The Queen of All That Lives (The Fallen World Book 3)(14)By: Laura Thalassa
I can see her body trembling as she frowns at me.
The footfalls of several men interrupt us. A moment later, they pound their fists against Serenity’s door. Of all times to be interrupted, now might be one of the worst.
I see Serenity’s face shut down. All that anger, all that pain, all that vulnerability gets sealed off. Whatever moment the two of us had, it’s now gone.
“Come in,” I call, not glancing away from her.
Half a dozen soldiers crowd the doorway.
“Your Majesties,” one says, bowing, “footage of the queen has been leaked.”
Montes and I stand in front of a large screen in one of his conference rooms. I try not to think about how little has changed inside these walls. The king’s conference rooms are virtually identical to the ones I remember.
And then there’s the role I’ve slipped back into seamlessly. I didn’t even realize when I strode down the hall next to Montes that my actions were out of place until I saw him cast me several glances.
He hadn’t had a queen to co-rule with him in over a century. Of course the situation must be strange to him. But he didn’t say anything, and I wasn’t about to relinquish power when that was my reason for staying.
I run my tongue over my teeth now, my arms crossed, as I watch Jace and his team lift the golden lid of what appears to be a coffin.
The camera pans in.
Goosebumps break out along my arms.
There I am.
My body is still, my arms folded over my chest.
If I still had any doubts about what happened to me, I no longer do.
My eyes are closed, my skin startlingly pale against my golden hair. And my face is serene. It’s an expression I rarely wear.
I’d been like that for a hundred years. Forced somewhere between death and life.
When Jace and his men lift me out, my head rolls listlessly against one of their shoulders.
I grimace at the sight. I was utterly helpless.
Next to me, the king begins to pace. This shouldn’t be as terrible for him as it is for me, and yet I get the impression it is.
Another clip directly follows this one. In it, I’m still asleep. The camera focuses on my eyes. They move rapidly beneath my closed lids. That footage cuts out, replaced by a close up of my hand as my fingers begin to twitch. That, too, cuts away.
This time when the camera settles on me, I’m fully awake.
“Who are you?”
My voice doesn’t sound nearly as confused as I know I was. These men were foolish to not have their guns out and pointed the entire time I was under their care.
“Where is Montes?”
I glance over at the king just as he bows his head and closes his eyes.
Remorse is a strange emotion on him, and I find it both angers and placates me. I want him to feel guilt, but then, what I really want, what I can never have, is for him to have made a different choice and us to not be where we are.
The video ends, and the room is left in silence.
“Take it down, along with any new instances that pop up,” Montes finally says.
The soldier stationed near us bows and leaves. I watch him go, my eyes narrowed. Somewhere in the time that’s lapsed, Montes has gotten rid of his aides and his advisors, along with the men and women of court. Now all that’s left are military personnel.
I turn my attention back to the screen. “This situation is bad because … ?”
“Before this, the world didn’t know you still lived. They’re have always been rumors, but not proof,” Montes says. He nods to the screen. “Now there is.”
I knew this was inevitable, I had just hoped to put it off a little longer. All those years ago, when I’d made Serenity a martyr, I never imagined my actions would have such ripple effects. Not until the years melted away and I had to face the reality of waking my wife up.
The world will come for her. Everyone on this godforsaken earth wants to be saved. What that video shows is something just as unnatural as me. From miraculous beginnings come miraculous endings.
“Montes,” Serenity says, “I saw one of the posters.”
I mask my surprise. So she knows to some extent that she’s famous. I barely have time to process that before she continues.
“What, exactly, do people expect of me?” she asks.
Serenity says this like she’s actually considering doing something to meet their expectations.
I turn from the screen.
“They see you as a figure who fights for freedom,” I say. “I imagine, if presented with the real woman, they’d expect you to do exactly that.”
“They want me to end the war,” she clarifies.
I hide my surprise once more. How much does Serenity know? And who told her? My men? Those on camera? The situation is already spiraling out of my control.
“I think that’s safe to assume,” I say carefully.
This is history repeating itself. The instant Serenity’s back in the game, people want to play her.
My enemies will either try to capture her or kill her. They’ve obviously tried to do so already. And there are so many enemies.
The prospect leaves me short of breath. All those reasons I left Serenity deep in the ground come rising up. There she was safe. Awake, she has a target on her back.