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: In the first version of the negotiations, things were settled all too quickly. I had to go back and change that so that they were more realistic. That allowed Zaze to make an appearance, since I wanted to show just how different Jis was from the sister she was forced to imitate.

Starting Negotiations

“I have already told you the terms are unacceptable.”

She stilled. She knew that voice. Was she dreaming? She’d thought Agache had died because of Malzhi’s attack, she knew he’d not been moving the last time she saw him, but now she had to wonder how much she could trust her memory. She had hoped that her memory was wrong, but now she had proof that it was—he was here; he was alive—and she could not be happier. She should have known it would be him. He had survived, and that meant that he would be a part of restoring his land to peace, always mindful of the needs of his people. He was a trusted minister before his death, and now he would be again.

Still, a bit of wonder crept into her voice as she drew closer, wanting to be sure that she was seeing—and hearing—the right man. “Agache?”

He rose from the table, smiling at her as he left the others. “At last. Someone I trust enough to negotiate with.”

She laughed, though a part of her was not as amused as she had pretended. “Is that all I am?”

“Oh, no, of course not, but I have to admit that I do not think highly of those who would send you to marry our king,” he said, giving her father a dark look. She thought he felt about the same about the other man as she did. “Especially since they intended to have you kill him.”

She nodded. “That would make negotiating difficult. Perhaps we can make a more equitable arrangement possible.”

“I do hope so, but I think my demands are too much to expect.”

She had not think that Agache should be at all hard to negotiate with, nor did she believe that he would be overly demanding, despite his words. He was a reasonable man, and he always put the needs of his people first. “Oh?”

“We would like to purchase or trade for some of your land. The forest near the border is unoccupied, and it seems to have little value to your people. If that is true, then my people—that is the Nebkasha—would like to live where there is darkness. In fact, we must live where there is darkness. We no longer have a land of our own, so we must find one or buy one.”

“I think that is very understandable,” she said. She took a breath and looked at her father. He shook his head, but she smiled. “I do believe we will be willing to sell you some of that land you’re interested in, as long as we can agree on a price.”

“We should be able to do so. One thing that all parties in the land agree upon is that the Nebkasha should have a place of their own. We want darkness. They would exile us into the north and the twin suns. We will not allow that to happen. Even if we are limited in our first few years in the new land, if we lack money for trades, we will be grateful for what we have in the darkness we have missed for so long.”

“Then we should have no trouble negotiating.”

Agache shook his head. “Well, there are other clauses, including one major one that some may object to.”

“Is there?” She could not see why he would think it would be so difficult, even if her father was fuming in silence after her agreement to what Agache was asking. She would not deny the Nebkasha their land. Her father would be made to see why they had to give them it as well. The Nebkasha had freed them from the threat of the king everyone had feared. “Why is it objectionable?”

“Don’t be absurd, Jis. You can’t go giving him everything he asks for. That land is not yours to pledge, nor can I see why you would want to…” Zaze gave Agache a look. Jis frowned, and her half-sister moved over to her side. She took Jis’ arm, pulling her away from Agache. “Honestly, I do not know how you can stand to look upon him. Them. They are so pale, so colorless and ugly, as though they are little better than corpses that can walk.”

“Why are you even here, Zaze?”

“I am the princess. You are the one that does not belong.”

Agache turned away, walking toward the back of the room. “I can see these negotiations will prove useless. I do not care for your tactics, dangling Jis out as bait to make me think that you would honor any of your promises. We are done here. I cannot promise that the Biskane will not choose to invade you when the unrest settles. The king may be dead, but that does not mean the hatred has died with him. The others are still his people.”

Jis looked to her father. “Do I have the ability to negotiate or not? We owe the Nebkasha. They were the ones to prevent the war. If not for Agache and his cousins, the king would have killed me and slaughtered all of you.”

“And again you discount everything that you did. I do not believe my efforts so important. I did little. You took all the risks.”

“She’s esibani. What do you think she’s supposed to do?”

“Zaze. Enough,” the king said, coming over to Jis. He put his hands on her shoulders. “You have a true air of command to you, and you have changed so much since you left us. You are complete in ways no training could have managed.”

She sighed. “I do not want you to turn me into your negotiator now.”

“You are far more than that,” Agache said. He let out a breath. “I fear we must conclude the negotiations for today. I… I cannot continue at present.”

“Are you still hurting?” She asked, leaving her father and rushing toward him. “Malzhi was determined to kill you, so was the king, and I did nothing—”

“I would hardly call your actions nothing, and I think it is more the travel that is the problem. It was not so terrible after we had passed from the double suns, but I assure you, that is never easy for one of us. It was less so for me since I have some lingering ailments.”

“Then we will let you rest until nightfall when you can renew your strength. Come.”

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