Home > The Promised Queen (Forgotten Empires #3)(12)

The Promised Queen (Forgotten Empires #3)(12)
Author: Jeffe Kennedy

“Silence!” I roared, the volume making my voice harsher than usual, the strain biting painfully. It worked, though. The room fell silent, everyone staring at me in shock and more than a little fear. I nearly ruined it by smiling. “There is one person in this room named Lord Dearsley,” I continued in a more reasonable tone. I stroked Vesno’s head to give the impression of calm. “Now then, Lord Dearsley? And remain seated. I can hear you fine.”

Dearsley cleared his throat. “As You say, Conrí. The chief concerns arise from the intensifying earth tremors and the ongoing storm. All seagoing traffic has halted, with a number of fishing ships lost at sea with no way to search for them. Three bridges have collapsed, isolating a number of communities. Two villages have been buried under mudslides, and the rain and earth tremors are preventing rescue efforts. Numerous coastal towns are so flooded their entire populations have evacuated to high ground, where they’re now stranded with sick and injured and no supplies. Plus a string of islands off the north shore seem to have sunk entirely. Those are the disasters involving the largest clusters of population, but there is suffering across all of Calanthe—children lost in swollen rivers, families missing, structures collapsing. It’s difficult to know where to start.” He smiled hopefully at me. “What do You think?”

I wished I’d never gotten out of bed.


* * *


Hours later, we’d made stopgap plans to address the most critical disasters, but I felt like I’d been running flat out only to slide back. For every decision we made—and I hustled those along as fast as I could—to fix what had already broken, three more reports arrived of additional disasters.

Lia hadn’t been exaggerating when she said Calanthe was unraveling. From what I’d learned in the past hours, the situation was accelerating at a daunting rate, and we could only slap a few bandages on it. We really needed to get Lia on the job of fixing the problem at the source. I could only hope some real food and more sleep had worked a miracle. When Vesno and I got to our rooms, however, Ibolya sweetly deflected me from checking on Lia.

“I just looked in on Her Highness, Conrí,” Ibolya said with a respectful curtsy. “She’s sleeping. It would be best not to disturb Her.”

“I won’t wake her.”

“Nevertheless, I can’t let You in.”

“Is she any better?”

Ibolya hesitated. “I can’t say.”

That meant no. From the look on Ibolya’s face, Lia was worse. “Did Healer Jeaneth look at her?”

“Yes. But…” Ibolya bit her lip, firmed it. “As Ambrose said, there’s nothing she can do. Her Highness needs food and rest.”

“Lia did eat, though?”

Ibolya knotted her fingers together. “She wasn’t able to keep it down,” she admitted.

Curse it all. I strained with the need to be with her. “I’d like to see Lia for myself.”

“For Her sake, Conrí—or Yours?”

For mine, of course. In my mind’s eye, I kept seeing her on that slab, white as death, cold as stone, lost to me forever. I needed to see the flush of life in her skin, to listen to her breathing. “For Calanthe’s,” I said, Vesno shoving his nose under my hand in comfort. “Things are getting worse.”

“Her Highness is not up to doing anything for us right now. We must let Her recover first.”

I shifted on my feet, tempted to shove the slight woman aside. Ibolya cocked her head, reading my intention—and I recalled Lia’s warning that all her ladies possessed thorns. The last thing I needed was to be knocked out and wake up hours from now with a headache worthy of a three-day bender.

I took a calming breath, deep enough that the scar tissue in my lungs twinged. “What’s the problem, Ibolya? I want to see my wife. That should be enough.”

“Conrí,” she said, very gently. “Her Highness specifically asked that I keep You away. I’m sorry, but I must obey Her command. It’s my duty.”

What? I jerked my gaze over Ibolya’s head—she barely reached my shoulder anyway—and glared at the door. A low grinding noise rose up, and I realized the growl came from me. It had been a mistake to tell Lia I loved her. Now that she was free of me, she clearly wanted nothing to do with me anymore. Well, she wasn’t getting rid of me that easily, especially when I knew she needed me. I hadn’t saved her to let her wither away and die now. “Has Ambrose examined her?”

Ibolya shook her head. “I’ve sent multiple messages to the tower, as You requested, Conrí, but he has yet to respond.”

Oh, the wizard was going to respond all right. This I could do. I gave Ibolya a last glare and she smiled politely, still not budging. “I’ll be back, and I will see Lia.”

“I will give Her Highness Your message, Conrí,” Ibolya replied with formal courtesy.

“Come on, Vesno.” I turned on my heel and strode out of the rooms again, the door guard saluting as I departed. Sondra jumped up from her post on the sofa and followed, extending her stride on my other side to keep up with my pace.

“Where are you going?”

“To get Ambrose.”

“Will he admit you?”

I curled my fingers into a tighter fist. What was with everyone locking me out? I might have to start bashing heads with the rock hammer after all. “I’m going to make sure of it.”

Sondra didn’t immediately reply, still flanking me. “Conrí, maybe you need more recovery time, too. You’re still running on, what? A few hours of sleep after a week or longer of practically nothing?”

“I thought about sleeping, but I’m not allowed into my own bed, am I?”

“There are other beds, Conrí,” Sondra said in a careful voice.

“Don’t,” I growled.

She subsided again, probably needing her breath as we climbed the stairs to Ambrose’s tower, Vesno galloping ahead with enviable energy. Vesno happily explored the bare, circular room at the top, devoid of furniture but apparently not interesting smells. Sondra wiped the sweat from her forehead and I frowned at her. “You all right?”

“Yeah. Yekpehr—” She drew a deep breath, deliberately holding, then releasing. “That fucker Anure burns vurgsten on the walls, night and day.”

“I saw.”

She rolled her shoulders. “You know how it is. Worked my lungs over to breathe that shit.”

I did know. “Thank you,” I said, feeling awkward and, yeah, like an idiot. “For sticking with Lia,” I explained.

“I promised you. Besides,” Sondra added with a snort, equally uncomfortable. “She’s worth sticking with.”

“I’m just sorry it came to that.”

“What in Ejarat’s bountiful tits are you talking about, Conrí?”

“We both know that it was all my fault,” I said, not looking at her but at the sealed trapdoor in the high ceiling. There used to be a ladder for guards and servants to climb up to Ambrose’s chamber, but no longer. We’d have to get him to let one down. “If I hadn’t been such a hotheaded, shortsighted, stubborn fool, you and Lia would never—”

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