Domiq was escorted to the throne room as soon as the first sentry spotted him just outside the palace wall. As he waited for the queen to arrive, he counted all the ways she could have pain inflicted on him for hiding his knowledge of her son’s whereabouts for so long. He had seen her anger and learned long ago that as loved as she was by her empire, she was also a force to be feared if betrayed.
He recalled a story he had beard when very young, about an attempted coup led by a small group of palace guards shortly after the queen’s coronation. When the plot was uncovered, she had the guilty mers’ tails removed and their still living torsos put on display in the city square. It took them months to die and that only happened when a citizen took pity on them and smuggled them poison.
By the time she entered, he was a nervous wreck and willing to give away secrets he did not even know.
You have information on my son? She did not waste time with pleasantries.
Yes, my queen. He bowed his head.
So… tell me.
He is what?
He is human, your majesty.
What? What do you mean?
He… he went to the witch-boy and-
Oh, no. She covered her face with her hands. No, no, no. This is… this is terrible. We must… we must meet with Karinth and make him undo what he has done. She looked at the guards to either side of her and nodded. Make preparations. We leave immediately. She looked back to Domiq, who could not make eye contact with her. You shall be dealt with when I return. Guards, take him.
* * *
Karinth was not surprised when Demora arrived, flanked by her personal guards. It had been many years since he had last laid eyes on her and noticed she had not aged more than a day since their parting just before she reached maturity. A part of him missed those days, when he had a home and friends and the respect of the entire empire. But since he had been banished from court, for the first time in his centuries spanning life, her citizens had been less than warn towards him.
I’d ask what brings you to my humble home but there is only one reason you would visit me, old friend. You know about the deal your son struck with me and wish me to undo it.
I do. Now, will you?
I am your queen. You will do as I demand.
No. First, Demora, you are not my queen. You ceased to be the moment you forced me from my home for crimes I did not commit. Second, you are in my land, as decreed by the Treaty of Sa’arrco and have no authority to demand anything. Now, if you do not mind, I have things to do that do not involve arguing with you.
I can make you, witch-boy.
You can try, queen-girl.
The guards raised their weapons, pointed them at Karinth. He smiled and rolled his eyes.
What are their toys against my magic? He flicked his wrist and the water between them turned a dense green. Now, I should warn you. If any of your guards-
The guards moved forward, into the green. As soon at their skin touched it, they began to disintegrate. Karinth shrugged his shoulders.
I tried to warn you. Now go or I will expand the spell to envelope you and the rest of your guards.
You’ll regret this.
No. I won’t. He waved them off with a smile.
* * *
Antoni stood on the beach where Sora had found him all those months ago and, for the first time, wondered how the world he had left behind fared. Had his mother searched for him long before naming a new successor? Had Domiq found the kind of love he had always searched for? Had Anasticia found comfort in the arms of another lover, one who wanted to spend his life making her happy?
He looked out at the vast ocean and sighed. He had to admit that he did miss parts of his old life; friends and certain family. But he also admitted that with Sora beside him, he felt whole, complete.
He only needed his prince lover to give all of him over and he could remain a human for the rest of his life. His time was more than half up and the impending deadline began to weigh on him, especially after Sora and Annalisa had spent so much time in bed together during her visit. He was pretty sure he had made Sora forget her name, at least for a short while, once she was gone but knew that to keep her out of mind, he needed to keep her out of sight.
He squatted down and lowered his head. I don’t know when, I don’t know how… but I will be rid of that little tramp and have Sora all to myself. The way we are meant to be.
He turned toward the voice and saw Sora running towards him and tearing off his clothes. He stood and waved, a smile on his face.
“Fancy a swim?” Sora asked as he skidded to a stop.
“I fancy a lot of things.” He stroked Sora’s face. “But a swim is a good start.”
TO BE CONTINUED