There was no silver iodide to be found, not in any of the jars I had in the cellar, not in the markets of Kalai, and not in the wagons of the Great Caravan. But they hadn’t come to me for something as simple as a compound of elements. Tren was the first to speak, as was his place as Primary on the Council.

“It’s time.”

I didn’t look up from my desk, but I could see him anyway, wearing the chain of office not because he displayed any great skills as a thaumaturge, but because I’d said no and he was the least controversial choice left. He was weaker than me, and always had been, but it took some serious guts to come into my chambers – he knew why I was here, and not out where they wanted me.

Where they needed me.

“King Roneld’s forces are just outside the gate. We can’t wait any longer.”
I knew Tren was baiting me, but I took it anyway. “That fool’s no king. Just because he married Queen Malis doesn’t give him the divine right of blowing his nose, much less running the country.”

“And yet there he sits, wearing the crown, with a hundred thousand armed lunatics at his back.”


“She’s there too.”

I looked up then, though not at Tren. My sight traveled through the walls and out onto the plains to the west. There she was, next to her husband, riding in the royal carriage. He was as forgettable as ever, but she had changed, and not for the better. Oh, Malis was still gorgeous, and I felt a pang at the memory of a hundred nights we’d spent tangled in her feather bed. But she’d only wanted me for my power, and when she had what she wanted, I was cast aside in favor of a political alliance with a sop. That betrayal had left her hard, and I could see the hate in her eyes.

Mirrored by my own.

Finally, I nodded and turned my attention to my visitors. “I’m assuming the usual things have failed, or you wouldn’t be here. I will help, but there will be a price.”

“We know, Raina. And you will have our support as Queen once this is finished.”

The preparations took all night, but by sunrise I was on the roof of the castle, ready to release my retribution. Tren and his cohort had failed not because of lack of talent, but lack of will. Chemicals weren’t the answer, nor was supplication of the gods. As the first rays of the sun crept over the horizon, I brought forth the darkness from below. Soon the sky was roiling with blackly luminous clouds, and I could feel the fear rising from Roneld and Malis. She knew where I’d hoped to seek more power, and she was right to be afraid.

The thaumaturges who had pledged their support would know me as their Queen, but they didn’t know until now who would rule at my side. I’d had to promise many things to the Lord of the Underworld to grant me his only daughter, but when she took form next to me, I knew that my offer had been accepted. She took my hand, her cold flesh a welcome balm against the heat in my heart. Together, we raised my wand to the sky and released the restraints.

And it began to rain. Rain the land hadn’t seen in years. In decades. Fat heavy drops blasting out of the sky, hitting with the force of hail. The parched land tried to absorb it all, but there was too much, and the army outside the gate rapidly found itself unable to see in a pool of rising water. The elephant carrying the royal carriage got spooked, trampling dozens of soldiers as it tried to find its way out of the rain. But there was no out. Not for Malis. For her the rain would never stop.


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