A Perfect Sunset

- A Serialized Novel -

A reluctant queen becomes involved in intrigue in a kingdom ruled by a tyrant and on the verge of revolution.

Author’s Note: I admit… I wrote the first version of this scene a while back. It was a moment I wanted to see, some interaction between the queen and Agache after she knew he was alive, the way they became allies and built upon that to work against the king and people like Malzhi.

Amazing, really, that they got anything done with how easily distracted they are. 😛

A Visit in the Night


She opened her eyes, frowning as she did. At first, she did not recognize where she was, thinking she should be in a much smaller chamber, one that was much darker, without the sunlight peaking underneath it. She knew it was because she’d heard her name, making her think that she was home. She should have known better. She had been tired before, and she’d blamed the bath Malzhi had more or less forced upon her, but she reconsidered that now.

He must have used his herbs on her again. That was the only thing she could think of that explained why she felt like this, why she’d reacted in so foolish a manner. She should not have forgotten that she was the queen. She could not have forgotten it, not for more than a moment. She sat up, blinking as she saw the shadow move. Right. A cloak. “Agache?”

“You should not use or even know that word,” he said, moving toward the bed. “What is your obsession with names? Why must you use them?”

“It is not such a crime in my land.”

“You came here using another woman’s name, not your own. Why would names matter so much?”

Despite the hour and the way she’d been awoken, she had to smile. “For that very reason—because they have been forbidden and concealed. When you have been someone else for any length of time, your own identity is that much more valuable. Names are a large part of that.”

“Does Jis have a particular meaning?”

Her smile fell. She was not amused any longer, nor did she want to discuss why she had the name she did. “You woke me in the middle of the night to ask about names?”

“You made names an issue by using mine.”

She reached under her pillow and gripped her blade, drawing it out so that he could see it. “Why did you wake me? I don’t sleep well as it is, and you know I’ve killed at least one man, so why would you risk coming in here without a very, very good reason?”

“It is not like I can visit you during the daytime. I am supposed to be dead, after all, and while the cloak may conceal my face, my voice is too well known. Come. There is a place I must show you. We do not have much time.”

She glared at him. “I know we agreed to be… allies, and I should listen to you, but no. You do not get to wake me like this and make demands. I don’t want to go anywhere, not after the day I had—definitely not without an explanation for what you want and why I should go with you.”

“I need to show you the place where we should conduct our meetings—and we should do so at night. It is true that I can pass through the castle mostly unnoticed because of their general disregard for my people, but you know that I cannot spend any sort of extended time speaking to you. Nor can any of your servants. You are watched during the day, but at night, you may join us. Sleep is a luxury that we do not have.”

She groaned. He would say something like that. “I thought you didn’t need sleep.”

“If we were in our homeland, perhaps not. You will see what I mean when you come with me. We do not have a lot of time. The king should be revealing his return today. You will not want to be late for that, and we will not have another opportunity to go for some time, as he will have you watched and be watching himself.”

She shivered. She was struggling with her interactions with Malzhi—he had her at a disadvantage far too often—and she did not know that she could cope with the king as well. She would die soon, that seemed almost certain now. She rose, about to pull on her robe when Agache handed her one of their cloaks. She frowned. “You want me to dress like one of you? Won’t your people be in trouble if—”

“You cannot tell any difference between one of them or one of us under the cloaks. We have used such means before. If you use this cloak to go back and forth, people will think you are your maid, and they will pay little attention to you.”

“You want me to put her at risk?”

“She has been for many years. She accepts what she does and the risk that comes with it. We all do. Most of our people understand the need for what we are doing—though there are still some that refuse to take part. I do not blame them for wanting peace, but I do not see how they can live the way they do and do nothing about it.”

The queen nodded. She pulled the cloak over her, raising the hood over her face. “I can’t see.”

“Well, we are both ones who act, not who stay still.”

She laughed. “While that is true, in some sense, I was not speaking of that. I can’t see.”

“Oh. Yes, I suppose you’re not used to that, either. We need it much darker than you would,” he said, taking hold of her arm. “Here. Let me guide you. Our eyes are different as well, all part of us thriving in the darkness. Our land rarely saw the sun, if the tales are true. I’ve never been there. We were taken far from home, and all we have now are stories.”

“I asked Anokii to tell me them. She started to, but she did not finish.”

“There are many legends. I am sure that your people have plenty as well. If we had time, perhaps I would regale you with one, but we should be silent after we reach your door. Our voices make the deception of the cloaks useless.”

She nodded. “I know. Still… I think I’d like to hear you tell one someday.”

“I would be glad to, my lady.”

She snorted. “You know you needn’t bother calling me that. Considering that I’m not one of the legitimate daughters, I cannot truly be a queen, and your people owe no allegiance to the man who oppressed you.”

He shook his head. “Here, you are the queen. Do not forget that.”

“How could I?”

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