Dragonbane(Dark Hunter,book 24)(37) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
“No! No more of your excuses. He is an animal unleashed that you’ve left unattended, to walk amongst us without any rules or boundaries. We, I, cannot allow him to roam around, unchecked. Not after this. The time has come for you to choose – your sisters or your beast. I will not excuse this!” She gestured at her injured arm.
“Am I being cast out?”
“No. You are to submit him for a harrowing. Only then will I allow him to stay in our village, but only so long as you keep him chained like the wild animal he is. If you disagree, I will have him executed.”
Terrified, Seraphina had gulped audibly. Maxis would never tolerate being kept chained down. And she couldn’t blame him.
Nala threw a collar at her. “Bring him to me within the hour for his punishment or I’ll send a tessera for his head.”
Her hands shaking, she’d picked the collar up and slid it into her satchel. A part of her had wanted to beg, desperately, for Nala to change her mind. But she knew it would be useless. Nala was too angry.
And she was queen. Her word was the law they all lived and died by.
Unable to fight Nala’s command, Seraphina had headed to her tent, where she found Maxis waiting with his meager handful of clothes already packed.
The instant he saw her face, he’d visibly winced. “I guess you heard.”
“That you bruised my basilinna? Of course! What were you thinking?” She would never forget the look on his face. He dared to appear as if she’d slapped him for no reason. And that had only made her angrier.
“I was going to move into my cave, but I didn’t want to do so until your return. I thought it rude not to say good-bye and tell you where I was going. I know how upset you get when you don’t know where I am. Now that you’re back… I think it’s for the best. No one else here knows where it is.”
“That’s it, then? That’s your solution? Aren’t you at least going to apologize?”
Total shock filled his eyes and expression. “For what?”
“Embarrassing me? Assaulting the leader of my tribe? Does any of this sound familiar?”
Scowling, he glared at her. “I asked you to leave with me.”
“Is that your answer? I didn’t abandon my duties and tribe for you, at your command, so it’s all right for you to assault them whenever I leave?”
“I didn’t say that.”
Furious, she’d watched as he picked his pack up and slung it over his back, then his sword and fur cape. A furious tic had worked in his jaw, as if he had some right to be angry after what he’d done to them both. They were lucky Nala wasn’t calling for both their lives. “I’ll be at the cave whenever you have your cravings for me.”
As he started past her, she’d taken his arm to stop him. “Wait, Maxis.”
He paused to look down at her with an expression of hopeful expectation that had quickly melted to sad resignation as he realized she wasn’t going to stop him from leaving.
Sighing, he leaned down to kiss her cheek.
And as soon as he was about to kiss her, she’d clapped the collar around his neck and turned it on.
His breathing had turned instantly ragged as he dropped everything he held and tried to pull it off. Since she’d never worn a collar, she hadn’t known it would be painful. But as he staggered to his knees, panting and desperate to remove it, she realized that it wasn’t just prohibiting his magick. It was actually hurting him.
“What have you done to me?” His tone had been filled with utter agony.
“Nala has demanded a harrowing. It’s time you learned your place.”
His eyes widening, he’d glared at her with such fury that she’d actually stepped back in fear. “Don’t do this, Sera. I will not forgive it.”
“It’s too late for that. I have no choice.” Grabbing the collar, she tried to drag him to Nala’s tent. Then quickly learned how heavy his stubborn, inert weight was.
With no choice, she’d left him in her tent to tell Nala she had him collared. And as she walked away, his curses for her rang in her ears.
“You do this, Sera, and I will leave you forever! I promise you, I won’t take this lying down! You will regret what you’ve done. What you allow them to do to me!”
In retrospect, she wasn’t even sure why she’d done it. Nala had never been that good to her. She could blame the humiliation of being called in before her queen on her arrival. Especially given the number of times she’d told Maxis to stay away from the others. Had ordered him to stand down. Her exhaustion on her return…
A thousand things that were stupid and poor excuses.
The only thing she could really say in her defense was that she’d had no idea how brutal they would be to him. Normally, a harrowing was a few lashes of the whip – no more than ten for an ill-behaved mate – a few days in the pit, and a few more weeks of shunning.
Then everything went back to normal. Since they already shunned Maxis, and he was stronger than most, she hadn’t thought much about his being punished, other than it would appease Nala and prevent any more action from being taken against Maxis.
Yet the instant she told Nala that he was collared and waiting, Nala had led half the village in to drag him out so that they could attack him as if he was solely responsible for every ill a Katagari had ever done an Arcadian. The feral glee in their eyes as they rained down an unimaginable wrath on his body still sent chills over her.
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