Prayers

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I dye my hands before we go to the tombs. The crimson dye looks like blood in the candlelight, and the smell of the paint on my face makes me sick to my stomach. One day I’ll burn the black clothes that I wear and stop pretending to mourn for a man I cared nothing about, but for now appearance is everything. The world has to know its queen is weeping over her king.

The servants take me down to the tombs. The priests are already there, lighting candles and torches for my visit. I’m here to pray to the dead, after all. What better time to do that than under the full moon.

The youngest of the priests, Azel, bows his head when I enter, and I catch a fleeting glimpse of his sardonic smile. “Come to mourn, your highness?”

I smile back at him, and curtsy a little. Just enough for royalty to show respect for the gods. “I do.”

We both know I’m not here to mourn, or to pray to a corpse. The king is praised as a saint, a son of heaven in every corner of the city, but he was neither. They don’t remember his cruelty, his drunken parties, the bruises on his wife’s face. They remember his fine words. People praise the dead because they no longer have to bear their words and deeds.

I remember what he really was. So does Azel. But we’ll mourn a little longer. For appearances.

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