Lucretia felt the blood drain from her face, and gripped the armrests of the throne so that her knuckles turned white. A knot of fear twisted in her stomach, as rare as it was annoying. She could feel Cullen's eyes her, and knew what he was thinking before he said it.
"Surely you are not falling prey to pagan superstitions by reflecting on that ridiculous prophecy," he said. "Pure nonsense."
In Wiekken's darkest hour, a warrior of unmatchable skill will lead them to freedom...or some such "nonsense." She would not have feared it if not for the fact that so many different priestesses, in temples situated hundreds of miles apart in Wiekken and Rydar, hadn't received the same vision. A vision received before Wiekken was even threatened.
It was Maelkin Dunefaellan who was responsible for her father's defeat in the Danarsic-Rydarian War, though he had never boasted of such an accomplishment. She saw the man fight in person; she had been seven years old, dragged to the battlefield by her father to learn the art of war. Dozens of soldiers, it seemed, he would take down in a matter of minutes. No one could come close to him. The Demon, she knew, was more than partly responsible for his courage and skill, and now his son, bearing the same affliction, was alive. And in charge of the enemy's army.
She disregarded Cullen's ignorant statement, keeping her gaze locked on d'Almorad.
"And so he means to raise a larger army. He means to reclaim Wiekken's former cities."
She released a held breath, and closed her eyes for a moment, fearing she would swoon from the heat of her body and the shock of the message. Then she would have to drown herself if such a spectacle were witnessed by those currently in her presence.
"He...it is said he killed four of Nicar's Royal Guard, and defeated his finest duelists."
"Then he will be a good challenge for you."
Galen lifted his chin and nodded once, curtly. "Naturally," he said, his tone changing from bewildered awe to confidence. "Your orders?"
"Form a squadron of your best assassins. Take him out while he feels secure, before he can even form his army."
"Such precautions are completely unnecessary," said Cullen, in his usual condescending tone. "No one can threaten your solid, fierce army--"
"Do not speak of matters of which you know nothing," Lucretia said, still refusing to look at him. "You are both dismissed."
Cullen slinked away like a whipped dog that was biding its time before ripping out the throat of its master. Galen lingered a moment, his eyes softening as was his habit whenever in his queen's company. She knew it was merely show as he had delusions of being her husband though he cared nothing for her.
"Yes," she said. "That temple, the one closest to Drayton. I want it destroyed before the next Feast of Venosus, with every last priest and priestess burned at the stake. Nicar must be punished for violating our agreement. Dunefaellan cannot raise an army without aid. And so Nicar must be reminded of where his priorities lie."