King of Gods – Scarlett Dawn

Blood. A thousand tiny droplets flew from my face. I had no idea I could bleed like that. My back slammed against the wall, taking most of the impact of the spell. I swiped at my nose and found a fist full of blood where the power of Master Dorian’s spell crashed into me. The hit to the wall would bruise me, badly. Master Argo chuckled. “He’s going easy on her.” Master Bebbenel nodded and folded his arms. “He is. It’s ridiculous. She’s the Breaker of the Spine, and she can’t hold off a simple spell.” From my new vantage point on the ground, I whipped around, throwing a blast of power at their ankles and knocking their feet out from under them. Master Dorian and Master Tymon let out a loud laugh as Master Argo and Master Bebbenel landed on their asses. I climbed to my feet.

“He is going easy on you,” Mistress Lunella whispered, wiping the blood from my face with a soft, wet cloth. “Watch yourself. Dorian always plays to win, even in training and practice.” “Thank you, Mistress Lunella,” I answered. “You need training. I’ll help you with that.” Mistress Lunella smirked. “After we visit the spa to get your poor battered body some relief. I can’t stop the ass whoopin’ that Dorian is set on handing you. And for all the love, stop calling me ‘mistress.

’” My eyes grew wide. I didn’t know what statement to process first. “What? He only hit me with —” My thoughts were hacked before they could form. A lasso of power closed around my waist and yanked me back into the practice ring with no mercy. “Come on, girl!” Master Dorian snapped at me. “Come on! Fight! Use your power!” I answered him with a scream. “I told you I don’t have a lot!” “Horseshit!” Master Dorian flung another spell at me, and all I could do was duck. It flew past me, and Master Argo batted it away without a thought. I whirled back, and the next spell landed on my shoulder and spun me around, throwing me off balance. I was falling.

Again. Rolling with the momentum, I managed to tuck my head and end up in a crouched position but facing away from Master Dorian. I heard the spell, and it struck me right in the back. Jerking me off the ground, it hurled me through the air at least ten feet. This time, I hit the ground face first, hard. All the air in my lungs whooshed out in a single breath. “Get up!” Master Dorian was unrelenting. I couldn’t move. I desperately rushed to catch my breath. Another spell hurled through the air, flipping me up and over onto my already bruised back.

“Get up!” Master Dorian stood over me, his hands raised for another assault. The magic gathered in his hands, and I rolled away as fast as I could. He tried to follow, but the spell hurled into the ground where I had been. Turning myself onto my hands and knees, I scrambled away, putting distance between this merciless asshole and me. When had I started cursing like this? I didn’t have time to figure out the answer as another spell pummeled into my other shoulder, spinning me in the other direction. Now, I was getting mad. As I spun yet again, I caught sight of Master Dorian. I heaved as large a ball of magic at him as I could muster. He laughed and dodged—and he didn’t see the ball of magic in my other hand. I flung it at him as he was standing back up, giving me time to stand straight again.

Since he hadn’t given me time to recover, I returned his consideration. I used a whip of magic to his same hip. Yanking him around, I used a blunt club of magic to smash into his shoulder. Now, though, Master Dorian was pissed, and I wasn’t prepared for his anger. Magical hit after magical hit, he came at me. Tossing me in the air like a rag doll, letting me hit the earth again, throwing spells impossibly fast. Inhumanly fast. The magic bent around him when I managed to get a glimpse. No one should have been able to bend magic like that. It distracted me, and he was able to toss me in the air again.

I was going to hit the ground hard and bruise my bruises. I grabbed the bent magic Master Dorian was whipping around and pulled it under me. As I bounced off the strings of power, it was easy to find my balance and land with both feet. A small—the tiniest—flicker of respect danced across his face just as he yanked back his magic and crashed it against me; it sent me into the wall. Again. Gasping, I held up a hand. “Stop! Uncle!” The assault stopped, but Master Dorian held the magic ready. Lunella was already over to me with the wet cloth, wiping my face off again, finding more blood from the bloody nose that hadn’t healed as well as a dozen new small wounds. She was smiling. “Good.

” “Good? I just got my ass handed to me.” “You’re still standing. Hell, you’re still conscious. That’s more than most people can say against Master Dorian.” I sucked air into my starved lungs, trying to alleviate the burning while the very man who had just beaten the tar out of me strode over. “Done? You’re done, girl?” Holding the towel to my bleeding nose, I cocked my head. “Yes, I’m done! You’ve beaten me to a pulp, you sadistic bastard.” The magic unwound, and he let it settle. “You are pathetic.” My jaw dropped.

“I’m a teacher, not a fighter! You expect me to be good at this the very first time you take me out and beat the crap out of me?” “You don’t even remember your basic defensive magic.” “I never took defensive magic!” The audience of masters fell silent. Lunella spun me around. “You—what?” “I never took defensive magic,” I repeated. “I was excused from it because my abilities were so weak. Do you think I’m kidding? Look at me!” I stepped back so she could really see me. “I’m bloody and bruised. My poor clothes are ripped and stained. I don’t know how to fight! I have been a teacher all my life.” Master Argo folded his arms and cocked a hip.

Sheer disgust took up residence on his face, twisting his lip. “Dorian, do you really think this…schoolmarm is the Breaker of the Spine?” “This is a little ridiculous,” Master Bebbenel agreed. Tymon stepped forward. “Have you been to the Breaking Cave? Either of you?” Both masters shook their heads in the negative. Tymon nodded, his unruly mane of mahogany hair moving with him. “Then cram it.” “Without reason, that’s the answer?” Master Argo’s eyes flared gold. Tymon spun to Master Argo. “The rocks of the Spine dance for her, you jackass. They light in her presence and twinkle with her laughter.

You have not been to the cave to see that, so I don’t expect you to believe it. That’s why I told you to just cram it, you ignorant bottom feeder!” Master Argo’s anger burst out of him as a whip of magic. It snapped at Tymon as he walked away, aimed for his neck. Instinct made me whip my own magic out and grab Master Argo’s before he could touch Tymon. I only imagined bad things happening to Tymon if that lash had wrapped around his neck. With a hard, angry yank, I pulled Master Argo closer to me. “Why would you ever think attacking someone with a lash of magic to the throat while they walk away was a good idea?” Master Argo fell to the ground in agony, his features distorting and pain writhing across his face. “Let go, let go!” He started clawing at his arm, tearing at the sleeves. I stepped back, suddenly afraid. Lunella’s hand landed on my shoulder.

“Release his magic, little one.” I tossed the string of the lash away from me, and Master Argo spun with the magic. He collapsed on to the cold bricks by the wall. Bebbenel openly stared at me. “Where… where did you learn that? I thought you said you never took defensive magic.” “Just because I never took it doesn’t mean I didn’t read up on it. I’m a teacher, remember? I not only teach, but I spend my life learning as well.” Those words were full of more bravado than I felt. Master Argo’s reaction terrified me. “You couldn’t have read that in a book.

” He traded looks with Master Dorian. A cruel, pleased look graced Master Dorian’s face. “No. She could not have. Not the way she executed it. Was that instinct, my dear?” “Instinct.” I was desperate for space from him but couldn’t move. “He could have broken Tymon’s neck, and I’m not sorry I stopped him. Punish me if you will.” Stuck in place, I raised my chin, determined not to back down from his glower.

Lunella chuckled behind me. “Spitfire. You all forget that we womenfolk are not to be trifled with. Good luck, Dorian. Argo, you’ve made an enemy of the very woman you wanted to break.” I narrowed my eyes at the master in front of me. “Break me?” “You’re nothing but a pup here,” Master Bebbenel said. “You need to be broken and reshaped to be useful, to understand what your place is.” Inching my head around to Master Bebbenel, I stared at him. Hard.

“Excuse me. You want to break me? I am not a horse nor am I a tool for your use. I am not conforming to some ideal you have for the Breaker of the Spine.” Moving deliberately, I inched toward him. “If I am the Breaker of the Spine, I will break it on my terms, in my time, in my own good, goddamned way!” Tymon threw his head back and laughed, and I could see Master Dorian and Lunella holding back a laugh, as well. I didn’t move from where I was—staring at Master Bebbenel. “You’re too stubborn for your own good.” “I will break the Spine as I see fit!” Master Argo folded his arms. “You need to be broken.” I glanced around at the men in the room.

“You all want to break me?” “I would train you,” Tymon said. “As would I.” Master Dorian nodded. Master Bebbenel stepped forward. “I would break you. I would take you down to your bones and rebuild you into something that might someday resemble a master. I would have you understand and obey the rules—” “And you would destroy all that makes Kimber, Kimber,” Mistress Ophelia said. All of us turned. Mistress Ophelia, rare as it was, spoke. A silent observer, a deep thinker most people at any gathering forgot was there.

But not this time. The tall, lithe temple master rose from the chair to stand next to me. Her skin was like dark chocolate. Her gold and red caftan fluttered in the morning breeze, and the long rows of her braids ended in little metal beads that tinkled pleasantly as she moved. “The Breaker will face challenges the likes of which none of us, save perhaps Master Dorian, have seen. And you, Bebbenel, Argo, would break her to conform to our way of thinking, our conventions for magic use, when what we are going to need is utterly unconventional.” Her clear green eyes pierced them. “I expect that you will allow Tymon, Lunella, and Dorian to teach her. You wouldn’t consider her untrained talent an asset at all, while it is the very thing that makes her invaluable.” She leveled a finger at the two of them, and even I was terrified of it.

“You will let them alone. They will train her. And you will both make a trip to the cave, soon.” Master Argo narrowed his eyes. “You are not the leader of this—” “Shut up, Argo!” Mistress Ophelia’s eyes sparked in anger. “I am not the leader, you are correct. Neither are you. Apparently, though, I am the only one who can manage to think around here.” Turning sharply, she assessed me from head to toe. I shivered under her scrutiny.

“Move her in. Soon.” The silent master marched out of the garden. Master Argo watched her back and then lifted a hand in a rude gesture. The smack across his cheek was audible, and Ophelia’s glower from the doorway was clear. Argo turned red with anger instantly and stalked off, away from the training space. Master Bebbenel shook his head and left as well. Lunella let go of her laughter and doubled over, holding her stomach. Seemingly unaffected, Master Dorian walked over to me and stared down. “Get used to the bruises, girl.

There are a lot more of those to come.” He twisted his lips into a sadistic smile and left us there. Tymon burst out laughing. “She smacked him!” Lunella leaned a hand on Tymon’s shoulder, still chortling. “That was the best use of magic I have ever seen.” I looked between the two remaining masters. “Are they always so angry with each other?” Taking a moment to compose herself, Lunella flicked her hand, unconcerned. “They’ll fight it out between the sheets.” My eyebrows hit my hairline. “What?” Tymon’s smile was indulgent.

“The masters are quiet about their…interpersonal relationships. Argo and Ophelia are mates.” I didn’t know I could be more shocked, but I was. “They’re mates?” “Yes,” Lunella said, sitting on a bench nearby. She patted the seat next to her. I sat, and she set about fixing some of the injuries Dorian had given me. Tymon stood in front of us. “Child, did you think we were all celibate?” “I think most of S’Kir does.” Carefully wiping the dried blood from my lip, Lunella giggled. “Oh, Kimber.

No. We are far, far from celibate. Sometimes, I wonder how we ever get anything done for all the bedroom antics that go on. Take, for example, Tymon there.” Tymon grinned. Lunella rinsed the cloth and wiped more blood from my cheek. “Tymon there will be tied to his bed in the next twenty minutes, letting his mate take pleasure from him and giving it right back.” She opened a small jar of salve and put it on a few of my wounds. “And about an hour after that, his mate will be the one tied up.” Tymon waggled his eyebrows.

I couldn’t stop my own giggle. Walking around the bench, he wrapped his hand around Lunella’s neck and leaned her back. He kissed her, hard. Thoroughly. Well. “I’ll have the ropes ready, my love.” Lunella purred, and Tymon winked at me as he left the garden. There was no mistaking where her eyes strayed as he walked away. I bit my lip to keep from laughing again, but when Lunella turned back, she was grinning. “Your cuts will heal quickly with this salve, but you can join me in the spa later to help the bruises.

The water in there is perfect for healing the body from strenuous exercise.” Smirking, I cocked my head. “I can imagine you’ll need it as much as I do.” Her grin matched mine. “You have no idea.” A moment passed, and she sobered, very much the master again. “Danai’s funeral is in two more days. I know you don’t want to go…” A heavy sigh escaped me. “The Breaker should be there. The person who caused her death should have the decency to show her face.

” “No, Kimber. You didn’t cause her death. The temple was attacked. There was nothing you did to cause that.” I tried to protest, but she cut me off with a twitch of her finger. “No. They would have attacked us even if you weren’t there. Go to be there for Danai and for your own heart. Not because you feel like it’s your fault. If you feel that way, stay home.

” For just a moment, I thought about staying away. I shook my head. “No. For Mistress Danai, I will be there.”

.

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