Home > The Queen of Traitors (The Fallen World #2)

The Queen of Traitors (The Fallen World #2)
Author: Laura Thalassa

CHAPTER 1

Serenity

CONFUSION.

Am I conscious? Everything’s dark.

A moment later, pain flares my body to life. I’m awake, I have to be to acutely feel every inch of throbbing skin.

I grind my teeth together against the agony, but I can’t stop the tears that leak from my eyes. I’m lying on my side, my weight pressed against my bad arm, my wrists bound behind my back. If not for the pain, I wouldn’t even know I had a bad arm.

I can hear people talking, and I smell oil and steel. But I can’t see any of it. Something covers my face. I try to shrug it off with my shoulder, but I don’t make any progress.

What’s going on?

I search my mind, but there’s nothing to grasp onto. I cannot remember a moment before this. What actions led my life here, cuffed and wounded. My past and my identity have been cleaved away, along with my freedom, and I have no idea what any of it means.

The floor dips and rises, and my bodyweight is thrown against my injury. The agony is instant and all-compassing. I can’t hold back my gasp, but it cuts off as the pain overwhelms me and my mind shuts down.

I wake off and on to voices, pain, and jostling. I should know what’s happening to me, but the explanation is a wil-o’-the-wisp; the more I chase it, the farther away it gets.

My entire existence is a series of shallow breaths drawn from damp, recycled air, my world contained within the bag that covers my head. I do not know my name, the color of my eyes, the shape of my face. Most importantly, I have no idea what’s going on.

And now I’m being jerked to my feet, and now we’re walking. I hiss in a breath at the pain. My legs can’t hold me up. They keep wanting to fold under me, but my captors grip my elbows and force me to remain upright.

I can hear cheering as I’m carted away. A migraine pulses behind my eyes and along my temple, and the noise stirs it.

A crowd must be watching this procession. People begin to boo.

At me, I realize. The entire mass of them are booing at me.

Who am I?

Something smashes into the side of my head. I stagger, and my headache unfurls the full force of its power. I have to swallow back the bile that rises up in my throat.

“Move!” an angry voice shouts. A booted foot kicks the back of my knee, and I stumble forward.

Beneath the pain and the confusion, anger simmers. My cuffed hands curl into fists. If I wasn’t restrained, I’d gladly endure more suffering to land a few good blows on my captors. I’m no helpless thing.

The air cools as I’m directed indoors. That doesn’t stop the booing crowd or the objects flung at me. Whatever’s happening, I’m supposed to be humiliated. They’re wasting their efforts. I’m in far too much pain to care about what they think of me.

This goes on for a while, and I resign myself to enduring this for the time being. It’s not until I hear the heavy turn of locks and I’m pushed forward once more, that my situation changes.

Now the noise from the crowd dulls and the thump of dozens of footsteps break away. I can’t say how much farther we walk, or how many turns we take. I’m weaving on my feet.

The men holding my arms halt. Ahead of me, locks tumble and then another heavy door creaks open. A tug on my injured arm has me moving forward. We only walk a few steps forward before I’m stopped again. Behind me, the thick thud of a door cuts the last of the sound off completely.

Someone rips the bag from my head, taking some strands of my hair along with it.

The overhead light blinds me, and I squint against it, gnashing my teeth against the new wave of pain behind my temple. I sense more than see the men on either side of me.

I finally breathe in fresh air, and it shakes off a bit of my weariness. The last time air was this crisp …

I stand in a moat of bloody bodies. Men in dark fatigues creep closer. I don’t know who they are, but I know I need to fight them.

The memory’s blurry, and I can’t be sure it’s real.

I blink, my earlier confusion roaring back to life. Why can’t I place where I am? Who I am? I know I should remember these things, so why can’t I?

And then there are the things that I inexplicably know. The fact, for instance, that I’m in a holding cell. The kind with a one-way mirror. I have no memory of this place or any like it, yet somehow I recognize exactly what it is. A room for prisoners.

That’s what I am. I can’t say what my crimes are, though I’m obviously someone important. Someone infamous.

As my eyes adjust, I notice three men in uniform standing around me. Soldiers of some sort. They appear wary of me, like I might get violent at any moment.

I think they’re wise to be wary.

One of them shoves me to my knees. Roughly, he grabs my bound hands behind my back and unlocks the cuffs. Pain slices through my arms as they’re released and sensation flows back into them.

I pivot on my knees, primed for attack. I may not know what’s going on, but I have muscle memory, and it’s leading me now.

I lunge for the nearest of my captors. Clumsily my arms wrap around his calves as I slam into him, and God, does my injured arm burn. The pain almost stops me. Almost.

He loses his balance and falls. Not good for him.

My instincts are directing me. Before he can recover, I move up his body and slam the fist of my good arm into his temple. Again and again.

I was right. It is absolutely worth every bit of agony to pummel one of these men.

Just as quickly as I find myself on my captor, I’m dragged off of him by the other two. The entire time they curse at me.

   
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