Home > Midnight Soul (Fantasyland #5)(11)

Midnight Soul (Fantasyland #5)(11)
Author: Kristen Ashley

I’m not slipping, Antoine, my love, I thought in horror. I’ve lost it completely!

Queen Aurora swept out a hand slightly to her right, indicating the small chest on her desk.

“Lunwyn’s Sjofn ice diamonds,” she declared, and I felt my knees lock.

Even that size chest, filled with Lunwyn’s highly sought after ice diamonds, was not a small fortune.

It was a magnificent one.

“This from Lunwyn, as thanks,” Aurora uttered her last word as if it was difficult for her to say. She then gestured to the largest chest that lay in the middle of the three. “Korwahk emeralds, rubies and sapphires.”

By the gods!

It took grave effort not to allow my eyes to widen.

“From the Dax,” she turned her head toward King Lahn and Queen Circe and tipped it their way, “his Dahksahna and the people of Korwahk, in gratitude.” She looked back to me and indicated the last chest. “Gold coin, in appreciation of your efforts from King Ludlum of Hawkvale, his son, Prince Noctorno, ruler of Bellebryn, and, of course,” a small amount of warm infused her features as she looked to Princess Cora, “his princess.”

I turned my gaze their way and saw distaste in Prince Noctorno’s eyes, eyes that were on me.

Princess Cora, however, was studying me as if I was a curiosity.

“And last, from the House of Ulfr,” Queen Aurora went on, and I looked back to her to see she had her arm straight out. I turned my attention to where she was indicating, directing it at one of the chairs that sat in front of her desk, a chair that was piled high with luxurious pelts, “sable, chinchilla and mink, the finest, of course, as they’re Ulfr.”

My eyes moved from the dizzying spectacle of that beauty back to my country’s queen as she kept speaking.

“As I know you, Franka, I can safely assume, for your part in the difficulties that played out yesterday, this will be enough. I do hope you consider this a debt fully paid.”

The coin from Hawkvale alone, I could tell from the size of the chest, was more than enough.

This more than enough being the fact that I could live on that quite well (in other words, get Josette a much-needed assistant for the care of my person and belongings). I could also get far better appointed apartments in Fleuridia (or wherever I chose to go). Further, I could have not only a butler, a cook and two lady’s maids (all that I already had in Fleuridia, save the second lady’s maid) with help coming in every two weeks to clean and tidy, I could hire an actual house maid on staff who’d clean and tidy every day.

By Adele, I could hire fifty if I wished!

With the riches that lay before me (and on the seat beside me), I could live in extreme luxury until I took my last breath.

More, I could share them with Kristian. He could then be safe from the House of Drakkar, independent, his own man. He could make his wife safe, his son. He, through me, could make them all safe from the secrets that had plagued us since we were children.

Indeed, if he had a mind to, he could take them away. He could even go live in a realm across the Green Sea where nothing could touch them.


No one.

Not even magic (maybe).

This, I would share with him. He listened to me. I’d heard things about those realms. There was great beauty in the countries of Airen, Firenze, Wodell.

Perhaps I’d go with my brother and his family.

And yet, as these thoughts raced through my mind—along with feeling the sensation of relief, the knowledge that I no longer had to connive and manipulate to obtain the lifestyle to which I was accustomed, the understanding I could make my brother and his family safe with a finality that would mean decades of worry would disappear—I tasted a sourness in my mouth.

I do hope you consider this a debt fully paid.

Were they showering Noctorno and Circe with riches for the parts they’d played?

Or was it simply me they wished to pay off for they thought (due to my own actions over the years, it must be said) it would be expected.

“And I do hope this extraordinary show of generosity,” Queen Aurora carried on, “will mean that you feel yourself well taken care of and we will find there is some time, a great deal of it, before we’re again in your company.”

They might be showering Noctorno and Circe with riches.

But they were showering me with them to be rid of me.

For good.

The queen studied me, and I endured her scrutiny even as I tried to understand what I was sensing in the room.

I knew I had everyone’s attention. However, it seemed far keener than this insignificant chore would need. The magnitude of the offering was astounding. But the chore of being done with me surely was felt by all (save Noc) as insignificant.

And yet I sensed they were all watching me closely.

I didn’t like the feeling. It seemed dangerous.

And in a room filled with people who either disliked me greatly or didn’t think much of me, that danger was considerable.

I knew that kind of danger.

And I knew the play that had to be made when I found myself in it.

I needed to retreat immediately.

“My gratitude, your grace,” I said quietly. “May I beg the favor of a servant to carry these generous gifts to my rooms?”

“I appreciate you voiced this request, as you haven’t seemed to concern yourself with ordering about servants who’ve been scuttling around the Palace now for weeks preparing for the Bitter Gales, not to mention after the rather dire and miraculous events that occurred yesterday, in order for them to cater to your whims,” Queen Aurora returned.

I fought my back snapping straight.

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