Excerpt from Retribution

Excerpt from Retribution:

I zeroed in on the only uniquely adorned individual at the table…our High King. Morbius of the House of Armaros, his black velvet robe intricately embroidered with gold, sat at the exact center of the curve. Like the others, he bore the symbol of his house prominently displayed on his hood.

The woman who’d escorted us in instructed me to take my place at the center of the room, directly in front of our King. Once I’d done as instructed, Morbius spoke.
“It is with great regret that we meet you today, Jacen of Samsaveel. Your brother was our brother. Your pain is ours.” His voice whispered from within the reaches of the hood, his tone seemed sympathetic yet there was a strange undefinable edge to it.
My eyes narrowed as I tried to make out the features of the man who ruled our people. “Thank you, your highness. I too wish we could have met under less dire circumstances.”
“It is our understanding you have questions about the death of your brother. Did your brother’s Second not explain the circumstances of Julian’s death sufficiently?” They knew of my questions already? How could they have known when I, myself, had been unsure of what I’d needed from them?
Returning my gaze to the featureless faces before me, I responded, the strength of my voice disguising the sudden anxiety I harbored. “Adrien explained well enough. I have a great understanding of how my brother died. Yet questions remain.”
“Then ask if you must. We will answer if we are able.”
A wave of uncertainty flowed through me, shaking me to my core. The time had come. It was now or never. Clenching my fists in front of me to calm my nerves, I straightened and spoke, “I’ve been told an urban legend killed my brother.” Not a single sound was uttered from anyone in the room. “I’ve been told that this creature walked into our seat of power and walked out with Julian. What I do not understand is how…” I paused to let the information sink in. My gaze traveled to each of the members in turn only to return to Morbius. “Am I to believe that this lone Cambiare managed to find her way passed the security gate, through the maze of hallways and into the party without so much as being noticed? Please…tell me…how that was possible. Was he not under the protection of this council?
The question hung in the air between us as time seemed to stand still. Then an eruption of indignant voices rose.
“How dare you…”
“You doubt our protection?”
“Who do you think…”
A fist slammed against the table and silence cut through the room. My gaze found the empty hood of our king. “You forget yourself, Jacen. You come here, question us…the Elders of your Kin…in a tone dripping with disrespect and expect what…to shame us?”
I knew it was a dangerous game I played, but I needed answers. Dipping my head, I choose my words carefully. “I meant no disrespect, Sire. I only meant to question the safety of the members of this council…and your own safety as well, my lord. If one of these creatures can spirit away a member of this council from beneath your very noses, then there has to be a breach in security somewhere. Someone helped them and I want to know who.”
My declaration was met with a rumble of whispered comments. When Morbius held up his hand all discussion silenced. “We cannot tell you who betrayed us as we do not know.” He sat back, crossing his hands over his middle. “When we locate the person responsible, you will be informed. For now, you need only retrieve your brother and return home.”
The muscle in my jaw worked as I replaced bitter sorrow with thoughts of vengeance. “I claim my right of Retribution delle Parentele. I’m not leaving Italy until I do so with the beast’s head as my trophy.”
My statement was met with an uncomfortable silence. I swallowed but refused to look away…to do so would be to admit defeat.
When Morbius finally stirred in his seat his voice hissed out from the darkness of his hood, obviously angered by my statement. “You are not sensible like your brother.”
I remained steadfast in my resolve. “No, Sire. I am not.”

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