Fire. Sun-warmed earth, fragrant grass. Summer doesn’t bother with words. She wraps her magic around him, so tight he’s barely able to stand.
She yanks on the invisible chains, half dragging him along. The bright throne room is almost blinding. He doesn’t know how long they have kept him in the dark for this time, but he knows it’s been the longest length of time so far.
“Sit,” Mother says.
Summer pushes him down and he falls unceremoniously to the floor.
“Do you know what day it is, amor?” Mother asks.
“N-no, Mother.” His words are stilted. When was the last time he spoke?
“Why, it’s the fiftieth anniversary of your mistake, of course.”
His breath catches in his lungs.
Fifty years he’s been in chains…fifty years since they started torturing him whenever it pleases them.
Since he got Sara killed.
Mother smiles a cruel smile.
“My poor pet. I know it’s been a trying time for you.” She steps up to him.
Her scent envelopes him. Earthy and familiar. When he was younger—before he knew better—that scent meant home and comfort. Now, it’s nothing but a trigger for his nightmares.
“Since it’s such a special day, I have allowed Summer’s request to spend some time with her dear twin.”
His eyes flicker to where Summer stands just off to the side. Her smile is sweet, deceptive. Of all his sisters, she’s the one who hates him the most.
“Well,” Mother says, “enjoy your day, amor.” She leans down and presses a kiss on his cheek. He wants nothing more than to scrub her touch from his skin.
Summer doesn’t even bother telling him to stand. She drags him from the throne room.
His tender, abused flesh aches as it rubs on the marble floors.
Summer tosses him into an empty room.
“I’ve waited a long time for this.”
He stares into his twin’s honey eyes. There’s no warmth in them, not for him. Throughout their long lives, she has been his worst tormentor.
Summer and winter.
Opposites in every way.
One ice-cold, with a warm, generous heart.
The other, hotter than the sun, but stone cold on the inside.
Good for nothing slave.
He always knew this day would come. He resigned himself to its inevitability long ago.
For the last fifty years, he’s endured their punishments, he’s served as their plaything. He cannot remember a time where they didn’t torment him. It has always been this way.
Except Mother had never before allowed Summer to be alone with him. She knew the contempt her youngest daughter held for her unwanted twin. Mother Nature never minded if her pet got damaged, a little magic could heal his injuries. But she knew that if given the chance, Summer would make sure there would be nothing left of him to save.
As he stares into his sister’s eyes, he knows that death has come for him at long last.