Author’s Note: I ended up taking an impromptu break from writing and posting, so… I didn’t make the stand-in cover art and categories for the newer serials yet. It was not the weekend I had planned, that was for sure. At any rate, I’m trying to move forward again.
I had thought that I wouldn’t be doing Three Word Wednesday for this story since I’d already drafted this scene, but I found a way to work in the words (surprising, I thought, given what they were) in to what I’d already done. It worked rather well, I thought.
The words this week: crave, putrid, and shudder.
“The king is back.”
Anokii stilled, looking behind her and wanting that to be some kind of a joke. Since it was Agache who’d said it, it should not be possible, since he was supposed to be dead, but he was not a man who spoke with a great deal of humor, not before his “death,” and even less so after. Ever since he’d revealed himself to the queen, their interactions had shown him to be lacking in the spirit and humor that had sustained him before the king turned on him.
His voice was recognizable, impossible to deny, but at the same time, she did not think he was recognizable. Whatever the king had done to him before he escaped had changed him.
“This… Malzhi has not returned, and the queen is not healed—”
“The queen will be fine.”
Anokii frowned. “Why do you trust her so much? She is a stranger, and she killed Omamhi. She is not someone we know anything about, and yet you… You have been watching her?”
“As I recovered, there was little to do but watch. I have seen enough of the queen’s behavior to judge as I might. I think that she can and will be useful. I have suspected as much since the days when I escorted her to the castle. She is not what anyone thinks.”
Anokii sighed. “I do not care for your tone. There is something in it and your words that alarms me, cousin, and I fear for you.”
“You have since I was a child. As, I must admit, have I. He had all my siblings murdered, after all. I do not know why he allowed me to live. Perhaps he feared me less than my sisters and the offspring they might create—no, that cannot be it. I do not know. It troubles me. He has always been… elusive, for all his cruelty, and the difficulty of predicting when he would turn on me and when he would not was a constant burden. In many ways, it is a relief to be dead.”
“You are not dead.”
“In body, perhaps. The rest of me has not seemed to be present since they dragged me away.”
“Do I dare ask what he did?”
Anokii stepped forward to touch his arm. He flinched, shuddering as he withdrew from her, and she cursed as she realized he was still hurting. “Why have you not let any healers look at you? Did he leave you so scarred that you are ashamed to let us see it? Why did you take Omamhi’s body if you are in this state?”
“I refuse to be useless. We have little time, and I am not one to be idle. I am not in so terrible a condition, not as I was when I first escaped. Some of the wounds are still a bit raw, but I can move and as long as I can move, that is enough for me.”
She shook her head. “I think you must somehow crave death. Why else would you take these risks to return to the castle? If you speak, your voice will let everyone know that you did not die as we were told. Does the king know that you survived?”
“He may suspect it. I do not know how much he believes that we can burn so much in the dual suns as to leave no trace behind, no corpse to turn putrid as theirs do, but he has let everyone think that I was dead. I do not know that it matters. He is back—or he will be quite soon. I can feel it. Malzhi should be forced to overstep his bounds. Tell the queen to bait him. He wants her, and she can use that.”
“Are you planning on having her killed?”
“No, but I will use what I have.”
Anokii closed her eyes. She did not like when he spoke this way. Sometimes there was too much darkness in him, and that had followed since he was a child, the last surviving heir of the betrayed princess. She pushed back his hood and placed her hands on his bare skin. “I know that you have always felt it your responsibility to act in our people’s interests regardless of what it might mean for you, but even you must realize that you need more. You need something that makes you feel alive—a reason to keep yourself alive.”
“Gekin is your reason.”
“You are his.”
Agache covered her hands with his. “You are fortunate that you have him, but that option has never been possible for me. Even if I were not dead, my position never allowed for… attachment.”
“Your reason does not have to be a person.”
He nodded, lowering her hands. “I will give it consideration. I am tired, and I have other things I must see to. Gekin will know what to do if you tell him of the king’s return, but you must relay the message to the queen, and give her instructions for when Malzhi returns.”