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: The original post of this (and this version is unchanged from that one) is in the Kabobbles’ Choice section. I left it there because putting it in here would mean changing things and breaking links and since I shared it for a Carry On Tuesday prompt, I thought I should leave it where it was just to be on the safe side.

So here is where it belongs in the story, in place and in order, and now it’s in two spots on the site, but that is okay by me. I like this scene. It’s one of my favorites in this story.

The Queen’s Story Time

“Tell me about your people,” the queen said, not opening her eyes. She thought she was coming to learn the sound of Agache’s footsteps, the slight differences between his movements and Anokii’s, or perhaps that was just a foolish notion that she was comforting herself with since she was once more driven to her bed. If only she had not stumbled as she had…

“Again with the questions. I thought you were not happy with the way that I left you so ill-prepared for your audience with the king. Now that I am here to speak with you again, you want to hear about my people?”

The queen nodded. “After what I did to my ankle, I cannot think properly, so I think it best that you do not discuss anything that means either of our lives right now. You can tell me about your history, about how you became oppressed servants in this land and what happened to your homeland, things that do have a connection to what we are fighting but do not mean my life the next time I am forced into an audience with Malzhi or the king.”

“I could get Anokii to treat your ankle.”

“She already looked at it. I think she thinks I am complaining too much about it. She must be all too used to you—the one who refuses to admit he is in pain.”

Agache laughed. “I suppose that is true, though I have never known Gekin to admit to pain, either, so it is not something that only I do. You know this. I think you were told not to complain when you were training as an esibani.”

“I do not want to discuss my training. Tell me of your people. Tell me a legend if you refuse to be truthful. I do not care.”

He put a hand on her forehead. “You are not feverish, but your mood is rather altered. What did the king say to you to distress you so much?”

She shuddered. “I will not repeat it. Just speak to me of things that have nothing to do with him. Please. I will not be able to sleep if I continue to recall my humiliation.”

Agache sat down on the edge of her bed. “As long as his threats are words, you do not have to fear him. When he starts to act against you, that is when you should worry. It does not take long for one bruise to become many.”

She opened her eyes and glared at him. “If you are going to talk that way, you may go. I do not wish to hear it. I asked you to distract me. I do not want to hear what the king will do, don’t you understand that? How can you not? You were tortured by him.”

“I… I am sorry. Sometimes I think I expect too much from you.”

“Just because I was raised esibani does not make me immune to fear or pain or even despair. I am tired. I cannot force myself to be strong. All of my energy was consumed when I met with the king, and so if you will not let me sleep… I think I shall have to stab you.”

He slid his hand under her pillow, taking the dagger from its hiding place. “Can’t have you doing that. I am a terrible storyteller when I’m threatened with a blade.”

She snorted, not wanting to laugh, but he managed to make her do so. “You are so—”

“It is said that the Nebkasha had a land without any light at all. That the suns did not cross that place, never rose or set, and that when we were left there, we were cursed by whatever had created us. However, it is hard to think of it as a curse when we adapted so well to what the land gave us. It also does not fit with the idea that we rose from the ground. I do not know what our origin was—no one does. Most of the older ones were killed when our land was conquered, and with them was lost much of our history and our legends. What little we have is most likely inaccurate.”

She nodded, reaching to take the dagger from him. “Inaccurate or not, tell me.”

He lowered his head, letting some of his hair fall free, and she wondered why he’d taken off his hood and when, since it was not that dark in her room. “For many centuries, we lived in peace. No one wants a land of perpetual darkness. No one besides us, of course.”

“Someone did.”

“I believe what the king’s ancestors wanted was a path toward the land next to us, one where they said the dragons still dwelt. I do not believe that there were dragons there, or you would see trophies of them or them being used as slaves here. No, that king did not get what he wanted. Supposedly, that is what he blamed his queen for, since before then their union was supposedly quite happy, blessed with many children, and she was considered the most beautiful in all the lands.”

“Well, with that glow thing your people do, I imagine that she was.”

Agache shook his head. “It is not so beautiful. It is, in fact, rather irritating at times. Here, it is nothing but a burden. Being able to reflect light at night means we cannot be exposed to it during the daytime, and we are so easily burned by the sun…”

“Why are you not covered then? Do you not worry about exposure here?”

He reached up, frowning as he failed to feel his hood. “I… I had not realized that had fallen off. I should have, but you distracted me.”

She laughed. “Well, that is only fair, I suppose.”

He grimaced. “I do not know that I agree with that sentiment, but I know I cannot argue with you. Neither of us manage anything when we do that, and we should not waste our time in such futile discussion.”

“You are a terrible storyteller, you know. You can’t seem to stay on topic no matter what that topic might be.”

“That is your doing.”

“It is not.”

“Yes, it is. You distract me.”

“Oh.” She smiled. “Did you know your nose wrinkles up when you’re annoyed? Your eyes get all narrow, and it’s like someone just pinched your whole face. It is a shame that no one sees that under your cloak.”

“I am never telling you another story,” he said as he rose, pulling the hood over his head. She leaned back against the pillow, laughing, knowing that from now on, when she needed something to smile about, she’d picture his face as it had been then, and she didn’t care if she never got another tale out of him. That memory was what she’d truly needed all along.

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