Dorian, prince of Panerka, begins his decent into the world of the eternal nightmare...
DAWN OF A NIGHTMARE
It was to have been his. Panerka, the glory of the world, the city of cities. But they were taking it from him, stealing it from beneath his very feet. And he was powerless to stop them. He had come upon his father’s body only a few hours before. The sight had burned itself into his mind, forcing him to again and again look upon the mighty king of Panerka lying in a pool of his own blood, possessing no more strength than that of a small leaf caught in a fierce winter wind.
He had escaped the killers by sheer luck alone, keeping to the shadows of the palace, hurriedly making his way to the rooms overlooking the gardens. He knew he would find her there—he knew that he could save her there. But the night’s horror was all-consuming, a starving beast eagerly devouring everything good and beloved in his life. Her chamber door had already been smashed open and the sight awaiting him was something far worse than that of his dear father’s lifeless corpse.
They were all over her, tearing at her clothes and flesh, pummeling her lovely face to stop her terrified screams as they did to her what no man should ever do to a girl—princess or otherwise—and live. He had lost himself in that moment, had tasted something feral and savage in his heart and soul. And he had turned it on them, unleashing it in a storm of violence as he barged through the broken door, slamming his entire body into the nearest man.
The sight of him gave her renewed strength and with a cry of his name on her young lips, she stabbed her small fingers into the eyes of the man on top of her. Now it was his scream that filled her bedchamber, and she took from that even greater strength. She pushed her head forward, biting the bridge of his nose, shattering it within her teeth.
But the man punched her and hers was the next cry, a wail carrying his name, a plea for him, the brother she loved and cherished, to save her. For all his anger, for all his rage, he soon found himself agonizingly powerless to stop the world from falling down around him and his beloved sister. There were too many of them, and they had converged on him with knives and daggers, stabbing his flesh with blades already stained by his father’s royal blood.
His name on her voice was a scream that pierced the haze of brutal agony scorching his body, and he looked up through the midst of knives and fists to her childish face. She found his gaze, staring at him from the other end of the room where two more men had gone back to torturing her flesh in a different but no less painful way.
“Rina,” he heard himself whisper before his blood began to choke him, before the Princess Carina of Panerka was gone from his vision, replaced by a tide of sudden darkness.
The darkness suddenly receded all at once, replaced by a blast of vision too painful to fully absorb. His ears were ablaze with the earth-shattering hammer strike of thunder, and only after the passing of a few moments did he realize the thunder to have been his own scream.
His lungs were starving for air, but he couldn’t inhale enough of it to feed them. He was suffocating, dying from within even as his world died around him. With a grimace contorting his bloodied face, he turned himself around, his mind frantically searching for something but not certain of what.
And then he found it.
Her body, laying across from him.
Determinedly, using every shred of strength remaining to his broken, dying body, he dragged himself over to her. His weakened hands roamed the pummeled skin of her arm before reaching the contour of her soft face. “Rina,” he murmured into the deafening silence. “Rina!”
There was no answer—the most painful answer of all.
He pushed his head onto her shoulder, too broken to cry even as his heart demanded outright sobs.
“My prince,” a quiet voice whispered from the doorway. He felt her presence approach before he could find the strength to turn and look. At first he thought her a girl no older than his sister, but then he saw her as the young woman that she was. Long dark hair framed a pale oval face from which eyes of a startling blue stared straight down at him.
“You,” he rasped, mesmerized by the intensity of those eyes. “I know you.” And he realized that he had spoken truly. This woman and her father had recently become known around the king’s court as healers, practitioners of ancient herb lore.
“Yes, my prince,” she murmured while kneeling before him, the skirts of her black dress ruffling with the motion. She moved one long forefinger into his hair, gently stroking the blood-soaked tresses.
“You…you can help me? Help her?”
The woman’s gaze gradually—almost reluctantly—wandered over to Carina, and she bowed her head, hiding her face in a veil of hair. “Do you want them?”
He could only stare at her in confusion, struggling to keep her in his focus, to keep himself alive for just a bit longer.
Her hand brushed a few wisps of hair from his face and she gave him a small smile that was empty of hope and instead filled with naked, raw sorrow. “The men who did this. Do you want them to suffer for what they’ve done here? Do you want to make them suffer?”
He turned his head and looked up at his sister’s pallid face, devoid of all the joy and laughter she had given the world in life. “For touching her, there could never be enough suffering.”
The woman had moved closer to him, her body nearly completely atop his despite the blood. “Tell me, my prince,” she whispered into his ear. “Tell me that you want it.” For all the agony clawing at his body, draining his life of blood and life, he felt the icy hot touch of her lips on his flesh. “Let me hear you say it, Dorian.”
He tilted his head back, his eyes surrendering to darkness. “I want to make them suffer…”