The Queen of All That Lives (The Fallen World Book 3)(9)By: Laura Thalassa
Perhaps that’s why he didn’t show up today.
Because it if there is one person I do want to see, it’s Montes.
I was right.
The king’s world is all so eerily familiar.
The palace is just as abominably beautiful as his palaces have always been. Just as big, just as grand, just as oppressive. I stare up at it as the armored car I ride in comes to a stop. Exotic, flowering vines grow up the sides of its walls. Beyond the walls, the ocean stretches on and on.
Just as before, no one waits for us.
I slide out of the vehicle before anyone can try to help me out.
My entourage of guards fans out around me.
I can’t look away from those tall walls.
“The king’s inside?” I ask.
“He is,” one of the men says. “He’s ordered us to take you to your chambers, where you’re to shower and dress.”
I feel my upper lip curl. Of course he would want me to wash away all my sins like they never happened.
I follow the soldiers up the marble steps. Before I can cross the threshold, one of the men guarding the door clears his throat. “Your Majesty, your gun.”
The cold metal rests between my breasts. “What about it?” I ask.
“You can’t bring it inside.”
“Says who?” I ask.
“It’s the king’s policy.”
Reluctantly, I reach down my bodice and hand the gun over. I stole that one; I can always steal another.
Walking into the king’s palaces always felt like entering someone else’s dream. But now, more than ever, it feels surreal as I pass the colossal columns that line the great entryway. I’m in a time and a place that I don’t belong. There is a bone deep wrongness to the situation, and I can do nothing about it.
So I settle for getting perverse pleasure dragging my bloodied skirts and dirty feet across the king’s pristine floors.
As we wind our way through the halls of this place, I keep my muscles tense. The guards may have promised to keep me safe from the Sleeper, but their allegiance ultimately belongs to the king.
Our footsteps echo through the lonely, abandoned halls. When I was newly married to the king, his corridors bustled with politicians and aides, servants and guards. Now they’re eerily empty, the artwork that lines them covered with drop cloths.
Has my terrible king grown eccentric in his old age?
The few posted guards I pass stand stoically. If they’re shocked by my presence, they show no sign of it.
Eventually my retinue stops in front of a set of double doors.
“Your chambers, Your Majesty,” one of the soldiers says. “Make yourself comfortable. We’ll be right outside.”
I nod to them and enter the room.
I could still be an emissary and this my suite for all the similarities I see.
My eyes move over a large, gilded mirror, a canopy bed, and elaborately carved table and chairs to match.
I run a hand over and intricately carved piece of furniture. This is too similar to the time I left. It’s destabilizing. Confusing.
On the far side of the room, two French doors lead out to a balcony. They have already been thrown open, and a sea breeze rushes over me. I’m sure that if I walked out there right now, I’d see the ocean in all its glory.
Instead I pace.
I’m right back to where I started, here where the tragedies of the world can never touch me. Everything about this place mocks my existence.
He should’ve just left me to die.
I press my palms to my eyes.
I don’t want any of this.
And then there’s what I do want. Answers, revenge, repentance.
I have a sick feeling I won’t get any of them.
She’s here, in the palace. Awake.
Even if I didn’t hear the cars pull up or receive updates from my soldiers, I would know it.
Every square inch my skin is buzzing in a way it hasn’t done for decades. Not since those beautiful eyes of hers closed a hundred years ago. I’m mortified to admit that I’ve long since forgotten their exact color.
I can’t escape her face. It’s everywhere—printed onto posters, mounted on billboards, tagged across the sides of walls—but I can escape all those details about Serenity that used to haunt me. I’ve avoided the footage of her I’d once so liberally dispersed.
Up until now, my feelings for her had moved from a fresh wound, to an old one, to a dull ache, to a fond memory. A perfect memory.
That all ends today.
From the reports coming in, my men say they found her covered in blood. That the vehicle she was pulled from was full of dead men.
I put a fist to my mouth.
My wife’s awake.
Awake and on a warpath.
And I’m her target.
Once I’m in the shower, I begin to assess myself.
Other than a few absent freckles, my skin looks the same. And from the brief glimpse I caught of myself in the mirror, I still retain the scar on my face, as well as the thin white ones that crisscross my knuckles.
I might be heartsick, but physically, I feel great. If I’m still riddled with cancer, then my health will change soon enough. For now, I count my blessings. I have few enough of them.
It’s only once I leave the shower that I encounter disappointment.
I frown at the lone gown and heels that sit inside the closet. It’s the furthest thing to combat gear I can imagine. The lacy lingerie that accompanies them is little better.