Five Dark Fates (Three Dark Crowns #4) - Kendare Blake



Arsinoe, fugitive queen of Fennbirn Island, sits stone-faced before the desk, surrounded by crumpled balls of parchment. She has not slept but a few hours, and the light spilling in through the cut-stone window hurts her eyes; it shows the dark hollows beneath them and the gray hue of her face. Not that anyone is there to see. Her only company is a tan mountain cat with a black-tipped tail, chained to a wall. And the occasional thump from behind the closed door of the inner chamber as the tonic she gave to Jules to keep her in a stupor starts to wear off.

Arsinoe turns her head and stares through the wood. Jules Milone, the Legion Queen of Sunpool, lies behind that door. Her hands and feet are bound. The broken blood vessels in her eyes from the force of the legion curse being unleashed have begun to heal. But Arsinoe will never forget what her friend looked like when Emilia brought her home from battle. Jules with bared teeth and bloodred eyes will always be there, lurking behind Arsinoe’s eyelids when she goes to sleep.

“But she will get better,” she whispers, a promise to the mountain cat. Camden’s only response to the promise is a deep, low growl. “She will,” Arsinoe says again, and rubs her face with both hands to try to summon the last of her energy. “Not fast enough to suit you, I know. But she will.”

In the meantime, there is the business of the letter. The reason she dragged the small writing desk up into the seclusion of the tower to begin with. She touches her pen to the paper and watches the ink gather. How can she tell them that their daughter was taken hostage and then murdered by Katharine the Undead? How would she tell anyone that, let alone Cait and Ellis Milone, who are like her own grandparents?

Footsteps sound in the stairwell and Arsinoe groans. She nearly picks up her ink pot to throw before she sees that it is Billy, smart enough to lead with a tray of food and poke his head in second.

“I’ve some oat cakes and honey. A few boiled eggs. And tea.”

“Strong tea?”

“So strong it may as well be whiskey.” He comes in and wedges the tray onto the side of the desk, spilling the small pile of crumpled parchment. Then he runs his hand through her hair and kisses the soft skin of her temple. “You look terrible. Maybe I should have brought actual whiskey.”

“How do I write this letter?” she asks. “How do I tell Cait and Ellis that Madrigal is dead? How do I tell them that Jules is out of her mind?”

“Leave out the details about Jules’s condition.” He pours the tea and drips honey over the oat cakes. “That’s better done in person. But you have to write to them, and soon. They’ll want to be here for their daughter’s burning.”

When the sun rose, she had wandered to the window to look out over the beach. The flat, gray stones and rocky shore of Sunpool do not resemble the sand of Sealhead Cove, but they will have to do. “Is Emilia still grumbling about the location?” The warrior had suggested they hold the funeral in the square. Arsinoe insisted that Madrigal be burned by the water. A naturalist should be burned in the wild.

“No. She’s stubborn, but she trusts that you would know best about this. About what Jules would want, if she could tell us.”

Arsinoe snorts. “Stubborn she is. Yet what bothers her most is that it was my suggestion. An order, from a queen.”

“Only, that’s not what it was,” Billy says, a little too carefully. He, as much as Emilia, does not want to see Arsinoe step back into that role.

“No. That’s not what it was.” She places her hand on his, then sighs and reaches for her teacup. “But until Jules is well again, who else is there but me and Mira? Speaking of Mira, I should go to her. We’ll need her gift on the beach, to calm the winds and embolden the flames.” She stands up too quickly and jostles the tray, spilling tea across unused parchment. “Damn it all!”

“Cursing like a mainlander, I see,” Billy says as he helps her mop it up.

She smiles. “You do have much better curses. We never should have come back. We should have stayed there.”

“No. Daphne and those dreams were right. You and Mira are needed here. What would be happening