Beyond Good and Evil. Beyond Ever Afters.
The fairy tale of Sophie and Agatha comes to a dramatic conclusion in this sixth and final book of Soman Chainani’s New York Times bestselling fantasy series
Who will sit on Camelot’s throne and rule the Endless Woods? Who will be the One True King? Prepare yourself for the End of Ends…
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Sophie no longer wanted to kill the boy she was about to marry.
Nor could she make sense of the fleeting thought that she’d wanted to kill him in the first place. From what she could tell, he was gorgeous, eloquent, and cocksure, just like a king should be. And soon, she’d be his queen. The queen.
Not that she had the slightest clue how it had happened. The past was fuzzy now, her memories elusive. Any attempt to penetrate them spawned a spearing headache, as if there was an iron spike through her brain, before she’d jolt straight back to the present, the ache gone, as if she’d been born this second, again and again and again. Efforts to recall why she’d ended up like this—a girl with no past—only brought on stronger pain, and it wasn’t long before she stopped trying to find her memories altogether.
All she knew was that she’d woken in this prim white dress and tonight she would marry King Rhian, the Lion of Camelot, keeper of Lionsmane, and savior of the Endless Woods. She’d yet to have a private moment with her betrothed: their only time together spent recording a spellcast, which she’d struggled to follow . . . about a brother gone rogue and rebels in the Woods, ending with her pledging allegiance to the Lion, her husband-to-be, just as he’d instructed. . . . But even from this, she knew she loved him, body and soul. Sitting next to him, she’d inhaled his frosty scent and basked in his tan glow, almost too perfect. When the spellcast finished, he stroked her back with cold fingers and gave her a snake-eyed smile: “See you at the altar, my sweet.” Sophie’s heart fluttered like he was her fairy-tale prince.
Any girl would die to be in her shoes, she thought now, powdering her nose in the queen’s boudoir and peering in the mirror at her crown of golden braids and the fussy white dress that hijacked nearly every inch of her skin. She had no inkling of where this dress had come from or who had made it, but now that she was about to convene with the Woodswide press and answer their pre-wedding questions, she wished the dress had a bit more panache . . . straps instead of sleeves, perhaps, and a dash of color around the waist —
On cue, the dress shape-shifted, as if her mind’s thoughts were commands, the sleeves whittling to thin strands over her shoulders, while a slash of blue cut across her hips, forming a belt of silk butterflies. Sophie hardly flinched. For something so strange, there was no surprise in the dress’s magic, as if she’d had this happen before but couldn’t remember when. She glanced into her own eyes in the mirror and saw a flash of sparkle, an emerald gleam, like a light in a tunnel. . . . Then it was gone, as quickly as it came.
“Press is waiting for you, princess,” a voice said.
Sophie turned to the captain of the guard standing at the door to her bedroom, the gold of his jacket specked with dried blood. Kei, he said his name was, when he’d woken her from sleep. Handsome as anything, with hawkish eyes and a square jaw, but a glum, tortured expression, as if haunted by a ghost.
They walked towards the ballroom, Kei tight at her side. She noticed him peeking at her, like he was waiting for her to say something. As if they shared a secret. It made Sophie uncomfortable.
A guard cut in front of them, scanty-haired and pockmarked: “Captain, the map inna Map Room’s been burnt to nothin’—one witha rebels’ wherebouts!”
Kei flexed his jaw. “Could be one of the maids or cooks. I’ll question them.”
“But that wazza king’s map! Should I tell ’im—”
“Get back to your post,” the captain ordered, guiding Sophie past him.
Sophie was mystified by this map business, but whatever it was, it made Kei even more sour than before.
He caught Sophie looking at him.
For the first time, Kei’s face changed, replaced by a sharp gaze that seemed to drill into her mind. . . .
“You there?” he whispered.
Sophie stared into his big, dark eyes . . . then snapped from her trance. “Of course I’m here! Where else would I be?” she scolded. “And stop scowling and giving me strange looks. You’re the captain of the guard. The king’s new liege. Act the part or I’ll tell the king to find someone who will.”
Kei hardened, as if he’d turned to stone. “Yes, Princess.”
“Good,” said Sophie. “And clean your jacket while you’re at it. Unless there’s a coup unfolding in the castle, there’s no reason to be flaunting your blood as part of your uniform.”
“Rhian’s blood,” said Kei.
“Excuse me?” said Sophie, stopping.
“It’s Rhian’s blood,” Kei repeated, with that drilling gaze again.
“Then kindly return it to him,” Sophie quipped, strutting ahead.
She smiled, her white dress puffing up like peacock feathers.
Rhian would be proud of her.
She was settling into the role of his queen already.