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… the conversation between the king and queen just before this is one that’s… hmm, unpleasant, I guess, and so while I did post it, I wasn’t going to draw extra attention to it. Still, I figured I’d better explain why there are two parts to this serial today.

It’s Wednesday, and to include the words from Three Word Wednesday, trample, vigilant, and helpless, I am putting up two sections. This one was already set to follow the last one, it just needed a bit of editing first.

To Define a Mark

“I thought you would have been listening.”

Agache lifted his head, his eyes betraying a hint of anger at the queen’s accusation. She had not intended to speak in that manner, but her encounter with the king left her distressed. She could blame Agache in some sense, and perhaps she did.

He shook his head. “I am not someone who spends all his time skulking in shadows and prying into other’s conversations. I was not… I could not stay close when I knew you were with the king.”

She frowned. “Why not?”

“He may well already know that I am alive. The blood we share… It stirs in the company of another who possesses it. He would have known that I was there. I could do nothing, not even listen, without him knowing. I… Anokii was there for part of it before she came to advise me and Gekin of the conversation’s direction and ask what we could do, what we would do.”

The queen glanced toward the others. Anokii lowered her head, not looking at her, and Gekin put his hand on her shoulder. The queen did not know what to think of them. “Oh. Then… You were not there for the end.”

Anokii shook her head. “No. You appear unharmed, which is both a surprise and a relief. Unless I am mistaken. Did he harm you?”

The king should have, and they all knew it. The queen did not know why he had not. “Not yet. He says he wants to put a mark on me. What does that mean?”

The queen heard Gekin curse first, but he wasn’t alone in doing so. Agache did as well, rising from the rock and pacing with agitation. Anokii folded her hands together, looking like she might be praying, but to what deity and why, the queen could not guess.

“I should have anticipated this. He knows now that you can sway the people. He must show that he controls you even if you control the people.”

The queen would not say that—she had only asked them to leave. She did not control anyone. She almost regretted asking, but how could she let that happen? Those people would all have died. “He would have trampled them with his soldiers.”

“Yes, he would have. It is because of you that they live.” Agache stopped, leaning against the wall. “You should not have had to go out there. I should have done it.”

She did not want to discuss this again. “You know why you could not. I accept what I have done and the consequences of my actions. I am not helpless.”

“No, you are not, but the mark he will put upon you will not be easy to bear.”

“You sound certain of what it will be.”

“It will be a jewel. A necklace.”

“That’s a mark? He made it sound like he’d carve up my body or… Well, I don’t think we need to discuss the other things I was thinking of.”

Agache shook his head. “Do not think of it as a respite, Jis. It isn’t. If he does what I believe he will, he’ll give you the bindings of the conquered queen. They… It is several bands that go from the base of your neck to your chin, ones that can be tightened and loosened as he sees fit. Yes, it is a beautiful piece, with several rare and valuable stones as well as the metal that it is fashioned from, but it is a cruel device that he will use to choke you whenever he pleases.”

She sat down, shaking her head. “What am I supposed to do, then? He made it clear that if I refused him, he’d hurt me, but if I don’t refuse him—”

“We can attempt to have a copy made, one that will not allow him to choke you, but you will have to learn to watch for when he expects it, and if you do not make him think that it works properly, he will be far angrier and unmanageable.”

“That’s your solution? How am I to know when he’s doing it if the device isn’t working?”

“You learn. He has a certain look to his face.”

She felt her stomach twist. “Did he use this thing on you?”

“No. I would have looked quite foolish with that around my neck, but I know him well enough to know when he wishes to inflict violence. I was not a favorite for that—since I had to wear the cloak, I did not show the marks he left behind as he wanted.”


“I told you that I would not ask you to kill him. Do not suggest it again.”

She let out a breath. “I was not going to, but all the same, I don’t understand. We all know it would be simpler if he died, and even Malzhi getting the throne cannot be worse than him, can it?”

“Legend says that his people killed dragons and used their blood to give themselves longer lives. Whether the legend is true or not, the people of this land do not die easy.”

“Omamhi did.”

“He is not of royal blood. The royals can live for centuries.”

“How old are you, then?”

Agache laughed. “I am more of a child in comparison. Do not worry so much about my age. I am old enough to do what must be done and to know what that is. That is all that matters.”

“So you say. Why should I trust anything you say? You never answer with any sense of clarity unless it might mean someone’s death.”

He smiled. “You do tend to provoke that response in me. It is remarkably easy and endlessly entertaining to annoy you like this.”

She glared at him. “This is not funny. We were discussing an instrument of torture that the king wants to put on me just a moment ago, and now you’re going to—”

“I have seen the king at his worst, and I know full well how grave a matter that is. However, I have learned—we all have learned—to take our small moments when we can. Why do you think that those two are always disappearing when we start talking of matters that do not concern them?” He gestured to Anokii and Gekin, who frowned, though the queen thought perhaps they felt guilty as well. “They take the time they have and use all of it as best they can. There are things the king can do that can destroy you—in body and in mind—and I think part of what frustrates you so much is the aftermath of what he did do to my mind. I am not what I was. My humor is… not kind, and I worry about what that means for me and what I might become.”

“Perhaps you should become a lantern full time. That cannot harm anyone, now can it?”

Agache laughed. “Very nice, my esibani, but for all that I glow down here, out of the catacombs, I’d be of no use at all, and that is not something I can allow myself to be. Gekin, find that jeweler and see if he will cooperate with us. I will go for the necklace myself.”

Anokii turned to her cousin. “Agache—”

“I know the castle better than anyone. It was my home. I was raised there. I can do this. Anokii, help Jis back to her rooms. It is possible the king will return for her tonight. He will want to see her fear keep her from slumber. We must be vigilant. I may be mistaken in his intent, and even if I am not, there is Malzhi to consider. He may feel it is time to move against the queen.”

She shuddered. Anokii touched her arm. “You will not be alone tonight. We will watch.”

“Is there anything you can do if either of them comes?”

“Anokii is capable of much more than you think.”

The queen nodded, ashamed of how she had treated the other woman. Agache pulled his cloak over his shoulders, and she forced herself to speak. “Thank you. For the necklace.”

“I haven’t replaced it yet.”

“I know. I appreciate your willingness to try.”

He shook his head. “Considering that you are in this position because of me, this is the least I should do. Do not thank me. What I might do is nothing compared to what you have already done.”

She thought he looked different somehow. His glow had faded, and not just because he had covered himself in the cloak. “Agache—”

“Let him go,” Anokii advised. “We must return you to your room before anyone looks for you.”

2 thoughts on “To Define a Mark

  1. Sheilagh Lee says:

    wow what a turn I’m loving the twists and turns of this story.

    • kabobbles says:

      Thank you. I’m not sure if you had to endure the site while it was getting worked on, but if you did, I’m sorry. It’s getting closer to being redone, but it needed to be tested live.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the story. I love the twists and turns of it, too. It’s been a fascinating and compelling story to get caught up in. Rather demanding, even. 🙂

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