Chapter 4.2 (Zara)

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It would never be enough. Zara wished she could have saved Meena. If only she'd had enough notice, she could have let Tyrus and their friend Faraj know. They'd have faked her death and arranged for Meena's escape from Leodia to someplace where the queen would forget about her.

Meena and her books and all the tales she'd never read again.

"So," Tyrus broke the silence. "What now?" He stood and stretched his legs, then started pacing around. He tossed a coin from one hand to the other, looking every bit as nonchalant as she knew he wasn't. "She sends you after me again?"

"I don't know. It's probably best you lay low. Just in case Chhaya sends someone else."

"Lay low," he echoed. He stared down at his coin, and she sighed.

"We'll stop her," she said. "Really."

If she was honest, the thought seemed impossible. Chhaya was centuries old. Centuries. In all that time, nobody had been able to stop her. Tyrus looked at Zara, and she knew he was thinking the same thing. Zara had been Tyrus' and Faraj's insider and one of Chhaya's most trusted soldiers. She'd been serving Chhaya before she met them, but even after all those years Zara still hadn't come any closer to learning how to end Chhaya and her magic. Killing her wasn't so simple; she always knew when someone was near. Chhaya used to train Zara in the dark, teaching her to use her strange magic to sense her opponents.

"You know," Tyrus began, "we could get out of here. Just leave it all behind."

"You, me, Faraj? Just the three of us?"

"Yeah, we could make it across the border and never look back." He flipped the coin, catching it and looking at which side faced up. As if that would decide his fate.

"And what would we do if we left?"

"Oh, we could explore the lands. Maybe find a plot of land to settle on, away from Chhaya. You could start a safe haven for all the animals you've rescued" --Zara smiled at that. Tyrus scolded her just last week for causing a scene when freeing a few lynx pups from a cage some bastard threw them-- "and Faraj could bring his family along."

"What if we ran out of supplies?"

Tyrus scoffed. "We're thieves, remember?" He held up his hands, pulling some little 'magic' trick by making the coin disappear before her eyes. Tyrus was a drista, meaning he didn't have any magic in his blood, but that didn't stop him from making others believe he did.

Zara raised an eyebrow. "So your plan for the future is to travel aimlessly, wreaking havoc on villages by stealing their supplies? All the while being surrounded by all the poor animals I've rescued? In case you've forgotten, you don't even like animals."

"Is it all so impossible, though?"

Zara glanced down. "You know I can't leave. Chhaya would have me killed if I tried."

There was a glint in Tyrus' eyes. "Not if you run fast enough."

"On this ankle? Are you kidding me?" She shifted her leg, but even that small movement sent another throb of pain to her foot.

"Bad joke?"

"Let's just say you tried."

Tyrus swatted her shoulder

"Hey, that was a compliment!" She laughed, holding up her arms to protect herself as he tried to swat her again for that comment.

"Don't be rude, Zara. Didn't Chhaya teach you any manners?"

She stuck her tongue out at him, and he couldn't help but smile. "Apparently not."

Tyrus began tossing the coin again, and she watched the moonlight glint off of it. "Come over in two nights," he said. "Faraj is making stew, and he always makes too much."

"That's a good thing for me. The soldiers' portions are getting smaller lately, even for the higher ranks."

"The market prices aren't great either," Tyrus said. "I've been having to steal more lately. Not that I'm complaining." He smirked. "It's always fun to rob the rich from time to time."

Zara grinned. "If we had wine right now, I'd drink to that."

"Oh, that reminds me. I need to get a new shirt." He stuck his hand through the hole left behind by Zara's bolt. "Or, actually"—he flicked his coin at her—"don't you owe me a shirt now?"

She threw the coin back at him. "Technically, you owe me your life," she retorted.

"Fine. I'll give you that." Catching the coin, he sat back down beside her. She felt his gaze but ignored it, until she couldn't anymore.

"What?"

When she turned, his expression was solemn, not a trace of their jokes remaining. He took a breath, then stopped himself.

"What, Tyrus?"

He looked at her a moment longer before he finally shook his head. "Things have to change, you know. Faraj says he can feel it. He's been having visions. Something's coming."


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Thank you for reading When Queens Fall (book 1 of the Fear of the Water series) so far! Just a quick reminder that this is a first draft, and I'd love to hear your feedback on what you think so far! If there are any scenes that seem too boring or too rushed, please don't be afraid to leave a comment! Any feedback is appreciated.

If you'd like to follow the Fear of the Water series, the series website is fearofthewater.com  There, I have a mailing list you can join if you'd like to stay updated on the series, and I also have my Villains Writing Playlist on the site if you've enjoyed the music videos I've been adding to my chapters.

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