Chapter 9

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Though it must have been well past dawn by the time the plane touched down, Alex spent the next several hours hidden away from sunlight. The jet was taxied into a windowless hangar just big enough for the aircraft. It was nearly pitch black inside. A couple other soldiers accompanied Alex and the Queen through a labyrinth of underground passageways out of the airport to Goddess knew where. The blind stumble through the labyrinth dragged on for what must have been hours.

The meeting room was utterly barren in terms of decor. The polished white walls were devoid of any painting, decoration, or deviation from its sterile color. A single round table with four white chairs was the only furnishing to be found in the entire windowless chamber. Queen Victoria sat down at the featureless white table, while Alex and her other guards stood vigil just behind her. For several minutes, the group sat in silence. Then, through the same hidden door through which they had come, another entourage came to join them.

Two Dannic soldiers armed with assault rifles accompanied the aging ambassador of Dan. Alex twitched a hand toward his sword before he forced it back down. The silver glint of their ammunition clips told him the soldiers had brought runesteel tipped armor piercing rounds. Such expensive weaponry was not wasted on grunts. The two women guarding the ambassador would be more than a match for him if things escalated. Alex hoped the two other Knights the Queen had brought would prove useful in such a fight. He looked back down at his Queen. If she was nervous, her expression betrayed none of it. In comparison, Alex could only wonder how tense he must have looked right now.

"Miss Hauser," Victoria said, extending a hand to the ambassador with a pleasant smile on her face. The woman in turn accepted the handshake and gave her own toothy smile. The expression revealed the dentures of a woman well past her prime. The gesture disappeared soon enough. Half of the Dannic woman's once coal black hair was white, leaving her head an uneven smattering of grey.

"Your Majesty." There was an iciness in Hauser's voice. The Dans never masked their contempt for Angley, for royalty, or for energycasters in general. Their people's revolution had utterly destroyed any trace of such aberrants against nature in their borders, the Dans would constantly brag. Once again, Alex's eyes were drawn to the silver-lined clips on the Dannic soldiers' rifles. "Make no mistake, I have no love for you or your people, and if I could I'd gladly see them wiped out at no cost to my people. But that's not possible."

"I've missed you too, Ana," Victoria deadpanned.

There was an awkward silence. Then the two women burst into laughter.

"I still can't keep a straight face while saying that," Ana said with a hearty chuckle. She and Victoria both got up and approached each other. Then, to Alex's utter bafflement, the two embraced like long lost sisters. "Damn, you got older. Any more stress and you'll look worse than me."

"Says you," Victoria replied with a smirk.

"Hey, you just wait a few decades. You'll wish you were as pretty as me now."

"Sure I will." They sat back down.

Ana's cheery face turned grim. "I wish we could just sit here chatting like aimless schoolgirls all day."

"I wish I wasn't Queen." The older woman hummed in agreement. "Care to tell me why you have so many troops near our border?" Ana closed her eyes and nodded.

"More than a few of the President's top advisers are whispering in his ear for war and the dumbass is actually listening. Probably because arms manufacturers helped fund his election campaign. That and there's also the fact that the Dannic people don't exactly take you at your word when you say you want peace. Some even go so far as to say you're not Angley's true ruler. That even if you were sincere, the fact remains you can't do anything without your Priestesses' permission. Remember that whole fiasco with the racial slavery ban in the South Sea Isles?"

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