"Let me get this straight,” I said. “We’re at war. We’re losing ground. My people are dying. You're stringing me up after a short mockery of a trial, and we're playing paper dolls?"
The queen met my gaze. "We’re en route to the front line. I’ve done everything I can until we get there. So have you. We are engaging in a bit of theater."
"You want to present me as something I'm not?"
She tossed a fierce grin my way. "That's one way of looking at it. The other is that it behooves us to provide an image in sharp contrast to my people's assumptions regarding you."
Awareness hit like an explosion. "You need me to look harmless."
"Oh no," she said, amusement in her eyes. "That would be impossible. So we shift the narrative."
“You’re stripping me bare and remaking me in . . .
“Yes,” Eilod said, the word forceful, her gaze intent on mine in the mirror. “That is exactly what I’m doing. It serves my purpose to change what people see when you walk into that tribunal.”
“What? Defenseless? Fragile?”
“Vulnerable,” Eilod said. “You will stir hearts and awaken the protective instincts of citizens across the empire. I will paint a vivid picture the fourteen year old you’d been when soldiers killed your parents. Parents across the empire will look at their own children and contemplate abandoning them to death in order to protect them the way your parents died to protect you.”
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