“Of course,” I said, “you could deny me the boon I rightfully earned in blood and fire and kill me instead, thus ensuring that Summer would renege on a debt and never be able to make good on it. But I don’t think that would be very good for Summer and its honor. Do you?” “Indeed not, wizard,” the gruff said. “Indeed it would not be.” He bowed his head to me. “Likest thou jelly within thy doughnut?” “Nay, but prithee, with sprinkles ’pon it instead,” I said solemnly, “and frosting of white.” “It could take some time to locate such a pastry,” the gruff said seriously. I bowed my head to him. “I trust in the honor of Summer’s champions that it will arrive in good time.”
“Stop this insanity at once!” A loud voice commanded. Without wanting to, Alade paused. The empress was rushing up the stairs, two guards behind her. Her sword was out, and she was scowling. “All of you leave this corridor immediately!” All of the spectators dispersed. When they were gone, the empress turned to one of her guards. “Your cloak.”
Alade’s vision grew weak, until darkness fell around her. It was coming at last. She was about to join the Ancient Ones. As far as deaths went, this was not bad. She was dying a warrior. Of course, since there was no one to give her the proper rites, she might haunt this land forever. Maybe she would find Rainbow and Dymytry, and take revenge on the shifters protecting the prison.
“The world sees us as a nation of peaceful peasants, satisfied, as long as we have blood. But there are those of us who remember. There are those among us who speak the original words of the revolution, before they were changed by those who seek to rewrite our history. And as long as we remember, we shall fight until we are truly free. The first war ended in Nightling death and Fireling fire. The next shall end in true justice, like the scholars of old theorised.” A chill went down Alade’s spine at those words.
Alade turned back to the animals in front of them. After a pause, a lion leapt, heading straight for Alade. Without thinking, she swung her sword, hacking off a leg. The lion hit the ground, snarling. Before Alade’s stupefied eyes, the leg disappeared, and was replaced by another leg.
Ignoring the sarcasm, Atiena turned to leave. “You have fourteen days. Don’t worry, your son will be safe.” I am not worried.” Atiena paused on her way out. “Then you should be. My queen and I do not suffer failures, nor do we reward mediocrity.”
Alade ran, until she was out of the tree’s striking range. A shadow fell across her, and she dodged another tree behind her. Looking around, Alade saw the forest had come alive. Trees moved, trying to strike her companions. Flowers shot up from the ground, lilies, roses, and all kind of flowers that might have decorated a noble house in Edenryk. None of the flowers in Edenryk however, had long thorns on top, each thorn glistening with a dark and dripping liquid.
“And the real story is?” The Sapiyan shrugged. “That is the real story, Lady Commander. I told you, myth.” Alade stepped forward. “My empress believes there is validity to the myth. It might not be true, but do you have reason to believe there is some truth hidden in the myth?” The old man bowed his greyed head. “Truth, child? What is the truth, but another’s lie? There is truth behind every nonsense ever spoken. There is truth in your worship of the ancestors. There is truth in my belief in the Oneness. Even in the earth worshipped by the Hemites, and the Seven Moons the Vampiers embrace.”
I was going to blow my horn of indignation at calling King Brandon “Bran the broken,” instead of Bran The Wise, Bran The All Knowing … Even Bran the Creepy Gazer for that matter. But you know what? There are very few Fantasy shows where a disabled person comes out on top. There are even fewer shows and books where the disability is not cured by magic, or even worse, the character was pretending to be disabled for some convoluted reason. As a result, I’m going to toss Benioff and Weiss this bone.
“Would you approve?” I ask her. “Would you approve of what we do … Of what I let her do?” Only diamonds stare back unknowingly at me without answers. So much for my people’s religion, centred on Ancestral Worship.