Home > Midnight Soul (Fantasyland #5)(9)

Midnight Soul (Fantasyland #5)(9)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“They got things you can take here, you know, that help you with that?” he asked.

“Are you referring to sleeping draughts?” I inquired.

“Probably,” he answered.

“Yes,” I said on a succinct nod. “However, I avoid them. There are those who use them who become dependent on them. I don’t wish to hazard that.”

“Good call, Franka. But one night? A couple?” He leaned infinitesimally closer. “I can see it in your eyes, babe, the shadows under them. I can see exactly how much you haven’t been sleeping. Pull the cord, sweetheart. Get someone to bring you some. Get some good sleep. Yeah?”

Why he ended his statement with a “Yeah?” (another form of “yes” from his world) as if he was asking for my agreement when he’d uttered a command right before that (I gentle one, but one nonetheless), I had no idea.

What I did know was that my head was swimming from the drink, lack of sleep, the activities of the day, and regardless that I knew I wouldn’t sleep, I was exhausted and had been exhausted, down to my bones, for months.

Further, I’d spent far too long in his intoxicating company already.

So I agreed by lying, “I’ll pull the cord, Noctorno.”

“Noc, babe,” he corrected.

“Of course,” I murmured.

“You want, I’m around, you’re still around the next couple of days, I’ll teach you Tetris,” he offered.

I wanted to learn Tetris even though I had no idea what it was. I wanted him to show me everything his gadget could do.

I wanted to be in his soothing company where no games were played.

Where it was just him and me.

“I’ll be leaving imminently.”

He studied my face, sobered and nodded.

Inebriated or not, my mask was back in place, and Noctorno didn’t miss it.

“I’ll bid you goodnight,” I said crisply, stepping back, dipping my chin into my neck and buckling my knees in a slight curtsy.

A slight curtsy.

To a commoner.

What was becoming of me?

“’Night, Franka.”

I should thank him for the evening. Thank him for the words he said. Thank him for spending time with me when he could be with others that were better company.

I didn’t do that.

I rose to my full height, gave myself the gift of one last look in his eyes, turned and swept from the room.

* * * * *

Once in the bed in said room I tossed.

And I turned.

Leaving my trusted lady’s maid to her own slumber, I eventually got up and pulled the cord.

A servant brought me a sleeping draught.

It took some time to work.

But once I fell asleep, I slept for twelve hours.

Chapter Two

There Are No Such Things as Heroes


The next afternoon, following one of the royal guards, I strode sedately down the halls toward the queen’s study.

I’d been summoned.

I’d had my bath, my hair arranged, my personal lady’s maid, Josette, working miracles (as she normally did) doing the work of three maids quietly with no complaint and great talent.

I had never told her this, of course. Though I did pay her wages and they were more than others in her position, so I suspected she knew.

If I saw him again, I would also not tell Noctorno that I took his advice about the sleeping draught and now felt more refreshed than I had in months.

Further, I would not tell him that our conversation of the evening before had been most helpful.

It had not alleviated the pain or the guilt. However, it offered me ways to cope with, at least, the latter.

I had no idea why the queen was summoning me, but I hoped whatever it was didn’t take too long. I’d had no food since my bread and cheese (and wine and whiskey) of the night before, and for the first time since Antoine was taken, I was famished.

I also needed quiet and concentration to plan my next steps, those being the ones I took after I visited Kristian to make certain he was healthy and well.

I followed the guard down the hallway thinking all of this as well as the fact I wished to be away from the Winter Palace as soon as I could.

I thought this because I simply wished to be away as soon as I could. It was never safe for me in Lunwyn. Every visit there was a risk.

But also, with the windows being boarded, no natural light could come in, and it made the Winter Palace, a normally beautiful dwelling, eerie in a way I did not like.

The guard stopped at the closed door to the queen’s study, rapped on it sharply with his knuckles, waited for the command of, “Come,” and I felt my lips curl with suppressed delight.

No queen had ever ruled Lunwyn.

Nor Hawkvale.

Nor Fleuridia or the city-state of Bellebryn. And certainly not any of the savage nations of the Southlands—Korwahk, Keenhak and Maroo.

Women did not rule.

And yet, when Aurora’s Atticus, Lunwyn’s king, had been murdered during hostilities some time past, the most powerful man in our country, (that man, incidentally, was my cousin, Frey), installed his mother-in-law on the throne.

He did not do this as an act of nepotism.

He did this because Atticus was the king he was (a good one) mostly (to my way of thinking) due to the woman at his side.

Queen Aurora was savvy, watchful, deliberate and guarded as well as outwardly attractive and stately of demeanor.

All excellent qualities in a ruler.

It was not a surprise since her coronation that much news had come to me. News that shared she was excelling in her new role.

Our first queen.

Long may she reign.

Of course I thought this, but would never say it out loud.

No, when I followed the guard through the door, my smile died, and with ease born of decades of practice in order to face whatever was next, as I always did, I slipped one of my many masks into place.

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