The details of what I mean by potential serials are here. If you want to see more of either, just let me know.
This week’s words: argue, lick, and squint.
“The king is still gone?”
“Yes, my lady. He has yet to return from the south.”
The implication that they would all be better off if he did not return hung in the air, but even in the man’s absence, they would not speak it. The queen turned away from her balcony, withdrawing into her chamber. She spent most of her time on the balcony, using it for what limited freedom she gained, but the second sun would rise, and even she could not abide its relentless heat.
She squinted, trying to adjust her eyes to the dimmer light of her room, and she stumbled, almost toppling over a stray shoe. “How did that get there?”
“Must have been the bizhat, my lady. It is fond of the laces on footwear.”
Grimacing, she looked around, trying to find her maidservant in this darkness, not able to do so because of the cloak the other woman always wore. “The what?”
“Forgive me. The feline,” the servant said, and now the queen knew where she was—picking up the shoe. She had bumped the bottom of the queen’s dress as she did. “I had forgotten you know nothing of our language. Not that we are supposed to speak it, but most know enough to know when we falter.”
The queen frowned. She wished she could see under the other woman’s cloak. She hated feeling so isolated, and it didn’t help that all her servants were among those with the skin too pale to see the sun without burning. She would like to see a face every now and then, not just figures in cloaks shuffling about in near constant silence. She had a feeling her nightmares would soon contain them—armies of them coming for her for her failure to alleviate the suffering the king inflicted upon all of them.
She shook her head. She would not be helpless forever. She would find some way of altering this place, even if she died in the attempt. “What is your language?”
“You should not ask me to speak of these things.”
“The king is not here, and we both know he will kill me as soon as he feels he can invade my homeland. Why should I not ask questions while I can? My ignorance serves no one.”
The cloaked head shook, disagreeing with her. “It is how he should prefer it.”
The queen sighed. She did not want to argue, but she was not a child. She needed more information. The king had never intended for her to rule in his stead- that task had been taken by one of his loyal and ruthless ministers. She had to find some way of wresting control from them or manipulating the world around her. If the king was not here, then something could and must be done.
“Tell me this much—if all of you are oppressed, how is it that one of you was a minister? That he could negotiate the treaty with my land?”
The servant lowered her head. “When the king’s ancestor invaded our land, he did so after bargaining with ours. One of our ladies became his queen and bore him many children before he dishonored the alliance. His eldest son got the throne, but they were also of the royal line. The man you speak of was one of their descendants. He could not be made a servant as the rest of us are.”
The queen wanted to curse. She had not known that, and now she hated even more that she had lost him as a potential ally. “He was… in line for the throne?”
“Perhaps. Not that the king would allow such a thing.”
The king would not allow a great many things, that the queen already knew. Still, if he had wanted to eliminate that other part of the royal line… She licked her lips, fighting against the dryness of her mouth as she realized what was happening now, what he was doing with her. “He must mean to kill all of my people.”
The cloak stilled. “Why would you say that?”
“He pays me no attention. He does not even take what is his by right. He must not want to risk an heir from my blood. He must intend that we all die when he comes for us.”
The other woman nodded. “You may be correct in thinking so. It would explain some of his behavior since your arrival and even before then.”
She did not think that her servant would tell her what she meant by that. She was a strange one, and their exchanges always puzzled the queen for one reason or another. “Can you tell me which of the ministers are loyal to him and which obey out of fear?”
“Why would you ask such a thing?”
The queen thought of the blade she kept, the one waiting for the king. Those loyal to him must be eliminated as well. She had to find a way to do that, by whatever means she might achieve it. The atmosphere of fear might be useful, their paranoia could be turned against them, and she could keep her hands clean.
“My lady, the look on your face now could rival the king at his worst.”
“Could it?” She almost laughed. She would need some of his ruthlessness if she was going to overcome him and those loyal to him, if she was going to protect her people and those he’d already hurt. “Perhaps that is for the best.”