“The why doesn’t matter. If it cannot be done…” Then he’d drain at sunrise.
The words hung there between us, unspoken, but louder than the crack of thunder that cleaved the sky in two outside.
Truin’s eyes softened, her hands unfolding in her lap to twirl her silver rings. Heirlooms said to contain magic of the souls who’d previously worn them.
Gazing at the wall where a collection of silver gilded mirrors hung in varying sizes, she lowered her voice to a whisper. “There are stories of those who have regained memories, some if not all, after periods of amnesia. It is trialed on the aging ones all the time when their years are no longer a match for their frail minds.” I frowned, but she answered before I could even dare ask. “It wouldn’t have worked on your father. Different feasts for different beasts.”
I sneered. “I wasn’t asking…” I clamped my teeth shut at the tight smile on her face. Sighing, I raked a hand through my damp hair, thinking, wondering if I wanted to know. “And what is this method?”
“You recount every memory you can remember. Mainly the ones that hold the biggest influence on him. On his mind, on his heart, and on his soul.”
Lying back down, defeat crawled inside my chest cavity. “I was only nineteen summers old when we met.”
Truin took a moment to answer, and I tried not to cringe at the doubt in her tone. “Then I suppose you’ll just have to hope that the memories you share will be enough to coax his true self back to the surface. Or”—she lifted her shoulders—“at least glimpses of who he once was.”
“Hope,” I repeated, the word tasting foul on my tongue.
Truin stood, a lilt to her musical voice. “It’s more powerful than it sounds, my queen.”
I snorted. “That’s what the common folk say to reassure themselves enough to sleep each night, I’m sure.”
“I am not common.”
“True. But you are a witch.” I turned to stare at her, the moonlight glinting off her butter yellow hair. “Your lot believe in a lot of nonsense things.”
Truin released a breath before bobbing her head and leaving me to rot in silence.
Glimpses. Would moments of clarity be enough for him to see what he’d done? There wasn’t a much better alternative. I groaned, rolling my face into the bedding.
When I heard the midnight bell chime from the highest tower, I tossed the sheets away and made my way down the shadowed stairs and halls.
Ainx had retired for the night, but Azela was there, her hand on her sword until she saw me step into the candlelit swath of light floating over the entrance to the dungeon. “It stinks down here.”
Excrement mingled with sweat and urine, among other lovely things, blood being the most prominent. A crow cawed at the tiny arched opening facing one of the city streets, water trickling in below its feet and down the damp rock wall.
“You killed the servants in charge of cleaning last week, and Mintale has yet to organize staff to replace them.”
I frowned. “Oh.”
Azela glanced behind her to where a bang sounded followed by a muttered curse. “He’s still as lively as ever.”
I forced my lips into some semblance of a smile, knowing she was doing her utmost to veil her displeasure over this situation, then waited for her to move out of the way. When she joined the other guards planted along the walls, I stepped forward.
My hand lifted, fingers wrapping around the cold metal of the door that led inside a ginormous chamber housing a hundred cells. He was in one of them. Close too, judging by the grunts and shaking rattle of metal.
An exhale tumbled free, burning my lips and throat when I saw a flash of his skin. His hands were around the bars, golden fingers whitening as he tugged and tugged.
If only he knew.
If only he knew that once upon a time, he had the power to melt metal and burn his way out of, or into, any structure.
Raiden was fifty years old—fifty-two now. Too young, my father had worried over dinner after our first meeting. He was over twice my age, but my father hadn’t thought that meant he was mature enough. That he was equipped to handle me and take on the responsibility of one day running an entire continent.
Just look at us now, Raiden.
“I know you’re watching me, queen.”
I blinked but refrained from pulling away, knowing he couldn’t actually see me. He could only feel me.
He could always feel me.
“Let me out.”
That thing called hope was digging a nasty, useless pit inside my stomach.
“Let me out and I won’t return to kill you in your sleep.”
The guards looked at me, scowling, but I raised a hand. “He’s mad. And he will die for it, but not tonight.”