Author’s Note: So Agache is the sort of character who does not want to explain what he is doing. He only tells half the story, no matter what he’s doing. Poor Anokii. She tries to understand, but he never makes it easy on anyone.
Of course, the one no one seems to understand is the king…
“You are still watching her?” Anokii stopped, shaking her head at herself and at her cousin—she knew that the others did not know who was who beneath the cloaks, but they did. The voice was one part of it, but also the posture and so many little things gave way the wearer. He should not be here, and she should not speak to him, not if she wanted to keep him alive. If he answered her, it could mean his life if the wrong person heard him.
“I am waiting for the revelation.”
“The queen’s?” Anokii asked with a frown, uncertain what Agache was doing here. This was dangerous, and she had thought that he knew better than to be here, now, when things were already far too tense. The final training of another troop—this could mean that the king would feel that he was ready for war with the queen’s people, and they were not ready for that.
“I believe they will consider it Malzhi’s, though I should say it is mine, thanks to the queen.”
“You expect them to find Omamhi’s body during the training.”
“You think that the queen has done enough to make them think that Malzhi is behind Omamhi’s death?”
“Wenjige has already said so, and that has done some damage. Even the catacombs cannot keep a body in the right condition forever, and if it is not seen soon, it will not be in a state where it can be used. I did not want to wait for Malzhi’s return, but if I did not, I do not know that anyone would believe that he had killed Omamhi.”
Anokii nodded. The timing was already difficult for them, since Malzhi had been gone when Omamhi attacked the queen, and the heat should have started far too much decomposition for anyone to believe he had been Omamhi’s killer. “So now you watch.”
Agache nodded, gesturing to the other balcony. “She managed to divert Malzhi from Wenjige. I expect she regrets it, but she was rather bold.”
“I do not know that you want to be pleased by her boldness.”
“We value secrecy and avoid direct conflict. We may even put too much emphasis on those things. We have done much that is disruptive. We made a nuisance of ourselves, and we moved as many of our people to safety as we thought we could, but we have not yet managed to do anything that has altered the overall condition of anyone. We continue to suffer.”
“If you had chosen a direct action, you would have been dead a long time ago—and not in the same sense as your current death. This would be permanent.”
He nodded. “I know. The queen, while she is in a precarious situation, still has some protection from the treaty. She can be a bit more direct. Then again, she cannot.”
Anokii glanced toward the queen. “Why are you here?”
“I told you that the king is back.”
“He has not shown himself.”
“The troops are training in the city. Their final training. Where do you think the king is?”
She closed her eyes, letting out a curse. “He will kill them all. I know they were foolish for joining his forces, but not all of them had a choice. What good can it do him to do this? To increase fear? His reputation for cruelty is already known. This is… I thought he wanted to go to war. Why would he sacrifice his own troops?”
Agache reached a hand out and touched the wall, dragging his finger along the surface. “The king has never showed his intentions, not all of them, not to where anyone could predict him. We know he wants their land. How soon he plans on taking it… That is not for us to know. Sometimes I think that he only wanted to make a game of it, the treaty and his marriage and even my death. Yet, at the same time, I know he can be more patient than we believe him to be. He should have killed me years ago, as he did the rest of my family.”
Anokii winced. “It was not right. The royal blood in your line was so diluted, so poisoned with that of our people that it should not matter if any of you were descended from the betrayed princess. He didn’t have to kill your sisters.”
“You know he has little respect for women. I don’t think he would have married if not for the treaty. He does not want an heir, does not want anyone to challenge his power, no one to be put in his place if there is a coup. Letting me live may have been to counter that—the idea of putting one of us on the throne would be repugnant to most of the population.”
She snorted. They should want Agache as their leader. He would hate it, as much as she suspected he’d taken hold of the resistance, but he was a good man with more consideration for the needs of others than anyone else she knew. “All they would have to do was let us go. We have no real interest in harming anyone. We just want our night back.”
“Yes, we do.”
“You sound tired.”
“Not until the body is found. When that happens, I will go. Not before.”
Anokii started to argue with him, but the scream did not allow her to finish.