Chapter Thirty-five

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After telling the queen Grimond had gone off on sudden business, the queen relaxed enough to listen to Rinnet's story, though Rinnet could tell she remained wary. With no Guardsmen around her, Rinnet stayed wary as well — who knew what tricks the ruler of Coreti might have up her sleeve?

But despite careful listening, the room and halls beyond stayed silent as far as Rinnet could tell. Her voice didn't even echo in the vast room, the sound dulled by the heavy curtains.

"So you escaped from danger alone," the queen said, "and used your wits to cross back into Coreti through our claimed territory in Hatawa."

Rinnet nodded, hands twined behind her back. Her fingers itched.

"I was also told you killed a Tevarian soldier, though you never mentioned that in your story."

"You heard."

"Grimond mentioned it, though he didn't tell me who it was." The queen shifted in her seat, her bony hands curling over the edges of the shimmering gold armrests. "He said you'd likely rather tell me yourself."

Rinnet nodded again. She'd saved the most important part of her story for last. Gain the queen's trust. Dazzle her with the victory. Kill her in her awe. "You might not believe it at first. I don't think Grimond did. But it's true."

"I've seen much."

Rinnet spread her feet just a hair wider on the stones, anchoring her weight. "I killed the Tevarian rider Distya," she said. "The third-ranked warrior in the Tevarian army."

Rinnet's flitting gaze alighted on the queen's face. She prepared to attack, but to her dismay, the queen didn't move, and her expression deepened into scrutiny.

"The rider from Shoriza?" she said. Her pale eyebrows sank. "Not so."

"How do you know?" Rinnet froze, her ears and eyes keen to her periphery and the space behind her.

The queen settled herself in her throne again, as if being seated for so long hurt her joints. "Minutes before you arrived, one of my Guardsmen informed me that the very Tevarian you speak of is being held in our prison tower."

"But I can prove it," Rinnet blurted, reaching into her bag. The queen shot upright and her eyes flicked to the curtained walls on either side of her, but Rinnet didn't notice. "See?" she said, holding up Distya's braids. "I took these from her while she bled out on the river. She couldn't have survived the wound in her back!"

The queen studied Rinnet, her sudden distrust evident in her rigid posture. Some of it eased away as she saw the hair in Rinnet's hand. "No matter," she said stiffly. "We'll settle this soon enough. I told the Guardsman to bring Distya to me."


The queen nodded once.

The back of Rinnet's neck grew hot. She couldn't wait any longer, not the way everything was turning on its head. She stepped closer to the stairs leading up to the throne, planting the leg opposite her throwing arm at the base of the raised stone.

"Stay right there," the queen warned, stiffening again.

"Don't you want a closer look?"

"I can see fine," she snapped. "I'm not some ancient old—"

Rinnet flung back her cloak and drew her prized dagger in one swift motion, throwing it straight at the queen's unarmored chest.

It stopped, the point a mere sliver from the skin under her collarbone.

Rinnet gasped.

"You idiots," the queen snarled, batting the knife away at the hilt. It clattered to the stones near her feet. "That was far too close—"

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