was a stronghold, a pivotal crossroads. Volusia had heard about it many times from her mother, but had never visited herself. She had always said that no one could take the Empire without taking Dansk.
Volusia looked back at their leader, standing before her with his envoy, smug, smirking down at her arrogantly. He looked different than the others, clearly their leader, with an air of confidence, more scars on his face, and with two long braids that descended from his head to his waist.
They had been standing this way in the silence, each waiting for the other to speak, no sound but that of the howling wind in the desert.
Finally, he must have tired of waiting, and he spoke:
“So you wish to enter our city?” he asked her. “You and your men?”
Volusia stared back, proud, confident, and expressionless.
“I do not wish to enter it,” she said. “I wish to take it. I’ve come to offer you terms of surrender.”
He stared back at her blankly for several seconds, as if trying to comprehend her words, then finally his eyes opened wide in surprise. He leaned back and laughed uproariously, and Volusia reddened.
“We?!” he said. “ Surrender!? ”
He screamed with laughter, as if he had heard the funniest joke in the world. Volusia stared back calmly, and she noted that all the soldiers joining him did not laugh—they did not even smile. They stared back at her seriously.
“You are but a girl,” he finally said, looking amused. “You know nothing of the history of Dansk, of our desert, of our people. If you had, you would know that we have never surrendered. Not once . Not in ten thousand years. Not to anyone . Not even to the armies of Atlow the Great. Not once has Dansk been conquered.”
His smile morphed to a scowl.
“And now you arrive,” he said, “a stupid young girl, appearing from nowhere, with a dozen soldiers, and asking us to surrender? Why shouldn’t I kill you right now, or take you to our dungeons? I think it is you who should be negotiating terms of surrender. If I turn you away, this desert will kill you. Then again, if I take you in, I might kill you.”
Volusia stared back calmly, never flinching.
“I won’t offer you my terms twice,” she said calmly. “Surrender now and I will spare all of your lives.”
He stared back at her, dumbfounded, as if finally realizing she was serious.
“You are deluded, young girl. You have suffered beneath the desert suns for too long.”
She stared back, her eyes darkening.
“I am no young girl,” she replied. “I am the great Volusia of the great city of Volusia. I am the Goddess Volusia. And you, and all beings on earth, are subservient to me.”
He stared at her, his expression shifting, staring back at her as if she were mad.
“You are not Volusia,” he said. “Volusia is older. I have met her myself. It was a very unpleasant experience. And yet I see the resemblance. You are…her daughter. Yes, I can see it now. Why is your mother not coming here to talk to us? Why is she sending you, her daughter?”
“ I am Volusia,” she replied. “My mother is dead. I made sure of that.”
He stared back at her, his expression growing serious. For the first time, he seemed unsure.
“You may have been able to murder your mother,” he said. “But you are foolish to threaten us. We are not a defenseless woman and your men of Volusia are far from here. You were foolish to venture so far from your stronghold. Do you think you can take our city with a dozen soldiers?” he asked, releasing and gripping the hilt of the sword as if thinking about killing her.
She smiled slowly.
“I can’t take it with a dozen,” she said. “But I can take it with two hundred thousand.”
Volusia raised one fist high into the air, clutching the Golden Scepter, raising it ever higher, never taking her eyes off of him, and as she did, she watched the face of the Dansk envoy leader look out behind her, and morph to panic and shock. She did not need to
Jackie Chanel, Madison Taylor