Villain, 45

Parties Can be Crashed by the Very Last Thing You’d Expect

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“Of course, my townspeople were overjoyed at the banquet thrown at home too,” the woman said to Sam. “Rare indeed to see a king give gifts for his birthday rather than expecting them from his people.”

Sam smiled. This woman was the leader of the town called Zegid in the Plateau’s northeast. He didn’t know her name. “I didn’t want any gifts. I have a lot of stuff already, as you’ve probably noticed.” He waited for both her and the man with her to laugh politely. “But the plateau-wide banquet was Henry’s idea, not mine.”

“Well, I’ll have to thank him for that,” the woman said.

“Make sure you do,” Sam told her. “He’d be happy to know his gift was appreciated.”

“Very much so,” said the man. He was the magistrate of a town named Henth, also in the east. Whether it was actually big enough to warrant a magistrate Sam wondered, but he hadn’t asked. “I think with you and him in the castle here, we can count on a new prosperity in Ech’kent.”

Sam tried not to sigh. At least these two spoke Kyn, so he didn’t need a translator. Henry was going to teach him Chez’n soon, he said. “I hope so. I’m the first to admit that Solomon wasn’t a good king. We’re better off without him.”

A measure of tension suddenly evaporated. “Quite so,” the man said. Sam didn’t know his name either. Henry had told him all the village leaders’ names before the party, but Sam didn’t remember any of them because he didn’t fucking care. “I think we’re all…pleased to know that you don’t intend to follow in your father’s footsteps, your Majesty.”

“What happened in Endlyn wouldn’t have had to happen if he’d been more willing to listen to the people’s wishes,” Sam lied. He knew that everyone in this room was thinking about what had happened in Endlyn. “I intend to avoid any further insurrection by actually being a good king instead of a terrible one.”

They laughed at that as though it were a joke. That was fine. Sam really wished he didn’t have to talk to them anymore. He had a headache and the presence of so many people in proximity was making his power skittish. Though it had been skittish before that—he was just on edge today, feeling like something was going to happen.

Just as he was thinking that he couldn’t handle this much longer, a hand touched his back. “Excuse me,” Henry said, the fake charm in his voice slightly nauseating. “I need to borrow the birthday boy for a second.”

“Please don’t call me that,” Sam said, trying not to sigh. That was the fourth time Henry had done that. He wasn’t a child.

“Sorry, your Majesty,” Henry said, mocking. “Excuse us.”

“Of course, Lord Henry. Happy Birthday, your Majesty,” the woman said, and Henry finally took him away from them.

“They’re still alive,” Henry teased.

“The next person you plant me in front of had better be Todd,” Sam growled. “Because I’m going to eviscerate whoever it is. I can’t do this anymore. It’s driving me insane. If the whole point is that my birthday should be fun, then I shouldn’t have to deal with all these people and not kill any of them. It’s not fair.”

Sam felt better just having said that.

“I can’t put you in front of Todd,” Henry said. “He’s in our room.”

“Why?” Sam made a face.

“I had Derek tie him to the bed for you when you get back. A birthday present.” Henry kissed Sam’s cheek.

Sam giggled. “Aw, thanks, Henry. Remember when you used to think you could protect him?”

Henry snorted. “He tried to rape you. Besides, maybe this is me protecting him.”

“I can’t imagine he thinks of it that way,” Sam said. Someone came up and muttered to Henry, and Sam frowned. “What?”

“Thanks,” Henry said, sending the messenger off. “We should probably go see Daisy.”


“She’s in labour.”

“What?” Sam felt himself scowl just at the idea. “Who’s making her labour? She’s pregnant, she can’t do anything.” What kind of work could a pregnant woman even do?

“Sam, pregnancy isn’t an infirmity,” Henry said. “But that’s not what I mean. She’s having the baby.”

Sam stopped walking. “What, now?”

“Yeah, pretty much right now. She’s been working at it all day, but that message was from the midwife. Seems like it’ll be any minute now. Do you want to be there?”

“Of course I don’t want to be there!” Sam said, perhaps slightly more loudly than necessary. There was someone in the castle having a baby right now and Sam didn’t know what to do with that. Soon he was going to have a sibling and he didn’t know what to do with that either. “Are men even allowed when that’s happening?”

Henry snorted a laugh. “It’s not some magical ritual, Sam. And you are the king. You don’t want to meet the baby?”

“It’s…a baby,” Sam explained. “It can’t talk. It’s not going to know I’m there. It’s just going to cry at me. Why would I want to meet—” Sam cut himself off as suddenly a wave of power crashed into him from nowhere, nearly knocking him from his feet. The world felt like it was spinning.

“Woah,” Henry said, catching him. “You okay?”

“Fine,” Sam muttered, letting Henry help him stand. “There’s something wrong.”


“I don’t know.” Sam wished there weren’t people around. There were so many people. That power, whatever had caused that wave, it was in the castle, somewhere. Thrumming, as if ready to attack him again. Sam let his own power crawl, protecting him from it. “There’s something in the castle.”

“Should I call the guards, or…”

“No, it’s sorcerous,” Sam said. “Feels a bit like me. I think it’s one of my family.” Saul or Sarah couldn’t have shown up, could they have? They’d have to be stupid. Maybe Sylvia? If she’d heard Solomon had died…

Henry went still, hand on Sam’s back. “What do you want to do?”

“I’m going to find it,” Sam said, heading for the door. “I want to know who it is.”

“I’m coming with you.”

“No,” Sam said.


“You need to go get the collar,” Sam told him. “And bring it to me. It’ll take me a few minutes to find where it’s coming from.” In case it was someone who wanted to hurt him, he wanted a backup plan.

They left the banquet hall, some muttering behind them. Sam didn’t care. “Okay,” Henry said. “Please don’t do anything crazy before I get there.”

“I’ll do whatever I want. It’s my birthday.” Sam gave Henry a shove. “Go.” And Sam himself went, in the opposite direction, towards where he could feel that wellspring of sorcerous power.

The closer Sam got to it the more he was sure it was someone from his clan. He couldn’t tell them apart just by feeling their magic, especially not when he hadn’t been near any of them for years, but it was one of them. It was just similar enough to his own, to Solomon’s that it was unmistakable. There was no way Saul had gotten here from the northern capital, so it wasn’t him.

Sam didn’t know where Sarah was even after searching through Solomon’s materials. It could he her. Maybe Solomon had told her to come back at an appointed time. Maybe she’d heard he was dead. Maybe she was here to kill Sam. Sam was more powerful than her, he was sure. He had the stone with him.

Maybe it was Sylvia. Sam didn’t know what he would do if it was Sylvia. He only remembered her vaguely, an idea more than a person. He’d been little when she’d left, fled, not sent away. He barely remembered her but he remembered liking her, feeling safe with her. He remembered being devastated when he’d realized she’d left—and not taken him. She’d left him behind, with Solomon. Why hadn’t she taken him?

Would Sylvia attack him? Did she remember him fondly? Was she here to kill the Sorcerer King? Sam had no way of knowing and no way to know what to do until he did.

He got closer and closer, focusing on the power as best he could, not letting it overwhelm him. It felt like it was trying to swallow him, to grab him. Servants moved out of his way, clearing his path. He ended up travelling in a circle for a minute, but finally he found it, up a level, around this corner, down that hall, behind this door…

Behind this door. He could hear crying.


Henry sounded out of breath. Sam was too. “In here,” Sam said. “If you see an opportunity to collar her…”

“Sam, this is Daisy’s room.”

Sam stopped short. “What?”

“This is Daisy’s room, Sam,” Henry repeated. “Listen, you can hear the baby.”

Sam listened. He’d never heard a baby before, but the crying didn’t sound like a person. “Why the fuck…”

He pushed the door open, the power inside calling him.

“You can’t be in—your Majesty!” A woman, the midwife. Sam ignored her. “The baby’s healthy, your Majesty. She…”

Sam’s knees knocked against the bed and Henry steadied him so he didn’t fall. He put a hand near the crying, found Daisy’s arm, moved up, his power vibrating like it never had before. The crying was so loud. “She’s not very happy,” Daisy said, sounding tired. “She’s had a bit of a hard day.”

Sam’s hand touched blankets, and he slid it up, found skin, crusty with something, damp in places. The baby stopped crying immediately.

Sam’s power was vibrating so fast, so much. And at nearly the same frequency as the baby’s. His had changed, and so had hers as they got closer together. “Give it to me,” Sam said in a voice barely more than a whisper.

“Of…of course, your Majesty. Here…” Daisy raised the baby, and Sam tried to take it in his hands.

“God, Sam, you can’t hold a baby like that,” Henry said, and he moved Sam’s arms, making it so the baby was resting in the crook of his elbow. Sam lifted the baby up, moved aside the blankets, put his hand on her chest.

His power snapped, and so did hers, the vibrations synchronizing until they were the same. Sam felt his power all over him, but instead of clawing, tearing like it did, it was flowing, moving like water or air over his skin and inside his bones.

“Sam?” Henry asked. Sam had been standing there for a few minutes now.

“What’s her name?” Sam asked Daisy.

“I…if there’s a name you like, your Majesty…”

“You’re her mother,” Sam said. “What’s her name?”

“I’d hoped to name her Delilah.”

“Fine,” Sam said, feeling the baby’s power, his power, everywhere. “Delilah.” Sam could feel her little heartbeat, racing like she’d run for miles. She was so powerful. So…small. She might threaten him someday, like all the others. He should kill her now, before she could do anything. Before she could…

“Take her,” Sam said, thrusting the baby back into Daisy’s arms.

“Your Majesty?” Daisy asked, but Sam was turning away, fleeing the room.

He stood out in the hallway, hands balled, breathing, trying to calm down. The baby had started crying again. The door opened behind him. “Sam?”

“She’s a sorcerer,” Sam said to Henry, as he came out, put his hands on Sam’s shoulders. “She’s going to be powerful, like me. I felt…connected to her. I still feel connected to her.”

“That’s a normal way to feel about a baby,” Henry said calmly. “It’s human instinct to want to take care of an infant.”

“No,” Sam said, almost shaking Henry off, but not. He liked Henry’s hands there. His husband. Connected to him, forever. It was a comfort. “Not like that. Our power is connected. Mine surged when I held her. It reacted when she was born. I feel different. I feel stronger. But different.”

“What does that mean?” Henry asked. “That doesn’t sound like just because you’re from the same clan.”

“It’s not,” Sam said. “I don’t understand. I…I thought about killing her. That’s why I gave her back and left. I thought about killing her before she can grow up and threaten me. She will.”


“I did.”

“Solomon gave you a good reason to grow up and threaten him,” Henry said. “Maybe you could just not give her one?”

“It doesn’t work that way,” Sam said, wishing Henry understood.

“Why not?”

Sam didn’t have an answer for that. He turned around, let Henry hold him, resting his head on Henry’s chest. “I should kill her,” he said. “But…it feels like I’d be killing part of myself.”

“Then don’t kill her,” Henry said, holding him.

Sam was quiet a minute. “Okay. But if she kills me it’s your fault.”

Henry snorted. “Okay. You should go back in there for a bit.”

“I’m not…”

“You scared Daisy,” Henry said. “And if you want Delilah not to hate you, having her mother like you is a good first step. Besides, you’d rather not go back to the party, right?”

Sam sighed. “You’re such a pain in the ass.” He really didn’t want to go back to the party.

“I know. Come on. And you do have to go back to the party, especially since you left so suddenly. You can bring the baby, introduce her to everyone.”

“That’s stupid.” It wasn’t like a five-minute-old baby cared about a roomful of people.

“It’s the sort of thing people like.”

“People are stupid.” Sam sighed again. “Whatever, fine.”

“Let’s go meet your sister.”

“Yeah,” Sam said, letting Henry guide him to do that.

“And Sam?”


Henry kissed him. “Happy birthday.”

As far as birthdays went, this wasn’t the worst Sam had had.

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