Chapter no 15

Red Queen (Red Queen, 1)

THE NEXT MORNING, WHEN I OPENED my eyes I saw a shadowy figure standing at the side of my bed. Finally, the time has come. I had left, I had broken the rules, and they were going to kill me for it.

But not without a fight.

Before the shadow had a chance, I jumped out of bed, ready to defend myself. My muscles tensed, as a pleasurable buzz reignited within me. However, instead of an assassin, I looked at a figure in a red uniform. And I recognized the woman wearing it.

Walsh looked the same as before, although I certainly wasn’t the same. He was standing next to a metal trolley table filled with tea, bread and anything else I might want for breakfast. As an obedient servant, she kept her mouth tightly shut but her eyes screamed at me. He glared at my hand, at the now all too familiar sparks crawling across my fingers. I shook my hand to get rid of it, brushing away the veins of light until they disappeared back into my skin.

“I’m sorry,” I cried, jumping away from him. He still didn’t speak. “Walsh—”

But he busied himself with his food. Then how shocked I was, when his mouth said five words silently to me. They were words that I began to recognize like a spell—or a curse. Arise, red as the dawn.

Before I could respond, before my shock could overcome, Walsh forced a cup of tea into my hand.

“Wait—” I reached out to reach for him, but he dodged my hand by bending his body low.

“Please, Lady,” he said, sharply ending our conversation.

I let him go. I watched his back out of the room until there was nothing left but the echo of his unspoken words.

Walsh also joined Barisan.

The teacup felt cold in my hand. How strange.

When I looked down I saw that the cup didn’t contain tea, but water. And at the bottom of the cup, a piece of paper oozes ink. The ink swirled as I read the contents of the message. The water then faded it, erasing any trace, until nothing remained but a gray murky liquid and a curled piece of blank paper. There is no evidence of my first act of rebellion.

The message is not difficult to remember. Just two words.


The knowledge that I was related to a group so close by should have calmed me, but somehow, I found myself shuddering. Maybe it’s not just the cameras watching me here.

And that’s not the only note that awaits me. My new schedule sat on the nightstand, written in the queen’s too-perfect handwriting.

Your schedule has changed.

06.30—Breakfast / 07.00—Training / 10.00—Protocol

11.30—Lunch / 13.00—Protocol / 14.00—Lesson


Lucas will take you to meet your entire schedule. Schedules are not up for negotiation.

Her Majesty Queen Elara.

“So they finally put you up for Training?” Lucas grinned at me, a rare glimmer of pride shining through as he guided me into my first session. “Either you have behaved very well or very badly.”

“A little of both.”

What’s worse, I think, is remembering last night’s events at home. I knew the new schedule was Cal’s intervention, but I didn’t expect him to work so quickly. Honestly, I’m excited to take part in the Training. If the training material was like what I saw Cal and Maven doing, especially practicing their skills, I would certainly be far behind. However, at least I had someone to talk to. And if I’m really lucky, Evangeline will be very ill and bedridden for the rest of her poor life.

Lucas shook his head, chuckling. “Get ready. The teachers were renowned for their ability to crush even the strongest warriors. They will not take kindly to your impudence.”

“I don’t take being crushed well,” I retorted. “What was your training like?”

“Well, I went straight into the Army when I was nine, so my experience was a little different,” he said, his eyes darkening at the memory.

“Nine years?” The thought seemed impossible to me. With ability or not, it couldn’t be real.

But Lucas shrugged his shoulders as if it was nothing. “The battlefield is the best place to train. Even the princes received training on the battlefield, for a time.”

“But you’re here now,” I said. My eyes looked at Lucas’ uniform, a black and silver Security officer outfit. “You’re not a soldier anymore.”

For the first time, Lucas’ flat smile disappeared completely. “After a while it wears you out.” He admitted, more to himself than me. “Humans were not expected to fight wars for such long periods of time.”

“And what about the Reds?” I heard myself ask. Bree, Tramy, Shade, Dad, Kilorn’s dad. And thousands of others. Millions more . “Can they survive war better than the Silvers?”

We reached the door to the training hall before Lucas finally answered, looking a little uncomfortable. “That’s how the world works.

Reds serve, Reds work, Reds fight. That’s their cleverness. That is their destined task .” I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from yelling at him. “Not everyone is special.”

Anger boiled inside me, but I didn’t say a single word to refute Lucas. Losing self-control, even with him, would do no good. “I can walk alone from here,” I said curtly.

He noticed my annoyance, frowning slightly. When he spoke, his voice was low and fast, as if he didn’t want to be heard. “I don’t have the privilege to ask.” He muttered. His black eyes pierced mine, full of meaning. “So do you.”

My heart was beating fast, afraid of his words and their hidden meaning. Lucas knew there was more to me than he was letting on . “Lucas—”

“It’s not up to me to ask questions.” He frowned, trying to make me understand, trying to calm me down. “Lady Titanos.” The title sounded firmer than usual, becoming my shield as well as a weapon for the queen.

Lucas won’t ask questions . Despite his black eyes, his Silver blood, his Samos pedigree, he will not pull the thread that can unravel my existence.

“Follow your schedule, Lady.” He withdrew, more formal than usual. With a jerk of his head, he pointed towards the door where a Red maid awaited. “I’ll pick you up after training.”

“Thank you, Lucas.” That’s all I can say. He has helped me more than he realizes.

The waiter handed me a stretchy black suit with purple and silver stripes. He showed me toward a small room, where I changed quickly, stripping from my everyday clothes into an aviator suit. This suit reminds me of my old clothes, which I used to wear in Jangkungan Village. It’s worn down with time and movement, but the cut is slim and tight enough that it won’t hinder my movement.

As I entered the practice hall, I was acutely aware of everyone’s gazes on me, not to mention the dozens of cameras. The floor felt soft and pliable beneath my feet, cushioning every step. The expansive skylight towered above us, showing a blue summer sky full of clouds to taunt me. Winding stairs connecting several floors were built into the walls, each floor was a different height with a variety of equipment. There were lots of windows too, one of which I knew opened into Lady Blonos’ classroom. I had no idea where the other windows led or who might be watching through them.

I should have felt nervous walking into a room full of teenage knights, all of whom had more training than me. Instead, I thought about the haughty lump of bone and metal ice known as Evangeline Samos. I hadn’t made it half way across the floor when its mouth opened, dripping with venom.

“Have you graduated from Protocol class? Have you finally mastered the art of sitting with your legs crossed?” he taunted, jumping off a weight lifting machine. Her silver hair was tied into a ponytail

an intricate braid that I really wanted to trim, but the very sharp metal knife slung at her waist stopped me. Just like me, like the others, he wore a suit emblazoned with the colors of his clan. In black and silver, he looked very dangerous.

Sonya and Elane flanked him with the same mocking grins. Now that they weren’t intimidating me, they seemed busy sucking up to the future queen herself.

I tried my best to ignore them all and found myself looking for Maven. He was sitting in a corner, separated from the others. At least we can be alone together . Whispers followed me, as more than a dozen noble teenagers watched me walk over to him. Some bowed their heads, trying to be polite, but most looked wary. The girls especially seemed restless; after all, I did snatch one of their princes.

“You’ve taken a long time to come.” Maven chuckled as I took a seat next to him. He didn’t seem to be part of the crowd, nor did he want to be. “If I didn’t already know, I would have thought you were trying to get away from us.”

“Just one person in particular,” I replied, turning back to Evangeline. He dominates the group near the target wall, where he shows off his abilities to his cronies in a dazzling display. The metal blades sang through the air, plunging into the center of their target.

Maven watched me study him, his eyes full of concern. “Once we return to the capital, you won’t see him much,” he muttered. “He and Cal will be busy exploring the city,

fulfill their duties. And we will also have our own agenda.”

The thought of being as far away from Evangeline as possible was exciting, but it also reminded me of the clock ticking against me. Soon I would have to leave the Hall, the river valley, and my family far behind.

“Do you know when you—” I stuttered, correcting myself. “I mean, when are we going back to the capital?”

“After the Farewell Dance Party. Haven’t you been told?” “Yes, your mother mentioned it—and Lady Blonos tried

taught me how to dance…” I trailed off, feeling embarrassed. He tried to teach me some steps yesterday, but I kept stumbling. Stealing was no problem for me, but this dancing thing seemed to be beyond me. “The key word is, try .”

“Don’t worry, we won’t have to deal with the worst of it.”

The thought of dancing scared me, but I swallowed the fear. “Who will deal with the worst of it?”

“Cal,” he said without hesitation. “My brother had to tolerate too much silly talk and dancing with too many annoying girls. I remember last year…” He stopped laughing at the memory. “Sonya Iral spent all her time following him, cutting off his dancing turns, trying to drag him away to have fun. I had to intervene and go through the pain of two songs with him so Cal could take a break.”

The image of the two brothers teaming up against a legion of desperate girls makes me laugh, thinking of the efforts they must have gone to, to save each other. But as my grin widened, Maven’s smile faded.

“At least this time, there’s Samos attached to him. The other girls wouldn’t dare make him angry.”

I snorted, remembering his sharp grip and clawing at my arm. “Poor Cal.”

“And how was your visit yesterday?” he asked, referring to my parents’ house. So, Cal didn’t tell him.

“Not easy.” That’s the only way for me to explain it. Now my family knows what I am, and Kilorn has thrown himself to a pack of wolves. And of course, Shade is dead. “One of my brothers was executed, right before the release order was issued.”

Maven shifts next to me, and I think he’s going to feel uncomfortable. After all, the people themselves did it. Instead, he held my hand. “I’m sorry, Mare. I’m sure he doesn’t deserve it.”

“No, he doesn’t deserve it.” I whispered, remembering the reason my brother died. Now I’m walking the same path.

Maven looked at me closely, as if he wanted to read the secret hidden in my eyes. For once I felt relieved about Blonos’ lesson. Otherwise, I would have guessed Maven could read minds just like the queen. But no, he’s an arsonist and that’s all. Only a few Silvers inherit abilities from their mothers, and no one ever has more than one

ability. So my secret, my new allegiance to the Red Front, is my own.

When he reached out his hand to help me up, I took it. Around us, others were warming up. Most stretch or run around the room. But there are some people who do more impressive things. Elane appeared and disappeared in my vision as she bent the light around her body until she disappeared completely. A wind weaving boy, Oliver from the Laris Clan, created a miniature wind vortex between his hands, stirring up small bits of dust. Sonya casually exchanged blows with Andros Eagrie, a small but sturdy eighteen year old boy. As a silk figure, Sonya is very skilled and agile and can easily defeat him. However, Andros was able to match his attacks with counter punches in a brutal dance. The Silvers of the Eagrie Clan were clairvoyant, meaning they could see events that had yet to happen, and Andros took full advantage of that ability. No one seemed to have the upper hand, it was more a battle of balance than strength.

Just imagine what they can really do . So strong, so powerful . And these are just the children. Instantly, my hope evaporated, replaced by fear.

“Line up,” a voice said, barely a whisper.

My new instructor stepped in quietly, Cal at his side, with a telky from the Provos Clan trailing behind the two. Like a good soldier, Cal stepped in rhythm with the instructor, who looked petite and modest in appearance

next to Cal’s burly body. There were wrinkles on his pale skin, and his hair was as white as his clothes, a testament to his true age and clan. Arven clan, silent clan, I thought, remembering the lessons I had received. A major clan, full of power and strength and everything that the Silvers value. I even remember her from before I became Mareena Titanos, since I was a little girl. He used to monitor broadcasts of executions in the capital, keeping an eye on the Reds and even the Silvers who were sentenced to death. And now I know the reason they chose him to do that job.

The Haven Girl blinked back into existence, suddenly visible again, as the whirlwind subsided in Oliver’s hands. Evangeline’s knives fell from the air, and even I felt a blanket of silence fall on me, extinguishing my electric senses.

He is Rane Arven, the instructor, the executioner, the silence . He could demote a Silver to what they hated most: a Red. He can turn off their abilities. He can make them normal.

While I glared, Maven pulled me into line behind him, with Cal at the front of our line. Evangeline was leading the line next to us, and for once she didn’t seem worried about me. Evangeline’s eyes were glued to Cal as he stepped to the front of the line, looking suited to his position as leader.

Arven wasted no time introducing me. In fact, he didn’t seem to notice I was joining the session

the lesson.

“Running,” he said, his voice hoarse and low.

Good. Something I can do.

We began to move in line, circling the room at a leisurely pace and in pleasant silence. I pushed myself faster, enjoying the exercise I missed so much, until I ran past Evangeline. Then there was just Cal beside me, setting the pace for the rest of them. He shot me a smile, watching me run. This is something I can do, something I even enjoy.

My feet felt strange on the cushioned floor, bouncing with each step, but the blood pounding in my ears, the sweat, and the speed were so familiar. If I close my eyes, I can pretend that I’m back in the village, with Kilorn or my brothers or just myself. Free.

Until a section of the wall swung out, hitting me right in the stomach.

The wall threw me to the floor, making me fall flat. But it was my pride that was actually hurt. A group of runners pulled away, while Evangeline grinned over her shoulder, watching me fall behind. Only Maven slowed down, waiting for me to catch up.

“Welcome to training.” He chuckled, watching me untangle myself from the barrier.

Across the room, other sections of the wall shifted, forming obstacles for the runners. Everyone

take it lightly; they were used to this. Cal and Evangeline lead the line, skirting the top and bottom of each obstacle as it appears before them. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the telky from the Provos clan was directing the pieces of the wall, making them move. He even seemed to be grinning at me.

I fought the urge to bully the telky, and pushed myself to run again. Maven ran beside me, never more than a foot away, and it was strangely annoying. I quickened my pace, until I ran fast and jumped over obstacles using my best ability. However, Maven wasn’t like the Security officer in the village—it was hard to leave him far behind.

Once we completed the lap, Cal was the only one who wasn’t already dripping with sweat. Even Evangeline looked tired, although she did her best to hide it. I’m out of breath, but I’m proud of myself. Even though I had a slow start, I managed to survive until I caught up with them.

Instructor Arven studied us for a moment, his eyes lingering on me for a long moment, before turning to the telky. “Please target, Theo,” he said, again just a whisper. Like pulling back a curtain to reveal the sun, I felt my abilities coming back to me.

The teleky assistant waved his hand, moving a section of the floor, revealing the strange rifle I saw from the Blonos classroom window. I realized it wasn’t a weapon at all but a cylinder. It’s just the power of the telky that makes it move, isn’t it

more powerful and sophisticated technology. They only have ability.

“Lady Titanos.” Arven muttered, making me shudder. “As far as I know you have interesting abilities.”

He was thinking about the lightning, the devastating purple-white lightning, but my thoughts turned to what Julian had said yesterday. I not only control, I can create. I’m special.

Every pair of eyes turned to me, but I clenched my jaw, trying to act tough. “Interesting but that doesn’t mean it never happens, Instructor,” I said. “I can’t wait to learn about my abilities, sir.”

“You can start now,” the instructor said, and the telky behind him stiffened.

On cue, one of the target balls flew into the air, faster than I thought.

Control it, I thought, repeating Julian’s words. Focus.

This time, I could feel a tug as I sucked electricity from the air—and from somewhere inside me. Electricity manifested in both of my hands, glowing in tiny sparks. But the ball hit the floor before I could throw it, the sparks splattered on the floor and disappeared. Evangeline chuckled sarcastically behind me, but when I turned to glare at her, my eyes caught Maven instead. He gave a small nod, encouraging me to try again. And next to her, Cal crossed his arms, his face dark with an emotion I didn’t recognize.

Another target launched itself, spinning through the air. Sparks appear faster now, alive and bright while the target reaches its breaking point. As before in Julian’s classroom, I clenched my fist and, feeling the strength creeping up on me, I threw.

The sparks arced in a beautiful show of destructive light, slashing the sides of the fallen target. The ball shattered under my force, smoking and flaming as it hit the floor with a bang.

I couldn’t help but smile, satisfied with myself. Behind me, Maven and Cal clapped, as did a number of other kids. Evangeline and her friends certainly weren’t—they seemed almost insulted by my victory.

But Instructor Arven didn’t say anything, not bothering to praise me at all. He just turned his gaze away from me, to the rest of the unit. “Next.”

The instructor taught the class haphazardly, forcing us through rounds of drills meant to hone our skills. Of course I was behind in all the training, but I could also feel my abilities getting better. By the time the training session ended, I was drenched in sweat and my whole body was sore. Julian’s lessons were a blessing, allowing me to sit down and recharge. However, even that morning session couldn’t drain me completely— it was midnight approaching . The faster time passes, the closer midnight approaches me. Getting closer to taking the next step, to seizing control of my destiny.

Julian didn’t notice my unease, perhaps because he was buried up to his elbows in a pile of newly bundled books. Each book was about three inches thick and neatly labeled with the year, but that was all that was listed. What those books are about, I have absolutely no idea.

“What are these books?” I asked, picking one up. It contains countless lists: names, dates, locations—and causes of death. Most just say blood loss, but there are also illnesses, suffocation, drowning, and some more specific and gruesome details. My blood ran cold in all my veins when I realized exactly what I was reading. “Death list.”

Julian nodded. “Every man who has ever died fighting in the Lakelander War.”

Shade, I thought, feeling my insides churn. My gut tells me his name won’t be in one of these books. Defectors will not be honored with a line of ink. Angrily, I let my thoughts reach the table lamp illuminating the book I was reading. Its electricity called to me, as familiar as my own pulse. Using nothing more than my brain, I turned the light off and on, flickering in rhythm with my pounding heart.

Julian noticed the flickering lights, his lips pursed. “Is something wrong, Mare?” he asked flatly.

Everything is wrong.

“I don’t like the changes in the schedule.” Instead I said, leave the light on. That’s not a lie, but it’s not the truth either. “We won’t be able to practice anymore.”

He just shrugged, his parchment-colored clothes swaying with his movements. For some reason the clothes looked dirtier, as if he had turned into pages from a book. “From what I hear, you need more guidance than I can give you.”

My teeth chattered, chewing the words before I could spit them out. “Did Cal tell you what happened?”

“Yes,” said Julian. “And he’s right. Don’t blame him for that.”

“I can blame him for whatever I want.” I snorted, remembering the war books and death manuals scattered in his room. “He’s just like everyone else.”

Julian opened his mouth to say something, but stopped it at the last moment and turned his attention back to his books. “Mare, I wouldn’t call what we did training. Besides, you looked great in your session today.”

“Did you see it? How could that be?” “I was asked to observe.” “What-?”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said, looking straight at me. His voice suddenly sounded melodic, humming with a deep, soothing vibration. Exhaling, I realized he was right.

“That is not important.” I repeated. Even though he didn’t speak, the echo of Julian’s voice still hung in the air like a gentle breeze

calm. “So, what are we going to do today?” Julian grinned, looking amused himself. “Mare.”

His voice sounded normal again, light and familiar. It disperses the echo, sweeps it away from me in a rising cloud. “Wha—what was that?”

“I assume Lady Blonos hasn’t said much about the Jacos Clan in her Lessons?” he said, still grinning. “I can’t believe you never asked.”

To be honest, I never wondered about Julian’s abilities. I always thought his abilities were something weak because he didn’t seem as arrogant as the others—but it seemed that wasn’t true at all. He was stronger and more dangerous than I realized.

“You can control people. You’re just like him .” The thought of Julian, a sympathetic person, a good person, who could resemble the queen made my body shudder.

He took the accusation in stride, turning his attention back to his book. “No, absolutely not. My abilities are far from his. Or the brutality.” He took a deep breath, explaining. “We are known as hummers. Or at least we would, if there were more of us. I was the last of my clan, and the last of, well, my kind. I can’t read minds, I can’t control thoughts, I can’t speak your mind. But I can hum—as long as someone listens to me, as long as I can look them in the eye—I can make someone do what I want.”

Horror coursed through me. Even Julian.

Slowly, I leaned back, wanting to put some distance between him and me. He noticed, of course, but didn’t seem angry.

“You deserve not to believe me,” he muttered. “Nobody believed me. There’s a reason my only friends are the written word, but I don’t do it unless I have to, and I never do it with malice.” Then he snorted, laughing bitterly. “If I really wanted to, I could sit on the throne humming.”

“But you didn’t.”

“No. So does my sister, no matter what anyone else may say.”

Cal’s mother. “No one seems to have said anything about him. At least, not to me.”

“People don’t like talking about dead queens.” He exclaimed in a sharp tone, turning away from me with a fluid movement. “But they spoke while he was still alive. Coriane Jacos, the Queen of Singers.” I’ve never seen Julian like this, not once. Usually he was quiet, calm, a little crazy perhaps, but never angry. Never been so hurt. “She wasn’t chosen through the Queen’s Selection event, just so you know. Not like Elara, or Evangeline, or even you. No, Tibe married my sister because he loved her—and my sister loved him.”

Tibe. Calling Tiberias Calore the Sixth, the King of Norta, the Fire of the North, with anything less than eight syllables sounded inappropriate. But he was also young once. Same as

Cal, he was once a boy who was born to be a king.

“They hated him because we were from a lowly clan, because we didn’t have power or authority or any of the other ridiculous things they held in high regard.” Julian continued to babble, still averting his gaze. His shoulders rose with each breath. “And when my sister became queen, she threatened to change all that. She is a kind, loving person, a mother who can raise Cal into the king this country needs to unite us all. A king who will not be afraid of change. But that never happened.”

“I know what it’s like to lose a brother,” I muttered, thinking of Shade. It felt unreal, as if maybe everyone was just lying and he was home right now, happy and safe. But I know that’s not true. And somewhere, lay my brother’s body with his severed head as proof. “I just found out last night. My brother died on the battlefield.”

Julian finally turned around, his eyes filled with tears. “I’m sorry, Mare. I do not know that.”

“You won’t know. The army will not report executions in their booklets.”


“Desertion.” The word tasted bitter like blood, like a lie. “Even though he never will.”

After a long moment of silence, Julian put his hand on my shoulder. “It seems we have more in common than you think, Mare.”

“What do you mean?”

“They also killed my sister. He was in the way, so he was eliminated. And”—his voice grew quieter—“they will do it again, to whoever it takes. Even Cal, even Maven, and especially you .”

Especially me. The Lightning Girl.

“I thought you wanted to change things, Julian.”

“Indeed, but these kinds of things take time, planning, and too much luck for us to rely on.” He looked me up and down, as if he somehow knew I had taken the first step down a dark path. “I don’t want you to get your hopes up.”

Late .[]

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