The figure Lord Sunai observed wore a robe similar to his. The royal green. But the hood was up, it was soaking wet like Isídro’s, and the hem was caked with mud. And whoever it was, stood between the combatants and paused, having ushered in a wave of thunder to speak on its behalf.  

Slowly, this being pulled back her veil, and Lord Sunai was startled to learn it was his wife: the queen of Sotoria. Lady Udane. Even Cebrian who had taken to hiding in a corner of the room was taken aback.

Lady Udane was the king’s second bride. A beautiful young woman with luscious hair and supple red lips. And she smiled, showing off unnaturally white teeth and hauntingly navy blue eyes. They were now so blue they were almost violet.

The Lady Udane was transfixed. Focusing her cold, almost dead eyes upon her husband. But she didn’t say anything. She merely waited for the kneeling old man to catch his breath.

Finally an exasperated Lord Sunai said simply, “You?

“Me,” the queen said sweetly.

At that moment, a dozen rain-drenched elites stormed the temple with heaving chests, and bloodied swords.

Isídro called to his lieutenant, “Bolivar!”

“Sir,” said Bolivar standing at attention.

“Where is Metrius?”

“Dead, sir. A spear through the heart.”

Not turning to face him, Lady Udane interrupted Isídro, “General, now is not the time to discuss your dead and wounded men. Now is the time to find out where the child is.”

“Yes, my Lady,” scowled the military leader. Then to his men he gave the command. “Tear this place apart! Find the babe and bring it to me… alive!”

His men obeyed, and split into two groups. One went through the east wing doors. While those of the west wing blocked the other group’s passage. They had been barred from the other side. But without prompting, they set to ramming them with the bronze statue of the goddess Peqãra. Before long, they’d breached the aperture.

“Udane,” said the king, “Stop this foolishness. Tell me this is a madness.”

“It is madness not to follow your gods where they lead you.”

“Whichever god has possessed you, my wife, they have led you astray. They have led you down a path of treachery and villainy.”

“Oh… villainy?” chuckled Udane. “My my, which of the gods told you that? How cheeky of them. Very vague though to not have told you which of your allies were the wolves wearing wool. Indescript. And much too late.”

“Such is the will of the gods. I cannot fault them for their tardiness.”

“Indeed. But I would have been insulted after a lifetime of worship and devotion.”

Udane then walked about the room. She looks like the jackal circling its wounded prey, thought Isídro, she should finish him off.

“But perhaps,” the queen pondered aloud, whilst still pacing, “the gods you put your faith in, can’t be faulted after all? Perhaps they did not know that you were too blind to see so many so close to your breast plunging the knife slowly deeper into your back.”

She came alongside him and stooped to his level so as to brush her hand against Lord Sunai’s cheek. Then with a deliberate whisper, she said “You are not like the slithering viper people said you were. You’re like a bat. Flying about with grace and care, even in darkness not crashing. But all this time you never really saw where you were going.”

“My Lady,” Isídro interrupted, “Let me kill him now.”

“Hush, Isídro,” Lady Udane replied dismissively. “Have patience. He will die soon enough. But first he must tell me where the child is.”

The child. Listen to yourself.  She is your daughter; your own flesh and blood. A girl with nobility and a name you yourself gave her. Have you no compassion?” the king criticised.

“Do not chastise me, old man,” she said with treble in her voice. It was deepened and darkened unlike either Isídro or Lord Sunai had heard before.

Then her voice recovered its softer tone, “I have more heart than you can ever dream, and I will love the child until the day I die. But sacrifices must be made.”

The king scoffed, “There is darkness in your heart. And I should have seen it”

Lady Udane laughed, “Oh don’t be so hard on yourself. I’m a beautiful woman, an excellent lover and a talented actor. Who could possibly resist my charm?”

Her husband looked down at the ground ashamed to not have better known his bedfellow. But after a moment of reflection; contemplating his guilt, he straightened his back and looked up at Lady Udane with contempt and made his final declaration, “You may as well kill me. I’ll never reveal my daughter’s whereabouts.”

Looking into the king’s stern eyes, Lady Udane knew that he wasn’t lying. And what’s more, he was prepared. “So be it.”

She then nodded to Isídro, who correctly interpreted the head tilt as instruction to behead Lord Sunai. Isídro lifted his sword high above his head, and with a smile on his face, and precision in his swing, decapitated the king.

At last, thought Isídro.

The severed head rolled far from its body, up to the toes of Cebrian, whose face was even paler compared to freshly usurped king.

The End

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