Author’s Note: A bit more of the possible fantasy serial to help in the decision making process.
“Has the king sent for me?”
“No, my lady, he has not.”
She did not look back at the servant behind her, knowing to do so was a cruelty in this place. Any undue attention to any of the staff led to some horrible sort of punishment if the king was to become aware of it. She could not treat any of them as she would have in her native land, not as was decent and fit—never as any sort of companion or ally. She was not allowed friends or confidants, not among the servants or the other members of the court.
If any of them were thought to be working with her, he made sure they disappeared, starting with the man that escorted her from her land to the king. She winced, still troubled by the guilt she felt regarding his death. She had not seen him since the day that he introduced her to the king, and when the king had failed to approve of her, he’d turned that hostility on his adviser.
She remained somewhat immune to the man’s cruelties due to her awkward position in this court. Though she knew that her husband wanted her dead, he would not move against her until he was ready to betray her nation. Until then, she had the protection of the treaty, of the fact that any crime against her would mean war with her homeland.
That protection would not last. She knew that she must act before then, that she could not afford to delay, not for a moment. Though for now she remained free and unharmed—her husband hated her so much as to scorn their marriage bed and did not bother with forcing that upon her—she knew that her freedom was fleeting. Soon she would not be able to do anything—if she was even alive.
She took a deep breath, seeking the calm her instructors had always told her to maintain, but they were not here, they did not have this constant threat weighing upon them. She had always thought that the regalia demanded by life at court was weight enough, but this was worse.
She leaned against the railing, wishing she had a means of contacting anyone outside the castle. She had some contact with the commoners who made petitions, more with the court, but to speak to them for more than a moment or two was to endanger them. She could give nothing more than platitudes to the commoners and pleasantries to the court members.
“The king has gone south to oversee the border fortifications.”
She turned, looking back at her maid. Though the woman had served her since she arrived at the castle, she had never seen her face. Another member of the pale skinned race, she did not remove the cloak she wore even inside the castle. With as many areas open to allow the light in, it was safer for them to remain cloaked at all times instead of risking the clouds clearing or suns shifting and burning them. She could not envy them that, nor would they envy her the robes of her station.
“I was told that war was over.”
“No war is ever over with him.”
“I suppose you know that better than most.”
The hood nodded. “My people have felt his continued wrath since he conquered us and took ours captive generations ago. Yours will face the same when he feels he has the advantage. It is how it has always been with his line. They know nothing but conquering and oppression.”
“My land does not lie under the heat of the twin suns,” she said, looking at the hood, not sure she dared continue this conversation. She would, if only because she suspected the servant had found boldness for the same reason that she had—the king was gone. “If your people could leave here, settle there, you would not have to fear burning.”
“You offer us haven?”
“I admit I am in no position to guarantee it, not now.”
The woman in the cloak laughed as she walked away. The queen turned back to the balcony, looking down at the courtyard. She was useless here, and she felt it now more than ever. She had thought that it was before, when she was assigned to this task, but no, it was now.
Her part in the negotiations had been one of absentia, one where she was not present when her role was decided and her fate decreed. She had not needed to be, for she had always understood her place and what she would become. She knew what must be done, and she had been trained to do it.
She had hoped that she could use her position as queen, her influence, to manipulate things in a subtle way that would aid her cause without the king being aware of what she’d done. Months had passed since the treaty, since the wedding, and she had yet to achieve anything. She knew what was expected of her, what she must do, but she feared she lacked sufficient strength to do it.
She removed the blade hidden in her dress, turning it over in her hand and wondering at her distorted reflection. The king was a cruel man, and everyone would benefit if he were to die.
They wanted her to use this blade. They needed her to use it.
Still, she did not think she could.