- SIMaS: Chapter 20 – The Raid
- SIMAS Chapter 1 – Link Moss and the Magic Hippo
- SIMAS Chapter 2 – In-Flight Memories
- SIMAS Chapter 3 – Link Moss: Devious Mastermind
- SIMaS Chapter 4 – Curiouser and Curiouser
- SIMaS Chapter 5 – Welcome to Megardia
- SIMaS Chapter 6 – So I Married a Supervillain
- SIMaS Chapter 7 – Little Talks
- SIMaS Chapter 8 – His Excellence, King Link
- SIMaS Chapter 9 – The Megardian Royal Family
- SIMaS Chapter 10 – How Double Lives Start
- SIMaS Chapter 11 – The Morning Report
- SIMaS Chapter 12 – Paradigms Shifting Without a Clutch
- SIMaS: Chapter 13 – Thunderstruck, Enlightening
- SIMaS Chapter 14 – Eris Lives
- SIMaS Chapter 15 – The Guardian Spirit of Megardia
- SIMaS Chapter 16 – Midnight Council
SIMaS Chapter 16 – Midnight Council
Once they got back to the palace, it took an hour to calm Chloe down, and even then, she refused to eat dinner unless the entire family was present. Because of this, Amanda sent her apologies to Linda and Thunderstruck along with orders to let them leave if they wanted. But she also told them there was something important they needed to discuss and asked them to take advantage of the kitchen staff or some local entertainment and return to the palace later instead of leaving.
Dinner was a tense affair, full of forced levity and happiness for Chloe’s sake. Even though they promised her that it was just a drill, like the fire drills they had in elementary school, she was so shaken that she sat in Link’s lap all through dinner.
But eventually, she did calm down and Link hesitantly delivered her back into the care of the Princess’s Guard and the maids. That just left Nathan.
All through dinner, the boy had been mercifully and uncharacteristically quiet, sitting at his side of the table in the Queen’s (and King’s) suite, just mindlessly shoveling food into his mouth. That came to an abrupt end the moment Chloe was out of earshot.
“Mom, I know you didn’t want to scare her,” He said, “But just what the hell happened?”
“Nate!” She replied automatically as if things hadn’t changed in the last few days and his language was still a priority.
He bristled defensively at the reprimand, his old attitude returning in fits and starts. “I really don’t think me saying ‘hell’ is the important thing here, Mom. “Arisa and that other guy took me down to this place in the city to actually meet some normal people and everything was going great—right up until Arisa lost her mind and practically threw me back in the car. We got back here and there were guys with guns everywhere; they made Arisa and the other guard give them blood before they even let us in. And when we did get in, we went down into some kind of bunker.”
The words came out of him in a flood; everything he’d been holding back for his little sister’s sake.
“So don’t try and feed me that crap about it just being a drill. Chloe’ll buy it, but not me. Just tell me what happened?”
Link looked to Amanda. He wanted to tell her to lie. Any lie. Even if Nathan ended up annoyed and gave up, that would be better than him knowing that his mother almost died earlier that evening. But Amanda didn’t. Maybe, Link thought, she’d gotten tired of all the layers on layers of deceit and given up.
She interlaced her fingers on the now clear dinner table and leaned forward. “Nate… you’re right. You’re old enough now that it’s hard to justify little lies to make you feel better. But, you’re always going to be my baby. I changed your diapers and powdered your butt, so I think I have a little bit of an advantage over you. Now, all that said, I’m going to talk to you as an adult talking to another adult, alright?”
With chin lifted with pride, he nodded.
“Good. Then here’s the truth: this evening, a man impersonating one of our serving staff got close to me and pulled a gun.”
Even though he seemed to have been expecting it, Nate swallowed. Wen he spoke, his voice came out as a croak. “But you’re okay?”
Amanda nodded and smiled to Link. “I am. In fact, your father helped stop him before he could get a shot off.”
“I was kind of hoping you didn’t see the headbutt.” Link said into his sleeve.
Nathan turned to his father with shock and (dare Link hope?) respect in his eyes. “Whoa! You headbutted a guy trying to attack Mom?”
“I was sitting down and he was right there,” Link tried to act out the scenario in his seat. “I didn’t have an angle for anything else.”
But even that sad display couldn’t dampen their son’s ardor. “That’s still so cool, Dad. You saved Mom’s life.” And then he looked at Amanda with a glint of that old trouble-making soul in his eyes. “He saved your life. Like some kind of hero. This… doesn’t make you mortal enemies now does it?”
Amanda couldn’t help but crack a smile. “I’m glad you’re taking it so well.”
Nathan frowned. “I’m not. I mean, I’ve been thinking about it since I found out who you really are.” There was a hint of accusation in his tone, but he didn’t linger on it., “And Queen Mageddo’s been targeted by assassins like all the time and you’re still here.”
His frown deepened. “Except… since you’ve been through this so often… why are you still so freaked? Just because of me and Chloe?” But the shadow that had come over his face grew deeper still. “No… it’s something bigger isn’t it? Something that’s got even you worried.”
“Nate…” Link started.
But the young man was on a roll. “No, I’m right aren’t I?” He looked to his mother, determination in his eyes. “You just said you would talk to me like an adult. And, you know, everyone has been talking to me all day about how I’m supposed to grow up and take over, so I should now these things, Mom. You can’t hide them from me.”
Amanda didn’t move, but her face did harden into a better ‘Queen Mageddo’ mask than her face plate ever could. “Nate, this isn’t an introductory guide to running a nation. I would love to show you how I do things, but this isn’t the kind of situation you cut your teeth on.”
“I’m not asking to join in whatever it is you’re up to,” said Nate, almost pleading, “I just want to know what’s happening. Are we still safe here or not?”
Again, Link and Amanda looked to one another’s eyes and wondered if the truth was the right thing here. Because the truth, if they were reading things right, was the nowhere would be really safe with ERIS manipulating the most powerful people in the world.
Closing her eyes, Amanda heaved a sigh. “Safety is relative, Nate. You learned that much who those agents tried to kidnap you and your sister and tonight, you saw it again when that fool tried to assassinate me. There will always be danger and…” She drew in a breath and slowly let it out, the queenly mask visibly close to slipping. “And you can place the blame for that one me. By I can promise you this much: I will protect you. Every once of power I have; every resource in this nation; every iota of personal strength I have—if need be I will bring it all to bear if it means keeping you, your sister and your father safe. If you don’t believe anything else I ever tell you again, please believe that.”
For a moment, Nate was speechless, having not expected the force and emotion his mother bought to bear. He stared down at his nearly empty plate, his face contorting as he worked through his own difficult thought and fought back threatening tears.
When he spoke again, it came out rough and tremulous; barely controlled. “Why… why can’t you just stop? That would keep us safe, wouldn’t it? If you stop being Mageddo, then no one would want you dead. We could all change our names and move away and that’d be the end of it, right?”
Amanda took another breath and it seemed to Link that she was considering it. He wondered at the tightness that rolled in his gut as he thought about her agreeing. That tightness wouldn’t have been there that morning; he would be praying for that result. But that morning, he didn’t know all the things he since learned about Megardia, his wife and the world at large.
At length, Amanda shook her head. “It’s unlikely that I would be able to fade into the night like that. There are too many people that want revenge or justice, or just to prove themselves. And even if I could… Megardia would be left largely defenseless.”
“So?” huffed Nate.
Suddenly, the mask wasn’t in danger of slipping anymore. “So.” She made the word land heavy in the room. “If other nations invade, hundreds of thousands of people who believe in me and count on me will die. Even if they raise up a new monarch to take up my mantle in time, they won’t have any training in using my powers.”
Nate balked even under threat of reprimand. “And? I mean seriously, this third world country is more important to you than your own kids?”
“They are your people too.” Queen Mageddo’s voice boomed, making both Link and Nate jump. She straightened her back and her blazing eyes brooked no back-talk. “Perhaps it hasn’t settled in for you, Nathan, but one day, you will be their king and they were ceded to you immense social, political and literal power purely on the understanding that you will protect them and allow them to prosper. They already love you—have loved you since the day I announced your birth. Do not throw that love back in their faces because you want to hurt me.”
Crushing silence filled the chamber. Link looked between his affronted wife and his brooding son, who was already trying to formulate a retort. Being technically a neutral party, he felt compelled to step in. “Nate, apologize to your mother and her subjects.”
He quickly wished he hadn’t said anything as the both ended up goggling at him. He couldn’t blame them in the least.
“What I mean is, that’s pretty damn heartless, son. I don’t blame you for being scared by all this—I can’t say I’m any less worried myself—but being scared doesn’t justify acting like their lives don’t matter.”
Nate folded his arms and stewed for a while, knowing that he’d lost the moral high ground. “What if I don’t want to do it?” He finally muttered.
“Do what?” Link and Amanda asked at the same time.
“This.” Nathan gestured around them. “What If I don’t want to go out and do whatever it is you do for these people that’s so special, Mom? What if I don’t want to be hated by literally everyone in the free world and do things to deserve it?” He swallowed as emotion started to overtake him again. “What if I don’t want people to want to kill me?”
Link only knew the impact the question had by the tightening of his wife’s jaw and one hand clenching around her fork.
Taking time out to sip from her wine glass, Amanda covertly composed herself and nodded. “Then you won’t have to. No one makes the heir rule. Whatever you want to do with your life, honey, I’m not going to stand n the way of that. If you don’t want to take the thrown, your sister might. And if not here, your friend Arisa is a candidate…”
“And you think I’d be okay with someone trying to kill Chloe or Arisa? I’m not okay with it happening to you either, but at least you made your choice, Mom.”
“When the time comes, so will they.” said Amanda, then tried to bring some warmth back into her gaze. “That’s probably going to be a long time coming anyway.”
Her attempts to cajole him slid of Nate like water on a hot skillet. Pushing away from the table, he stood abruptly. “I can’t talk about this anymore. I’m going to bed.” He started to leave, but paused, eyes darting back to meet his mothers. Anger and pain and worry warred in them. “I just have one more question.”
Amanda didn’t reply, knowing he was going to ask it no matter what.
“Before this week: before we knew who you really were… what would have happened if one of those assassins got to you? Would we have even known what happened to you and why?”
Nate didn’t wait to hear anything from her, just rushed out of the room. The door closed on the sight of the Prince’s Guard hurrying to catch up as he stormed past them.
The moment he was gone, Amanda collapsed back into her chair, her will no longer enough to keep her sitting upright. Pinching the bridge of her nose, she took a long, shuddering breath.
Link started to get up but she raised her free hand, telling him to stay where he was. “No, Link.” She said quietly. “Don’t tell me he’s wrong, because he isn’t. Even if he just said it to make a point, he’s right. I had a choice and… maybe it wasn’t the right one.”
She picked up her wine glass and drained it in one go, following that up with a bitter laugh. “I thought I could do everything: be a mother to my children and queen to my people. Think about that: the most infamous villain the world’s ever know has a hero complex. Oh if little Crissie knew about that.”
Putting the glass down, she sobered. “I really thought I was being a good mother, Link. I was sheltering them from the truth and securing their future here the whole time. But all the fancy trips in the world can’t make up for how little I was actually there for them, you know? I wonder if Nate would still hate me so much if I’d been there more.”
This time, Link ignored her gesture to sit and went over to her. Standing behind her chair, he wrapped his arms around her. At first, Amanda stiffened at the contact, then she laid a hand on his arm and was still. “You and I both know Nate doesn’t hate you.” said Link, leaning in to speak softly into her ear. “He’s moody and likes to prove he’s a big man, but he loves you.”
He nuzzled against the side of her head as he continued. “And you’re a wonderful mother. No matter what moral qualms I have about this… this, I’m not going to pretend that you haven’t provided for this family or that you don’t love us completely.”
“I could have given it up though.” She said quietly, her grip tightening on his arm. “After I killed Titus, I could have left and told them to raise someone up from the creche but I didn’t. I thought I’d be better for the country and that I could use the throne to make thing better for us.”
Before his wife could suggest they would have been better off, Link held her more tightly and said: “Chloe’s Hippo.”
“You’re getting upset over Nate’s ‘what if?’ question, so I’ve got one for you myself: What if Chloe got sick and you weren’t Queen Mageddo? What if you had none of the contacts you have now and no way to ask the Guardian Spirit for Chloe’s Hippo?”
Amanda trembled in his arms, something she hadn’t done in sorrow for a very long time. “Oh God…”
“But you did. And our baby is alive and well, and having the time of her life right now—all because you are Queen Mageddo. I’ve been wrestling with how I feel about those whole business and I keep coming back to that one fact. Even if nothing else came of this, even if nothing but bad came of this beyond that, it would still be worth it. Every time I look at Chloe now I’m going to be thankful for what Queen Mageddo has done for me and my family.
The shivering stopped and Amanda leaned back in the chair. Her other hand came up and stroked along his jawline. “This.” She said in a low, purring tone, “Is why you’re my King, Link.”
Turning just enough to reach him, she kissed him deeply. The first kiss with real heat they’re shared since her revelation.
Link’s left hand came up and tangled in her hair as one deep kiss become several more feverish ones and both of lost themselves to the unraveling stress and adrenaline that have been building since then. Since before then; between Amanda’s ‘job’ and the kids, they hadn’t had time alone together in weeks.
Groaning into Link’s mouth, Amanda refused to let go as she rose from her seat and twisted around so that they were finally facing each other. Her hand cupped his jaw and pulled him to her. She pressed her lips to his, crushing them together almost punishingly, the strength granted to her suddenly working against her.
That problem remedied itself easily. By mental command, she willed the armor to fall away from her. Upon noting a certain inequity between them, she wasn’t shy about attacking Link’s coat and shirt with zeal.
Moments later, the fell together onto the bed. It was lust and love and longing. It was relief of truths finally come to life and of burdens finally unshouldered. It was about finding one another again and finding their love right there, as strong as ever. It was the reforging of their union. It was the sundering of shackles they never knew they bore.
The Queen of Megardia claimed her King, and the King reclaimed his love.
End Part 1
Bookmark the permalink.