Home > War Storm (Red Queen #4)(6)

War Storm (Red Queen #4)(6)
Author: Victoria Aveyard

“I am,” he murmurs.

Mare’s head snaps up. Her cheeks are red, but the rest of her seems composed. “Send whoever you want with us. I’ll be going to Montfort, and no king has the right to stop me. But they can certainly try.”

Excellent. Calore tightens in his chair. His grandmother looms close, smaller in comparison to him. But their resemblance is still clear. Same bronze eyes, broad shoulders, straight nose. The same soldier’s heart. And, ultimately, the same ambition. She watches him as she speaks, wary of his response. “So Lord Jacos and Mare Barrow will represent the true king of Norta alongside—”

His bracelet sparks, birthing a small red flame. It walks along his knuckles slowly.

“The true king will represent himself,” Cal says, his eyes on the fire.

Across the room, Mare clenches her teeth. It takes all my restraint to stay silent in my seat, but inside, I cheer and dance. So easily done.

“Tiberias,” Anabel hisses. He doesn’t bother to respond. And she can’t press him. You did this to yourself, you stupid old woman. You named him king. Now obey.

“I admit, I have some of Uncle Julian’s—and my mother’s—natural curiosity,” Cal says. He softens at the mention and memory of his mother. Admittedly, I don’t know much about her. Coriane Jacos was not a subject Queen Elara tolerated well. “I want to visit this Free Republic, and discover if all the stories are true.” Then his voice lowers. He looks at Mare with such intensity, as if he can will her to return his gaze. She doesn’t. “I like to see things for myself.”

Davidson nods with a flicker in his eye, his blank mask slipping a little, just for a second. “You are most welcome, Your Majesty.”

“Good.” Cal winks out the fire before rapping his knuckles on the table. “Then it’s settled.”

His grandmother purses her lips, giving her the appearance of having eaten something sour. “Settled?” she scoffs. “Nothing’s settled. You need to plant your flag in Delphie, proclaim your capital; you need to win territory, win resources, win the people, sway more of the High Houses to your side—”

Cal is undeterred. “I do need resources, Grandmother. Soldiers. Montfort has them.”

“You’re very right,” Father says, his voice a deep rumble that puts an old fear in my heart.

Is he angry with me for pushing this? Or is he pleased? As a child, I learned what it was to cross Volo Samos. You became a ghost. Ignored, unwanted. Until you earned your way back to his love with achievement and intelligence.

Out of the corner of my eye, I look at my father. The king of the Rift sits tall on his throne, pale and perfect. Beneath his meticulously manicured beard, I catch sight of a smirk. And I breathe a small, silent sight of relief.

“A plea from the rightful king of Norta himself will go far with the premier’s government,” Father continues. “And it will only strengthen this alliance of ours. So it’s only right I send an envoy of my own, to represent the Kingdom of the Rift as well.”

Not Tolly—don’t! my mind screams. Mare Barrow promised not to kill him, but I hardly trust her word, especially under such opportune circumstances. I can already see it. A foolish accident that would be anything but. And Elane will have to go too, his dutiful wife at his side. If Father sends Tolly, we’ll get back a corpse.

“Evangeline will go with you.”

Nausea wipes out relief in a heartbeat.

I’m torn between calling for another cup of wine and vomiting all over my own feet. Voices scream in my head, every one saying the same thing.

You did this to yourself, you stupid little girl.



My laughter echoes down the eastern walls and over the dark fields. I double over, hands pressed against the smooth parapet, gasping for breath. I can’t control it. True laughter, the deep kind from the pit of my stomach, takes over. The noise is hollow, harsh, and dusty from disuse. My scars bite, stinging along my neck and spine, but I can’t hold it back. I laugh until my ribs hurt and I have to sit down, putting my back against the cold stone. It doesn’t stop, and even when I bite my lips closed, little bursts still make it through.

No one can hear me but the patrols, and I doubt they care about a single girl laughing alone in the darkness. I’ve earned the right to laugh or cry or scream as I see fit. Little pieces of me want to do all three. But laughter wins out.

I sound deranged, and maybe I am. I certainly have an excuse, after today. People are still clearing bodies from the other side of Corvium. Cal chose his crown over everything I thought we were fighting for. Both are still bleeding wounds no healer can fix. Wounds I have to ignore right now, for my own sanity. The only thing I can do is put my face in my hands, clench my teeth, and fight my infernal, idiotic laugh.

This is complete and total lunacy.

Evangeline, Cal, and me, all headed to Montfort. What a terrific joke.

I said as much in my message to Kilorn, still safe back in Piedmont. He would want to know about everything, as much as I could say. After I convinced him to stay behind, it’s only fair to keep him in the loop. And of course, I want him in the loop. I want someone else to laugh with me, and curse over what’s to come.

I chuckle darkly again, tipping my head back against the stonework. The stars above me are pinpricks, dimmed by the city lights of Corvium as well as the rising moon. The stars seem to watch, looking down at the fortress city. I wonder if Iris Cygnet’s gods are laughing with me. If they even exist.

I wonder if Jon is laughing too.

The thought of him chills my blood, killing whatever manic giggle I have left. That wretched, prophesizing newblood is out there somewhere, having escaped us. But to do what? Sit on a hill and watch? Let his red eyes tick back and forth as we all kill each other? Is he some kind of game master, content to nudge us into position and play out whatever future he chooses? If it were remotely possible, I would try to find him. Force him to protect us from lethal fate. But that’s absurd. He’ll see me coming. We can only find Jon if he wants to be found.

Frustrated, I scrub my fingers over my face and scalp, letting my nails drag across my skin. The sharp sensation brings me back to reality, little by little. So does the cold. The stone beneath my body loses warmth as night wears on. The thin fabric of my uniform does little to keep me from shivering, while the sharp, solid edges of the wall are hardly comfortable. Still, I don’t move.

Moving means sleep, but it also means going back down. To the others, to the barracks. Even if I don my best scowl and run, I’ll have to face Reds and newbloods and Silvers too. Julian, certainly. I can just imagine him waiting on my cot, ready with another lecture. What he could possibly say, I don’t know.

He’ll side with Cal, I think. At the end of all this. When it becomes clear we won’t let Cal keep his throne. Silvers are nothing if not loyal to blood. And Julian is nothing if not loyal to his dead sister. Cal is the last piece of her left. He won’t turn his back on that, even for all his talk of revolution and history. He won’t leave Cal alone.

Tiberias. Call. Him. Tiberias.

It even hurts to think the name. His real name. His future. Tiberias Calore the Seventh, King of Norta, Flame of the North. I picture him on his brother’s throne, safe in a cage of Silent Stone. Or would he drag out the diamondglass inferno his father sat? Destroy every shred of Maven, erase him from history? He’ll rebuild his father’s palace. The Kingdom of Norta will return to the way it was. Except for the Samos king in the Rift, everything will go back to what it was meant to be the day I fell into the arena.

Making everything that has occurred since that day be for nothing.

I refuse to let that happen.

And, luckily, I’m not alone in this endeavor.

The moonlight glows on the black stone, making the gold accents of every tower and parapet gleam silver. Patrols wind below me, guards in red and green uniforms keeping watch. Scarlet Guard and Montfort. Their counterparts, Silvers in house colors, are less frequent, and they clump together. Yellow Laris, black Haven, red and blue Iral, red and orange Lerolan. No Samos colors. They’re royal now, thanks to Volo’s ambition and opportunity. No need to waste their time on something as ordinary as the nightly rounds.

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