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45: Consequences

Dean, 1182

I beckoned over one of my soldiers. We lifted Renn’s limp form, as softly as we could, and leaned her against the Queen’s throne. Her eyes were closed, her face smudged with ash and dust, all mixed into her war paint. I did my best to wipe the remainder of her face paint off, but all I accomplished was to smear it across her cheeks. The clay paint had baked some and was too stubborn for me to remove by hand. The red and blue mixed in the middle where I’d rubbed, creating a ghastly purple that coated her nose.

I gently placed her hands on her lap and stood. I gazed around the room with a façade of calm, watching everyone watch me. Now was the time to regain my birthright. With purpose, confidently and slowly, I stepped up to the King’s throne that had once been my father’s. I ran my fingers across the armrest, taking in every sensation, hoping that tethering myself to the moment would make me forget what got me here.

Deliberately, I sat in the tall, steel throne. It was uncomfortable, cold, stiff, unforgiving. I looked everywhere except for the floor where my best friend lay dead, leaning motionless against the symbol of oppression we worked so hard to topple. I thought that once I sat here, I would be happy. I thought it would bring me peace, closure, contentment. But I felt nothing. This throne.... It meant nothing. I had always pictured her standing at my side for this, not slumped on the floor, lifeless... I swallowed a sob. Now was not the time to show weakness. This throne was poison, toxic death. I wanted nothing more than to set it afire to match the gardens outside. I closed my eyes, calming myself. For her, I would succeed. For her, I would make sure that her death was not in vain. After a tense pause, I spoke.

“Victory, my friends. May we use this opportunity to usher in a new age of peace for the Ryne.” My eyes flit to Larke, also collapsed on the floor. “The Ryne is now returned to a country upon itself, courtesy of your true King, Dayne Cerul.”

I bowed my head, accepting the responsibility I had assigned myself, the one that was mine by birthright, the one I fought tooth and nail for.

“I present an offer to those still loyal to the Usurper,” I said, glancing at his limp body crumpled below. “If they wish to immigrate to Thiol, I shall allow it. Otherwise, if they wish to stay, they must serve in my army. Those who will remain and oppose me shall die.”

My soldiers nodded and sent a few off to deliver the message.

“Bring forth Princess Nya,” I commanded.

The soldiers who had captured her had moderately sedated her; she appeared conscious, but not fully. They roughly pushed her ahead of them, though she could barely stand. I doubted she would be able to hear me; I would have to speak with her later when she was fully conscious.

“Princess, I sentence you to imprisonment in the dungeons. Secure her and take her away.” I flitted my hands, as if to rid myself of her presence, and my soldiers complied.

After she was removed, I spared another sideways glimpse for the unconscious Larke who lay, sprawled out, on the palace floor near my feet. Her hair, braided as always, had come frayed out of the braid, making her face look fuzzy with the small strands that framed it. She was wearing the typical armor of a Suryan Mage, with a metal rank pressed into her leather shoulder plates. It shone in the light of the throne room. I didn’t know what to do with her.

“Soldiers,” I commanded, asking for their attention once more, “detain Larke Fields in the dungeons as well.”

They quickly complied, eager to please their new king, and roughly hauled her into their arms. It took two to lift her – she was much heavier than she looked, all muscle and rather tall. Her long frame bent awkwardly between the two, as one soldier struggled to lift her so that they could drag her, upright, between the two of them. I couldn’t bear to watch anymore, but I heard her boots scrape against the cold marble as they led her to the cells.

I had other things to attend to now.

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