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Imperial Affliction

By Cortney Butler All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Romance

Blurb

Plagued from birth, her entirely unique appearance sets her apart from all the other residents of the kingdom. At the hands of her father, King of the Pricolici, 17 year old Zenobia must endure constant abuse and torture. While kept prisoner in her own castle, she learns the dark secrets of her past, her mother, and her future. Will she escape in time to change her fate and save her life? Or will the secrets that surround her be too much to survive? Imperial Affliction is the first book in The Zenobia Chronicle's.

Chapter 1

Thunder cracked in the distance, lightening striking through the midnight sky, illuminating the world around me for a passing moment. I clawed my fingers into the soil as the wind whipped my scarlet curls around my face. The thick and heavily drenched locks clung to my skin only to slap against it with each violent gust of air. My eyes were searching, searching...

The earthy smell was more prominent from the rain, the sweet aroma clouding my mind.

I was hidden in the shadows waiting for the right moment. There were two guards posted at the entrance at all times, always changing shifts every 12 hours. Many more guards were manning the walls, so the walls were definitely out of question. My eyes flickered towards the guards who looked like they were about to trade their shift with their relief.

I tensed.

The first guard left his post and made his way to the large looming door of the castle that stood taller than the height of three average men together. It was now or never and, one was easier than two.

I lunged at the first guard, my hand shooting up to his neck, swiftly digging my nails into the soft and tender skin there. There was no resistance as it was like cutting into warmed butter. His eyes widened in horror as he had no time to react to my sudden attack.

"Muri încet.” Die slowly.

He gurgled on the blood that was being crushed from his arteries as he gasped for air, trying desperately to keep from drowning in his own blood. My hand tightened like a vice, unrelenting until the light started to fade from his dark, wide eyes.

I pulled my hand from his neck as he fell to the sodden earth. Rain continued to pelt my skin, stinging slightly where the droplets hit. With the guard on the ground I darted to the iron gate where freedom was beckoning me with her sweet song. A little further...

“Halt!” Shit!

In my success of taking down the first guard, a second guard, different from the one who went into the castle, came charging towards me with his blade drawn. Without a second though, I made a run for it.

Making it to the wrought iron bars of the gate, I instantly started to climb. My hands grasped the thick metal and I pulled myself up, landing my right foot onto a horizontal rod that was part of the intricate, hauntingly beautiful design of the gate.

The gate that kept me prisoner for the past seventeen years of my life. Locked within these castle grounds, slowly suffocating me and breaking the strength of my soul. The bruises that decorated my skin and the cut on my upper lip being only minor injuries compared to several that have nearly left me for death.

Pushing myself up with my foot, I heard the guard nearing. Cursing, I picked up my pace only to slip halfway to the top on the slick metal, earning me a gash into my left thigh as I slid down a foot. The guard reached the gate, grabbing up to me, and catching hold of my injured leg, harshly jerking me towards him. I kicked him as hard as I could but he was too strong for my injured leg to hold against his pull. He grasped a hold of my other foot and instantly started dragging me down with his bulky weight alone. As I started sliding off the gate, my ribs caught the iron spoke sticking out from the design. I yelped in pain as blood started pouring from my side.

I landed with a hard thunk into the drenched soil and the guard wasted no time in yanking me by the hair to my feet, pulling me towards the massive castle door. Panic seized my throat, I couldn’t go back, I was so close. Closer than I have ever been before to the freedom that my heart longed for. Freedom from the castle, the torture, from him...

The sudden onslaught of panic pushed me into fight or flight, and my hand shot up to his, quickly snapping his wrist into an unnatural angle, the bones jutting from his skin. He howled in pain and I tried to make another attempt at the gate. But even with his now deformed hand, he was too quick for me. He instantly landed a swift blow to my shoulder blade, knocking the breath from my lungs and making me stumble to my knees. Scrambling to my feet, I wasn’t about to cease my efforts.

My nails raked across the guards face, spilling blood in crimson streaks that, mixing with the rain, quickly ran down and staining his vest. I tried to go for his jugular, as I had with the previous guard.

But it was in vain.

In my focus to escape, I hadn’t noticed the other guards running this way. Shit.

The guard took advantage of my distraction and sliced his blade into my arm. I screamed in agony and fell to the earth once more. A hard blow to my stomach made me heave blood into the drenched soil. He kicked me several more times in my abdomen and back until finally kicking my head, making my vision go dark and hazy, knocking me straight into darkness.

***************

I awoke in a cold and darkened room. Not room, a cell.

The dungeon.

I coughed several times, the action making me hiss when my chest and the gash in my ribs burned. I knew for a fact I had some internal injuries that were slowly healing themselves. My jaw bone had been broken as I could feel the awkward stiffness and pain that shot up my face when I moved my head. It wasn’t healing correctly. I went to break it back into place when my hand clinked.

I turned my swollen face to see what was stopping my movements. My hands were chained to the concrete walls, as were my legs. Once again, I was trapped and caged, like an animal. I huffed a sigh of frustration.

I had been so close!

Sincerely agitated that I was resorting to this and completely humiliated with what I was about to do, I slammed my face into the opposite direction, right into the concrete. I hissed and let out a curse as my jaw connected with the cold hard surface. But no break. I lined myself up to take another crack at it when suddenly the dungeon door flew up, rushing in a gust of air.

My breath hitched in my lungs.

In walked two castle guards in all their armory, swords sheathed at their hips. They sauntered towards me. The cruel look on their faces made my shiver in my skin. I knew I was about to feel pain, much more pain. My jaw throbbed as the guards neared where I was chained, looking me over like a piece of meat they were about to devour. Their dark eyes were hungry, and my pain would surely satisfy them. I tensed myself and prepared for their onslaught.

The guard with the dull and scruffy blonde hair instantly started kicking my legs and hips while the other one with the bald head pulled a whip out from behind his waist. I hissed as he began whipping me with it, slashing into my skin. I counted.

1...

2...

The whip slashed angrily into my skin and blood trickled from my lips.

3...

4...

5...

My vision began to fade out again when I heard the clinking of metal and felt my nearly limp body being dragged across the rough stone floor. Breathing was becoming increasingly difficult as I struggled to pull in each breath while blood was filling my lungs. I tried to focus on my surroundings as they dragged me up a stairwell and into a blast of heat.

A bright light invaded the darkening of my vision, making me squint my eyes. The throne room. I was in the throne room.

In front of the King.

My heart began beating rapidly in my chest as the guards threw me to the smooth hard stone in front of the Kings feet. The deep red curls that were now crusted with dried dirt and blood were plastered onto my face and chest, the thin servants dress covering my body was torn in several areas, exposing me. I shuddered, keeping my gaze onto the floor.

“Zenobia Daciana Iunescu.”

My head jerked up at the sound of my name.

The King looked at me with his darkened, soulless eyes. His thick black locks pulled into a knot at the back of his neck. Thick coiled tattoos laced his skin in intricate designs, almost as hauntingly beautiful as the gate. But these were just as menacing as they were beautiful. His olive skin was magnificent even in the harsh lighting of the throne room as he was seated in his throne atop the ascending stairs that lead to his feet. Even as he was seated, his massive frame was overwhelming and oozed power on it’s own. Silver eyes flashed in pure rage as they met mine.

“Attempting to flee the castle, Zenobia?” His deep timbre voice boomed over me.

His wicked gaze stared deep into me, causing me to cower under the intensity.

A sickening smile played over his lips.

I felt a hard blow to the back of my head causing me to fall on my side, knocking the breath out of my already damaged lungs.

“Speak when spoken to, târfă!” A guard whipped my back.

“Y-yes, Regele meu.” I managed to croak out of my split lips.

He cocked his head to the side as if listening to a whisper in his ear, though no one but the King himself sat on the throne, and his subjects down beneath him. Typical.

“Dear Zenobia, how many times must we go through this? You run, I catch, you fall, I laugh...” His sickening gaze draped down my body taking in my haggard appearance. His voice sinister and smooth like venom from a snakes fangs.

My throat closed up.

He stood from his throne, slowly and painfully descending the stairs towards me. I instantly started to scurry backwards as he neared but was prevented by the guards behind me.

The King leveled with me, breathing his hot, tobacco tainted breath into my face. I shrunk into myself as far as I could, anything to distance myself from him. The fear coursing through my veins shook me to my core. I could feel the darkness starting to overtake me as I felt the weight of my injuries. Succumbing to the heaviness that was draping over me like a thick blanket, I barely heard his last words as I slipped into unconsciousness.

“You will never be free of me, fiica.”

My world went black. Again.

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