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Gild: Chapter 40

KING MIDAS

I’ve been to every single kingdom in Orea.

First Kingdom is a tepid jungle, flooded with pretentious fools who fancy themselves masters of the arts. Second is an arid expanse of sand and not much more, the monarchs a dull, puritanical lot.

Third Kingdom holds more interest, their coasts speckled with private islands only to be visited upon invitation of the monarchs. Their only blight is that they share a murky border of swampland with Fourth, but King Rot’s kingdom holds no interest to me at all.

Fifth Kingdom, however, I’ve grown increasingly fond of.

I look out below me, my hands braced on the balcony railing. The ground glitters silver and white, but my focus is on the ice sculptures in the courtyard, maintained as religiously as any royal garden, every curve chiseled, every inch shaped to perfection.

What a wonder it will look like once all the ice has been touched with gold.

I don’t have ice sculptures in Highbell. The blizzards and storms are far too vicious for that. But here in Fifth Kingdom, the everlasting cold is much more mild, only light dustings of snow gracing its sparkling ground.

I watch the sculptors continue to carve for a moment longer before I turn and head back inside, letting the balcony doors snick shut behind me. I’ve been given the south suites of Ranhold Castle to stay in, the interior all decorated in whites and purples, with gray rock and black iron fortifying its structure. It’s lavish and entirely respectable enough for a visiting monarch.

Except, I don’t intend to simply visit.

I sit down at the desk set into the corner of the room, fresh blue winter blossoms set cheerfully on top, its stem resting in frosted water.

I’m deep in a stack of papers when the knock sounds on my door, and my advisor, Odo, shuffles in.

“Your Majesty, a letter has arrived for you.”

I hold out my hand, my attention split on the roster in front of me as he places the rolled parchment in my palm. Breaking the wax seal, I unroll the message, my eyes distractedly skimming over the words. But then I stop. Go back. Start over.

I read it once, and my body goes rigid. I read it a second time, and my jaw clenches tight. By the third time, I’m seeing red.

“Sire?”

My eyes snap to Odo where he waits in front of the desk, no doubt wondering if I need to send a reply.

There will be no reply.

My hand crumples the paper. “They have her.”

My voice is dark and low, words formed between barely separated teeth. The realization pounding in tandem with my enraged pulse.

Odo hesitates. “Who has who, Your Majesty?”

In a blink, I’m on my feet. My arms sweep everything off the desk in a terrific crash. Books slam against the floor, papers go flying, the frosted vase of the flowers shatters against the wall.

My advisor flinches back, wide eyes on me as I pace back and forth across the room. My fists are clenched so tightly at my sides that it’s a wonder I don’t snap the bones in my fingers.

“King Midas?” Odo questions hesitantly.

But I barely hear him, nor my guards who come into the room because of the noise, their swords drawn against a threat that isn’t here.

A cloud of fury gathers in my head, a heavy storm of thoughts pummeling behind my temples and dripping down my limbs.

No one dares move or question me further as I continue to pace, probably in fear that I’ll solidify their heads and leave their golden skulls on a frozen spike outside the gates.

I don’t feel it when I stop and slam my fist into the wall. I don’t care when my knuckles split and blood stains the white carpet in furious blots of red.

I don’t feel it, and I don’t care, because the thing that matters the most to me in this world has been taken from me.

My favored. My gilded. My precious. She’s been stolen from me and is being held in an enemy’s clutches.

I turn to my guards, my anger rising like boiling water, sending a thick haze of fury over my vision. The precision of my planned annihilation against King Fulke will be nothing compared to those who dared take Auren from me.

She’s mine.

And I’ll destroy everyone in my path to get her back.


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