Her meetings with Iniquity were never as terrible as she imagined. This time would be no different. Even her thoughts didn’t sound convinced.
Iniquity’s stone thrones were almost as tall as the room. They were the only chairs. Iniquity didn’t want an audience when settling disputes. Amoral, Vice and Dissolute weren’t their real names. It was what they demanded to be called— not that any Del’Praeli addressed them individually. By human standards, they looked about forty. Del’Praeli aged slower. Iniquity was the first to give their bodies to the Darkness— they had created Raesul.
Vayle bowed. Shade wanted to grind his nose into the ground. They swept their hands in his direction. Shade tried to catch his eye. Vayle kept his head straight and eyes forward as he left. The sound of the heavy doors closing echoed around the chamber.
They entrapped her in a gaze possessed by disgust.
Their skin glowed white from lack of sunlight. Shade rubbed her arm and hoped they didn’t come closer. The contrast in skin color was unbearable enough from a distance.
“You do not have to tell us. We have been watching you.” Amoral’s words sounded like he created them letter by letter and forced them out.
“We know the humans treat you badly,” said Dissolute.
“Do you still wish to go back?” Vice asked. His voice lingered in her ear longer than the other two.
Why did they ask questions they knew the answer to?
“I don’t know. They treat me better than any Del’Praeli.”
“Beings here treat you like family,” Dissolute said.
“Then this is the most dysfunctional family in existence,” Shade mumbled.
Their anger crawled inside her. The air became thick with it. She’d never felt their resentment like this before.
“We’ve had eyes on you. They’ve reported many disturbing things about you. As punishment for killing and eating humans and having inappropriate relations with them, you will spend a month living in the forest, starting at the end of the week. You still smell like them. We are trying to teach our darklings to control their animal nature and yet you embrace it. We cannot have a Deltorus Praeli like you around them.”
Shade wanted to be shocked. She deserved worse.
“We will tell you where to go at the end of the week.
You will be escorted out of the city.”
She’d never heard Amoral sound so jovial.
“I won’t be escorted. I know where the damn forest is. I can get there myself.”
Their rage congealed over her and pressed Shade until her knees buckled.
It beat harder and harder. There was a cage inside of her so fortified even she didn’t have access to it. It held emotions. The fury beat and shook her until the cage door cracked just a bit. Panic and fear escaped before the box fixed itself.
What was she going to do in the forest for a month? She knew nothing about taking care of herself in the wild. She’d be more isolated than usual. The silence would be murderous.
“We will not take this foolishness from a half-breed,” Vice said.
“We have allowed you to live here.”
“We allowed your father to keep you.”
“And yet you still show no gratitude.”
Her flesh crawled and squirmed as though trying to wiggle itself from her bones. Her Lifeblood huddled like a berated dog. They did not care for humans. Why was it such a big problem?
Their faces...she’d never seen such ugly, hate-filled expressions and hoped to never see them again. Their revulsion made them identical. As fury folded their bodies, it aged them, making their pale faces death-like. They rose. She had never seen them at full height. They were immense and impeccably dressed. Their confidence made the power they now exuded more brutal.
“Half-breed,” Amoral’s voice left her ears bleeding. “I’m tired of your filth. I’ll carve the human out and devour it.”
“No,” Dissolute’s voice was smooth, caressing. “We eat her whole.” He dragged his tongue across his sharp teeth.
They wouldn’t eat her. The ravenous look in their eyes was proof enough. Running was the smart thing to do. You didn’t leave Iniquity’s Court unless they released you. She couldn’t move. Iniquity wouldn’t lower themselves to the status they were condemning her for. Their eyes, their posture...movement would dismantle what little self-control they had.
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