King's Cage

King's Cage

Page 2

“Mare Barrow is a prisoner of the crown, and she will face the crown and council’s judgment. Her many crimes must be answered for.”

With what? I wonder.

The crowd roars in response, cheering his decree. They are Silvers, but “common,” not of noble descent. While they revel in Maven’s words, his court does not react. In fact, some of them turn gray, angry, stone-faced. None more so than House Merandus, their mourning garb slashed with the dark blue of the dead queen’s wretched colors. While Evangeline did not notice me, they fix on my face with startling intensity. Eyes of burning blue from every direction. I expect to hear their whispers in my head, a dozen voices burrowing like worms through a rotten apple. Instead, there is only silence. Perhaps the Arven officers flanking me are not just jailers, but protectors as well, smothering my ability as well as the abilities of anyone who would use them against me. Maven’s orders, I assume. No one else may hurt me here.

No one but him.

But everything hurts already. It hurts to stand, hurts to move, hurts to think. From the jet crash, from the sounder, from the crushing weight of the silencing guards. And those are only physical wounds. Bruises. Fractures. Pains that will heal if given the time. The same cannot be said of the rest. My brother is dead. I am a prisoner. And I don’t know what really happened to my friends however many days ago when I struck this devil’s bargain. Cal, Kilorn, Cameron, my brothers Bree and Tramy. We left them behind in the clearing, but they were wounded, immobilized, vulnerable. Maven could have sent any number of assassins back to finish what he started. I traded myself for them all, and I don’t even know if it worked.

Maven would tell me if I asked him. I can see it in his face. His eyes dart to mine after every vile sentence, punctuating every lie performed for his adoring subjects. To make sure I’m watching, paying attention, looking at him. Like the child he is.

I will not beg him. Not here. Not like this. I have pride enough for that.

“My mother and father died fighting these animals,” he rails on. “They gave their lives to keep this kingdom whole, to keep you safe.”

Defeated as I am, I can’t help but glare at Maven, meeting his fire with a hiss of my own. We both remember his father’s death. His murder. Queen Elara whispered her way into Cal’s brain, turning the king’s beloved heir into a deadly weapon. Maven and I watched as Cal was forced to become his father’s killer, cutting off the king’s head and any chance Cal had of ruling. I have seen many horrible things since then, and still the memory haunts me.

I don’t remember much of what happened to the queen outside the walls of Corros Prison. The state of her body afterward was testament enough to what unbridled lightning can do to human flesh. I know I killed her without question, without remorse, without regret. My ravaging storm fed by Shade’s sudden death. The last clear image I have of the Corros battle is of him falling, his heart pierced by Ptolemus’s needle of cold, unforgiving steel. Somehow Ptolemus escaped my blind rage, but the queen did not. At least the Colonel and I made sure the world knew what happened to her, displaying her corpse during our broadcast.

I wish Maven had some of her ability, so he could look into my head and see exactly what kind of ending I gave his mother. I want him to feel the pain of loss as terribly as I do.

His eyes are on me as he finishes his memorized speech, one hand outstretched to better display the chain binding me to him. Everything he does is methodical, performed for an image.

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