This is the sequel to Vengeance. I reccomend you read that first, if you haven't yet.
“I don’t like it,” Aldasha said.
“They’re just rumors,” I assured her. “They’ll pass.”
“They’re not just rumors, they’re the truth. We both know I really did plan all along to kill my husband and take the throne for myself. “
“No, the plan was to go ahead with his plans to marry you, but thwart his plan to kill you and start a war.”
“But did it work, or did it only shift the battleground? If people start believing that I’m a murderess who stole the throne--”
“They’d know you were still better than your predecessor,” I interrupted firmly.
“I know, Onisy killed the previous royal family to take the throne. But how am I any better?”
“You don’t know anything about it,” I said.
“Maybe I should.”
“Then go ask someone else. Order them to tell you, if you must. I won’t speak of it.”
“And if I order you to tell me?”
“Then you’ll have far more trouble on your hands than a few rumors.”
Aldasha knew that what I said was true. I’d helped her get the throne; she couldn’t boss me around just because she sat on it. She never tried. “Any suggestions on who I should ask, then?”
“Anyone who was around twelve years ago would know the basics, at least.”
Aldasha left the room, and I disappeared into the passages in the walls and followed her.
The hidden passages are extensive, running through nearly every wall, with peepholes every few feet, so it was no difficulty to follow Aldasha all the way to the stables.
“Nyen?” she called, and I smiled at her choice; the hostler always knew everything that was going on, though he was too close-mouthed to be much of a source of information. “Do you have a moment?”
“Of course, you majesty.”
Aldasha went straight to the point. “What happened when Onisy took the throne?”
Nyen looked at her. “You’ve heard about the rumors.”
My smile broadened; he really didn’t miss anything. I made a mental note to recruit him as one of my spies.
“I was just wondering,” Aldasha said.
“Alright. There’s not much to it, really. It was a king and queen who ruled back then. They were young, and had three children, and… I believe eight nieces, nephews, and cousins. There was no lack of heirs, and the king and queen and their children were well liked. Then Onisy appeared--he was in the army. It was quite small back then, and he rose up through the ranks to general. And then one day, he led a few men into the castle--he was trusted, it wasn’t difficult--and killed the king and queen, and their children, and seven of the other possible heirs. He married the one he let live--she was barely more than a child, and he thought he could control her. When he found out he was wrong, he killed her as well. Everyone hated him, but he had the army on his side, and after he crushed the first uprisings, everyone learned to grumble quietly.”
“Thank you,” said Aldasha.
“We’re well rid of him,” Nyen told her. “You’ve no call to feel guilty. I don’t know whether it’s true that you planned all along to kill him, and I’m asking, but either way the country’s better off.”
“Thank you,” Aldasha said again, and left the stables.
“So, did I tell her the right amount?” Nyen asked when she was gone, addressing the peephole I’d been watching through. I was duly impressed.
I emerged into the stables. “What do you mean? Surely you told her all there is to tell, if only the bare bones of it.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Have you ever considered becoming a spy?”
“I like my job. And you’re changing the subject.”
“You wouldn’t have to quit your job, just pass on anything you happen to learn.”
“I’ll keep it in mind. And you’re still changing the subject.”
“Yes, you told her the right amount.” I hesitated. “I didn’t know anyone else knew.”
“A haircut and a change of clothes, and of course the lack of all that ridiculous makeup, is enough to fool kings and nobles and people who only ever saw you from a distance, and of course, you weren’t seen much at all for a long time. But you’re still the same person.”
“You’ve never told anyone?” I asked hopefully.
“No. I didn’t even tell the queen, as you just saw. But really, don’t you think she has a right to know?”
“I don’t know. Telling her would just make things so uncomfortable. It wouldn’t help anything, and shouldn’t change anything.” Something made me add the real truth. “I don’t like to think about it.”
“I’m sure ignoring your past is quite effective at making you forget it.” His tone was neutral, but he was being sarcastic. I scowled at him.
“But telling everyone my gruesome story would be so much more effective,” I retorted.
I left fully intending to keep my secret. But that evening, when I met with Aldasha, the words spilled out of me almost against my will. “I was Onisy’s first wife.”
She stared at me. “What? But… he killed her? And you’re… that means you’re the rightful queen.”
I shook my head firmly. “No. I was a second cousin of the queen, and never really in line for the throne, nor have I ever wanted to be.”
“How… I’d always heard he killed you. You even told me that Onisy killed his first wife.”
“He did his best. It didn’t take. He never knew I was alive. No one ever connected the dead young queen to the girl in the passages. I am not that person anyore, and I don’t want to be.”
“So you just want everything to continue on as it is?”
“Yes. Though I’d appreciate it if you could stop worrying about how you gained the throne. Think of it as aiding me in my rightful vengeance, of you must. Remember, I was the one who dealt the fatal blow.”
Aldasha considered for a long time. “Fine.” She paused, then added, “And I’ll keep your secret.”