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: Allies should become friends, right? Bonding is important…

Strengthening Alliances and Making Friends

“Tell me about your people. What are they called?”

“I should not even be in your room, and yet you wish to discuss history? Are you as determined toward death as Anokii believes me to be, or are you just that curious?” Agache asked, and the queen almost smiled as she leaned back against the wall she knew he was beside. She, of course, had the balcony, but he was almost directly behind her, and no one would even know. Even if they saw her lips moving, she would be assumed to be a mad woman talking to herself, not to a supposed dead man.

“I told you that I asked Anokii. She did not answer. So I find myself asking you instead. I am not expecting you to answer—you don’t tend to answer when I ask questions, no one does. I suppose we had better discuss what brought you here, though, since I would not believe you would be here if it were not urgent, not when only yesterday you were feverish and had to be carried out by your cousin and her husband. Incidentally—how are you cousins with her and the king?”

Agache laughed. “Even the royals that carried the blood of one of ours—we are the Nebkasha, since you asked—were not considered fit for marriage to one of the Biskane. They married back into the Nebkasha before the edicts came down that such a thing was no longer permitted. They continued to do so in secret. Some say that is why my parents were executed, but I do not think the king cared whether or not they were married. He wanted them dead regardless of that fact.”

The queen nodded. “I am sorry. About your parents.”

“I do not remember them. Your sympathies are unnecessary. Anokii’s mother was my mother’s sister, and she raised me. That is why we are… close. She was as much a sister to me as mine were.”


“They are dead.”

“Because of the king?”


“I’m sorry.”

“I told you—sympathies are unnecessary.”

“The king took a lot from you. That is still wrong, no matter how long ago it happened or if you do not remember when it did. It is not something that can be ignored and forgotten. Such injustices cannot be allowed to continue.”

She felt his hand brush hers. “You are a strange sort of idealist for a trained assassin.”

“I am not an assassin. The esibani are the royal guard, not murderers. We protect, defend, and yes, we do kill when necessary, but that is not our goal. We do what must be done to save the royal family, nothing more.”

His hand claimed hers. “No, my lady, I think it is much more than you think. You would not find anyone in this land willing to do what you have done or to endure what you have while you have been here. Malzhi, the king, Omamhi…”

“I admit, the king’s return terrifies me. I do not want… If he decides that he wants what he has not yet taken… Or if Malzhi gets it…”

“We may yet prevent such a thing. Our goal is to free everyone from the king’s mistreatment, and that will free you as well. I know it is not much consolation, but I cannot promise you safety unless you say you want to leave, and we can get you across the border—”

“And let my homeland suffer under his armies when he comes to crush us for my failure to uphold the treaty? I am afraid that is not an option, even if I keep thinking that I want to run, that I should while I still can.”

Agache squeezed her hand. “Come. We should discuss the king’s return. I believe he will summon you, and we must be prepared for what is coming. I think you are right, that he will be watching you, waiting to turn against you, and since you do have a habit of acting too defiant for your own good, you must be careful.”

She laughed. “You sound absurd. What else can I be? Foolish? That I accomplished long ago, and it can only be worse now that I am here. The moment I agreed to take Zaze’s place, my fate was set.”

“I did not realize you had a choice.”

“True, I look more like Zaze than the other princesses and the rest of the esibani could not pass for her as easily, but they would not have killed me if I’d refused.”

“Just imprisoned you? That is, of course, so much better, isn’t it?”

She smiled. “Of course, though you know better than I do.”

“I do.”

“How is your arm?”

“Much improved.”

“Are you lying again?”

He laughed. “Perhaps.”

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