Home > Queen Song (Red Queen 0.1)(6)

Queen Song (Red Queen 0.1)(6)
Victoria Aveyard

“Thank you. My name is Coriane,” she offered, realizing he would not ask. He only asks what he already knows the answer to.

He dipped his head in acknowledgment. “Yes. And I won’t make fools of both of us by introducing myself.”

In spite of propriety, Coriane felt herself smile. She sipped at the wine again, not knowing what else to do. Jessamine had not given her much instruction on conversing with royals of House Calore, let alone the future king. Speak when spoken to was all she could recall, so she kept her lips pressed together so tightly they formed a thin line.

Tiberias laughed openly at the sight. He was maybe a little drunk, and entirely amused. “Do you know how annoying it is to have to lead every single conversation?” He chuckled. “I talk to Robert and my parents more than anyone else, simply because it’s easier than extracting words from other people.”

How wretched for you, she snapped in her head. “That sounds awful,” she said as demurely as she could. “Perhaps when you’re king, you can make some changes to the etiquette of court?”

“Sounds exhausting,” he muttered back around swigs of wine. “And unimportant, in the scheme of things. There’s a war on, in case you haven’t noticed.”

He was right. The wine did warm her a bit. “A war?” she said. “Where? When? I’ve heard nothing of this.”

The prince whipped to face her quickly, only to find Coriane smirking a little at his reaction. He laughed again, and tipped the bottle at her. “You had me for a second there, Lady Jacos.”

Still grinning, he moved to the bench, sitting next to her. Not close enough to touch, but Coriane still went stock-still, her playful edge forgotten. He pretended not to notice. She tried her best to remain calm and poised.

“So I’m out here drinking in the rain because my parents frown upon being intoxicated in front of the court.” The heat of him flared, pulsing with his inner annoyance. Coriane reveled in the sensation as the cold was chased from her bones. “What’s your excuse? No, wait, let me guess—you were seated with House Merandus, yes?”

Gritting her teeth, she nodded. “Whoever arranged the tables must hate me.”

“The party planners don’t hate anyone but my mother. She’s not one for decorations or flowers or seating charts, and they think she’s neglecting her queenly duties. Of course, that’s nonsense,” he added quickly. Another drink. “She sits on more war councils than Father and trains enough for the both of them.”

Coriane remembered the queen in her uniform, a splendor of medals on her chest. “She’s an impressive woman,” she said, not knowing what else to say. Her mind flitted back to Elara Merandus, glaring at the royals, disgusted by the queen’s so-called surrender.

“Indeed.” His eyes roved, landing on her now empty glass. “Care for the rest?” he asked, and this time he truly was waiting for an answer.

“I shouldn’t,” she said, putting the wineglass down on the bench. “In fact, I should go back inside. Jessamine—my cousin—will be furious with me as it is.” I hope she doesn’t lecture me all night.

Overhead, the sky had deepened to black, and the clouds were rolling away, clearing the rain to reveal bright stars. The prince’s bodily warmth, fed by his burner ability, created a pleasant pocket around them, one Coriane was loath to leave. She heaved a steady breath, drawing in one last gasp of the magnolia trees, and forced herself to her feet.

Tiberias jumped up with her, still deliberate in his manners. “Shall I accompany you?” he asked as any gentleman would. But Coriane read the reluctance in his eyes and waved him off.

“No, I won’t punish both of us.”

His eyes flashed at that. “Speaking of punishment—if Elara whispers to you ever again, you show her the same courtesy.”

“How—how did you know it was her?”

A storm cloud of emotions crossed his face, most of them unknown to Coriane. But she certainly recognized anger.

“She knows, as everyone else knows, that my father will call for Queenstrial soon. I don’t doubt she’s wriggled into every maiden’s head, to learn her enemies and her prey.” With almost vicious speed, he drank the last of the wine, emptying the bottle. But it was not empty for long. Something on his wrist sparked, a starburst of yellow and white. It ignited into flame inside the glass, burning the last drops of alcohol in its green cage. “I’m told her technique is precise, almost perfect. You won’t feel her if she doesn’t want you to.”

Coriane tasted bile at the back of her mouth. She focused on the flame in the bottle, if only to avoid Tiberias’s gaze. As she watched, the heat cracked the glass, but it did not shatter. “Yes,” she said hoarsely. “It feels like nothing.”

“Well, you’re a singer, aren’t you?” His voice was suddenly harsh as his flame, a sharp, sickly yellow behind green glass. “Give her a taste of her own medicine.”

“I couldn’t possibly. I don’t have the skill. And besides, there are laws. We don’t use ability against our own, outside the proper channels—”

This time, his laugh was hollow. “And is Elara Merandus following that law? She hits you, you hit her back, Coriane. That’s the way of my kingdom.”

“It isn’t your kingdom yet,” she heard herself mutter.

But Tiberias didn’t mind. In fact, he grinned darkly.

“I suspected you had a spine, Coriane Jacos. Somewhere in there.”

No spine. Anger hissed inside her, but she could never give it voice. He was the prince, the future king. And she was no one at all, a limp excuse for a Silver daughter of a High House. Instead of standing up straight, as she wished to do, she bent into one more curtsy.

“Your Highness,” she said, dropping her eyes to his booted feet.

He did not move, did not close the distance between them as a hero in her books would. Tiberias Calore stood back and let her go alone, returning to a den of wolves with no shield but her own heart.

After some distance, she heard the bottle shatter, spitting glass across the magnolia trees.

A strange prince, an even stranger night, she wrote later. I don’t know if I ever want to see him again. But he seemed lonely too. Should we not be lonely together?

At least Jessamine was too drunk to scold me for running off.


Life at court was neither better nor worse than life on the estate.

The governorship came with greater incomes, but not nearly enough to elevate House Jacos beyond much more than the basic amenities. Coriane still did not have her own maid, nor did she want one, though Jessamine continued to crow about needing help of her own. At least the Archeon town house was easier to maintain, rather than the Aderonack estate now shuttered in the wake of the family’s transplant to the capital.

I miss it, somehow, Coriane wrote. The dust, the tangled gardens, the emptiness and the silence. So many corners that were my own, far from Father and Jessamine and even Julian. Most of all she mourned the loss of the garage and outbuildings. The family had not owned a working transport in years, let alone employed a driver, but the remnants remained. There was the hulking skeleton of the private transport, a six-seater, its engine transplanted to the floor like an organ. Busted water heaters, old furnaces cannibalized for parts, not to mention odds and ends from their long-gone gardening staff, littered the various sheds and holdings. I leave behind unfinished puzzles, pieces never put back together. It feels wasteful. Not of the objects, but myself. So much time spent stripping wire or counting screws. For what? For knowledge I will never use? Knowledge that is cursed, inferior, stupid, to everyone else? What have I done with myself for fifteen years? A great construct of nothing. I suppose I miss the old house because it was with me in my emptiness, in my silence. I thought I hated the estate, but I think I hate the capital more.

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