Home > The Promised Queen (Forgotten Empires #3)(5)

The Promised Queen (Forgotten Empires #3)(5)
Author: Jeffe Kennedy

She straightened. “Since I was the only one to tend Her these last days.”

“Oh. Right.” I was an idiot. “Sorry.”

“Just go away, Conrí.” She sounded unbearably weary. Sondra had been through hell, too, and had yet to sleep since we’d rescued her. “Give Her some privacy.”

I knew Lia’s body better than my own, but left without saying so. In the outer chambers, Ambrose had stepped out onto the small balcony where he’d married Lia and me. The rain still fell in torrents beyond its slight protection. Lightning stalked across the open ocean on flickering legs, distant thunder booming ominously.

Vesno came to me, nosing his muzzle under my hand, his drenched fur tangled. “This storm,” I said, “it seems unnatural.”

“Yes,” Ambrose mused. “A fascinating combination of Calanthe’s unraveling and bombardment by distant wizardry.”

“Like that huge wave.” When Ambrose only nodded thoughtfully, I tried again. “Lia settled that.”

“An effective use of her elemental magic, yes. And She calmed Calanthe somewhat, too—though that faltered once She fell unconscious again.” He tipped the staff at the storm, as if I hadn’t noticed it. “It’s a privilege to witness that sort of thing in action. I only wish Merle were here to see it.”

“Where is Merle?”

“Otherwise occupied,” Ambrose replied absently. A crack of lightning jabbed from the sky, striking a nearby cliff outcropping and illuminating it in harsh blue-white light. Rocks tumbled into the roaring sea below, punctuated by the roll of immediate thunder. “Hmm.” Ambrose chewed his lip. “That can’t be good.”

“Then…” I waved a fist at the raging sky. “Do something. Fix it.”

“I can’t. Calanthe belongs to Her Highness. For various reasons, I have little power here. We’ll have to wait for Her to wake up.”

“When will that be?”

He eyed me askance. “How should I know?”

“You are supposed to be giving wisdom, and guidance, and … help, Sawehl take it. But you’ve done nothing.”

Ambrose gave me a cool look. “How quickly you seem to have forgotten that I did extract you from Yekpehr—no easy feat, given the poor planning involved.”

“That plan worked.” Mostly. We achieved the goal, and that’s what mattered.

“Only because I stepped in at the last moment. It would never have worked otherwise.” Ambrose actually sniffed in disdain.

“It was a hell of a lot better plan than you came up with, since you weren’t even there,” I snarled, curling my hands into fists. Great Sawehl, how I wanted to break something. All that waiting, planning, skulking, and sneaking. I wasn’t built for this crap. All I knew was how to smash, rend, kill, and tear. I’d gotten Lia killed. Lost my chance to kill Anure twice over. I could’ve rescued Rhéiane and hadn’t. I’d fucked up everything imaginable and now Calanthe was falling apart. “Where were you anyway?” I demanded, regretting it instantly when I ended up sounding like a kid who lost his mom at the festival. Raking my hands through my hair, I found it as wet, snarled, and filthy as Vesno’s coat.

“Conrí.” Ambrose sounded uncharacteristically gentle, even setting a hand on my shoulder. Though I wanted to shrug it off, I didn’t. I didn’t punch the wizard in the face, either. Points for me. “It couldn’t be helped. I promised Her Highness that I’d secure Calanthe if She was taken.”

I lowered my hands to stare at the wizard as the import of his words sank in. “She knew. Lia knew Anure would abduct her.”

Ambrose patted my shoulder—somewhat awkwardly—and reached for his staff, leaning on it heavily as he hobbled inside. “She knew it was possible.”

And I’d served her up to him. How could she ever forgive me? I started to sit, then thought better of getting my filthy self on Lia’s pretty furnishings. Vesno sprawled on a cream rug, mud circling him. I should wash him, but where—my bathtub? Maybe outside somewhere … Not in the storm, though. Why couldn’t I solve a stupidly simple problem?

“When did you last eat, Conrí? Or sleep, for that matter?”

I stared at Ambrose in bemusement, pretty sure he’d never expressed interest in my physical well-being before. Had it been days? “I have no idea.”

“I’ll arrange for food, Conrí,” Ibolya said, entering the room and closing the door behind her. “You all need to eat, including you, noble but filthy Syr Vesno.”

“Lia?” I asked, looking past her, as if I could see through the stout door.

“Sleeping. I left the elixir on the bedside table for when She wakes. The Lady Sondra is sitting with Her Highness.”

“Sondra needs to eat and sleep, too.”

“I don’t think she will yet, Conrí,” Ibolya replied with firm compassion. “Give her this time to assure herself that Her Highness is safe and well. She needs that.”

Yeah, so did I. We all flinched at another crack of nearby lightning. “What about the storm?” I demanded of Ambrose.

“Pray it doesn’t worsen,” he suggested.

“That won’t do us much good if the cliff falls into the sea, taking the palace and us with it.”

“True.” Ambrose pointed a finger at me. “As we can’t stop that from happening, we might as well rest and hope it doesn’t.”

I growled incoherently.

“A bath and food, Conrí,” Ibolya said firmly. “Then you can relieve Lady Sondra and sleep.”

“Why are you so determined on that?” I snarled, rounding on her.

Her pleasant smile faded. “Please, let me do this for you, Conrí, for Lady Sondra and for Her Highness. It’s … it’s what I can do.” Her voice wobbled a bit, the first hint of strong emotion I’d seen from the composed young woman. Ashamed by my rudeness, I nodded in agreement.

“Syr Wizard?” Ibolya offered him a cloth-wrapped bundle. Lia’s severed hand and finger, I realized, that we’d retrieved from the wizards’ workroom. “Lady Sondra said to give you this.”

Ambrose didn’t take it. “Conrí claimed that. It’s his.”

Ibolya glanced at me but hesitated. “Shall I keep it for you, Conrí?”

“Please,” I replied with a rush of relief. Ambrose watched me knowingly, though with amusement, contempt, or sympathy, I wasn’t sure.

“Syr Wizard, will you eat here or shall I have something sent to your tower?”

“The tower,” Ambrose answered with a nod and a sigh. “My cauldrons have not been stirred or cackled over these many days.” Though he’d said that last to poke at me, he didn’t look my way, instead hobbling toward the doors as if greatly pained.

“Ambrose,” I called after him. When he turned, cocking his head like his raven familiar would, I realized I didn’t know what I wanted to say. I’m an ass. I’m sorry. What are we going to do now? How do I fix this?

He smiled, as if hearing my unspoken thoughts. “You’re a good man, Conrí. Bathe. Eat. Sleep. In my great wisdom, I recommend you do so in that order. Be there when Lia wakes up. She’ll need you.” He left, and I stood there, in the empty room, not sure what to do with my hands.

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