Chapter no 30

These Infinite Threads (This Woven Kingdom, 2)

CYRUS STIFFENED, BUT HE DID not move; neither of them said a word. Alizeh was still staring at his mouth, wishing the world beyond these walls would drop dead just long enough for her to know his answer, but her hopes were soon dashed.

There was another round of relentless pounding at the door, and finally Cyrus closed his eyes and swore, drawing away from her with palpable anguish.

Alizeh stood there, paralyzed in place, her mind spinning, her heart broken. She heard his footfalls as he strode to the entrance, heard the whine of the old wood as he opened the door.

Sarra’s voice was unmistakable.

Where have you been?” she screamed. “I’ve been searching for you everywhere! Your valet said he’d come up earlier to dress you for dinner but he claimed you weren’t here—and then you never appeared downstairs and neither did the girl, who isn’t in her room, and I had no idea where to even begin looking for you, for the last place I expected you to be so early in the evening was lying unconscious in your bed like some kind of profligate, not until my maid told me she’d heard about the most miserable snoda sobbing her eyes out in the kitchens, fearing for her job after finding you asleep in your chamber—”


“—and why aren’t you wearing any clothes? Heavens, but you look worse than death—have you been ill? Is that why you were abed at this hour?”


“Your timing,” she said angrily, “is disastrous. It’s just like you to go and get yourself sick when you’re actually needed, begging off when everyone else has to deal with the fallout of your demented actions—”

Alizeh was astonished.

She knew the grim extent to which Sarra loathed her son, and within the context of the woman’s injured mind Alizeh could indeed understand her emotional conflict, for she rightfully blamed Cyrus for the brutal murder of her husband. Still, even knowing this, it was shocking to hear her hatred animated thus. It was unnatural to listen to a mother berate her son for falling ill, never bothering to ask whether he was okay. There was something so painful about the exchange that it was hard to hear.

“Will you not get to your point?” Cyrus was saying, his voice clipped. “What is it you need from me?”

“I need that girl!” Sarra shrieked. “Where is she? Where is Alizeh?

What have you done with her?”

Alizeh felt a sudden spike of alarm.

“What have I done with her?” Cyrus laughed, but it sounded angry. “Don’t take that tone with me, as if I haven’t every reason to doubt you!

The girl is not in her rooms! What else am I supposed to think? No one has seen her in hours, no one save every Jinn in Tulan,” she added hysterically, “who’ve been arriving in terrifying hordes from every reach of the empire, and who stormed the castle an hour ago—”

Alizeh felt her heart stop.

“What?” Now Cyrus sounded alarmed. “What do you mean? Are they being violent?”

“Yes, they’re being violent!” she cried. “What on earth can you think I mean? There are thousands of them, Cyrus, and they’re threatening to break down the door lest she show herself.”

“I don’t understand,” he said, his urgency escalating. “Why are they angry? I thought they loved her—”

“Then you knew?” she said, overwrought. “You knew who she was? You knew she meant something to them? Oh, Cyrus, how could you?” Sarra sounded truly broken then. “Of all the stupid and terrible things you’ve ever done— You told me she was of royal blood, but you didn’t tell me she was this—this messiah! She’s going to tear apart the empire!”

Alizeh felt dizzy now, her breaths growing only faster, more labored. She couldn’t believe this was happening. More than that, she couldn’t believe, after all these years, that it was happening like this.

It was a disaster.

“What are they demanding?” Cyrus asked coldly.

“Why did you bring her here?” Sarra said, and practically sobbed. “Why have you wrought such havoc upon our home? Do you not see what will become of us? More Jinn will hear of her and they’ll come for her—they’ll crawl out of every dark corner of the earth”—she gasped—“and we’ll have to wage war against our own people—”

“Mother,” he said sharply. “Get a hold of yourself.”

“You are a blight upon this family,” she cried. “You are a stain upon the earth—”

What do they want from her?” he said, his voice shaking with fury. “What are their demands?”

“They want proof that she’s real! And they want to know she’s unharmed. Most of all they want to know whether she’s come here to marry you, whether she will take the throne.”

Alizeh gasped, clasped a hand to her throat.

Cyrus was briefly silent. He was subdued when he said, finally, “Do they want her to marry me?”

“I don’t know!” Sarra exploded, sounding unhinged. “All I know is that they’re threatening to set the city on fire if she doesn’t show herself soon— and I can’t find her anywhere—”

“I’ll find her,” he said roughly, and even then Alizeh knew he was protecting her. Cyrus knew she hadn’t wanted to be found in a compromising position with him, in his bedroom, and the small gesture meant a great deal to her. But she was slowly realizing there was no use. She could not hide forever.

“Where are you going to find her?” Sarra shouted. “You know where she is? You’ve known this whole time and you’ve just been torturing me?”

“First,” Cyrus said, ignoring his mother’s outburst, “you must get them to calm down. I can’t let her stand before this mob until I’m sure she can be safe.”

You ask them to calm down,” Sarra shot back. “You think I haven’t been trying? They won’t listen to me!”

Her reputation be damned.

Alizeh could no longer stand there silently. These were her people, and they were her responsibility. And she knew that if her parents were here, they’d tell her to come into the light.

They’d tell her not to be afraid.

Her heart pounding desperately in her chest, Alizeh held her head just above the rising waters of terror, and stepped out of the shadows.

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