Home > Queen Song (Red Queen 0.1)(7)

Queen Song (Red Queen 0.1)(7)
Victoria Aveyard

Lord Jacos refused his son’s request, of course. His heir would not go to Delphie to translate crumbling records and archive petty artifacts. “No point in it,” he said. Just as he saw no point in most of what Coriane did, and regularly voiced that opinion.

Both children were gutted, feeling their escape snatched away. Even Jessamine noticed their downturn in emotion, though she said nothing to either. But Coriane knew their old cousin went easy on her in their first months at court, or rather, she was hard on the drink. For as much as Jessamine talked of Archeon and Summerton, she didn’t seem to like either very much, if her gin consumption was any indication.

More often than not, Coriane could slip away during Jessamine’s daily “nap.” She walked the city many times in hopes of finding a place she enjoyed, somewhere to anchor her in the newly tossing sea of her life.

She found no such place—instead she found a person.

He asked her to call him Tibe after a few weeks. A family nickname, used among the royals and a precious few friends. “All right, then,” Coriane said, agreeing to his request. “Saying ‘Your Highness’ was getting to be a bit of a pain.”

They first met by chance, on the massive bridge that spanned the Capital River, connecting both sides of Archeon. A marvelous structure of twisted steel and trussed iron, supporting three levels of roadway, plazas, and commercial squares. Coriane was not so dazzled by silk shops or the stylish eateries jutting out over the water, but more interested in the bridge itself, its construction. She tried to fathom how many tons of metal were beneath her feet, her mind a flurry of equations. At first, she didn’t notice the Sentinels walking toward her, nor the prince they followed. He was clearheaded this time, without a bottle in hand, and she thought he would pass her by.

Instead, he stopped at her side, his warmth a gentle ebb like the touch of a summer sun. “Lady Jacos,” he said, following her gaze to the steel of the bridge. “Something interesting?”

She inclined her head in a bow, but didn’t want to embarrass herself with another poor curtsy. “I think so,” she replied. “I was just wondering how many tons of metal we’re standing on, hoping it will keep us up.”

The prince let out a puff of laughter tinged with nervous. He shifted his feet, as if suddenly realizing exactly how high above the water they were. “I’ll do my best to keep that thought out of my head,” he mumbled. “Any other frightening notions to share?”

“How much time do you have?” she said with half a grin. Half only, because something tugged at the rest, weighing it down. The cage of the capital was not a happy place for Coriane.

Nor Tiberias Calore. “Would you favor me with a walk?” he asked, extending an arm. This time, Coriane saw no hesitation in him, or even the pensive wonderings of a question. He knew her answer already.

“Of course.” And she slipped her arm in his.

This will be the last time I hold the arm of a prince, she thought as they walked the bridge. She thought that every time, and she was always wrong.

In early June, a week before the court would flee Archeon for the smaller but just as grand summer palace, Tibe brought someone to meet her. They were to rendezvous in East Archeon, in the sculpture garden outside the Hexaprin Theater. Coriane was early, for Jessamine started drinking during breakfast, and she was eager to get away. For once, her relative poverty was an advantage. Her clothes were ordinary, clearly Silver, as they were striped in her house colors of gold and yellow, but nothing remarkable. No gems to denote her as a lady of a High House, as someone worth noticing. Not even a servant in uniform to stand a few paces behind. The other Silvers floating through the collection of carved marble barely saw her, and for once, she liked it that way.

The green dome of Hexaprin rose above, shading her from the still rising sun. A black swan of smooth, flawless granite perched at the top, its long neck arched and wings spread wide, every feather meticulously sculpted. A beautiful monument to Silver excess. And probably Red made, she knew, glancing around. There were no Reds nearby, but they bustled on the street. A few stopped to glance at the theater, their eyes raised to a place they could never inhabit. Perhaps I’ll bring Eliza and Melanie someday. She wondered if the maids would like that, or be embarrassed by such charity.

She never found out. Tibe’s arrival erased all thoughts of her Red servants, and most other things along with them.

He had none of his father’s beauty, but was handsome in his own way. Tibe had a strong jaw, still stubbornly trying to grow a beard, with expressive golden eyes and a mischievous smile. His cheeks flushed when he drank and his laughter intensified, as did his rippling heat, but at the moment he was sober as a judge and twitchy. Nervous, Coriane realized as she moved to meet him and his entourage.

Today he was dressed plainly—but not as poorly as me. No uniform, medals, nothing official to denote this a royal event. He wore a simple coat, charcoal-gray, over a white shirt, dark red trousers, and black boots polished to a mirror shine. The Sentinels were not so informal. Their masks and flaming robes were mark enough of his birthright.

“Good morning,” he said, and she noticed his fingers drumming rapidly at his side. “I thought we could see Fall of Winter. It’s new, from Piedmont.”

Her heart leapt at the prospect. The theater was an extravagance her family could hardly afford and, judging by the glint in Tibe’s eye, he knew that. “Of course, that sounds wonderful.”

“Good,” he replied, hooking her arm in his own. It was second nature to both of them now, but still Coriane’s arm buzzed with the feel of him. She had long decided theirs was only a friendship—he’s a prince, bound to Queenstrial—though she could still enjoy his presence.

They left the garden, heading for the tiled steps of the theater and the fountained plaza before the entrance. Most stopped to give them room, watching as their prince and a noble lady crossed to the theater. A few snapped photographs, the bright lights blinding Coriane, but Tibe smiled through it. He was used to this sort of thing. She didn’t mind it either, not truly. In fact, she wondered whether or not there was a way to dim the camera bulbs, and prevent them from stunning anyone who came near. The thought of bulbs and wire and shaded glass occupied her until Tibe spoke.

“Robert will be joining us, by the way,” he blurted as they crossed the threshold, stepping over a mosaic of black swans taking flight. At first, Coriane barely heard him, stunned as she was by the beauty of Hexaprin, with its marbled walls, soaring staircases, explosions of flowers, and mirrored ceiling hung with a dozen gilded chandeliers. But after a second, she clamped her jaw shut and turned back to Tibe to find him blushing furiously, worse than she had ever seen.

She blinked at him, concerned. In her mind’s eye she saw the king’s paramour, the prince who was not royal. “That’s quite all right with me,” she said, careful to keep her voice low. There was a crowd forming, eager to enter the matinee performance. “Unless it isn’t all right with you?”

“No, no, I’m very happy he came. I—I asked him to come.” Somehow, the prince was tripping over his words, and Coriane could not understand why. “I wanted him to meet you.”

“Oh,” she said, not knowing what else to say. Then she glanced down at her dress—ordinary, out of style—and frowned. “I wish I wore something else. It’s not every day you meet a prince,” she added with the shadow of a wink.

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