Skade's blood sang in her veins as she sprang into the fray, her sword flying, blood spraying in all directions. She shrieked a battlecry and tore through a man who was foolish enough to stand against her. His dying screams were like music to her ears, but they weren't what she sought. Eyes aglow with savage fury, Skade ran through the fray. Where was he? He was here, she knew it, but where? The old fool thought he could hide behind his pathetic guards, but he was wrong. She was going to find him, and she was going to make him suffer, just as he had done to her.
"Cadonus!" she roared. "Cadonus! Face me!"
He didn't come, but she had what she wanted. A tight knot of men, standing around a smaller figure, backed up against the wall as men and blades whirled and clashed around them. Skade ran at them, ripping her bloody sword across the throat of the first man before he had time to scream. The man on his left rounded on her, but she was faster, and before he knew it his legs were gone from under him and Skade's sword plunged through his left eye. She twisted the blade savagely, throwing back her head and laughing as she felt warm, wet gore spraying up her legs. She looked to the king's remaining guards and showed them her bloody teeth.
"Run," she hissed.
They ran. Like a flock of chickens before a ravenous wolf, the men lost their nerve and bolted away into the fray, leaving their king defenceless. The man's eyes shone with fear, and his face was white as bleached bone as Skade bore down on him.
"Hello, Your Highness," she purred, "I think we need to talk."
Cadonus couldn't answer. He could only stare as the blood-crazed woman yanked her blade free of her victim's face. She chuckled,
"Sorry about the mess. It'll be a nightmare getting the stains off the floor, won't it? Ah well, you won't have to worry about that."
"Skade ..." Cadonus stammered. "You can't do this."
"Can't I?" Skade raised her eyebrows in mock surprise. "Really? Silly me, I must have overlooked that rule. Must be somewhere up there with the rule against beards being worn by men under twenty-one and the other one about receiving lashes for being cheeky to a priest. It's no surprise I forgot really, you have been making so many laws lately."
"I ... I ..." Cadonus scrabbled against the back wall, looking around frantically for an escape as Skade took another half step towards him. "I'm sorry ... I only ..."
"You're sorry?" Skade's voice was angry now. "It's a bit late for that. I don't ever recall you being sorry before."
"I never meant ... it was just ... the rules ..."
"Ah, the rules. Yes, I thought we'd come back to those." Skade laughed scornfully. "They're not terribly useful now, though, are they. I seem to have broken them, but there's no one left to punish me for them. Never mind. You won't have to bother with those any more when I'm through with you."
Suddenly Skade leapt forward and kicked the king to the floor. He scrambled and tried to call for help, but again her boot collided with his ribs and he was flipped over onto his back, and his cry for help was cut off by the tip of Skade's sword hovering above his throat.
"I've been waiting for this moment," she snarled with savage glee. "For years and years I've waited. It all started then, you know. Alone in the dark, covered in blood and sobbing. So alone. So alone ..."
"I'm sorry!" Cadonus cried again. "I couldn't help it!"
Skade's eyes snapped open. "You abandoned me! It was all your fault, and even then you weren't finished! I thought you cared, but all you did was throw me aside and leave me to die in the dark. But not again. No, this time it will be you who suffers. This time it will be you who feels the pain!"
She raised her sword high above her head, the point quivering as she shook with savage glee. Screams of pain, the smell of blood and fire and cold hard metal filled her being, and Skade inhaled deeply, letting the fury in her soul kindle into a hot, fiery blaze. She looked down at Cadonus once more, eyes ablaze with wolfish anticipation.
"Goodbye, Your Highness."
Then, with a triumphant shriek that split the air like a knife, she plunged the sword into the king's chest. He twitched and thrashed, and she twisted the blade deeper into his heart, ripping through flesh and bone and laughing at the top of her lungs. She tore the crown from his head and flung it through the air.
"The king is dead!" she screeched. "The king is dead!"