“Let this be a secret between us, we don’t even know for certain so let’s be sure before we spread the word, Elena and Luna… I mean this, you two can’t spill this to anyone not even Erin. We have a lot on our plate, If Luna is right and I am pregnant; That means we need to get the war with Varcasas over and done with before I start showing, I can’t have the soldiers doubting my ability to lead in this war simply because I am pregnant. I won’t be careless…” I warn them.
“What happens after two months and it is confirmed?” Paula asks.
“We will cross that bridge when we get to it.” I say to them.
“You know that means we have to hasten our plans now, they are as religious as the Rabians, they would have their seer and even worse a priest or priestess, they probably moved because they were told by their priest to move, they would have never taken a step without their approval.” Luna remarks.
“What do you mean?” Elena asks.
“I am saying that we need to be careful, that’s it… if your enemies find out your condition… They will come in their numbers and Roelum has never been so weak especially with the division in the royal court. I am saying we have to strike while the iron is hot.” Luna continues.
“She is right… How are our spies?” I ask Paula.
“I will meet with them tonight; we should have a bearing by the morning.” She replies.
“Luna, you will come with me to see Tiana, for some reason she likes you. Elena; I don’t understand why you are still here but I will give you a chance, you can leave here and go wherever you want to go. If you choose to stay, you can’t betray me or anyone else, if you do… I will kill you.” I promise Elena.
“What will be your choice?” Paula asks her.
“You people really hold grudges… I won’t betray you. This is my choice; do I have to swear an oath?” Elena grumbles.
“That won’t be needed… Go with Paula, she’ll tell you what to do.” I order.
“Why? Can’t I work with Ladda instead? Paula drives me crazy.” She negotiates.
“This is not the market…” I growl and leave her to Paula.
We move into Tiana’s chambers… she is locked in a room for her safety, I go In and she glares at me.
“Don’t look at me like that, how did you think this was going to end?” I sigh out loud while Luna sits beside her.
“You didn’t have to kill him.” She counters.
“Really? The man who poisoned your father- the King, tried to take over the throne, turned half of the King’s loyalists into his lap dog…. Be honest with me Tiana, how did you think that if I had let him leave, he would be satisfied? Banishment would not work on someone like him, you know I am right. I understand that you are full of grief but you know more than anyone else who your husband was and that was why you were willing to pull that stunt. You know exactly where you hit if you really wanted to die, can we stop the games? I am not interested in being your enemy Tiana… so please! Let’s really talk. No pretenses, no lies!!! What exactly are you doing?” I confront her and Luna looks at me confused.
“What do you mean?” Tiana asks with teary eyes.
“Are you still pretending? Come off it! You let us in, you knew what May was up to, you literally set the ball rolling, you knew the only way was to kill him but you could not bring yourself to do it and that was why I did it for you so you have someone to blame. I don’t know how your marriage must have been but I know you two loved each other, I know you don’t want to look at me but can you at least admit that there was no other way?” I look into her eyes.
“So now you are saying… You killed him for me?” She questions.
“Yes… That is exactly what I am saying, I am not your mother so you can stop trying to emotionally blackmail me and stop with the tears, you are not exactly the crying type.” I roll my eyes at her.
She sighs and wipes the tears from her face.
“It must have been hell for you to be born that smart, always calculating and anticipating everyone’s step, I had always wondered if you were human. You are right, I loved May, you are also right, I wanted him dead but you are wrong about one thing, I really wanted to die with him. It was a moment of weakness; how could I face my children knowing that I killed their father? I needed someone to take the fall, I can’t have my children hating me but they would have no problem hating you. Don’t undermine my grief Salem, what would you do if your Prince Erin became a choice between you and Roelum, you understand more than anyone else the meaning of loyalty, would you have let Erin destroy the Kingdom just because he wanted power?” She stares at me lost.
“I honestly don’t know what I might have done in your shoes. I understand you; I know that your heart must have been broken but I also know you Tiana, beneath the mask of Elegance and Propriety… You are a cunning woman. You knew about May poisoning Father, yet you didn’t warn him, you also knew about May’s plans, you watched him turn his men against him and you did nothing, the only reason you are acting now is because you did not see the Varcasas coming, and you are aware of your weaknesses, you want to be Queen but you don’t want to be Queen of nothing. May probably thought he was playing you… The gentle and kind Tiana, but you were pulling his strings all along until he decided to play with the Varcasas, you want to use me to fight them and when I am weak from the battles, you’ll probably try to get rid of me. Then no one will be able to stop you from taking what you truly want. The throne.” I grin at her while she watches me.
“How did you come to that conclusion?” She smirks at me.
“Like you said, I am always watching and anticipating. Me coming to Roelum might have been a coincidence, you were going to get me here one way or another. I almost fell for it until your stunt in the throne room when you tried to kill yourself, if you wanted to die… There is nothing that would have stopped you and the tears and wailing is completely inconsistent with your character, you need people to think that you are gentle, mild and kind as you have shown your entire life. It must have been really exhausting.” I relax on the chair.
“Don’t you think you are projecting? I mean that would make me a calculative, manipulative and selfish person, when you think of people this way… do you ever think that you might be wrong?” She raises her brow.
“I always leave that option open; I might overthink things but I don’t see you denying it… You are very calm for someone who might have been falsely accused, you look impressed with me instead.” I shake my head.
“I have never been able to fool you, even when I tried being kind when every other person was mean to you… You never let your guard down. It must have been exhausting living like you, even more exhausting than me pretending to be someone I am not. I believe that I am kind and gentle… Maybe not mild. May was an idiot to think the Varcasas would keep their word, I am not an idiot. What do you plan on doing to me?” Tiana arranges her hair.
“A truce.” I say to her.
“A truce?” She asks me.
“Truce?” Luna widens her eyes.
“We can’t fight internally; we need a united front. Most of the men in the court and our warriors can’t focus because of the betrayal and drama that has been going on, I need their head straight, I don’t exactly appeal to empathy since people tend to associate fear with me, fear won’t raise their morale but a kind and just princess who was willing to risk her life for the sake of justice might send the right message.” I offer.
“What do I get in return?” She asks me.
“I thought leaving you alive was a blessing on its own.” I counter.
“Spare me the threats, you can’t kill me. I want the throne.” She smiles at me.
“I can’t give you that, Father is still alive for one and this is a mutual interest. Like you said, you need a kingdom to become Queen, there will be no kingdom if the men can’t put themselves together, Let’s face this one after the other. When the war is over, then we can battle it out for the throne.” I shrug.
“You want the throne?” She asks, surprised.
“No, I don’t want it but I don’t think you are suitable to lead.” I reply.
“Why?” She asks confused.
“You are too sheltered, you are too selfish to make a good queen, you won’t even visit the market because you think it stinks. Being a Queen is more than just the crown, it’s a responsibility that I don’t think you can carry. Our father tried the best way he could but look at him, he still gets screwed over, you are smart but you are not ruthless enough, you’ll give up so why bother starting, try looking beyond the glamour Tiana,” I answer, before she can retort… A guard runs into the room alarmed and alert.
“What is it?” I ask.
“We are under attack.” Paula says as she walks into the room.