Broken by the Horde King (Horde Kings of Dakkar #4) - Zoey Draven
When I was eight years old, I fell in love with a Dakkari boy.
It hit me fast, like the quick purple lightning that sometimes flashed over Drukkar’s Sea in the warm season. Fast like the brown nekkisau darting for their dark burrows when strange beings strayed too close. Fast like plunging off the tall diving cliffs next to the Okkili outpost, dropping into the chilled sea, the wind slapping at flesh and carrying excited screams and laughter away.
That was what it felt like, falling in love. Frightening and dangerous but wonderful, all at the same time.
I didn’t speak until I was eight years old. Not a single word, Dakkari or otherwise. My peers thought I was a mute fool. They would tease and taunt me, jeering at the human girl who didn’t look like them, until they made me cry, until fat, clear tears dripped down my face, which delighted them. And still, I never made a single sound. I just stood there, waiting for it to be over, waiting for them to get bored and leave me be. It never occurred to me to walk away…because where would I go?
And this Dakkari boy who I fell in love with?
The clan had always called him Rukkar.
His father had been a Vorakkar, a great Vorakkar in his time, roaming Dakkar, living freely on the wild lands until he decided to end his rule and settle permanently. The great hordes of time became outposts— saruks, they were called—and the mighty Vorakkar had settled his in the south lands, closest to the beautiful sea, for his Morakkari was fond of the coast and the salt breezes that swept in from the southwest.
That Vorakkar became Sorakkar to his people. Strong buildings of stone were erected in place of temporary voliki. Training grounds and pyroki enclosures were made permanent, fortified with Dakkari steel. Walls were built. Roads were laid. His nomadic horde became a clan.
It was there that I had lived the majority of my life, in a saruk by the sea.
And the Dakkari boy that I fell in love with was the prince of it all, the only son of the Sorakkar. The only son of Rath Okkili.
On a warm day when I was eight years old, a group of my sister’s friends cornered me against one of the water wells towards the back of the outpost. Laru, my sister, had been distracted by shimmering baubles at the market, and thus, her friends were free to try to make me cry. It was a game to them. A fascinating, terrible little game.
Well, they did make me cry and like always, I stood there, letting them see my shame and embarrassment and fear until they left, wandering off to find Laru, snickering all the while.
Their words rang in my head as they left.
Ugly, stupid, useless human.
The Rukkar found me there, standing with my head down as I tried to will the tears away. He’d been striding past with his private tutor, a swords master, his golden weapon strapped to his hip, on his way to the training grounds.
Even at thirteen years old, the prince was beautiful. Golden eyes that gleamed in sunlight, a sharp nose, a wide, strong jaw, a mischievous smile that made my heart fluttery and my cheeks warm.
That day, he frowned when he saw me, sending his private tutor on ahead with the promise he’d meet him at the training grounds.
“Maeva?” he asked. “What’s wrong?”
The Rukkar had always been kind to me. I had always suspected it was because he liked my sister, but sometimes I would dream that it was because he liked me instead.
I shook my head at his enquiry and he took my arm gently, his hand hot and wonderful on my skin, and led me away. We slipped out of the outpost, through a secret gate I hadn’t known existed, and he led me down a narrow path along the cliff’s edge. The path went downhill sharply but then…
Suddenly, we were in a private place that had a breathtaking view of Drukkar’s Sea, stretched before us in the glittering afternoon sun. The path led to a wide ledge, big enough to stretch out on, the cliff at our backs. Blue-crested waves crashed against the rocks below, sending salty spray up, misting in my curly hair.
And suddenly, my tears were dried up and my mouth was open in wonderment. When I chanced a peek at the Rukkar, his golden eyes were on me and his signature mischievous smile had