The Queen of All That Lives (The Fallen World Book 3)By: Laura Thalassa
We found her.
There had always been rumors that the undying king’s queen lived. That she slept deep in the earth. That the king, mad with grief, put her there.
I step up to the golden sarcophagus, my men fanning out around it.
They weren’t rumors.
The subterranean temple is just as the blueprint said it would be—same size, same location. Only, my information never told me it would look like this. I’m a hardened man, and even I have goosebumps being in this place. The gold, the marble, the shrine set in the middle of the room surrounded by a moat of water. All to encase a supposedly living woman. And not just any woman; we’re retrieving a being this king and the rest of the world have all but worshiped for a hundred years.
“You’re recording all this?” I say to one of my men, my voice echoing. They’re the first words any one of us has breathed since entering the chamber.
He nods, the compact camera he holds focused on the coffin.
Styx would kill a hundred men to be here. Instead he’s forced to watch from behind a screen.
I holster my gun and reach out, my hand trailing over the golden ivy that covers the sarcophagus. I find the lip of the lid, and my fingers curl over the edge. I’m almost afraid of what we’ll find once we lift this sucker. I know what Serenity Lazuli looks like—everyone does—but the mythical woman has been gone for a century. For all I know, we’re about to come face-to-face with her mummified remains.
“On the count of three,” I say.
“One.” If the king finds us, we’re all dead men.
“Two.” If what lies inside this casket is everything we hoped for, the war might finally end.
My lips curl back as we push off the lid. Beneath it …
“Holy shit,” I breathe.
Inside rests a woman, her arms crossed over her chest, her eyes closed. I take in her long golden hair, the smooth, pale skin, the deep scar that mars an otherwise beautiful face.
They definitely weren’t rumors, and these are definitely not Serenity Lazuli’s mummified remains. As we watch, her eyes move beneath closed lids.
The queen lives.
I draw in a breath of air.
I draw in another. And another.
The air tastes good. Is that even possible? To taste air? Because in this moment I swear I can. I take deeper and deeper lungfuls. Light filters in through my closed lids, beckoning like an eager lover.
“She’s waking up!”
“I can see that, you wanker.”
“Harvey, you capturing all this?”
“Styx is getting the livestream as we speak.”
“Would you fuckers shut up? You’re going to scare her.”
My eyes flutter open. At first, I see nothing. The light is too bright. But then my eyes adjust, slowly. Color bleeds in and my surroundings began to take shape.
I stare up at a metal roof. My brows furrow. The king’s ceilings are either gilded molding or exposed wood. Not dented, rust-stained metal. And never so low.
That’s when I notice the rocking. My body shakes from side to side. I’m inside a vehicle, I realize.
What the hell is going on?
I brace my hands against the edge of the bed I lay in, my pulse climbing.
Nothing about this is right. People don’t wake up like this.
Where am I, and why can’t I remember how I got here?
“I can’t believe we did it.”
I startle at the voice. I have an audience—of course I do. Situations like this don’t just happen; people orchestrate them.
I begin to sit up.
“Whoa, whoa, my queen,” a man to my right says, placing a hand on my chest, “easy.”
I glance down at the hand touching my chest. I follow it back to its owner. A soldier in his late twenties stares back. He’s not the king, and these are not the king’s men. Which can only mean …
I got fucking abducted.
“Who are you?” I ask, my voice hard.
I’m going to have to hurt more people, kill more people. That’s the only way anyone’s going to learn that I make a terrible captive.
The man dips his head. “Jace Bridges, Your Majesty. Former infantryman in the king’s army. Current regional commander of the special ops unit, European division, of the First Free Men.”
All I got from that was that this man is dangerous. That’s helpful to know.
Five other men circle my bed. All soldiers by the looks of them, all equipped with weaponry, all standing between me and freedom. They stare a little too intensely, making me distinctly aware that for all my training, I am still just a woman lying in a bed in the back of some vehicle, surrounded by a bunch of men. There are too many of them and only one of me. I could easily be overpowered.
As my gaze sweeps over the soldiers, they dip their heads and murmur, “Your Majesty.”
And all of them show me reverence. This is a first. I’m used to being hated. I don’t know what to do with their respect.
One of them holds a camera, its lens trained on me. I frown, unsettled at the sight. If they’re here to liberate me, why do I feel like an animal on exhibit?
The First Free Men. I’ve never heard of the organization, but I hope to God the king has, otherwise I’m going this one alone.