Saturday, July 14, 2018

Page 1861 -- CXCIV.

((Triple Saturday -- Page 1 of 3))
I see,’ said Garovel. ‘So, then, what’s your strategy moving forward? If things continue on like they have been, then it sounds like you won’t be able to keep up appearances for much longer.

At that, the Queen was silent for an uncomfortably long time.

Hector studied her expression, as well as Lynn’s, and he couldn’t help worrying about what he was seeing. Their solemn gazes. Their aversion of eye contact.

This wasn’t right at all. He was the one who was so supposed to be afraid of eye contact, not them.

At length, however, the Queen finally answered. “It may already be too late,” she said. “I know you are expecting me to say that I have some grand plan to save the kingdom, and if you were any other of the other lords here tonight, I would say exactly that. I would tell you what I thought you would wish to hear--indeed, what I would wish to hear. But with the two of you, at least, I feel I must share the fullness of my thoughts on this matter, terrible though they are.”

Hector’s own expression hardened as he listened, bracing himself for whatever he was about to hear.

“I fear there may simply be no way out of this particular crisis,” said the Queen. “Not for me, at least. Not for the Crown.”

Hector was confused. He waited for her to explain what she meant.

“Atreya will survive,” she went on. “There is no doubt in my mind about that. Because Atreya is its people. And we are a hardier bunch than I think even we ourselves realize. We are tough and often underestimated.” A thin smile crossed her lips briefly. “I would say you are a fine example.”

Hector might’ve blushed if he wasn’t more concerned about where this was going.

“And perhaps I am being overly dramatic,” she said. “It is not as if I will be gutted and thrown out onto the street.”

Hector couldn’t hold his questions any longer. “What are you talking about? Why are you saying all of this?”

For a short time, the Queen merely looked at him, her eyes softening before seeming to find their steel again. “This information is not yet public, but... Intar has offered to annex Atreya.”

Chapter One Hundred Ninety-Four: ‘Thine uncertain destiny...’
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Hector’s head reared back. He didn’t even know what to make of that news.

The Queen was not done talking, however. “I have not yet given them an answer, but it is certainly not something I can dismiss out of hand. And the terms of it, as they have been relayed to me thus far, would be rather generous, considering our circumstances.”

Wow,’ said Garovel. ‘And what are these “rather generous” terms, if you don’t mind my asking?

“Complete absolution of all our debts to them,” said Helen, “as well as the shouldering of all debts we have to other nations--namely Korgum and Dozer.”

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