Chapter no 25

These Infinite Threads (This Woven Kingdom, 2)


It was not in his nature to give in under attack, and he could not bring himself, even immobilized as he was, to simply let go. His mind thrashed against the injustice of it all, against the breakdown of his life. Ardunia had been his to inherit from the moment he could form conscious thought; this was his home, his land—these were his people—and no matter his many qualms, and no matter the complaints he’d so often registered aloud, Kamran did not want to lose who he was. Even he, at this miserable juncture, could admit now that there was perhaps some truth to Zahhak’s remonstrations.

Kamran had been a spoiled child.

He’d taken his life for granted; he saw that now. But never again would he be a child, and never again would he be cosseted. He’d been forced, unfinished, into this blistering kiln of change, and it had vulcanized him; it would continue to transform him. He could learn from his mistakes. He could adapt as the situation demanded.

And he did not want to lose his crown.

He listened, for a moment, to the sound of footfalls echoing through the corridor, the back of Zahhak’s greasy head leading the way as they went. The trio of Diviners were close behind, and Kamran knew this only because he could feel them there, their presence as palpable as the cloak that still draped his body. Mercifully, the prince could move his eyes, and he was able to follow the path they forged through the endless halls of his home, which meant he soon realized, with mounting dread, that they were heading to the throne room.

The inevitable was finally upon him.

The prince was about to be dragged before a team of nobles who would flay him with their castigations, only to then force him before a halo of Diviners who would perform a ceremony that would strip him of his birthright.

On top of everything else he’d endured these last twenty-four hours, this seemed a bridge too far. He felt something break in his chest, something hollowing in the region of his heart.

In a single day, he had been decimated.

Even as it killed him to imagine it, Kamran held fast to a single hope: that, after they ruined him tonight, he might still have time enough to dash to the docks to meet Hazan. He was worrying over this, clinging now more than ever to the idea that, in the wake of his metamorphosis, he might at least become his own man, avenge his grandfather’s death, and forge his own path—when, at a sudden split in the passage, Zahhak took a sharp left, and Kamran veered right.

A fresh wave of unease moved through him.

He couldn’t turn his head to see for certain, but he had to assume the Diviners were behind this abrupt change in plan. He was now going in an entirely different direction from the defense minister, and it was a minute before he heard Zahhak’s surprised shout, his distant footfalls growing louder as he chased them down.

Kamran heard the minister’s voice as if through water.

“Where are you going?” came his dull, warped cry. “You’re meant to follow me to the throne room—we’re all prepared—”

“Not tonight,” said a Diviner. They never stopped moving.

Hope took flight in the prince’s heart, shook him from within. He had no idea where they were headed now, but this seemed a promising turn of events.

“What do you mean?” Zahhak said, his muted voice shaking with anger. “We had a plan— You agreed to perform the ceremony tonight—”

“We agreed only to test the boy,” came the simple reply.

“Test him? Test him how? Wait— You can’t go back on your word— You’re incapable of lying—”

“We promised to determine whether the boy is fit to rule.”

“There’s no question but that he’s unfit!” cried Zahhak. “The boy is mutilated! That has to mean something! The magic has clearly made a


Leave,” said the Diviners in unison.

The word was spoken softly, but it hit Zahhak with a forceful gust, knocking him back several feet and keeping him there. The defense minister fought in vain against this unrelenting wind, crying out as they retreated.

Kamran’s heart was pounding dangerously fast, for the hope that had so recently burgeoned in his chest had quickly evaporated.

We agreed only to test the boy.

The prince hadn’t a single reasonable hypothesis for what might happen next—and he didn’t have much time to theorize. Once Zahhak had been left behind, the Diviners propelled him through the castle at a breakneck speed, moving so swiftly the scenes around him blurred, so he had no idea of their location and could not guess at where they might be headed. His only clue arrived when he felt himself growing dizzy, and he realized, as his head spun, that they were spiraling upward, climbing floors. Of all the hints he might’ve received, this one was by far the darkest, for he knew most assuredly then that they were ascending the palace spires, and there was nothing good to be found here.

Still, he told himself not to overreact until he knew more—until he could be sure—

They came to a sudden, disorienting stop outside of an ominous, heavily rusted door—which blew open at the Diviners’ behest—and Kamran began to panic. When he felt the icy air of the merciless winter night rush all around him, his panic wedded with horror.

This was the tower prison.

Infinitely worse than the dungeons, which were only temporary holding cells, the tower prisons were reserved for the worst transgressors—usually high-ranking criminals who required more time to be sentenced, and were in the interim doomed to wait out this period in the harshest form of solitary confinement, to make certain they didn’t escape. Keeping prisoners was an exhausting, grueling, and inefficient business; his grandfather had never cared for it. He’d always encouraged Kamran to deal with criminals swiftly; once a judgment had been made, the punishment would be served, and the prisons cleared out. Inmates were, as a result, never kept for very long, and the worst of them were often beheaded shortly thereafter.

They hadn’t used the tower prisons in years.

Even Kamran, who was fairly stout of heart, shook inwardly at the thought of such a fate. How the Diviners intended to test him with this experience, he couldn’t know, and what he’d done to deserve this level of cruelty, he couldn’t imagine. He only hung there, suspended in the doorway of his disgusting new home for the length of a truly terrifying moment. It was pitch-black but for the glimmer of the moon and stars, for the tower had a single open-air skylight, which loomed from on high, at least fifty feet above his head. He had no idea what carcasses he might be forced to share this room with, and it made him ill to imagine he might leave this place only to have his head removed from his body.

Fear awoke, untamed, inside his mind.

How was this wretched place meant to prove his mettle? If only he could speak aloud a single word then, he would’ve begged for quarter. Why? he wanted to shout. Why are you doing this? What have I done to deserve such a sentence?


Kamran hadn’t more than a moment to process this tyranny before his body was shuttled into the cell, the door slammed shut behind him, and he was finally, unceremoniously, released.

He fell to the icy stone floor with a pitiful cry.

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