True, Truest

I told the king the truth before I’d grown old enough to understand lying.

Since, he’s come to rely on me. I sit at his knee on a three-legged stool, my ankles together, hair oiled and braided into as much of a crown as I’ll ever receive, in a plain but finely made dress there’s no question everyone can see. From there I observe his court, and when the king asks what I see, I tell him. For my eleventh birthday he bestowed upon my mother a small retirement cottage outside the city, and my uncle who helped raise me a stipend to open his own clock shop. When I turned fifteen I was granted the title Truth Sayer, and a tiny sapphire and emerald ring with the king’s seal. I’ve always striven to serve His Majesty well, never skimping on the truths I see or sparing anyone. My word has led to executions and revelry, to the king’s fury, consternation, and eternal gratitude.

Tonight will be the last time.

The moon hangs low and orange over the garden. I stare at it, listening to the voices from this afternoon echo in my chamber. Three hundred and seventeen dead, Violet. His priorities are changed. You know this is the truth. You always do. Three hundred and seventeen. Do you have to tell their mothers why they died?

My heart pinches, cutting off the memories. I shudder and stand, taking up the dagger from the windowsill. Its jasper hilt is cold in my palm and slippery. I slide it into my skirt pocket, through the thin slit. There’s a hilt strapped to my thigh, an assassin’s tool.

Bennett waits for me in the hallway, his fine jacket gathering dust for how still he stands. Like a shadow he peels away from the wall and holds out his hand. I ignore it, for the truth is I won’t accept any comfort for what I’m about to do.
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