I waited for his footsteps to near the doors, but nothing happened.
Then, quiet and urgent, he grabbed the back of my head and pressed his lips to my temple. “If you think I’ll give in, then you never really knew me at all.”
When I could no longer sense him, I hurried to the doors, locked them, and slid to the cold ground.
Darkness and silence were two things I’d learned to make friends with many years ago.
So it was to no one’s surprise when I scarcely left my rooms for days at a time, choosing to sit at the window or lay in my bathing tub for hours.
Mintale supplied me with any urgent documents to sign, minor problems to solve, and approvals that needed granting. Truin remained at home. And Raiden… last I’d heard, he was inserting himself in the city at local taverns, the theater, and darkness knows where else, with his guards.
“To get people used to his presence,” Mintale had explained when I’d asked why.
I’d wanted to snap that he had his half of the continent, and I had mine, and there was no need for anyone to get comfortable with anything.
But that wasn’t true.
We had made an alliance, and he was doing his part to make that clear. Which was far more than I could say for myself.
Mintale entered, studying the dark room as he did. “Majesty,” he said, bowing.
I blinked, a slow sweep of my heavy lashes, and yawned.
“The king has made plans.”
Shifting away from the cold window, my feet hit the even colder floor, the skirts of my dress swaying around my ankles. “What plans?”
His lips flattened in that way they did when he knew he was about to piss me off. “A ball. For any and all residents of Rosinthe to attend. On the next full moon.”
I felt my brows scrunch, and then I laughed. “I am in no mood for jokes.”
Mintale nodded. “I’m afraid it’s, ah, no joke, your majesty. King Raiden is preparing to make the formal announcement as we speak. He merely awaits your approval.”
My lips smacked closed, and I turned back to the window, snow flurries dancing on the other side.
He was insane. To invite the entire continent, not that everyone would show… “There won’t be enough room.” Castle or not, we’d have people spilling into every hall, every available room, every garden, the courtyards, and the city streets beyond.
“He has said that when the castle has reached close to full capacity, we could stop allowing people entry until other guests leave.”
Of course. For every question, he’d forever find an answer.
Looking back at my advisor, I asked, “And what do you think of this ludicrous idea?”
Mintale’s cheeks billowed as he scratched at his hairy jaw. “I think it’s dangerous, but I can see the merit in taking the risk. He wants it to be known, far and wide, that there is peace and unity, and that any acts of treason taken against the crown are now an act of treason against the entire continent.”
“And by merit you mean we hope to show the people of this perilous land that I am, in fact, not a monster, not my father, and that we see them as equals?”
Mintale’s brows sank to meet his eyes. “Well, equals is perhaps putting a bit of a gold spin on it.”
“To have commoners,” I said, standing now, “humans and darkness knows what other creatures, enter royal ground is not only taking an asinine risk but it also shows them where they can hurt us most, should anyone else be planning to.”
“And this is why you are queen, my lady,” Mintale said with a hint of a smile. “I will pass this information on and tell him it is out of the question.” He dipped and hustled to the doors, and I stared at the space where he’d been standing, wondering what the hell Raiden was thinking.
A unified front.
A front indeed.
“Mintale,” I called.
He turned back, waiting in the doorway.
It almost hurt to say it, the words burning as they rode along my next breath. “Tell our king he can have his ball.” With something tapping within my chest, faster and faster as the thought grew wings, I said, “Be sure the lord of the east is in attendance, as well as the king’s favored lover, Eline.”
Clearing his throat, Mintale murmured, “Of course, my queen.”
“Oh, one more thing.” Traipsing to the bed, I folded onto it as Mintale waited, his head tilted. “It will be masquerade, or there shall be no ball at all.”
With a confused smile, he dipped once more, then scuttled from the room.
The latch of the meeting doors echoed through my silent sanctuary.
Snatching the dagger from my nightstand, I dragged its roughly hewn side over my jagged nails. “If the scheming king wants a ball, then a ball he shall have.”