The Black Queen (Book 6)

The Black Queen (Book 6) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch Read Free Book Online

Book: The Black Queen (Book 6) by Kristine Kathryn Rusch Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Tags: Fiction
    “Highness?” The other Islander took a step toward her.
    Highness . Using titles was an Islander tradition. It felt wrong. She was Fey. Fey did not use titles. She almost opened her mouth to say that, but she couldn’t think as to why she would. She was Queen of Blue Isle and Black Queen of the Fey. The Islanders could call her “Highness” if they wanted to. It was correct.
    She put a hand to her forehead. “I must postpone this meeting,” she said. She didn’t even know what the meeting was about, not at the moment. And she should. She should.
    But she did know better than to admit weakness.
    “My advisors will tell you when I am ready to resume.” She stood, not too slowly to tip off anyone as to how very ill she felt, and not too quickly in case she fainted. The pain stabbed into her brain as if it were digging to pull something loose.
    She walked off the platform, through a side door and into the cool hallway. The hallway was lined with tapestries depicting Islander events she didn’t remember or understand. One of her Islander guards came out of the listening chamber. He too looked familiar. And concerned.
    “Arianna,” he said and that sounded strange too. An Islander using Fey traditions? He was short, like they all were, blond and his face had lines. But it was familiar. And dear. She knew it, knew it well, had trusted it…
    She was frowning. The hand she had placed on her forehead in the throne room was still there. No matter how hard she tried not to look ill, she failed. “Get me a Healer,” she said, and put her other hand against the wall.
    She would not faint. Not here. Not anywhere. Fainting was weakness and no one of Black Blood showed weakness.
    And then the feeling of determination passed as if it had never been. She looked up to see if her friend the guard had left. He had. She would sit beside the door, in this corridor, until she felt better. She would sit—
    Her eyelids fluttered and then she opened her eyes. She was in bed, with a sheet and a blanket covering her. The windows were open to the garden. A robin flew past the window, pausing to look inside. She smiled at it, wondering if she had met it when she shape-shifted into her bird-form. The light breeze blowing inside was cool and fresh, and felt good on her hot face.
    She pushed the pillows back and eased herself up. The headache was gone. Only the memory of it remained, as a kind of absence—a feeling that, if she probed too hard, the pain would return. She made herself relax and take in the safety of the room.
    This had been her room from infancy. Once it had been the nursery. Her Fey mother had played with her stone brother Sebastian here, and her blood brother Gift had slept in this room for less than a week before he was kidnapped by the Fey. After Arianna’s birth, she spent all her time here. She and Sebastian bonded here, and she had always come to this place when she needed comfort.
    She needed comfort now, although she wasn’t exactly sure why. She had had headaches before, and the normal illnesses that plagued everyone: colds and an occasional flu. But she had never felt as if she couldn’t hold herself upright. She had never felt such pain in her whole life. For thirty years, she had been healthy and strong. Was that suddenly going to change?
    “Health is what we believe it to be.” The voice came from the corner of the room.
    Arianna turned slowly. Seger sat in the chair beside the cold stone fireplace. Her nut brown fingers were threaded together, her delicately aging face placid. She had been the Black King’s Healer once, a woman of such talent that she had been allowed to touch Arianna’s Fey great-grandfather. After his death, Seger had shown her loyalties to the Black Family, and Arianna kept her as her own personal Domestic, the Healer who spent more time looking after the staff in the palace than Arianna herself.
    “What?” Arianna asked. Her voice cracked. How long had she been

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