by Jilly Harris

In a restless fit she continued to toss and turn, images of flames
lapping at her, around her, burning the homes of her people, hungrily
consuming her loyal subjects, tendrils of acrid smoke ran rampant
through her mind. The sights unholy chorus of screams lifted up in
despair made her whimper. Sweat rolled down her temples as strands of
white hair clung to her cheeks.

Midalah, Queen suddenly turned mercenary, had never felt so helpless to
defend her people. She turned again, her anxiety passing only to be
replaced with a newer, more recent incident. A memory more traumatizing
than the ones that came before.

***Flashback to an event 3 years ago***

The Nespar Gala was an annual event that diplomats, royals, barons,
lords, and criminals attended. The elegant function often was a meeting
place for mercenaries and prospective employers while allowing for them
to rub elbows with the most influential individuals around.

Midalah still did not understand why she had agreed to come to this gala
with Krayle G'osh, one of the most despicable men she had ever met. 'He
claims to have information you need, that's why,' she reminded herself.
Since leaving Lon and S'Lara almost two years before to search for the
person responsible for killing her entire family, Midalah had found no
information till she had run across Krayle. He had recognized the young
Queen immediately. With a few well placed questions, he found out
Midalah's intention to find her family's murderer. Never one to pass up
an opportunity that could present itself in any form, Krayle had sent
word to Midalah that he had information on her family's deaths.
Information that she greatly wanted.

"My dear, you look enchanting this evening," Krayle told her, lifting
her hand to his too thin lips.

Midalah reclaimed her hand. "Enough of this," she said. "We've made our
appearance, I've held up my end of the deal. Time for you to deliver."
She wasn't entirely sure why she thought this man would know anything,
but so far she had come up empty handed in her endeavor.

"Of course," he replied, an unsettling smile crossing his face. "Follow
me." Making their way out of the gala, Krayle led Midalah to his room
where he promised her he had what she wanted.

Midalah gasped as he shoved her toward his bed. "What are you doing?"
she demanded.

Krayle pushed her backwards. "Taking my payment for services rendered,"
he laughed in reply.

Midalah managed to keep from gagging when his lips came down on hers.
Callous fingertips touched her leg, pushed the skirt she wore up, and
found their way against the smooth skin of her outer thighs. Midalah
ran her hands down his side, wincing when he bit her neck roughly. Her
fingers closed around the knife she had strapped to her inner thigh just
in case she needed it. Pulling it from its sheath, she was glad he was
preoccupied with what he was doing.

In a smooth, terrified motion, Midalah put the knife at the base of his
neck and ran through. Krayle jerked on top of her, a gurgling sound
escaping from his throat. He slumped forward, taking his last breath.

In horror, Midalah shoved him off of her. She was trembling, but would
not allow herself to succumb to it. Rising quickly, she pulled her knife
out of Krayle's body, wiped it off and slid it back in its sheath.
Midalah hurried for the door then paused to look back. Tears burned
behind her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. She would not allow
herself that luxury until she had the information she sought. She would
avenge her people.

Shaking herself back to the here and now, she quickly left the room,
wondering that this is what her life had become.

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