I want to break. To shatter. I could crumble, a million pieces scattered across the stone floor.
But there are eyes—so many eyes. Dozens of them, hundreds perhaps. They watch me. They watch their queen.
I’ve been under their eyes before. I’ve been studied, scrutinized. I know what they are looking for in this moment.
I can’t crumble.
Because right now I have to be queen of them all.
“Get out,” I say evenly as I stare at my husband’s blank face. My stomach turns. My jaw tightens.
I stand straight. I take one deep breath. I turn to face the masses.
“I want everyone, and I mean everyone save Alivia, Ian, and Eshan out of this castle. But if anyone tries to leave Roter Himmel, the punishment will be one hundred years tied up in the middle of the desert where the sun never sets.”
Eyes widen, breaths suck into lungs.
I see it, they doubt me. If I really am the Queen. If I mean what I say.
If I were Cyrus, I’d probably kill someone. Drag them out into the sunlight outside, watch them scream, watch them cry in agony. I would probably tear someone’s skin off, inch by inch, while everyone watched, to show them how deadly serious I am.
But I am not Cyrus.
I am Sevan.
“Do you all understand me?” I ask quietly.
No one speaks. They only watch me with wary eyes.
“Do you understand your Queen?” I bellow.
Some take a step back. Eyes widen. Others narrow at me.
“Do you understand if you leave our city you will regret it for the next 36,500 days?” I threaten with an angry tremor in my voice. “Do you understand if anyone tries to travel on silent and dark feet, I willknow?”
While the majority nod their heads solemnly—most know better than to defy me, others doubt.
I make a mental note of each of them.
Of their own accord, my eyes drift, studying each of those that surround me. The shock of Eshan. The horror of Alivia. And the bitter anger of Ian.
My eyes shift from him to those who look at me with doubt. And I look back to Ian.
He looks over at them as well, and I know he gets my silent communication: take note of the doubters.
We may not like one another, maybe we never will, but I know in this, we speak the same language when it comes to being distrustful and suspicious of others and their motives.
Looking back at those who weren’t smart enough to take me seriously, I know that some will die.
And I don’t care.
Emotion wells in my eyes. Tears threaten to slip down my face.
But I hold them in.
I’ll burn every one of them to the ground if it means avenging Cyrus.
“Leave,” I let the word quietly slip over my lips.