Chapter 22 - News

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"What makes you say that?"

"Because I will only need to rely on myself."

"Zain was not a good partner?"

"I don't want to talk about it. . . ."

Zain's breathing grew heavy. He leaned in closer.

"You can tell me, my flower."

"He just stood zere . . . while I was held hostage. . . . He didn't even try and save me."

"By whom?"

"Zis deranged man wiz black eyes. . . . He held a sword to . . . to my zroat . . . and told me . . ."Zain could hear Gabrielle start to cry. "He told me . . . he was going to slit my . . ." Gabrielle sobbed. "Zen . . . zen he was going to savor every . . . every crevice while I died."

"It's okay. It's okay. . . . If I was your partner, I would have protected you."

"Zank you, Cain."

Zain clenched his hands. He can talk all he wants. But it's different when you are there.

"To Zain's credit though, he did help carry you from the labyrinth," Cain said.

"Zat was only after I told him what was worse zan deaz. But . . . yes . . . zat was decent at least."

"What do you think is worse than death?"

Even after all of the hurt she showed, Zain couldn't pull away. He needed to hear more. He pinned his ear against the door.

"Pain . . . hopelessness . . . futility."

"What makes you say that?"

"I . . . I . . . I . . ."Silence.

"You can tell me," Cain consoled.

"My mozer was abused when I was young. . . . My fazer was horrible to her . . . to me too. . . . Imagine . . . imagine coming home from school and wondering . . . will my fazer only touch me today . . . or . . . or will he beat me too?"

"Your father did that?" Cain's voice rose.

"When I was eight, my mozer sent me away to Gracie's to not be around him anymore. By za time I was zirteen, he finally got taken away. . . .Now he is held by Victor Zigarda. . . . I don't even care to know if he's still alive."

"If Zigarda took him away, then why did you say he's an awful ruler?"

"He didn't take him away. Carla Sonatta, my teacher at Gracie's, knew someone in za senate. I . . . I told her everyzing one day . . . and she agreed to help me. It was only zen zat Zigarda incarcerated him."

Zain slunk away. Were his problems even bad? They weren't. Get over yourself and just win this trial. Zain decided to go train in order to sort out his emotions. It had always worked for him in the past, and hopefully it would continue to work for him now.


Zain took his spot next to Cadmar and Eirek. He glanced at Gabrielle, who showed no signs of crying previously. Hydro spent time talking with Cain—but about what, Zain couldn't hear. The tall prince's arms were still streaked with red, but it seemed like he could move them normally.

Guardian Eska stood, letting the scarlet-and-gold cape behind him unfurl. Mythril scales on his body jingled lightly with the movement. "Contestants, congratulations for enduring the first trial. A special congratulations for Prince Hydro Paen and Cadmar Briggs." Guardian Eska extended his hand to each of them in turn. He raised a stemmed glass with purple wine and drank.

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