It was cold and wet. I could feel stone and steel all around me. I was in a cell of some kind. I tried to use magic to free myself. It was no use. Something was interfering with my ability to cast spells. Leech stones, probably.
I closed my eyes and reached out to Drake’s mind. He was there, outside the cell. I couldn’t borrow his senses, not without the aid of magic, but I could still sense him, a natural consequence of our connection. “Drake,” I whispered, standing up against the window. “Fly back to the Academy, get help.” I heard his wings flap and a quick screech. I waited until I couldn’t hear him any more.
I was all alone.
I sat back in Callie’s carriage. The seats were covered with very plush velvet cushions. She sat across from me, polishing her rapier. She smiled at me.
“Are you worried?”
“A little,” I admitted. “I’ve always practised fighting, but I’ve only had to do it for real a few times. I don’t know how well I’ll be able to do.” I felt embarrassed as soon as I said it.
A wry smile crept across Callie’s face. “It’s understandable,” she said. “Even seasoned warriors feel anxious about going into battle. Still…” she leaned forward so that our faces were almost touching. “There’s no need for you to worry.” Her voice was almost a whisper. “No matter what may happen, I will definitely protect you.”
Looking into her eyes up close I understood a little of what she had talked about in the garden. I could see her intensity, the passion in her eyes. In that moment I believed her. She was going to protect me. No matter how I might protest or urge caution. She was actually willing to risk everything for me. Knowing that, I felt a lot more confident and determined to protect her in return.
“Be at ease,” Sadow said. “I understand your concerns, and though the Magi have chosen not to become involved with this war, I assure you that I will take any actions necessary to ensure that the war refugees have a safe haven here in Strecner.” He gently took the elderly elf’s hand. “Be warned, however, I will do the same for any troll refugees should the situation reverse and I will not have you fighting here.”
“I understand,” she said. “Thank you for your kindness.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Sadow said. “In these difficult times it’s only right to help others.”
She bowed and hobbled out of his meeting room. He held the door for her. After she had gone he turned to his ghoul guards. “I’ll hear no more petitions today,” he said. “And I plan to take a journey tomorrow. I may be gone a few days, please inform any petitioners of my regrets.”
Sadow closed the door and removed Laina’s head from his cabinet. Her eyes opened. “What do you require of me?”
“Tomorrow we’re going to question the blind mage,” Sadow said. “I need to know how best to break her.”
“What happened to helping others?” Laina asked.
Sadow sent a small burst of lightning into her. “You dare mock me? I have done more to benefit this world than most. I’ve saved countless lives, fed the hungry and brought order. Don’t presume to lecture me on kindness!” He paused. “However, sometimes… unpleasantness is necessary to serve the greater good.”
“You did not wipe out the draconians to serve the greater good,” Laina said. “You were afraid and you know it.”
Sadow shot an even stronger jolt into her. “I asked your advice. I don’t need your commentary. You think their entire race was more important than me? They did nothing for the world around them. They merely stayed within their isolated community, passing quiet judgement on everyone else. Thinking themselves above the rest of us.”
“Will you release me if I tell you how to deal with her?” Laina asked.
“If I have to extract the information by force I will,” Sadow warned.
“Very well,” Laina said. “I will tell you how to break the girl.”