My thighs clamped together. I knew what he was doing, so I tore my eyes away. “It is what it is, Lord. You don’t like it? Leave. I’d rather not vow ever again anyway.”
A caress and a threat, he crooned, “You think me so easily cast aside?”
I speared him with a raised brow and low words. “My word is my word. I will abide by it if you abide by what I’ve said.” I leaned forward, my elbows hitting the table. “Touch him and I’ll end you.”
He didn’t so much as blink, but he couldn’t hide the instant clenching of his jaw.
I let the words hang there, then straightened and finished my toast as Mintale arrived, sputtering about court beginning at noon.
I tossed my napkin down. “It cannot be that time of the month already.”
“That’s what most females say,” Zad muttered into his cup.
Mintale muffled his laughter behind his hair-flecked hand.
“Any word from Berron?” He along with some of our top guards were doing their best to keep control of the Sun Kingdom. The law wouldn’t hold much longer. Not with the resistance growing. I needed to devise a better way to keep order, but every idea, short of setting fire to their entire kingdom, seemed futile.
“Not yet. But I did check on the, uh, on your, ah…” At my scowl, he got to the point. “Raiden, seeing as it’s been some time since you’ve been down there.”
Of course, he had. “He doesn’t need food when he’s doomed anyway.”
Mintale shifted on his feet, eyes downcast on the cup of tea he lifted to his lips.
“And it’s only been a few days. I’m sure he’s fine.”
“He was hallucinating,” Mintale said, lowering his tea with a tightness to his forehead that indicated he was concerned.
My hand curled, and what remained of my coffee soon decorated the floor and the broken porcelain beside my chair. “What?”
Cheeks wobbling, Mintale nodded. “He was mumbling incoherent things, which alerted the guards, who then alerted me.”
“How long was he hallucinating for?”
Zad’s eyes were stalking, unwilling to move from me.
Mintale’s lips flattened. “They said most of the night. They thought he was playing another game, testing another way to appeal to someone’s softer side—another attempt at freedom.”
My hand met my forehead, rubbing. “So he was hallucinating—for hours—and no one thought to inform me until now?”
Zad’s magic stirred, his discomfort and ire practically bleeding into the room to mingle with my own.
“Well, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t think you’d care, my queen.”
After gaping at him for untold seconds, I closed my eyes, reciting all the reasons, aside from being a fixture in our lineage for most of my father’s life, Mintale was important to me. The most important being his unbreakable loyalty.
“Mintale, do not keep anything from me again. Not one single thing.” My voice was gentle, a feathered wind over his face. Though he’d be stupid not to take it for the warning it was. “Now go fetch Truin to find out why this could be happening.”
Mintale paled, dropping his cup and saucer to the table before bowing. “Of course.”
Zadicus watched him leave, his thumb brushing over his bottom lip. “Interesting.”
“I don’t know what to believe.” I feared heading down there, wondering if it was indeed a hoax.
Zad turned to me, leaning forward with an elbow planted on the table. “The spellcaster said she cannot undo the suppressing.”
I swallowed more water, then grabbed an apple to take with me to my rooms. “No, but it is just that. A suppressing.” I stood and tossed my hair over my shoulder. “I have faith that he will remember what he’s done to me and to this continent before his lights go out once and for all.”
I took a crunching bite from the glossy red fruit, my leather training pants creaking as I sashayed to the door.
“You? Have faith?” Zad questioned with laughter, like the obnoxious worm he was. “Wait, you’re feeding him memories?”
I stopped with my back to him in the arched doorway. “Unless you know of another way, my lord, then yes, that is precisely what I’m doing.”
Raiden was sitting in the corner of his cell, knees drawn tight to his chest and his head bent sideways, staring at a slice of light leaking in through a tiny gap in the stones. “You’re back.”
I almost faltered but kept moving forward to take my perch upon the blood-marred table, fingers digging into the wood. He didn’t look at me, so I peered around his cell, taking note of the pail in the corner attracting tisks. “You’ve been acting a little crazy, I hear.”
“Nothing for you to worry your evil head about.”
I scoffed. “Don’t make me laugh. That’s not what I came here for.”
He did look at me then, slowly, as if he was mentally preparing himself for the sight of me.