Home > The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3)(11)

The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3)(11)
Author: Marie Lu

Perhaps it’s not you he’s protecting, the whispers taunt, but his own fortune. Why hurt the queen who holds the strings of his purse? Why else does he stay?

Maybe they’re right. The whispers burrow into my mind, digging their little claws in deeper, and the rest of the ride passes in silence. Finally, we reach the gates at the back of the palace, and the carriages roll into the royal grounds.

I have been the Queen of Kenettra for a year. And yet, entering the palace grounds still feels strange and surreal. This had once been where Enzo, as a child, had dueled with a young Teren in the courtyards, where Teren had watched the princess Giulietta from his hiding place in the trees. Enzo’s steps had graced these paths, had been pointed at the throne room where he was meant to sit, what I had once wanted to help him achieve. Now he is gone, an abomination somewhere on the other side of the ocean. Even his sister has long passed into the Underworld, and Teren is my prisoner.

I am the one sitting in the throne room.

Alone. Just the way you like it. I have to force away the image of my sister’s face, the tears I’d seen on her cheeks as she turned her back on me for the last time. I push aside a vision of Enzo and his look of utter hatred as we faced each other on the deck of Queen Maeve’s ship. As if in response, the tether between us pulls taut for a moment, making me gasp.

Sometimes I wonder if it is Enzo trying to reach out through the miles separating us, attempting to control me. I do the same back. But he is too far away.

Sergio opens my carriage door, offering me his arm as I step down. Several Inquisitors are waiting to greet us, and when they see me, they lower their heads. I pause for a moment before we enter the palace to look at each of them. “We’ve won a stunning victory. Go bathe, drink, and rest. I will tell your captains to clear your training schedules for today. Remember, you are a part of my personal guard now, and you will be afforded every luxury. If anyone fails to meet your expectations, report them to me, and I will see to their immediate removal.”

Their eyes light up at that. I leave them before they can respond. Let them know me as their benefactor, the one who gave them everything they could ever desire. It should keep them loyal.

As the Inquisitors scatter, I walk with Sergio toward a small side entrance. He waves two of his former mercenaries over to follow me. We pass the front of the procession, and as we go, I see Magiano lounging near the back entrance of the palace, dressed as if ready to head for the baths, while one of the royal maids hands him his cloak. She’s a girl I’ve seen talking to him on several occasions. Today, something she says is making him laugh. Magiano smiles and shakes his head at her before heading off in the direction of the baths.

They’re mocking you behind your back, the whispers say. You heard them laughing, didn’t you? What makes you think your precious thief will stay by your side? As they talk, the scene I’d just witnessed morphs in my memory so that, instead, I imagine seeing the maid run her hand through Magiano’s braids, kissing his lips, and him responding by squeezing her arm, murmuring a secret in her ear. My chest burns, filling with fire and pain.

Perhaps you should show them what you’re capable of. They won’t make a fool of you again.

“It’s not real,” I say under my breath. “It’s not real.” Gradually, the illusion fades, and the true scene replaces it again. My heart hammers in my chest as the whispers retreat, chuckling at me.

“The dungeon keeper tells me that they’ve prepared Teren for your visit today,” Sergio says, jerking me out of my thoughts. I turn to him in relief. Based on his expression, he’s saying this for the second time. “He’s been cleaned, beard shaved off, given a new set of clothes.”

“Good,” I answer. Teren had killed several Inquisition guards over the past few months, those who had not been careful in his presence. Now they approach him very rarely, leaving him unkempt. “How is he now?”

“Calm,” Sergio says. He pats the hilt at his side. “Weak.”

Weak? We fall into silence again as we enter the palace and make our way down a poorly lit corridor. The ground slopes slightly until we reach a set of stairs winding into darkness, and here, Sergio takes the lead. I follow him, while other soldiers trail me. Our steps echo down into the depths.

“Rumor has it that the Daggers may be hiding in the Skylands,” Sergio says after a while.

I look at him, but his eyes avoid mine. “Beldain?” I ask. “Is Queen Maeve planning to strike us again?”

“I’ve heard nothing.” Sergio is quiet for another beat, and his face is drawn with a strange expression. “Although some say your sister may be in their company too.”

Violetta. I grip the edges of my dress more tightly. Of course Sergio misses her—he has been making subtle remarks for months about where she might be. My pattern of conquests—Merroutas, Domacca, northern Tamoura, Dumor—is no coincidence. It is the order of countries where Sergio has heard that Violetta might be. “Send a scout and a balira in Beldain’s direction,” I finally say.

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Sergio replies.

The original Inquisition Tower still stands, the very same one that Teren had once used to hold my sister captive, where I’d gone on several occasions to see him in my desperation. I was tempted to keep him in the same quarters—but the palace itself has a lower level of dungeons meant for the most important of prisoners, the ones to be kept close.

And I want Teren very, very close.

The dungeons are a cylinder spiraling into darkness, barely lit by slivers of light peeking through gratings from above. The farther down we go, the damper the stones and walls get. I wrap my cloak tighter around me as cold air prickles my skin. The steps turn narrower, and through their cracks grow strange mosses and weeds, plants that feed somehow on the dim light and trickling water. Survivors. I am reminded of my early days with the Dagger Society, the old cavern where we all used to train. We, as if there were still such a thing. I cast out the memory of Raffaele’s gentle guidance, his smile. The memory of Michel teaching me how to sculpt a rose out of thin air, of Gemma showing me her power with animals. Of Enzo, wiping a tear from my cheek. Don’t cry. You are stronger than that.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Fixed series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)
» Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1)
» Norse Mythology