Author’s Note: So I debated and debated for a bit, wrote a couple of scenes out of order, and since I knew that I needed a bit of plot between the story time scene and the next few, a gap that the new scenes I really want to share could not fill, I tried to find one. It came to me while driving (it is amazing how many ideas come to me while I’m behind the wheel… I think it’s because writing would love to get in the way of anything responsible that I might do, not that there isn’t a plot running in my head almost constantly, and it is a good thing I can multitask.) I think this is a good direction for the story to go, but I still wish I could share the other scenes.
“What is that?”
“I fear it is a riot,” Anokii said, and the queen could hear the worry in the other woman’s voice as she rose, silently cursing her ankle as she crossed over to the balcony. She could not think about that when the crowds below had been worked into such a frenzy.
“Those are… They are Biskane, aren’t they? Why are they here? Why would they do this?”
Anokii’s hood jerked toward her. “You think that we Nebkasha are the only ones with cause for complaint against the king?”
“Of course not,” the queen said, stung by the accusation and the foolishness of her earlier words. She did know of many grievances the commoners had, she had listened to them, powerless to change anything about their lives, even when she knew that grave injustices were being perpetuated. The poorest of Biskane citizens, while not forced into near slavery as the Nebkasha were, had little better status or means. They could not hope for better with such a cruel king—he demanded tribute from them and gave nothing in return. “I just thought… Are they so foolish so as to be in open revolt like this? What would make them think that this was any sort of answer? The king just killed his own troops—”
“The public may not be aware of that.”
“Still, only the most ignorant person knows that the king is cruel. That his armies are taught to be merciless. Those people… They will all be slaughtered.”
Anokii sighed. “Perhaps that is all they desire. Their lives lack hope, and perhaps it seems easier to end them now rather than prolong their existence.”
“What of your cousin? Is he not hope?”
“He was, but most people believe he is dead, taking with him their only relief from the constant and unreasonable demands that the king and ministers put upon them.”
“And he must remain dead if he is to help anyone.”
Anokii touched the wall next to her, betraying her fingers for a moment before they reddened and she had to withdraw into her cloak. “I do not know if that is true. He would be hunted, all of our people would be harassed as they searched for him, no place that we might have used or might provide shelter in the heat would be left unguarded—he would have to run. However, he could go. He could say that he was alive, and then run, causing great confusion and perhaps offering some hope of his return…”
“Would you want him to leave? Now, before the truth is known? Would you like to send him into my homeland?”
“He would never go. He can’t.”
The queen nodded. She wondered where Agache was, where he was watching from, and how much this tormented him. Was he as helpless as she was? Did the resistance have anything they could set against this, or would they simply allow it to happen? “Help me dress.”
Anokii’s cloak jerked, and she shook her head. “No. You do not want to do this.”
“Of course I don’t,” the queen said, turning away from the balcony and lifting her nightgown over her head as she walked toward the wardrobe that held her things. She stopped, lifting out one of her simpler gowns and shaking her head. While she would like to wear it, to have the freedom of movement that it would allow her, she could not. She needed to convey the right sense to the people, and what they would consider false modesty was not it. She must appear as the queen.
She sighed. She did not know when she’d lost herself, but she knew that she had been thinking of herself by her role and not who she was for far too long.
“This one,” she said, taking out one of the ones her mother had given her. Perhaps that connection would give her enough strength to do what she must do. Then again, her mother had only pretended to be a queen.
“It will be ruined.”
That made her smile. “I think that would be quite appropriate under the circumstances.”