Author’s Note: I find the Jis’ interaction with her father fascinating. Not sure why. I just do.
“You are more regal than your mother.”
Jis did not turn to look behind her. She did not need to, nor did she think she should. “You are not amusing. My mother was never the queen, and if you dare say she was when she shared your bed, I think you shall experience my training first hand.”
The king sighed. “Why must you be so difficult, Jis? Cannot a father express his pride in all his daughter has achieved?”
She snorted. “Did you even know it was me when you spoke? Supposedly no one can tell the difference between me and Zaze, but you… You never have, have you?”
He shook his head, putting a hand on her arm. “I have. I do. Anyone should be able to if they try. You carry yourself ready for an attack whereas she walks with pride. You have grace and fluidity in every motion. She has to watch so that she does not trip over her own skirt.”
Jis nodded, not as flattered as he no doubt expected her to be. “I am what you had them make me.”
His gaze softened, and she thought there was pity or perhaps concern in it, though she did not esteem her father as she had once done. He was not the man she’d thought he was, and he should never have sent her to another land. Her mind had been opened to all his faults, starting with his decision to send her there to kill, and she had gone back over all her memories, finding more and more reasons to dislike him.
“You suffered, then, in the other land? You have refused to speak to anyone of your time there, so we did not know what had occurred.”
She stared at him, unable to believe what she heard. “You had me wed to a monster, and now ask if I suffered? Are you truly so ignorant of what you sent me into? How could you be when you made me go in her place and expected me to kill him?”
The king did not flinch. “You did not kill him immediately, so why would we think that you were in so dire of a position? You gave us no word of any threat, nor did you do as you were instructed. What were we supposed to think? You seemed to have accepted your new life without any need to contact us. We could only speculate on how you fared, and you seemed to have been fine, since otherwise you would have told us. You were trained for that.”
She almost hit him. “You idiot. I was trapped in the castle with hundreds of guards loyal to their king. He was a man who ruled by fear, killing off even his own troops if it pleased him. No one was safe from his anger or his violence, and he wanted me dead from the moment that treaty was signed. He was not ready for war with us, that was the only reason I lived—and you know how it was when he turned on me. You saw what happened. How dare you say I was under no threat? How dare you say that it was my fault for failing to give word to you? How could I? Was not the return of the servants you sent with me an indication of my circumstances? You ignored that warning sign. You ignored everything.”
“Leave me alone. I have no desire to speak to you again.”
“I know that you do not—”
“I said leave me.”
His grip tightened on her arm. She saw the esibani that protected him moving closer. They would attack her if she made one move against him. Their loyalty belonged to their king, not to their comrades.
“You cannot order the king about. I will demand your presence at the negotiations if I must.”
She would just as soon be imprisoned over helping her father again, but she had heard nothing of what transpired outside of her chamber, and she had not known that there was anyone here. “Negotiations? With whom?”
“Now that the revolt is over, they have come seeking a new treaty between our lands. I want your opinion on their sincerity.”
She would have refused to go if she was not curious about how the land had fared since Gekin dropped her across the border. Instead, she nodded. She would get her information from whoever had come, and she would at last have answers as to the fates of those she cared about. That was worth helping her father. She needed to know about Anokii, about Gekin, about Agache…
She forced the thoughts from her head and said nothing as she walked with her father toward the doors, entering the great hall.