[This is a multi-part story. We previously read that Liana had been declared a guest of the island Queen. She’d been spending her days in luxury after a harrowing ordeal at sea. But now a ship has been captured and she must pretend to celebrate with the others.
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Miko stood in the shadows of the royal hall and watched Liana delicately nibble on fruit from a tray held by her servant girl Sura. He remembered carrying Liana when she’d fainted on the sand, months ago, after the storm, after she’d killed his men. She’d been skinny as a stick back then. Ugly as a lizard.
But look at her now. She glowed; her long black hair was silky and lustrous. Her body was as plump as a sweet summer berry. And somehow, she was with child, halfway along. The Queen had declared it was another gift from the gods, but Miko didn’t believe that. He figured Liana had become pregnant the usual way and then gotten lost at sea. Though how she’d managed to kill his men, seasoned warriors both, was a a mystery.
“You said you know that girl?” he said to the man beside him.
Terrified, his hands bound with rope, and his body bruised and bleeding, the prisoner managed a nod.
Miko pushed him forward to the center of the room. Everyone grew quiet as Miko announced, “My men captured a second ship fishing in our territory, near the southern coast. Unfortunately most died except this one. He says he recognizes Liana.”
There was a collective gasp. A low murmur began. “Silence!” shouted the Queen. “What is the meaning of this, Commander Miko? How dare you offend our honored guest, a gift from the Storm God himself?”
Miko watched Liana shrink back in fear and knew he was right about her. She wasn’t special, just an ordinary girl, though a beautiful one now. And he meant to have her. It was the least the Queen could do after Liana had killed his men.
“I am but your humble servant.” Miko bowed deeply to the Queen in the fawning manner that he knew she liked. “But this wretched prisoner insists he knows your guest. He gives me no peace. I beg your pardon to allow him to speak.”
The Queen turned her wrath on the trembling man. “Speak, fool! What do you know of our Liana? She came to us from the storm, after the murmuration and the rainbow, as was foretold. We have had great fortune since!”
The prisoner cleared his throat. “Liana is from our sister island, dear Queen. We traded with them before the great volcano destroyed them all. She is the daughter of Benji, who was their blind oracle. Twenty-one years ago, a trading party visited and one of our daughters stayed behind for a summer to learn from him. She returned home with much knowledge and a baby.”
Miko kept his eyes on Liana as the prisoner rattled on. The others were enraptured by his story, but Miko was more interested in Liana’s reactions. Tears glistened in her eyes, but then she caught him staring at her and smiled. She whispered to her maid and they giggled. She then gazed at the fruit tray, seemingly bored with the story. As she selected a piece of mango, her gaze flicked back to his and she began to play with her shark’s tooth necklace.
“…fever. Then Liana came to live with a family on Benji’s island. She was still so small she probably never remembered her real mother.” The prisoner sagged as he finished speaking. No one offered him food or drink.
“Liana,” the Queen said. “Is there any truth to this idiot’s babbling? Have you ever met a blind oracle?”
Liana smiled. “No.”
“Kill him and then roast him,” the Queen commanded, and her warriors dragged the prisoner away as he began shrieking. “Where are my royal musicians?”
[to be continued]
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