The Queen of All That Lives (The Fallen World Book 3)(6)

By: Laura Thalassa

That’s good for me. It means that when I’m ready to act, I’ll have an extra several seconds to catch them off guard.

Now I just have to wait, and I hate laying here like an invalid. My legs are getting jittery. I haven’t walked in a hundred years. I need to feel the ground beneath my feet.

That’s not even my biggest concern, though. My anger has come calling. It causes me to focus on the soldiers’ guns and the knives a couple of them carry. It’ll be easy enough to divest them of their weapons. They haven’t locked me up, which was probably their biggest mistake. Once I make my move, I won’t give them the same concessions they’ve given me.

I squeeze my hands together and rein my rage in. Long ago the king taught me something important about strategy: often not acting when you want to is more effective than the alternative. I’ll wait for my opening, and then I’ll strike.

There are still things I want to know, questions I won’t dare ask these men.

What is the king like?

Does he have a new wife?


Is he still made of nightmares and lost dreams?

“How, exactly, did you want me to end this war?” I ask.

These men aren’t going to let me go. That much is obvious.

“The people love you. All you have to do is convince them to get behind us.”

These men think they can use me for their own selfish motives. They need me to win over people for them.

My earlier rage simmers.

“And I’m supposed to go along with this,” I say.

They’re not even asking for my permission.

You don’t ask a prisoner for permission.

“It’s what the people want,” Jace says.

Spoken like a true conqueror. People who want power convince themselves of the most implausible things. I don’t doubt the world wants an end to war, but I do doubt they see the First Free Men as the godsend Jace seems to think they are.

“And what happens when you and the West take over the world?” I ask.

“We intend to work together to rebuild it,” Jace answers.

Surprise, surprise, the First Free Men don’t want to abdicate the old rulers nearly so much as they want to become ones.

“And how do you intend to do that?” I ask. I work to control my voice.

“Serenity, I’m a soldier, not a politician,” Jace says.

And therein lies the problem.

“So you want to use me to help the First Free Men and the WUN achieve world domination, even though you and I don’t know what policies either will push once they take over?”

“They won’t abuse it the way—”

“Everyone abuses power,” I say.

I feel it again. That crushing weight on my chest. Greed and power, power and greed—they’re the most constant of companions. Once you get a taste of one, you must have the other.

“I’ll never do it.” I stare him in the eye as I speak. I have been used by everyone—the WUN, the king, the Resistance. And I’m so damn tired of it.

I won’t be anyone else’s puppet.

I’ve been so deeply immersed in the conversation that only now do I notice the muffled sounds of chopper blades and engines.

“Hold on boys, the king’s found us,” the driver shouts from the other side of the partition, the vehicle accelerating even as he speaks.

“You will do it,” Jace says. “Our leaders will make sure of that.”

I smile at him then. People keep making the mistake of thinking that I’m someone they can control.

Before I can respond, a series of bullets spray against the side of the car. The vehicle swerves violently, its rear end fishtailing.

I’m thrown from my bed into the lap of several soldiers. All around me I hear grunts and curses from the other men, none so loud as the driver’s. Even though the metal partition muffles his voice, we can still hear his words clearly.

“They’re coming in hot!” he shouts.

As if that’s not obvious.

I use the distraction to steal a gun from the soldier whose lap I’ve fallen into. He doesn’t have time to react as I unholster and aim it. Just as the car corrects itself, I press the barrel into his chest and fire.

The sound of the shot is deafening.

Now the men are scrambling, some trying to stop me, some still confused.

I lift my torso, swivel, and shoot three more men, all while bullets continue to graze the outside of the vehicle.

In seconds the van is filled with blood. Spraying, misting, dripping down limbs, pooling around dying men.

“What the fuck is happening back there!” the driver shouts at the same time Jace bellows, “Serenity!” I can hear the fury in the latter’s voice.

The car lurches again, and I’m thrown off the now wounded soldiers’ laps. My body rolls under the bed.

Two men left, plus the driver.

A moment later, the mobile hospital bed is thrown aside.

I bring my gun up. I don’t bother looking at Jace’s face. I fire off a shot that buries itself in his stomach. He stumbles back, his hand going to his wound.

“By order of the king, stop the car and come out with your hands raised.” The intercommed voice drifts in from somewhere outside.

The king found me, just as I assumed he would. Adrenaline floods my system. I didn’t enjoy killing these men, but I will enjoy killing him.