Author’s Note: Strange to wake up at home… and then discover it’s not home after all.
She opened her eyes in her own bedchamber, frowning. Had she dreamed herself into being a queen? Had she fooled herself so much? Were the negotiations still taking place and she was dreaming of taking her half-sister’s place? Or was she insane? Why was she home? How could she be here? She was not… dead, was she?
“You are back with us. We had thought we had lost you,” he said, reaching up to touch her cheek. “You have been insensible for several days, and while you were, you called out, but we could not reach you no matter what we did.”
“I don’t… What happened?”
“The man who gave you back to us was not all that specific. He said you had been injured and that an infection had set in on you. They had started to treat you, but they feared for your safety so they gave you back to us while the unrest was settled.”
“Unrest? The king is dead, isn’t he? And Malzhi?”
“Both of them, I believe, though I cannot be certain of the second one. At one point, you did say you would kill him, and that would be proof enough for me.”
She groaned, closing her eyes. Her father did not know her at all, but then who was a king to know his children? He did not know the ones he claimed, so why would he know the ones he kept hidden? He wouldn’t.
“Just rest. The important thing now is that you recover. Your duty is over, and you are a widow, it would seem. You are going to need time to heal and even grieve for what you have lost.”
She almost said there was nothing to grieve, since she had not loved her husband and was not sorry that he was gone, but she had lost more than she cared to think about. She no longer had her friends, if she could call Anokii and Gekin that, and then there was Agache. Had Malzhi killed him? She doubted her father knew, and she did not know that she wanted to ask him anyway.
“Did the man who brought me back have a name? Was it Gekin?”
“I hope you were not foolish enough to fall in love with someone while you were there.”
“Gekin is married. He and his wife Anokii were… allies of mine.”
“You don’t. Leave me alone,” she said, turning over so that she would not have to face him. Her side hurt, and she didn’t feel like talking. She did not know if Agache was dead or not, but she had been more than fool enough to feel something for him, even if that was not love, and he was lost to her now. She had not been free to have him, but now she would not even see him.
She felt the tears on her cheek, and she closed her eyes, hoping to stop the rest of them. She did not want to give in to them. If she was strong, she could resist them, resist all of it. She needed to resist it.
The tears continued to come. She was not strong enough to keep them back.