They questioned me for hours. By the time they were satisfied that I knew nothing about what had happened to Meyka, the sun was bright through the windows. I was beyond exhausted.
I mean…I had fought off demons just the day before. I had stayed out late with Ryrk after.
Cormac and Aodhan had been in my suite for hours early this morning. I was already exhausted before…this.
All I know is that as the hours passed, I started to despise Jareths more and more.
I felt every emotion coming off of them.
And it…hurt. Every feeling they had stabbed at me like knives–anger, fear, panic, love for each other, disgust for the Lupoiux…determination, regret. The sheer volume of their feelings kept stabbing at me. And stabbing. It just wouldn’t stop.
I did not understand any of this at all.
“P-please…enough. I-I’ve told you all that I know. Can’t you just let me go?”
I know the laws of my people. Working for Theo made that a given. They have abducted me and kept me against my will. For more than the six hours required by law to count as an abduction.
There should be some punishment for that.
Not that I think there will be.
They are wealthy Jareths; I am literally just one poor Woald. Fit to serve the Jareths, but not worthy of their respect. That was the way it worked with most of those who wore Equan white around here.
No one will believe me about this. If they did, I am not certain that it would matter. The brothers had rarely touched me—they hadn’t had to. Their questions battered at me so quickly. Their emotions, their anger. They knew that I felt it. Someone had told my secret. Probably that evil guard. Or the healer brother had learned it when I was recuperating from demon poison.
“Shouldn’t you be out there searching for her? Tracking them?”
The brother I had bitten just stood over me and glared—I had learned their names, at least. Boldek was the one from the Healers’ Hall. He had a healer-blue band on one arm. He was the one who watched the others carefully.
Maybe he thought he was somehow protecting me?
Some protector. He was just about as effective as that guard who had handed me over to them.
The next brother was Selton. I wasn’t certain how I thought about him. He was just as likely to accuse me of something as he was to ignore what was going on. Halfway through the interrogation, he stopped to read the Dardaptoan Herald! Out loud. To me.
So I could supposedly calm myself down.
Like that was going to happen.
Navix was the quietest brother. He mostly stayed back unless the oldest brother—and it was clear who was in charge—ordered him to do something.
Navix was the one who argued with the healer the most. Told him that I was the only way. That their cousin—my guard—had insisted I knew the answers. That Navix believed him.
I am not sure anything about Navix.
But it is Cahum who terrifies me the most. The eldest. The most dangerous. The one I bit. It had been he who had carried me off in his arms.
He was the angriest. And the most afraid.
I could feel all of their anger, of course. And their worry for their sister. But the fury radiating from Cahum terrified me to my toes. The…hurt he was radiating.
Of course, I had bitten him deeply enough to draw serious blood.
No male Dardaptoan took that kind of insult easily. Especially from one they probably considered beneath them.
I just stared up at him. And waited.
My hands remained bound.
I still wore the serviceable vestis and pardus I’d dressed in hours ago. They’d taken my mother’s hasha from me. Just to make me cooperative. They hadn’t damaged it yet, though Navix wiped his brow with it. Evil monster.
I had no doubt they would just toss it in the trash when they were through with me.
These beasts didn’t care how important my mother’s hasha is to me.
I couldn’t help myself. It had been hours. I dropped my chin dejectedly. A tear escaped.
I couldn’t tell them anything more than I already had. Yet I couldn’t make them believe me, either.
How could I keep doing this? I’m exhausted and my soul hurts—from their anger and pain. My own fear.
Sweat beaded on my forehead again. My stomach rolled. Their anger hadn’t dissipated at all. Not at all.
And it was directed at me now for not giving them what they wanted.
“Please…” My head swirled as their…despair…started to surround me. Their grief was the sharpest knife I had ever felt. I slumped against the mattress. Defeated, at last. “I feel…so ill…”
“Enough!” the healer brother jerked to his feet. “This is getting us nowhere!”
He came right at me. Big and forceful and terrifying.
I flinched. I cried out and backed away, trying to bring my bound hands up between us. There were no flashing lights before my eyes. No. Everything went dark, then light again, and dark again. Light again.
I was so dizzy.
And then…I lost it.
I vomited right there on the floor of their ridiculously opulent suite, missing his shoes by inches. I wept.
Begged the goddess in my head to just make my life what it used to be.
And then I screamed as the lights came. Louder than I ever have before. Even though I knew it wouldn’t matter at all. The goddess had forsaken me long ago.
As the lights consumed me I heard Boldek yelling for Navix to hand him more of the demon brew…that I needed it desperately now.
Before I shattered.
Didn’t he understand? I already had.
I felt his healing gift around me then, as he offered demonspirin for my pain. But it was far too late. Far, far too late.