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: So… I’m posting an extra one today because I’ll do Three Word Wednesday and this one doesn’t fit with the words (I wasn’t going to try and edit them in, that just wasn’t a good idea.)

It’s okay, though, I’ve been enjoying working on this story more than I should.

Tending to the Queen

“How is your ankle?”

“What do you care?” The queen asked, disliking how much like a petulant child she sounded. She was not in a great deal of pain, but the difficulty posed in putting weight on her ankle had confined her to the bed ever since her bath, leaving her alone with nothing to do but think. All of her thoughts soured her mood, and she was not fit to be in anyone’s company.

Anokii stopped at the bottom of the bed. “You are the queen. You were injured. I am your servant. It is my duty to care and to see to your needs.”

The queen put her hands in her lap. Of course. She was an obligation. She was a tool to be manipulated and used by all sides or she was someone’s duty. She was alone here, and that was not about to change. Her people would not send anyone to her, and the most she could hope for here was to find an alliance that she felt would benefit her. She would not go so far as to say it would be one that she could trust. At this point, with one man already dead, she did not think that would be possible.

“I do not need anything at present. My ankle is fine unless I try to walk on it, and the marks on my face and neck do seem to be fading. Earlier, I thought they were worse. Now they seem improved. I no longer know what to think.”

“Perhaps that is due to the changes of the light. The bruises should be worse now than at first, and they will improve later,” Anokii said, sitting down and taking hold of the queen’s foot. She studied it, shaking her hood as she did. “I will get you some herbs to help with the swelling and the pain.”

“This will not effect me like Malzhi’s, will it?”

“No, my lady. I am not trying to influence you, only to help you heal. The longer you withdraw from society, the less likely it is that our ruse with Omamhi will succeed.”

The queen grimaced. She did not know why she had let them take the body. She did not know that she would have survived, even if Malzhi’s obsession with using her might have saved her from repercussion from him or the treaty could keep her alive, but why had she trusted Anokii? The woman had not even wanted to share her name.

“Are you a part of it?”

“A part of what?”

“The resistance.”

Anokii stilled. After a moment, the shoulders of the cloak slumped. “I should tell you that there is no resistance. There is no opposition to the king. No one is that organized or that brave.”

“That is a lie. You have people who are both, don’t you? What about the man who took Omamhi?”

“He is a fool, but that could make him seem quite brave, I suppose,” Anokii said. She rose and walked to the other side of the room, pouring water from the pitcher into the bowl. “There are those who think you could be an ally for the resistance, if there was one.”

The queen almost smiled. The maid was still reluctant to speak, but this was more than what she had gotten from the other woman before. Now would seem to be the time to ask all the questions she’d thought would never get an answer to, but she did not know where to begin. She had too many questions after so long a time spent in silence and ignorance.

“Tell me about your land. Do you know what it was like before the king conquered it and took your people away?”

Anokii carried the bowl over, setting it beside the queen’s foot. “I do not remember it—none of us are that old. It is said we lived longer before the days of the twin suns, but I do not know if that is true or not. Legends say that we came from the ground, but legends are legends because no one can prove their truth.”

“It is said my people could fly. I want it to be true because I want to fly, but I do not think it is.”

Anokii put the cloth to the queen’s ankle, wiping it down. “You must want that even more now.”

“I do. Then again, were I capable of flight, I think I would have flown far from here.” The queen’s eyes went toward the window. She sighed. “They can train you for the role that you must have, they can tell you what your duty is, but no one can tell you what it will be like when you are supposed to fill it. I knew girls when I was younger who thought they wanted to be queen. They thought I was lucky to be the king’s daughter. I never thought I would be the one bartered away for a treaty, and if I had known what this would be like…”

“Yet… You knew your people feared our king. You knew he would be cruel. You must have known these things or your people would not have made a treaty with his.”

“Yes, I knew what I would face at the king’s hands. It was the others I was not prepared for. Malzhi. Omamhi. Even the man who took Omamhi’s body. You are a servant, and you must know what it is like to be used. Does it come with the same fear for you?”

“I doubt it. You have to fear for your body as well as your life. I do not.”

The queen closed her eyes. “I do not understand Malzhi’s actions. Or Omamhi’s. Why would they risk the king’s wrath and war with my people? It seems so foolish, and yet that is what they have done.”

“Perhaps they want war. Perhaps they want a coup. I do not know.”

“What does the resistance want from me?”

“I do not know that, either.”

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