“For once, I have nothing to say.”

He grinned. “You don’t need to say anything, unless it’s to ask if I found out any juicy tidbits.”

She grimaced. “I don’t want to hear about your juicy tidbits.”

Castien burst out laughing, doubling over as his body jerked from the force. Finally, he straightened, still chuckling. “Thank you for that. I haven’t had anything to laugh about in oh...a year? I discovered your friend is alive and is being held in another area of the castle. How she managed to get a private room while you’re here, is beyond me. Does she have ties to the Elven kings?”

Shalendra shook her head. “Not that I know of, but if what Freyja told me before sending me on this doomed quest is true, I do. My father, who I grew up thinking was my brother—which is another story for another time—is an Elven Lord and an advisor to the co-regents.”

He let out a low whistle. “Well, that explains a few things then. What is your father’s name?”

“Émilien Elasalor, why?”

He hurried to the hole in the wall. Pressing his forehead against the top, all she saw were his eyes. “If you want to live, you must keep that to yourself. While the king may have an idea as to who you are, he’s keeping you here until that has been verified, or you already would be dead. It is well-known by my people that the king hates your father with a passion. I never learned why, but just the mention of your father’s name sends him into a violent rage.” He stopped talking and leaned his head back, listening to something she couldn’t hear.

After a moment, he once more pressed his head to the hole. “The guard will be here any moment to take you for an audience with the king. Don’t say a word about who you are. Don’t even think it or who your father is. Only say you were lost and didn’t realize you had breached the wards around the city.”

“Castien, I don’t like lying and have never been very good at it.”

“Here, take this. It will help you.” He shoved his hand through the hole and waited for her to hold out her hand. He dropped something cool onto her palm. Seeing his bloodstone, her eyes widened.

“I can’t take this from you. This treasure is yours to care for, not mine.”

“Don’t be silly. I don’t want her going to the king or any of his corrupt advisors. Ashia is the strongest bloodstone ever mined. She can help guide you through this. Just promise me you will take care of her until I get her back.”

Hearing the sadness in his voice broke her heart, but she nodded. “I swear by everyone I hold dear, my friend, I will return her to you safe and sound.”

“One more thing.” He reached toward her with his finger outstretched and touched the rough pad to her fingertip. A warmth spread through her, followed by a small tingle, like her finger had gone asleep. The sensation faded, and a buzzing sounded inside her ears.

Frowning, she shook her head. “Do you hear that?”

He smiled. “Not anymore. I just gave you the ability to communicate with Ashia. It may take you a while to understand her, so be patient.”

“She’s asking why you did something so stupid. She could have talked to me on her own.”

“Or not. Tell her I only loaned you the ability, so she could get you through the next hour with the king.” Anotherclangechoed as the outer door was opened. Their eyes met, unblinking as the guard made his way toward her cell.


Hel, unknown location

“While I relish this position, izr?, I won’t be able to defend us, if needed.”

Émilien’s gravelly voice sent shivers over Hel’s body, and the lowness of his tone made her heart race, especially when he whispered in her ear like that. Closing her eyes, she drew on every bit of strength she had to push away from the comfort of his embrace. She stood and tugged on her black sweater, nervously smoothing her black leather pants.

Not answering his question would be best because her voice would give away her never-ending desire for him so, instead, she let her gaze wander.

Staring at the intricate gold etchings surrounding a heavy wooden door, she followed the unfamiliar markings around the room. They graced the stones near the high ceilings and along the wall just above the stone floor. They even followed the two gracefully arched windows, which were too high for her to look through.

“You don’t see this every day, do you?” Everywhere her gaze touched, she found opulence. Thick animal hides covered large sections of the floor, and the wood shelves wrapped around half the room and rose to the ceiling. Even the heavy mahogany desk had gold and silver scrollwork etched around the top edge and each of the four legs.

“Émilien, have you ever seen anything like this before? I don’t think even Óðinn’s palace is this luxurious.”

“Can’t say that I have, and you’re right. The etchings are worrisome, though.” He moved closer to the nearest window. With one claw, he underlined each word as he read them aloud. “Either I win or learn, but I never lose.” He walked around the desk, pushing the chair out of the way to see the words burned into the desktop. “I walk alone, my direction just, my strength grows, and my crown near. I am power.”

Hel’s eyebrows rose. “Egotistical much? It’s like a desk full of motivational quotes.”

“That’s exactly what it is.”

Tags: Heidi Vanlandingham Fantasy
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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