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Winter Queen: A reverse harem novel (Daughter of Winter Book 3) by Skye MacKinnon (1)

Chapter One

They say grief passes. They say the pain gets less.

Well, I don’t want it to go. I don’t want it to stop hurting.

The pain helps me function and get through the day. And it helps me focus on one thing: revenge.

Mum. Chesca. And we don’t know if my dad is still alive.

I wish I could say that I'd feel it if he was dead, but I'm so empty inside that I don't think I would. I don't feel much, anymore. It's all shards and fragments inside my heart, nothing but a broken mess.

The only thing that can make me feel even a tiny bit alive is Blaze's unicorn dust. Sparklies, as he calls it. I touch his horn and feel better. For a while, at least. My Guardians have been trying to stop me from going to him, but I just push them away or evade them. I need to forget, at least once a day. What else is there otherwise but death and despair?

It's been a week now since that dreadful day. There's nothing for me to do. My mother is talking to her allies, her fellow Gods and Goddesses, while the Master of Arms is readying his troops. My men are busy doing the same, preparing for the coming battle.

But there won't be a battle if we don't find the Morrigan first. She's still in the shadows, still hiding. How can we fight a phantom?

As there's nothing for me to do, I have too much time to think. Too much time to remember.

Blaze is the only one who seems to be listening to me. Who doesn't ask stupid questions, like 'how are you'. Want to know how I am? Fucking dreadful. I'm a hollow shell propelled by revenge. That's all that's keeping me going. Otherwise I'd lie curled up in my bed.

Not that I haven't done that as well. I've spent a lot of time in my bedroom, staring at the ceiling, ignoring the servants trying to come in and bring me food. I use magic to lock the doors so that nobody can disturb me. Not even my men.

I no longer care about food. If someone gives me something, I eat it, but I no longer feel hungry.

My mum, my beautiful mum. I can't get her pain out of my head. How the Morrigan sliced off her arm. How she put a knife in my mother's heart. That all-encompassing pain that killed her. It replays over and over in my head. Not images; it was too dark in that dungeon to see much. Just the emotions, my mum's fear, her pain, my father's anguish. It never stops, it's running constantly like a loop, driving me crazy.

And the image of her severed hand... only one thing gets that out of my head.

I step into the hole that leads to Blaze's home and wait for the magic elevator to transport me to the bottom. My head is aching a little, but I know that the pain will disappear once I have my sparklies. It always does. And at least the physical pain in my skull is easier to bear than the mental pain assaulting me every minute of every day.

"Welcome back," Blaze greets me. He's spread out on a large purple cushion, his front legs folded underneath his body. His white fur looks as pristine as always and his horn is glittering slightly. My mouth waters at the thought of the sparklies that are awaiting me. Not that they're something to eat, but sparklies still feel like nourishment.

I don't waste time on small talk. Blaze knows why I'm here. I don't care about how he is or what he's been up to since I last saw him yesterday afternoon. I approach him and touch his horn without further ado.

Bliss fills me. Happiness is next. I sink to the ground, smiling widely as the familiar warm feeling spreads in my chest, drowning out the darkness in there. My thoughts turn fuzzy and I sigh in relief. I'm almost there. That moment when everything disappears and all my memories fade. That moment when I can live in the present, unaffected by what happened in the past. That moment when I can simply be, without sadness, without the cold that is surrounding my heart, without the guilt I carry deep within me.

The sparklies are flowing through my body, gently warming me all over. They're soft and lovely. I want to feel them all the time. I don't want it to stop. Everything is so pretty now. Blaze is twinkling all over, his cave is shimmering and even my hands are full of rainbow glitter. Life is so beautiful when reality slips away.

As always, it's over far too soon. The happiness ends without warning and darkness returns, clinging onto my heart. The room turns cold and unfriendly.

No, I need more. I don't want this emptiness. I need colour in my life.

"Give me more," I beg Blaze and reach for his horn, but he turns away before I can touch it. I stumble to my feet and stagger towards him, but he’s moving away from me, looking at me strangely.

“Princess…” he mutters, but he continues to retreat.

No. I want more. He’s one of my subjects, he has to do what I want him to.

“Come here,” I order and his eyes widen.

He looks tempted to step forward, but then he shakes his head. “No, you’re not my Queen. I won’t give you any more, this has been going on long enough.”

I growl in frustration and stumble towards him, but for every step I take, he manages to take two back. This isn’t going to work, I’m too unsteady on my feet.

With a groan, I reach for my magic. I don’t care about what kind of power I draw from it, I just fling it at Blaze, willing him to stand still for me.

He whinnies in fear as a circle of flames bursts into existence around him. Usually, this would make me stop, but my heart is ice and even the scared look in his eyes doesn’t reach it. The flames are reflecting in his dark, wide pupils.

This time, he doesn’t move when I approach him. He’s frozen in shock, or maybe because he’ll get burnt if he even takes a single step in any direction. Finally, I get to reach for his horn and touch it – at the same time as the flames take hold of my sleeve and begin to eat it up.

Bliss and happiness fill the emptiness inside of me, mixed with a pain that I can’t quite place. Usually there’s no pain when I go into the beautiful world of sparklies. Maybe this will be a new, good experience? Sometimes there’s pleasure in pain.

I sink to the ground, my mind slowly retreating and becoming slow. Calm. Non-existent.

The pain is still there though and it’s preventing me from letting go completely. It’s getting stronger.

I curl up into a ball, thinking that might make the pain go away. Sometimes hiding from the world works. Not this time, though.

The bliss is pushed away and more pain crashes into me. I scream in agony.

I could open my eyes to see what’s causing it, but the sparklies won’t let me. They’re still inside of me, but while they usually make me happy, today they seem to increase the pain.

It’s getting worse and worse and I can’t stop screaming.

There’s another scream, an echo perhaps, maybe someone else. I dimly remember Blaze being there. Maybe he’s screaming to make fun of me?

“What the fuck is going on here – oh no, Wyn!”

Voices, curses, shouting.

I’m thrown into a pool of water. No, water is thrown on me. Or both? It’s hard to tell. At least it makes my mind a little clearer. Enough to know that the voice talking rapidly in the background is Frost.

A moment later, I wish my head wasn’t clearing. Red hot pain flares up in my right arm, all the way up to my shoulder and neck. It hurts so much, please, make it stop. I whimper and someone grips my left hand and squeezes it reassuringly.

“Shush, Crispin will be here soon,” Frost whispers and more water runs over me, cooling my hot skin a little. “What did you do to yourself, Wyn? No, don’t try to move. Blaze is getting Crispin, they won’t be long.”

I’m having trouble keeping up with what he’s saying. Crispin? Why do I need Crispin? Oh, the pain, maybe because of that? Crispin heals, maybe he can heal me. The pain in my body and in my mind. And then I can get some more sparklies from Blaze to make me forget about it all.

The water that’s been running over my skin disappears and immediately, the pain gets worse.

“Don’t stop,” I whimper hoarsely.

“Okay, but let me know if you get cold.”

The water returns and cools my burning skin. It doesn’t make the pain go away, but it softens it slightly. It gives me another sensation to focus on, one that’s cooler and nicer than the aches.

“Frost,” I whisper.

“Yes, Wyn?”

“It hurts.”

I think about what I just said for a moment, then I add, “I don’t want to whine.”

He chuckles sadly. “Whine as much as you want. It’s better than keeping up that façade you’ve been showing us. Let it all out.”

“What?” I’m confused. My mind is still muddled with both the pain and the sparklies.

“You’re grieving. You need to let us in, Wyn, or it’s going to eat you up from the inside.”

“The pain is outside,” I mutter, noticing how it seems to be getting worse. The water is no longer taking the edge off like it did before.

“Now, yes, but that’s not what I’m talking about.” He gently strokes my face but I’m not sure I like the feeling. It’s too close, too intense.

“Let’s have this conversation when you’re better. Crispin will be here soon, and he’ll make you feel better. Then we can go back to the Palace and you can rest.”

“Sleep sounds good,” I croak, “but without the pain.”

There’s a rumbling far away, then footsteps, fast and getting closer.

“What happened?”

“Let me through!”

“I’m going to kill that unicorn.”

Someone kneels by my side, but I whimper when they touch my side.

“It’s okay, it’s me, Crispin.” His voice is soothing, gentle, and I want to sink into it, drifting away. But the pain isn’t letting me.

“Those burns are bad. I’ll make you fall asleep so I can work on them, is that okay?”

I shake my head and groan at the pain of it. “No. No sleep.”

Sleep brings nightmares. Memories. Feelings.

I hate sleeping.

“Arc, come here! Can you put her into one of your trances? Healing her will hurt, I don’t want her to be awake for that.”

A hand lowers onto my forehead, cool and warm at the same time. “Of course. Wyn, relax. It’ll all be over soon. Let me in, lower your barriers. There won’t be any dreams, I promise. No nightmares. Just rest.”

With all the sparklies in my blood, my barriers are already down, but before I can tell him, I slip away, out of my body, into something peaceful.

No more pain.

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