Home > The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3)(9)

The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3)(9)
Author: Marie Lu

Something is poisoning the world.

Even now, decades later, I fear nothing so much as the open ocean at night, with darkness stretching around me in every direction.

—The Journals of Reda Harrakan, translated by Bianca Bercetto

Adelina Amouteru

A full week later, the wound in my arm still throbs when I move too quickly. A thick layer of bandages covers it. I wince as I make my way down the ramp to the Estenzian harbor, hoping I haven’t broken open the skin again.

The harbor today is filled with the stench of rotting fish. I wrinkle my nose as soldiers lead us to a series of carriages awaiting our arrival. Beside me, Sergio walks with one hand resting permanently on the hilt of his sword. He leans toward me. “Your Majesty,” he says. The title flows as naturally from him as if I were born to the throne. “My men have captured several citizens accused of trying to breach the palace gates. They’re in the Inquisition Tower now, but I’d rather not take any chances.”

I glance at him. “And what are they so unhappy about?”

“Giving up their land to the marked. Your new decree.”

“And what are you planning to do with those prisoners?”

Sergio shrugs. He adjusts his cloak to wrap more snugly around his shoulders, then takes a long swig of water from his canteen. “Whatever you like. You’re the queen.”

I wonder whether he thinks differently of me than he did of the Night King of Merroutas. I’d like to believe Sergio respects me more than that. The Night King was weak, an enemy of the marked, a drunk, and a fool. I pay Sergio far more than that man ever did. Sergio’s armor is lined with threads of gold, his cloak woven from the finest, heaviest silks in the world, embroidered with the initials of their makers.

The whispers laugh at me. Watch your back, little wolf, they say. Enemies arise from unexpected places.

I push stubbornly, in vain, against their words. Sergio will stay loyal to me, just as Magiano will. I have given them everything they could ever want.

But you can’t give them everything they want—they will always want more than they have.

I remind myself to prepare another herbal drink once I’m inside the palace. My head has started to throb from their incessant noise, chattering away, echoing in my mind all throughout our journey home. “Have them publicly executed,” I reply, trying to drown out the whispers with my voice. “Hanging, please. You know how I feel about burnings.”

Sergio, as usual, doesn’t bat an eye. The Night King had commanded him to do much worse. “Consider it done, Your Majesty.” He waits as I duck into the carriage and then lowers his face close to mine. “Stop by the dungeons when you arrive at the palace,” he says.

“Why?” I reply.

A flicker of doubt crosses Sergio’s face. “I’ve gotten word from the keeper that something is wrong with Teren.”

A prickling feeling runs down my spine. Sergio has never liked me visiting Teren in the dungeons—so for him to tell me that I should go there now is surprising. The whispers instantly unearth an irrational thought. He wants you to visit Teren because he wants you dead. Everyone wants you dead, Adelina, even a friend like Sergio. He’s luring you there so that Teren can slit your throat. They cackle, and for a moment I genuinely believe them. I hold my breath and force myself to think of something else.

Whatever’s happened to Teren must be serious enough that Sergio wants me to see him. That’s all.

“I’ll have the carriages go around to the back gate,” I say.

“And you should take a different route to the palace. A more discreet one.”

I scowl. I’m not about to cower in my own alleys just because a few people have made the foolish decision to attack my gates. “No,” I reply. “We’ve been through this. I will take my public route, and the people will see me in my carriage. They are not ruled by a coward queen.”

Sergio utters an annoyed grunt, but doesn’t argue with me. He just bows again. “As you wish.” Then he rides off to the front of our procession.

I peer outside the window in the hopes of seeing Magiano. He should be riding behind me, but he’s not there. I continue looking as my carriage lurches forward and we gradually leave the pier behind.

Months have passed since I last set foot in Estenzia. It is early spring, and as we ride, I notice the familiar things first—the flowers blooming in clusters along windowsills, the vines hanging down thick and green along narrow side streets, bridges arching over canals, filled with people.

Then there are the changes. My changes. The marked, no longer called malfettos, own property and shops. Others make way for them as they pass through the crowds. I see two Inquisitors dragging an unmarked person through a plaza even as he struggles and cries. On another street, a group of marked children surround an unmarked one, throwing rocks, shoving him hard to the ground as he screams. Inquisitors standing nearby don’t stop them, and I turn my gaze away in disinterest as well. How many rocks had once been thrown at me as a child; how many marked children had once been burned alive in the streets? How ironic to see these white-cloaked soldiers I once feared so much now obeying my every command.

We take a turn onto a small street, then lurch to a stop. Ahead, I hear a group of people shouting, their voices drawing close to my carriage. Protesters. My energy stirs.

A familiar voice drifts over to us from outside. An instant later, something lands on the roof of the carriage with a thud. I lean out of the window and look up—just as a protester darts through the narrow street toward me.

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