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.
Kyra and the other Vittra instantly let go of Loki, and he collapsed on the ground. They both held their heads, clutching at them, and at first, I didn’t understand.
I couldn’t really think or feel anything, except that I had been ripped in two. It felt as if Oren had torn my heart from my chest, and I had never felt such consuming pain or anger as I did then.
Blackness surged through me with an intense heat. I didn’t even really know what was happening around me. Everything felt like a hazy blur.
Then I saw Oren, squinting and touching his own head, and I remembered.
I could do something with my mind when I was frightened or angry. I’d done it to Tove when he tried to wake me, and I’d even done it on a smaller scale when Elora had been torturing Loki.
That act – that intense fear or anger – unlocked a power inside me. I did something to people inside their heads, causing great agony. It usually only lasted a few seconds, but I had never been as pissed off before.
As soon as I realized what I was doing, I harnessed it and directed it toward Oren. At first, he looked confused and simply started backing up. He kept squinting and tilting his head, as if he were staring at a very bright light.
In the back of my mind, I knew my body should hurt, but I felt nothing. I walked toward Oren, and he began to hold his head. He fell to his knees. He was moaning and begging but I couldn’t understand anything he was saying.
Both Kyra and the other Vittra were curled up on the ground, and Kyra was actually sobbing. I went over to Loki, refusing to let myself actually see him, to really believe he was dead, and I pulled the sword from his chest.
I walked over to where my father was slumped on his knees, bent forward. His hands were clamped to his ears. He was muttering at first, but when I raised the sword over my head, I heard him begin to shout.
“Make it stop!” Oren yelled. “Please! Make the pain stop!”
“I’ll put you out of your misery,” I said, and I swung the sword down, slicing through his neck.