24. Beginning of the End

I pushed open the doors, and I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t exactly this. Oren was awake, sitting on his throne. He wore black satin pants, and his robe hung open, revealing his shirtless torso, so I assumed he had been sleeping recently.

He sat casually in the chair, turned slightly to the side so one of his legs hung over the arm. His fingers were bedazzled with heavy, silver rings, and he held a glass of red wine in one hand, sipping it slowly.

I glanced around the room, searching for the swords Loki had told me about. While any metal probably could kill a Vittra, Oren had a special set of swords made with platinum and diamonds. He used them for all his executions, to be certain they would get the job done.

“My child.” Oren smiled at me in that way that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. “You’ve come home.”

“This isn’t my home,” I said, my voice as strong and sure as I could make it. I spotted the swords, their handles glistening with diamonds from where they were mounted on the wall, and that helped give me a bit more confidence.

“It sounds as though you’ve brought guests,” Oren ignored my comment. He twirled his glass, watching the wine swirl about in it. “You’re supposed to wait until your parents go out of town to throw a party.”

“I’m not throwing a party.” I grew irritated with his attempts at humor. “You know why I’ve come.”

“I know why you think you’ve come,” he clarified. He stood up, and in one quick swallow, drained his glass. When he’d finished, he tossed it to the side, making it shatter against the wall. “But if I were you, I would seriously reconsider.”

“Reconsider what?” I asked.

“Your plan.” Oren walked toward me in that same stealth-like gait he always had. “There is still time to follow through on the terms we agreed to. There is still time to save yourself and your friends, but not much.

“I’m not a very patient man,” he said, walking around me in a large circle. “If you weren’t my daughter, you would already be dead. I have given you more than I’ve given anyone else. And it’s time you show me some gratitude.”

“Gratitude?” I asked. “For what? Kidnapping me? Killing my people? Overtaking my kingdom?”

“For letting you live,” he said, his gravelly voice behind me, right in my ear, and I don’t know how he got that close to me so fast.

“I can say the same thing about you,” I said, surprised by how even my voice stayed. “I’ve let you live thus far, and I will let you continue to live. If you call this off. Let us go. Leave us alone. Forever.”

“Why would I do that?” Oren laughed.

“If you don’t, I will have no other choice,” I said as he strolled back in front of me, facing me as I spoke. “I will kill you.”

“Have you forgotten our deal?” Oren asked, a twisted smile on his lips and something dark sparkling in his eyes. “Have you forgotten what you agreed to when you gave me your kingdom?”

“No, I haven’t forgotten.”

“You’ve merely decided to back out on it?” he asked, smiling wider. “Knowing what it would cost you.”

“It will cost me nothing,” I said firmly. “I will defeat you.”

“Maybe you will.” Oren seemed to consider this for a moment. “But not until you lose everything.”

“Is this your answer then?” I asked.

“You mean will I give up, let you and all your friends live happily ever after?” he asked, his tone condescending, but that changed instantly. His face was hard, and his words were filled with venom. “I get the happily ever after, and I will not concede to a spoiled brat like you.”

“Then you leave me no choice.”

I summoned all my power, concentrating and focusing on everything I had been practicing. I held my hands out toward him, palm out, and using everything I had in me, I began to push. I knew I couldn’t kill him this way, but I hoped to get him incapacitated enough that I could get close to him.

His hair ruffled, his robe even blew back, but nothing else happened. I used everything inside me, and a buzzing sound started in the back of my head, growing more painful as I tried to use all my energy.

 But Oren never even moved. He only smiled wider.

“Is that all you’ve got?” He threw back his head and laughed, the sound reverberating through the room. “I have highly overestimated you.”

I pushed and pushed, refusing to give up, even when the pain in my skull became excruciating. Everything else in the room, the furniture, the books, began flying around like there was a tornado, but Oren remained unmoved.

I could feel something warm and wet on my lips, and I realized my nose had begun to bleed.

“Oh, Princess, darling,” Oren said, as sweetly as he could. “You’re exhausting yourself. I hate to see you in so much pain.” He sighed, attempting to sound regretful. “So I’ll put you out of your misery.”

He stepped forward and raised his hand. He struck me across the face, backhanding me so hard I flew across the room and slammed into a wall. Everything that I sent flying in the air collapsed to the floor around me.

Loki had tried to warn me about how strong Oren was, but I hadn’t understood until then. It was like being hit with a wrecking ball. My side ached terribly from where I’d crashed into the wall, and I probably had broken my ribs. My leg felt like it snapped, and I was lucky I hadn’t broken my neck.

“I hate to do this to you,” Oren said, and at least he wasn’t smiling when he said it. “But I told you what would happen if you went against me.”

I pushed myself up so I was sitting, still leaning back against the wall. He towered over me, and I steeled myself, waiting for him to hit me again. But instead, he went over to his chamber doors and opened them.

“Bring him to me!” Oren shouted out into the hall. He left the doors open and returned to me. He crouched, his black eyes meeting mine. “I warned you. I gave you every chance to join me. I wanted you with me, not against me.”

“I would rather die than serve you,” I said.

“I see that.” He reached up, meaning to wipe the blood from my forehead, but I pulled away from him, even though it sent shooting pain through me. “Well, the good news is you won’t die alone.”

He rose and stepped back from me. At the same time, Kyra and another Vittra came into the room, carrying Loki with him. I hadn’t seen the other Vittra before, but he was huge, a barbarian of a man.

They were literally dragging Loki. They held him by each arm, and his legs trailed limply on the ground. His head hung down, and blood dripped from his temple.

“No!” I shouted, and Loki lifted his head at the sound of my voice. He looked over at me, and it was clear they had beaten the hell out of him.

“I’m sorry, Wendy,” he said simply. “I tried.”

“No,” I repeated and struggled to my feet. My body didn’t move the way I wanted it to, but I ignored the pain. “No, don’t hurt him. I’ll do whatever you ask.”

“It’s too late.” Oren shook his head. “I promised you that I would make you watch him die. And I am a man of my word.”

“No, please,” I begged him. I stumbled over to a chair and leaned against it, holding myself up, because I couldn’t stand on my own. “I will do anything. Anything.”

“I am sorry,” Oren said again.

He walked over to the wall where the two long swords still hung, the only things still intact in the room after I had sent it into a flurry. He pulled one down, the diamond encrusted bell guard covering his hand.

I tried to use my powers to stop him. I held out my hand, pushing out what energy I had left. Some of the lighter things in the room stirred, like papers and a curtain, and Kyra winced. But Oren was unruffled.

“Loki’s met with this blade before,” Oren said, admiring the sword. “It seems fitting that it will be the one to finish him.”

“Please.” I let my hand fall to the side. “I will do your bidding. I will do anything.”

“I’ve already told you.” Oren walked back, stopping in front of Loki. “It’s too late.”

Kyra and the other Vittra held Loki higher, and Loki grunted. Tears streamed down my face, and I could think of nothing to do. My powers weren’t working on him. I wasn’t strong enough to fight him. I had nothing to barter.

Still staring at me, Oren lifted up his sword, and with one quick move, he stabbed Loki straight through the heart.