An Assassin at Court Novel
Copyright © 2015 Nia Davenport
All rights reserved.
I would like to say a huge thank you to my sisters and my husband, who graciously put up with all of my babbling and ranting and brainstorming as I developed Chaos’ plot. I would also like to acknowledge my awesome graphic designer, Misha, who is responsible for the amazingly beautiful cover art you see. Last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank the four amazing ladies and book bloggers who took time out of their busy lives to beta read Chaos and help me make it the very best that it could be. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
For all of the readers that enjoyed Two-Faced and inspired me to write Chaos. You are my greatest source of inspiration and motivation.
“Real love, true love, expects nothing and gives everything.” ~ Zander
If you've believed a word I have said up to this point then I've fooled you just as much as I've fooled everyone else. If I said I'm sorry I would be lying but when I tell you I had no choice it is the truth. The legends say Fae can't lie. We can. We can also use glamour to appear just as human as the next mortal. I suppose now that you know the truth the real story begins. Two things remain true. My name is Skyler and I am irrevocably in love with the lost heir of Faerie.
“Hope is an infectious thing. It is both a blessing and a curse. It allows you to keep living through the darkest of times in the knowledge that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. It allows you to live in the constructed reality of what you want to happen versus the actual reality of what is happening.” ~ Caelia
Four mortal years prior.
The realm of Faerie.
omorrow marks the day of your seventeenth birthday,” the Fae King told me as if I didn’t know.
I knew. The day had loomed over my head my entire existence. Sometimes the day made me wish I were never born. If I were not perhaps my family, my mother and father and older brother, would still be alive. They died when I was a young girl, but it wasn’t from a disease running rampant in the drinking water. The Fae King himself murdered them.
Every fae was born with a type of magic. Our abilities ran the gamut from being able to heal injuries, to foreseeing the near or distant future, to possessing control over one or more of the elements, and everything imaginable in between. The magic doesn’t fully manifest until our seventeenth birthday. We called it our coming of age.
We aged at about the same rate a mortal did until that point. Once our magic manifested, the aging process slowed tremendously. There were fae who had been alive for centuries and looked no older than their thirties.
Some abilities were more common than others. Mine was one of the rare ones. Extremely rare. As in I was the only fae in existence who possessed it. It was the reason the Fae King hunted down and executed every member of my family except me. My magic would help him ensure that the throne of Faerie changed hands for the last time when he wrested it from the former Fae King.
No one dared to say it aloud, but it was whispered behind closed doors that King Regias Asteroth made a far better King. He ruled with a firm, yet benevolent hand. He was every bit as quick to pass judgment on those who trespassed against him and his laws, but when he did so it was merciful and just. The current King was a sadistic, bloodthirsty monster who reveled in the torture and pain of others. I would know. He had certainly heaped enough of it on me over the years.
Belial sat before me on his lofty throne looking down at me as if I were offending scum stuck to the bottom of his boot
With no desire to incite his temper, I bowed reverently before him. “I know, My King.”
He walked down from the dais his throne sat upon. He circled me much like a vulture does his prey. I fought the urge to move with him. I did not like having the King out of my sight. If I could see him then I knew what was coming and when it was coming. I was powerless to do anything to stop it, but at least I had the small comfort of being able to brace myself for whatever blow he thought to reign down on me that particular moment. Sometimes they were physical. Sometimes they were mental. Regardless, they hurt the same.
He stopped moving behind me and I felt his hands rub up and down my bare arms. My body automatically tensed. I did not need to see the King behind me in order to know that he fiendishly smiled at the response. I knew displays of fear only fueled his actions, but try as I might to curb responses like the one that had just happened, I could not.
Like most everyone in Faerie, I was terrified of him. He was the monster that massacred my entire family in front of my eyes then held me hostage in the gilded cage of his palace for the last eight years. He called me his ward. Every time he did so hysterical laughter bubbled up inside me that was not all together sane.
The term implied he cared for me, looked after me, and nurtured me. It implied he was something like a parent. King Belial traveled to my village and butchered my parents while I looked on and screamed in horror. Then the guards he traveled with forcibly removed me from the only home I had ever known.
I hated the King. I had wished him dead a million times over. I didn’t have the power to see his life end but there was finally someone alive who did.
“Tomorrow you are of age. Your magic will manifest. You are to open a portal to the mortal realm and bring me back the boy who is the last link to the Asteroth bloodline,” King Belial whispered into my ear.
This time I fought against the response to flinch away from the nearness of his repulsive touch. It would only excite and anger him. I had seen what happened to others who did the same, like the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting or the Queen herself. I did not desire to be on the receiving end of that particularly sadistic pleasure.
I managed to evade it thus far because he needed me whole and unbroken to complete the job I must do. In addition to the crimes he committed against my family, it was the other reason I wanted him dead. It was also the reason I would willingly fulfill the task he had given me. If all went according to plan it would be with much different results than he intended.
I bowed my head dutifully and spoke three words. “Yes, My King.”
From the diary of Skyler Errin
For as far back as any fae alive can remember an Asteroth has ruled Faerie. The legends say that it was with the Asteroths that all of Faekind and mankind began. Our realms were not always separate. We were once one people ruled by a pair of twin brothers originally called Order and Chaos. They ruled peacefully beside one another until Chaos created magic and imbued the world with it. Order didn't like the magic. It was wild and passionate and unpredictable. He told Chaos to get rid of it but he refused. The magic had been born from a piece of his essential self. He could get rid of it no more than a loving parent could turn their back on their child. The two brothers went to war over the issue. Each fought for absolute control over the world. However, the only way for one brother to achieve control over the other was to erase him from existence. Both loved the other too much to do something so extreme and after a few millennia they grew tired of fighting. They called a truce and within that truce the Faerie and mortal realms were born. They divided the world into two halves. One retained Chaos' magic and from the other it was erased. Chaos adopted the name Asteroth and ruled Faerie as its King. In homage to the brother he would miss for the rest of eternity Order adopted the name Roth. He did not unite the beings that became known as mortals in the absence of magic under one rule. In his loneliness he fell in love with a mortal woman whom would one day grow old and leave him. He couldn't bear the thought of losing her like he lost his brother so he purged his immortality and lived out the rest of his days as a mortal. In the short expanse of his human life he carved out a kingdom for himself in a corner of the mortal realm and called it Anthame. When he died the Roth name lived on in his very mortal children.
glanced over my shoulder for the dozenth time to make sure nobody followed me. If I were discovered not only would my blood be the latest to paint the walls of the King's torture chamber red but so would that of the half a dozen other fae I was meeting with. I glanced over my shoulder one final time before stepping into a stairwell that would lead me to a castle tower long forgotten by King Belial.
King Regias along with his wife and daughter occupied the South Tower. It was the former royal family’s private quarters. Belial both hated and ignored anything that had to do with the old Fae King. When he stormed the palace and overthrew Regias, installing himself as King, his first decree was that any who mentioned the former King's rule would be put to death for treasonous speech. Belial knew he wasn’t a quarter of the King Regias was.
In the privacy of our modest home in our little village far away from the eyes and ears of the King, my father used to talk about the time before Belial's reign. The realm was a different place then.
Faerie thrived and its people flourished. Regias was a compassionate and generous king who cared about his subjects and made sure everyone from the higher class Seelie down to the lower class Unseelie shared in the wealth of the kingdom. There were parties and solstice revelries and people didn't have to be afraid. The fae were free to live life as they pleased without Belial’s tyranny. Belial was a King who ruled through intimidation and blood. If he wanted something, he took it. If you told him no, he sent someone to kill you painfully, or did it himself.
Despite being neglected for nearly a thousand years, the South Tower glittered like a precious jewel. Granite marble inlaid with crushed emeralds lined the floors instead of stone like in the rest of the palace. Thick, velvet tapestries of the same rich color hung along the walls trimmed in gold. Skillfully painted portraits of Asteroths who had ruled Faerie and lived in the South tower decorated the walls.
I paused in front of one of them. A dashingly handsome young man charmingly smiled back at me. His complexion was perfectly tanned as if kissed by the sun and warm amber eyes peered into mine. I felt an immediate pull towards the young man in the portrait. Curious, I read the inscription beneath it. His name was Aldric Asteroth. He ruled Faerie for thousands of years before succumbing to ennui. He chose to drink from the ancient cup of un-making and end his immortal existence.
I immediately felt sad at his choice. When thinking about it a darkness crept from the back of my mind that threatened to drown me in sorrow. My heart raced as the world tilted on its axis. Blackness blanketed my vision and the last thing I remembered were my legs giving out and my hitting the floor.
“Skyler, Skyler wake up!” I heard a voice say in alarm.
I heard several other voices murmuring in hushed whispers around me. I blinked twice then focused my eyes on the world in front of me. I was propped up in a chair in a corner of the inconspicuous room where the Order’s leaders held their meetings with me.
The Order consisted of those fae, both Seelie and Unseelie alike, who actively sought to end Belial’s reign. The identities of its members were a secret to all except those that belonged to it.
The four men and two women assembled around me represented the leadership of the Order. They were powerful fae who possessed even stronger magic. They ensured that the identity of the Order’s members remained anonymous by requiring any fae who joined to swear an unbreakable blood oath to never divulge the identities of its members.
Blood oaths were serious business not to be taken lightly. To break them meant to condemn yourself and every other fae in your bloodline to un-making, what we called it when a fae was not killed but ceased to exist. We lived for thousands of years but there were two things that could take away our near immortality: Any fae could kill another fae and we could be un-made by either drinking from the cup of un-making or breaking a blood oath.
I thought the blood oath was a bit extreme. No fae in their right mind would cross any of the Order’s leaders. They were among the most lethal and powerful fae in existence. When they walked through the streets of Faerie people trembled in their wakes. Eyes were averted, lips were tightly sealed, and heads dipped in respectful bows. I, along with probably every other fae in Faerie, would walk through fire and back again before willingly getting on any one of their bad sides.
I guessed it to be the unwilling part that they were afraid of. Belial was just as powerful and lethal but without an ounce of mercy. Unlike him, the leaders of the Order did not revel in the torture and pain of others. Belial was a sadist in the truest sense of the word. He was the monster nearly every other monster was afraid of.
The Order’s leadership were also the Lords and Princesses of Faerie and the one thing they all had in common was that Belial butchered their parents shortly after he ascended to the throne. They banded together and formed the Order and with it the mission to see Belial removed from the throne and all of existence. They would make every attempt to do it themselves but only Asteroths could kill Asteroths.
Since it began the Order’s sole mission had been to find a remaining fae in the Asteroth bloodline. Their mission proved easier said than done when they realized that Belial plotted to take the throne of Faerie long before he stormed the palace and killed Regias. For hundreds of years he methodically tracked down and murdered every fae with any trace of Asteroth blood. It ensured that when he killed Regias along with his queen and children, there would be no one in existence that could challenge him for the throne. Despite the bleakness of their quest, the Order persisted in looking for a fae with Asteroth blood.
“Skyler, are you alright?” Darrien asked me when I opened my eyes. He was Seelie and though he looked no more than twenty in mortal years, he was also a Lord of Faerie, placing him a notch below the King in the hierarchy of our society. He was akin to a nobleman in the mortal realm.
I shook my head then voiced the confirmation out loud. “I’m okay,” I assured him.
Relief flooded his cool gray eyes. His body shifted as if to hug me, but then it stiffened. When the rest of him relaxed again, his arms hung tense by his side.
My own body did not relax until his did. I stiffened as well when I thought he meant to hug me and what the action might hint at.
“What happened to you?” Selene demanded an answer from me. She never asked for anything. She made demands and they were fulfilled.
She was a Princess of Faerie, though it did not mean she had any ties to the King. If she did I had no doubt she would un-make herself just so they would be no more. Selene hated Belial as much as I did. Maybe more. Her father, along with Darrien’s, Khammad’s, Lor’s, Ignacio’s, and Ysabeau’s, was Regias’ advisor. After he overthrew Regias he butchered their fathers and mothers for good measure. Belial wanted them to swear fealty to him as their new King. Regias’ advisors’ loyalty was unwavering even in death. They all refused and as punishment and an example for anyone else who thought to emulate their actions, he butchered the six men and their wives in front of their children. Just as Darrien, Khamaad, Lor and Ignacio were Lords of Faerie, Selene and Ysabeau were Princesses of Faerie. It was the title given to female fae occupying the position equal to that of their male counterparts.
Sometimes I was secretly jealous of Selene. Not in a malicious or covetous way but in an inspired, I look up to you and want to be like you kind of way. She was both beauty and strength contained in one vibrant package. Her flame-red hair was just as fiery as her spirit. If you judged her solely on her looks it would be a grave error, perhaps the last one you ever made. She was supermodel gorgeous with long legs and a creamy complexion set against a petite, but athletic frame. Her eyes burned just as red as her hair and if you looked hard enough you could literally see little flames dancing within them. She was a rare beauty among the fae and her name was whispered far and wide across the lands as the fairest of us all. It was whispered because no one would dare call her pretty to her face. She would make anyone who did eat their words.
“I..I don’t know,” I stammered still a little disoriented from the unexplained occurrence.
“Regardless of what the fuck it was, you need to pull it together. We cannot afford for it to get in the way of your mission.” Lor didn’t mean to be as cruel and heartless as he sounded. He, like everyone else in the room, had a vested interest in seeing Belial dead and dethroned. Now that we were close to achieving it he dealt with the emotion behind with the same abrasive acerbity he used to deal with the emotion behind everything else.
“I said I am okay,” I said more assertively. “I lost just as much as the six of you lost at the hands of Belial.”
Lor moved to say more but Darrien cut him off. "Lay off Lor. If Skyler says she is alright then she is."
Ysabeau left the space she occupied on the opposite side of the room and walked to stand beside Lor. She spoke to him but her eyes were on me.
I hated it when she looked at me. I didn’t have anything against her and I knew it wrong to feel the way that I did when she had committed no wrong acts against me but I couldn’t help it. When she looked at you it was through sad, heavy eyes that had seen far too much of the atrocities of the past and the different shapes the future might take depending on the actions and choices of those in the present. Ysabeau's magic was one of prophecy. She carried the weight of the past as well as the burden of the future on her shoulders. I hated it when she looked at me because I could sometimes discern the burdens. They were ones I wished never to bear so I always tried to avoid looking directly back at her.
"Skyler will be fine to do what she must tomorrow. This path was set for her thousands of years before her birth," Ysabeau told Lor before addressing me directly. Her words came out careful and measured as if she knew something and couldn’t reveal. I got the feeling that she was trying to give me a little bit of a warning before I walked into a situation blind. "Though the matter of Belial is important for all of Faerie, your mission into the mortal world holds an additional, perhaps even greater, significance for you personally." Before I could ask what it was she added, "I cannot say what it is. Fate demands that you figure this part of your destiny out for yourself as the terms of fulfillment of a bargain that was struck long ago. But listen to your heart and pay attention to the inner voices that may whisper to you. Our souls are able to recognize things once lost and now found."
Okay, that is not at all confusing.
I bit back the retort not wanting to offend Ysabeau. Even though most of what she uttered sounded like the ramblings of madness she seemed to be sincerely trying to help me. With what, I had no idea. Nor could I take the time to figure it out. My seventeenth birthday was mere hours away. At midnight the very magic Belial murdered my family in order to use and possess through me would manifest.
I was a rarity amongst Faekind. I possessed a magic that had not been heard of or seen in hundreds of thousands of years.