Home > Knightfall (Tangled Crowns #1)(12)

Knightfall (Tangled Crowns #1)(12)
Author: Ann Denton

I broke form and ran to Peter and gave him a quick hug. He’d grown larger around the middle since I’d seen him. But his eyes were just as kind as I remembered. He hugged me back and placed a quick kiss on my forehead. “You’re in trouble, you know, Blossie.”

I nodded against his chest. “I know.”

“Your mother needs you. Evaness needs you. No more running.”

I nodded; I didn’t tell him I’d come to the same conclusion last night.

Peter left the room, taking my mother’s maidservant with him. Apparently, my mother and sister had become more accustomed to demanding privacy in my absence. I had been the only one in my family to kick out every servant in my chambers when I’d been younger.

I smiled at mother. “Queen Gela, what will you do if you need to blow your nose and no servant is here to help you?”

She rolled her eyes, another first. Her out-of-character choices nearly made up for Connor’s coldness. He hadn’t moved from his spot since we’d arrived.

“Was that an eye roll? Did you actually express annoyance?” I clapped. “Mother, I’d have poisoned you five times a day when I was younger if I’d known it would loosen you up.”

She gave me a deadpan stare. “Tactless.”

“It’s my best quality.”

She shook her head, “Let’s focus, shall we? Bloss, when you left, you started in the woods and back-country mountains of Cheryn. You chased two dragons that were sighted by various locals, a purple stinger and a red heathen. But the cave complex over in Cheryn is quite intense. You spent eight months exploring the caves but lost the dragons.”

“What about Cheryn’s diplomats?”

My mother smiled. “Just after you left, I had Connor send word that you’d be traveling the area, seeking to contain the dragons, which some of our northern sheepherders spotted. So, you were granted royal passage. You were even invited to the Sultan’s annual feast but, unfortunately, you were in the caves at that time, and weren’t able to attend.”

“How generous of him to extend the invitation,” I said wryly. “Considering the fact that before I left, he accused us of flooding the international market with cattle in order to drive down his prices.”

My mother raised a brow. I couldn’t tell if she was pleased that I’d remembered the state of affairs before I left, or annoyed I’d referenced leaving so casually. “Sultan Raj has since become quite an ally. One of his sons has been sent here, in fact. So, please behave accordingly.”

“When did he arrive?” I was startled. I was certain that I didn’t have the right diplomatic skills to handle the all the going’s on at the palace. I was dreading this tea.

The favors and rumors at court changed by the hour. They were always impossible to keep up with. I was certain to offend at least three people that morning. But, in terms of major events and political maneuvers, I tried to keep my ears open. I should have heard about the sultan’s son coming to visit.

“He is traveling now. He arrives in three weeks, and shortly after his arrival, we will host a welcome ball.”

I held in my groan.

That means corsets. I hate corsets, I complained internally.

Mother continued, “The last two years, you spent in the northern wastelands of Macedon. You’ve been out of touch with most of civilization, only interacting with the occasional ice-fishing caravans that travel through there. That explains your outrageous behavior yesterday.” Mother gave a cutting smile. “You’ve been quite accustomed to violence and fending off the attacks of those heathens and we expect it will take you awhile to readjust to polite society. I do believe the palace healer called it hysterical stress syndrome.”

I seethed. But I bit my tongue. The fact that I wanted to throw her tea in her face only proved her point. “I shall do my best to adjust as quickly as possible.”

“You will also need some remedial lessons regarding current affairs as well as to be briefed on each of the nobles residing in or visiting the palace. I’ll let your husbands schedule those.”

“I want Avia to join me.”

Her lips thinned. “She is not, and has never been, the crown princess.”

“She is and will be our queen,” I countered. “She’ll need to know a lot for whatever husbands she takes on, because you clearly have not reassigned—”

“Why would I?” Mother countered.

“Because I can’t—”

“You can and will. This is your birthright and duty.” Her speech was ruined by the fact that a short little hair popped out of her braid and fell into her face.

I didn’t comment on it. Or her argument. We’d had the same argument in circles since she the moment she’d begun selecting the men for my husband group. It was an argument I couldn’t win. No matter the fact that I was right.

I decided to concede the point to a sick woman. Or at least agree with what she factually had said. “You’re right. It is my birthright.”

Her eyes narrowed, expecting the follow up argument.

I bit my tongue in order to swallow said argument.

When she was satisfied, Mother continued quietly, “If need be, your knights can always tell the world you’ve spotted another dragon.”

I froze. My heart stopped in shock. That was not something she’d said during any of our arguments. Ever.

She stared straight at me, steady and strong and … I saw a glimmer of affection in her eyes. Perhaps a hint of tears.

It was the only time I’d ever heard her acknowledge my death was a real possibility. Perhaps facing death herself had changed her.

My heart swelled with gratitude and pain at the same time. It felt like I was flying and falling in the same moment. Or as if I were lying in bed, during that dizzy second between waking and sleeping. “You mean it?” I asked, voice trembling, as I took a step toward her.

She pulled a piece of parchment from her stack. “I have a report of yet another sighting right here.”

I walked the final steps to her bed and took the sheet with a shaking hand. It bore Quinn’s seal and the current date.

My mother’s lip quirked up in a grin. “When you control the flow of information darling, you get to determine what information should flow. And after four years of accepting such tales, and seeing you again, if anything ever—”

“Thank you!” I hugged her tightly, pulling her into me and crushing her bones against mine. “Thank you,” I whispered in her ear. “Thank you. That’s all I ever wanted.”

She nods. “I know. I know now. Because it’s all I want. But it’s too late for me and mine.”

A tear dripped down my cheek.

“Oh, no, none of that,” Mother wiped the tear away and gave me a tight smile. “Queens do not cry.”

I swallowed down the rest of the tears, giving her a stiff nod.

“Your Majesty, you can’t mean this! You’re going to let her run again?” Connor stomped to the edge of mother’s bed and glared down at her. “You can’t allow it! She’d just said she wouldn’t leave and now you’re going to let her? She can just walk away again?”

I turned to mother and whispered, “I need to tell him.”

“No,” she cut me off immediately.

“I need to explain—” I said it louder, hoping that if I addressed the queen, but said it within Connor’s hearing, that the geas might be foiled. No such luck. My words were cut off.

“We don’t need your lies, Bloss. But the people need a steady hand. Your Majesty, don’t—” Connor argued.

Mother clapped her hands, summoning her lady-in-waiting and cutting off any further argument.

I clenched my fists and leaned close to her ear, pretending to straighten her pillow. “You have to let me tell—”

She held a piece of parchment in front of her face, as though she was reading. “No. It’s not safe.”

I leaned toward her, even as her maid and Connor both hovered close. “Why not?” I whispered.

“Because they don’t love you.”

I pulled back.

There was nothing I could say to argue with that.

Chapter Nine

When we left Mother’s chambers, Connor was fuming. Livid. The sunshine boy had turned into a solar flare.

“I’m not planning to leave,” I told Connor, hoping that reassurance would help resolve the issue.

“I’m not planning to care if you do,” he shot back.

“This is only in case of … dire circumstances,” I whispered as a chambermaid passed us.

“Like the dire circumstances last time?” Connor snarled. “What were those? Was there an assassination attempt on you? Just like your little sister now? Is that your go-to conspiracy?”


“War? A plague? No. Wait. You actually did hear reports of dragons?” he whispered savagely.

“I fell in love with you. Those were the circumstances.” I snapped.

His jaw dropped.

But he didn’t look happy. Or relieved. Or anything positive. He only looked shocked.

Suddenly, Connor snatched up my hand and tucked it forcefully into the crook of his elbow. He leaned close and fingered my curls.

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