The Bloodlust Power
Eros stepped inside the room, taking in the decadent details of the room. Yesterday, he was crammed into Kireh’s Winter Palace, the palace the ehol had chosen to use primarily for his business meetings, but tonight, Kireh had called an emergency meeting at Summer Court.
Eros had left the comfort of his home in Kidul to come face to face with the one regency he’d hated the most, but he pressed through his seething hatred and pulled into Summer Court with the grace only an Ọba could possess.
Kireh never invited anyone to his private residence. This was the first time Eros was ever going to see the place. He’d been impressed so far. The entrance was exquisite, with landing balconies built on the inside rather than on the outside. Even the lobby was outfitted with the latest technology. It was strange to come across an iris scanner as Summer Court was notorious for being stuck in First Dynasty.
Eros tucked in his wings and pulled a seat, scanning the room to see who all had come before him. Adriel was unusually early—he was normally the late one.
“Is there a problem?” Eros asked.
“We should wait till the others get here.” Kireh’s attention was still outside the meeting room, peeking out ever so often to see who else was coming.
Eros slipped down his chair. The last time, Kireh had practically accused Levi of all the murders in the Central Octeract. But sanyas died all the time. Perhaps the uptick was because of the seasonal changes and nothing else. Though Levi was stubborn and his punishments a bit severe, Eros didn’t think Levi was purposefully slaughtering the sanyas. Still, Eros couldn’t push the possibility out of his mind. Levi had been distant for quite some time.
Soon, the other ehols started pouring in. Luce had come inside first, followed by Yugi, then Bry. Levi was the last to arrive. Yugi seemed amused; a smile was plastered on his face as he took a seat next to the window. Levi, on the other hand, twisted his face into a frown the moment his eyes landed on Kireh.
“Is everyone here?” Kireh asked. He glanced around, then perched himself on the table and folded his wings into his back. “This is about Levi,” he stated a-matter-of-factly.
“What about me?” Levi straightened his back.
Eros quietly thanked the Asayli that he’d sat at the farthest end of the room—near the door. He didn’t want to think that what Kireh had accused Levi of was true, but Eros had heard the rumors. And he’d seen the sort of punishments Levi handed out to those who dared to break his rules.
“All of you, actually.” Kireh’s eyes narrowed on Levi. “You must give up using your Sẹda. An order of the Triune Monarchy.”
Eros’s lips tightened. Give up their Sẹda? Why? It was an unusual request coming from the Asayli.
“Why?” Adriel had picked the question right out of his mind, and with that, Eros tightened his mental shields.
“It’s much too dangerous,” Kireh replied. “At least for now, at this stage. Sẹda is too great for your minds to handle.”
“I’ve been using my power just fine,” Levi protested.
“I see.” Something ran across Kireh’s face, some strange emotion Eros struggled to make out. “But you use your power to suppress your people, and they suffer because of that.”
Air caught in Eros’s throat. Goosebumps rose on his skin, and a swelter of cold sweat beaded on his forehead. Perhaps the rumors were true. The cruel punishments Eros had seen with his eyes—he didn’t want to believe that Levi was using his Sẹda to torture the sanyas. He glanced at Levi. The ehol was stiff, his eyes glued to Kireh.
“No one complains,” Levi said.
Kireh’s lips formed somewhat of a smile, but Eros could tell the ehol was upset about it. “I’ve heard rumors you kill the sanyas mercilessly.”
“Rumors are just that.” Levi sat up in his seat. “What does Bry say?” His eyes darted to the ehol who lounged on the sofa opposite the rest of the ehols.
“It was Bry’s suggestion.”
Bry had sat by the window, his eyes fixed on whatever was happening in the lower courts. Bry was strange. He was the oldest among the ehols, but he never let his embers flutter around him, as though his Sẹda was something too precious to let roam.
Eros shut his eyes; the image of blood sprawled across his mind. Sanya blood. He smelled the iron thick in his nose, burning his skin with each breath he took.
The child Levi held, her limp body dangling between his fingers. “She stole,” Levi had said, his words callous and filled with poison. “She stole … bread.”
“Would you prefer your core ripped out?” Bry didn’t address anyone, but Eros knew those words were meant for Levi.
“I prefer to be left alone. How I do things have always worked for me,” Levi replied.
Blood and oranges.
Eros smelled it, the odor taking the shape of light pink embers that trailed behind Levi. Blood had dripped from his alabaster fingers, the young child lifeless in his grasp.
She stole the bread because she was starving. But why? Why would she be starving? If Levi was her Ọba, he could’ve easily helped her family. But he chose to kill her instead.
“Never did I dispute that. But if believing such pleases you, then so be it. Blood will be on your shoulders if the Asayli find fault with the way you do things.”
“It’s always the Asayli with you. When would you state how you truly feel? You know my way is right. There are legends—”
“Legends can be interpreted in any twisted way you desire.” Bry cut Levi off.
Eros opened his eyes. Bry now stood in the center of the room, too close to Eros for comfort, but his back was turned. Thank the Asayli.
“But if how I truly feel is what you want to hear, then I will tell you this: this meeting is a cause of the Asayli and Kireh.” There was a pause. “Not me.” That was a threat.
Eros’s chest tightened. He knew what Bry meant. This was a meeting of chance. Bry was giving them an opportunity to make amends for their actions—but if Levi was the only one committing these crimes, then why did the rest of them have to be punished?
“And the death of the sanyas,” Bry continued. “I have been given reports that the sanyas from your Kingdom have suddenly been dying. You haven’t given either Kireh or me a response to that.” The chill in his voice and the coldness of his words kept Eros frozen in his seat.
What if Bry could kill Levi? What if Bry threatened to kill all of them?
There was a time in Ịtoba’s history, a legend, where an ehol had singlehandedly murdered a slew of Titans. Stories were written, and songs were sung. Eros swallowed. He’d never witnessed any of the more powerful Titans kill another ehol, but it could be done. It was done before. And if Bry was threatening…
“Also, I’ve observed your inability to properly handle your Sẹda is just shallow water compared to the insanity it can cause if used excessively. Insanity, I fear, has already begun to manifest in some of you.”
The hall fell deafeningly silent.
Eros quickly glanced in Levi’s direction. The already-pale ehol had grown paler. Levi knew fear, but he was always the one to cause it—never to show it.
“Insane?” Yugi repeated. “How?”
“Your mental capacity as ehols is built to withstand many things. As gods, you have transcended even time itself, but as much power as you have come to gain, you lack the comprehension of it, and as such, the power steals from you the ability to control it. With each use, your mind deteriorates. You become more mortal and ignorant in your understanding. You slowly die.”
Yugi’s face went blank. “So, because we’re not old enough to use our own Sẹda, we’re going crazy? Am I hearing this right?”
“Half of it.” Bry’s tone held amusement though his face was stoic. “You are old enough. You are just an idiot.” He turned to the others. “For the rest of you, he is right.”
Yugi raised a questionable eyebrow at Bry.
“Does this ring true for you as well?” Eros pulled himself up in his seat. Images of dead sanyas had already saturated his mind, picking at his skin with guilt. If he stayed silent, engulfed in the memories of the dead mortals, he’d only slip further into the hole of death brewing inside him.
“No.” Bry let the word slip out with no remorse. “I had no reason to use my Sẹda in my Youth.” It was the first time Bry had ever mentioned anything of his past. “I was able to control it. Age has fused my power with me. I have become it.”
“Sounds silly to me.” Levi got up. “You can’t become power.” Levi pressed his hands against his coat and strode toward the door.
“Sit.” The word swarmed toward Levi, draping him in some sort of Sẹda so ancient Eros couldn’t depict what it was. Bry’s eyes were glued to Levi, glowing silver, but something dark was beneath his gaze.
Levi’s face turned red, sweat beading on his forehead as he carefully sat back down, unable to fight against whatever Bry did to him.
Eros clutched his arm.
If Bry could do that with spoken word alone, what else could he do?
A slight smile formed on Bry’s lips. “It’s true that to you, I cannot become power, but if you ever live to see my Age, then you would think otherwise.” His gaze shifted to Yugi. “To give up power isn’t a hard thing to do. It is merely a question of trust and greed. We all want power, but we don’t need it.”
“And what if we don’t stop using it?” Yugi pushed.
“Then consequences will follow. But for now, I’ve given you the choice.”