Author’s Note: I was just going to keep The Queen’s Story Time as the next part of this, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to have a scene between that one and Those Who Make Us Feel Safe. So, here it is.
“That was… unexpected.”
“Are you injured? I have never known you to use so many curses in a single sentence,” Anokii said, causing the queen to look up at her. The other woman had not realized that she was still in the room. She must have thought she was alone—though, no, that was not possible. She could not have thought she was alone, not given where she currently sat.
“I… My ankle is twisted again, I think,” the queen said, grimacing. “I had not realized that your cousin would still be in my chamber when I returned.”
“He should not have been. I must apologize—”
“I imagine that he does not have anywhere else that he might rest and recover. I can only think of him down in the catacombs, and that cannot be good for his health.”
“That is true. I do not know where he has stayed, either,” Anokii said, glancing toward her cousin. He had not stirred, and she thought he must have become accustomed to some very uncomfortable places if he was able to sleep where he was and where he would have been since his escape or while he was imprisoned. “I apologize. He was… I was able to persuade him to rest, and once I had, I did not wish to wake him.”
“No, I would not ask you to, though I am surprised that he did not wake when I stumbled over him just now,” the queen said, forcing herself back to her feet. She limped across the room. “Should he ever have need of my chamber again, let him use the bed.”
“That way I will not trip over him like I do my shoes when the bizhat has moved them.” The queen stopped at her bed, laughing. “Now I cannot help wondering if he was the bizhat who displaced them.”
Anokii had to smile at that. “Perhaps he was. He did say he’d done some watching of you in the past, and there is a rather simple path between here and the catacombs that he could have used to gain entry to the rest of the castle.”
“I should be bothered by that.”
“No one cares to be observed too carefully, but I assure you that his interest is not like Malzhi’s.”
The queen sat down on her bed, reaching down to her ankle. “I assure you, even if your cousin was acting in that manner toward me—and he has given me no real indication of any interest at all—it would be more welcome than Malzhi’s. I should not say it would be more welcome than the king’s.”
“Why not? Who would want the king’s attentions?”
“I imagine that his wife is expected to,” the queen said, though she laughed, falling back on her bed. Anokii shook her head, thinking the woman was too close to insane. She curled up on her side, pulling her pillow close to her. “I sincerely hope that he never kisses me again.”
Anokii watched her shudder. “He kissed you?”
“I do not want to think about what he had just eaten. Or what he might do if…” The queen sighed. “Will you look at my ankle and perhaps give me something to help me sleep? I should not ask, but I do not wish to think about what happened earlier. I can only hope that he will kill me before he does anything else, since he has promised to end my life.”
What could one say to that? Anokii had never been able to comfort Agache when that threat was made, and she could not do so for the queen, either. She heard movement behind her, thinking that her cousin had risen and was about to depart. That was, she supposed, for the best.
“I do not recommend that you take anything to assist your slumber. If you are afraid of the king, you do not want to be slow to react should he come or render yourself incapable of your own defense. You should not use anything that will dampen your senses unless you have no other recourse.”
The queen sighed. “I suppose you’d say the same about the pain in my ankle.”
“I think you must dislike me a great deal.”
“It is not my place to like or dislike you, my lady.”
“So you say,” the queen whispered, closing her eyes. “That just makes me more convinced of my suspicions. You hate me.”
Anokii said nothing. It was not her place to disagree with the queen.