Rebel Queen (Lost Fae #3) - May Dawson
Fifteen Years Ago ~ Herrick’s Reign
The purple-haired king crouched down in front of me, and I pressed back into my mother. My cheek met her damp one.
My mother had always been nothing but regal, but when she wrapped her arms around my shoulders, she couldn’t hide the fact that her hands were shaking. Still, her chin rose as she stared Herrick down.
“You’ll never get away with this,” she warned him.
“Oh, enough, Agnis, you’re scaring your boy,” Herrick said, holding out his hand to me. I stared at him and didn’t shake his hand, but he didn’t seem to mind. His voice was gentle as he said, “I’m not going to hurt you. I just brought your parents here to work out the differences between our courts.”
He smiled at me, his silvery-blue eyes twinkling. “I have my own two little children who are about your age. Would you like to meet them? They could be your playmates.”
I didn’t want to answer the strange king, even though I felt a sudden lurch of hope. Maybe he wasn’t going to hurt my parents. Maybe we were safe now. The carriage had lurched for two days, taking us from the smoking ruins of the winter castle to the stifling heat of the summer court, and the whole time, my parents and I had been bound and gagged.
Herrick had seemed furious, punishing the guards who had gagged me; I could still hear them screaming in the distance. But wasn’t he the reason we’d been wrenched from our burning castle by these guards?
I looked past Herrick to my own father. He was ringed by knights, his hands and fingers encased in metal cages shaped like gloves—to keep him from using his winter magic. His mouth was gagged, and for a second, his eyes looked wild under his ice-blond hair. The sight of him made my own panic rise, but the next second, his eyes seemed to clear. He managed to wink at me.
“Ungag him,” Herrick said. “Let him speak to his son.”
There was a somber inflection to his words.
A big red-haired Fae nearby said, “That’s not wise, my lord.”
“I don’t need your advice at present, Edric,” Herrick said, and the red-haired Fae went still, almost like a rabbit, even though Herrick’s voice was gentle.
If Edric was so scared, maybe my parents still had a way to fight back. Hope spiked in my chest and I looked at them, trying to get ready for my chance, even though I could barely breathe with my mother’s arm around my chest. When she let go of me, I’d burst into motion too. There was a guard standing so near me, careless of the sword hanging at his waist; I could grab the pommel and pull it from the sheath before he felt me move.
“Well?” Herrick asked my parents, his voice quiet. “Is this what you want? For your son to grow up as my own? He’s young enough that he’ll all but forget you.”
“I don’t think so.” My mother’s chest heaved against my back as she held back her sob. Her grip was so tight the manacles on her wrists dug into my chest, but I didn’t pull away.
“You’d do this to him—to the winter court—rather than pledge your loyalty and bind yourselves to me?” Herrick asked quietly. “You’re so desperate to be heroes, you’d be fools.”
“Better a fool than a traitor to my court,” my father said, his voice thick. He cleared his throat; he might speak to Herrick, but he was staring at me as if he were memorizing my face. “Be brave, Caspien.”
“Someday you’ll save our court,” my mother whispered in my ear. “Don’t forget who you are. Nothing matters but your duty to the winter court, son. Not even us.”
She closed her eyes, tears clinging to her lashes, as she pressed her lips to my face over and over again. The enchanted metal covering her hands bruised my skin.
“Enough,” Edric said abruptly, grabbing my shoulders and yanking me back. My mother stumbled, but caught herself.
“Take the child to one of the guest rooms. He’s innocent,” Herrick said. His words sounded kind, but there was something cold and gloating in the way he looked at my parents. “Make the boy comfortable. I’ll see him later.”
“No,” my mother said, her fingers grasping my shoulder for just one second before she was wrenched away from me.
The anguish in her voice sent a wave of fury through me. I lashed out at the guard, throwing myself into him and