Mathias: "I agree with the duchess, to an extent," "The decision we would have made before the succession of the Western Duchy may not have been the one we would reach now. If we'd reached a decision sooner, this might not have happened, but Merthin was..." "Well, scholars and soldiers see the world differently--but even for a scholar, he was exceptionally enamored more by the attention he gained from his title and less by its actual responsibilities. I will tell you what we were closest to agreement on, and advise you to choose a strong General and wise Scholar to support the Dukes and Duchesses, and the new royalty. We agreed that Altansarnai had the strongest claim."
Malia barely stopped herself from screaming, but there was not enough self-control in the world to stop the sharp inhalation that signaled her unbridled rage. The consort? They had been considering the consort? The Duchess surged to her feet and paced the room, unable to contain the adrenaline surging through her veins.
Mathias: "Though she had not quite been appointed as Queen, she had brought forth a bloodline heir. But her youth and experience concerned us. We agreed that if we chose her, we would want to appoint some sort of regent or council of regents while she learned how to rule. We hadn't agreed on who might best serve as that regent. The Southern Duke's history and lineage showed greatest promise to me--or the Southern Duke and Northern Duchess together, as she--"
Malia couldn't control herself. This never happened. She knew that a careful, deliberate appearance was everything in politics, and she was no hot-blooded youngster. She could play the long game…
But she couldn't help it - a hand pressed against her forehead, as if the General's words were giving her a migraine, heavy breaths, steeling herself by staring up at the ceiling, gripping her hips hard enough her knuckles turned white.
Not only had Mathias wanted to give the Kingdom to a common-born teenager, but he wanted the Southern nobles to advise her? Were she and James - who had been here, fighting through all the chaos - chopped liver?
No wonder this fucking hack had fallen to the vampire's power. He was as weak as he looked.
Mathias: "--you have experience rising to power, assuming your position, and gaining the respect and obedience of your people though you stepped into the role as relatively unknown outsider."
The words hissed out of Malia against her will: "If I'm worthy to advise, I am worthy to…" Only grinding her teeth stopped the rest of the sentence, and she tossed a glance at Rafael - she intended it to be cautionary, to assess his reaction, but her glare threw daggers instead.
Mathias: "But the fact that the Southern Duke never came to show his respect to the Consort and her child personally was concerning. He and the duchess may well have been sick, poor timing, but--has Duke Khalil been in contact, at all?"
Rafael: "The Consort is gone; the new prince, as well." "It's likely they didn't make it since the Green Duke hasn't been able to find any sign of them on his travels out into the city." "There are rumors, though, that she was seen fighting off one of the winged vampires and many of the commoners believe she and her son made it out of the city alive . . ."
"Commoners are stupid," Malia snapped, keeping near the wall as if the distance from father and son might obscure her irrationally anger. "Shall we wait for the return of the true queen as we have the return of Princess Bridgette for these five years?" It was absurd. "We cannot search the kingdom, top to bottom, for some rumored leader to save us…"
Taking a deep breath to steady her voice, Malia managed to sound rational, finally. "Those of us who are here for Eventyr will rule Eventyr."
Get back to business. Get back to business. Get back to business…
"The winged vampires," Malia said, and ventured a step back toward her seat when she felt a bit more centered. Royal General Mathias Gonzalo might have been an absolute moron, but he was an expert on creatures. She'd read all his books. "Is there any precedent for them? Where did they come from? What are the implications?"