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: Gekin has a point. They should have thought of it sooner.

No True Option

“She sleeps?”

Anokii nodded, glancing toward the queen. “She does. She did not for a long time, but she did still after several hours. Did you speak to the jeweler, then?”

Gekin nodded. “He agreed to help, but I fear it is not the solution Agache hoped it was or that he led her to believe. Such a device cannot be replicated without considerable time to study it. Even if he managed to get it to the jeweler now, I do not believe that the man can prepare a copy good enough to fool the king in one night. No, I must correct myself—I know that he cannot. It is simply not possible.”

Anokii winced. She shook her head. She did not like this. Legend said that the bindings of the betrayed princess were the cause of her death. The king had lost his temper one time too many, and she had died at his hands. If this queen were to be made to wear them, then she would almost certainly reenact the legend. “Gekin, if the king puts that thing on her—and he will—he could kill her in an instant. Even if he does not kill her, he can torture her. He will.”

Gekin put a hand on her shoulder. Anokii turned into his embrace. The queen was not her friend, nor were they the best of allies, but she did not know how any of them could watch this happen. They needed something more than what Agache had suggested. They could not place their hopes on the jeweler alone. “What will we do?”

“I can offer to take her to the border. It is the only thing that will stop the king. Otherwise, she will have to endure the bindings until the jeweler is finished with his copy. I do not know of any other option.”

“That is no option. Her departure would mean war. She will not do it.”

He let out a breath, turning toward the inner chamber. “She is too much like your cousin, then. Too much like you.”

Anokii snorted. “She is a queen. I am little better than a slave. Nevertheless, we must wake her. She must be informed of the situation, and once she is, she will have to choose. We cannot decide for her. Nor can we cannot assume we know her answer.”

“You wish me to stay?”

“Of course. I always do, even though the circumstances will not allow for us to have time to ourselves. Yet I cannot ask you to remain when I know that you must have other duties. You need the queen’s answer, of course, but you cannot spend all your time here.”

He touched her cheek. “I would, for you, but you are correct. I must see to more than the queen. I must stay to hear her answer, though, since if she is to leave, she must do so now.”

Anokii took his hand, leading him over to the queen’s side. “My lady, I am sorry to wake you, but Gekin has learned something that you must hear.”

The queen stirred, her eyes opening. She blinked, confused. “Anokii? What—What is it I need to know?”

“The jeweler cannot forge a copy of the bindings—”

“Not at all?” the queen asked, sitting up. “You mean to say that he refused?”

“No. He was more than willing to help, but he cannot make it overnight. The king may put the bindings on you before the fake can be made. He may put them on you today, before the second sun rises.”

“That is not much time.”

“No, it is not, and therefore you must make a decision immediately—I can take you to the border now. I know the best routes, safe and fast.”

The queen sighed. “No. I cannot do that. My people would suffer if I did. I will not abandon them to the king’s ire. I made the choice to go out to the crowd here, and if that means that I must suffer, then I must accept the pain. I… I did not come here in ignorance, nor did I intervene thinking that there would not be repercussions.”

“Agache did not tell you that the queen those bindings were made for died wearing them.”

“I must hope, then, that he remains unready for war,” the queen said, rising. “I will ask only that we get the forgery made quickly.”

“We will do all that we can, but I cannot promise that it will be ready within days or even weeks. If we had only thought to make it when you were first brought here—”

“That is not something that can be changed. If you do not mind, I should like to begin my preparations for the day. You may… take what time you can and spend it with each other if you like, though it is not for me to order you about.”

“You will need me to help you with your dress.”

“Yes, but not right now.”

Gekin touched Anokii’s arm. “I think what she truly desires is to be alone. Come. We will give her that time—and take some for ourselves.”

She knew she should not smile, but she believed he understood the situation correctly, and she did not think they could be blamed for wanting to say goodbye before he went to attend to his other tasks. She turned to the queen. “Is… Is there anything you need? Are you certain that we cannot assist you in any way?”

The queen shook her head. “No, not now, thank you, Anokii. I will… Should I need anything, I will ask.”

“Yes, my lady.”

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