Chapter no 13 – Apollo

A Curse for True Love

Apollo stood in front of the fire of his private study, hands clasped behind him, chin tilted up, eyes down. It was a pose he’d frequently struck for portraits, like the one that currently hung above the fireplace mantel. Of course, he had been younger in that portrait. It had been painted before he’d met Evangeline, before he’d died and seen himself replaced within a week by an impostor. And an unimpressive one at that.

Apollo knew he was still young. He’d lived only twenty years—and they’d been twenty peaceful years, which made it rather hard to live a life that inspired bards and minstrels. He liked to think that had he lived a little longer before his supposed death, his legacy wouldn’t have been so quickly discarded. Yet Apollo was still disappointed in himself that he’d squandered so much time.

Coming back from the dead had given him an edge in building a legacy that would not be so easily forgotten. But he knew that this alone wasn’t enough to forge the future that he wanted, to ensure that no one would curse him again or use him in any other way to harm Evangeline.

He had to do more.

Apollo unrolled the scroll that Lord Slaughterwood had given him two days ago. Just as before, it began to catch fire, not enough to burn him, but enough to destroy the page and render it into ashes. It started with the words

at the bottom of the scroll; they always caught fire before he could read them. But he’d read enough of the story. He knew exactly what he had to do.

But first Apollo had to make sure Evangeline was safe. The knock on the door came precisely on time.

Apollo took a deep breath, bracing himself for what he feared he would have to do next.

“You may enter,” he said, turning down his mouth as the door to his study opened and Havelock stepped inside.

The guard immediately noticed the burning page in Apollo’s hand and the ashes on the ground. “Have I interrupted something?”

“Nothing important.” Apollo dropped the smoldering page on the floor. Like all stories in the North, it was infected with the story curse. This particular story set fire to itself every time it was opened.

The page would burn until it was just a pile of ash. Then it would re-form—much like what Apollo was doing with his life and Evangeline’s.

“What news do you have about the attack on Princess Evangeline?” Apollo asked.

The guard bowed and took a beleaguered breath. “The princess’s tutor continues to maintain that she’s innocent. Madame Voss swears she never sent the princess a letter to lure her out to the well. She claims the guards are lying.”

Apollo ran a hand through his hair. “What are Victor and Hansel saying?”

“They stand by their story. They say there was a letter from the tutor and they lost Evangeline in the fog when she tried to meet her. They swear that they aren’t part of any plot.”

Apollo grimaced. “Do you think they’re telling the truth?”

“They seemed sincere, Your Highness. But it’s difficult to tell. The tutor seemed sincere as well.”

Apollo sighed and looked down at the floor where the page was almost done burning.

“Victor, Hansel, and the tutor are probably all working together,” Apollo said.

He wanted to take the words back as soon as he’d spoken them.

But it was too late now. It had been too late ever since he’d told Victor and Hansel to give Evangeline the falsified note from the tutor, to pretend to

lose her in the gardens, and then to push her in the well. But Evangeline had given him no choice. She’d refused to believe that she was in danger. He had to show her that she was wrong.

He hadn’t meant for the lesson to be quite so traumatic. He’d expected the guards on garden patrol to find her sooner. That had been a mistake, but he hadn’t wanted to involve more people than necessary in his plan.

“Continue to torture the tutor—I feel as if there’s a chance she could crack. Especially if you tell her that you’ve killed Victor and Hansel.”

Havelock paled.

Apollo clapped him on the shoulder, and once again, he was tempted to change course. To tell Havelock just to leave Victor and Hansel in prison. He hated to lose these particular soldiers. They’d proven themselves quite admirably. But he couldn’t be sure how long their loyalty would last. And the last thing he needed was whispers getting out that he had been the one to orchestrate the latest attempt on Evangeline’s life. “I know Victor and Hansel were your friends, but they betrayed Evangeline. We need to do this as an example.”

Havelock nodded bleakly. “I’ll make sure it’s done tonight.”

Apollo felt a pang of something like guilt. He hated to do it, and he hated that things had come to this, that Evangeline’s lack of trust in him had forced him to take such drastic action. But he was doing the right thing.

He was protecting his wife from everyone, including herself.

You'll Also Like