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: Leaders should question their judgment. Some of them need to, since they’re not always right. Some of them never do, and people suffer. Some others might question things just a bit too much.

Worries, Wishes, and Plans

“The people are worried.”

Agache nodded to Gekin’s words, and Anokii frowned at him. Despite his promise to the queen, she did not think her cousin had gotten much rest. He, of course, had no bed to call his own, not anymore, and he had no servants to keep him as undisturbed as possible. If he had been down here trying to recover, he would have gotten little from it. She did not know if he could have tried to use his old rooms, but perhaps he should have after being wounded and spending so long watching over the queen, waiting for her to regain consciousness.

“They are afraid of Malzhi starting a war.”

“They should be. If he does, it will be long and bloody, and the Nebkasha will die.”

“And yet you provoked this.”

Agache leaned back against the walls of the catacombs, closing his eyes. “One war is better than two, and I think if the king and Malzhi were to come into direct confrontation, it would end in one inevitable way.”

“If the king kills Malzhi—”

“They will eliminate each other.”

Anookii knelt next to him. “Are you saying that because when Malzhi confronts and possibly weakens the king, you intend to finish what he has started, letting it look as though Malzhi had done it? Is that your plan?”

Agache shook his head. “If I did that, we would only replace two tyrants with a third. I do not dare cause any bloodshed, not if I can help it. Even just the simplest of fights stirs too much of a longing, a desire to kill, than should ever be allowed.”

“You have always ignored that call before.”

He lowered his head. “I think it is for the best that I have been injured, keeping me limited in what I can do. Were I not, the things I would do to the king before I allowed him the mercy he denied me…”

She touched his cheek. “Look at me. You are not that man. You have dark thoughts—we all do—but you are not the monster the king is, and you never will be.”

“I think I am. Look at what I have done to the queen—and that was by accident. I am not fit to do anything. Go ask the others what should be done now that I have condemned us all to death. I do not have a solution, not this time.”

Anokii shook her head, leaning toward him. “You know that you do. You are capable of much more than this. Go to the other leaders and ask them if they feel you have done poorly. I doubt they will agree. They would push you for more of what you have already done.”

He let out a breath. “I think I must try again to send the queen home. It may be what we need after all. If she is not here, the king will try and ready himself for war with her people. Malzhi will see it as his time to make a move.”

“If the troops are on the march in the suns, they will be vulnerable. Malzhi would be wise to strike then,” Gekin said. He shook his head. “I cannot like it much, not when I know that not every soldier is there by choice, and they had to endure much to survive their training.”

Agache folded his hands together. “I do not care for any of my suggestions. I don’t like risking the lives of others. At least with the soldiers, they are trained. They know that their lives are in danger. They will face what comes, if the attack does come, and some may even be grateful, having been spared the invasion.”

“Not all of them.”

“No.” Agache rubbed his neck. “It would be simpler if everyone hated the king. It would be easier if they did. If it were so, none would aid him. He would sputter out orders that no one would fulfill. He would accomplish nothing. The trouble is that people will listen and obey him and do the terrible things he asks of them. As they do me.”

Gekin cursed. “I think it is time you stopped this. Go to the queen and tell her of your idea. Let her decide if it is so terrible and if she is willing to do it. What I would not give for an eclipse—or at least something to make you act sensible.”

“You need to rest and heal,” Anokii said, taking hold of her cousin’s hand. “Promise me that as soon as you have seen the queen, you will.”

“I do not know that I should speak to her tonight.”

“I do not know that you can wait.”

He sighed. “I feel… strange. I might continue to—Oh. I suppose you two would like some privacy as well? I can go, if that is what you require, though if you were to have your wish regarding the eclipse, you might enjoy each other’s company in a room for a change.”

Anokii pulled him to his feet. “Where and how we enjoy an eclipse, should one come, is our affair. You must see to yours. Speak to the queen. Let us end this before you have exhausted yourself. And if there is an eclipse… Enjoy it. You need the strength it will give you.”

He grunted. “We don’t know when or if they will come, and if they do… they are always too short. And foolish things happen when they come, or have you forgotten that as well?”

Anokii shook her head. “No. I haven’t. We would have welcomed that child had it survived.”

Agache cursed, lifting his hood. “I did not mean to upset you, cousin. I… Forgive me. I will finish this and you will have your home where you can be together always, where you can try again for children. I want you to have that.”

“I know,” she said, for he had always tried to provide for them, had tried to send them over the border as well, but they had been stubborn. She looked to Gekin, and he managed a small smile despite the evening’s discomfort. She sighed. “That, however, is not yours to promise, even if you lead the resistance.”

“What is all this worth if you have nothing when it is over?”

“Gekin and I have each other. That has always been enough for us.”

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