Home > King's Cage (Red Queen #3)(8)

King's Cage (Red Queen #3)(8)
Author: Victoria Aveyard

Naturally, my mind flies. Have they won another victory? Against Cal, against the Scarlet Guard? Or are they still cheering my capture?

One look at Evangeline is answer enough. I’ve never seen her scowl this way, not even at me. Her catlike sneer turns ugly, angry, full of rage like I can’t imagine. Her eyes darken, shifting over the display. They are black like a void, swallowing up the sight of her people in a state of ultimate bliss.

Or, I realize, ignorance.

At someone’s command, a flurry of Red servants push off the far wall and move through the chamber in practiced formation. They carry trays of crystal goblets with liquid like ruby, gold, and diamond starlight. By the time they reach the opposite side of the crowd, their trays are empty and are quickly refilled. Another pass, and the trays empty again. How some of the Silvers are still standing, I have no idea. They continue in their revelry, talking or dancing with hands clawed around their glasses. A few puff on intricate pipes, blowing oddly colored smoke into the air. It doesn’t smell like tobacco, which many of the elders in the Stilts jealously hoard. I watch sparks in their pipes with envy, each one a pinprick of light.

Worse is the sight of the servants, the Reds. They make me ache. What I would give to take their place. To be only a servant instead of a prisoner. Stupid, I scold myself. They are imprisoned same as you. Just like all of your kind. Trapped beneath a Silver boot, though some have more room to breathe.

Because of him.

Evangeline descends from the landing, and the Arvens force me to follow. The stairs lead us directly to the dais, another elevated platform high enough to denote its ultimate importance. And of course a dozen Sentinels stand upon it, masked and armed, terrifying in every inch.

I expect the thrones I remember. Diamondglass flames for the king’s seat, sapphire and polished white gold for the queen’s. Instead, Maven sits upon the same kind of throne I saw him rise from a month ago, when he held me chained in front of the world.

No gems, no precious metals. Just slabs of gray stone swirled with something shiny, flat-edged, and brutally absent of insignia. It looks cold to the touch and uncomfortable, not to mention terribly heavy. It dwarfs him, making him seem younger and smaller than ever. To look powerful is to be powerful. A lesson I learned from Elara, though somehow Maven didn’t. He seems the boy he is, sharply pale against his black uniform, the only color on him the bloodred lining of his cape, a silver riot of medals, and the shivering blue of his eyes.

King Maven of House Calore meets my gaze the moment he knows I’m here.

The instant hangs, suspended on a thread of time. A canyon of distractions yawns between us, filled with so much noise and graceful chaos, but the room might as well be empty.

I wonder if he notices the difference in me. The sickness, the pain, the torture my quiet prison has put me through. He must. His eyes slide over my pronounced cheekbones to my collar, down to the white shift they dress me in. I’m not bleeding this time, but I wish I were. To show everyone what I am, what I’ve always been. Red. Wounded. But alive. As I did before the court, before Evangeline a few minutes ago, I straighten my spine, and stare with all the strength and accusation I have to give. I take him in, looking for the cracks only I can see. Shadowed eyes, twitching hands, posture so rigid his spine might shatter.

You are a murderer, Maven Calore, a coward, a weakness.

It works. He tears his eyes away from me and springs to his feet, both hands still gripping the arms of his throne. His rage falls like the blow from a hammer.

“Explain yourself, Guard Arven!” he erupts at my closest jailer.

Trio jumps in his boots.

The outburst stops the music, the dancing, and the drinking in the span of a heartbeat.

“S-Sir—” Trio sputters, and one of his gloved hands grips my arm. It bleeds silence, enough to make my heartbeat slow. He tries to find an explanation that doesn’t place blame on himself, or the future queen, but comes up short.

My chain trembles in Kitten’s hand, but her grip is still tight.

Only Evangeline is unaffected by the king’s wrath. She expected this response.

He didn’t order her to bring me. There was no summons at all.

Maven is not a fool. He waves a hand at Trio, ending his mumbling with a single motion. “Your feeble attempt is answer enough,” he says. “What do you have to say for yourself, Evangeline?”

In the crowd, her father stands tall, watching with wide, stern eyes. Another might call him afraid, but I don’t think Volo Samos has the power to feel emotion. He simply strokes his pointed silver beard, his expression unreadable. Ptolemus is not so gifted at hiding his thoughts. He stands on the dais with the Sentinels, the only one without fiery robes or a mask. Though his body is still, his eyes dart between the king and his sister, and one fist clenches slowly. Good. Fear for her as I feared for my brother. Watch her suffer as I watched him die.

Because what else can Maven do now? Evangeline has deliberately disobeyed his orders, leaping past the allowances their betrothal allows. If I know anything, I know that to cross the king is to be punished. And to do it here, in front of the entire court? He might just execute her on the spot.

If Evangeline thinks she’s risking death, she doesn’t show it. Her voice never cracks or wavers. “You ordered the terrorist to be imprisoned, shut away like a useless bottle of wine, and after a month of council deliberation, there has been no agreement on what is to be done with her. Her crimes are many, worthy of a dozen deaths, a thousand lifetimes in our worst jails. She killed or maimed hundreds of your subjects since she was discovered, your own parents included, and still she rests in a comfortable bedchamber, eating, breathing—alive without the punishment she deserves.”

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