The Queen of All That Lives (The Fallen World Book 3)(3)By: Laura Thalassa
My eyes flick to Jace’s gun.
His gaze follows mine to his weapon. He covers it with his hand. “My queen, I understand you are confused, but if you get violent, we will have to as well. And I really don’t want that.”
I meet his eyes, and the corner of my mouth curls slowly. I’m made of violence and pain. He might as well have welcomed me home.
The atmosphere in the vehicle changes subtly. The men are on guard.
“What do you want?” I say.
Jace looks at me square in the eye, and I notice that, just like his comrades, he stares at me like I’m the answer to his problems. “We want you to end the war.”
The last I remembered, the war was over.
No—war had broken out again. The king’s council had turned on him. I had been working with the king to suppress the insurgents in South America.
“You do realize I have been doing exactly that since war broke out.”
The soldiers exchange another look.
“Goddamnit,” I say, “stop acting like I’m crazy.”
The vehicle falls silent for several seconds, the only sound the jiggle of the bed’s rickety frame and the men’s weapons.
“No one believes you’re crazy,” Jace finally says.
He sounds so reasonable. That in and of itself is infuriating.
He leans forward. “Look at what you’re wearing.”
I narrow my eyes at him.
“This isn’t a trick. Look at your outfit.”
Hesitantly, I do.
I wear a fitted bodice of pale gold silk. A layer of delicate lace flowers overlays it.
I pull the blanket covering my legs aside. The material drips down my body, all the way to my feet. I hadn’t noticed it earlier, but now that Jace has forced my eyes to take in my clothing, I realize how unusual my outfit is.
“Do you remember when you put that dress on?” he asks.
I run my fingers over the material. The honest truth is I’ve never seen this dress in my life.
“Do you?” Jace pushes.
I look up. All six of them are watching me with baited breath. They’re waiting for … something.
“No.” Without meaning to, I’ve fisted the soft material.
Jace rubs his hands together. “What is the last thing you remember?”
It’s a good question, one I hadn’t seriously pondered since I woke up here.
My eyes lose focus as I retrace my final memories. The king and I had been working together to stop his traitorous advisors.
I remember him saying he loved me.
The revelation hits me all over again. It never should’ve happened, but in my world, a world filled with bloodly, broken bodies, love had grown in the most desolate of places.
I force myself to move past this memory, to the next one. Waking up, the blood-speckled sheets. I worried that the king had seen the evidence of my sickness. I reassured myself that he hadn’t.
I searched for him, but I couldn’t find him. I was sent to a room on the east wing and told he’d be there. But he wasn’t.
It was a trap.
It was a trap.
I go cold all over.
The king had me cornered. I jumped three stories into the waiting arms of his guards.
And then …
“This isn’t forever,” the king says.
The last thing I see is the king’s face, and the last thing I hear is his voice. He leans over me, and I feel a hand stroke my face. “We’ll only be apart for a short while. Once we cure your sickness, you’ll be mine again.”
I choke on a wrathful cry. He betrayed me. Drugged me, forced me to endure the Sleeper until he could cure me of my cancer.
I’d imagined months, years maybe, but decades?
I feel my nostrils flare as a tear drips down my cheek.
Not just decades.
A century, if what these men say is true. Locked away so that he wouldn’t have to lose me.
It feels like someone has stacked stones on my chest. I can’t seem to catch my breath.
Monsters will be monsters. Why I thought mine was any different, I cannot say.
Perhaps because I am a foolish girl.
I can feel it, my anger, like a storm brewing on the horizon. Right now, my shock and pain are all I can focus on. But my fury is coming, and when it hits, no one is going to be adequately prepared for it.
My eyes return to the soldiers. They all wear looks of pity. They can keep their pity; I don’t want it.
I’m no longer skeptical.
“Exactly how long have I been gone I?” I ask Jace.
His eyes are sad when he says, “From our best estimates, one hundred and four years.”
I am 124 years old.
I stare at Jace, my nostrils flaring as I breathe through my nose.
One hundred and twenty-four years old.
My brain won’t process that. It can’t. No one lives that long.
The soldiers are quiet, and I hate that I have an audience. I’m so close to falling apart; I don’t want these strangers to see me when that happens.
I turn my hands over in my lap. My skin has retained the smoothness of youth. I run my fingers over my flesh.
Over a century old. I wonder where the years are hidden. They must’ve left some mark. All things leave marks.
All things, save for the king’s inventions. Those remove things—wounds, memories, … age.