Dafyr heard her footsteps before he saw her. A soft padding sound on the cobblestone path through the garden. She came and sat beside him on the elegantly carved wooden bench. Ameli.
She sat there for a while without speaking. Just when he thought she wasn’t even going to say anything, she said, “You’re still thinking your Queen is completely insane. You’re worried about a deity possibly striking you down. You’re also afraid of what will happen if this works. I get that. That’s all what I felt when I first heard about this, too. But why did you come here to think it all through?” She gestured around at the gardens.
The gardens at the palace are the pride of the royal family. Exotic flowers of all sorts of colors, trees strategically placed to create shade where it’s most wanted, and a small pond of fish with water lilies blooming in it. People tended to wander through rather often, which was probably why Ameli was asking him.
“This was where I grew up. Not much that’s complicated about that. I’m a little surprised you’re her confidant, though.”
“Well, after you left with your mother, my father was still determined I make a match in your Queen’s court. So I stuck around for a while, but every engagement they agreed on went wrong. One man eloped before the wedding, another was poisoned, and another got magic.” A faint grin appeared on her face. “You set off a train of bad luck in my life.”
Dafyr blushed. “Sorry.”
Ameli waved a hand dismissively. “It really doesn’t matter all that much. That string of ill luck was the reason why I was still here when around half the population of the country got magic.”“Including you?”
“Including me. Your grandmother really is quite the chatty woman, Dafyr, especially when she’s with someone she can trust.”
Dafyr stared at her, widemouthed. “Alright, now I know you’re teasing me. My Queen is the exact opposite of chatty.”
Ameli shrugged. “You don’t know her as well as you think, then. She took me into her confidence. Said I reminded her of what she was like at my age.”“I...can’t really imagine my grandmother at your age. She just seems so...old.” He felt ashamed of himself, just a little, for saying it aloud. But it was true. The Queen was old.
“That’s because she is. Because Magic decided to grant her eternal life when she asked. Because a deity was curious as to what she would do.” She placed a hand on Dafyr’s shoulder. “I’m just as afraid as you going into this. It’s natural. We are human, after all. But I’ll let you in on a little secret.” She leaned close and whispered in his ear, “The Queen is scared too.”
He took a deep, shaky breath. “How in the world are we planning on doing this? I mean, even if Magic is a corporeal being, she might not even exist on this planet.”
“Like your grandmother said. She’s done lots of research, and Louis will help, too. At least if we can figure out a way around his ‘needing to drain blood until the victim is dead’ problem, anyway. I suspect your grandmother has some plans to deal with that for now, anyway. I believe we still have some prisoners in the dungeons that were condemned to death anyway. Besides, as she said, if Magic finds the idea of mortals trying to defeat her funny, she’ll ease our way until we reach her.”
I clap slowly. Clever, clever girl. Although I think Dafyr might object to the morality of letting that Nosferatu boy feed on a prisoner and taking any help I have to offer. Silly boy, but one can hardly blame him for not being like you and your queen. And yes, she is your queen now-you care for her far more than that dear mother of yours back at home, who expected you to learn how to sword-fight like a proper lady. Silly woman. You’re far too interesting to be a proper lady.
There are so many ways I could stop them, or at the very least complicate their path. The Nosferatu boy would have quite a dilemma ahead of him, after all, if I killed all of the prisoners, for one thing. But I think I want to see where this goes.
I turn towards the hourglass and watch the sand slowly trickle down. Up until now, my assumption had always been that it was the countdown until I gave someone else the title of Magic, if it even meant anything, but now I had to wonder. Was it possible that it was a countdown to my death?
If it was...that would be amazing, horrible, wonderful, and terrifying.