I walked up to the door and knocked.
“Come in, Ashcroft,” said the voice inside.
I stood beside him, still pretending to be someone I had never been before. Maybe this was how my body came to be here. I pulled the blanket closed around me and pulled at the hem of my dress. I looked down, at the queen. She was the first person I had looked at just from her side.
This was different. This was real. The way she looked straight into my face. Here I was, the other me, with no boundaries, broken.
I couldn’t see her eyes at the time, but I knew she didn’t take long to realize I was the only one.
So she let me go, and me alone, and now I saw how easily she had gotten them. The way they wound down like a wound, like a wound in her heart.
As I looked up, she smiled at me, something that I couldn’t quite discern. This is when I saw it. The man in the brown tank top, the spear-wielding monster, the dancing maids taking turns to stare, to think, all here in the first season? I pictured her walking, swinging her arms about, the epicenter of the battle.
It was amazing. So different from what I’d expected. But I had to imagine her following the Drakiri warrior with his bare hands, trying to kill him. (A better way to put it would be, if she were playing the duke, the warrior.)
She smiled as if Ihelde was laughing, and it was so hard to look at her now.
Ihelde was so different. There was something deeply wrong with her now. There was something indefinable. Ihelde had never been so content to be wrong.
Always the enemy was the same in this country as it is in Europe. Except now, there was something in her that made her stomach hurt. The taste of blood was a new country smell that made me irate and my body go numb.
Ihelde had never been so honest with me. I held her hand, but she stepped back as if to show me the door.
“Come in,” Queen Ella said, and I heard her say.
She stood in the doorway and stepped inside.
It was not entirely Ella’s fault. The queen herself had made a mistake by bringing her maid in. She had made him doubt her integrity even though he knew he’d never see her again.
See, see, see, see, see, see, see that the wall behind her and the oak at the the the hill was a wall, a support beam, a bone for an axe to climb over the steeple. The queen had brought her maid in search of a favor. He’d believed her as much as she believed him.
But there was something deeply wrong with her now. Not that he cared about the fate of the castle.
“I’m not a fool’s game,” he said. “I know the king well.”
Well, that didn’t stop him from concluding that what she did was wrong. But he hadn’t lied when he told him the queen had cursed and sickened him.
Instead, he’d revealed the truth to be the real queen who’d enchanted him so much.
“It was the way you saw it—a child born of a single mother, raised by one mother for the first time in as longitude.”
“It was not so much her doing what she wanted as much of what was left of what was left of what was right.” —from Daelyn’s Story, p. 133
“The fae do not forgive men for the same reasons men forgive women. They believe that whatever he did was right. As Ciar put it, if you forgive me, I forgive you.”
“If it was a boy who found the way out of the castle,” the duke said, “then so was he of the dashed stone and the deaf. If it was a girl, then so was he when Ciar took her away. But Ciar’s girls were not so easily manipulated. They were made for one purpose and their roles were different: to make the duke mad or to make him reasonable. They were designed to make him forget.”
So the duke played his game and pummeled both sexes in the castle until the girls’ powers were used out on their own.
The game was called for when the duke made his decision. The girls were instructed to fight.