Chapter Two, Part Two

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                                                Chapter Two, Part Two 

 I walk to the sitting-room, one of the four rooms in my chambers I still use. The others contain too many vivid memories of Ashe—the bedroom where he slept, the library where he lost himself in books, the large balcony where he sat every morning and let the sun warm him. The list goes on, and so do the locked doors.

I take a seat in a small chair with an intricate floral pattern. According to Father, it used to be my mother’s. It’d been placed in my chambers when I’d moved in here, a month after her death. I’d been four, and spent the next ten years being raised by a nurse who hated me almost as much as I hated her.

Farren sits on the couch across from me, dwarfing the tiny thing with his tall frame. He stretches out and crosses his feet at the ankles, and then raises an eyebrow at me. “So,” he says, his voice much too  cheery. “How goes the murder mission?”

His question makes me swallow hard. Farren knows I plan to kill the man who murdered Ashe, that I’m constantly tracking him. But we rarely talk about it. More like never. Farren likes to pretend all is well with the world when he visits me, and I go along with it. It’s a nice break from reality.

“It’s the same as always,” I reply slowly. “I found a lead tonight, but it won’t go anywhere.”

“How do you know?”

I sigh, glancing toward the fireplace. A fire crackles in the hearth, and I watch wisps of smoke disappear up the chimney. “My leads never go anywhere,” I mumble. “They get me close, but not close enough. He’s always gone when I get near.”

“But this man is still around Kastellor?” Farren asks, referring to our country’s capital.

I nod. “He’s staying close to the castle, or at least most of the time. My informants say he’s leaving the city for periods of time, and then coming back. But I have no idea what he’s up to.”

Which just about kills me. The day before Ashe was taken into custody, I saw the man in the royal throne-room. He was tall and broad, with a long scar at the corner of his mouth. A pearly patch of skin marked his collarbone, a small circle that almost looked like a brand. Treason, I’d heard him whisper out of his ruined mouth, and Father’s eyes had grown wide. At the time I’d thought it was just more petty court politics. I didn’t now the man was accusing Ashe of something he never did.

After Ashe’s death, I started hunting the man. But, after ten months, I barely have anything to show for it. Every day I wake up with that fact hanging over my head, and every day I wake up nauseous, pained… guilty.

“You don’t even know his name, Faye,” Farren says softly. Then he scoffs, his tone hardening a little. “You can barely confirm he exists.”

I whip my gaze to Farren. “I know he exists. I saw him, Farren. He’s the one who reported my Guardian as a traitor. He set him up!”

Farren does another one of his hand-flicking gestures, like he’s dismissing my words. “Maybe he did report Ashe. But what if this man was working for someone else? What if he was only a messenger?”

I wince at the way he says the name: Ashe. Like it’s just another casual word to use in discussion. I stopped using it soon after Ashe died, deciding his name deserves more respect. But I can’t convince everyone of that.

“If he was just the messenger,” I reply, my teeth gritted, “then I’ll make him tell me his boss’s name before I kill him.”

Farren shakes his head. “Why are you so set on killing him, Faye? Why does he have to die?”

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