I have heard about a clean up but never had to witness one, Salem and her men searched for traitors to the crown from every high class to the low, from torture to negotiation and some death, every or at least most people who went against the royal family were brought to their knees. There is a fear, respect and peace in the atmosphere, Princess Christiana has been in her room quiet now after raining insults and curses on Salem which she seems unbothered by. Salem brings back Queen Lare who is solemn and unlike what I had heard about her. Salem doesn’t show it but she is tired by everything. I massage her temple as she leans into me.
“Do you think I am being too harsh?” She asks.
“No, it is necessary, you aren’t killing the family of the accused, and I think your punishments are fair enough.” I kiss her neck.
“I am surprised by my father, I thought he’d take back his decree when he recovers his sanity.” She turns and hugs me.
I hold her tight, “He understands what he has done, he knows this is the only way to restore balance especially with war at your door steps.”
“It is impossible to motivate the soldiers if there is an inner rivalry and conflict, you need to be able to trust the man next to you; if not, all this is pointless.” She murmurs.
“I know that, your men know that. The demon general has the respect of the nation, if you are worried that your identity being revealed would make them fear you less, then you remind them of who you are.” I play with her hair.
“A monster?” She asks solemnly.
I make her look at me with my hand on her chin. “You are not a monster Salem; you never have been and you never will be.”
She chuckles. “I have no problem with being labeled as one, I wear the mask well. You know how Akka has nightmares that reminds him of his kills, and how Ladda drinks himself nearly to death… you have stayed with them, you have noticed their coping mechanisms.”
I nod and hold her tighter.
“I have none of that.” She says and hides her head on my chest.
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t have a coping mechanism, I don’t think much about my kills, I eat well and I live okay. Apart from the scars, I don’t feel anything… Maybe it’s because I have been doing this for too long.” She sighs.
I am quiet for some seconds.
“That’s good, we have one thing less to worry about. Don’t overthink it, it’s probably because you haven’t killed anyone you think is innocent.” I pat her back.
“I like fighting, I like my blades, I like Paula” We chuckle at that.
“The Queen wants to speak with you.” A maid announces through the door.
She sighs, “Finally, she wants to talk. It’s better to get this over with.”
“Do you need me to come with you?” I ask.
“I like you shirtless on the bed but she would probably need to speak to both of us.” She grins at me as she stands up begrudgingly.
“No rest for the wicked.” I tease.
“So, I hear, dear Prince.” She laughs.
We make it to the main Palace; we pay our greetings and sit while Queen Lare scrutinizes us.
“Is it just a coincidence that you happen to be here at the right time?” she asks suspiciously.
“Are you asking in gratitude or do you mean something entirely different?” Salem raises her brow.
“Answer the question Salem.” She glares.
“A coincidence.” Salem smiles lightly.
“I should have known that your father was under the influence of something, he would not just throw me out like that, I was blinded by rage to see it.” She laughs without humor.
“Doesn’t the Prince of Rale have better things to do that follow his wife up and down the world?” she smirks at me.
“The prince of Rale doesn’t actually.” I grin and she frowns at me.
“He is quite shameless, you deserve each other.” She shakes her head.
“Your father might have made you the crown princess but that doesn’t mean it is set in stone, he is unwell at the moment, he will come back stronger and better.” She warns Salem.
Salem looks at her wistfully, “You are a smart woman, who do you think among your children and members of the royal family is best suited for the seat?”
Queen Lare freezes and stares at Salem quietly.
“That is what I thought, you know better than anyone that I have no interest in being Queen, I care about Roelum, I might have been married into Rale but that doesn’t diminish my person as a General of Roelum. A war is coming, the throne needs to be united, you aren’t accusing me of killing May because you know deep down that he deserved it and much worse. Don’t you think it is time we put aside our petty differences and make this nation work?” Salem asks with a straight face.
“Half of the members of the court are either dead or banished, thanks to you. How do we fill those empty seats? We are at our most vulnerable and the Varcasas know that. Even with you and the army, there is very little chance that we will survive.” Queen Lare says with a defeated smile.
“We fill up the seats with qualified people, this time there will be no class division. The common people can have the opportunity to raise their status, you’d be surprised at how many gifted individuals exist under the sun.” Salem suggests.
“That has never happened in Roelum.” Queen Lare barks.
“It is time for a change, we need to change our tactics or we will be fighting a losing war.” Salem counters.
“Is this a suggestion or a command?” Queen Lare asks.
“I need your blessings to go through with it, we are the only members of the family standing. Christiana is grieving, Ladia and Salma are too sheltered to understand what this means. We need to be united, what is the point of a Kingdom if all is lost?” Salem asks quietly.
“Are you blaming me for not having a male child?” Queen Lare’s eyes go red with anger.
“W..what?! How did you figure that out from what I just said? What does it matter if you have a male or female child?” Salem goes speechless.
“You criticize my parenting skills then.” Queen Lare responds.
“Are you just looking for a fight?” Salem asks confusedly.
Queen Lare breaks down and starts crying, Salem shifts uncomfortably and I look elsewhere.
“Usually when a woman cries, you are supposed to hold her.” Queen Lare sobs talking to Salem.
“We are not that close; it’ll be too awkward for me.” Salem murmurs.
“Do you have a list?” Queen Lare composes herself again.
“My men are making the rounds; they will be able to come up with a list by the end of the day.” Salem replies.
“You have my blessings; you might make terrible fashion choices but I have to admit that you know better than anyone else when it comes to war and ruling a kingdom.” Queen Lare sighs.
“It’s alright, looking at how easily the family crumbled, it is easy to see that we were careless and irresponsible. I will go comfort Tiana. Make whatever decisions you think is best but you have to remember, you cannot be a princess of Rale and a reagent of Roelum all at the same time. You have to make a choice.” Queen Lare looks at me and Salem.
“We all have sacrifices to make, it looks like you are at a crossroad Salem, if I was in a better mood, I would have found the humor in this.” She chuckles and leaves the room.
Salem turns to look at me.
“What are we going to do?”