. Her teeth bit into her lower lip as she remembered the feel of his embrace in the brief occasions they had kissed. Kyleigh had seen no harm in being affectionate with the man who was to be her husband, but she had been firm that some things needed to wait for the wedding night.
“I just need you to witness something.” Quintus swallowed hard, overthinking his words for the first time in decades and looking for ways the sentences could be decoded to by the curse. He felt the low uncurling in his guts, but he forced the creature down. “Please Kyleigh, it is important.”
She found herself nodding. However, Kyleigh did not want to go inside the room. Whatever he deemed so important could not be ignored, of that Kyleigh was determined to understand. That did not mean Kyleigh would be forced to participate. She felt a chill come over her. Casting her arms around herself, refusing to take his hand when he offered it to her, Kyleigh walked willingly into the chambers.
The room should have taken her breath away. However, Kyleigh could not seem to focus. A massive fire was burning brightly in the corner, but the room was also illuminated by candles. As much light as possible was given to light up the space and Kyleigh could see no deep shadows in any of the corners.
“Is this what you want me to see?” Kyleigh asked, her voice low as adrenaline stopped firing into her brain and she started to breathe a little easier.
“In here.” Quintus showed her a door that she had mistaken as part of the decorations for the room. Seeing the resolve on her face, and proud for a moment that she was open to something, Quintus opened the door for her.
Inside was a bed, three candles bringing light to the room but not in the same grand way he had done with the living space. There were still places for darkness in the room. He seemed to prefer it this way, and Kyleigh now assumed the lights in the other room had been just for her benefit.
‘This is not your bedroom.’ Kyleigh tried to say, but a voice interrupted her.
“Your grace.” A woman was in the corner. Her dress was simple, a pale gold colour that brought out the brightness of her hair even in the low candlelight. She stood in the half shadow, bare feet on the carpet and bowing to Quintus; no Kyleigh realised the woman was bowing at her.
“This is?” Kyleigh’s lower lip started to tremble. “Who is this?”
“Kyleigh, she is…” Quintus sighed. “She is complicated.”
The girl smirked and shrugged. “I suppose that is the best way to explain it.”
A hand went to her shoulder, and when Kyleigh did not reject his presence, Quintus stepped into her closer. A gentle grip laid upon her hip, but there was no pressure even to stay where she was. Kyleigh had a feeling that she could leave if she wanted too. “What do you want me to do?” she whispered.
“I just want you to watch.”
Kyleigh froze a little as his breath swept over her skin. She was not sure if it was imagined or otherwise, but there was a copper scent that she could not quite place. The smell was gone before she could name it. She closed her eyes, but Kyleigh did not move. Quintus did not try and coerce her further, and Kyleigh was only sure he had moved from his place behind her when footsteps sounded on the floor to mark his retreat.
“Quintus?” Kyleigh’s lips moved without her permission, questioning his name but he gave no response. The room was eerily quiet until a moan filled the space. Kyleigh’s mouth went dry, and she froze as another gasping sound intruded her ears. Blushing, Kyleigh closed her eyes tighter, but they did not stay that way for long.
The scene on the bed was not as she had suspected. Quintus sat behind the girl, his legs spread so she could sit between them. She withered in pleasure, and for a moment it seemed to be all she could see. Kyleigh was no longer aware of the room and its contents. She could see nothing beyond the other woman’s face.
Her mouth was open, head thrown back and to the side. Her eyes were closed, no, almost closed. In the flickering lights, she saw that the woman had not turned away from the experience but seemed out of control of herself. One of her delicate hands clutched at her dress, trying to rip it from her body and the other was a claw digging into Quintus’ leg at her side.
Seeing this piece of him seemed to bring Quintus into focus. Kyleigh had been expecting to see the passion from the girl mirrored in his body, but curiously Kyleigh could see that it was not returned. Quintus was a statue at her back. His hair fell forward over his shoulder, and his eyes peered at Kyleigh from his perch. Not filled with lust, or passion, or even embarrassment but instead coldness sat in his eyes. His mouth relaxed against the other girl's neck and a trickle of blood marked her skin.
“Quintus.” Kyleigh’s voice caught, and she cleared it before speaking again. “Quintus, stop.” To her surprise, he did. The girl protested, but neither Kyleigh or Quintus noticed. “You are hurting her,” Kyleigh said weakly.
“I know. It is what I do.” Quintus licked his lips, and noticing the blood pooling from her throat; he licked her wound clean. This caused him embarrassment. Finally, Kyleigh saw something human in him, and her heart softened.
“This is what you do?” Kyleigh asked, and when Quintus said nothing, she took a step forward.
“What are you doing?” Quintus asked.
“Is it always her?” Kyleigh countered, ignoring him.
“No,” Quintus shook his head. “I have a number of people that I use like this.” He was confused about her reaction. He was not accustomed to such a generous response. She had not screamed or lay curses against his name like others had done. Quintus wondered if Kyleigh was in shock. It was the only thing that made sense.
“Could it be me?” Kyleigh asked. Quintus felt the jerk of shock run through his body, and she blushed, lowering her head, so she did not need to see his expression. “Can I…”
“You don’t understand what you are asking.” Quintus rose from the bed, and his companion fell back onto the bed without him to prop her up. Quintus ran his hand back through his hair, but Kyleigh brought it forward again. He had not realised how close she truly was to where he was standing. Her touch shocked him. “Kyleigh…”
She kissed him. It was not hard or rushed; there was no exploring tongue or hands as there had been before between them. She pressed her lips to his, and when she pulled back, they were stained red. “Tomorrow, I pledge my heart to you Quintus, and only you. And on our marriage bed, you will show me who you are.”
Quintus nodded, speechless and unable to offer even a quick glance into her eyes in response to her generosity. “Why?” he choked out the word.
“Braykith is a land of demons and horrors, Quintus. I knew that coming here. Why would their King be different?” She offered a smile, but it was all for show. Her mind and heart raced, she needed to rest and collect her thoughts, and if she had stayed, Kyleigh knew that Quintus would not allow
Backing away from the door, she could not bear to turn her back on what was on the bed. The girl lay where she had fallen, a soft moan from her lips as she tried to sit up on her own. Kyleigh dipped her head to Quintus and opened the door without taking her eyes off him.
She turned and fled to her room, closing the door but not looking for a lock. Her heart was loud in her ears, and Kyleigh felt a rush of excitement that did not make sense to her. She wanted to see the handle jostle, for the door to open and Quintus to follow her, but he did not. He did not escort her back to her rooms, and that night Kyleigh slept alone just as she had intended to do.
G lais knocked lightly on the door, waiting patiently outside of his father’s study. He knew that he was welcome to open the door, however, he remained until the door was opened for him. He was still struggling with the thoughts that had brought him seeking counsel.
He bowed when he came face to face with his father, relieved to see his mother sitting there as well.
“Yes, Glais?” Quintus asked his son. He was growing more and more concerned about how Glais was changing while under the influence of Evangeline. Quintus had expected some change. Apparently, every man is ultimately swayed by their wife to make subtle changes to better compliment her own oddities, but this man who stood before him was not the same one he had been witnessing for his lifetime. He no longer held a firm back or a grim face, and while Quintus knew these might be seen as good things by others, he was aware that Evangeline was creating weaknesses that would eventually be exploited by their enemies.
“Father, I was looking for Mother,” Glais said and smiled when his mother instantly looked up from her sewing. He hated to see that look on her face, and sadly he did witness it often, Kyleigh seemed always to be surprised that her grown son would still need her.
Quintus gestured to her. “Should I evacuate the room as well?” he asked, with only a taste of teasing on the edge of his words. He stood and when Kyleigh tried to protest he bent to kiss her forehead. “Worry not. I take no offence.” He promised her and made a hasty exit before Kyleigh to claim otherwise.