Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.
Rage seethed through Jerica, numbing the pain in her arm. Lord Biryn stood close in front of her, hand still clamped around her breastplate with his fingernails digging into her chest. He towered over her, breath reeking as he breathed into her face. Her right hand shot up, grabbing his wrist and twisting his grasp free.
She kept twisting his arm, stepping forward onto the offensive as she forced him backward. She made sure to dig her fingers into his arm, hoping that some of her nails were clawing him through his thick cloaks. “I’ll break your fucking arm.”
Jerica heard Kieran’s panicked voice, but didn’t look towards him. She kept her venomous glare focused on Lord Biryn’s gaze. His eyes were dark and harsh, sharply contrasted against his sallow flesh. His dark mop of hair was spilling into his face.
“Try it,” he hissed. “I dare you.”
His flesh instantly grew hot beneath her grasp, breath getting even stuffier as he breathed down on her. She kept her grasp just as tight, refusing to back down, even as his arm began burning her palm. He had another thing coming if he thought that he could intimidate her with his magic. She’d just killed Valeren mid-explosion – she wasn’t going to back down from Biryn’s parlor tricks.
“You think I won’t?” She twisted his arm further.
“Stop it!” Derik’s hand landed on their arms as he stepped in the middle of them. “Both of you, stop it now! How do you think this looks to the soldiers, having the two of you acting like children?”
“He started it,” Jerica snarled, jerking her arm away from Derik’s grasp and off of Biryn’s arm. She looked around and realized the nearby soldiers were all gawking; Kieran was staring with wide eyes, heaving to catch his breath.
“I don’t care who started it.” Derik put his hand on her shoulder, his other hand on Biryn’s, and pushed them further apart at the same time. “I’m ending it.”
Jerica stepped back resentfully, fixing Biryn in a venomous glare once again.
“You.” Derik’s finger was in her face, drawing her attention. He glowered at her. “To the Palace, like I ordered.”
“That’s where I was heading.” She glared at Biryn again, mockingly bowing to him. “Hopefully you understand, now that Lord Ainsley said it.”
“Go,” Derik said crisply.
She turned on her heel, starting back the way she’d been heading before she got accosted by Lord Biryn in the first place.
“Yes, run back to the Palace, Princess,” Lord Biryn’s taunting followed her.
Jerica threw her right hand up, flipping her middle finger up in response as she continued walking, never looking back. Kieran was trotting close to her heels, not daring to speak. She stormed along the wall, down the stairs, and stomped along the cobblestone path that curved up to the palace.
Who did he think he was? Accosting her in front of her own men? The nerve! The absolute gall! How dare he – how dare he undermine her like that? And in public no less! In the middle of a battle! She kicked a rock angrily out of the road in front of her. She could hear Kieran panting next to her, struggling to keep up.
“If you ever do something like that,” she snapped, turning her attention on him, but forcing herself to slow her pace. “I swear on the gods above and any down below, I will stab you on the spot.”
“I would never!” Kieran’s eyes were wide, earnest.
“No?” Jerica looked at the path in front of them. “You mean that you, a child of thirteen, are smarter than that sorry excuse of a man is, fully grown?”
Jerica forced herself to take a deep breath. She started to rub her face with her right hand, but stopped short as she realized Biryn had burned her hand with his little stunt. She slowly curled it into a loose fist, stopping so quickly it took Kieran a step and a half to realize. He turned back towards her; eyes still wide.
He was scared.
Of course, he was. This was the first battle he’d been in, after all. And she was angry on top of that. Her anger could make grown men retreat – never mind a young boy who was obligated to follow her each moment. She took another deep breath, decidedly unclenching her jaw, and then met his gaze. “Are you alright?”
“Are you alright?” she repeated, forcing her voice to be soft. “I wasn’t supervising you for quite a while. Did anything happen?”
“No ma’am,” he answered. “Lieutenant Haider watched over me. I’m not hurt.”
Kieran took a deep breath, looking at the ground in front of his feet. “Permission to speak freely, ma’am?”
“Eyes up here.” She gestured at her own eyes. He nodded, lifting his gaze to meet her own. “You’re not a servant to cower, to anyone. You look people in the eye when you speak.”
“Good. And yes, speak your mind.”
Kieran took a deep breath, then slowly let it out. She lifted an eyebrow. He took another deep breath then blurted out. “Are you okay, ma’am? General?”
“Never mind.” He spun on his heel and started up the path once more.
He stopped in his tracks, but it took him a long moment to turn back around. He looked up at her guiltily.
“You don’t run away, either,” she scolded, but her voice lacked any sense of disapproval. “I’m fine. Why do you ask?”
“Well… you’re just… very bloody, ma’am.” He gestured at her.
“Yeah, well… you’ll have that sometimes.” She shrugged, resuming her trek up the hill with Kieran at her side. “The physicians are going to take a look at this cut on my arm… and maybe my hand as well… but otherwise, I’m fine. I’ll be back in the battle by tomorrow, no doubt.”