Black and White Queen - Part One: Thief's Game - Chapter Five
Posted March 20th, 2011 by Lenni
in my evil laboratory, complete with cloud wallpaper >:)
I watched as the assembled players prepared themselves for their missions, or talked to softly amongst themselves if they had none. Aber stood at my side, his eyes scanning the room. "Do you think this is a good idea?"
I didn't look at him. "We need to strike first."
"Some of these players might not be prepared for what you're throwing their way."
"They'll learn to adapt." My gaze skated along the players to where Sannar was talking quietly to the rook Berenice. She was gesturing with her hands. He glanced up at me, then quickly looked away.
I tucked my hand into the pocket of the dress I was wearing to where I'd set the white pawn I carried with me. It felt cool against my fingers, dead. It was a strange thing to take comfort from, but I though of it as a reminder of impossible achievements.
One by one the players filtered out of the room, to the missions I had just explained or back to their homes. Berenice pulled away from Sannar, walking towards me.
"May I have a word, Queen?" She asked.
"Yes." I said, burying the anger that flared up inside me like a bonfire whenever I saw her. I walked a few paces away from Aber, turning to her.
"I killed your sister." She said. "I know you hate me."
"I'm not going to bother lying to you." I replied. Her direct approach, I grudgingly admitted, was a good tactic.
"Is there any chance I'm going to come back alive from this?" Berenice asked softly. Her beautiful face was paler than usual, but her chin was set at a determined angle. "Remember, you're not going to lie."
I shook my head. "No, I'm not." I said. "And to answer your question, yes. A slim chance, but yes."
"If you want revenge, you could just arrange an accident for me." She said quietly. I saw her eyes flick over to where Sannar was watching us. "That's what any other queen would have done."
"I said I'm planning to run this realm differently than anyone else." I said. "That still holds true. And because I know that if things were different, I would want you as a possible friend, if you manage to make it back from this mission alive," I almost smiled. "Which might not be as hard as you think if I have underestimated you, you will have my respect."
She studied, her dark eyes curious. I held out my hand and she took it after a second of hesitation. Her mouth opened like she was about to speak and I caught a flicker of something in her expression, not quite shock. More like realization. "I should get going." Berenice said. "I have a mission to get back from."
I nodded, releasing her hand. "All I'll say is 'safe journey.'" I said. She nodded and left. Before she exited the doors, she set her hand on Sannar's shoulder and whispered something to him. He looked startled, but stepped aside to let her leave.
"Can I trust you to follow me back to the Council room if I leave ahead of you?" Aber looked questioningly at me.
"Yes, because I'm all about trust." I said with a wry smile. "I'll be there."
He left the room at the same time the last pawn did. I folded my arms and examined the room. "You're the only one left. Shouldn't you be on your way?"
Sannar replied without missing a beat, "I was curious when I wasn't sent on a deadly mission like Berenice."
"Well, you know what they say." I sat on the steps to the throne, liking the feel of the cold stone against my legs. "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."
"I never realized you were friends with Ber." He leaned against the door.
"You're more my enemy than her." I said. "True, I sent her on an almost impossible mission, but think of it as an orientation."
"And I don't get one?"
"This morning was all the orientation you needed." I thought back with a slight smile.
Sannar looked to me. "What I said about what I'd do if Berenice was in danger still holds true."
I rubbed the scars on my right forearm. "And if I recall correctly, that conversation went badly for you."
"So it did." He stopped slouching against the door. "Although you must still be dwelling on our first meeting. I could tell you were remembering when you were giving your speech."
I didn't blink, though I was shocked. "It was a... memorable meeting."
He snorted. "You're too easy to read."
"I'm not easy to read at all." I stood up. "True, I remember it often."
"And not with a sunny attitude, I take it?" He sounded amused. I was abruptly furious.
I took long steps until I was standing in front of him. "No." I said. "But I like to think that now that I'm in power over you, things are going to become very unpleasant if you keep bringing it up."
Sannar blinked lazily, his expression not changing. "For such an ice princess, you're pretty easy to rile up."
"Like you never get angry or upset. Maybe you don't."
"Oh, I do." He said softly. "I'm just good at lying about it."
"Then lie about it." I hissed. "And leave."
"I can't." He said. "You're in the way." I glanced around and saw that I was blocking the door. I stepped out of the way and threw open the heavy door. Sannar blinked in the sudden sunlight.
"Why have both of our conversations today ended with you forcing me out?" He inquired, stepping around me and out into the courtyard.
"Because if you leave, I don't have to run you through with whatever sharp object is nearest." I said icily. "Door's open. Get going."
"Sure thing." I turned away, and he called, "Kessiah?"
I turned back to tell him that under no circumstances whatsoever was he allowed to call me Kessiah, and he jumped up the steps in one long leap. He grabbed my chin and before I could shriek in protest, gave me a tiny butterfly kiss on the lips. "Are we even now?" He said, dodging out of the way as I tried to slap him. Sannar jumped down the steps and walked through the courtyard, pausing to wave annoyingly at me as he moved out of sight.
I sat down hard in the threshold. I should run after him and slap him. Hell, I should send thirty armed guards to run him through. Instead I raised a hand to my mouth and shuddered. The thick scars in my arms burned.
I stood, somewhat shakily, and went inside. I slammed the door, feeling satisfaction in the bang it made. I rushed down the hall, slowing when I caught the alarmed look of a servant. I opened the door to the Council room.
The entire Council was gathered around the long rectangular table. They glanced up as I entered, and I was reminded of the first time I'd opened those doors with a bang.
"What's going on?" I asked, sliding into a chair. I smoothed down my dress discreetly. "Something terribly important, obviously."
Lucas stood, drawing his hands out from behind his back. In them was a crumpled piece of paper that looked like a flyer, or a public announcement notice. He handed it to me without speaking. I raised my eyebrows at him and began to read.
Citizens of the Black City:
Sitting on our throne is a thief queen. She is a white pawn in disguise, here to rob us of our monarchy and our way of life. How long do you think it will be before the white players arrive in our city, with weapons and instructions and new rules for the Long Game?
It will not happen.
Because YOU, the common ordinary people, will not allow it to happen.
Take these words to heart, and remember them when the time is right. Remember that our queen stole her throne and her power, and does not care in the slightest for us, the people. Remember that she is a pawn at heart. Remember that when the time comes.
I let my breath out in a gust. "Well," I said. "Looks like we've got a rebellion to deal with."
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