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  • These ungrateful swine are looking at me like I’m the enemy.

  • Do you expect them to look happy? We just lost our first battle in years, Ares.

  • A battle we should have won. These fools humiliated their empire today. We caught the Thorns off guard and still lost.

  • My King, do I have permission to speak in your presence?

  • *Groan* Yes, speak.

  • Thank you, your grace. I must ask, are there any more medicinal supplies for the sick and injured? Were running low and have resorted to stretching our resources thintoo thin.

  • Wewe don’t have enough for the number of injured soldiers that returned from tonight’s battle.

  • No. Were running low and we must ration what we have.

  • Please, my King, we don’t have enough! We need more painkillers, more herbs for infection! My wife may have a blood infection, and we have nothing to stop it!

  • If you all weren't so poorly prepared for tonight’s battle, a battle weve known about for months, maybe you wouldn’t be in your current predicament.

  • Ares, we can’t accept that! We need more medics, more medical supplies! If your soldiers weren’t killed in combat, theyll surely die from infection!

  • Be weary of your tone in the presence of the King.

  • I apologize, Vixy. My King. I only wish to raise awareness about our current situation.

  • There is no situation. Everything is fine, and you will just have to work with the supplies you already have. I will not hear of this any of this-

  • Does this look fine to you?!

  • Name one soldier who didn’t return wounded, we need more medics!

  • Your injuries are nobody’s fault but your own! I’ve never seen such unprofessionalism, so much disorganization, so much weakness. You all have embarrassed the name of the Cursed Empire, and should be ashamed of how terribly you fought on the battlefield!

  • Your injuries are punishment enough, but if I hear one more word of defiance, I’ll make you sorry you even thought about opening your mouth!

  • Medics don’t win wars, soldiers do!

  • What are you looking at?

  • Tonight, when he’s not around, a small group of you need to go south and collect more moss. We may be out of gauze, but moss is plentiful and just as absorbent. Another group needs to travel east, there are many bushels of poppy flowers close to the ravine.

  • Grab as much as you cancurses know were going to need painkillers to sleep soundly tonight. Another group must travel north. I remember there used to be oregano and coneflower blooming this time of year. Those can be used for antibiotics for the time being.

  • Ares may be blind to the effort you all put forth today, but I saw it clear as day. I’m proud of all of your determination, especially considering the circumstances.

  • We wouldn’t be able to do it without you.

  • He’s waking up! Go on, give him some room. Last thing we want to do is scare him by breathing down his neck.

  • Go bring the royals in, I’m sure Lunis and Apollo will want to see him.

  • (Flashback) Hurt me Jack, maim me! I'll kill her if you don't stop me!

  • Mom would be disgusted with who you've become, Vivian.

  • You fought valiantly, Jackson. I saw you taking down those Cursed soldiers like it was nothing. I wanted to be the first to tell you that. You should be proud.

  • How are you feeling?

  • I...

  • Is everything alright? Are you in pain?

  • They're in here my Queen.

  • I, umHow long have I been out?

  • Youve been in and out for over a week. The worst of your recovery is over though, but youll have a nasty scar from here on out.

  • Was it a cursed soldier who did all of this to you?

  • Could have been multiple. I saw him fighting, there’s no way just one cat could have done this to him.

  • *Wince* I have to tell you all something.

  • Dusk, I know you saw me fighting alongside Lunis during the battle. I’m not that strong on my own.

  • What are you talking about? I saw you take down multiple soldiers like it was second nature for you, of course you could do it by yourself.

  • That’s… not what I mean.

  • What do you mean?

  • Jackson...

  • I'm cursed.

  • That's not possible.

  • How?

  • You two know. What’s the only way to become cursed?

  • You're Ares' son.

  • Vivian and I aren’t only refugees, but heirs to the Cursed Empire. Iris escaped when we were young, hoping to find safety for us here with the Thorns, butthat wasn’t the casefor any of us.

  • Her sacrifice was in vain.

  • My sister and I reunited with Ares almost a year ago. She and I…

  • *Sigh* She and I… would run off during the night while everyone was asleep to meet with him. He trained us for months so that we’d be suited for whatever he needed us to do.

  • Lunis, Apollo. The night you found me with my eye scar was the night I disbanded from Ares.

  • What caused you to leave?

  • He was hurting people, and I was done being a part of it.

  • And it took you almost a year to realize that?

  • I was never loyal to Ares, if that’s what youre implying. I only trained with him to make sure that Vivian wasn’t in harm’s way. I left the moment I realized that she was far more eager to plan and scheme with Ares than have any connection with me.

  • Jackson, what exactly did she plan with Ares? What did you plan with Ares?

  • Ares gave me orders to assassinate Lunis. When I refused, he gave me this eye scar as punishment, which also gave me the curse.

  • Sothat’s what you meant by a target over my head.

  • AndWhat were Vivian’s orders?

  • Vivianwas in charge of assassinating the Queen. Sheshe is the one who gave me these injuries. She was angry I left her, angry that I got the curse, angry about a lot.

  • Jackson, what about my husband? Was it Ares?

  • It wasn't Ares...

  • It was Vivian.

  • I- I can’t even begin to say how sorry I am. I should have-

  • Why didn't you tell me?

  • I… didn’t want to be exiled, Lunis… I didn’t want you guys to think I’d abandon you for Ares, or god forbid, my sister. You guys wouldve killed me if you knew what was happening!

  • No. Why didn’t you tell ME?

  • Of all people Jackson!

  • Lunis...

  • No. You don’t get to apologize your way out of this one. That's not how this works. It might have worked before but not this time.

  • This could have been prevented if you would have said something!

  • What would you have wanted me to say?

  • Something, anything! God Jackson, after all we've been through! Do I really make you feel like you can’t come to me about this stuff? Like you can’t communicate honestly with me?

  • I thought we were closer than that. God, I'm so stupid. *Nervous laughter*

  • Lunisno-no!. No way! I’ve always felt safe here with all of you!

  • You were the only one of us who ever really was safe, Jack.

  • I-I promise you, I promise you both, I’ll do anything I can to fix this! Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.

  • My dad is dead.

  • This isn't something you can fix.

  • I’m your friend.

  • I’ll do a better job of proving it.

  • And how exactly would you do that? Because from where I’m standing, I see a traitorous spy who spent his time befriending my children so he could help his father murder my entire family.

  • He’s a kid, Hesia. A scared, dumb kid who just confessed everything to a room full of people that have been training to kill cats twice his size. If his goal was to be a threat, he just failed.

  • I don’t care, Caroline! What he did is already done. He deserves to rot in a prison cell for the rest of his natural life, only to be cursed by whatever may come after! No lesser punishment could honor my late husband’s death!

  • He wasn’t the one who killed him, Hesia. Youre misconstruing his words.

  • He didn’t come to us with the information that could have saved his life. He knew about the assassination plot against my daughter. Against me. He made the choice to not say anything. He may not be the kingslayer, but he’s just as guilty in my eyes

  • My husband is in the ground because of his foolishness.

  • Augustus was Jackson’s biggest fan, Hesia. He was so proud of him. One of the last things Augustus asked me was about how Jackson was adjusting. As far as Augustus was concerned, this has always been Jackson’s home. Weve always been his family. He would have wanted Jackson to know that.

  • He was my brother, Hesia. I miss him too.

  • I... I need to go!

  • *Sigh* Okay. Shell need some time before she can truly confront how she is feeling. As for all of you, a decision based in grief is never a wise one.

  • You can stay for now, but my authority can’t dictate what your future here will look like. Best of luck to all of you.

  • I know youre not evil, Jackson. You just screwed up big time, and now you have to live with their father’s blood on your paws. I really do hope youll find a way to reconcile. As much as you can.

  • Jackson. I know what you are, deep down. You sacrificed yourself for Apollo and me weeks ago when Vivian was still around. You said you’d give your life to defend us.

  • No traitor would work that hard to convince a pair of fake friends.

  • Well help you clear your name, we owe you that much.

  • But don’t think of this as us letting you off the hook. Youre not forgiven.

  • You very well may be the reason for all of the unrest washing over the kingdom right nowbut you are no traitor. You just made a stupid choice. A stupid, deadly choice, and we all have to deal with it.

  • You're Ares' son, Jackson. That isn't something you'll be able to change, but it doesn't define who you are. We all know you have a good heart, make sure you let that shine through.

  • *Caroline crying*

  • We weren’t the closest, but it still feels like a part of me died with him. Hehe was the best brother I could ever ask for. He was an amazing parent, an amazing husband, and an incredible King.

  • Aug didn’t deserve to die, especially not like this.

  • He loved you so much, Caro, he made sure you always knew that.

  • I just… *sobs* I just... I can’t believe he’s gone.

  • I won’t get to see him ever again. I won’t ever get to hear his laugh again. He’s gone, and I can’t do anything about it. It kills me.

  • He won't ever truly be gone, Caroline. Every time you think back fondly on the small moments you shared with him, he gets to live again, if only for a brief moment.

  • You may not be able to hear his heart beat anymore, but you can see it everywhere. His family, his children... they were his heart.

  • He may have passed, but his love will always remain.

  • Rose, I need your help. Youre the only one I can turn to.

  • Hesia.

  • Rose. I-I don’t even know where to begin. So much has happened today that I can’t even think straight.

  • Oh, Hesia. Take a breath, youre safe here.

  • I remember when you told me all those years ago to help Iris, how helping her would help her kids. Rose I… I don’t think we made the right choice.

  • Iriskidsthey were Ares’.

  • I know.

  • What?!

  • Jackson and Vivian. I knew they were Areschildren.

  • And you didn’t think to tell me?

  • Would it have swayed your decision to help them?

  • Our bloodlines do not define who we are, Hesia, our actions do. Those children were innocent, and Iris needed you.

  • Iris is dead, Rose! Her children plotted against me, and my husband paid the price!

  • One of her children plotted against you. The other-

  • Jackson was well aware of the murder plot and didn’t open his jaws, he’s guilty by association, whether he believes it or not!

  • There is more to this than you can even begin to understand, Hesia. The layers to this run deep and span back generations. Believe it or not, Jackson is on the path he was destined to follow.

  • So that's it, huh? My husband had to die to support some overarching generational plan I couldn't comprehend? The divine plan was and always has been written to take everything good away from me?

  • I’m not saying Augustusdeath was supposed to happen. Destiny is volatileeverchanging. What’s supposed to happen one day may change the next. What matters is that the end result stays the same.

  • Jackson’s choices were costly, and he hurt your family, I’m not denying that, but the alternative was him siding with his father, and killing you all.

  • Why didn’t you warn me about any of this?! You knew, and you told me nothing!

  • You weren’t supposed to know, Hesia. I wasn’t supposed to know. That’s how all of this works, what I tell you is what Warlock allows. If I tell you the wrong thing, this all falls apart. This is bigger than you, and you know it.

  • But you still told me to help Iris-!

  • And didn’t tell you about their father. I don’t get to pick and choose what I tell you about, I only get to offer guidance when destiny wills it.

  • Why doesn’t Jackson have your blessing?

  • He may be my great-nephew, but he’s not from my direct line. I gave my blessing to your mother, Felicity, because I had no children of my own, and with that, the curseline changed.

  • So he just has Arescurse?

  • Correct.

  • Jackson willingly came clean, Hesia. His past may be dark and murky, but he’s clawed out of it and is willing to do whatever it takes to remedy his wrongdoings. He has the same golden heart as his mother.

  • Some mistakes are graver than others, but if we let our mistakes define us, well all be damned.

  • You don’t have to forgive him yet, you don’t have to forgive him ever, but you need to allow him space to recompense. Whether you like it or not, this war and the Dark Curseline are fated to end with Jackson and Vivian. I confidently believe that Jackson will be the one to break the cycle once and for all.

  • Is Vivian cursed as well?

  • No, she’s curseless. As long as Maxwell’s curse lives and dies with Jackson, and only Jackson, then the era of the Dark Curse will be over forever.

  • I can see clearly now, Rose. Thank you.

  • Before you go, I have information you must bring back. You must let Jackson master his curse.

  • And how would I venture to do that?

  • There is a sacred book tucked away deep within the Warlock's ruins. This book will tell Jackson everything he needs to know about how to dim the fire slowly spreading through his body. He can't extinguish his flame alone, however.

  • I've had my eye on you and your children, Hesia. Apollo and Lunis both seem remarkably close to Jackson. Positive relationships like these are what he needs to find the willpower to fight his curse directly.

  • How can I send them away at a time like this? Their father just died, and you expect me to willingly hand them over to the accomplice to his murder?

  • I know you fear losing them, but if they aren’t there to help Jackson fight his demonsyou and your kingdom will lose much, much more.

  • How long do I have...?