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War Storm

War Storm

Page 44

The Red woman with black hair tips her hand, calling for attention. She looks past me, to Farley still in her seat. “Do you agree, General?” she asks, and then points to Tiberias. “Will this Silver king be better than the one already on the throne?”

Farley scoffs, all but rolling her eyes. “Ma’am, I care very little for Tiberias Calore,” she replies. I can’t help but wince, hissing out a breath. Farley.

But she isn’t finished. “So you can believe me when I say he will be.”

The representative bobs her head, satisfied with such an answer. She isn’t the only one. Many of the politicians around the room, both Red and Silver, exchange whispers. “Well, Your Majesty?” the woman adds, turning her attention on Tiberias.

He shifts in his chair. On his right, Anabel touches his arm with fleeting fingers. I have enough experience with Silver mothers to know that Queen Anabel would be considered overly maternal, too gentle, too loving with her kin.

I sit as he gets up, stepping onto the floor. Davidson acquiesces, finally taking his own chair to let Tiberias stand alone. He cuts a magnificent sight against the white marble and granite, and the swirling green dome over our heads. The red of his cape seems a livid flame, a swath of fresh blood.

Tiberias raises his chin. “I’ve spent almost a year in exile, betrayed by my brother. But I was betrayed by my . . .” He pauses, chewing the words. “My father as well. He raised me to be a king like every king before. Unyielding, unchanging. Bound to the past. Locked into endless war, married to tradition.” For the first time, Evangeline flinches, her clawed nails curling on the arms of her seat.

The true king pushes on. “The truth is Norta was split in two long before my father was murdered. Silver overlords, with Reds below. I knew it to be wrong, as we all know, in the deepest places of ourselves. But there are limits to the power of kings. I thought changing the bedrock of a country, rearranging the ills of our society, was one of them. I thought the current balance, however unfair, was better than the risk of tipping the kingdom into chaos.” His voice hums with determination. “And I was wrong. So many people taught me that.

“You were one of them, Premier,” he says, glancing back at Davidson. “And so are all of you. Your country, strange as it seems to us, is proof that new lines can be drawn. A different kind of balance can be maintained. As king of Norta, I intend to see what I couldn’t before. And to do everything I can to bridge the canyons between Red and Silver. Heal the wounds. Change what must be changed.”

I’ve heard him speak eloquently before. He did it in Corvium, saying much the same thing. He swore to change the world with us. To erase the divide between Red and Silver. It stirred pride in me then, but not now. I know what his words mean and exactly how far his promises extend. Especially with the crown in the balance.

Even so, I gasp to myself when he sinks, dropping to a knee at the center of the floor. His cape pools around him, vibrant and bloody against the marble.

Murmurs rise as he bows his head.

“I don’t ask for anyone to fight for me, but alongside me,” he says slowly.

The black-haired woman is first to speak, her head tipped to one side. “We already know you’re not the kind to send another in your stead, Your Majesty,” she replies. “That was made clear last night. My daughter, Captain Viya, fought with you on the Hawkway.”

Still kneeling, Tiberias says nothing. He only nods, a muscle jumping his cheek.

On the opposite side of the chamber, Radis gestures to Davidson, flicking out one hand. As he does so, a sudden breeze rustles through the Gallery. He is a windweaver, I realize. “Put it to a vote, Premier,” the Silver says.

In his seat, Davidson dips his chin. He stares out, searching the many assembled politicians. I wonder what he reads in their faces. After a long moment, he exhales. “Very well, Representative Radis.”

“I vote yes,” Radis says quickly, firmly, and sits.

On the floor, Tiberias blinks quickly, trying to mask his surprise. I feel the same.

It only grows with every resounding yes, spoken from dozens of lips. I count under my breath. Thirty. Thirty-five. Forty.

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