FINAL CHAPTER UNTIL NEXT WEEK :)
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When Arya got back to the palace after saving Malich’s father’s life, she locked herself inside her chamber. An hour…that’s how long she gave herself to cry before she wiped the tears away and emerged the Queen her people needed her to be.
“Your majesty,” Evander greets her out in the corridor as she makes her way to the garden for fresh air.
“Yes Evander,” Arya nods to Lila who’s running through the palace halls with a few kids she’s befriended.
“Your majesty, King Kahlem and Princes Arokin and Bevi have sent word requesting audience at once.”
Arya scoffs, “For what?”
“They didn’t say.”
“Very well, ready yourselves. Lets not keep the little arseholes waiting.”
Arya returns to her chamber, arms herself to the teeth, well…as armed as one wearing a Godsforsaken dress can arm oneself, and heads to the throne room to meet with her protective detail.
Lumi, Rayu, and Jax are left in charge while Evander and ten of his soldiers make up her protective detail. Rather than ride passenger car, she winnows them to the border of the Summer Court, expending a mere fraction of her power. Several of her soldiers drop to their knees emptying their stomach in the grass and she surveys the border while she waits for them to get their bearings.
There are both Winter Court and Spring Court soldiers posted throughout the palace leading up to the throne room of the Summer Court, which can only mean one thing. Malich and his aunt Asherah are also in that room. Now she’s glad she took the extra time on her appearance before showing up.
Evander follows her into the throne room but her guards are made to wait outside. He, his brothers Bevi and Arokin, Queen Asherah, Malich and Princess Grayson are all lined up on one side of the table. Arya sits across from them with Evander by her side. Kahlem is very clever. He wants her to see them as a strong united front, whereas she has no allies…that he knows of.
Arya offers an amused laugh, “This is very cute your Majesty. Did you think this strategy up all by yourself or did Malich help you? He’s much more versed at the art of fuckery than you are.”
Her words have no affect on either of them. Malich is quiet. She doesn’t dare glance in his direction. Not now. Her wounds are still too fresh, something she’s sure Kahlem took into account when he asked him here. He wants her rattled and not thinking clearly. She won’t give him the satisfaction.
“Shall we get on with the charade? I’m a bit pressed for time.”
“Very well,” Kahlem grins. If she could, she’d slap that grin right off his face. “You are an unwed and inexperienced Queen at best. At worst, you’re a little girl wearing fancy clothes playing dress up in her favorite palace-”
Arya stops him before he can continue, “Is that your negotiation strategy? Insult me? Surely you can do better than that interim King Kahlem.”
Kahlem smiles, “Actually, I am the true King of the Summer Court. Perhaps you haven’t heard so let me be the first to enlighten you. This morning my father addressed the Court denouncing the crown and passing the torch to me. My brother Prince Malich Jarrah recently became the true King of the Winter Court when King Grayson finally drew his last breath. I trust you and my brother need no introduction.” Arya takes a deep breath and slides her gaze to Malich. He’s already watching her and her pulse quickens. She tears her eyes away quickly and slices them back to Kahlem. “Collectively there are four Kingdoms on this side of the table while you only represent one.”
“Your point?” Arya asks, bored with his arrogance.
“My point is you can either fall in line or invite a war between our courts. A war you will undoubtedly lose.”
Again her gaze slides to Malich. He isn’t speaking, which means his brother still holds his leash. She knows she shouldn’t address him publicly and in front of his brother’s of all people, but she can’t help it. “And you would allow this, my love?” Arya asks, intentionally using their favored term of endearment.
Malich takes a deep breath and slowly meets her gaze. Before he speaks, he raises both hands to the table, one clasped together with Queen Grayson’s. The knife in her heart twists a little deeper. “I am King Jarrah of the Winter Court,” his tone is firm and forced. Its strength doesn’t meet his eyes. “You will address me as such.”
Arya’s mask starts to slip. Malich serves his purpose well in rattling her and everyone can see it. Schooling her features into neutrality, she turns to Kahlem and asks, “What are you proposing?”
“Every Queen needs a King, your majesty. Marry me and rule at my side, the winning side.”
From the corner of her eyes she sees lightening dance across Malich’s fingers. Now hismask threatens to slip. Arya smiles slightly. He’s still in there. The man she loves is still there somehow. He’s just trapped.
“Don’t you have enough wives? I have no interest in being added to your collection of toys,” she gives Kahlem a pointed look. “And so far I’ve yet to hear how any of this benefits my kingdom in any way. Marrying you would give you another Court to rule and the world is a much safer place without my kingdom falling into your hands. The way I see it, your ambition causes you to overstep. While I see that you, your aunt, Queen Grayson and my love are all a united front, what I do not see are the Fall, Autumn and Unseelie Courts. My guess is they’ve all declined your offer to simply fall in line. The Fall Court is at war with Winter, King Rayne of the Unseelie Court would never move against me, and the Autumn Court rarely gets involved in much of anything these days. The army of the Fall Court is just as strong a force as the Red Legion, equally lethal and almost identical in numbers. Add that to my own forces and the two of us alone can hold our own against the lot of you.”
Kahlem bristles and a slight smile crosses Malich’s face. It wouldn’t be visible to someone who hasn’t spent most days memorizing every one of his features, but Arya noticed it.
Clenching his fist so tight his knuckles turn white, Kahlem’s mask finally slips. He rises halfway out of his seat, glowering at her.
“Tell me,” Kahlem nods to his soldiers guarding the doors to the throne room. They open the doors and allow her to see all ten of her guards are lying on the floor in the corridor soaked in blood. “Why should I allow you to leave alive? Why not just kill you here and now?”
Arya can’t speak. She can’t pull her eyes away from her soldiers lying in the corridor and rises from her seat. They have family’s…people who lovethem. And Kahlem just slaughtered them all for what? To make a point?
Her gaze slices to Kahlem. Every weapon in the room is stripped from their owner and the doors to the throne room slam shut. Before anyone can move, every weapon in the room is suspended in the air around Kahlem’s neck, ready to decapitate him if Arya wishes it. His eyes grow wide with fright. Both Arokin and Bevi jump out of their seats.
As her anger rises, the weapons press in on Kahlem’s throat. “Arya please,” Malich quickly rises from his seat. He holds his hands up and slowly walks to her side of the table. “Please. Don’t do anything stupid.”
“Those men had family’s…people who love them Malich,” she glares at Kahlem. “If I kill him here and now his reign of tyranny will end.”
Lowering his voice so that only she can hear he says, “He still has my mother.”
Arya swallows hard. She could kill Kahlem where he sits, but if she does, Malich will lose any hope of ever finding his mother. Having no parents of her own, she knows how he feels and why this is important to him, so she embeds the weapons into the wall behind Kahlem instead.
Relief washes over Malich and ever so subtly he brushes his hand against hers, pressing something into her palm before returning to his seat. Placing her hand on Evander’s shoulder, Arya winnows them back to the Seelie Court where Evander empties the contents of his stomach on the floor. Not because of their method of travel, but because of how many of his friends he just lost back there. How many of his friends’ family’s he’ll now have to face.
As expected, the soldiers’ family’s demanded blood for Kahlem’s slaughter. Blood Arya determined they would have. Simply killing Kahlem would be too hard now. He’d be expecting her to retaliate. And launching attacks against his trade would only agitate him, accomplishing nothing. No. She needs to hit hard and hit home. She needs him to feel the pain her soldiers’ family’s felt and there is only one way to accomplish that.
Together with Evander, Arya orchestrates the perfect revenge before she retires to her chamber. Alone, she opens the folded up piece of papyrus Malich pressed into her hand and blanches. On it, he wrote her parents’ names down and an address within the Summer Court. Below it he urged her in bold letters to GET THEM OUT, NOW.ns 188.8.131.52da2